"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Monday, January 23, 2006,8:00 AM
African America – A Fourth World or a section of the Third World
The promotion of African America as a Fourth World based upon Fanon’s observation that there is little in common between the struggles of the former African colonies and those of Blacks living in the US is a bit presumptuous and may be an extension of the US propagated materialistic myth that national wealth is the same as national power. It takes more than wealth, namely, wealth (natural resources), population, and political will to move nations into the power arena. African-Americans come up short on all three whereas their African Brothers meet the power criterion by possessing two out of the three necessary ingredients.

The history of the land ownership where global Africans reside has nothing to do with their common struggles against imperialism. The exploitation of natural resources (labor is indeed a natural resource!) by the imperialistic powers is the key element in the commonality in the African, Caribbean, and African American struggles and not necessarily related to land ownership or colonial status. Exploitation of labor is more degrading and dehumanizing than the exploitation of the their natural resources and becomes the fuel for any resistance movement.

Therefore, land ownership is simply not enough of an explanation to deny African-Americans colonial status as Carmichael and Hamilton had suggested in Black Power. Would one consider Haiti or Jamaica as part of this Fourth World or should they be given the status as the nexus for a Fifth World? In both cases they were former colonies where the imported slaves gained their freedom and the ownership of the land, as well.

In all of the Caribbean-African experiences, their status as colonies and land ownership was distinctly different from both the African and African-American experiences but we would agree that to relegate the African-Caribbean to a Fifth world would be taking the concept of land ownership too far.

Let us face it, the Native Americans, who were pushed off their land nearly to the point of extinction, originally inhabited the land in the US and then the new occupiers of the land established British, French, and Spanish colonies. Slaves were imported in Brazil, the Caribbean, and the US to work land of which neither the slaves nor their owners were the original owners but all were colonies with dependent exploitive economies of their Mother countries

Land is not the major reasons that people have fought for their independence; however, it does become a monument to freedom. Land ownership is not the necessary and sufficient conditions to define a colony. The items that define a colony is the implementation of conditions that completely control the inhabitants to the point where they are totally dependent upon the imperialistic power for all elements of their subsistence, including their labor.

Ownership of land is a mere detail in the eyes of the imperialists as we are currently witnessing in Iraq. Three years ago, the Iraqis owned their land and oil but one must relegate Iraq to a current colonial status even as they struggle for freedom in the same manner as the Americans did prior to their revolution. We see the Iraqis becoming dependent on the US for their food, water, gasoline (in spite of having the world’s second largest oil reserves) and livelihood with unemployment running at 60%; their entire economy has been ripped apart. Even, their government is in the process of being transformed into a puppet regime that will insure that Iraqi oil flows directly into the US corporate economic stream.

I would defend Carmichael and Hamilton in their comparison of the African American experiences as life within a colony since most African-Americans live in semi-isolated communities (ghettos), surrounded by mainstream America and supply cheap labor to the majority population. The surrounding majority controls their entire economy even down to the drug trade. The entire United States is dotted with these isolated areas in major cities.

With high unemployment, they are forced to compete with one another, which keep their wages well below the wages paid to the majority. Labor in the ghetto for those lucky enough to work is provided at free market prices and is undergoing increasing pressure from the immigration of Latin Americans and the shipping of manufacturing jobs to China.

Control and exploitation are the key parameters that define a colony and Africa, the Caribbean, and the ghettos of the US fit neatly into the imperialistic pattern of domination. The ghettos within the US, the townships of Africa, are all colonies or neo colonies; yet Africans, African-Caribbeans, and African-Americans have the same common enemy and therefore a common struggle, which is to defeat the imperialistic powers that keep them in economic slavery independent of where they reside.

What Fanon missed is the population ratio (minority/majority) differences within the Western hemisphere; which, of necessity, alters the strategies and tactics, employed by African-Americans that are certainly divergent from those employed by Africans and African-Caribbeans. Since African Americans are only 12.5 % of the population, boycotts and armed resistance will not have the same impact in the US and can be easier controlled than in Africa or the Caribbean.

