This is an open letter to ALL Black community organizers, activists, leaders, and scholars.
First of all, I love you for better or for worse. I’d like to thank you for your tireless efforts and constant struggles. Thank you for your dedication to our cause. Thank you for your immunity to apathy, the bystander effect, and the temptation to embrace individualism and abandon your people. I appreciate you for that, if nothing else. Brothers and Sisters, friends, and partners in the struggle, the time for radical change has been upon us for many many years. We owe it to our people to push for and adopt comprehensive changes in the way we engage in freedom fighting, organizing, and community building. Now, I can hear some of you already, drawing breath in preparation to remind me that I can not be so arrogant or presumptuous as to tell you how to fight for your liberation. I’m not telling. I’m praying that we can agree to try something different.
What we’re doing IS. NOT. WORKING. The reason our efforts are often in vain, the reason our victories are usually symbolic and not significantly tangible, the reason we are continuously forced to compromise on and water down our stance is because we are attempting to affect change through, around, and within a system that is oppressive by design. Not only are we attempting to affect change through an unethical and fundamentally depraved system, but we are sending members of our community the message that the only answer lies within it, leaving them feeling lost and hopeless every single time it fails us. The fact that the Black community feels defeated because Trump was elected president speaks volumes about how successful we’ve been at organizing where we’re needed, establishing relationships where they matter, and developing an independence that instills a sense of security in our community that thrives irrespective of election results. We are failing each other.
This system is one of white hegemony. It always has been and it was intended to remain so until the end of time. Europeans didn’t leave Europe during the Age of Exploration to spread “democracy.” They invaded the homes of Africans, of the indigenous peoples of North and South America, and of those who inhabited Asia to exploit their natural resources. We all know how the story goes: WE were the most valuable resource. Why? Because capitalism demands the separation of immediate producers (those of us who toil the most for society) from the means of production. Capitalism demands that the level of remuneration for labor is substantially lower than the value of the goods produced . Hopefully, we all understand what that means. It means that a thriving capitalist system is dependent upon SLAVERY or a similarly inequitable relationship between those who own the means of production and the immediate producers. It means that those who benefit from the current economic system have a vested interest in maintaining the very conditions that are detrimental to us. What are those conditions? Food insecurity. Housing insecurity. Violence. Trauma. Indoctrination. Relying solely on policy reform to protect and free us from those conditions is a mistake. Do any of us really believe that a Bernie Sanders or a Hillary Clinton or even a Jill Stein, even if their intentions are what they say they are, can garner the support they need in their OWN communities to go up against those with said interest? Can we depend on and trust them to do that? Or is it wiser to feed ourselves? Is it wiser to build our own shelter? Is it wiser to teach our people self defense and arm ourselves? Is it wiser to remove ourselves from white supremacist institutions and educate ourselves? Isn’t it wiser for us to create our own spaces, systems, and infrastructure so that we are no longer forced to rely on and participate in processes that are threatening to our lives and to our freedom?
In his Ballot or the Bullet speech in 1964, Malcolm X insisted that Black people in this country were not Americans and should not delude themselves by thinking otherwise. “I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner,” he said. He was sure that Black people would realize that the enemy would always scheme to disenfranchise us and that our newfound comprehension of the depth of our marginalization would lead us to develop and utilize a new tactic. His words were “a ballot is like a bullet. You don’t throw your ballot until you see a target, and if that target is not within your reach, keep your ballot in your pocket.” Liberation is our target. I’m open to hearing any explanation as to how we would have come within reach of it by voting or choosing a particular candidate in this month’s election. Stop shaming our people for their voting choices and start working together to meet their needs with or without mainstream social and political support.
Nicholas Stephanopoulos of the University of Chicago conducted a study that revealed that policy issues that received attention from the Black community were given low priority status. His analysis of public opinion data and laws passed at the state and federal level suggested that “as support for policy rises within the Black community, the odds of it being achieved actually declines.” Stephanopoulos came to the conclusion that explicit African-American support for a policy issue is effectively a death sentence for that issue. How is this possible when the Black turnout to elections has steadily increased since 1996? How is this possible when in the 2008 presidential election and the 2010 midterm elections our turnout rivaled that of White America? It’s possible because our faith in this system is misplaced. It’s possible because voting alone will NOT save us and it’s important that we stop buying into the idea that any elected official will lead us to freedom.
The number of hate groups in the United States surged from 888 in 2008 to 1,007 in 2012. That surge was a direct result of our success in electing President Obama. 88,736 Black people have died as a result of hate crimes from 1995-2012. Eighty-eight thousand seven hundred and thirty six of our brothers and sisters have died because of the color of their skin and our participation in the current political system has only grown over that time. Just last year 483 hate crimes were reported in Los Angeles. 60% of those hate crimes were against Black people. The aforementioned statistics do NOT include police shootings that we all know are also racially motivated. In 2015, two UNARMED Black people were killed by police per week. This has gone on for ages. Before they gunned us down, they lynched us. Will we continue to allow our people to die because we refuse to reject a system that was created to empower white males?
To be anti-capitalist, anti-oppression, anti-sexist, anti-indoctrination, anti-marginalization, anti-criminalization, anti-hunger, anti-homelessness, and/or anti-violence is to REJECT the current economic system, to REJECT the representative democracy that fails us repeatedly, and REJECT the conditioning that we have been subjected to since the white man decided that free labor was the way to go. To be Pro-Black is to REJECT the system that is the antithesis of pro-blackness. I urge you to embrace ideas of equally distributing resources, of direct and participatory democracy, of sustainable living practices and of the development of proper defense in preparation for whatever forces seek to circumvent our progress. None of us can do this without the other. I love you all dearly and I hope you will join Black Sovereign Nation in building the African Village Cooperative and disentangling our community from the grasp of its oppressor. We look forward to organizing with you in spaces that are exclusively Black.
With Love, Njera