Home Uncategorized ‘The Nation and The Plantation’: Black Economics UK and its Racial Conundrum

‘The Nation and The Plantation’: Black Economics UK and its Racial Conundrum


The ambiguity concerns class. Is the central determinant race? If so, all Blacks are in it together ~ William K. Tabb

What is the nation? Is it the aggregate of successful ‘black’ entrepreneurs and individuals here in the UK? What is the ‘plantation‘? What does it symbolise today? What is the central problem with ‘black’ economic? ‘Black’ people usually think of racism-deniers as racist ‘white’ people. Yet, the truth is, many ‘black’ people are ‘race’ deniers themselves. But notice that I said, ‘race’ and not racism. My research as shown that most ‘black’ people, particularly those who like to think of themselves as ‘middle class’ – are in fact chronic deniers of racism’s lynch-pin, which is ‘race’. Yes, they understand individual racism, but not the modern concept of European ‘race’: its construction, evolution, psychological effects and most importantly, its centrality to the making of the modern world (Hudson, 1996; Mills, 1997; Hobson,2004; Segal, 1967; Fanon, 1967). Many ‘black’ people who are advocates of Black economics, in reality have no ‘racial education’ (Garvey, 1937). They do not properly understand modern ‘race’ in its fullest sense. The truth is, they have not studied in depth the meaning of ‘race’. For if they had, they would not teach that we can liberate ourselves from racism through Black economics alone. Also, they would know that capitalism is not ‘laissez-faire’ but rather a racialised or ‘racial-capitalism’ (Robinson, 1985; Oliver & Sharpiro,2006) for people classified as black. Thus, Dr Amos Wilson (1999) explains, ‘you cannot consume yourself into equality; you cannot consume yourself into power‘.

Subsequently, you often hear it said, that ‘blacks’ who are entrepreneurs and work for themselves have ‘made it off the plantation’. Yet, this is not correct at all – to believe this means that your consciousness has been manipulated by the system (Wilson, 1993). No ‘black’ person in any ‘white’ country, regardless of their socio-economic status has ‘made it off the plantation’: neither Oprah Winfrey, Lewis Hamilton or any other ‘black’ wealthy person. Why? Because the plantation is constructed by modern ‘race’ not class. It is based on European ‘race and nation’. Thus, ‘the plantation’ represents the global system of racism, white domination (Welsing,1991) or structural and systemic racism (Bonilla-Silva,2006). To be released from the plantation, ‘black’ people, as a group, must therefore end the European concept of modern ‘race’ or they will forever be racialised. Put bluntly, money, your bank account and entrepreneurship will not save you from the system of racism. You cannot buy your way out of it. It cannot be done because of your racialised status as a sub-person (Mills,1997).

The ‘plantation’ then, is not simply the idea of going to work for ‘white’ people in racially hostile work places. Rather, the plantation is symbolic of our ‘continued’ racial subordination to ‘white’ power which cannot change by ‘black’ individual socio-economic advancements. Why? – because of the ‘permanence of racism’ (Bell, 1992). Since the days of ’empire‘, racism’ has had its own logic – racial logic – which is foundational to the ‘theory’ and practise of ‘racism, white domination‘. This ‘logic’ presents itself as endless race-based social and political contradictions which are enforced at all costs in order to maintain domination and unequal outcomes in: employment, income, wealth, housing, education, health care and the criminal justice system. In addition to this, the ‘black’ individual can work their entire lives and accrue wealth and greatly improve their economic status but shall forever be racialised as ‘black’; existing as a sub-person in ‘white’ countries (Mills, 1997) – only racial logic can do this. This then, is the ‘racial conundrum’ as it relates to Black economics UK. Politically, this situation exists as a product of continuing historical events as a direct legacy or by-product of African enslavement and colonisation.

Malcolm X (1963) best described our relationship to the system of racism as either ‘field slaves’ or ‘house slaves’ on the plantationbutnonetheless, ‘slaves’. As an African-American intellectual and activist, he gave ‘black’ people in the 1960s a formula for understanding their situation within the system and their own communities.