The African-American’s ethnic network comes under attack due to their minority status and they are forced to cater or integrate into the majority communities to survive and/or satisfy most of their quality of life demands. Being at the whims of the majority population forces you to form coalition with the majority to effect societal gains. Much of the successes of the Civil Rights movement were due to coalitions formed with white churches and many of the white liberal organizations that rallied in support of the many injustices faced by American Blacks.

This is a major strategic difference that separates the transatlantic struggles. Due to shifts to the right such coalitions do not exist today, which has limited the effectiveness of the African-American struggle; although the causes for such struggles have not gone away. Katrina brings this point home quite vividly. In spite of the pleas of African American leaders, the rebuilding of New Orleans will be accomplished for the white majority’s benefit since no Black network exists that is strong enough to change the direction of the reconstruction effort. Even Black/White coalitions suggest a colonial atmosphere!

Since the Haitian Revolution, the African-American population has always been kept below 20%. The principal fears of the slave owners were that the population of slaves would become too high as to make an insurrection too difficult or impossible to control. The pursuit of integration and biased immigration policies continue to fray the African-American network and their political will necessary and mandatory for a successful continuance of the struggle for human rights. We are talking about a political will, built upon the self-interests of the Black people, that is strong enough to focus their limited resources and population on the defeat of imperialistic exploitation.

The concept of integration can destroy this political will if the focus remains on the ability to sit at a lunch counter as opposed to providing equal opportunity to all Black people. The integration of the lunch counter is a short-range tactic as opposed to the long-term strategy of equal opportunity. Not to demean lunch counter integration but it became the endpoint as opposed to the beginning phase of a long-term strategy for equality. Sadly, US Blacks must rely on their government to provide the fuel for their pursuit of equal opportunity. The colonial analogy becomes more apparent as we move further into the 21st century.

Another point that Fanon may have overlooked in his comparison is the duration of slavery versus the colonial existence of the African. Imperial exploitation of the African Americans has a 400-year history as opposed to the 100-150 year history of Africans living under colonial domination. European and certainly American colonialism of the African continent roughly began during the mid 1800’s and ended close to the end of the Second World War.

This 250 year longer, duration has had a serious impact on the psychological differences between African Americans and Africans. Whereas Africans concentrate on the struggle for equal opportunity or equal treatment for their goods and services, African Americans concentrate on integrating into the major society. Integration may or may not lead to equal treatment as we have found.

This longer duration has left the African-American with a slave mentality that always limits the full exercising of his political will and thereby his ability to focus his limited resources on the key prize of defeating imperialism. As the Algerians took up arms and defeated their colonial French masters, they certainly were not suffering from a slave mentality when they decided upon armed aggression as the means of expressing their political will.

In this act, two ingredients stand out in their ultimate victory over the French, their superior numbers and their political determination to defeat the French. As the Algerians shared the common struggle with their African-American brothers and sisters, only the tactics of engagement, driven by these two elements of national power, differed.

Slave mentality is the most effective link that weakens the chain of the African-American political will. That is, the slave owner imposed separation of color and work hierarchy that has carried over into current times. Children of the rapes of slave masters were given preferential treatment, which gradually was translated into preferential color treatment.

This treatment also decided working privileges with the most honored positions being given to those slaves who worked closest to and with their slave owners. These positions of favor also implied that reports of uprisings, escapes, and sabotage had to be reported to the slave owners. Such layers of divisions were natural barriers to any formations of network, solidarity, and political will. Most of our African and Caribbean brothers and sisters do not suffer from this slave mentality or many of its sub-elemental themes.

In the pursuit of the Fourth World separation the African-American from his global brothers and sisters, we often hear that African-Americans are more powerful than their African brothers and sisters since they command a GDP of $688 billion whereas, the highest GDP for an African nation is Egypt with GDP of $290 billion followed by Nigeria at $113 billion. In a GDP ranking alone, African-Americans are in the national company of Spain, Indonesia, and Mexico.

To equate wealth with power leads to a false sense of national value since national power can be measured by the product of wealth (GDP and/or natural resources), population, and political will that melds wealth and population into a national force. In the attempts to qualify African Americans as a Fourth World is to ignore their relatively small population (34th on a global scale) and their lack of political will to leverage their relatively high GDP into an international power.

