Veteran of the Black Panther Party, Black Liberation Army and former Political Prisoner Dhoruba Bin Wahad was back to help interpret and properly define the moment.
Like prisons, healthcare systems are part of the way that empire reproduces itself.
“Anti-blackness has not distorted medical relationships and institutions, so much as built them.”
The past six months have highlighted the fight that Black people are in against state violence, both in the form of policing and the US healthcare system. Though the ruling class cries that the coronavirus pandemic is “the great equalizer ,” the virus continues to demonstrate exactly who our capitalist health-care system was designed to keep alive. So far, across the country, about 42% of coronavirus deaths have been Black people , even though they were only about 21% of the population in the areas analyzed. InLouisiana , over 70% of people who died were Black (despite Black people being only 32% of the population). Along with high rates of death, countless stories have emerged about Black people turned away from hospitals, struggling to access testing, and being disproportionately arrested or ticketed for not following public health guidelines. On top of this, uprisings have taken hold across the country, starting in Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd. Many groups are calling for police to be de-funded and for the abolition of the prison industrial complex. In the midst of a pandemic, it is crucial to understand how the prison industrial complex intersects with the medical industrial complex, and commit to abolishing both.
“The virus continues to demonstrate exactly who our capitalist health-care system was designed to keep alive.”
Though medical institutions portray themselves as benevolent and objective, the structural reality is that biomedicine was forged in the political and social terrain of colonialism. Commonly known as the medical industrial complex, we are all affected by a huge system that provides “healthcare” services for profit and makes billions of dollars each year. Mia Mingus, a writer and community organizer who focuses on disability justice, helped put together the above detailed visua l of the medical industrial complex along with other organizers like Cara Page and Patty Berne. The diagram shows how four “core motivations” serve as the foundational structuring agents of the four sections of the visual. Desirability structures health, population control structures safety, charity and ableism structure access, and eugenics structure science and medicine. This is what makes the medical industrial complex so profitable.
Along with its foundations in anti-blackness, the medical industrial complex is also inherently gendered and contoured by ableism, fatphobia, and anti-transness. Internationally, all of these systems of domination affect vaccine development and allocation of medicines. This diagram also beautifully illustrates how all of these parts are interconnected and serve to sustain each other. In the bottom right-hand corner, we can see that the prison industrial complex has its own place in the diagram. The abolition of the prison industrial complex requires the knowledge that our systems of medical “care” have been built on carceral logics, from the criminalization of domestic violence survivors to psychiatric hospitals. In “Are Prisons Obsolete?” Angela Davis writes that board members from the Corrections Corporation of America and the Hospital Corporation of America, one of the first private hospital companies, worked together to help found Correctional Corporations of America in 1983. Like prisons, healthcare systems are part of the way that empire reproduces itself.
“Our systems of medical “care” have been built on carceral logics.”
Black health disparities are not an incidental feature of the healthcare system. The coronavirus pandemic has further demonstrated that the medical industrial complex is so deeply deleterious to Black people that reforms like increasing the number of Black doctors or unconscious bias training for healthcare professionals are not enough to ensure Black people’s live. The values of the medical industrial complex run in contradiction to the well-being of all Black people. In her essay The Death Toll , Saidiya Hartman writes, “the health-care system is routinely indifferent to black suffering, doubting the shared sentence of bodies in pain, uncertain if the human is an expansive category or an exclusive one, if indeed a human is perceived at all.” The pledge to “do no harm” has little meaning when Black people are still excluded from the human. Ultimately, Black “health” is an impossibility in a system built and sustained by anti-black violence and logics.
From its inception, the medical industrial complex has been in service of white supremacy and capitalism. In Frantz Fanon’s essay “Medicine and Colonialism,” he writes, “The colonial situation does not only vitiate the relations between doctor and patient. We have shown that the doctor always appears as a link in the colonialist network, as a spokesman for the occupying power.” The ruling class continues to claim that biomedicine is simply abused occasionally for evil purposes, which purposefully detracts from addressing that it has always been a child of slavery and European colonialism.
“Black ‘health’ is an impossibility in a system built and sustained by anti-black violence and logics.”
It is no coincidence that today, many health studies continue to act as though race is a biological category that exists without racism. Race-making has always been a crucial mission of the medical industrial complex. In his 1851 “Report on the Diseases and Physical Peculiarities of the Negro,” Samuel Cartwright, a prominent physician, writes about a mental illness called drapetomania which compels slaves to run away. Twenty-four years after Cartwright’s report, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., dean of Harvard Medical School and an avid eugenicist, wrote an 1875 essay about mechanisms of crime. He writes, “If genius and talent are inherited…why should not deep-rooted moral defects and obliquities show themselves, as well as other qualities, in the descendants of moral monsters?” Theories of genetic inferiority created by physicians were the same that Prudential, one of the largest insurers of Black people at the time, used to justify their announcement in 1881 that insurance policies held by Black adults would be worth only one third those of white people’s. Their weekly premiums, however, would be the same. It should come as no surprise then, that a 2020 paper published in the Journal of Internal Medicine was entitled, “Obesity in African-Americans: is physiology to blame?” before public outcry forced a change in title.
Experimentation on Black people has also created the foundation for medical knowledge. People often reference the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, but there are also a plethora of other studies that were conducted on Black people, like the “Acres of Skin” experiments done by dermatologist Albert M. Kligman on incarcerated Black men in Philadelphia from 1951 to 1974.
“Race-making has always been a crucial mission of the medical industrial complex.”
White doctors even abused Black people after their deaths. In her book Medical Apartheid, scholar Harriet Washington explores the histories of medical schools stealing the bodies of Black people for dissection practice into the 20th century, even going do far as to rob Black cemeteries. Of course, medical history is also rife with examples of doctors abusing Black people’s reproductive freedoms. From J Marion Sims’ experimental surgeries on enslaved Black women in 1845, to George Gey’s 1951 theft of Henrietta Lacks cells which still power the medical industrial complex, biomedical encounters have always been a threat to Black women’s health. The Eugenics Board of North Carolina didn’t cease operations until 1977, and of the almost 8,000 people sterilized in the state, about 5,000 were black.
While medical and research institutions make sure to target Black people for experimentation and abuse, they also systematically deny Black people healthcare resources. Chicago’s Southside neighborhood lacked an adult trauma center until 2018, despite its high rates of gun violence. This is just a part of a long history of medical facilities being intentionally built far away from predominantly Black neighborhoods.
Framing any of the cases above as an exceptional misuse of science is a dangerous way of avoiding the conversation that they are all expected outcomes of a system that was never made to ensure the health of Black people. Science and medicine have not simply absorbed the racism of other institutions, they are institutional violence themselves. The state continues to discredit Black peoples’ legacies of healing through granny midwives, root workers, and conjurers because they are a threat to white supremacist capitalist medicine. Black people have been, and continue to be, the enemies of medicine. In the end, white people are only able to secure their own health when they can place it next to the unwavering illness of black people that they create and re-create.
“Biomedical encounters have always been a threat to Black women’s health.”
Abolition, whether of the prison industrial complex, military industrial complex, or the medical industrial complex, is always a positive project. Once the old systems are destroyed, we are faced with the task of world-building, of learning to “imagine a constellation of alternative strategies and institutions,” as Angela Davis says. For the medical industrial complex, this means having conversations where the point of departure is the truth that Black people know what keeps them well. This means asking friends and family what it is they need to heal. For many, this means uplifting the holistic healing practices of our ancestors with the understanding that care can transcend both space and time.
Throughout history, Black liberation has always involved finding ways to ensure the well-being of one another outside of the state and its medical institutions. From enslaved women exchanging recipes for abortifacients with each other to granny midwives like Margaret Charles Smith, who delivered over 3500 infants in rural Alabama during the 20th century and never lost a mother in childbirth. From the Black Cross nurses who provided Black people with health services and education, to all the Black farmers who belonged to Fannie Lou Hamer’s Freedom Farm Collective.
“Midwife Margaret Charles Smith delivered over 3500 infants in rural Alabama and never lost a mother in childbirth.”
One of the most relevant examples of community healthcare and preventative services is the Black Panther Party and their survival programs. In spring of 1970, Black Panther Party made free health clinics and programs to feed children breakfast mandatory for each chapter. Health clinics were staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses, as well as activists, who encouraged patients to ask questions and advocate for themselves. Physicians were trained in alternative forms of medicine as well as biomedicine, and the BPP required that doctors read the work of Mao, Che, and other revolutionaries. Along with their clinics, the BPP did research and screening on genetic disorders like sickle cell anaemia, provided immunizations, and trained members of the community as lay health workers who were able to provide both health services and social services. The legacy of these programs lives in many organizations, collectives, and health centers today.
In our current moment, groups all over the country are creating networks where people can access healthcare without relying on the medical industrial complex or prison industrial complex. Dream Defenders, a radical group of young people in Florida, has established a Trauma Response Center to combat the violence of both systems. The center offers “free legal services, violence interruption, mental health counseling, stop the bleed training as well as skills training and job placement, arts programming,” among other services. In Chicago, a volunteer Black health collective and mutual aid organization called Ujimaa Medics runs workshops on gunshot first aid, and also teaches people to respond to asthma attacks, seizures and diabetic emergencies. There are also organizations like Project LETS , which builds “peer support collectives” and other community-based mental healthcare systems. When we abolish the medical industrial complex, this is the world that awaits us.
“The BPP did research and screening on genetic disorders like sickle cell anaemia, provided immunizations, and trained members of the community as lay health workers.”
Mia Mingus writes , “What would it mean to not have to be afraid of going to the doctor? To be able to trust that the care and treatments you are receiving will not only take care of your body, but the planet and future generations as well?” Abolition looks like creating networks and institutions that answer these questions. The demise of the medical industrial complex gives us the opportunity to fully imagine and reimagine these new systems as our needs change, because they belong to us. The goal of this space is not to become human as defined by colonialism, but to generate Black healing from the violence wrought by ideas of health. Once we come to the collective understanding that anti-blackness has not distorted medical relationships and institutions, so much as built them, we are able to continue to imagine ways of taking care of ourselves and our communities that actually improve the wellbeing of all Black people. The abolition of the prison industrial complex and medical industrial complex are inextricably linked. We can keep us safe, and we can also keep us healthy.
“What is law in a context where communities are disproportionately imprisoned and where direct violence is mobilized very discriminately towards certain bodies and people?”
The allusion to peace, to peace as a state of harmony within an established order, has long been an indispensable tool in the arsenal of colonialism and racism. First comes the brutal war: people killed, bodies in pieces, raped, and mutilated, subjects subdued, ancestors disrespected, lands taken, rivers with water turning viscous and red.
High ideals are said to justify the venture: progress, reason, and, civilization are some of the most common. Peace has to take the back seat until a new world is created: one that is made to the measure of the interests of the colonizers; one where war becomes part of the very order of things.
For this, the violent disorder that puts the lives of the colonizers and their descendants at risk, or that threatens their distorted sense of decency has to stop first. This is what is often called law and order, a necessary moment in the path to peace and its powerful racial and colonial dimension.
“A new world is created: one that is made to the measure of the interests of the colonizers.”
With appeals to law and order—the law and order of the racial state—, the systematic violence continues with a new name. What could law and order mean in contexts where lands continue to be held by descendants of colonizers, and where any notion of reparations appears impossible, exaggerated, anachronic, and out of the scope of important collective problems? What is law in a context where communities are disproportionately imprisoned and where direct violence is mobilized very discriminately towards certain bodies and people?
Law and order are as much material as symbolic and epistemic. It is therefore necessary to also ask then what can order, decency, and reason mean where even the institutions that are tasked with cultivating knowledge and artistic creativity tend to be satisfied with measures of diversity and inclusion that more often than not promote tolerance to settler colonialism and to racial social, economic, and epistemic segregation? Every measure that seeks to protect, rather than challenge, existing disciplines and methods that fail to capture the gravity of the structural violence in the modern world plays an important role in sustaining the material, symbolic, and epistemic order of coloniality.
“What could law and order mean in contexts where lands continue to be held by descendants of colonizers?”
The coloniality of law and order becomes transparent when “law and order” serve to translate systematic stealing into property rights, and when a long history of homicides and epistemicides remain hidden under a rhetoric of civilizational and scholarly advancement. The coloniality of law and order is firmly established when their foundation and horizon become the modern/colonial nation state and where it is operationalized through the state’s institutions: from the police station, the court, and the prison to the school and the university. It is then that we find peace and that we can discern the devastating effects of its coloniality.
This is the peace that is in the mouths of so many people today who are scandalized by looting and riots in some of the protests against police brutality and the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. The spectacular nature of looting and rioting is often celebrated when it happens in other countries and in opposition to things considered to be “un-american.” Things are different when rioting and looting are said to disrupt “peace.” Everyone then feels strong and comes out in their righteous defense of peace. Every news outlet and every politician—except perhaps the more neofascists among them, who traffic more directly with the advocacy of violence—finds a voice calling for peace and putting in their place whomever they do not recognize as peaceful. The call for and defense of peace in this context are means to declare the law and order that sustains systematic war as not only normal, but also as worthy of protection and respect. In short, peace is war in disguised. This precarious state of affairs makes the coloniality of peace visible and tangible.
“Every news outlet finds a voice calling for peace and putting in their place whomever they do not recognize as peaceful.”
Nothing here means that rioting and looting by themselves are to be celebrated, or condemned for that matter. I myself don’t have much tolerance for those who use looting and riots as ways to advance their own specific political views or agendas with complete disregard or little interest in the long history of struggles of those whose lands were taken and whose bodies appear as criminal or illegal. Having said that, I find defenders of peace and its coloniality, much more problematic and terrifying. The peace that they defend is mounted on brutal war and in its continuation in modern/colonial law and order. This sense of peace serves as a shield for those authorities and institutions that have their collective knees on the necks, chests, creative energies, minds, and knowledges of minoritized and racialized populations. As Mahdis Azarmandi puts it: “For [the true] peace continues to be an impossibility as long as we do not address coloniality.” The struggle for a truly decolonial and decolonizing peace continues.
A decolonial and decolonizing sense of peace is found, not in conformity with and tolerance toward the neoliberal economy or toward the modern/colonial state, its neofascisms, conservatisms, and liberalisms, but in the love and rage of those who come together to make visible the war that has been perpetuated by profoundly misguided conceptions of law and order. To be in peace is to move with others against modern/colonial law and order, including its institutional, symbolic, and epistemological foundations. To be in peace is to be intolerant of racism, racist discourse, and racist insinuations. It is also to be intolerant of protections of the order of race and death, including discourses of excellence and civility that continue to offer protection to the modern racial order. In this sense, our day to day lives are marked with a profound absence of peace and the perpetuation of naturalized war.
