ADOS and Nativism
The issue of reparations for slavery in the United States has surfaced in our political discourse around the 2020 Race for the White House. Because the American Descendants of Slavery Movement or ADOS, led by political commentator Yvette Carnell and attorney Antonio Moore, has unapologetically burst on the political scene as a force to be reckoned with. To the casual onlooker, the group seems to have come out of nowhere. That could not be further from the truth.
The concept of reparations, restitution, or compensation for crimes or harmful acts has been part of human interaction since before recorded history. The notion only becomes “controversial” when Black Americans bring up redress for the myriad injuries and injustices we have suffered as a people in North American colonies and the United States.
These harms begin with the institution of chattel slavery in 1619 and each successive exploitative system that followed in an unbroken chain of destructive and plunderous policy and practice. All of which generated trillions in wealth that has never benefited ADOS, as a group. None of this has been addressed in a meaningful or durable manner. Slave Descendants are going in reverse. In nearly all relevant measures, the ADOS community is near or below the pre-Civil Rights Act levels. It is projected to get worse in the coming years. Further, none of the supposed solutions that we have heard for decades have worked to lift us out of this inflicted detriment.
#ADOS has been sounding the alarm as best they can. They are being treated as if the ADOS identity itself is a betrayal. As a facet of their national, group-oriented mission; the body has embraced their contributions to the United States, their citizenship, and even the Stars and Bars. In return, the movement has been savagely attacked from the political Left and Center. The movement’s decision to identify as American has opened an astonishing line of attack from those antagonistic toward #ADOS. A movement that centers Black Empowerment for victims of the US slave trade is being called anti-immigrant, fascist, and nativist. These are heavy charges that seem to be intended to defame and silence. Descendants of Slaves in the United States have a very different connection to this nation than the MAGA crowd.
It cannot go unsaid in this fight for ADOS reparations, that resources are power. Obtaining/retaining control of and the ability to exploit those resources, as a group, is real power. There are often social and policy limits on what this power can do for an individual or group. It is well known that American domestic policy and practice has been to keep resources and resource-driven power out of the hands of the victims of the institution of American Slavery and their Descendants for over 400 years. The quickest way to come under withering assault from the powers-that-be, it’s minions, and those that benefit from this system is to attempt to materially change this intolerable and abhorrent state of affairs in favor of Black Americans.
The stark truth about America, in terms of the distribution of resources, is that White capital takes what it wants. Then it uses policy to decide how the remainder trickles down to the rest of us. The remaining groups utilize their available resources and influence to jockey for the largest piece of the pie remnants they can get for their community.
Before 1965, the main benefactors of this “system” were Europeans that immigrated here and eventually completed the process of becoming White; like the Irish, Jews, Italians, etc. This is because Whiteness isn’t really about race or skin color in America. It’s about having access to full citizenship and all that it entails, including the largest share of resources possible.
One of the main stipulations for inclusion into Whiteness is to never, ever put the needs of Slave Descendants on par with White concerns, as a group. This meant that organizations and institutions from other groups were expected not to assist Black Liberation and Civil Rights in any way that will meaningfully disrupt the White Supremacist social/racial economic hierarchy, especially not on ADOS terms. All these groups largely comply, most with indifference, many with vicious glee. Less for ADOS means more for them. Even in this environment of engineered scarcity, we’ve always been gracious, caring, and respectful to newcomers, as a community. Always willing to share what little we had.
In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11246 which initiated Affirmative Action. This order created a system that would mandate Black economic inclusion by fighting discrimination against ADOS. The plan would force entities to hire Black workers and give contracts to Black companies. Affirmative Action was under assault from White America from the very beginning.
Dilution of the program began within 2 years. Other oppressed demographics were added instead of giving each group a singular program based on population, type/depth of discrimination, and wealth position. The first group to be added was Women. This measure opened the door to White Women who could funnel these earmarked resources right back into White communities. Even under these conditions, Black folks showed compassion and welcomed new people into this system, largely without complaint. On some level, I think Black America believed that more people in the program meant more allies would fight for the program to continue. We were wrong. (see correction below)
The definition of genocide from Article II of the UN Genocide Convention
Slave Descendants are facing ongoing genocide in the United States and no group or institution is standing with us full-throated and forcefully. Not a single one. The Democratic Party has depended on ADOS votes for national and state-level viability for decades. They won’t even stand with us. Many people reading this article will do so from a trendy, formerly-Black neighborhood and later step over ADOS homeless people. They will never stop to think about how both the neighborhood and the homelessness were created by American ethnic cleansing and their silence.