In fact, a closer look at their GDP, we find that the necessities of living such as food, clothing, rent, and transportation consume a huge part of their incomes, which yields them a colonial rather than national status. Very little is left for economic development, which they must look to their former slave masters to provide, and they possess nothing but labor as a natural resource that can be valued and devalued by forces in a controlled market driven economy.

Too much emphasis is placed on the African-American vote in influencing national and local elections. The last two national elections in Florida and Ohio have a sobering effect on the political power wielded by African-Americans. Had the political will of the African Americans been stronger; Al Gore would be in the White House and Iraq would have been a bad political novel. Also, since the 60’s there have been over 400 Black elected officials with only a regression in the economic status of Africa-Americans to show for these political gains. Most elected Black officials find themselves constrained to the point of impotency.

The gains to be made in solidifying our bonds with the Third World far outweigh the benefits, if any, to be had as being a part of this new Fourth World. As stated earlier this Fourth World would be far too weak to be of any national or international significance; however, African-Americans have a lot to bring to the table in the form of wealth, education, management, professional services, etc. that could be leveraged in ways that will bring a much larger benefit to themselves, their heirs, and their African counterparts.

African Americans could help their African brothers and sisters harness the natural resource wealth that the African possess. This would be a win-win for both parties on both sides of the Atlantic and certainly would be a much better deal for both suffering under the yoke of exploitation. The four hundred year struggle of the former slaves in the US has yielded some modest gains but these gains will be miniscule when viewed in the demands for gains in the new competitive global markets.

Viewing the emergence or the entry of China as a world power with its market socialism, places African-Americans at great jeopardy within the US as more and more manufacturing jobs are exported to China. This is further compounded by the increases in immigration of Latin Americans as a source of cheaper labor foretells of higher than twice the levels of unemployment within African-American communities (levels of unemployment for Black youth currently run at 35-46%).

Since labor is the only resource that African-Americans bring to the market place and that labor (a commodity) can be purchased elsewhere at cheaper prices; the African-American will become a drain upon the American economy as his or her future income continues to decline, dragging with it his or her value as a consumer.

The future bodes as an upcoming disaster for the Fourth World and the only hope for the continued existence of African Americans is for them to join and embrace the Third World from whence they came. As China sets the pace, the Third world is on the move in spite of all the negative vibes emanating from the press.

Now is not the time to accelerate the divide and conquer concept that has been utilized by the imperialist powers to subjugate the people of color on both sides of the Atlantic. Now is the time to shed our slave mentality and embrace our future that is aligned with our brothers and sisters across the Atlantic.

The 21st century is the time for the people of color to come together in order to hasten the decline of imperialism which began with the liberation of the African-American after the civil war, continued in the 60s with the civil rights struggle, followed by Viet Nam, and now Iraq and Afghanistan.

Due to the much lower birthrates within the imperialist nations, they now have revised their strategies for exploitation by picking on small nations with lightning invasions, kidnapping of the nation’s leaders, and finally administrating the robbery of their natural resources. Recent examples of this strategy can be found in Equatorial Guinea and Iraq.

Larger countries, like Sudan, require a different strategy, since military occupation can lead to disaster as they are now experiencing in Iraq. The question for the authors of “Shock and Awe” is - when is a country small enough to be picked off. It now appears that Iraq may not be small enough after stepping down the smaller nation ladder from Vietnam.

Well-governed populations are a source of strength; that is why China and India will be formidable competition for the West as we move further into the 21st century. Both of these countries are reasonably well governed, i.e. they have a political will that moves both countries’ resources in purposeful directions for the general good of their people.

Both of these countries, when ranked on a national power scale are equal to, in the case of India, and 3 times more powerful than the US, in the case of China. Within that power equation, the African Union will be the most populated entity on the globe by the year 2050. This Union has wealth, albeit in the ground, but lacks the political will and cohesion to harness both its people and it wealth.

From this vantage point, Africa holds a great deal of promise for those African Americans who are deemed as a surplus (unemployment means surplus) here in our eviscerated portion of the US. Again, in the national power equation, Africa has two out of the three necessary ingredients to become a major world power.