“To be in peace is to be intolerant of racism, racist discourse, and racist insinuations.”
Peace is not quietness. Peace does not have to do with using violence or nonviolence in opposition to an unjust state of affairs either. Peace is, above all, an outcome of decolonial maturity: of a firm and wise opposition against war where our relationships with others announce and anticipate the formation of radically different, and truly peaceful, communities and societies. In this moment we are in peace with ourselves because we have become those who we need to be in order to work with others in the effort to end war. We also develop the capacity to be in peace with others with whom we struggle in the effort to build, as Frantz Fanon put it, “the world of you.” Only such a world, a world of you, can be a world of peace.
 Mahdis Azarmandi, “The Racial Silence within Peace Studies, » Peace Studies: A Journal of Social Justice 30 (2018): 69-77.
 Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Richard Wilcox (New York: Grove Press, 2008): 206.
“People are not born with racial prejudices. For example, children have none. Racial questions are questions of education. Afrikans learned racism from the European. Is it any wonder that they now think in terms of race — after all they’ve gone through under colonialism?” – Ahmed Sékou Touré
This was originally published in 2006 on the New Afrikan Black Panther Party’s website.
The economic nature of racism is not simply an aside… Racism is a fundamental characteristic of monopoly capitalism.”
George L. Jackson, 1971
Many people believe that racism – indeed the very concept of race itself – develops automatically when groups of people with different complexions, hair, and body types are brought together. This is not so! Actually, the concept of race is barely 500 years old. The common people have been programmed into accepting “race” as a normal and natural thing, to prevent them from questioning, investigating, and challenging the ideas and roots of race and racism. Race and racism are the inventions of a specific social class, and devised to serve a specific social purpose. The creators are the oppressor capitalist ruling class, and the purpose is to divide the laboring class that the capitalists exploit against themselves. This is because, if united, the workers pose the single greatest threat to the capitalist class monopoly over social wealth, power, and control. A dispassionate study will show that in every situation where race has arisen to become a sharp dividing social factor, the hands of the capitalists can be seen pulling the strings, and it is only they who benefit from the conflicts.
George Jackson clearly recognized this. He pointed out that while white racism, the dominant form of racism in Amerika, expresses itself as:
“…the morbid traditional fear of Blacks, Indians, Mexicans, [and] the desire to inflict pain on them when they began to compete in the industrial sectors. The resentment and the seedbed of fear are patterned into every modern capitalist society. It grows out of a sense of insecurity and insignificance that is inculcated into the workers by the conditions of life and work under capitalism. This sense of vulnerability is the breeding ground of racism. At the same time, the ruling class actively promotes racism against the Blacks of the lower classes. This programmed racism has always served to distract the huge numbers of people who subsist at just a slightly higher level than those in a more debased condition (in the 1870’s the strikes frequently ended in anti-Chinese or anti-Black lynchings)…Racism has served always in the U.S. as a pressure release…”
The sole concern of the capitalist class is to secure and increase their profits and power. They do not care whom or what they damage or destroy to accomplish this, nor do they care what nationality or complexion the people are whom they exploit, only that they keep the exploited workers unable to unite and mobilize against their conditions of exploitation. Racism has been the capitalists’ most effective method of accomplishing this. Here in North Amerika, the game began in the late 1600’s.
THE CREATION OF THE WHITE RACE AND RACISM
The first laborers exploited in North Amerika under British colonialism consisted of Afrikan, European, and Indian slaves and indentured servants. The concept of ‘race’ did not exist then. The laborers were all equally oppressed and exploited of their wealth-producing labor by the capitalist plantation owners and thus saw each other as equals. They lived, labored, loved, suffered, bred, bled, escaped, and died together. They also repeatedly rebelled and revolted together. But because they lacked a unifying leadership and vision or control over resources, they were unable to come together en masse to wage a united revolution to overthrow the plantation elite and the British colonial government that served and backed the elite. This all changed in 1676 when Bacon’s Rebellion occurred.
The leader of the rebellion, Nathaniel Bacon, was a young plantation owner. He had left England to settle in the British colonies in 1673, and was appointed to the Council of British Colonial Governor William Berkeley. The colonial government’s principal concern (as with any capitalist government) was to maintain stability in the colonies while protecting and expanding the holdings and wealth of the ruling class. To achieve this, Berkeley promoted developing trade relations and peace with the Indians who lived on surrounding lands. Bacon, however, promoted running the Indians off their land to expand the colonial settlements. In defiance of Berkeley’s policies, Bacon independently organized and led poor farmers who lived on the outskirts of the colonies (most of whom were recently freed indentured servants), on murderous terror raids against nearby Indian communities. But instead of fleeing, the Natives responded with counter-raids against their attackers. Bacon, unable to match the Indian counter-attacks, sought but was denied military support from Berkeley.
Bacon then turned on the established colonial ruling class and Berkeley’s government. He armed and organized the colony’s Afrikan and English slaves with promises of freedom, and in 1676 led them in revolt against the colonial rulers. The revolt succeeded in overthrowing the colonial ruling class and government, and captured the capitol at Jamestown, Virginia.
However, six months into the revolt, and at the height of his power, Bacon died of influenza. Bacon’s Rebellion, deprived of its leader and organizer, collapsed, and the colonial ruling class and Council quickly regained control, though not without a determined last stand by the core group of rebels, principally composed of Afrikan slaves. It was at this point that the plantation elite and their reinstated government realized the immense danger and power of a unified working class. Consequently they decided to ensure that no united revolt like Bacon’s Rebellion occurred again. Their solution was to split the lower class by permanently enslaving one sector while winning the loyalty of another sector, inciting its fear and contempt against and using it to police the enslaved sector. To divide, agitate, and rule was the plan. This they accomplished by inventing the concept of race and dividing the lower class along racial lines.
Laws were immediately passed that established the categories of “negro” (Spanish for “black”), and “white” as distinct racialized social statuses. In 1682 legislation was enacted that made slavery a permanent and hereditary status for all “Blacks,” and over the next several decades slavery and indentured servitude of ‘whites’ were phased out. Further laws were passed that forbade and penalized positive social interactions between the races, particularly escapes, marriages, and procreation.
The poor white men made up the body of the colonial militias and, beginning in 1727, were conscripted into manning slave patrols under fines and other penalties if they refused. This plantation police force was the forerunner and grandparent of today’s urban police forces that continue to be concentrated against people of color to repress them across Amerika with violence and terror. In most areas, the slave patrols came to outnumber the black slaves. A variety of minor privileges were also granted to the poor whites, including tiny plots of land to live on – at the Indians’ expense – a musket, the authority to kill rebellious Blacks, tax exemptions, and other benefits for manning slave patrols, greater leniency in the eyes of the law than Blacks, voting privileges, etc.
By inventing the social category of “white,” and granting the lower class Europeans a share in power over the super-exploited and enslaved Afrikans, the capitalists created a scheme that caused the poor Europeans a false sense of privileged class unity with, and a confused loyalty toward the ruling class which was the source of all of the lower classes’ poverty and misery. By selling out their own class interests to the elite, the poor whites made a deal with the devil that saw them focus their frustrations on Blacks instead of the capitalists, and thus ensured that they would remain an impoverished and exploited class, just a step above the Blacks.
To ensure the dedication of the slave patrols, and whites in general, in repressing and containing the black slaves, the ruling class generated a paranoid fear of slave revolts and especially of “Negroes with guns.” From every pulpit, and every center of white social gathering and influence, Blacks were depicted as always plotting to revolt with the aim of murdering all whites indiscriminately (men, wimyn, and children), molesting white wimyn, and subverting ‘good’ white Christian civilization with Black “heathenism.” Both the political and religious institutions were, and remain today, proponents of racism and white fear of Black revolt.
The church hierarchy, which was tied in with the ruling elite, also added fuel to the fire of racism by theologizing the myth of white racial superiority over all other races, claiming that whites were the Creator’s “chosen people” destined to rule over all others as a divine right, and that slavery was a punishment ordained by the creator for Blacks as the “Curse of Canaan.” It was through these combined methods that “white supremacy” and the very concept of the “white” and “black” races were born and spread, and remain today normalized concepts that divide the lower class to further the interests of the wealthy elite.
The capitalists found race and racism such effective tools for manipulating and undermining the working class that appeals to race and racism, (overtly and subliminally), have been their generalized method of subverting working class struggles and manipulating workers to serve as mercenaries and mindless cannon fodder in fighting capitalist wars. To solidify lower class support, the capitalists who were struggling to break free of British control appealed to poor whites to fight the Amerikan Revolutionary War (1775-1783), to achieve an independent “white nation.” The Declaration of Independence expresses this in its statement “When…it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another.” Because of the racialized identity of “whiteness,” the colonists had come to identify themselves as a different “people” than the English.
From such wealthy elite notables and “Founding Fathers” as Benjamin Franklin (in 1751 to John Jay), James Madison, Jedediah Morse (to Andrew Johnson in 1864), they all emphasized in public and in private letters that Amerika was to be a “white nation.” (See Steve Martinot, The Rule of Racialization, 2003). This was specified in one of the first legislative acts of the independent Amerikan government – the Naturalization Act of 1790 – that stated that the U.S. was to be a “white republic.” The “White” racialized identity which had its origins in the Virginia colony, was subsequently adopted into European thinking and served as it had in North Amerika, to rationalize European colonization of people of color in Asia, Afrika, Australia, and elsewhere, and to alienate the European working class from uniting with the super-oppressed peoples of color.
The Amerikan capitalists used the same device to justify their brutal and genocidal seizure of Indian and Mexican lands to expand their agricultural empire. They won the allegiance of the poor whites by promoting these actions as white “Manifest Destiny,” as the duty and calling of whites to conquer “inferior” peoples, and by giving out free land grants. These same appeals are used today in pursuit of U.S. conquest and repression of people of color, only the concept of white supremacy and” Manifest Destiny” have become so ingrained and normalized in the collective white Amerikan mind, that they need not be explicitly stated. Moreover, to do so is politically incorrect and unwise in today’s world where people of color have proven unwilling to accept overtly expressed racist oppression, (witness the national independence struggles of the 20th century against European colonialism that swept Asia and Afrika; the urban uprisings, civil rights, and New Afrikan, First Nation, Mexican, and Puerto Rican liberation struggles in Amerika, the worldwide opposition to South Afrikan Apartheid, etc.).
Therefore, the white supremacist appeal today is made and pursued more clandestinely and with greater sophistication, using such code words as “spreading democracy,” “fighting terrorism,” “fighting crime,” “preventing the spread of Communism,” etc. But any objective analysis quickly reveals that these policies, backed by extreme state violence, and demonizing labels such as “criminal,” “terrorist,” etc., are consistently applied to non-white peoples, and it’s the white U.S. population that’s appealed to in order to back these policies. That the national identity of Amerika remains that of a white nation is revealed by its population being still classified by race, with panic arising anytime the elites claim some ‘other’ race like Latin Amerikan immigrants are threatening to overrun the “white majority,” or that Blacks are a danger to the stability and moral integrity of Amerika.
White racism caused many whites, (especially of the lower class), to become so consumed and intoxicated with the myth of their racial superiority, their right to repress and contain Blacks and others’ ambitions, and the idea that their own poverty and lack of power was somehow the fault of Blacks, that they’ve resorted to confused, fundamentalist reactionary violence to subvert every effort of Blacks to improve or challenge their own conditions. Thus, Black political and economic struggles and gains have frequently been followed by reactionary white violence, or the rise of far right-wing white terrorist groups, like the Ku Klux Klan and Knights of White Camellia for example, the white mobs that attacked Blacks in Massachusetts (1850) and Philadelphia, Boston, and Cincinnati (1830’s) to repress the Black vote; the frequent lynchings during Reconstruction (1865-77), white riots against Blacks communities when Blacks moved in large numbers to Northern and Western cities to fill industrial jobs in the early 1900’s, mob attacks and violence to repress civil rights struggles in the south during the 1950’s and 60’s, etc. This reactionary fanatical racial violence and conflict occurs always upon incitement of the ruling elite, to divert and neutralize the danger of revolt of any sector of the working class against their class exploitation and political impotence.
DIVISION CREATED WITHIN RACIAL RANKS
The divide and rule scheme was further refined based upon the claimed proposals of a Caribbean slave owner, Willie Lynch, to a gathering of plantation owners in Virginia in 1712. Lynch proposed not only instigating sharp division between Blacks and whites, but among the Black slaves as well, by playing on minor differences between them to generate envy, fear and distrust. He proposed that the “black slaves should trust no one except the plantation elite. That they should be hostile toward themselves and that hostility should be maintained between them and the lower class whites. Lynch put it this way:
“Gentlemen, I greet you here on the banks of the James River in the year of our Lord 1712. First, I shall thank you, the gentlemen of the Colony of Virginia for bringing me here. I am here to help you solve some of your problems with slaves. Your invitation reached me on my modest plantation in the West Indies where I have experimented with some of the newest and still the oldest methods for control of slaves. Ancient Rome would envy us if my program was implemented. As our boat sailed south on the James River, named for our illustrious King, whose version of the Bible we cherish, I saw enough to know that your problem is not unique. While Rome used cords of wood as crosses for standing human bodies along its old highway in great numbers, you are here using the tree and the rope on occasion.
“I caught the whiff of a dead slave hanging from a tree a couple of miles back. You are not only losing valuable stock by hangings, you are having uprisings, slaves are running away. Your crops are sometimes left in the fields too long for maximum profit, you suffer occasional fires, your animals are killed. Gentlemen, you know what your problems are; I do not need to elaborate. I am not here to enumerate your problems, however, I am here to introduce you to methods of solving them.
“In my bag here, I have outlined a number of DIFFERENCES among the slaves, and I take their differences and make them bigger. I use FEAR, DISTRUST, and ENVY for control purposes. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies and it will work throughout the South. Take this simple little list of differences, and think about them. On top of my list is “AGE,” but it is there because it starts with an “A”; the second is “COLOR” or “SHADE”, there is INTELLIGENCE, SIZE, SEX, STATUS ON PLANTATION, ATTITUDE OF OWNERS, WHETHER THE SLAVES LIVE IN THE VALLEY, ON THE HILL, EAST, WEST, NORTH or SOUTH, HAVE FINE HAIR or COARSE HAIR, or is TALL or SHORT. Now that you have a list of differences, I shall give you an outline of ACTION – but before that I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust, and envy is stronger than adulation, respect or admiration.
