négritude, black radical liberalism, and the importance of game theory

August 1, 2017
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By Jesse Chase, AFROPUNK Contributor

I first heard of game theory because it was the title of The Roots’ 2006 album.

Game theory, the algorithmic science for calculating conflict and cooperation between decision makers, applied to video game programming, economics, psychology, political science, and biology, and is what controls the illusion of the free and liberal world we live in today.

The Roots’ Game Theory album, coming from artists with names like Black Thought and QuestLove (amor fati, love of fate), was Black social commentary that spoke to everyone. The Roots always bring the Négritude.

The term “Négritude” was coined by Césaire in his Cahier d’un Retour au Pays Natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, 1939) and it means, in his words, “The simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture.”

Although its founders, Aimé Césaire, Léopold Senghor and Léon Damas initially claimed politics was secondary to the movement, Senghor actually became the first President of Senegal while Césaire became the mayor of Fort-de-France in Martinique and also formed the PPM (the Martiniquan Progressive Party) political party after leaving the PCF (French Communist Party). The consciousness that Négritude actualized as a movement was elaborated upon. There was little political theory developed by them but these moves by Sengor and Césaire into politics could be considered a Black radical liberalism in the face of racial liberalism.

Racial liberalism (as racial capitalism) has been the obvious dominant form of liberalism for hundreds of years. Black radical liberalism is a liberalism that takes the history of white supremacy seriously in a way that mainstream liberalisms, whether white or black, do not.

It aims to synthesize black liberalism, black nationalist, and black Marxist traditions. Black radical liberalism is different from black mainstream liberalism in that it is aware of the necessity for a “reordering of liberal normative priorities.”

Négritude was next level in its position like Black radical liberalism because Senghor followed in the tradition of quantum physicist philosopher Henri Bergson by trying to understand ‘being’ as a whole. Quantum physics was a wake up from the old game of Newtonian science. Senghor’s attention was caught by the end of Newtonian sciences loss of credibility resembling the end of the American empire as we know it, or knew it before Trump, as it moves towards hyper-villain spectacle now.

While Senghor promoted a rediscovery and celebration of African beliefs and values and the establishment of an authentic black self, he also imagined a new racial consciousness, a deracialized historical consciousness, or what Charles Mills calls a “colour conscious liberalism” that’s sensitive to racial justice. Moving towards neither racialism or self-negation, it requires affirmation. It is the rooting of oneself in oneself and the confirmation of one’s being because, as Saul Williams says, race is performative. It is what divides us and it is what unites us. It can be used as a corrective justice. We have to control our minds and our bodies. Because we know, as Toni Morrison reminds us, we aren’t just going to replace one hegemonic racial supremacy for another.

If there is something to say under Trumpism it is that the chickens have come home to roost and there’s a better clarity of the racial dynamics in the U.S. This goes for Canada and other countries as well where the alt-right may not have seemed so present and numerous until Trump. It is the international management of alt-right ignorance and elitist deception. The management of ignorance is game theory applied through media and miseducation.

In order to work, black radical liberalism would need to combine the struggle against plutocracy with the struggle against white supremacy, and negotiate the tricky mix of conflicting and potentially converging group interests involved, most specifically helping to restore First Nations communities and hopefully convincing working-class and poor whites that they are being manipulated by elitist plutocrats.

This comes with an analysis of America’s ethnic make-up, as Ishmael Reed’s recent article reminds that many alt-right Trumpists are of Scottish and Irish heritage, both countries that have been subjected to imperialism and discrimination but have been colluded into their own cultural erasure by embracing the nepotistic American dream narrative.

Reed’s article also points to Houston Baker’s already dated 2008 book, Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned The Ideals of The Civil Rights Era while simultaneously claiming Henry Louis Gates as “the designated leader of Black intellection” (for all house negro purposes). The word “intellection” is as pretentious as Gates’ stance for being a slavery apologist favoured for his mainstream Black liberal digestibility. This is why Black female philosopher Colena Sesanker argues that there is an obligation to resist oppression.

In this regard towards the plutocratic game theory controlling us, both black and white, it’s time to stop hating each other and to wake up and resist, don’t hate the player, hate the game. Well hate Trump. And imperialism too. Hate being played. Hate ignorance and it’s oppression. We are stuck in a race game right now, in this epoch of racial liberalism that’s lasted for the past 400 years or so.

In game theory terms it’s a straight forward no-win situation for either party, for any race. Being racially performative is an event, a happening, it isn’t a static object in space and time. It’s as Bergson would call a duration in time, all flux and process towards becoming something other than racially oppressed and getting out of this prisoner’s dilemma.