The third ingredient that is missing is a big enough to challenge any and all of our college graduates to greatness. For this challenge, we, African Americans, need to cohere rather than to continue to isolate ourselves within the evacuated sphere of a Fourth World.

If we were to look at ourselves, honestly, we would find that we have more in common with our African brothers and sisters than we have been programmed to believe. Whether we reside in a colony, colonette, or neocolonial nation, our struggles are the same, i.e., how to remove the imperial leeches that sap all of our resources, limit our personal and national growth, and kill our heirs. To move to another world is an escape and a denial of our future greatness. We need to make a commitment to seriously join the up and coming Third World and collectively find solutions that will successfully merge our hemispheres.

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Waldron, I am very pleased you have responded to Amin Sharif's Afro-America & The Fourth World . If you have not you should read his other pieces dealing with the Fourth World, including The Fourth World: In the Belly of the Beast and The Fourth World and the Marxists.

I agree with much of the hard content of your essay but the use of it as argument is another matter. I do not think you gave Sharif's argument a fair reading. That is to say, your argument tries unconvincingly to make an argument for a Third World, mostly on the basis of color. To these points I'm sure Sharif will respond.

But let me point out problems I found. First, Sharif does not base his argument on the elements of the "materialist myth," which you sketch out as wealth, population, and political will. The wealth element is only considered in the sense that the middle-classes are problematic in a struggle for justice because of their problematic ties to power.

Sharif, I believe, explores much more effectively the nature of the populations he includes in his concept of Fourth World, than your argument does in what populations constitute the Third World. (I will come back to this point in a moment.) His view of political will is more or less related to its lack among the middle classes and the lack of an international awareness and consciousness. But allow me to deal with a couple of other points before I go headlong into concerns for African potentiality.

The concept of the Third World was stillborn, basically because it undermined the concept of nationalism, which was the direction that these former colonies were headed or had already begun to establish. The Biafran War first exposed the concept as useless. It was shredded to pieces when the Berlin Wall fell. Its funeral was held with the election of Mandela as President of South Africa. The concept was interred with the ethnic slaughter in Rwanda and the aftermath that reverberated throughout Central and West Africa.

Pan Africanism does not exist on the continent of Africa itself, not even in Ghana, where attempts have been made to popularize it. Some samples of this sentiment can be seen in Kalamu's exposition, I titled, African Criticisms of the Diaspora . Much of Africa is in disarray and sinking, surely this is true of West Africa, East Africa, and Central Africa. The problem is not a matter of colonialism, but rather the lack of an effective national spirit, poor governance, and outright corruption and brutality.

You misread the general character of Sharif's argument. His concept of Fourth World is not a racial concept in which he separates U.S. blacks from the rest of the world's population, including Africa. He views black Americans as the most developed element of the Fourth World because of their centuries long struggle against an imperial power that exploits its non-white populations in a more callous manner than its white citizens. In America, he would include not only blacks, but also Latin Americans (Mexicans, Puerto Ricans at home and abroad, and others) and other conscious non-White populations, like Native Americans and those from what which were Third World nations, like the Chinese and other Asians.

You mention Brazil. I do not think Sharif dealt with Brazil. So I think that issue is indeed a good criticism. Brazil as country may indeed be part of the Third World or what is now called the developing world. Its blacks, I think Sharif would argue, are part of the Fourth World. The other larger part of the Fourth World would be all those non-Whites in Europe. But it would include any person in any country who has not been integrated into the national culture and economy because of race and culture or both, especially among the young people who have been influenced by an international youth culture,.

On this basis Haiti and Jamaica and other independent nations of the Caribbean would indeed be considered part of what you call the Third World. However, once its citizens take up residency or citizenship in America or Europe they become part of the Fourth World. Like other Fourth World peoples they do not suffer national or colonial oppression but rather alienation and subordination on the basis of race and culture.

Several more small points and I will be done. One, I do not think that black people in America have a psychological problem. This pathological argument should be interred and allowed to rest. That is, they do not have a "slave mentality," no matter what class you consider among blacks. Contrary to your assertion, Sharif is not pursuing a Fourth World "separation." He seems rather to be identifying those persons that seem to have most in common in relationship to "white power."