“The Black slave after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self-refueling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands.
“Don’t forget you must pitch the OLD BLACK MALE vs. the YOUNG BLACK MALE, and the YOUNG BLACK MALE vs. the OLD BLACK MALE. You must use the DARK SKIN SLAVE vs. the LIGHT SKIN SLAVE and the LIGHT SKIN SLAVE vs. the DARK SKIN SLAVE. You must use the FEMALE vs. the MALE and the MALE vs. the FEMALE.
“You must also have your white servants and overseers distrust all Blacks, but it is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us. They must love, respect, and trust ONLY US.
“Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control. Use them. Have your wives and children use them. Never miss an opportunity – if used intensively for one year, the slaves themselves will remain perpetually distrustful. Thank you, gentlemen.”
These methods of dividing slaves and Blacks versus poor whites can clearly be seen still in operation today, and the effects still remain with us – the distrust, fear, and envy. While the lower classes have come to love, emulate, and depend on the predatory capitalist class, its wealth, luxury, and artificial prestige, are all obtained through the labor, powerlessness, and poverty of the working class. Yesterday’s chattel slaves are today’s wage slaves: only the slave class today has grown to include all races and nationalities.
CAPITALISM CREATES RACISM ABROAD
Kwame Nkrumah observed that the same game of racial divide and rule was played when capitalism took root in Afrika:
“The close links between class and race developed in Africa alongside capitalist exploitation. Slavery, the master-servant relationship, and cheap labor were basic to it. The classic example is South Africa, where Africans experience a double exploitation – both on grounds of color and of class. Similar conditions exist in the U.S.A., the Caribbean, in Latin America, and in other parts of the world where the nature of the development of productive forces has resulted in a racist class structure. In these areas, even shades of color count – the degree of blackness being a yardstick by which social status is measured.
“…[A] racist social structure…is inseparable from capitalist economic development. For race is inextricably linked with class exploitation; in a racist-capitalist power structure, capitalist exploitation and race oppression are complementary; the removal of one ensures the removal of the other…
“The effects of industrialization in Africa as elsewhere, has been to foster the growth of the bourgeoisie, and at the same time the growth of a politically-conscious proletariat. The acquisition of property and political power on the part of the bourgeoisie, and the growing socialist and African nationalist aspirations of the working class, both strike at the root of the racist class structure, though each is aiming at different objectives. The bourgeoisie supports capitalist development while the proletariat – the oppressed class – is striving towards socialism.
“In South Africa, where the basis of ethnic relationships is class and color, the bourgeoisie comprises about one-fifth of the population. The British and the Boers, having joined forces to maintain their positions of privilege, have split up the remaining four-fifths of the population into “Blacks,” “Coloreds,” and “Indians.” The Colored and Indians are minority groups, which act as buffers to protect the minority whites against the increasingly militant and revolutionary Black majority. In the other settled areas of Africa, a similar class-race struggle is being waged.
“A non-racial society can only be achieved by socialist revolutionary action of the masses. It will never come as a gift from the minority ruling class. For it is impossible to separate race relations from the capitalist class relationships in which they have their roots.
“South Africa again provides a typical example…It was only with capitalist economic penetration that the master-servant relationship emerged, and with it, racism, color prejudice and apartheid…
“Slavery and the master-servant relationship were therefore the cause, rather than the result of racism. The position was crystallized and reinforced with the discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa, and the employment of cheap African labor in the mines. As time passed, and it was thought necessary to justify the exploitation and oppression of African workers, the myth of racial inferiority was developed and spread.
“In the era of neocolonialism, ‘underdevelopment’ is still attributed not to exploitation but to inferiority, and racial undertones remain closely interwoven with the class struggle.
“It is only the ending of capitalism, colonialism, imperialism and neocolonialism and the attainment of world communism that can provide the conditions under which the race question can finally be abolished and eliminated.”
Kwame Nkrumah, Class Struggle in Africa, 1970
AN EXAMPLE OF RACISM INCITED TO DIVERT WORKING CLASS STRUGGLE
World War I (1914 -1918) was a competition between the European imperialist countries for access to and control over the abundant natural resources and markets of the Third World colonies. The war generated a boom for the war industrialists, particularly the Amerikan steel and manufacturing industries that were producing and selling weapons, machinery, and spare parts needed by the European elite to supply their armies, (which were manned by the working class of course). When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, the mandatory draft created a large shortage of white industrial workers. Laborers were needed. With promises of plenty, southern Blacks were drawn by the industrialist’ job recruiters into the Northern and Western cities to fill the vacant jobs. The poor migrant Blacks were also a welcomed replacement, since they would accept work at much lower wages than the white workers would tolerate, thus increasing the capitalists’ profits by lowering labor costs.
The war’s end in 1918 saw the return of the whites in need of employment. A strong working class movement was already underway in the U.S., which had the capitalists in a panic. They feared working class revolution, like the one that had just succeeded in overthrowing the capitalist class in Russia in 1917. To offset a united radical struggle of the working class poor, capitalist agents within the trade union movement incited the whites against the Blacks, diverting their attention away from challenging capitalist class oppression and toward the Blacks who’d “stolen” their jobs and were driving down wages.
This appeal to reactionary race hate to channel the anger of white workers away from challenging working class exploitation provoked racial violence against Blacks, which culminated in widespread white race riots in the “Red Summer” of 1919. These riots saw over 20 incidents of white mobs converging on Black neighborhoods to gang rape Black wimyn and girls, and murder and maim Black men, wimyn, children and the elderly indiscriminately.
Fast-forwarding to today, we now see an identical situation of competition over jobs along racial lines taking place between Blacks versus Mexican and Latin Amerikan migrants. Under centuries of colonial and neo-colonial policies, U.S. capitalists with government backing have robbed the fertile land and resources and crushed the economies of their countries, imposing imperialist policies that have violently driven millions upon millions off their native lands and into complete insecurity, poverty and beggary. In desperate need of jobs to provide for their families, many are forced to migrate to Amerika, to fill jobs that pay starvation wages or deprive them of benefits enjoyed by ‘legal’ workers. Their predicament duplicates that of Blacks who were forced to migrate to the northern and western cities from the south in search of employment upon being pushed off the land by Klan terror, and being otherwise compelled to live in impoverished servitude.
But instead of struggling alongside these migrant workers today, Blacks have been incited by imperialist agents and propaganda to assume much the same repressive role as the white workers during the early 1900’s. We perceive these migrants to be “stealing” “our” scarce jobs, government benefits and housing, and driving down wages. Consequently a virtual war has been taking place between Black versus Mexicans and Latin Amerikans on the streets and inside U.S. prisons. Much of the violence, which begins inside the prisons where these ‘races’ are forcibly confined in miserable close quarter, spills over into society.
In just 2005, over 300 race riots occurred in the California prison system alone, mostly between Black versus Mexican and Latin Amerikan prisoners. These conflicts have been exposed repeatedly as incited by the imperialist controlled prison guard unions. So, once again, the capitalists, whose greedy ambitions are the cause of massive poverty, job shortages, land theft, and forced migrations of both Blacks and the Native peoples of this region of the world, (who must risk their lives to cross borders created by the capitalists and white racism), have the commonly oppressed people, who are all victims of class and national oppression, warring amongst themselves.
THE RACE GAME PLAYED BETWEEN WHITES
The game of racism was not only created and used to play working class whites against people of color. It was also used between whites, and with the same purpose of undermining working class struggles against capitalist class exploitation. Indeed it was the principal method of whipping up mass hysteria in support of fascism in Western Europe during the early 1900’s. And contrary to popular deception, the U.S. capitalist elite and government supported its purpose and function, which was to suppress working class revolution. There is an extensive although repressed record in proof of this.
The tendency in mainstream circles and of the ruling class propaganda industry has been to paint German Nazism, for example, as a sort of odd latent German anti-Semitism, which was brought to the surface by a “mad” leader (Hitler), who by luck and guile found himself in power. This, however, runs counter to the actual fact that the German and Amerikan capitalists consciously and deliberately financed and pushed Hitler into power to suppress a working class revolution that was threatening to take power. The capitalist Great Depression had disillusioned the workers across Europe about the promises of capitalism, and they were looking with hope to the example of Russia, (Socialist Russia being independent of the imperialist countries was not affected by the Depression). The capitalists also feared that the destabilized middle class would join forces with the lower class workers to overthrow their economic and political control. They opted to play the race card.
By inciting “Aryan” racism – blaming non-Aryans for Germany’s economic crisis, which was actually caused by the capitalists – the Nazis won over the confused German middle and lower class and youth to subvert the working class movement and re-channel its momentum toward attacking sectors of German society that were classified as non-Aryan (“inferiors” and “degenerates”). Violent repression was thus targeted against the German Communists and radical youth, who were leading and organizing the workers’ struggle, and the Jews, Slavs, Poles, Gypsies, gay and disabled people. Overt fascism, like pure racism, was a desperate political strategy of capitalist class control.
Just as the method of allying the majority white Amerikan working class to back the capitalist class’s designs has been, by rallying them under the banner of a racialized “white nation,” so too did the German capitalists do the same using the Nazis to rally the German workers’ support under the banner of a racialized “Aryan nation.” And as intended, this incitement of racist sentiments divided a once united working class against itself, whipped up hysterical and irrational mass support for the ruling class’s designs to smash working class struggle and to back the capitalists’ aims to expand and colonize other nations, in this case not only nations of colored people but Europeans as well. Under the spell of a purely invented racism, the German masses proceed to back the Nazi war machine that saw them kill and die by the millions and carry out acts of the most savage brutality recorded in history – and all by and against white working class people. As said, the U.S. government and business community supported Hitler and Mussolini before World War II. See for example:
Christopher Simpson, The Splendid Blonde Beast: Money, Law and Genocide in the Twentieth Century. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995. pp. 46-64;
David Schmitz, Thank God They’re On Our Side: The United States and Right Wing Dictatorships, 1921-1965, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999, Chapters 1 and 3;
David Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922-1940, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1988;
John P. Diggins. Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972.
U.S. government internal documents explain the class-based reasons for the warm Amerikan business support for fascism that are detailed in these books. In 1937, for example, a report of the U.S. State Department’s European Division described the rise of fascism as a natural and commendable response of “the rich and middle class, in self-defense” when the “dissatisfied masses, with the example of the Russian revolution before them, swing to the Left.” Fascism, thus, “must succeed or the masses, this time reinforced by the disillusioned middle classes, will again turn to the Left.” The report also stated that “if Fascism cannot succeed by persuasion [in Germany], it must succeed by force.” (See Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922-1940, p. 140). U.S. Ambassador to Russia, William Bullitt “believed that only Nazi Germany could stay the advance of Soviet Bolshevism in Europe.” (Daniel Yergin, Shattered Peace: The Origins of the Cold War and the National Security State, Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin, 1977, p. 26).
The Amerikan charge d’affaires in Berlin wrote to Washington in 1933 that Amerika should back the Nazi Party as the hope for Germany. He stated that Nazi policies “appeal to all civilized and reasonable people.” Amerikan Ambassador Frederic Sackett noted that “it is perhaps well that Hitler is now in a position to wield unprecedented power.” (See Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922-1940, pp. 174, 133, and Chapter 9).
U.S. corporations like Ford Motor Company were totally approving of fascism; financed and profited from the Fascists states, and participated in plundering Jewish assets under Hitler’s Aryanization programs.
“Many U.S. companies bought substantial interests in established German companies, which in turn plowed the new money into Aryanizations or into arms productions banned under the Versailles Treaty. According to a 1936 report from Ambassador William Dodd to President Roosevelt, a half-dozen key U.S. companies – International Harvester, Ford, General Motors, Standard Oil of New Jersey, and DuPont – had become deeply involved in German weapons production…
“U.S. investment in Germany accelerated rapidly after Hitler came to power, despite the Depression and Germany’s default on virtually all of its government and commercial loans. Commerce Department reports show that U.S. investment in Germany increased some 48.5 percent between 1929 and 1940, while declining sharply everywhere else in continental Europe. U.S. investment in Great Britain…barely held steady over the decade, increasing only 2.6 percent.”
Christopher Simpson, The Splendid Blonde Beast: Money, Law and Genocide in the Twentieth Century, supra, p. 64.
The U.S. government did not in fact unanimously declare European fascism an avowed enemy until it attacked U.S. interests. And even then Amerikan business interests still backed the Fascists. In fact, Prescott Bush, (grandfather of George W. Bush), and his father-in-law, George Herbert Walker, were the Nazi’s financers and traders through periods of the Jewish Holocaust, after their attacks on Britain and France, and even after the bombings of Pearl Harbor in 1941. It took the seizure of their Union Banking Corporation by the U.S. government in October 1942, under the Trading with the Enemies Act, to stop Bush and Walker.
Prior to WWII U.S. support for Italian Fascism was much the same. In December 1917, the Wilson administration expressed that the rising labor movement posed, “the obvious danger of social revolution and disorganization.” Mussolini’s Black Shirts solved the problem with violence, referring to Mussolini’s October 1922 march on Rome, which smashed Italian democracy. The U.S. Ambassador noted with approval that the Fascists carried out “a fine young revolution.” With government backing, the racist thugs bloodily repressed working class agitation. The U.S. embassy noted, Fascism was “perhaps the most potent factor in the suppression of Bolshevism in Italy.” In a February 1925 report, the embassy also approvingly observed that the Fascists had smashed the workers struggle through “restricting the right of free assembly, in abolishing freedom of the press and in having at its command a large military organization.” It was also stated that “between Mussolini and Fascism and Giolliti and Socialism, between strong internal peace and prosperity and return to free speech, loose administration and general disorganization, Peace and Prosperity were preferred.” (See Schmitz, See Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922-1940, pp. 76-77). These approving pronouncements are as undemocratic as one could get. It should also be remembered that when these official champions of capitalism talk about “disorder,” and “peace” and “prosperity,” they’re speaking about these things from the perspective of their capitalist bosses in containing, repressing, and controlling the exploited workers, and against the workers’ struggles to gain control over the society’s economic and political institutions and power.
The U.S. business press spoke openly in support of Fascism. Fortune magazine, for example, devoted a special issue to Fascism in July 1934, and in its article “The State: Fascist and Total.” It commented approvingly that “the purpose and effect of Fascism is to un wop the wops,” and any views by Amerikan people that the Italians should resent Fascism, “is a confusion, and we can only get over it if we anesthetize for the moment our ingrained idea that democracy is the only right and just conception of government.”
