The Biggest Barrier to Complete Black Freedom: African American Tribalism

The continued push toward mutuality (aka, the ‘Black experience’, or tribalism) is without question the most insidiousious idea working against eventual and complete freedom for black Americans. Mutuality says we are all related in essence, yoked to a family of color. What’s wrong with that, you ask? 

It presumes that everyone who is black feels, thinks, and aspires similarly. At least that's what the larger society and our leaders would have us believe. 

This mutuality or tribalism is really a pseudomutuality that forwards a terribly false and tragic notion: that is, we are tied together—all of us—by our mutual black experience. We are it. It is us.

When you really think about it, do black people who casually or rarely interact with you really know you, your opinions, your goals? The question seems silly to ask. Of course they don't know you. How could they? Most of us barely know ourselves.

African American Tribalism Has Outlived Its Usefulness

Unity of purpose and deed has been of enormous historical significance for black Americans. However, historical significance does not translate rightly or justly into perpetual utility.

Pseudomutuality—damnable and crude—causes us to assume that we cannot move beyond race, that we cannot transcend its connotations. That connectedness and identity by race will always be more important for black Americans than awareness and full realizationtion of self. What a sad, sad shame.

More than racism, discrimination, or prejudice, pseudomutuality is the chain that impedes our completion of the final step to freedom. Insistence on our connectedness holds us back; it keeps black Americans in psychological lockstep step with each other and disinclined to move forward and away from the hood, and those who choose to not advance. 

Leaving home in a sense involves a kind of second birth in which we give birth to ourselves.
—Robert Neelly Bellah

The False Bridges of Identity Politics

Moreover, its false potency is foisted upon all Americans by people who seek some sort of advantage through fostering, maintaining, and perpetuating its existence. They profit in some illicit way by pushing the idea of a collectivity of black Americans poised against others. 

Black Freedom

Race profiteers in every negative sense of the term, their gains are ill-gotten. Their very existence is disturbing because they represent a perpetual rampart against racial harmony. The worst among them fraudulently offer a false bridge (e.g., increased funding to their ill-conceived programs, reparations) to racial reconciliation, a bridge whose toll is collected and recollected but never, ever, in their minds, paid in full. They use us as their fodder. We are their stock in trade. 

I, for one, am tired of it.

The True Bridge of Hope is Within You

The only remaining chains for freedom and prosperity for the black community-at-large are psychological ones. The world is so much bigger than you know, and opportunities more abundant than you realize. Breaking the chains of our minds and opening the door to your individual psyche is the key to our final step to freedom.

It’s time to reject African American tribalism as the bridge of hope for equality and black freedom.


This post is an excerpt from the book "Sweet Release". You can purchase the book here.

Dr. James Davison, Jr. is an African-American licensed psychologist and university professor. He conducts a private practice in Seattle, Washington, and has appeared on several nationally-aired programs including The Phil Donahue Show, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and C-SPAN. Dr. Davison hails from Philadelphia, and is the author of several books - Prisoners Of Our Past and Sweet Release - related to individuality and personal freedom for African-Americans.