Some individuals are allies. I truly appreciate every one of them. Sadly, allies are far outnumbered by the “I’m for reparations. BUT…” lip service folks. Others are trying to distract from the American DOS demands with “What about [insert group]?” This particular tactic is also an attempt to shame and make our demands seem selfish to casual onlookers. No other oppressed group is treated in this way. There are also a few people that are making other, often less effective, reparations arguments (without mentioning the contributions of ADOS activism). Ultimately, we seem to be on our own.
Because this article is intended to take on some of the talking points that are being deployed to otherize #ADOS and bury the obvious reparations justice claim. These ADOS-Only Smears are mostly stunning double standards that do not survive the slightest scrutiny. The goal is to befoul the movement so that no one will bother to examine the slander or the clear and concise arguments for redress.
Like most slander of Black people, these smears weaponize the implicit biases around race that all of us have. People in this country have a limitless capacity for believing anything negative that is said or inferred about Black people, in general, and ADOS in particular. Americans and others also find it difficult to believe positive things about ADOS. This dynamic makes the campaign even more insidious because reversing its effects is more challenging than it would be for any other group.
To help counter the lies, I will provide “Smear Cards” for each of the talking points that are addressed in this article. The cards are shareable graphics that you can download and use in your daily interactions. Each card will have three parts:
- Smear: The accusation being used to slander ADOS.
- Truth: The reality that obliterates the smear.
- Key: Usually a simple question that reveals the intention of the smear and smearer.
The goal is for ADOS and allies to use these cards to quickly, easily diffuse this slander by posting the card or build other arguments based on the framework.
Naturally, once the people involved in the smear campaign see these cards, they will dismiss them as right-wing propaganda. That is to be expected. But, logic and facts have an odd way of seeping in for the right people. So keep using them unapologetically. If you have any suggestions for other cards, contact me.
Definitions and Explanations
To tackle these deeply concerning issues, it is best to start by defining terms.
ADOS: Stands for American Descendents of Slavery. It is a lineage-based identity for people of African descent whose ancestors lived through the institution of US chattel slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, etc.
#ADOS: Hashtag-ADOS, also called #AmericanDOS, is a social and political movement seeking particular economic redress for ADOS in the form of reparations and a Black Agenda based on economic inclusion, wealth-building opportunities, and full citizenship. To reiterate, this distinct justice claim is based on lineage, not skin color or race.
Nativism: The policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants.
Those of us whose ancestors suffered through the crucible that was chattel slavery on the lands that would become the United States recognize that our experiences differ from other groups in the African Diaspora and people from other nations living in the United States.
This is an identity that has two relatively straight-forward requirements: 1) one Black slave ancestor that can be traced to pre-Civil War America, 2) have selected Black/African American on official documents in the last 10 years. This is a very generous, even inclusive, criteria.
Because this designation is a consanguineal, not ideological, qualification, ADOS is a cross-section of Black Americana. From street dudes to university professors, from Socialists to conservatives, and everything in between. All are welcome. This movement is about correcting a historical wrong, not policing ideologies. It’s like a family reunion, you can opt-out but you can’t bar anyone from coming.
ADOS is an umbrella identity. There are two other affiliated groups under this designation with their thought leaders.
- Black First (#B1)- Prof. Black Truth & Jason Black
- Foundational Black Americans (#FBA)- Tariq Nasheed
These strands differ in social ideology. B1 & FBA lean more Black Nationalist. While #ADOS seems to range from Centrist to Progressive and other ideologies further left. This colorful mix of attitudes & beliefs populate the ranks of American Descendants of Slaves just as they do in the greater society. Not everyone falls under one of these three sub-groups. There is a lot of overlap, as well. However, many folks don’t fit into any of these categories. All are still ADOS.
