By E E Evans-Pritchard

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To be sure, it is ludicrous to “condemn” black people for the oppressive circumstances in which so many of them live. But it is important to be clear that in Carmichael and Hamilton’s analysis, vicious circles are something that happen to blacks, not something in which they participate. This is but the mirror image of the kind of “cycle of poverty” analyses that ultimately place all the responsibility on the black poor. Both are continuations of the rhetoric of polarization* * It should be clear that there have been many voices in the black community that, even while seeing the powerful role of oppression and injustice, have simultaneously stressed the role of African Americans’ own responsibility and initiative in moving beyond our present circumstances.

I don’t care if they are black, white, green, or purple. ” But I’ve also had enough psychoanalytic training to know that such an automatic assumption is a misuse of psychoanalysis. What is more obvious and definite is that such a response reflects highly individualistic assumptions that obscure the way social conditions influence people’s behavior and aspirations. When people believe that everyone makes his or her own fate, and ignore the role of circumstance, they are unlikely to be sympathetic to those who do not make it, regardless of race.

That is, we are taught to understand the differences in income and influence that result from the way we organize our society as solely the result of individual choices and individual merit; and we are taught not to notice the statistical probabilities that make the bright child of a truck driver or a manual laborer less likely to go to college than the child of a doctor or lawyer. Instead, we are trained to notice the exceptions. 9 In similar fashion, we may use the existence of a growing black 34 Race in the Mind of America middle class to obscure the reality that blacks remain greatly overrepresented among those who receive the least of our society’s rewards.

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