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Ethnicity, identity, unanimity, and garvey

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  1. Rogers' overview of NYC's Afro-Americans and West Indians.
  2. The West Indians of Rogers' study.
  3. West Indians and African Americans demonstrate divergent ethnic identities.
  4. African-Americans and West Indians have ethnically-based political differences.
  5. The paradox that African-Americans and West Indians are engaged in.
  6. Strategies constructively applied to the situation of West Indians and native-born Blacks living in NYC.
  7. Diversity of blackness points to the likelihood that political unanimity is not always feasible.
  8. The final era of Garvey and the UNIA.

For centuries, people of African descent have faced systems of racial discrimination and stratification that have affected their life chances. Regardless of class, gender, ethnicity, education, or nationality, these systems have mostly effected the socioeconomic position of Blacks in damaging ways. Against this trend though, countless Blacks have worked to combat the causes and effects of racism, and have experienced varied degrees of success. Out of these struggles for social change and black political power, the formation of mass movements and coalitions has emerged as a particularly effective strategy. Towards this end, we can assume that political activism among Blacks is a key means to gaining influence over public opinion, politicians, governments, and other political actors that may reduce black poverty and other aspects of institutional racism. While the actual method of activism (i.e. voting, demonstrations, boycotts, etc) is beyond the scope of this paper, this paper explores the basis and effectiveness of black political blocs' membership

[...] In fact, Garvey indeed oversimplified the black political landscape, and his organization's zealous promotion of black unity often ignored or dismissed the social basis and importance (regardless of their legitimacy) of these internal divisions. Instead of negotiating or trying to resolve these differences though, the UNIA placed maximum emphasis on the idea that the African descent common to all Blacks was sufficient basis for political unanimity. Such single-mindedness proved not only burdensome to create and direct, but also to be dangerous, since it created an environment unwelcoming to ideological discourse or intellectual exchange. [...]

[...] First of all, Garvey and the Blacks of Rogers' study have placed the mobility of poor Blacks into the middle class as a major priority. Towards achieving this end, West Indians emphasize the role of an individual's work ethic, while native-born Blacks and Garvey have formulated a group-level strategy that focuses on common political behaviors to remedy what has been correctly identified as systematic racial discrimination. Out of this milieu, Garvey's strategy stands out because it consciously derived its strength from the large size and diversity of its all-black membership. [...]

[...] By virtue of not having grown up in the US, West Indians have had low levels of interaction with American black social institutions, instead learning not only the Jamaican system of race, but also a collective history, group identity, and cultural values that are all significantly different than that of Afro-Americans. As Rogers points out too, these processes also inform the groups' political goals and values, and thus further the ideological disparities between the two groups. Altogether, these differences stem from separate cultures and homelands, or what largely may fall under the umbrella of ?ethnicity.? With these group differences in mind, it will become evident that the West Indians and African Americans of Rogers's study demonstrate divergent ethnic identities, yet convergent racial identities. [...]

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