Like the Civil Rights Era, there are multiple groups seeking redress for ADOS concerns. Then, as now, there were distinct groups like SNCC, the Black Panthers, NoI, CORE, SCLC, etc. all going in the same direction from different paths. This is something Black people are often accused of being unable to accomplish.
It is heartening that ADOS are uniting across ideology and class to build a brighter future for all of our children and the nation.
The peoples that became slaves arrived on these shores in chains, by force, and as property. All were sold into bondage from myriad tribes, religions, cultures, and regions from across mostly West Africa. For most, names, previous lives, languages, and histories were seasoned away. They were dropped into the killing fields of the American South to be raped, murdered, maimed, and exploited.
Their unpaid labor and unpaid intellectual toil built the wealth on which the United States sits. That wealth has grown exponentially over the centuries to the benefit of multiple generations of mostly White individuals and families; as well as corporations, institutions, and nations.
Just as the wealth created by their contributions was, and is, being passed down through the generations; Black people passed down compounded poverty and disadvantage when they should have had a large share of the wealth they generated. They should have had the ability to participate in activities to grow and protect this wealth, just as White people did.
This imbalance creates a very specific debt which is estimated to be in the trillions of dollars. It has never been addressed by this nation or the other entities that have benefited from the wealth created by slavery and the multiple exploitative systems that followed in the United States.
This movement is seeking specific, long-term economic redress and commensurate protections for ADOS.
Like Racism, true Nativism requires a modicum of power. The DOS does not possess this type of influence. The Right could not possibly care less about Black opinions, the Center is stunningly hostile, and the Left is utterly indifferent to the plight of ADOS. The power of rhetoric should never be downplayed but, this claim of Nativism seems to be another smear meant to defame and silence this movement. When we get full citizenship, we can revisit this charge.
As the “American” in American Descendents of Slavery would indicate, ADOS has embraced their hard-earned citizenship, much like many groups did in the Civil Rights Era. Like any other country, American citizenship comes with certain rights, responsibilities, and protections. As slave descendants, Black folks have never enjoyed the full benefits of our status as citizens. In perhaps the cruelest of ironies, citizenship may be the only and final card that ADOS have to play.
No one in power fights for the specific needs of slave descendants. Not the Congressional BLACK Caucus. No powerful public figures. None of the current candidates for President, save Marianne Williamson, even bothers to seriously mention reparations and the specific needs of the community. After mentioning reparations for ADOS during the debates, Ms. Williamson was savaged by the media for other reasons. But, the message was clear for the Oprah-approved, best selling author: “Never support the justice claims of American DOS. Ever.” The other candidates have already capitulated to White Supremacy on this issue. Hopefully, they will find their courage soon.
In the current context, the charge of ADOS nativism rings extremely hollow. At most, what we are seeing from some using the ADOS hashtag could be termed Ethnic Bigotry. All bigotries abhorrent and I implore my fellow ADOS to refrain from using inflammatory terms like “illegals” or “foreigners” in their interactions. Even in the face of intentional provocation.
There are also charges that the ADOS website, ados101.com, is fascist or anti-immigrant. It is neither. The site is an unvarnished, in-your-face view of the deteriorating status of American Slave Descendants and how we got here. It does not spare anyone’s feelings. Even as a Descendant of Slaves, the raw facts and research felt like an assault on my senses and predispositions. The sight does not stop there. It also offers policy remedies that go beyond cash reparations. The site includes long term policy solutions for the social, psychological, and economic repair of Black America. Please visit the site and see for yourself. You can also read my article “The Last Third Rail In US Politics: American Descendants of Slavery (#ADOS).” I drew a lot from the ados101 website. Please click these links, it could go a long way in dispelling the misinformation being disseminated.
This section is about human nature. It is not intended to demonize any individual or group.
It must be noted at the outset that not all persons or groups that come to these shores hail from downtrodden circumstances as refugees fleeing upheaval and strife. On the contrary, many entered the United States with wealth, advanced degrees and were born into elite circles back home. More than a few can reach back for additional resources and political support from their home countries through diplomatic and social channels.
The influence of White Supremacy and capitalism is global. Not a single corner of the planet is untouched. People are divided into groups based on race, creed, color, sex, class, etc.
