To kick off Black History Month, USF Politics professor James Taylor presented his book, “Black Nationalism in the United States: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama”, at Gleeson Library on February 2.
His book analyzes Black Nationalism as educational, political, and societal thought. His book also seeks to connect the religious foundations of black political ideologies and the nationalist sentiments of today’s hip-hop generation.
After an introduction by USF sociology professor Stephanie Sears, Taylor spoke about the meaning of his book.
“I want to be clear. This book is not an advocacy of Black Nationalism. It is really about black religion, and how it provided a kind of consistency over 180 years of the practice of the earliest form of political sermon, known as the Jeremiah Wright Ad,” he said.
Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr., pastor emeritus of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC), is best known as Barack Obama’s pastor. He married Obama to his wife Michelle, and baptized the couple’s two daughters. However, he infamously became known as Obama’s pastor after Wright’s controversial sermons surfaced during Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Excerpts from the pastor’s speeches, where he damned the United States for its treatment of African Americans, were stringed together to label Obama a radical.
During his talk Professor Taylor spoke about the roots of Black Nationalism, mentioning historical figures of the Black nationalism movement such as David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
“Doctrinaire Black nationalism is not as powerful a political force as racial solidarity. Martin Luther King Jr. used racial solidarity, but he did not make explicit appeals to Black Nationalism,” said Taylor. “
Although what distinguishes Black Nationalism from racial solidarity was not addressed during the balk, Taylor said, that since 1964 African American voters have been solidly Democratic. Lyndon Johnson received 94 percent of the Black vote, while most recently, Barack Obama received 96 percent.
“Black Nationalism certainly was at play in 2008, but it was not as significant as black racial solidarity in general,” said Taylor.
In regards to the political aspect of the hip hop generation, Taylor said, “The hip hop generation recovered Malcom X from the grave and held him up as a Jeremy Ad himself.”
Some of the issues of social and political justice the hip hop generation addresses are educational access, immigration and minority rights, Proposition 187, and prison reform. Some of these hip hop artists include DMX, Dead Prez, Jay-Z, and Mos Def.
When asked if Black Nationalism had a significant influence in the last election year, Taylor said that like every ethnic, racial, gender and sexual identity segment of the electorate, African Americans tend to use group solidarity as a means to political empowerment and representation.
Although many individuals have reconsidered Barack Obama’s position as president, especially after he signed the Nation Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Professor Taylor feels he still stands a chance for re-election.
“Recent jobs reports and declines in unemployment bode well for his chances. These developments undermine the charges of his opposition that he has failed to manage the economy,” Taylor said.
At an international level, Taylor said, “ His campaign will also be able to tout major foreign policy successes such as the death of Osama bin Laden, the draw down of troops in Iraq, the promise to end the war in Afghanistan in the next two years or so, and support for freedom fighters and ordinary people in the “Arab Spring.”
USF junior and International Studies major, Bryce Chiodo, also agrees Barack Obama has a chance for re-election.
“The GOP candidates are going to alienate any of the moderates on the Republican side. The confidence in the Democrats ability to reelect Obama is seen by the fact that there is no other major Democratic nomination,” Chiodo said.
Chiodo said Republican candidate Mitt Romney would have been a serious threat to Obama, but Romney’s stance on particular issues has made that less likely.
“Romney could win moderate votes, but instead he’s flip-flopped on so many of his previous decisions during his turn as governor and pre-2008 elections.
The Massachusetts healthcare reform Romney created in 2006 is almost essentially the same health care system he is now a massive opponent of. ”
Although not addressing Obama’s 2012 campaign, Taylor said in a personal interview with the Foghorn after the event, “I hope that readers of Black Nationalism in the United States will gain a deeper appreciation for the ways in which subaltern populations scrap together ways and means out of their social positioning that enable them to survive and to articulate their claims against the state and society.”
He added, “African American religion and its ideological variant in Black Nationalism are presented as a perennial force which many African American political elites