The rise of counter-revolutionary racist Fascism in Europe was accompanied by an attendant rise of far right-wing racist counterrevolutionary elements in Amerika. The Klan for example saw a resurgence, and its membership swelled as never before in the 1920’s.
Clearly when any struggle arises from within the ranks of the working class, the capitalists incite a corresponding rise of racist elements to divide and counter the up-thrusting masses and their challenge to capitalist domination. In essence, racism, and its most fundamentalist political and military form (namely fascism) are purely counter-revolutionary tools of the capitalist class used to sabotage working class struggle by dividing, inciting and turning the working class against itself.
THE RACE GAME PLAYED BETWEEN BLACKS
Racism has also been used to divide exploited Blacks against themselves to further imperialist interests. One outstanding example occurred among the people of Rwanda and resulted in the genocidal war of 1994, which saw hundreds of thousands murdered while the imperialists sat by and watched. Until the Belgians entered Rwanda with imperialist aims in 1916, the Rwandans were a united people. The various ethnic groups shared the same language and had for centuries cooperated, supported, and sustained each other. The Hutu were 85%, the Tutsis 14%, and the Twa 1% of the population. The Hutu raised crops, the Tutsis tended herds. Economic relations between them were based upon the Hutu exchanging their surplus of vegetables for surplus Tutsi livestock. Their economies also sustained each other in that the Hutus set aside land for the Tutsis to graze their animals on. The manure of the animals in turn provided fertilizer for the Hutu crops.
In 1918 the European imperialist League of Nations “awarded” Rwanda to Belgium as a colony. This Afrikan country presented a source of great wealth to the Belgian King Leopold, in the form of vast forests of rubber trees. Rubber was in high demand in the industrial countries due to the recent invention of the inflatable tire. Like the agricultural capitalists of Amerika, the Belgians needed a local slave class to work the rubber plantations and a local middle level force to police them. The colonial Belgian government, along with the Catholic Church played the race game to produce the desired result. They opened mission schools to only the Tutsi and forbade the Hutu from receiving an education. In the schools, Rwandan history was rewritten to project the Tutsi as the racial superior of the Hutus. The myth was taught that the Tutsi were a partly Caucasian Hamitic people because of their having taller statures, thinner features, and lighter complexions than the Hutu. Identity cards were issued which classified the entire society as Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa.
The Belgians treated the Hutu with the most savage brutality to enforce their submission. Millions upon millions resisted and were massacred, while millions more had ears, noses, and limbs cut off. Tutsi chiefs were appointed by the Belgians over the Hutu to serve as agents to this brutality. The Tutsi, like whites in Amerika, were pleased to be identified as allies of the ruling powers and to believe the myth of their racial superiority. Consequently, the Tutsi also lived in perpetual fear of Hutu revenge if the Hutu ever came together in revolt.
When the national independence struggles against European imperialism began to sweep across Afrika in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the educated Tutsis took notice and agitated for Rwandan independence. In turn the Belgians backed the Hutu to repress the Tutsi. Rwanda still won independence from Belgium in 1962, but this saw the Hutu take control of the upper levels of government. The Tutsi remained in the lower ranks, continuing to control the educational system, church, and livestock. The Hutu however took much of the Tutsi land upon taking power. Many of the Tutsi fled.
A 1973 coup saw a new Hutu government take power which changed the status of the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa from racial to ethnic groupings, and sought to democratically restructure the ethnic groups within social institutions according to their numbers. This meant a larger share for the Hutu in the economy, church, and educational institutions. Thousands of Tutsi lost their jobs and fled the country. A few years later the government turned sour, state property was privatized, and the economy collapsed. In addition to droughts and famines, the imperialist International Monetary Fund imposed a neo-liberal structural adjustment program that totally devastated the country. The Tutsi were repressed and another wave fled Rwanda, to refugee camps in Uganda.
The genocidal war of 1994 was the result of the exiled Tutsis returning and seeking to regain power in Rwanda. The imperialists, including Amerika, were fully aware of preparations for the genocide before it began, but sat by as events unfolded. This “race” war, like many other race based conflicts, saw “respectable” people engaged in the murderous frenzy: teachers, doctors, nurses, journalists, and clergy. Husbands killed wives, friends killed each other, gang rapes were frequent, etc. Such is the result of race hate, racism, and the violence they spawn. Over 500,000 were killed in a matter of just a few months.
The entire “racial” division in Rwanda was, like that here in Amerika, created by a ruling capitalist elite, whose power and profits were served by dividing a previously united people along racial lines, granting one sector a share of relative power and elevated social status, and a sense of racial connection to the ruling elite, so to use it to repress and control the other sector that is super-exploited by the ruling capitalist class. While in reality the entire divided people are collectively exploited by the ruling capitalist class.
RACISM IN REVERSE
For a people, like Blacks in Amerika, who have endured centuries of brutality, degradation, disrespect, indignity, powerlessness, and being labeled “inferiors” based solely upon skin color, the desire for respect became and remains very strong. This desire for respect has left many Blacks vulnerable to the appeals of reverse racism. Reverse racism is here defined as a belief in Black superiority and white inferiority. But, for Blacks in Amerika, who have no independent access to or control over any institutions of power or productive wealth, the features of reverse racism take place primarily in their minds, as they lack the means to exercise any dominant or comparable power over those they claim to be their inferiors, namely whites.
Reverse racism first took root on a large scale with the teachings of Marcus Garvey, who preached the beauty and high culture of Blacks. In colonizing Afrika, beginning in the late 1800’s, the European imperialists used racism to alienate their country’s own oppressed working class from the super-exploited Afrikans, and to rationalize their brutal colonial oppression of Afrikans. To give a scientific gloss to their racism doctrines, the imperialists commissioned novelists and intellectuals to develop theories to support their claims of European racial superiority and African racial inferiority. These European and Amerikan writers claimed that Afrika, when discovered by the white man, was a land of backward, ignorant savages upon whom they had bestowed the benefits and blessings of Christianity and white civilization. Garvey reversed these false and degrading European histories and views of Afrikans. He countered that ignorant, murderous, pillaging European savages attacked Afrika out of jealousy over our power, prosperity, and having achieved the highest level of civilization yet known. Neither version was objectively true. However, Garvey’s teachings had an electrifying effect on Amerikan Blacks. In only a few years millions of Blacks joined his universal Negro Improvement Association, supporting his “back to Afrika” movement. Garvey’s teachings offered Blacks a new basis for pride, self-esteem, self-confidence, and respect, all tied into a messianic notion of Black racial superiority. By turning the teaching of white supremacy on its head, Garvey brought together the largest Black organization in U.S. history.
Following his arrest and exile, and the collapse of his UNIA, Garvey’s doctrine and its Black capitalist underpinnings became the common doctrine of Black organizations that sought a large following. Most notable was the Nation of Islam, which was founded three years after Garvey’s deportation. Indeed, the NOI absorbed many who came under Garveyite influences, including some of the NOI’s most influential leaders like Malcolm X whose parents were Garveyites. The NOI, however, enhanced and gave a theological twist to Garvey’s doctrine, (much as the white church had done with white racism), by posing Blacks as the Creator’s chosen people and whites as spawns of the Devil. The NOI’s teachings were enhanced even further by its excommunicated member Clarence 13X, in his youth-based Nation of Gods and Earths, (formerly the 5% Nation), which promotes the Black man as god and whites as the actual devil.
Another proponent of subjective reverse racism was Dr. Khalid Muhammad, another excommunicated member of the NOI, who led the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) up until his death in 2001. Dr. Muhammad steered the NBPP far away from the class-based ideological and political line of the original BPP and in the direction of race-based anti-white politics, the NBPP’s present path.
The New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) distinguishes itself from such race-based politics as promoted by the NBPP, as we are proponents of class struggle and the revolutionary nationalist liberation struggles of those oppressed by imperialism. We recognize that the capitalists created and use race divisions to perpetuate conflict within the oppressed lower class sectors, and that racism and the race blame game serves the interests of the oppressor class and undermines the interests of the oppressed. This is proven historical fact. Furthermore, as revolutionary New Afrikan nationalists, we realize that there is a contradiction between race and nationalism, and moreover, that there is no nation composed of a single race. All existing nations, like the Indian Nations here in North Amerika, include whites and mixed bloods, even though there are contradictions. It was the policies of white colonialism created by the ruling class that produced these contradictions, and indeed the New Afrikan Nation. In this regard, we say all people of Afrikan heritage, regardless of skin tone, are part of a single Afrikan- New Afrikan Nation…A Pan-Afrikan Nation. Indeed most “Blacks” in Amerika are mixed bloods, mixed with white and/or Indian bloodlines.
We therefore move beyond the black and white dogmatism – Native Americans have always done this in adopting any “race” of people into their nations who embrace and respect their heritage and culture. All non-chauvinistic nations have done this. We also accept that nationalities can overlap and are not merely an either/or situation. People the world over embrace multiple nationalities, and so can New Afrikans. One can be Venezuelan and New Afrikan, or Lenape and New Afrikan, etc. This concept becomes practical revolutionary internationalism that has all oppressed nationalities struggling for both national self-determination and united multi-national anti-imperialist cooperation.
In the context of national liberation, we must remember that nationality is itself a temporary form of social organization and identity. It is a means to an end and not an end in itself. The nation is a product of social-historical development, and will wither away in time. Our orientation as genuine revolutionaries is to the whole of humynity and the future classless and nation-stateless society. Getting from here to there involves national liberation struggles and security issues. As Mao Tse Tung observed, “Proletarian nationalism is applied proletarian internationalism.” It involves uniting all who can be united at each stage of the struggle. From our point of view, the key question is building alliances between the oppressed nations within the U.S. and abroad and the multi-national proletariat.
RISING ABOVE RACE TO BUILD CLASS-BASED ALLIANCES
World suffering and oppression, poverty, and want are not caused by race, but by national and class exploitation and oppression at the hands of the monopoly capitalist class. However, as repeatedly pointed out above, race and racism have been a principal tool and weapon of this class used to keep the oppressed workers of the world divided and warring among themselves, to divide, agitate, and rule. Toward the end of their lives, both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. came to realize that basing struggle against oppression on race without challenging capitalist economic exploitation was a losing battle. And it was at that point when they began to agitate to have their followers struggle against capitalism, imperialism, and colonial oppression instead of exclusively focusing on race, (merely struggling against white oppression), that they were murdered. George Jackson pointed this out:
“It’s no coincidence that Malcolm X and M. L. King died when they did. Malcolm X had just put it together…You remember what was on his lips when he died, Vietnam and economics, political economy. The professional killers could have murdered him long before they did. They let Malcolm rage on Muslim nationalism for a number of years because they knew it was an empty ideal, but the second he got his feet on the ground, they murdered him.”
Fred Hampton, Sr. summed it up perfectly in his November 1969 speech delivered at the University of Northern Illinois and aptly entitled “It’s a Class Struggle Goddammit!” Fred stated:
“You know a lot of people have hang-ups with the [Black Panther] Party because the Party talks about a class struggle. And the people that have those hang-ups are opportunists, and cowards, and individualists and everything that’s anything but revolutionary. And they use these things as an excuse to justify and to alibi and to bonify their lack of participation in the real revolutionary struggle. So they say, ‘Well, I can’t dig the Panther Party because the Panthers they are engrossed with dealing with oppressor country radicals, or white people, or hunkies, or what have you.’ They say, these are some of the [reasons] why I am not in the struggle. We got a lot of answers for these people. First of all, we say primarily that the priority of this struggle is class. That Marx, and Lenin, and Che Guevara, and Mao Tse-Tung and anybody else that has ever said or knew or practiced anything about revolution, always said that a revolution is a class struggle. It was one class – the oppressed – against the other class, the oppressor. And it’s got to be a universal fact. Those that don’t admit to that are those that don’t want to get involved in a revolution, because they know as long as they’re dealing with a race thing, they’ll never be involved in a revolution. They can talk about numbers; they can hang you up in many, many ways…
“[We] never negated the fact that there was racism in Amerika, but we said… the by-product, what comes off of capitalism, that happens to be racism. That capitalism comes first and next is racism. That when they brought slaves over here, it was to make money. So first the idea came that we went to make money, then the slaves came in order to make that money. That means that ‘through historical fact, racism had to come from capitalism. It had to be capitalism first and racism was a by-product of that.”
Like Malcolm X and MLK, and not even a month after giving this speech, Fred Hampton was assassinated, shot in the head while asleep in bed, by Chicago police (in collaboration with the FBI), in a well-orchestrated hit. Coincidence?
The imperialists’ hired guns made no pretenses about murdering Fred. No attempts were made to conceal their involvement by using puppets or agents. They used forces in government uniform, and a Black cop pulled the trigger at that. So what made Fred so threatening that the capitalists’ guns would go to such open extremes to neutralize him? It was because Fred proved to be a much greater danger to the ruling class than all other leaders of the Black Movement combined. He was not only an exceptional organizer and inspirational leader and teacher of New Afrikans, but he could turn the most reactionary of white workers into revolutionaries.
It was Fred’s work that led to the formation of the Young Patriot Party (YPP), a revolutionary party of poor redneck white Appalachian youth whose symbol was a confederate flag with a red star emblazoned on it. Fred’s approach was to appeal to class instead of being sidetracked by race. He walked into a redneck Hillbilly bar in Chicago when they asked, “What are you doing here?” he said, “I’m here to organize the Niggers.” They said, “No Niggers come in here,” and were ready to fight. He said, “Oh yeah? Well the way I see it, they work y’all like Niggers, treat y’all like Niggers, and make y’all live like Niggers. So that makes y’all niggers in my book, and I say it’s time to get organized and deal with this shit!”
In another 1969 speech Fred pointed out:
“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the Black masses, and the Brown masses, and the Yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism – we’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no Black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism…
“We have to understand very clearly that there’s a man in our community called a capitalist. Sometimes he’s Black and sometimes he’s white. But that man has to be driven out of our community, because anybody who comes into the community to make profit off the people by exploiting them can be defined as a capitalist. And we don’t care how many programs they have, how long a dashiki they have. Because political power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki…”
From within the Chicago chapter of the BPP, Fred was the leader of a growing multi-racial, multi-national, anti-imperialist united front that included the BPP, the Puerto Rican Young Lords Party, the Students for a Democratic Society (before the Weathermen faction took over), and the Revolutionary Youth Movement II. He even worked to politically develop apolitical street gangs. The imperialists realized, as did the southern plantation owners, in the wake of Bacon’s Rebellion, that the greatest threat to their power is the united resistance of all elements of the oppressed laboring class. “In order for capitalism to continue to rule, any action that threatens the right of a few individuals to own and control public property must be prohibited and curtailed whatever the cost in resources…whatever the cost in blood…The national repressive institutions (police, National Guard, army, etc.), are no less determined.” (George Jackson). It was because of the genuine threat that Fred’s revolutionary practice posed in bringing together the divided “races” into a united movement to combat imperialism that he had to be liquidated.
NEW AFRIKAN LIBERATION AND THE RACE QUESTION
The position on race presented here is not to say that New Afrikans or “Blacks” should abandon or hand over our liberation struggle to the initiative or control of whites, nor that our struggle in this regard should depend or wait upon the cooperation of those who identify as “white.” Quite the opposite: We are our own liberators!
New Afrikans are an oppressed and colonized nation within Amerika. As such, reforms cannot secure racial and social equality for us. Nor can whites identify with and recognize the conditions we suffer under – no one knows our oppression, the forms it takes and the liberation we desire like we do. We are a people with a history, a culture, and an identity that is our own, and was forged over centuries of common experience and oppression. It is therefore our place and no one else’s to claim those things as uniquely our own and develop them to their highest potential as a people. In order to have any security as a people and not be dependent upon the whims of any other sectors, we must contest the basic means of our survival and governance. If we are not able to defend our own destiny and selves, we are not free. And if we do not break free from the conditions of our colonization, we leave ourselves open to further colonization under any number of reformed conditions and methods.
Merely joining up with Amerikan whites cannot ensure this because our oppression exceeds theirs. We must be able to assert and protect our economic and political rights whether whites support us or not. Self-determination is the essence of our achieving liberation, and it is our right and duty to run our own organizations and liberation struggle. As the victims of racism only we know best how to resist it. But overall, we are oppressed as a nation and must free ourselves as a nation. In doing so we will destroy the basis of our colonized condition within the Amerikan Empire.
In aid of our struggle, the advanced sectors of white Amerika should work to destroy the notion of white skin privilege and white national chauvinism, which are the underlying national identity of Amerika. They must aid us in protecting our democratic rights and the democratic right of all peoples, including their own. In turn, we must join up with the entire multi-ethnic, multi-national, and multi-racial working class, radical youth, and progressive elements in a United Front Against Imperialism, to smash the overall imperialist system.
Imperialism is capitalism is colonialism. The defeat of imperialism requires the liberation of the colonized and neo-colonized nations on which imperialism feeds. But we must also remember that imperialism is capitalism, capitalism on a global scale that enslaves and profits off not only the workers of the non-industrialized nations and oppressed nationalities across the world, but also the workers of the industrially advanced capitalist countries. To defeat capitalism we must join together in a united struggle of the entire working class of all nations, ethnicities, and “races” in a United Front Against Imperialism, and to ultimately overthrow the capitalist political economy and its ruling class’s power, privilege, and domination over social labor and wealth. Without a repressed working class under its thumb, capitalism cannot exist. Therefore, the entire working class must deny the capitalists its labor power.
Political forms of organization to lead the whole working class are necessary, and we support them. The advanced and anti-imperialist whites must also struggle against the fanatical and backward white supremacist elements like the Klan, Neo-Nazis, etc. These elements represent overt fascism in embryonic form, who will be backed by or handed state power to suppress and divide any working class and national independence struggle that arises to challenge monopoly capitalism, as the elite are wont to do, (and Western Europe in the early 1900’s stands as a glaring example), when their power is threatened from below. They will move the most rabid racists into positions of political and military power to attack and smash revolutionary and progressive elements and incite and engage in a divisive race war. They will certainly also incite the fanatical Black reverse racists to turn on and attack Black revolutionary elements. They will justify such actions with claims that those who collaborate with any whites are “sell-outs.” To them all whites are the enemy, as they have no concept of class struggle and will back dictators and sub-fascists like Haiti’s Papa Doc Duvalier and the Congo’s Joseph Mobutu, so long as they have black skin.
To the reverse racists it’s all about a racial contest, and their backward thinking enables them to be used as imperialist agents to attack and kill the revolutionary elements. This is how Amilcar Cabral was assassinated in 1973. Cabral was Afrika’s leading revolutionary, a Pan-Afrikan and anti-imperialist theorist and fighter of the 1960’s and 1970’s. He effectively led the people of Guinea Bissau against the greatest odds, in a successful national independence struggle against Portugal’s colonialism.
Cabral emphasized that race must not be the basis of his country’s independence struggle; that he did not confuse imperialism and colonialism with the color of people’s skins, but desired to see economic, political, and military power in the hands of the working people so to free his country of all oppressive forces, be they white or black. In fact, his position and showing of solidarity with the white workers of Portugal generated a general uprising of the lower classes in Portugal that nearly saw a revolutionary overthrow of power there. He was also able to turn other white nations against Portugal’s colonial policies in his country. It was this uprising and international support coupled with the political and armed liberation struggle of the people of Guinea Bissau that ultimately forced the Portuguese military and colonial administration to abandon Guinea Bissau and return to Portugal to suppress the revolt there.
In turn, Portuguese agents inside of Cabral’s party assassinated him. Those Black agents, Cabral’s fellow countrymen, were opponents of his class-based struggle and were incited to murder Cabral because of his collaboration with “whites” and his being of mixed Afrikan and Portuguese blood. The Portuguese imperialists used proponents of reverse racism to kill the man who had led Afrika’s greatest national independence struggle, freed his people from a savage and brutal colonial existence, and even offered his country’s support to the struggles of New Afrikans here in Amerika. There are valuable lessons to be learned here.
The imperialists have used reverse racists many times in attempts to derail many other revolutionary movements of people of color and to assassinate key leaders. Such racialist elements were used to murder Malcolm X. The FBI used such elements as the United Slaves Organization to assassinate key members of the BPP, Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter and Jon Huggins in January 1969. Indeed in many cases, such as during the national independence struggles in Angola and Mozambique during the 1960’s and 1970’s, the elements who promoted anti-white ideology ended up becoming open collaborators with and agents of the very “white” imperialist powers they were supposed to be fighting. For example, Holden Robert’s UPA/FNLA (Uniao das Populacoes de Angola/Frente Nacional de Libertacao de Angola), became open agents of U.S. imperialism in Angola, and Jonas Sivimbi’s Unita became open agents of the Portuguese imperialists in Mozambique. These groups became agents of their imperialist sponsors and turned their arms away from fighting the colonial forces and declared war for them against their own people’s revolutionary forces, namely the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) and Frelimo (the Liberation Front of Mozambique).
At no time and in no place has playing the race card or the racial blame game ever won any people freedom from oppression. But what it has done is generate most every known major genocidal war that has occurred over the past several centuries, from the genocidal extermination of tens of millions of Native Amerikans to the genocidal attacks on Afrikans by Arabs in Southern Sudan today. The racial game produces only a back and forth cycle of bloodshed, carnage, and misery between competing racial groups. For its blind participants, racism offers nothing positive except a subjective and superficial sense of belonging to a group which professes to be “superior” to another group and the destruction of the natural compassion and sanity that would otherwise prevent humyns from brutalizing and massacring innocent people. And it’s a double-edged sword: one “race” victimizes another and is in turn victimized, or another “race” becomes the target of the victim. The complicity of many Jews today in Anglo-Zionist race-oriented genocidal policies against Palestinians and other Arabs is an outstanding example of a people who were once victims of racial violence in turn victimizing another innocent people in the name of race and claims of “God-given” right. And all to advance the wealth and power interests of a capitalist elite.
For white and Black supremacists here in Amerika, a race war would not prove beneficial to either “race!” It would only produce a cycle of mutual slaughter of members of both races. No one would be “liberated” as a result, but multitudes of loved ones, friends, and colleagues on both sides would be brutalized, butchered, maimed, massacred, and displaced. In the race hate game no one wins – there is simply no way for a sane mind to romanticize it. But in a unified struggle of the oppressed classes and nationalities against imperialism, the very source of world suffering, misery, and racism itself can be uprooted and power turned over to those who can be trusted to use it properly, namely the oppressed masses.
In the fevered minds of racists, their fanatical howlings about violent repression or annihilation of “inferior races” sounds like fun: that is until the bloodshed begins and they find themselves on the receiving end of counter-violence that quickly spins out of control. To many racist southern whites, the brutal enslavement of New Afrikans seemed like a fun enterprise: that is until revolts like Nat Turner’s turned the guns back on them. At that point a massive Black and white abolitionist movement sprang to life to end slavery. There are simply no superior and inferior races. Indeed the very concept of race is an invention. A comrade put it this way in a letter to me:
“Racism is the spawn of colonialism and is based on lies. The technological edge the Europeans took advantage of came late in the game. Much of it was borrowed from other cultures like gunpowder from China, or the lanteen sail from Afrika, and potatoes from South Amerika. The combination of these elements and the ability to use them to establish global hegemony created the illusion of white supremacy.
“In reality, we’re all pretty damn equal. Even the difference between smart and dumb people is not so great. No one of us is really all that smart. Is capitalism smart? We let the nastiest men run the show by the nastiest means and hope that it will work out alright for the rest of us. Is that smart? We’ve got all these gadgets running, but the sum of it is we’ve burned a hole in the atmosphere and the ice caps are melting.
“Even the idea of Communism is not so brilliant. It is just common sense. Ants work together for their common welfare. The genius lies in overcoming our own stupidity to do what is necessary to survive, and this will be a big struggle and one we could lose. There is a time factor in our getting our collective act together.
“The good news is that all the elements necessary for our survival as a species are present. We just have to sort out our political-social organization, and deal with the nasty men.”
Even mainstream sources now admit that the concept of race is today a scientifically unsustainable concept. That the “theories” invented centuries ago to validate the idea are invalidated by today’s science. The Merriam Webster Collegiate Encyclopedia (2000) defines and dismisses the notion of race thusly:
“Race: Term once commonly used in physical anthropology to denote a division of humankind possessing traits that are transmissible by descent and sufficient to characterize it as a distinct human type (e.g. Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid). Today the term has little scientific standing, as older methods of differentiation, including hair form and body measurement, have given way to the comparative analysis of DNA and gene frequencies relating to such factors as blood type, the excretion of amino acids, and inherited enzyme deficiencies. Because all human populations today are extremely similar genetically, most researchers have abandoned the concept of race for the concept of the cline, a graded series of differences occurring along a line of environmental or geographical transition. This reflects the recognition that human populations have always been in a state of flux, with genes constantly flowing from one gene pool to another, impeded only by physical and ecological boundaries. While relative isolation does preserve genetic differences and allow populations to maximally adapt to climatic and disease factors over long periods of time, all groups currently existing are thoroughly “mixed” genetically, and such differences as still exist do not lend themselves to simple typologizing. “Race” is today primarily a social designation, identifying a class sharing some outward physical characteristics and some commonalities of culture and history.”
This same text goes on to admit that racism is a creation and tool of colonialism:
“Racism: Belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that some races are inherently superior to others. More broadly, the term refers to any racial prejudice or discrimination throughout the era of European colonialism, the British viewed imperialism as a noble activity (“the white man’s burden”) destined to bring civilization to the benighted races, while the French invoked the notion of mission civilistrace, their duty to bring civilization to backward peoples. An influential modern proponent was the Comte de Gobineau, who held that the so-called Aryan was the supreme race. His most important follower was Houston Stewart Chamberlain, whom Adolf Hitler credited with supplying the “scientific” basis of the Nazi’s racialist philosophy, used to justify the persecution of Jews and other non-Aryans. South African society was built on the principle of apartheid, or racial “separateness.” Today the general trend is away from racism, though the problem of racist thinking remains intractable.”
Although this mainstream reference work totally avoids pointing out what social-economic class invented the entire racial concept and its birth and role here in North Amerika, it does make clear that both “race” and “racism” are today proven to be scientifically baseless and live on solely as psycho-social concepts. So why then do the Amerikan political and economic rulers still classify Amerikan citizens by race? It is obviously because they desire to maintain its role as a divisive undercurrent to be appealed to and whipped into hysteria when their power and privilege are threatened from blow. Thus, the national identity of Amerika remains that of a “white nation.”
The concepts of race and racism, like a deeply ingrained backward superstition, are so deeply embedded in the social psyche and are so deeply influential on social attitudes and behaviors, that they cannot be simply ignored. The oppressed “races” must collectively struggle against racial oppression and domination, while the conscious members of the oppressor races must struggle to conquer the myth of racial superiority within their own “racial” groups. Reverse racism must also be countered. In confronting racism we must be aware of its counterrevolutionary nature and the forms it takes in the minds of those who embrace it consciously or subconsciously. George Jackson gave an insightful analysis on this point. He stated:
“Racism is a matter of ingrained traditional attitudes conditioned through institutions. For some, it is as natural a reflex as breathing. The psychosocial effects of segregated environments compounded by bitter class repression have served in the past to render the progressive movement almost totally impotent.
“The major obstacle to a united left in this country is white racism. There are three categories of white racists: the overt, self-satisfied racist who doesn’t attempt to hide his antipathy; the self-interdicting racist who harbors and nurtures racism in spite of his best efforts; and the unconscious racist, who has no awareness of his racist preconceptions.
“As Black partisans, we must recognize and allow for the existence of all three types of racists. We must understand their presence as an effect of the system. It is the system that must be crushed, for it continues to manufacture new and deeper contradictions of both class and race. Once it is destroyed, we may be able to address the problems of racism at an even more basic level. But we must also combat racism while we are in the process of destroying the system.
“The self-interdicting racist, no matter what his acquired conviction or ideology, will seldom be able to contribute with his actions in any really concrete way. His role in revolution, barring a change of basic character, will be minimal throughout. Whether the basic character of a man can be changed at all is still a question.”
As Comrade George pointed out, our struggle demands that we acknowledge and recognize the three categories of racists. However, we must also acknowledge and recognize that the reverse racists also fit into these three categories. And in answer to George’s question whether there is a possibility of changing the basic character of the “self-interdicting racist,” we think yes. The Marxist recognizes that there is a dialectical relationship between our social practice and how we think. That reactionary thinking can be corrected through revolutionary social practice. But that practice must also in turn be guided by and committed to correct ideology.