Every nation and culture has its own internal biases. Racism is virulent in places like the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Toxic classism is alive and well in India and Nigeria. Sexism is the norm in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Colorism still impacts daily life in Brazil. Homophobia is rampant in Jamaica. The list goes on and on.
All humans are products of their ethnic and cultural upbringings. Most people are good and righteous. However, none of us are immune to the day-to-day, year-after-year influences of our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and community. Moving to a new country does not remove these biases. It takes a great deal of effort to undermine this programing. Unfortunately, deprogramming requires the realization that this way of thinking is wrong. Then they must not allow their native community to drag them back in. Next, each individual must put in the daily, hourly effort of interrogating their views and changing how they think. Most people need some sort of external motivation to take on this Herculean task. It’s not easy. Especially, for adults.
The sad truth is that most people can never fully change the lens through which they view the world. Worse, many won’t even try. More than likely individuals will gravitate toward others that think like they do, in a social form of confirmation bias. Instead of changing this lens, newcomers will find the groups that fit closely into their social schema which is the shorthand for how we all make sense of the world. For instance, to people from India the group on the bottom of America’s social & racial hierarchy, ADOS are equivalent to the Shudras or Dalits (Untouchables). For Brazilians, American Descendents of Slaves would be the Preto. Mexico has Black descendants of slaves from Spain and First Peoples at the bottom of their social hierarchy.
Goodness knows, America will not disabuse individuals of these presuppositions. The message to immigrant communities is that ADOS are supposed to be the bottom caste in this country and no one in power will care if you harm them. History shows that you are expected to pass right over this particular group of Black people. The US government spends a lot of money to subsidize this effort. Types of financial support that ADOS communities never see. Surpassing Slave Descendants in the United States has become an entitlement. Contrary to what has been said by many, all Americans and immigrant groups recognize that ADOS are a distinct group with specific needs. The problem comes when ADOS use this designation to address the myriad crimes against humanity that set us apart for our uplift.
If you add these cultural biases to the perceived, US culture-reinforced, inferiority of ADOS, you get some pretty troubling Ethnic Bigotries directed at American Slave Descendants. Groups from all around the world have their own words or phrases for Black Americans that mean “nigger.” That is nigger with the hard -ER, meant as a pejorative. There is a level of dehumanization in some of these terms that bring to mind linguistic pre-cursors for acts of wholesale human slaughter throughout history.
Here are a few of the more popular terms:
Abeed or Abd (Arabic): Slave
Akata (Yoruba, Nigeria): Wild animal
Cocojin (Japanese): Dark-skinned person
Mayate (Spanish): Dark-skinned person
Trash (Talib Kweli): Self-explanatory
Here are a bunch of anti-Black American or anti-ADOS tweets. Pay close attention to some of the dates. These slurs and sentiments existed long before the presence of #ADOS. ADOS does not have similarly offensive names for these groups.
If you want to see how an ally should act, contact Linda Sarsour:
ADOS have fought, died, and continue to fight for full citizenship. That includes all the rights and protections afforded to White citizens unequivocally. We are already carrying all the burdens and responsibilities. Undermining claims of citizenship, and the concept of citizenship itself in America, only hurts one group- ADOS, because we are unwanted here. None of the people pushing this particular line ever tells anyone not to seek or to relinquish American citizenship.
Our blood was the fuel for the machine that would become the richest, most powerful country in human history. The industrial revolution and global capitalism would not have existed without our labor and captured ingenuity. From table scraps, the tattered remnants of our collective humanity, and our anguish we forged a culture that still moves the world. There is no home country to turn to. We are Americans.
Ultimately, ADOS have a very different relationship with immigration than any other large demographic in the country. We were considered a source of free or cheap labor and unprotected fodder for exploitative industries only. America likes Slave Descendants in two ways: exploitable and replaceable.
Unlike White Supremacists, space had to be specifically carved out for us through legislation. This is a limited space that we fought for over the centuries. We’re not the khakied frat boys with tiki torches yelling “You will not replace us.” However, White Supremacist talking points always echo something they plan to do or have done, to other groups. It is projection in its purest form. In most cases, they are speaking about being replaced in the job market by external workers.
