Bayard Rustin- I think it is absolutely true that we should look at the full person that we identify with and exalt because they may have characteristics that are similar, but we also should tell their full truth and not parts that make us feel good or that we can relate with- they can be all of those things and should be, if not it would dishonor them. African Americans are not a monolith and all schools of thought are needed to determine what can and can not work.
Bayard was able to be his true self and that was not an easy task being a vocal activist, Black, gay and a socialist in America. When problem solving issues of race in this country it was not one approach or thinking that chipped away at it and that continues to try and chip away at it, it was views that were formed from different perspectives, life experiences etc.
I do not agree with his idea of addressing class issues and not incorporating race. Implementing his ideas in America would not work because this was a nation that was built on the construct of race and white supremacy, the othering and the thingification of African Slaves to keep White supremacy in place. Slaves were considered chattel property and the descendants of those slaves who have to endure the systemic and institutional racism that was built on the concept of slavery.
We are not a homogeneous society where racism doesn’t come into play and class is all we have to deal with. What would the safe guards be for racism not to infiltrate all of this work towards economic parity? How does one level the playing field without addressing the insidious ways racism has seeped into every aspect of American culture?
When researching Bayard, I made the connection to Bernie and his stance against reparations – he fundamentally does not believe in reparations and believes the approach is to deal with the class issues and all will be solved.
I find that Bernie’s whole appeal was that he was sincere, anti establishment and not political but a truth teller. Obviously, being in politics I understand the game has to be played to a certain extent, but not with the people you say you represent. The fact that he can’t just outright say he doesn’t believe in it and discuss his position, but would rather be dismissive or visibly bothered by the question of reparations shows that he is playing a political game here.
It will not bode well for a White, Jewish man to say what is and what isn’t needed for American Descendants of Slaves and by default signaling and cosigning with the “anti identity politics folks” the “don’t play the race card folks” who have no problem highlighting what the rust belt, middle america, coal miners, workers in manufacturing industry and christian evangelicals need.