Our Comrade Tom Big Warrior analyzed the process very well in a discussion we had some time ago concerning a New Afrikan brother with whom I was struggling to break out of a deeply ingrained hatred of whites. This brother’s views had been imbedded in him at a very young age by a now deceased grandfather, whose memory he held with the highest respect. While he could not refute my arguments against race-based hatreds, he also felt powerless to change his feelings. Here is Tom:
“I understand what you’re talking about with the brother who has deeply rooted hatred of whites. I’ve got brothers in my nation who have the same issues regarding Blacks, particularly among the hillbillies of mixed white-Native heritage. It was bred into them from a very young age and reinforced by their social practice (or lack of it) with Black folks.
“Hell, everybody in Amerika has been brainwashed on race. I know I have been affected by it, but I’ve got the advantage of both a theoretical understanding and a lifetime of positive social interaction with people of all ethnic backgrounds (and particularly Black Comrades), so I can identify and throw away feelings that come from racist programming as they come up.
“I think the key with this brother is to get him to see that his feelings are part of the slave mentality he (and his grandfather) were programmed to have to keep Black people from throwing off their oppression. If you can’t inspire meek submission and self-deprecation, you can inspire hate and fear, (which is the next best thing), and this leads to alienation and division.
“”The greatest threat in the South was unity between the Blacks and poor whites, who had common class interests. So the big landlords played them against each other by promoting blind hatred and racism.
“If he can grasp that his feelings are chains upon him causing him to act against the interests of Black people and working people in general, (that he is falling into the role of a “Nigger” set for him by “Mr. Charlie”), he will see that it must be overcome so he can be a “true Black Warrior” and a genuine revolutionary.
“We feel the way we feel because we think the way we think. Changing our thinking changes how we feel. In fact our feelings expose how we think at the deepest levels. Sometimes we think we have something all sorted out and understood, but then a feeling pops up to show us that we are still in process, and we have to keep struggling to grasp the idea more firmly.
“If the brother wants to be a revolutionary, he can’t be liberal with himself. He has to recognize that white people must be won to support Black liberation and make proletarian revolution. Unless this is done, Black people will continue to be oppressed, and the imperialists will keep running the show.
“He has to decide if he wants to be part of the problem or part of the solution. The MC5, the house band of the White Panther Party, had a song where the singer shouts out, “It takes 5 seconds to decide and determine your purpose here on the planet, 5 seconds to decide if you are going to be a part of the problem or you are going to be a part of the solution – KICK OUT THE JAMS MOTHERFUCKER!”
“This is just what they were talking about – this mental/emotional programming that jams up our ability to make revolution. Ain’t nothing to do but kick it out, get rid of it, to get to what needs to be done.
“When you reason with him he says, “Yeah, yeah you’re right, Brother,” because you can’t reasonably argue for racism. But he’s not willing to let go and backslides right back into it. As if counter-revolution was his purpose on the planet.
“It’s time to invoke the 5 second rule. Time for him to make a commitment and stop being liberal with himself. The world can’t wait for us to get serious about revolution.
“If he really wants to honor his grandfather’s memory, he shouldn’t let the wounding that was done to him and other Blacks go on another generation. You can’t play the blame game and win.
“The pigs didn’t kill Fred Hampton because he was good at organizing Black people, but because he could turn redneck Hillbilly crackers into Red revolutionaries, which he did with the Young Patriot Party – that’s true history.
“He was a better revolutionary than Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver put together, and he is the one we should measure ourselves and our praxis by.
“It is our practice that determines our thinking, but there is a dialectic between theory and practice called praxis, in which theory becomes the determining factor.
“This is different than idealism, which Marx was struggling against. This is what Mao was talking about when he said ideological and political line will determine everything. It is the difference between Utopian socialism and our Scientific socialism.
“We begin with a concrete analysis of concrete conditions and from this developed theory, then apply our theory to practice, then sum up our practice to strengthen and advance our theory, then go back to practice, over and over getting sharper and sharper. That’s praxis.
“That’s how a bush-wah intellectual, or a peasant or a lumpen can transform into a proletarian revolutionary without working in a factory or even ever seeing one. It doesn’t happen spontaneously, it takes struggle.”
When we truly recognize that the capitalists are at the root of racism, that it is a tool and weapon invented and used by them to preserve their power and privilege and to keep the lower classes divided, oppressed, miserable, and powerless, then we must also recognize our revolutionary duty to rise above racist and reverse racist programming. This is a difficult task that demands concrete practice. It is because of the depth of race-conditioning that the liberation struggle of New Afrikans and other oppressed nationalities cannot be dependent upon white cooperation, however, that cooperation should be sought and developed in process to build a United Front Against Imperialism. True liberation from national oppression compels destruction of the imperialist system. Otherwise, the monopoly capitalists will continue to derail independence struggles by allying themselves with racialist and comprador elements within the bodies of the oppressed nationalities and races, push them into positions of power, and then use them to subvert the liberation struggles and bring the masses back under imperialist control. This is the essence of neocolonialism and the method used by the imperialists to undermine most all of the national independence struggles of the last century.
In that it’s the capitalist institutions that create, perpetuate, and benefit from racism, (indeed they need to preserve it to maintain their elevated power and status), they will assuredly mobilize resistance against all genuine efforts to build class-based racial solidarity. They will use the most rabid of white racists, and incite many New Afrikans, Natives and other people of color to fall out on the reactionary side, and the more intelligent reactionary, (reverse racist and comprador), leaders will encourage this. Our movement must be prepared to confront and counter such measures. We must set an example of promoting class unity and solidarity. It will also occur that some people will vacillate between the revolutionary and reactionary sides and that the dividing line won’t be static and clear-cut. The task of winning people politically will ultimately decide victory.
It should be clear by now that those of us who play into racism act as agents of our own imperialist oppressors, (whether consciously or not), and we aid in continuing our own oppression and want. In fact, we increase and intensify our own oppression and misery by inciting and perpetuating hatred, humiliation, insensitivity, and violence not only against the other race(s), but also in turn against our “own” race. It’s a cycle that no one benefits from except the oppressor class that sits at the top laughing at what fools we are, while their power and wealth remain secure form any real challenge. It is on this basis that the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter promotes, unites with, and supports the White Panther Organization and all anti-imperialists of all nationalities and all oppressed peoples in a common struggle against imperialism. We welcome the WPO as fellow comrades and Panthers within the democratic centralism of our aspiring Vanguard Party.
All Power to the People!
POPULAR EVANGELICAL BILLY GRAHAM FAMOUSLY STATED “THAT CHRIST WAS BROWN TO DARK BROWN IN APPEARANCE FAVOURING AN AFRICAN OR INDIAN PHENOTYPE. YET, THE GLOBAL IMAGES OF CHRIST WHICH PERMEATES THE SECULAR AND THE RELIGIOUS WORLD ARE BY AND LARGE THE POLAR OPPOSITE COULD THIS BE AN INNOCENT MISTAKE OR A RELIC OF A COLONIAL PAST? SUPPORT THOUGHTS CAMERA ACTION HERE:
By Naila Aroni
If it walks like an appropriator and talks like a saviour it is probably a White ‘Feminist’ exploiting Indigenous women for profit.
As an artist, and avid fashion enthusiast, Vogue has been in my vocabulary before I could even spell, let alone comprehend words like haute-couture. Similar to myriads of style-inclined children and teens, I grew up reading its magazines and digesting TV programs and films like America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway and The Devil Wears Prada, to name a few. One cannot deny how much Vogue as a brand has contributed to pop culture as we know it today. The common narrative about fashion is that the ‘West’ has always set the trends and dictated what is ‘in’ or what is ‘out’, while those in the fashion industry in the Global South are portrayed as passive bystanders who are marveled by this glitz and glamour. In the (white) western eye, we do not contribute to fashion, we simply follow. Admittedly, part of me still hopes for the day where I achieve a personal milestone of seeing my work in its magazines. Black, and specifically continental African designers, bloggers, and creators, rarely grace its pages. In the rare occasion that they do, I celebrate my dream vicariously through them. Their win is my win. I feel hopeful. I feel seen.
I most certainly didn’t feel seen when I came across Maasai jewelry featured in the British Vogue December 2019 issue. In fact, I felt quite the contrary. I felt angry, confused, and even perturbed. But mostly angry because the feature included a portrait of a white woman adorned in beaded Maasai earrings and the brand that was profiled was a white-owned company known as Rhimani UK whose company tag is “African Accessories supporting African Animals”. The descriptor accompanying this image explained that the brand’s designs are ‘unique and vibrant’ and every month they donate at least 10% of their profits “to a different African conservation charity”. Despite this lengthy description championing this brand, no homage was paid to the Maasai women who made these earrings. The average reader, with little-to-no knowledge of Kenyan culture, could conclude that these earrings were simply just made by this white woman in Kenya.
My mind was spinning. I was especially confused given the recent changes at British Vogue under the umbrella of promoting ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’. Its editor-in-chief is renowned British-Ghanaian fashion editor Edward Enninful OBE. So how can ‘mistakes’ like this still be rampant despite its structural changes? Why hasn’t a ‘top-down’ approach made any tangible improvements? My answer is that there is a larger ecosystem of appropriation within the fashion industry at work and we know this because this isn’t an isolated incident. A month prior to this discovery, a white journalist writing for The New York Times wrote a feature on Karen, a suburb in Nairobi as an ‘exclusive shopping district’. This fashion district she referred to is so undeniably exclusive, in that it is ONLY reserved for the expatriate community who inhabit these spaces. She featured at least five white-owned jewelers and fashion designers, House of Treasures, Linda Camm designs (founded by Camm, who credits herself for helping a group of Maasai women “improve” their designs), Bush Princess (don’t even get me started I-), L’Equipée, and Maasai Collections (founded by a white woman who describes her wares as “tribal chic”). Again, the profiles given to these brands insinuated that these designs are simply made or inspired by Kenya, but no credit was given to Maasai women who make these extremely complex designs.
Like many angry Kenyans, I took to Twitter to express my dismay and naturally my thread highlighting these injustices was met with some disagreement. Some felt that these White women were making an ‘honest living’. Others rebutted that these women deserved to keep 90% of their profits because they were entrepreneurs who handled difficult business strategies. I always encourage healthy debate on social media, but it is cynical to play devil’s advocate for argument’s sake when there is injustice slapping you in the face.
To the white women who exploit Maasai women to fulfill their bush princess fantasies, I am speaking to you. When you block and delete comments from Kenyans engaging with your websites and Instagram accounts, you know exactly what you’re doing. This is neo-colonialist exploitation because Maasai women are critical agents who use jewelry-making as a socio-economic avenue to survive and escape sexual and gender-based violence. Yet despite this, you sell jewelry at a 90 percent markup from the original price that you bought it for. We must name this as abuse because the language around different forms of white supremacy matters. Deploying phrases like ‘made in Kenya’ or ‘we work with Maasai women’ is paternalistic and overstates your efforts when you simply stock and over-price ready-made jewelry. It is racist that you turn a blind eye to Britain’s colonial history whilst cognizant that tribes were forced to abandon their cultural practices under violent assimilationist policies; that the Maasai tribe is one of the few tribes in Africa that still maintain their cultural practices in day-to-day life and jewelry-making is one of those intergenerational practices.
These white saviors use buzzwords like sisterhood and feminism as a way to facilitate their neoliberal extortion when this is quite literally the opposite of what Feminist Theory teaches us on gendered work. Postcolonial Feminist perspectives encourage us to inject cultural analyses to disrupt “gender blind assumptions in the field of social entrepreneurship”. The social entrepreneur as we know it is a distinctly male entity, depicted as “heroic, ambitious and courageous,” explain Susan Clark Muntean and Banu Ozkazanc-Pan in “Gender, Work & Organisation”. This is strikingly reminiscent of the white women in the NYT article who are portrayed as heroines who work ‘with Kenyan artisans to create pieces that in turn help them earn a livelihood’. By contrast, Maasai women cannot be social entrepreneurs. Their bead-making is reduced to a hobby and doesn’t warrant the same respectability as their white counterparts because it is domestic work. I refuse to deny white women’s role in emphasizing the gendered notions of entrepreneurship.
White designers and publication giants like Vogue and the New York Times that enable them must be held accountable. You can’t ‘love and light’ appropriation away simply because YOU believe YOUR intentions are well-founded. You can’t exploit and disappear the labor of Indigenous women and think no one will care or take notice. In other words: sell your own shit. Damn.
Featured Image by Nicolas
By Sherrona J. Brown
Bois Caïman is the site where the seed was planted that would eventually grow into the Haitian Revolution. A black pig was sacrificed to honor Erzulie Dantor, a goddess associated with love and protection from violence, and the group made a pact with her to fight against the white people and denounce their white god.
It is said the ritual was led by Houngan Boukman Dutty. The following is the prayer attributed to him as he stood before the gathering:
“The god who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light. The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that speaks in all our hearts.”
Growing up, any religion outside of Christianity was considered “the devil” in my home and community. There was no other god. I wasn’t allowed to read Harry Potter or talk about the zodiac, and the pastor of my childhood church once spent an entire sermon ranting about a neighborhood woman who offered psychic readings, saying we needed to run her out of town. There was violence, repression, and fear of knowledge in the environment where I grew up, and it was learning the truth about our history that saved me from how miserable and inadequate I felt.
It was the interests I developed in college, studying history, media, literature, race, gender, and their connections, that eventually led me to the work I do now and to readings about religions like Vodou/Voodoo that do not demonize them. This is how I learned that the belief system carries deep cultural roots and significant meaning in Haiti and West Africa, and about how it helped lead enslaved Haitians to freedom.
Its integral use in birthing the successful Haitian slave insurrection has partly influenced white perceptions of the religion, especially among white Christians. Pat Robertson has alluded to the Bois Caïman ritual in order to demonize it, referring to it as a “pact to the devil’’ and citing it as the cause of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010.
Vodou, of course, is not the only religious tradition with roots in Africa to be demonized and misrepresented throughout the centuries. Much of the panic that prompted the infamous Salem Witch Trials was due to the white Puritan fears of Tituba, an enslaved Afro-Indigenous Barbadian woman, and her non-Christian spiritual practices which were quickly interpreted as witchcraft and dark magic.
Part of the main inciting event was the accusation that Tituba was teaching these practices to others and engaging with the devil. It was her forced, fantastical, and false confession that ultimately set everything in motion. The Salem witch panic was both gendered and racialized, and a product of white Christian colonialism, though retellings of or references to this historical event often overlook this point.
These things have been on my mind a lot lately, especially since I read about the “Slave Bible” now on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands, is its chosen title, stating clearly its intent for use in the area of the world that is the modern-day Caribbean. The Haitian slave rebellion culminated in their independence in 1804, and the first iteration of this “Slave Bible” was published in 1807, according to associate museum curator Anthony Schmidt.
Passages that might have encouraged enslaved Africans towards uprisings were intentionally omitted from these Bibles. Schmidt puts it into perspective by saying, “[T]here are 1,189 chapters in a standard protestant Bible. This Bible contains only 232… What they’ve cut out is the story of the Israelites captivity in Egypt and their eventual liberation and journey to the promised land.”
I can’t say whether or not the Haitian slave revolts and the publishing of Bibles like these are directly linked, and I haven’t come across any historians arguing this theory in my reading. I can’t say whether or not the rebellion—one of many—and how Vodou was used in it sent waves of panic throughout the other Caribbean colonies and inspired the British to specifically work towards further suppressing African religious practices among the enslaved and forcibly converting them to a kind of Christianity that did not include stories about liberation from captivity. But I think it’s a fair connection to make.
White colonizers, enslavers, and capitalists have always conspired to keep Black and Indigenous people from uprising, and Christianity has been consistently used as a tool of white supremacy. We know how Christian enslavers in the U.S. used the Bible to subjugate and control the enslaved and how pro-slavery passages like Ephesians, 4:5 were often uplifted—“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.”
Like I said, these things have been on my mind a lot lately. Especially after the killing of Christian missionary John Allen Chau by the Sentinelese people. His death has brought the violence of colonialism and Christian missionary work to the surface for people who haven’t been paying attention to history. The Sentinelese, estimated to have lived on their island for at least 60,000 years, are known as one of the last “uncontacted tribes” in the world, but there have been attempts to invade the tribe for centuries. Even 13th century traveler Marco Polo wrote in his journal about how hostile they were to anyone who approached the island—“They are a most violent and cruel generation who seem to eat everybody they catch.” Simply referring to them as an “uncontacted tribe” does not provide enough weight for the fact that they have been violently resisting colonialism for hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years.
I envy the Sentinelese, and I celebrate them, and I’ve spent many hours sitting with that. I’ve spent many hours soaking in my own sadness about the fact that I don’t know more about African and Indigenous religions and belief systems because I was brought up in the American South, in the Bible Belt. It’s not fair that so many of us have been deprived of the cultural traditions of our ancestors, and I spend a lot of time considering what white Christian colonialism has taken from us, to the point where Vodou is even demonized in African countries to this day.
When I learned of the Vodou ceremony at Bois Caïman and how they called upon Erzulie Dantor, I sought out more information on her and other Vodou spirits. I learned that she is considered the patron of lesbians. She is a fierce defender of women and children, especially single mothers and victims of domestic violence. Her protections often come in the form of exacting revenge against abusive husbands and philanderers. A knife is her weapon of choice. She has two scars on her dark cheeks, which are believed to either be tribal scarification or the result of a fight with her sister, Erzulie Freda, the patron of gay men and drag queens.
Though I found this intriguing at the time, I wasn’t ready to come to terms with a queer Black goddess and her protections, or my own queerness. I had to spend some time unpacking all my trauma from a Christian indoctrination before I could truly begin such an exploration.
I used to think it was religion that traumatized me, but I’ve come to understand in recent years that it was the violence of the puritanical Christianity I was raised in. And even if I never return to religion, at least now I know there are knife-wielding queer Black goddesses.
Black millennials are moving towards embracing African and Indigenous religions and practices in large numbers, learning about the cultural truths we have been kept away from for too long. Cultural genocide has always been one of the most insidious parts of white supremacy and colonialism. Suppressing the religions of Black and Indigenous people in order to forcibly install Christianity has been integral to maintaining a system of institutional racism, and I’m proud to see that so many of us are intentionally finding our way back to belief systems more akin to what our ancestors practiced before it was ripped away from them. I hope we continue to embrace them and recognize that, in doing so, we honor those who came before us.
We must use technology and the Afrikan principle of Sankofa (looking in the past to move forward in the future) to rebuild the Black world.
“Culture is a weapon in the face of our enemies” – Amílcar Cabral (He was one of Afrika’s foremost anti-colonial leaders)
In the book, THE MAROON WITHIN US: SELECTED ESSAYS ON AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY SOCIALIZATION, the late and great Afrikan-centric educator Asa G. Hilliard argues that if Afrikan/Black people are to survive in America and in this world, then we must truly work everyday to liberate ourselves from the vestiges of White supremacy and racism by studying Afrikan history, embracing Afrikan languages, and revolutionary Afrikan culture. On pages 58-59, Hilliard breaks down the importance of Afrikan history, Afrikan culture and language to Black people. He writes, “We on the contrary, have failed to understand the political function of culture. Franz Fanon (Black Caribbean anti-colonial revolutionary) showed us its meaning where language is concerned. He tells us that the very act of speaking a language means not only to grasp the rules of that language, but, in addition, to assume a culture, supporting the weight of the civilization itself.”
This is why since birth, my wife and I worked everyday to raised our children on revolutionary Afrikan culture. We started with the Nguzu Saba (The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa), knowing Afrikan history, knowing Afrikan spirituality, the importance of wearing our Afrikan names, the importance of speaking Kiswahili, knowing Arabic, respecting all Afrikan languages, and the importance of honoring our Afrikan Ancestors. However, my wife and I are the exceptions to the rule. Many Black people in America, particularly Black youth, are totally disconnected to Afrikan history, language and culture. However, all is not lost. In the age of the new millennium, we have more access to information on the history of Black liberation struggles, and its movements against White supremacy and the system of racism, at the palm of our hands.
Our White American slave-masters, and European colonial oppressors, knew exactly what they were doing by separating Afrikan / Black people from our own history, languages and culture. This is why many Afrikan Americans do not know our own Black history, we can not speak a lick of our own Afrikan mother tongue, we bear the names of our former White slave-masters, and struggle with embracing our own revolutionary Afrikan cultural practices.white supremacy
In the Afrikan world community, many great Afrikan leaders came before Afrika, and continental Afrikan people, to help liberate that part of the world from the domination of European and American colonialism. There are too many Afrikan revolutionaries to list at this movement. However, here is a short list of Afrikan leaders who worked tirelessly to move Afrika into self – reliance and self -determination. These leaders included such names as Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Gamal Nasser, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmed Sékou Touré, Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela, Jomo Kenyetta, the Mau Maus, Thomas Sankara, and Steve Biko. Unfortunately, these Afrikan leaders became such a threat to the system of racism and White supremacy in Afrika that they were either discredited, assassinated, or imprisoned. As a consequence of the destruction of Pan Afrikan revolutionary leaders, masses of continental Afrikans gave up the Afrikan liberation struggle all together. This is why Afrika has not been totally liberated from the days of White domination under colonialism. The lack of Afrikan freedom fighters In the 21st century, have left continental Afrikans struggling to embrace their own history, traditional Afrikan languages and define revolutionary Afrikan cultures for Afrikan empowerment. Like many Black people in America, some continental Afrikans have lost the sight for Afrikan liberation. However, all is not lost. Fortunately, continental Afrikan leaders from the past, have left their examples in history books, films, magazines, documentaries, and news articles. We thank the Creator, and our Afrikan ancestors, that we have the internet to access their histories to create a road map for revolutionary Afrikan culture, the development of a Pan Afrikan language, the development of a national language for each Afrikan country, and struggle for Afrikan liberation.
Even In the Caribbean, which holds a special place in the Afrikan world community. This is where some of the most committed and respected Pan Afrikan freedom fighters (i.e. H Sylvester Williams, the Honorable Marcus Garvey, Kwame Ture’, Bob Marley, Maurice Bishop, Walter Rodney, etc) evolve from to organize Black people to rebuild mother Afrika and Black people. Unfortunately, in the Caribbean, Black people are still struggling to find Black liberation through Black history and revolutionary Black culture in the new millennium. Unfortunately, many Black Caribbean nations are still under the domination and the control of White supremacy and racism. However, all is not lost. Fortunately, Black Caribbean leaders from the past, have left their examples in history books, films, magazines, documentaries, and news articles. We thank the Creator, and our Afrikan ancestors, that we have the internet to access their histories to create a road map for Black liberation.
However, in America, the powerful forces of White supremacy, and the system of racism, separate oppressed people from one another in this country. Without a national, and international Black liberation movement to help bring political clarity and develop unity of oppressed people, we forget, or ignore, the real enemies of people of color and poor people.
In the present era of America, we now live in a country where many of our immigrant brothers and sisters (i.e. Indians, Hindus, Arabs, Asians, Latinos, Jamaicans, Haitians, etc) are coming to America in masses like never before in United States history due to the abolishing of racist immigration laws. Our immigrant brothers and sisters are coming to America seeking freedom and opportunities. Although they are coming to a country that has created inequalities and oppression in the world, they believe that America is the land of opportunity. Unfortunately, they come to America either ignoring or not knowing or disrespectful of the ongoing freedom struggles of Black people in America from White supremacy and the system of racism.
However, they come speaking their own mother tongue and embrace their own cultural practices. In fact, immigrant brothers and sister use their languages, and their own cultural practices, as a springboard for community empowerment and survival in America. Although many of our immigrant brothers and sisters come from continents and countries just recently liberated from European colonialism and European domination; they come to America without experiencing the violent, overt interference, and oppressive conditions of White supremacy and racism upon their people. The reason for this is that immigrant brothers and sisters did not go through the horrors of White supremacy and racism forcibly and legally removing and dis-centering them from their languages and their cultural practices like Afrikan Americans.
In fact, because of the unique experiences of Black oppression under hundreds of years of the system of racism and White supremacy in America, the Black Civil Rights and Black liberation movements of the 1950s, 60s, early 70s found it absolutely necessary to force racist America to respect the legal freedoms, languages, and cultures of all people of color and oppressed people. In other words, Black people’s struggle for justice had to include the struggle for linguistic and cultural freedoms of all oppressed people. During that era, we clearly understood linguistic and cultural oppression better than any other group in America, because, we were the most victimize by White linguistic and cultural racist domination. We were, and are, the living proof of what can happen to a people if languages and cultures are denied to a people. Black people of 1960s, 60s, and early 70s understood that without knowing your history, denying your language and your culture, a people will become lost in America. We had understood that not knowing your history, not knowing your language, and not knowing your culture; oppressed people will fall victim to feelings of inferiority, broken communities, self-destruction, helplessness, and self-hate.
Unfortunately, in the present era of America, many Black people have lost their understanding of the importance of knowing Afrikan history, acquiring the ability to speak an Afrikan language, and embracing a revolutionary form of Afrikan culture in the Afrikan American community. We don’t understand why activists- scholars like a Dr. Maulana Karenga struggled hard to establish Kwanzaa as a Black cultural holiday for Black liberation in the Afrikan American community. Before Dr. Karenga established Kwanzaa, he founded a Black cultural nationalist organization called US in Los Angeles, California in 1965. Dr. Karenga taught that the first steps towards Black revolutionary change in the Afrikan American community is through a Black revolutionary culture. This is many of us do not understand that Kwanzaa was also to be used as a building block for Black nation-building. Using Kiswahili, a Pan-Afrikan language spoken in many parts of Afrika, Dr. Karenga began to linguistically reconnect Black people in America to Afrika. But he did not stop there at an Afrikan language. Dr. Karenga collected the best principles of Afrikan cultural practices to create just Seven Black revolutionary cultural foundations called the Nguzu Saba to help rebuild Black people in America and in the Afrikan world community. Unfortunately, his commitment to Black nation building became a threat to White supremacy and the system of racism. Dr. Karenga, and his US movement, were attacked by the US government. However, all is not lost. Fortunately, Black revolutionary cultural nationalist leaders from the past have left their examples in history books, films, magazines, documentaries, and news articles. We thank the Creator, and our Afrikan ancestors, that we have the internet to access their histories to create a road map for revolutionary Black culture for Black liberation.
On the other hand, we don’t understand why Black leaders such as Bobby Seal and Huey P. Newton came on the scene to establish the Original Black Panther Party on October 15, 1966 in Oakland, California. They, Seal and Newton, believed that Black revolutionary nationalism was just as important as Black cultural nationalism. The Original Black Panther Party taught that Black people must unite with themselves to fight against America’s system of exploitation and oppression. Seal and Newton believed that the system of racism and White supremacy are by-products of European and United States monopoly capitalism. Thus creating permanent a Black under class. In other words, Seal and Newton believe that if oppressed Black people did not challenge monopoly capitalism, then White supremacy and the system of racism would create lasting oppressive conditions in the Black community to reduce Black people down to the lowest realms of American society. The Original Black Panthers went to work organizing Black people to fight against U. S. oppression in the Black community. The Black Panther Party created community survival programs (i.e the Breakfast Program, the Lunch Program, the Peoples Ambulance Program, the Free Clothing Program. The Free Health Care Program, Free Liberation Schools, etc) to provide needed resources and political education for Black people suffering in American ghettos. Original Black Panthers built coalitions with other oppressed people (i.e. Latinos, Asians, poor Whites, etc) to fight for social justice in all communities. However, one of the very first maneuvers the Black Panthers rallied Black people against was rampant cases of racist police brutality in the Black community. The Black Panthers began armed patrols of the police in a effort to protect the Black community from racist police violence. As a result of these armed patrols of the police, the FBI labeled the Original Black Panther Party the number #1 threat to America’s national security in 1967. The US created a secret program called COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) to neutralized the Original Black Panther Party movement in the Black community. The Original Black Panthers became the targets of attacks from all local and federal policing agencies in America. Many Original Black Panthers were gunned down in the streets of America. Original Black Panthers that the US government could not kill, COINTELPRO used its unlimited resources to legally frame Black Panthers on trumped up charges. Many Black Panther were sent to prison on long sentences for duration of their lives in a effort to reduce their revolutionary influences in the Afrikan American community. Then, the propaganda machine of COINTELPRO labeled Original Black Panthers thugs and terrorists in the eyes of the public to further destabilize its revolutionary movement in the Black community. All of these dirty tricks by the US government weaken the the Black Panther Party. Many Black Panthers began to leave the organization in masses. Some Black Panthers had to flee the US to survive the onslaught of state sanctioned police harassment and police violence directed towards them in America. By the early 1980s, the Original Black Panthers ceased to exist. However, all is not lost. Fortunately, Black revolutionary nationalist leaders from the past have left their examples in history books, films, magazines, documentaries, and news articles. We thank the Creator, and our Afrikan ancestors, that we have the internet to access their histories to create a road map for Black revolutionary politics for Black liberation.