Of course, it’s not a worry for White people, for the most part. But, they’ve seen it happen to the Descendants of Slaves often throughout our history. First, it was White colonists based on skill or intelligence in labor and business. That left us with the work that others didn’t want to do. Then they brought in the not-yet-White Europeans, like the Irish, Jews, and Italians. This group held down the manual labor jobs we were already doing and pushed us down another rung on the ladder. Until they were allowed to attain full American Whiteness.
Then, in came the 1966 Immigration Bill (on the heels of the Civil Rights Act), this law opened the doors to non-White migrants. Much of this bill was based upon quotas built around labor classifications and industry requirements. This bill was designed to replace Black labor. Our new-fangled full citizenship made the community harder to exploit, on paper anyway. As a result of the new law, between the late 1960s and the 1980s, the numbers of immigrants of color increased exponentially. As an added strike, individuals of African Descent and other people with darker complexions from other countries were catapulted ahead of ADOS under Affirmative Action programs in the name of diversity.
When in reality many of these folks, while quite capable, came to America from countries with more effective education systems and families that were unassailed by the specter of poverty or suffered through centuries of White Terrorism. This very intentional practice masked the fact that ADOS were not progressing. It also redirected precious, already set-aside resources and opportunities away from ADOS communities where they were sorely needed. The outcome is that we have ended up further behind and no one can see it. There is a disturbing twist on racism here that says “all Black people are the same.” But, no one genuinely believes this to be the case. ADOS has faced criticism for being divisive for saying that we are different from other groups of color and our separate needs require discrete remedy.
Government, at the behest of White capital, is intentionally botching immigration reform. Corporations that are dependent on unskilled labor within the United States will use any resource at their disposal to keep down the cost of labor.
For clarity: There are no jobs people won’t do. There are only jobs where corporations refuse to provide living wages and good working conditions because they want higher profits.
Industry exploits unprotected labor to threaten or replace those that try to fight for better conditions or unionize. This is especially true for ADOS workers who are only wanted if they accept low pay and horrible conditions. High pay and good conditions are for White folks. Any demands for improvement could trigger change like a project to traffic unprotected workers into your town to replace local workers.
This was the genesis of the recent Mississippi ICE raids. Hundreds of unprotected, undocumented laborers were trafficked in to specifically replace Black workers that were trying to unionize, not because people did not want to do the work. These and similar practices promote human trafficking, impede union growth, further marginalize ADOS communities, and increases corporate profits.
To be clear, these workers and their families are victims of labor trafficking by predatory corporations. These practices were enabled by government inaction and policy neglect. However, they are not the only ones harmed in this structure. Especially, in spaces where ADOS workers are seen as an expendable nuisance. We need better immigration and labor policy. We also need to find ways to increase union influence and membership.
The demand for ADOS silence while entire Black communities continue to be harmed is cruel and completely unreasonable. Solidarity is impossible without a full review of the issues at hand.
Charges of nativism and fascism are quite dangerous. The claim nefariously connects ADOS to White Supremacists as they become a larger terrorist threat throughout the nation. This gives credence to the trumped-up Black Identity Extremists designation. Law enforcement would love to connect an effective group of Black activists to clear and present terrorist threat. They could destroy the movement and deflect from White terrorism in one stroke.
ADOS have learned that solidarity ends where our specific redress begins. Naturally, we would like it to be different. What we need most is for true and potential allies is to courageously and uncompromisingly call out this misinformation in their circles. Allies should also demand that all candidates for public office should have a plan to provide redress for the specific needs for ADOS as a community.
A Final Note: There have been rumors that #ADOS is funded by a right-wing billionaire. There are no outward signs of big-money investment. This trafficking in rumor and conjecture has become a Russiagate-style attack campaign. No one has produced concrete evidence to support the claims. No emails, no meeting transcripts or minutes, no proof of money changing hands. Nothing. What’s worse, no one is demanding definitive evidence of this type. Actify Press will tackle this in the coming weeks.
I hope this article was a helpful look at the inner-workings of the ADOS movement. As well as, the tactics that are used to undermine and silence this important activism. For more information, please check out my other articles. Also, join tens of others that follow me on Twitter. Thank you very much for reading and your continued support!
* Correction- Reader, Guy Bryant found the following error: