WELCOME TO FANTASY ISLAND: THE ILLUSION OF THE ADOS MOVEMENT
by Albert Lanier
The 1970’s were a time of massive problems in the United States: political dislocation and disillusionment as a result of the Watergate scandal and the resignation of Richard Nixon from the Presidency, economic hardship from the now cliche term double digit inflation and stagflation, energy struggles due to the tightening pressure of the OPEC oil cartel which led to long lines at Gas stations and shortages of fuel, transportation issues due to airline hijackings, the social transformation of the women’s movement and national wrenching effect of the end of the Vietnam War.
Thus television and television shows of the era often served an escapist purpose namely to make Americans forget about the massive problems out side their living room windows.
One such show was ABC network’s FANTASY ISLAND, an hourlong drama starring actors Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize. Montalban served as the show’s main character, Mr Roarke, who greeted guests who paid to fly out to the remote mysterious island to enact their fantasy of choice. Herve was his assistant Tattoo.
In 2020, we also live in a time of enormous problems: a deadly respiratory virus which has killed thousands of Americans as well many others globally, a contentious election year in which a fiercely loathed, virulently nasty incumbent is taking a cantankerous, mentally deficient former Vice President, an economic recession caused by the virus which has decimated and annihilated businesses and jobs, at least 40 million Americans unemployed and dependent on stimulus payments and unemployment checks, thousands possibly targeted for evictions from apartments and foreclosures of houses, millions forced to stay pent up in their home due to mandatory stay at home orders.
While staying at home has allowed millions to “binge out” on new TV shows and classic programs via streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, FANTASY ISLAND despite an unsuccessful reboot a number of years ago is now a show of the past.
So, you are likely wondering, What in the hell does all this have to with the ADOS movement?
Others are probably wondering Just what is the ADOS movement?
Let’s start with the second question first.
ADOS which started out as a hashtag set of initials stands for American Descendants of Slavery. Technically, according to Farah Stockman in a November 13, 2019 article in the New York Times entitled “Deciphering ADOS: A New Social Movement or Online Trolls”, ADOS “argues on social media and youtube that Black Americans need a separate ethnic category distinct from Africans and people from the Caribbean who immigrated voluntarily.”
Wesley Lowery in a September 18, 2019 article for the Washington Post entitled “Which Black Americans Should get repaparations?” which is largely about Duke University Economist William Darity who has argued for reparations for African Americans stemming from American chattel slavery and is an ally of the group mentions ADOS. Lowery notes that ADOS “advocates that reparations be strictly reserved for those who can trace their lineage to enslaved people which in the United States excluding the children of more recent African and Caribbean immigrants who have been subject to race based discrimination.”
ADOS is defined by the organization Media Matters for America as “an obscure pro-reparations group” that has been “attacking prominent black progressives”.
This admittedly is a clearly biased definition of the group. To be fair, it would be wise to turn to the ADOS movement’s website which notes that “as a specific group with a specific justice claim, the #ADOS movement demands a specific agenda”. Perhaps it should have hired a specific ghostwriter to not write cliched, repetitive prose like this but I digress.
Again, according to ADOS site, their agenda titled a “ A New Deal for Black America” includes a list of demands. These include:
- Specific Affirmative Action setasides solely for ADOS individuals and not the larger category of ethnic minorities. “That categorization has allowed Democrats to use programs like Affirmative Action as giveaways to all groups in exchange for votes” quoting the website “This Bribery must end.”
- Setting aside 15% of Small Business Administration loans to ADOS businesses
- Buttressing support for the 1965 Voting Rights Act ( gutted by right wingers in recent years)
- Holding the Environmental Protection Agency liable for considerable problems such as the tainted levels of water in Flynt, Michigan
- Limiting H1B Visas for foreign tech workers so as to encourage more employment in the high tech field for STEM and tech educated ADOS
- Tax credits for students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
- Healthcare credit to pay for medical coverage for ADOS
8. College debt forgiveness “in the same way losses are on Wall Street.”
The centerpiece of ADOS is their demand for cash payments for descendants of formerly enslaved African Americans.