Sharif's pragmatism, I know, is astonishing. He sees that our natural allies in struggle are those that are close to our condition or those that have been forced to view the world as we see it. I do not see how India and its people; or China and its people are relevant to this argument at all, except where they appear in Europe or America. When Nehru and Mao died, those countries ceased even to be part of the Third World, politically.

Sharif also sees allies among our fellow Americans who are white, those who will stand for that which is just and right for all. He does not consider that Americans are 100% White Nationalists or even 100% Conservative or 100% racist or 100% imperialists. And he is right. As far as the political struggle we have to wage in America, these potential white allies are more practically beneficial than any group that now exists in any African country. Africans have problems helping themselves. And I am not sure that there are that many heads of states in Africa that I would even want on our side.

Most of what we can do for Africa, I suspect, will not occur on the continent itself but right here in America. Moreover, those wealthy blacks who are billionaires and millionaires can find better investments than in Africa. As we know well enough, few of them are willing to invest even in our American cities where black male unemployment is 50% or more. Neither American inner cities nor Africa hold any attraction for them, except for maybe its textiles or some of its cultural patterns.

Maybe in 50 or 100 years a Pan African spirit may be a feasible thing in Africa at home and abroad, that is, after they have worked out their national questions. Most US blacks have worked out their national question: they are Americans by history, birth, and culture. And it has always been the case that few of us are willing to be African missionaries. For those who choose that way of life, I applaud their adventure.

Outside of politics and economics there is much in which Africans and African Americans can find common ground and interest. We are indeed distant cousins. However, we still do not know each other well and have yet to grow sufficiently a healthy respect. -- Rudy

* * * * *

Rudy your points are well taken and forced me to re-read all three of Sharif's essays on the Fourth World. To that end I will modify some of the positions I have taken about the Fourth World and its future. It cannot be successful without an alliance with the Third world from whence it came. A rough examination on my data base of World power proves this to be the case. it is even more important since Brazil with its 100 Million descendants from Africa have not been included in Sharif's Fourth world. It is an interesting concept, but it needs to be analyzed further to point out the strengths and weaknesses in order to develop the strategies that are required.

Fourth world needs for continued longevity. You are a contribution editor to African Renaissance and this should be a relatively easy matter for you to effect. In any event, I will return, to the topic, that is. -- Waldron

* * * * *

Agreed. I welcome further discussions from you, on whatever the topic. My primary concern is that too many of us are not open to open discussions. Too often we have our set ideological positions and we are only interested in pushing them. So your note, for me, is a hopeful sign.

We need to go beyond the unity of silence in dealing with ideological positions. We are dragging with us from the 19th and 20th centuries too many ideologies unexamined for our present condition and situation. I agree that the situation of Third World countries should not be ignored and that we should be willing to make temporary alliances wherever they present themselves. ChickenBones is open for these kind of discussions. Too many do not make use of this resource for real analysis and discussion

As you may have noted our site is open to African journalists, presently primarily Nigerians Uche Nworah and Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye ; most of their writings, however, are limited to the national politics of Nigeria. Neither had anything to say about the New Orleans tragedy. We also have a few with a Caribbean focus, like Louis Reyes Rivera, a Puerto Rican; and John Maxwell of Jamaica. Maxwell is often commenting about the American scene. he laos ahd considerable to say about the New Orleans tragedy. So we have a Third World interest but the only people I see writing from that perspective are U.S. blacks.

We also have a few Asian Americans making submissions. But they are young college students still developing. So I am not against the Third World concept, but rather as you suggest about the Fourth World concept, we need to point out its strengths and weaknesses pragmatically for us today. As I suggested before, except for Caribbean writers I am not certain that there is a Pan-African or a Third World feeling being extended to us from Third World countries. Too often they see U.S. blacks as competitors or irrelevant.

Just a final point. I'm not sure that the 100 millions of Brazil view themselves as Black. That presents another kind of problem. I suspect that you will have to cut that number by at least 50%. There is indeed a black consciousness movement in its nascent stage and that we should keep an eye on that development -- Rudy

posted 20 January 2005
posted by R J Noriega
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