A thoughtful reader asks questions in italics:
1. As much as black people talk about black pride, why is the Black Nationalist Movement relegated to nothing more than a fringe movement.
Because there are three flavors of black nationalism right about now. The first and basically the only flavor that matters is black cultural nationalism. This is a soft kind of position that basically adheres to the idea that black culture is all that and Elvis was a vulture. You could think of the leader of the black cultural nationalists as Spike Lee. Cult-Nat types are basically interested in investing as much value, time and treasure into blackness, primarily out of love for blackness. It's all about the flavor and being immersed in it. All the cult nationalists range from your basic India Irie to the edge of hard afrocentrists. Any black dude who wears dreads is one of them unless he does it strictly for the chicks, including white chicks.
The second flavor of black nationalist is the separatist. Your Nation of Islam, New Black Panther types. The survivalists. The ones who rents Rosewood more than once. These types don't last long in the daylight, but you'll find them in most every black neighborhood. They'd never live anywhere but black neighborhoods. Sometimes they masquerade as Muslims, got to give the black power handshake, calls blackfolks Kings and Queens, thinks that Neely Fuller and Cress-Welsing are deep thinkers. Rarely do they keep their 'slave' names. Separatists aren't always militant, but they're almost always racist. As soon as you hear one say, "black people can't be racist", you know you've got a live one. Ask them about Tawana Brawley or Nat Turner... and bring a lunch.
The third flavor is a kind of black nationalist is the kind of neo-nationalist. They will simply say they are 'merely' pro-black, but they are exclusively pro-black, specifically about recycling black dollars. What they want most is black power for black people with black money, because by and large they are convinced that the world works in an ethnic mercantilist way. These are a class of bounders beholden to no tradition who will call themselves 'nouveau niggers' because they really have no other idea of what a black man with some power and money is like. They think that they are more reality based than the others, but they're playing an ahistorical game too.
All black nationalists think that racial integration is an iffy proposition. They will always prefer Malcolm X to MLK, and with some exceptions on the neo- side, always prefer Karl Marx to Adam Smith. They will sing the praises of black unity and are generally pissed that 'we cant get our thing together like the Jews' or whomever. What binds all black nationalists together is a sense of shame they feel for the race for which something MUST be done. And then you listen to their plan..
2. To your knowledge, has their philosophy ever been tested (i.e. its followers win government office and successfully implemented any of its tenants)
Yes. It's a smashing success in black history departments all over America, and nowhere in Africa or anywhere else. Every black nationalist with any organizational dollars can be traced to one degree of separation from a black bookstore, black studies curriculum, or black media outlet. They all have to stay plugged into the continual intemolectual spew otherwise reality would knock some sense into their collectivist theories. But outside of that same old mau-mau game, nobody is making any money being a black nationalist outside of the Nation of Islam, and the chitlin circuit that collects speaker fees from gullible undergrads.
3. If not, would not cities such as Detroit and New Orleans provide a platform for their philosophy? Why haven’t they taken the lead on rebuilding these cities?
Because the political end of black nationalism is a dead end. Whether black political activists with a nationalist bent like it or not, white liberal Democrats have no patience for all that bullshit. Not that white liberal Democrats are not full of it themselves, but they know how to run political campaigns and control votes and dollars, and without them black nationalists have no organization, no infrastructure, no say. Hell, black nationalists don't even have a list of names of black nationalists.
That doesn't mean that black nationalist sentiments of the cultural, separatist and neo- strain don't matter in political contests and rhetoric. They do. Black nationalist words speak much louder than black nationalist actions, and those words count, and they appeal to African Americans on the fence - like memes of Obama getting shot. Or in defense of Mumia and Tookie. Or hateration against Obama as 'half-black'. But none of that influence is permanent. In the end, there is NO black nationalist organization of substance in America, meaning with money in the bank. (as compared to say... Ebony and Jet, or Sucka Free Sunday) http://www.mtv.com/shows/sucker_free/series.jhtml
The most important thing to understand about Black Nationalism is that it has always battled with Christianity in general and the Black Church in particular. And it has always lost. That's really all you need to know.
4. It is my theory that the Black Nationalist Movement is best left to those who live in their momma’s basement and quote Prof. George James to hide the fact that they just don’t want to work.
Oh plenty of them work, and they work hard. It's just that the work that they work doesn't work.