Black Power proponent Stokely Carmichael aka Kwame Ture in his book published in 1968 titled; Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America once wrote: “There is a strongly held view in this society that the best – indeed, perhaps the only – way for black people to win their political and economic rights is by forming coalitions with liberal, labor, church and other kinds of sympathetic organisations or forces, including the ‘liberal left’ wing of the Democratic Party. With such allies, they could influence national legislation and national social patterns; racism could thus be ended. This school sees the ‘Black Power movement’ as basically separatist and unwilling to enter alliances.”
Many of my comrades in the Black Radical tradition of anti-racial resistance often state that the one cannot successfully appeal to white people’s sense of morality in order to end racism. They further say that only the ‘End of the World as we know it’ can effectively destroy white monopoly capitalism from the roots. Let me further add for what its worth, that these are not advocates of Black supremacy or ultra-left or right-wing extremists; these are people who have largely studied the history and present state of the world and have reached similar conclusion even though they may emerge from diverse ideological positions. This essay aims to take a sweepingly brief look at how certain kinds of pro-justice protests can actually be used against the protesting masses by the powers that be.
“Capitalism itself proves that the permanent eradication of poverty and war require the reconstruction of society on the basis of a democratically planned economy laying the foundations for prosperity for all’ genuine equality and social solidarity.” – Weizmann Hamilton, Nationalization and the Struggle for Socialism ( Izwi Labasebenzi, May-July 2011)
While the current protests and talk about Black Lives Matter vs All Lives Matter filters through the mainstream world’s news, there is also the continuation of injustices occurring globally not finding expression in major protests and coverage. We can appreciate the catalytic and galvanising impact of the brutal murder of George Floyd and many others in the seemingly endless train of All American lynchings, there need to be a decentralisation of the righteous and riotous indignation. We also have to demand more of ourselves in terms of collective revolutionary actions as citizens of a forcefully and clandestinely globalised society.
This brief essay seeks to examine the efficacy of Televised Revolutions as well as the limitations of nationalisms that have been recommended by revolutionaries from all over the globe. we appear to be using the same tools again and again to fight the same disease. Clearly the virus of racism/right-wing nationalism, capitalism has become immune to our well intentioned efforts. While people from all over the world require freedom in order to realise their fullest potential, the urgency of seemingly perennial Black death appears to be an inspiration for a global systemic overhaul.
However idealistic, it is a rather limited idea to view the entire Black population as a nation. We are as diversified as all other people, yet we seem to suffer the same kind of oppression everywhere.
Even though there has been much talk of the crisis of capitalism, free-market fundamentalism and the waning and waxing of white supremacist prevalence in the West, there appears to be no end to the hegemony of what is termed white monopoly capitalism. If capitalism is indeed in deep crisis and some form of global revolution or the uprooting of injustice is at hand, it also seems as if capitalism and its global media and other structural levers are still pushing at full steam ahead. This article is not meant to dishearten anyone who is actively fighting the powers that be, it is meant to show that there is still a need for a more robust and well articulated global anti-racist/anti-capitalist revolution.
There are racially, culturally, identity, environmentally and economically specific struggles happening the world over, and as the protests in the United States of America have shown; there is also a danger of liberalism piggy-backing on the hard works of well meaning and well organised anti-racial/anti-capitalist struggles. The example of George Floyd’s memorials being aired on mainstream media platforms while there are still women dying everyday without being thus eulogised speaks of the same patriarchal white male controlled states of all nations.
The white male controlled states and structures of the whole world do not have to have a single white man leading them, yet the control that they exert by virtual remote control is all based on legal and financial frameworks that mean that a colonial puppet-master does not have to be present anywhere in the systemic value chain in order to exert major control on the prevailing narrative of any nation. It is a reminder of what Steve Biko once said: “The white oppressor kicks you and then also recommends how you may respond to that kick.” ( I am paraphrasing).
This puts into question the whole conception of nationalism as well as platforms and processes of protest. What are the most effective forms of revolutionary action when the oppressor owns virtually everything from the currency to the transportation system as well as means of communication. We are right to stand up for African Americans but how are we channelled to not stand up for the countless women and children everywhere in the world who also just CANNOT BREATHE?
Lastly, and perhaps more significantly, here is a letter from someone who actually lives in the same area where George Floyd was killed. It carries a resonating sense of urgency and possible solutions to the pandemic of white supremacy. It also reminds us that as much removing white supremacy requires a supremely united effort from various parts of global society, it is not the grand designs and large scale movements that have the monopoly of shifting power relations, but personal and community efforts that can have a ripple effect. The letter is from an online journal called On Being, the section is called The Pause: https://onbeing.org/
“This week’s letter is from Krista Tippett:
Here in Minneapolis, the street corner where George Floyd died with a police officer’s knee on his neck has become a sacred space of neighborliness, protest, bearing witness, lament, eating, bicycle repair, praying, mural-making, and singing. An alternative landscape of care has risen up amidst burned-out buildings, and it is teeming with young people. These pictures are not shown as constantly by drones and journalistic cameras as the pictures of destruction. But they are as true, and they matter as much. What is not covered seriously enough by journalism in crisis mode is often precisely what can save us: the redemptive landscape on which the work of the rest of our lifetimes is emerging.
Resmaa Menakem is a teacher and visionary in this city, though I only became aware of his groundbreaking work a few months ago. Just before the pandemic sent us into lockdown, I sat across from him in our studio on Loring Park. He watched me as closely as he listened to my words. He caught me bracing at the term “white supremacy,” and taught me that noticing such bracing is exactly where I have to begin to live differently. He’s drawing on knowledge we’re just now gaining about systems and processes in our bodies that we’re only now learning to see: vagus nerve, psoas muscle, trauma, epigenetics. He makes a stunning connection between generations of trauma that white bodies inflicted on each other in the centuries we call the Dark Ages and the generations of horrific trauma inflicted on black bodies in the “new world” of America — which, as Langston Hughes wrote, “never was America to me.” We are all literally carrying – breathing, reliving, and so repeating — much that didn’t happen to us personally. It’s one way to finally grasp why talking about race, and “teaching our brains to think better” about race, has fallen brutally, tragically short: “The vital force behind white supremacy,” Resmaa Menakem writes in his extraordinary book My Grandmother’s Hands, “is in our nervous systems.”
This conversation, and the intelligence and practical tools it offers, has become more precious to me with every day that has passed. I’ve drawn on theological language already in these paragraphs — confession, redemption. I’m also finding the notion of “repentance” newly meaningful lately. Like so many other important sacred practices, we have taught this too much as inward, private work. But the word itself in the biblical Hebrew and Greek is kinetic. It is about stopping in your tracks and walking in another direction. What Resmaa Menakem offers are practices for training and sustaining our bodies — and thus our souls — in moving in this wholly new direction.
At the On Being Project right now we are listening, and listening again, to Resmaa as well as others who’ve been teaching us in recent years and to whom we will turn for new wisdom in this time. We’re trying to carry our questions with as much humility as we carry what feel like insights and answers. So for this week’s Living the Questions I’ve turned to my wise, esteemed beloved colleague Lucas Johnson, whom you may have heard on the show before, and who is now leading our growing social healing team. This is the evolution of the Civil Conversations Project, and it has moved to the forefront of our calling and service — as we discern the role a “media and public life initiative” can play in the remaking of the world that is upon us.
I am grateful to have Lucas and all of my colleagues, and you — our audience that acts like a community — walking alongside me through this extraordinary opening to transformation. “If we were treating the United States as though it were a country that just emerged on the other side of a ceasefire after a decades-old civil war, then we would be talking about rebuilding a society,” Lucas said to me in our conversation this week. “We would decommission the police forces and the institutions that were involved in human rights atrocities. We would talk about what institutions need to be built that can regain the public trust. We would envision what it would take to build this country that has not yet been. And I think that’s the scale on which we need to be imagining.”