In today’s racist America, we don’t understand why Newark, NJ’s world renowned community activist Imamu Amiri Baraka struggled so hard in the 1960s and early 70s to establish the Black Arts Movement. Awakened by the Black nationalist consciousness of Malcolm X, Baraka, a respected playwright and poet, began to believe it was absolutely necessary for Black people to embrace our own Black perspectives in Black literature, Black poetry, Black music, and Black theatre. He, along with other Black artists, such as Maya Angelou, Haki Mahabuti, Amina Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Felipe Luciano, and The Last Poets; created the Black Arts movement. The Black Arts Movement became the central foundation for a new Black cultural identity in America, and in the world, for Black people’s struggle for Black liberation during that time period. However, all is not lost.
Fortunately, Black artists from the past have left their examples in history books, films, magazines, documentaries, and news articles.
We thank the Creator, and our Afrikan ancestors, that we have the internet to access their histories to create a road map for revolutionary Black artistry for Black liberation.
We don’t understand why Black historians from the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and early 90s struggled to establish the Importance of Afrikan / Afrikan American history in Black liberation. They inspired masses of people of Afrikan descent to embrace their Afrikan history, Afrikan languages, Afrikan religions, and Afrikan culture. For decades, Afrikan / Black people were Guided by many Afrocentric scholars of the day, such as Dr. John Henrick Clarke, Dr. Yusef ben-Jochannan, Dr Chancellor Williams, Dr. Lenonard Jeffries, Cheikh Anta Diop and Dr. Molefe Kete Asante. These scholars helped reshape and represented the non-racist facts about the history of Black people to Black people and the world. However, all is not lost. Fortunately, Black scholars from the past have left their examples in history books, films, magazines, documentaries, scholarly articles, and news articles. We thank the Creator, and our Afrikan ancestors, that we have the internet to access their histories to create a road map to reclaim our Black / Afrikan historical memory from grips of White supremacy and the system of racism for Black liberation.
We don’t understand why it was important for Afrikan-centric spiritual leaders, such as the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad (co-founder of the Nation of Islam) and Dr James Cones ( a Black Christian theologian), to reestablished Black people and their experiences at the center of religious expression. What they created was something called Black liberation theology. It explained God, religion, and spirituality from a Black empowerment perspective. However, all is not lost. Fortunately, Afrikan-centric spiritual leaders from the past have left their examples in history books, films, magazines, documentaries, and news articles. We thank the Creator, and our Afrikan ancestors, that we have the internet to access their histories to create a road map for Black liberation theology for Black liberation
Moving forward, the next generation of Afrikan/Black leaders will have to grapple with these Black historical, linguistic and cultural ideas of liberation for Black people in America, and in the Afrikan world community, if we are ever going to be free from under the yoke of White / European racial domination in America and in the world, then our future generations must root themselves in all forms of Black liberation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Bashir Muhammad Akinyele
-Chair of Weequachic High School’s Black History Month Committee
FYI: Spelling Afrika with a k is not a typo. Using the k in Afrika is the Kiswahili way of writing Africa. Kiswahili is an Pan -Afrikan language. It is spoken in many countries in Afrika.
Ancient Egyptians were not Asians, nor aliens.
“Genocide might indeed be a worse demon of our nature.”
When black civilisation was destroyed first time round there was little to show for its former glories apart from squat noses and thick lips on statues and other artworks that invading lighter folks successively reduced. After all, if writing is confined to a priestly caste in immobile temples it is hard for it to remain a concern when there are sea peoples, the Hyksos, Cambyses or Alexander on your tail; let alone Jihadists on their way to the Iberian peninsula. Neither do papyrus scrolls keep well in the deserts nor rainforests nor savannahs depending on which compass direction you chose to flee. I would imagine too that tablets become rather heavy especially when they have to compete with a basket of provisions on the limited space that is one’s head.
Jared Diamond is probably right that this unfolding of events has more to do with latitude than attitude. Otherwise Yali’s valid question remains: if mankind evolved in Africa and civilization not so far from it (within an Africa “Minor” in a different manner of looking at the same familiar things), why didn’t “black” people go on to bring about globalization in this recent instance?
If the roles were reversed, however, I am not sure quarter would be given either as incidents of counter-racist racism demonstrate. Come to think of it, when homo sapiens sapiens overran Eurasia from Africa, I doubt that lesser higher primates were tickled into extinction. Genocide might indeed be a worse demon of our nature.Browner people aren’t less racist. We just haven’t had as many opportunities to demonstrate it spectacularly as these darker demons of our nature did in Rwanda not so long ago. I fear that genocide is a base tendency and that we must continually strive to educate ourselves and each other in order to seek out the humanity in the “other” if we are to co-exist on this spaceship hurtling through the void.
“Papyrus scrolls keep well in the deserts nor rainforests nor savannahs.”
As a corollary though, human beings seem to possess an instinctive fear of group annihilation. Perhaps we intuitively recognize that we create and destroy the future; that we have this power today, are supermen now as we live, in contrast with Nietzsche’s unborn supermen of tomorrow. Hence we huddle together according to our petty little distinguishing characteristics. Perhaps indeed hate must be allowed to be expressed as freedom of speech, if only to identify opportunities to educate, if at all this is practical. However, reading daily depredations on minorities all over the world I dread that even education may not be enough to rein in our prejudices. Yet, in order for the ideal of multiculturalism to maintain its legitimacy, it must be presented as not only possible but inevitable. There is no alternative.
Multiculturalism is an unintended consequence of the actions of the class that initiated it for its own benefits. Cultural imperialism was a loyal bedfellow of the more vicious naked capitalism. A lowly class European would become an upper class colonial; those subjects who could afford to travel to the core from their periphery would enter at the bottom no matter their status back home and claw themselves up, sometimes over generations. A process that usually involved a form of physical “whitening” too.
Having destroyed the superstructures of browner people wherever they might have been (often with the excuse that this was in subject peoples’ own interests, especially if they happened to live on top of a pile of wealth), doesn’t the Chinese adage about saving someone’s life apply? So the west should now be responsible for our destiny? (H*ll no!) Thus immigration is blowback from colonialism much as we prefer to hang around together with people just like us. Frequently, though, the individual destinies of migrants can be quite bright for some of them in their new homelands.
“In order for the ideal of multiculturalism to maintain its legitimacy, it must be presented as not only possible but inevitable.”
Even after black societies were decimated the second time around there are still some ancient societal markers – like matrilineality, circumcision, libation, initiation, rites of passage, burial rites, totemism, secret societies, ritual hand-clapping and so on – there to remind anyone who cares to scratch a little below appearances that ancient Egyptians were not Asians, nor aliens and certainly did not vanish into thin air. Recent goings-on in Sudan are a mere microcosm of what has been playing out over the past few millennia: brown people to the north, black people to the south: south and getting more southern. Reggae dub poet Mutabaruka puts it thus: “brown and nearly white” a kind of racial gentrification. That a situation similar to the one in North Africa also played out in the Indian subcontinent over millennia should reinforce suspicions that this is not a local aberration however calamitous it may be. Post Hillarian Libyan butchery of African trans-Saharan migrants sadly reminds us too of this pathetic intrinsic racism of ours.
Decades after its main visible and vocal (but very far from being the only) proponents were militarily delegitimized, the Aryan theory of racial origins remains deeply entrenched in areas of academia. Hollywood still hasn’t got the meme.
Once black scholarship shrugs off the oppressive blinkers of western intellectual colonialism there will be much to marvel at and keep us occupied for the next few centuries (if there is still a planet remaining). The African continent – so long as it remains relatively un-degraded and unpolluted by any “green” revolution – is relatively warm and gentle which may impact our psyches: therefore we will not be returning any genocidal disfavors any time soon even if we could. There should be enough planet to go around. Which happens to be one of the tenets of my favorite ideology – umunthu – some sort of loosely defined “humanism.”
“Immigration is blowback from colonialism.”
Once the process of decolonizing the African mind from the alienation of Eurocentricity reaches more advanced stages, African “problems” take on a new light. African priorities do not necessarily coterminate with “global” priorities. One cannot return from peering over the precipice of annihilation and join an ill-conceived there-is-no-alternative project of triumphalist progress towards some unknown Valhalla. Certainly not when the bees are dying and sperm counts are dropping. Some consider colonization as a benign evil. Leopold II’s panga gangs were once-off, not the norm, and in the collective black interest for those of us who survived. The bliss of the blue pill. History is less comforting.
There is much to remind of the ignorance about slavery such as that displayed by Kim Kardashian’s husband some time ago. For every “body” that made it across the middle passage, one – give or take – was eaten by shark, another by hyena on the way to the coast and yet another killed at the village protecting another or resisting. Whose choice? Certainly not that of those enslaved. I call the what-about-the-brother-who-sold-you argument the “pedophilic stance” or “she lubricated hence it can’t have been rape” excuse. History ain’t cute. I wouldn’t know but I am sure even pedophiles somehow justify their actions to at least themselves.
“African priorities do not necessarily coterminate with ‘global’ priorities.”
The Chinese decreed only castrated black male slaves were to be allowed into their domain, thus they are yet to have a multicultural “problem” in their heartland.
Some “black skins, white masks” adulatingly point out the few benefits that pax occidentia accords my particular caste – the African one percent – and contrasts our preferential status with the presumed dreadful alternative that is the home village that each one of us has and is not too distant from, certainly not in spirit. Indeed small minds must. There is no other sane alternative for a mind jaded by western education, religion and media: Leopold’s intentions were grand, the methods were just crude as all method were at the time.
Whatever his stated or unstated intentions were – riding on the back of a cure for malaria and an industrial revolution that no longer required free slave labor – Livingstone cannot have been unaware of the consequences, intended or not, of the European “discovery” of Australia and the Americas on the indigenous populations and, by extrapolation, which were also likely to be the consequences on the newly “discovered” Africans of the interior. History happened. Africa could have got it worse. It was the economy, stupid. Capitalism emerged victorious in the Darwinian struggle. Save that Capitalism doesn’t take into account a finite Earth and any qualms of concerned individuals who may fear an end is in sight but lack armies to turn back the herds of lemmings.
I struggle to see the “other” in European savagery, however tempting it is to wallow in that particular rut of intellectual indolence. At the risk of apologizing for a crime that didn’t happen and Black Africans didn’t commit, I cling to the hope that Soyinka’s Muse of Forgiveness exists. I have to believe that we are all human hence fallible. The alternative may only be an unimaginable fury; an eternal Salvador Dalian cosmic combat as encapsulated in his Poetry of America. On repeat. Ad infinum. Till planetary destruction do us part.
“I cling to the hope that Soyinka’s Muse of Forgiveness exists.”
As palliative as it temporaneously may be, monopolizing the indignation of victimhood is parochial.
Genocide or ethnic cleansing persists to this day because it works many times: the crimes are committed and history obediently ignores them. Unless we acknowledge this then we shall struggle to do what’s necessary to stop it. We cannot apply selective indignation to Rohingya Muslims but not other “unpeople.”
The western encounter between theirscholarship and indigenous peoples’ otherness like totemism has been, well, alienating. Probably to serve capitalism in the first instance which should come as no surprise really. For anyone to have the means and leisure to travel the world and wonder and write like Darwin did, was because he belonged to a slave dealing caste without having to be directly involved, regardless of how much he is said to have abhorred the practice. More often than not, successive generations of western intellectual jihadists saw no European in the “other.” I can’t blame them then. I can fault us now.
An ancient time-traveler encountering the modern sports of soccer and tennis might be excused for drawing fantastical conclusions but entirely missing the point. Stadia are places of worship where the faithful gather to urge on gladiators belonging to priestly athletic sects who are then publicly humiliated if their sect loses. The biggest of such rituals are broadcast real time to billions of avid worshippers who will shun even their close family members during the ritual.
“More often than not, successive generations of western intellectual jihadists saw no European in the ‘other.’”
The degree of trepidation in which the phenomenon of albinism (and until recently in some parts even that of twins) is and was held in traditional African society leads me to surmise that the genetic link could not have gone unnoticed. Before we rule this out as beyond the “savage” mind let us remind ourselves that human ancestors applied an unwritten scientific approach in their development of agriculture and livestock farming. Neither did they overlook cretinism due to inbreeding when they designed incest taboos and other taboos.
An albino family member can be a burden. Malawi classifies albinos as persons with disability. As a society we may have had an ancient mechanism of reducing the burden of albinism on ourselves and future generations by checking the probability of occurrence, by accident or by design. It is totemism.
Western scholarship often assumes others’ lack of agency. How could “they” be agents when progress clearly passed them by? Eurocentricity requires objects, dull lifeless ones. Not subjects with agency whose acts of observation (by outsiders who are dispassionate and objective of course) might actually influence observed behavior, a kind of anthropological uncertainty principle. Hand in hand with this static view of what are actually dynamic societies, a second bias is the trap of assuming unintelligent design. What can be unintelligent about the series of initiation rites to which members of traditional African society undergo that secures their place in society and mental well being despite centuries of holocaust? Imperfect, undoubtedly, but the results of generations of accumulated wisdom that could fill many decent libraries with dissertations. The sociology and psychology of these institutions continue to equip successive generations with adequate tools to navigate village affairs and familial responsibilities. By the way, having survived assaults by religions of the books, these ancient institutions are now seemingly under renewed assault by NGOs with mindless missionary zeal.
Different yes. Unintelligent no.
“Western scholarship often assumes others’ lack of agency.”
An early girlfriend once mentioned matter-of-factly that one of her parents had albinism on their side. Which might mean she would have albino offspring were she to mate with someone with those genes on their side. She was majoring in Biology so I suppose she would know.
Food taboos serve a ritual purpose (by design or by accident) of reminding clansmen of their totem; after all people eat far more often than they marry. If one were to only occasionally be reminded of one’s clan name (like a few times in a lifetime that one actually marries – depending on how many cattle one can rustle up for another spouse), one may be liable to forget and accidentally marry one’s own kin!
It may still be dawn yet on the voyages of intellectual decolonization. Indeed, the original point of totem clan names was exogamic. I suppose exact familial relations would be hard to pin-point with sterile objectivity in a polygamous extended family setup where your mothers’ sisters are your “big” mothers or “small” mothers and likewise with your uncles; all this without yet taking into account your father’s other wives. Thus, there was a real risk of incest. So the main purpose of the institution was exogamy: to preclude closely related liaisons hence reduce cretinism.
I cannot but speculate, however, that a subordinate intention or consequence of totemism was the checking of albinism. In which instance it could be a curious case of ancient eugenics. Maybe we ain’t that different. Maybe we racist too. There might have been a time when we didn’t want to become white as Fanon has pointed out about us for this recent era.