There were two kinds of slaves, he said, the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negroes – they lived in the house with master, they dressed pretty good…. And if you came to the house Negro and said, “Let’s run away, let’s escape, let’s separate.” The house Negro would look at you and say, “Man, you crazy. What you mean, separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?” That was that house Negro. In those days he was called a “house nigger.” And that’s what we call them today, because we’ve still got some house niggers running around here. This modern house Negro loves his master. He wants to live near him. He’ll pay three times as much as the house is worth just to live near his master, and then brag about “I’m the only Negro out here.” “I’m the only one on my job.” So now you have a twentieth-century-type of house Negro. A twentieth-century Uncle Tom. He’s just as much an Uncle Tom today as Uncle Tom was 100 and 200 years ago…  “I ain’t left nothing in Africa,” that’s what you say. Why, you left your mind in Africa.

Thus, during slavery, the slave plantations served as psychological and social conditioning for ‘blacks’ but for ‘whites’ it was also the spatial vehicle for the legal-political progress and race relations. Furthermore, it created economic activity in ‘white’ society that reinforced the formation of the master and slave mentality.  It created hundreds of years of indoctrination; hundreds of years of ground level economics and subsistence living. But, when the ‘field slaves’ began to revolt and save themselves, the slave master knew that the mental conditioning was still in place. All they had to do was appear to change their attitude and the ‘black’ ‘house slaves’ would ‘swoon and swell’ and ‘whites’ would then take control of any political advancements and the Civil Rights movements as the best way to control ‘black’ people as a group.

Dominantly, Malcolm X was not sympathetic to the wave of civil rights reforms. He argued that they were incapable of addressing the history and racial inequality of African Americans. He knew that the American legal-political systems were grounded in pure racism. Furthermore, he felt that ‘black’ people must step outside of the institutional racial prejudices of civil rights reforms. They should instead pursue international human rights reforms but most importantly, they must achieve ‘self-determination’ in their own communities. The emancipation of ‘blacks’ from chattel slavery was, from the standpoint of some ‘whites’ a great step in advancement. Yet, in reality, instead of solving what was called in the US ‘the Negro problem‘ or ‘race relations‘ here in the UK, it merely changed an aspect of them. ‘Blacks’ were emancipated from chattel slavery, yes –  only to be plunged into the ‘wage slavery’ of ‘racial capitalism’ (Robinson,1983) amidst a barrage of ‘white’ vigilante violence and deep segregation both here in the UK and US. Ultimately then, the end of slavery did not alter the fundamental relationship of the ‘black’ to ‘the master’ (Wilson, 1993).

Fundamentally, the problem was the ‘black’ damaged colonial mind (Fanon,1967, 1961). The ‘house slaves’ were predominantly and heavily indoctrinated into the ‘white’ mind-set and educational systems. Interestingly, Malcolm X did not mention another category of slave – these were the ‘town slaves’ (Patrick, 1990). Essentially, they were a skilled sub-group of the ‘house slaves’ who worked in the towns under close supervision of ‘white’ workers. These ‘house and town slaves’ were linked to W. E. B. Du Bois’s concept of a ‘Talented Tenth’. In 1903, Du Bois published his work on it. The concept was clear: teach the best and brightest ‘black’ people and they will improve all ‘black’ Americans’ conditions. It was the idea that a special group of educated ‘blacks’ (accepted and essentially controlled by ‘whites’ mostly of ‘house slaves’ mentally) should lead the ‘blacks’ as a group. Yet, this was a totally flawed idea. It was just an extension of the ‘house slave’s sphere of freedoms and mentally. It was essentially more ‘freedom’ on the plantation for the ‘house slaves’ who gets to control the ‘field slave’ for his master. It was not ‘real freedom’ for ‘black’ people as a group.

The ‘house slaves’ and ‘town slaves’ would happily be the gate-keepers of the ‘field slaves’. These ‘elevated slaves’ would have the most destroyed mental state of mind’. By contrast, the ‘field slaves’ would accept reality and have a far more developed ‘race consciousness’. According to Du Bois, these so called talented ones would constitute leaders that effectively initiate change through their leadership and lead the ‘black masses’ to complete equality. He writes: ‘The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other race‘. Historically, this process never worked. It amounted to mostly light skinned ‘blacks’ who were graduates of selective liberal arts colleges and purveyors of the ‘white’ middle class values. Since the modern times, both in the US and UK, this idea has developed into fundamentally assimilationist ideologies, and a ‘black mis-leadership’ class bent on Marxist economics and white privilege.

