Just this past weekend I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the Third Annual Scholarship and Legends Luncheon of the Buffalo Association of Black Social Workers, Inc. The Buffalo organization is affiliated with the larger Association of Black Social Workers. Leading up to the event I had a flyer about the event posted on my office door. One of my colleagues read the flyer and innocently asked, “Why do they call it Black?” Understanding that my colleagues started out in another country, my only answer was, “Because they are Black.” Herein lies the conundrum for Black organizations in the post-Obama era. Many Black organizations came about either from rejection from major White organizations or to address an interest that no one else was addressing. Such an episode occurs due to the Black-White Dialectic and the Universality versus Particularity racial realities interwoven into the fabric of American socio-political and economic understanding.
Without doubt there is a national organization that is considered the representative body for all social workers. It is known as the National Association of Social Workers. No doubt that organization has a majority White membership. No doubt that organization came into existence before the Association of Black Social Workers. However, that organization will never be referred to the National Association of White Social Workers. Nevertheless, for all intents and purposes, the majority White organization functioned as such. This is no different from professional baseball pre-Jackie Robinson. Before Jackie Robinson, as an aspect of the Black-White Dialectic, there were two professional baseball leagues. There were the Major Leagues. There was also the Negro Leagues. Jackie Robinson was considered to have integrated the Major Leagues. The Major Leagues were never referred to as the White Leagues. Yet, that is how the organization functioned. Blacks were professionals. Yet, Blacks were excluded.
America’s White population dwarfs America’s Black population. The White population hovers around the 60 percent mark. The Black population, on a good day, clocks in around 13 percent. Africans living in the United States have been fighting an internecine connotative identity struggle. Moreover, Americans of African descent form a numerical minority that, unfortunately, inherits the baggage of being in the minority. Before one has an opportunity reveal the content of ones character, the label “minority” relegates one to the color of ones skin. The word minority has many negative connotations. The most overwhelming is that the minority is considered less than the majority.
The Black-White Dialectic also affects my own discipline of Political Science. The National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS) is where the majority of Political Scientists congregate to participate in the discipline of Political Science. Yet, the organization that is recognized as the preeminent body for the discipline is known as the American Political Science Association (APSA). This same logic pertains to the American Bar Association and the National Bar Association. Moreover, this dialectic applies to the medical field also. There is the American Medical Association. There is the National Medical Association that represents a majority of African American physicians. These parallel racial professional universes all began for similar reasons. For example The African Methodist Episcopal emerged from the Methodist Church due to worshipers of color encountering discrimination. Notwithstanding the reasons such parallel universes were established, there are those who argue that Black organizations and establishments such as Historically Black Colleges should collapse like the Negro Baseball Leagues given the fact that racial exclusion is no longer the order of the day. Some even go so far as to say that utilization of the term Black denotes a type of racism of its own. Why was Vanessa Williams the first Black Miss America? Why does the Black Miss America Pageant continue? Many Whites attend HSBCUs. However, they are still designated as being Black more so than being deemed integrated institutions.
Out of the Black-White Dialectic Black Lives Matter also emerges. Black Lives Matter is not a racist hate group. Black Lives Matter does employ a zero sum game. The simple logic of Black Lives Matter is the same logic that brought the Black professional organizations into existence. The simple logic of Black Lives Matter is that Black Lives Matter too. Black social workers, Black physicians, Black lawyers, Black engineers, and Black political scientists matter too.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”