Strictly speaking, "black capitalism" is a contradiction in terms. Capitalism is the social system that recognizes ability as man's most important attribute, that casts away the matter of his skin color, homeland or race. A free society as such has no more concern with the hue of a man's face than with his blood type or shirt size.
In half-free America, however, race is becoming a pervasive consideration. Dozens of major universities now offer courses in "black history," which study or omit historical movements not on the basis of their objective importance but on the basis their racial content. A Presidential candidate runs a campaign laced with hysterical white racism—and is rewarded with nearly ten million votes, militant student terrorists shift into low gear, from blitzkrieg to attrition warfare, tearing at administrators with demands for "blacks only" dorms and study centers. A minor Presidential candidate (Eldridge Cleaver) runs a black racist campaign, captures few votes, but gains the loving attention of the college press for his obscenities on the subject of white women. The New York City school system is paralyzed by a power struggle in which Jews and Negroes trade seething racial slurs.
If "black capitalism" is to survive—as capitalism—if it is to be something more than a phony label for black power—it must overcome the current surges of race-consciousness. The notion that certain races or national groups have inherent traits of character—the conviction that one's color or one's country of origin endows one with automatic pride or shame—the idea that there are collective virtues or vices pooled among the members of a given racial group—these are fatal to capitalism. One cannot uphold a system which rests on the freedom of the individual while claiming that man is just a token of his race. Racism—the practice of attributing to individuals the aliened traits of their race-collective—must be understood and rejected by all those who would advocate truly capitalist "black capitalism."
A major roadblock on the way to such understanding is the American press. Fond of such ominous phrases as "A Divided Nation" and "A Crisis in Black and White"—but fearful of identifying the precise nature of racial tensions—the press merely adds its own confusions to those of the public at large. A marionette philosophy of news ("tell them what they want to hear") conceived in an intellectual vacuum, has led the press to parrot the principles of racism in its very own "objective" news reporting. Countless reporters make useless reference to the race of participants in news events and speak glibly of "the black community" or "the white man"—as if such collectives lived and breathed in reality. Racially innocent events are reported otherwise—racist premises slip unnoticed into ordinary news accounts.
One major news magazine recently asserted, when discussing the rise of militant black racism on campus, that it was no more than "backlash" against the prejudice of whites—that "racism breeds racism." Thus did it employ a major premise of racism itself—that the individual when confronted with a new situation responds automatically, according to his race, responding as a weed responds to sunlight. The magazine presented the situation as if there had been no alternatives and no questions of ethical choice. But contrary to what racists might hold, men do not respond automatically to the physical conditions of their lives—they are not at all like cabbages and apple trees—they think and choose. How they will respond to racism depends not upon their race but upon how they, as individuals, regard themselves and their lives.
Another occasion of implicit press racism was the final program, on September 2, 1968, of the CBS "Of Black America" series. Presented in the program were results of an Opinion Research Corporation survey on American racial attitudes, and though an astonishing number of the questions were seriously flawed, one will serve for illustration. In an attempt to gauge white racism, the interviewee was given this problem? "As a race, Negroes are not as civilized as whites. Would you agree or disagree?"
Because one cannot ask about Negroes "as a race," the question could not, as the program had claimed, hope to offer any measure of the interviewee's prejudice. The question is, at worst, implicitly racist and, at best, cruelly ambiguous. Was one being asked whether "civilized" whites outnumber "civilized" Negroes—or whether Negroes are determined, genetically, to be less "civilized" than whites? (How a multi-million dollar broadcasting corporation could make such basic mistakes is a question we hope to answer in a future article on objectivity in news reporting.)
The poisoned springs of racism which presently dot America are part and parcel of growing welfare-statist trends. The train of coercive programs which such "humanistic engineers" as Hubert Humphrey have brought into being, discounts the freedom and importance of individual. According to the prophets of statutory utopia, men are to be subject to the dictates of the "greater good"—of "society"—of other men. The welfare regime regards society not in terms of individuals, but in terms of powered aggregates—the old, the sick, the poor, producers, consumers, farmers, labor and so on. If the state may favor men because they are old and poor, and handicap others because they are healthy and young, then what ethical principle prevents it from playing with still another category— race? If the Weimar Republic was established partially on collectivism—if it had already established, in constitutional theory as well as practice, that there were group rights which transcended the individual—then what could possibly have prevented rise of privilege-by-race? In any society the step from political to racial tribalism is not even a step; it is a mere twitch.
If racism is to receive no official encouragement in America, statism must first be overturned. Only then will the matter of one's race diminish in importance. Moreover, if "black capitalism" is to be distinct from racist "black power," it must seek freedom from the aid and interference of the state. It must seek a color-blind government that guarantees the liberty and independence of all men.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Black Capitalism—A Preface".