“The Encyclopedia of New York City” on “blacks” state: “New York City has played a pivotal role in the history of black Americans”. This is a false premise and “mythologic” is a stumbling block in the path of Blacks moving towards freedom. This statement about Blacks should read: Blacks have played a pivotal role in the history of New York City.
According to myriad publications, Blacks were imported, without consent, into the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam in 1626 to “build public works and to work in the prosperous fur trade” without any possibility of compensation. Dutch law permitted enslaved Africans to make certain acquisitions including the purchase of the “Negro Burial Ground”.
The English conquest rearranged matters in New Amsterdam. English law ushered in the slave codes for enslaved Africans while whites enjoyed the English common law. Under English rule, New York had and will continue to have two sets of books. Common law is unwritten law. Code law is written and it means “might makes right”. See, for example, the Internal Revenue Code, the Uniform Commercial Code and the penal codes.
By 1799, Abolitionists persuaded the New York Legislature to enact the Gradual Emancipation Act. This law did not mean that whites had dispensed with “chains” for Africans. A statewide penal system was also established on the same day as the Gradual Emancipation Act. This was a forerunner to the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Another restriction on freedom was added in 1821. Blacks had to own property to enjoy the right to vote while white men suffered no similar restrictions. This imposed a “democracy” on white men while Black men had to endure a “timocracy”. Blacks only acquired the “right to vote” in 1965 while whites had enjoyed the “right of representation” since the American Revolution.
In 1845, New York became the first city in the United States to adopt a full-time police department. The law became known as the “Day and Night Police” with a star-shaped badge. Policemen were “stars”. New York City would hire its first Black policemen, Samuel Battle, in 1911 and its first Black precinct commander, Lloyd Sealy, in1964.
In the meantime, volunteer fire companies helped steer politics in New York City and especially from the 1830’s to the mid 1860’s. Apartheid existed in volunteer fire companies, Blacks need not apply. Seven mayors after 1835 were members of volunteer fire companies.
This period signaled the rise of “Boss Tweed”, the architect of “Tammany Hall” and who himself, was a fire foreman. Tammany Hall suppressed the Black vote and, in alliance with white firefighters, initiated many wars against Blacks and set fires in the Black community. Litigation is not enough for organizations like the Vulcan Society and 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.
After the War of 1812, political clubs, aided by the ward system, came into effect. By the 1890’s, Blacks had become restless. To appease them, Tammany Hall created the United Colored Democracy in 1898. It was headed by a Black person and was an early example of “Black faces in high places”. This system of “plantation politics” is still in effect today. A current example is the mayoral campaign of William Thompson, Jr.
Eastern European Jewish workers in New York City played a significant role in establishing the Socialist Party in America (SPA), in 1901, while Blacks were starting to practice “plantation politics”. The SPA elected Myer London to Congress in 1914, 1916, and 1920. Jewish neighborhoods elected five Socialists to the Board of Addemen in 1917. By 1920, five Socialists from New York City were expelled from the New York Legislature.
This year will be the first time that Blacks will have engaged in an ambitious program of gaining influence and power in City Hall by circulating independent nominating petitions. Politically, this put Blacks roughly one hundred years behind Jews who have now coalesced with the Irish and the Italians to control City Hall.
Independent Political System
For this mission to be successful, history must be at the centerpiece of developing Black politics. Blacks must allow history to shape our philosophy, our logic and our ethics. White supremacy and Black history are not compatible. To succeed in politics, “Negro accommodationism” is not an option.
Blacks, through the teachings of revered ancestors like Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, Marcus Garvey, Cong. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Kwame Ture have given Blacks an appreciation for philosophy. Malcolm X, in particular, has given Blacks an appreciation of ethics and Melvin Tolson has given Blacks an appreciation for logical arguments.
Philosophy steers Blacks to an appropriate belief system. This belief system has to be affected, inevitably, by white supremacy which forms the basis for the U.S. Constitution. Ethics is concerned about our relationship to each other and not our relationship to a “god”. It should engender trust. Argument arises out of representation and it should be based on logic.
A political system must have architects, financiers and engineers. Architects must prepare blueprints. A political blueprint must accompany every political meeting. The blueprint should include history, philosophy, logic and ethics. It should resemble a road map. No Blueprint! No Meeting!
There must be financiers. A political party is based on shared responsibility. Financiers must be willing to incur financial obligations for the political party. He or she, who signs the dotted line, calls the tune. If no one is willing to sign the dotted line, the political party has no inclination to survive and to succeed.
There must be a sufficient number of engineers. This is the rank-and-file. Engineers must shoulder all of the responsibilities of the political organization and implement the blueprint. They have a plan and they must implement it without hesitation. “If [engineers] fail to plan, [they] plan to fail”. Planning is the key to political success.
The ideal situation is for Blacks, Latinos and Asians to coalesce like the Irish, the Israelis and the Italians. This is not a perfect world. Success in politics requires education and experience. Blacks, Latinos and Asians were disenfranchised in New York until the last century. Of these groups, Blacks have the most experience in politics even if It were “plantation politics”.
For the first time in New York City history, Blacks will circulate independent nominating conventions to acquire power and influence in municipal politics. Adolfo Carrion is seeking to represent the Independence Party, which is white, in November 2013. John Liu is placing his hopes and aspirations with the Democratic Party and its 2013 September primary. Hopefully, Latinos and Asians will join the winning ticket in 2017. Blacks can win it all in 2013 because of political arithmetic.