The reality is, that essentially, the situation has not change to this very day. Speaking of the modern day ‘house slave’ on the modern day plantation, Wilson (1990) states,

‘he is only ‘real’ when under the focused attention of his European paternalistic overseers. He does not desire the end of European domination, only the end of its mistreatment of him…Consequently, for him only European things are ‘the real thing’, ‘the real McCoy’, ‘the genuine article’; only they possess real value. Only the acquisition of things European, of a European identity, and their moral mastication can pacify his infantile anxieties and appetites‘. 

Black economics in the UK today, is like a village of like-minded ‘black’ people who seem to think that liberation from racism (the system of racism) is just a matter of black economics. Their website says: given the talent, brain-power and wealth of resources within the black world, our progress as a race can be accelerated’. So can you just tell the black person next to you. Set goals; do your research; make connections; stop complaining and make things happen. And don’t stop until you have made one million. There is no mention of ‘race’ here. Racism is viewed as largely ‘individual racism’;

no clear presentation of structural and systemic racism and its relationship to ‘black life chances’. Slavery and Colonialism is seen as historical inconveniences and similar to any other oppression of the past with any other race.

Black achievements and ancient history is seen only as evidence of our ability to make money. Leaving only a few ‘white’ bad racists apples around who cannot hamper the economic efforts of ‘talented’ focused ‘black’ people. The website encourages ‘black’ people to do further education, to become, doctors, accountants, teachers and bank traders. No sense here about ‘epistemology’–European knowledge production is viewed as ‘universal’ – thus, no need for our own educational systems. Clearly, it seems that, for many, ‘blacks’, black economics is essentially rooted in ‘assimilationist fantasies’ (Wilson, 1993). It is only a damaged psychological ‘black’ mind that wants to become indistinguishable from ‘whites’. It is the idea that in this process, ‘blacks’ would thereby automatically inherit the power, prestige, privilege and material advantage that ‘whites’ already enjoy – pure insanity. There is no sense at all of ‘nation-building’. No real ‘black’ ‘group’ economics. The prevailing idea seems to be ‘black’ ‘individualism’ and positive thinking in the mode of ‘white’ self-help books and attitudes. Where does all this come from?

‘White’ Marxists have always stressed class unity above racial loyalties to a ‘black’ bourgeoisie. Labour unity was apparently the key to real ‘black’ emancipation and true equality. William Patterson, a ‘black’ Marxist leader wrote in the Harlem Liberator (March 17, 1933): ‘The revolutionary struggle of the Negro masses must be built along the line of indissoluble struggle with the white working class’. As old as this statement is, many ‘black’ people today still believe this monumental deception –  and we still have some ‘black’ Marxist’s today. This Marxist ‘fairy tale’ that all ‘races’ will come together and end racist imperial domination and then ‘blacks’ will be equal to ‘whites’ is pure fantasy – and will never happen. Our problem as ‘black’ people is not class but ‘race’ (Mills,2003; Asante, 2003). Racial Formation Theory, the analytical tool in sociology has provided much evidence to show that ‘race’ cannot be reduced to class or ethnicity – but remains an ‘autonomous’ field of social conflict, political organisation and ideology (Omi & Winant, 1994).

In his important essay, ‘The Conservation of The Races’ (1897), Du Bois states: If this be true, (that humans will always be recognised by ‘race’) then the history of the world is the history, not of individuals, but of groups, not of nations, but of races, and he who ignores or seeks to override the race idea in human history, ignores and overrides the central thought of all history. Ultimately then, it is our ‘racial conditioning‘ that is holding us back economically as a people. Most ‘blacks’ are waiting for ‘whites to save us as a group – which will never happen. These ‘house slaves’ are utterly confused about the historical and political meaning of so-called ‘white allies’. Accordingly then, we must snapped-out-it, through ‘African spirituality’ and the ‘knowing of thy-self’ (Akbar,1999). We also must accept ‘racial-realism’ (Bell,1992). We must accept the reality of racism. We must accept the full meaning of European modern concept of ‘race’. As Dr Amos Wilson (1999) exclaimed,

‘we must accept the fact that this white man is never going to accept us totally… Give it up! Turn it loose! When you turn it loose you will see growth and development of self…If the foundation of their very culture, and the foundation of their economic and political social system is based on the subordination of ‘black’ people, then you must recognise that they are not going to give that up.

