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Black People You Should Know: Professor John Bracey

Black People You Should Know: Professor John Bracey

Have you ever taken an African American studies course? You can thank people like Professor John Bracey. Professor John Bracey is a pioneer of Afro-American studies, a seasoned activist, and currently teaches at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

EBONY chatted with the history-maker about Black radical thought and movements.

On the role of Black radical thinkers:

“The most important role of Black radicals is defining issues, identifying alternatives and fighting for those alternatives. Being a minority population by definition limits the content of what you can do that is radical. It doesn’t limit the tactics; it doesn’t limit your ability to critique the system. We can tell you what’s wrong with White America better than anyone—changing things is a different ballgame.”

On the tension between revolutionary thinking and capitalism:

“The touchstone of Black politics has been how do you make The Enlightenment apply to Black people. The goal has not been to get to a socialist or anarchist future. Black Americans are not mad with capitalism, because they haven’t gotten to it yet. They’re not about to move past [capitalism] until they get to it. That’s why virtually every struggle ends up with some form of trying to transform capitalism, some type of inclusion or moving up within it.”

On the youth active in current movements:

“Young Black people are moving, and they’re moving without the sense that they should compromise along the way. They are not going to accept token things because they assume we should have already had those things. If you make a mistake and correct it, we shouldn’t pat you on the back for that. They are better off now than we were because they are in a place that they see they’re going to have to take over themselves.”

On intersectionality and organizing:

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“You can’t organize everybody before you move because you will never move that way. Now you keep their interests in account as they develop their own struggle, but you don’t stop and try to get agreement before you move. You got to maintain a theoretical and political distinction between the connectedness of struggles and the right of people within those struggles to have independent goals, not defined by anyone outside of themselves.”

On signs of progress:

“If you go back to Harold Cruse, he lays out what Black people ought to control is the thing they do best―cultural production and entertainment. If you can control the profit and use your capital accumulation skills in those places, then you can translate that into economic development and political power. NBA players know what power they have, and they use it in political campaigns and for economic development. I think that piece is moving pretty well.”

Find out more about Professor John Bracey and his work.

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