Now, again to be fair, whatever one thinks of the flaws and faults of ADOS, you must give the creators and organizers credit for coming up with an agenda that is nearly comprehensive in its depth and breadth at addressing the major problems besetting African Americans in the 21st century.
ADOS is the brainchild of Antonio Moore and Yvette Carnell. According to ADOS website, Moore is a UCLA and Loyola Law School graduate and a credited producer on the Emmy nominated documentary FREEWAY CRACK IN THE SYSTEM.
What it doesn’t note is that Moore worked as a District Attorney for several years.
Yvette Carnell is listed as having a BA in Political Science from Howard University (alma mater of newly selected Democratic VP candidate Kamala Harris) and previously worked as aide to US House member Robert Berry of the 1st Congressional District of Arkansas and then later in the Senate for US Senator Barbara Boxer of California.
What her bio leaves out is that she is a board member of PFIR-Progressives for Immigration Reform, a reportedly Astro turfed group that opposes immigration and that was created by John Tanton, a far right extremist and racist opposed to immigration.
What both Moore and Carnell have created with ADOS is not merely a reparations advocacy group but even more insidiously , essentially a new version of the old nativist , anti-immigrant Know Nothing group.
Though the group claims it is Democratic Party oriented, Moore and Carnell are tied to Kevin Cosby, a church pastor and President of a private college in Kentucky where the ADOS organization held a convention attended by the likes of well known figures Cornell West and Marianne Williamson.
Cosby has been reputedly to be friendly with and was photographed aside right wing libertarian Republican Senator Rand Paul as well as the racist owner of the Papa Johns franchise.
While Moore has stated he is for his supporters voting “down ballot Democrat”, MSNBC contributor Malcolm Nance called their ideology an “anti-Dem message being pushed by Breaking Brown who is a MAGA supporter”. Nance is likely referring to Carnell’s youtube show called Breaking Brown and her once wearing a MAGA cap on her program.
Nance also noted that “#ADOS is an inherently racist concept wrapped around the belief that some blacks are better than others by dint of where one ancestors was sold.”
Lowery’s WAPO article also notes “more divisively the group and its leaders also have aggressively argued that current immigration levels present a threat to the livelihood of Black Americans.”
According to Stockman’s NYT piece, the reporter who covered ADOS’s 2019 convention in Kentucky interviewed and quoted a participant from Atlanta who observed “ We are competing with someone from Nigeria who has two parents with Phds who was schooled in London. We’re not saying they shouldn’t be here but you have to make a place for us too.”
An admittedly fair statement. The problem is that like the old Know Nothing Party, ADOS has weaponized discontent against immigration and promulgated nativism as paramount. The difference is that this has pitted African Americans against Africans, Black Americans against Black Caribbeans.
Even more disturbing it creates an idea of African Americans as a distinct and separate people, a defacto ethnic group.
The problem though is that this concept cannot be true. African-Americans are just that-Americans of African ancestry. No Alphabet hashtag, no set of demands, no youtube shows are going to change this fact, this reality.
To sever and detach oneself from the African nations, the Caribbean islands that the ancestors of Black Americans came from decades ago is to do a disservice to not only the distant homes of their ancestors but to perpetuate a lie.
And so, much like the visitors of the TV show FANTASY ISLAND, we find Moore, Carnell and their followers. For while their reparation agenda is plausible and real, even if does appropriate an old idea decades in the making and recently resurrected by writer Ta-Nehisi Coates in his 2014 article in Atlantic Magazine titled “The Case for Reparations”, it is mired in an unreal matrix of creative categorization and wish-fulfillment ethnic status.
Thus, what we have in the end is not simply a movement but a mirage, an illusion, a fantasy.
Welcome to Fantasy island.
A newspaper and magazine journalist and freelance writer for 22 years, Albert Lanier wrote for a variety of publications during his career including Honolulu Weekly, Pacific Business News, Hawaii Magazine, Asianweek, Edible Hawaiian Islands and Puget Sound Business Journal.
He also wrote article online for Modern Luxury Hawaii and the film website Aint it Cool News.
Retired since 2017, Lanier now writes a blog for medium.com dealing with media and current events and is often a guest on a number of podcasts, shows and radio programs.