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A response to Shaul Magid By Chloe Valdary.

In a piece titled “Zionism, Pan-Africanism, and White Nationalism,” author Shaul Magid argues that because Zionism was a “lodestar for other minority attempts to solve the problem of the limits of ethnic self-determination,” it is, therefore a racialized movement that can offer freedom but never equality.

There are several problems with his analysis, which I will attempt to explain in full below.

Magid correctly points out how Zionism was a model for the beleaguered African-American community, beginning with Pan-Africanist Edward Blyden’s feeling of inspiration after reading Theodore Herzl’s Der Judenstaadt. The twin messages of self-empowerment and chosenness proved especially compelling to a people constantly told by the dominant society that they were less than nothing and attracted black leaders from W.E.B. Dubois and Marcus Garvey to Stokley Carmichael.

But in many ways, this is where the similarities end. Although a message of self-actualization and unique destiny are part of the Zionist creed, there are other ideas within statist Zionism that make it incompatible with the notions of racial purity contained in Marcus Garvey and Louis Farrakhan’s Black Nationalism.

For starters, while Zionism concerns itself with a particular ethnic group, it does not concern itself with a particular race insofar as race connotes skin color. And this speaks to the inherent contradictions within the very concept of black nationalism. On the one hand, a call for black nationalism via a separatist movement would naturally be attractive to a people persecuted by the dominant society. On the other hand, the black experience is, ironically and paradoxically, an American creation. The shared history, culture, and collective experience of black Americans is one that is bounded by and fixed within an American construct. In this way, black American culture cannot be separated from its American roots, and calls for black nationalism are rooted in an unsolvable contradiction.

It would be very difficult, for example, to imagine a coherent pan-black identity persisting within a successful back-to-Africa movement because such a movement would require shedding the Americanness, which is the foundation for group coherence in the first place. Now, I personally sympathize deeply with pan-African movements because I understand and empathize with their underlying spirit. It is a yearning for the lost wholeness of a stolen past. But there is a fallacy in pan-African movements:CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING

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