The Problem with Kwanzaa

[This is an update and a reprint of a post from 2004.  Lesson learned from last time I posted on this topic:  If you are going to send me hate mail, at least read the post carefully first]

The concept of a cultural celebration by African-Americans of
themselves and their history is a good one.  The specific values
celebrated in Kwanzaa, however, suck.  They are socialist
-Marxist-collectivist-totalitarian crap.   Everyone seems to tiptoe
around Kwanzaa feeling that they have to be respectful, I guess because
they are fearful of being called a racist.  However, I find it terrible
to see such a self-destructive set of values foisted on the
African-American community.  These values are nearly perfectly
constructed to keep blacks in poverty - just look at how well these
same values have played out in Africa.

First, understand that I have no problem with people of any ethnic
group or race or whatever creating a holiday.  Life is worth
celebrating, as often as possible, even if we have to make up new
occasions. One of the great things about living in Arizona is getting to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Second, understand that Kwanzaa is not some ancient African ethno-cultural tradition.  Kwanzaa was made up in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga.  Karenga was a radical Marxist in the 60's black power movement.  Later, Karenga served time in jail for torturing two women:

Deborah
Jones ... said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord
and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their
clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss
Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her
own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga ... also put detergent
and running hoses in their mouths, she said."

Interestingly,
after this conviction as well incidents of schizophrenia in prison
where "the psychiatrist observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and
imaginary persons and believed that he had been attacked by
dive-bombers," California State University at Long Beach saw fit to
make him head of their Black Studies Department.

Anyway,  I give credit to Karenga for wanting to create a
holiday for African-Americans that paid homage to themselves and their
history.  However, what Karenga created was a 7-day holiday built
around 7 principles, which are basically a seven step plan to Marxism.
Instead of rejecting slavery entirely, Kwanzaa celebrates a transition
from enslavement of blacks by whites to enslavement of blacks by
blacks.  Here are the 7 values, right from the Kwanzaa site (with my comments in red itallics):

Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race

On
its surface, this is either a platitude, or, if serious, straight
Marxism and thoroughly racist.  Think about who else in the 20th
century talked about unity of race, and with what horrible results.

In
practice, the notion of unity in the black movement has become sort of
a law of Omerta -- no black is ever, ever supposed to publicly
criticize another black.  Don't believe me?  Look at the flack
Bill Cosby caught for calling out other blacks.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves

Generally
cool with me -- can't get a libertarian to argue with this.  When this
was first written in the 60's, it probably meant something more
revolutionary, like secession into a black state, but in today's
context I think it is fine.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To
build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and
sister's problems our problems and to solve them together

Um, do I even need to comment?  This is Marxism, pure and simple.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

OK, I said the last one was Marxism.  This one is really, really Marxism. 

Nia (Purpose)
To
make our collective vocation the building and developing of our
community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

There's that collectivism again

Kuumba (Creativity)
To
do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our
community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

I
guess I don't have much problem with creativity and make things
better.  My sense though that if I was to listen to the teaching on
this one in depth, we would get collectivism again.

Imani (Faith)
To
believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers,
our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

What
about in ourselves as individuals?  Through all of this, where is the
individual, either individual responsibility or achievement?  It is
interesting that a holiday
that
was invented specifically to be anti-religious would put "faith" in as
a value.  In fact, Karenga despised the belief in God as paying homage
to "spooks who threaten us if we don't worship them and demand we turn
over our destiny and daily lives."

However,
this is in fact very consistent with the teachings of most statists and
totalitarians.  They tend to reject going on bended knee to some god,
and then turn right around and demand that men go on bended knee to ...
them, or other men.  This is in fact what this "faith" was about for
Karenga - he is a statist laying the foundation for obedience to the
totalitarian state.  He wants blacks to turn over their destiny and
daily lives to their leaders, not to god.

So,
in conclusion, Kwanzaa was designed as a celebration of creating a
totalitarian collectivist Marxist racist state among
African-Americans.  I may well get comments and emails that say "oh,
thats not how we celebrate it" and I will say fine - but Marxism is the
core DNA of the holiday, a holiday created by a man who thought Lenin
and the Black Panthers were all wimps.

Never wishing to criticize without suggestion a solution, here are alternate values I might suggest:

Freedom
- Every individual is his own master.  We will never accept any other
master again from any race (even our own).  We will speak out against
injustices and inequalities so our children can be free as well.

Self-Reliance - Each individual will take responsibility for their life and the lives of their family

Pride - We will be proud of our race and
heritage.  We will learn about our past and about slavery in
particular, so we will never again repeat it. 

Entrepreneurship - We will work through free exchange with others to make our lives better and to improve the lives of our children

Education - We will dedicate ourselves and our time to education of our children, both in their knowledge and their ethics

Charity - We will help others in our country and our community through difficult times

Thankfulness - Every African-American
should wake up each morning and say "I give thanks that my ancestors
suffered the horrors of the slavery passage, suffered the indignity and
humiliation of slavery, and suffered the poverty and injustices of the
post-war South so that I, today, can be here, in this country,
infinitely more free, healthier, safer and better off financially than
I would have been in Africa."

By the way, if you doubt that last part, note that in the late 90's, median per capita income of African Americans was about $25,000, while the per capita income of Africans back in the "old country" was around $700, or about 35x less.  Note further this comparison of freedom between the US and various African nations.  Finally, just read the news about the Congo or Rwanda or the Sudan.

  • CC

    I think you might be a bit harsh on "Ujima" (To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together). To me this talks about a spirit of cooperation. While forced cooperation could probably rightly be called marxism, statism, etc. I think this idea of cooperative effort to help one another out in and of itself is not a bad thing. Maybe I am reading it wrong.

  • jc

    you could do a similar exercise with Christianity

  • Craig

    "However, I find it terrible to see such a self-destructive set of values foisted on the African-American community."

    I feel the same way about the NAACP.

  • Rob

    jc,
    your statement doesn't refute what Mr. Coyote said, but if you want to add additional information
    which ties the secular holiday Kwanzaa with the religious holiday Christmas (ie. that exercise), I'd be interested...

    ========

    does anyone have a link or book from Karenga where he explains his reasoning. I can see the Marxist undertones which Mr. Coyote describes, but was that the true intention of Karenga or just a sub-conscious leak?

  • http://duanegran.com/blog/ Duane Gran

    You read the tenets of Kwanzaa the way a puritan sees sin in everything. I realize that you dislike Marxism, but your analysis reaches too far to find connections which simply don't exist.

  • Jim Collins

    I couldn't help but notice how many times the word "our" was used in describing these values. I don't see anything wrong with being proud of your race and heritage, but if I (being white) were to adopt those same values I would be labeled a racist.

  • http://www.catbirdseat.typepad.com Ray G

    Cultures that focus first on the family, then on the immediate community i.e. neighorhood, then up the ladder from there, all do better, than groups that do not.

    Among the more successful minority groups in America, there has often been a communal attitude, and while that might subsequently make Leftists out of them, over time I think the net political effect wears off, while the accountability that such a tight culture fosters, brings about more responsible and eventually happier people.

    I don't know that he's necessarily reading too much into the Leftist bent of the parameters he quoted though. Keeping in mind when, and how the "religion" was invented, they most likely did have a quasi-Marxist blueprint in mind for the black culture.

  • http://www.catbirdseat.typepad.com Ray G

    Correction: I said "religion." I meant "holiday." Tis the season and all of that. Suppose I'm just thinking in that Christmas vein.

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