It’s time for the Black Economics Village in the UK, to step-up their understanding of what it really means to be ‘classified as ‘black‘ in ‘white’ countries and its relationship to Black Economics. They must know that, no amount of individual achievement or gaining of personal acceptance by ‘whites’ ‘will remove from them the stigma of their membership in a racially powerless ‘race’ (Wilson, 1998). Malcolm X, explained it clearly, ‘What do they call a black with a Ph.D? – Nigger‘ (Asante, 2003). Here, Malcolm understood that neither money or education is able to change the ‘racial status’ of the ‘black’ person in the mind of ‘whites’ who believe in inferiority based on ‘race’ and the condition of enslavement. ‘If a Serbian peasant, explains Asante (2003), came to the United States tomorrow and changed his surname from Milosevic to Miles, he would immediately be awarded greater ‘racial’, hence social, status with all the ‘rights, access, and privilege’ of whiteness than Cornel West a [‘black’] Princeton professor.

Thus, ‘black’ people need to throw-off the ‘white’ Marxist ideas of our liberation. They must know that being largely excluded from full participation in ‘white society’ is not the primary source of the relative weakness and vulnerability of the ‘black’ community. Wilson (1998) points out that ‘its principle source of powerless is its abstruse refusal to conceptually and socially utilise the perception of its self as a nation-within-nation, and thus utilize its ostracism to its advantage, as its major instrument of power (Wilson, 1998).

‘Black’ people are tired of the lack of resources in our community and the inevitable gentrification. To help, many ‘blacks’ promote books on economic as the means to fully understand how to make and create wealth. Yet, many have no idea of probably our most important book on ‘black’ economics as linked to our liberation – our Bible so to speak. It is Dr Amos Wilson’s: Blueprint For Black Power: A Moral, Political and Economic Imperative for the Twenty-first Century. Why hasn’t any ‘black’ person deeply involved in Black economics re-worked the economics in this book to the UK market and context?

‘If you want liberty, claimed Marcus Garvey to a meeting held in 1921 ‘you yourselves must strike the blow. If you must be free, you must become so through your own effort’ (Leeuwen, 2000). These efforts are not simply individual money making processes and having businesses. It is first and foremost the freeing of the mind from ‘racial indoctrination’. Put succinctly, Martin Luther King Jr (1964) exclaimed, ‘as long as the mind is enslaved the body can never be free.

Thus,’ to be an African living under European domination is to live in a time warp, to live out of sync. Wilson (1990) continued, it is therefore tantamount to living in state of false consciousness. To know one’s time is to know oneself. To know one’s rhythm, and to live in accord with it, is to live harmoniously and healthily’.

Garvey’s UNIA was bigger than the Civil Rights Movement in US and UK (Leeuwen,2000). Garvey’s influence extended well beyond the borders of the United States to the Caribbean, Canada and Africa. Garvey’s message had a tremendous influence on later groups as the civil rights movements developed. Subsequently, much of what he taught about racial pride can be heard in later figures such as Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Ada B Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer and many others. Our collective knowledge has therefore shown us that we must nation-build as a people. It was a debate that

W.E.B. Du Bois gave in his resignation speech from the NAACP. In a farewell address titled, ‘A Negro Nation Within a Nation’, Du Bois asserted the unique position that ‘black’ people had to offer in the US. He spoke of their political power, their power as consumers and their brainpower. He was right as ‘black’ US and even in the UK can boast enormous capital that has been exploited over the course of both nation’s histories. However, this has yet to be fairly and fully employed to increase prosperity for all ‘blacks’ in the UK and US.


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Published 20 June, 2022

Howard Dean Johnson