Historically, Black America, in its struggle for freedom has made many alliances that were problematic to say the least. Organizations such as the African Blood Brotherhood and the Black Panther Party had revolutionary agendas steeped in ultra-liberal ideologies. These agendas, at times, clashed with the conservative ethos of Black America.
In fact, it would not be a gross exaggeration to say that Black people are the embodiment of conservatism. It is not a conservatism born of greed and plutocratic privilege. It is a conservatism born of the blunt force trauma of the American experience. It is not difficult to understand why the idea of family would resonate with a people exposed to the horror of chattel slavery. It is no grand leap of consciousness to see the importance of education in a world were your literacy is criminalized under the color of law. Thus, education, family, and yes, God were constant companions of Black Americans on the Jericho Road of American life.
It was this strand of conservatism that moved James Brown to respond to President Richard Nixon with all the soul contained within his small dynamite 5’5 frame. Brown accepted Richard Nixon’s invitation to perform at his 1969 presidential inauguration. But Nixon had a darker motive for enlisting the services of soul brother number 1.
On the campaign trial, Nixon, fueled by the fears and anxieties of the white majority, ran on a law and order platform. This appealed to whites disheveled by social unrest from ghetto rebellions. The latent threat of black radicalism emanating from the Black Power Movement struck terror in the hearts of the white aristocratic elite.
Organizations such as the Black Panther Party with its multiracial coalitions and it’s battle cry of “Power to the People,” made many whites feel that the destruction of their suburban white as rice culture was close at hand. Thus, it was understandable why Nixon saw black dissidents as perilous to the internal security of the United States.
Nixon’s responded with a clever strategy that borrowed from the self-determination notions, which echoed from the rhetorical bullhorns of the Black Power Movement. He proposed to change the conditions of the Black Community through the creation of a Black Capitalist controlled economy which would lift Black America from the quicksands of economic and social inequality. In other words, Black Capitalism.
He stated, “People in the ghetto, have to have more than an equal chance. They should be given a dividend.” Under Nixon’s Black Capitalism, black business and banking would be the “key to black economic progress.” It was proposed that the black community could use its own money to create a trickle down effect which would increase home ownership, educational opportunities, and a thriving independent black economy.
Nixon signed Executive Order 11458, establishing the Office of Minority Business Enterprise (OMBE) within the Department of Commerce. This was the carrot that hitched Brown to Nixon’s cart. Under Nixon’s plan, Black banks would receive huge deposits from governmental institutions to jump start their economic engines. It further proposed huge capital investments in the black community to ensure the program’s success.
Brown was beaming. As an emissary and supporter of Nixon, he had a beeline directly into the White House. To demonstrate the power of the program, Brown became its chief example. He opened restaurants, bought radio stations, and formed a whole nest of other networked businesses. He rested in quiet assurance believing that as a partner to the administration, Nixon would bring the funk. But The Godfather failed to read the small print in the usurious contract.
Brown ignored the red flag personified by Nixon’s nickname, Tricky Dick. So it should have been no surprise when Tricky Dick did what he did best: lie.
Nixon’s big Black Capitalism Program was an even bigger white lie. Nixon’s sleight of hand trickery: neutralized the radical agenda of black organizations, galvanized his base, while spending practically nothing. But what about the capital investment? Wasn’t that real? Nope! Nixon’s plan was so cheap because it depended on white private sector investment. That was as unlikely as Michelle Obama being elected president.
When Nixon started dodging his phone calls, Brown began to suspect that he had been played. The 1973 release of the infamous Nixon White House Tapes (look it up) revealed to the world that the President was running game on the Godfather. The tapes revealed that while smiling in his face, Nixon had literally sold him out for chicken change. Safely in office, after his election, he is caught on tape saying quite simply, “enough of the black stuff.”
Brown’s reputation in the black community took a massive hit as he began to be called an uncle tom, a sell out and a boot-licker. But the Godfather, being a master of flipping adversity, was just too funky for Nixon’s fuckery. He went on to salvage his reputation by bolstering his support for black organizations, colleges, and causes. His ultimate rebuttal would come from his 1973 release of the Big Payback.
But Nixon’s real payback came not from Brown, but from saboteurs and sycophants in his own party. Through a conspiracy of bungling ineptitude, sinister figures with dark motivations, and a military analyst employed by the RAND Corporation, Nixon’s hotel of cards came tumbling down. He retreated from the Oval Office in shame and disgrace leaving behind a legacy of executive criminality and corruption.
James Brown went on to become a pop cultural phenomenon. And though he suffered from drug addiction and personal demons later in his life, his music went on to form the basis of a whole new cultural art form. His music, image and style has been copied by millions of artists, products and genres.
In the present sphere of Republican politics, Donald Trump has dusted off Nixon’s playbook of political trickery by the proposal of an Urban Investment Initiative. It is an initiative this is as vague as it is whimsical. But the moral of James Brown’s political folly teaches us that power is a solitary endeavor. No one is going to subsidize your empowerment. NO ONE! In the game of power, you are better served with an honest enemy than a false friend. TAKE ME ON! TO THE BRIDGE! 1-2-3-4 GET IT!….. AIN’T IT FUNKY? AIN’T IT FUNKY?
TONY MACEO is a senior blogger at the Negromanosphere and the Chief Blogger at Power & Strategy.com. Like and Share the article. Subscribe to the website. Support on Paypal @firstname.lastname@example.org or on Patreon at Powerofstrategies.