An Open Letter to a Black Friend

at-bills-place-104Samaad and Playthell chillin at Bill’s Place in Harlem

Listen Up Black America!

Recently an Afro-American friend told me he was not going to vote in the coming Presidential election.  It was a shocking revelation coming from the thoughtful and intelligent he had otherwise demonstrated himself to be.   The reasons he gave for his decision seemed to be reasonable at first glance, but when subjected to rigorous critique they reveal themselves to be transparent sophistry – which is to say they crumble when confronted with political reality.  While his argument was full of suitable examples to prove my point, I will point out just a couple that I think are sufficient to expose the foolishness of his decision not to vote.  For instance he argued “! I see a woman who DESPERATELY needs the Black vote.”  And he buttresses this point with the following: “But she has not made any promises or a single concession in her platform to address the ACUTE needs of African Americans.”   And based on this he concludes: ” I would say undoubtedly that the PRACTICAL AND SENSIBLE thing to do is vote for Hillary UNLESS you simply cannot bring yourself too, I personally cannot!!”   This is my response below.

Dear Friend

Your position represents the worst sort of self-righteous, self-defeating, pious piffle! As a political analysis it is madness. What we must understand my friend is that we are a MINORITY in the US – if you want to have the advantage of living in a country with a black majority I’m afraid you will have to move to the Caribbean or Africa, although you must have noticed that vast numbers of citizens of those countries are desperately trying to get here. Thus as a minority we cannot achieve ANYTHING politically on our own. Furthermore, in a country where millions of whites are also facing desperate economic conditions why do you think they would support an agenda aimed solely at black folks?

You obviously have not asked yourself this question. Do you know that the demographic with the fastest rising mortality rate – from drug abuse, alcoholism, suicide, etc – is the WHITE working and lower middle classes! And you think these people want to hear about an agenda that is designed to address only black problems? We are beyond that:NOBODY CAN WIN THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY RUNNING ON SUCH A PLATFORM!!!!

Anybody running for president must advocate programs that address the needs of all Americans, and we need to think more in terms of CLASS rather than race!!!! The so-called black “progressives” who always wanted president Obama to engage the Republicans in an argument about race failed to understand that this was also what the Republicans wanted because once an issue becomes racialized we ARE GOING TO LOSE! One does not have to be a profound thinker to recognize this: IT IS A MATTER OF SIMPLE ARITHMETIC!!!

Hence we must fight for things like single payer medical insurance, free college tuition and full employment. Beyond these, in the face of the growing robotization of the economy we need to fight for a living wage with benefits for everyone who cannot find work. All of these things will benefit Afro-Americans as much -if not more – than any other community! We must also fight for laws to check climate change and nuclear disarmament. Some black people talk as if we live on another planet so the fate of this one is of no concern to us. The term that I use that you can’t quite remember is :POLITICS IS THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE!!!

You need to sit in a corner and recite it until it is burned into your brain because without understanding this concept you will be like Jack the Bear: “Makin tracks but getting NOWHERE! You talk like the generals who are planning for the LAST WAR not the next war. The worst thing that Hillary Clinton could do is come out strongly with a specifically “black agenda” when Trump is aiming his message at a white working class electorate who is already scared, outraged, abysmally ignorant, and convinced they have been screwed at the expense of “minorities.” So my question to you is are you interested in defeating Trump or just letting off steam in a public temper tantrum?

You are far too emotional; success in politics requires a cool head and a calculating strategy based on the political realities of the moment. You say that Hillary is “desperately in need of the black vote” but the fact is whether Hillary wins or loses she will still be Hillary Clinton – a rich and famous white woman who remains a powerful presence in American politics and a speaker in demand world-wide for generous fees. BUT WE WILL BE FUCKED!!!!!!!!!!

So who needs whom the most? You seem to believe that it is a wise course of action to use our position to force her to adopt a losing strategy….which is damned foolishness. So calm down and THINK realistically; promote a strategy for victory instead of sabotaging our ally in this race!. I have no interest in dying for any cause…I want to live and WIN!!!!


Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
October 13, 2016


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