Internal colonialism

I have always been puzzled about the debate as to whether the Black/African community in the US constitutes an internal colony. To me it was always obvious that we are an internal colony due to the form and degree of exploitation that we are subject to. Our community is subject to racialized containment, state surveillance, resource extraction, labor exploitation and suppression, systemic violence, ineffective/extractive institutions, cultural suppression and malformation, and co-opted leadership.

Racialized containment are the measures employed to restrict our movement within various areas within the US, such as restricting us to certain neighborhoods of the city or certain towns within a region. One one level we are surveilled as a consequence of hyper-policing and the carceral state. On another level our social movements have historically been subject to surveillance, infiltration, and disruption by the US government as in the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program. One of the principle resources extracted from our community is our culture. It is, for instance, commodified by the entertainment industry. Additionally, our community is mined for intellects capable of servicing the dominant system. Further, we are variously displaced from our communities on the basis of racist hostility (via massacres) or capitalist accumulation (i.e., gentrification). Black labor is either eschewed (resulting in high levels of unemployment) or undervalued (resulting in high levels of under-employment) in the broader labor market. Institutions which are located within the community often are ineffective or facilitate the extractive ends of the state or corporate interests. Our culture is either suppressed in practice (consider the suppression of African culture during the era of enslavement) or policy (consider the restrictions on hairstyles or the regulation of Black speech in schools). Further, via the entertainment industry, cultural forms which originated with Black/African people are reconstituted into mediums that fetishize sex, violence, substance abuse, and materialism. Finally, those who are elevated as Black leaders, generally serve the interest of the state or capital.

This is internal colonialism.

Trade, solidarity, or hegemony: Africa and China

A Sudanese sister who I occasionally interact with on Twitter posted something about the problems of understanding Africa-Chinese relations through a Western lens. I offered the following as a response.

The relationship between China and Africa is complex due to its longevity. Prior to the formation of Western hegemony, and extending back to the very distant past, trade relations existed between the two.

During the decolonization movement, China became an ally of African independence struggles and, more broadly, a signifier of Black revolutionary struggle even in the US.

We can consider the so-called era of globalization as the third and most recent stage of African-Chinese relations, wherein the imperatives of global capitalism and the need to counter Western hegemony has re-patterned this relationship in exploitative ways.

There are several dimensions to be mindful of. These relations have been shaped by (1) internal developments in both African & China, (2) broader regional and global dynamics, and (3) the context of global capitalism and the context of neocolonialism.

As to the issue of Chinese anti-Black racism, it should be noted that China is a multi-ethnic society and that there is a history of discrimination against non-Han groups within China such as Hakka, Uyghurs, and Tibetans. Much of this history is quite violent. In addition to this, there is evidence of negative perceptions of Africans from over a thousand years ago. Perhaps this was derived from Chinese contacts with the Arabs or domestic and pre-existing prejudice. Furthermore, there were enslaved Africans in China, but it should be noted that this was not the chattel slavery instantiated by the West centuries later.

Below are some sources for further reading:

Africans and African-Americans in China: A Long history, a troubled present, and a promising future?

BBC Eyewitness: Racism for sale

China bashes US over racism, inequality, pandemic response

China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity

Marx, Du Bois, and the Black Underclass: RAM’s World Black Revolution

The hamster’s wheel

Dr. Greg Carr reminds us that the pursuit for “citizenship rights” is an endeavor that binds our efforts and the scope of our aspirations within the structure and logics of the settler colony called the United States of America.
The pursuit for the rights of citizenship are merely re-christened for each generation as the quest for integration, reform, inclusion, or representation. In each case, such pursuit directs time and energy that could be directed towards our liberation towards futile endeavors.
No evidence to date–despite all of our exhaustive efforts, powerful orations, erudite petitions, or moral appeals suggest that African people will be given a “seat at the table” of the descendants conquers and enslavers or their beneficiaries. Nor should we want it.

Borne aloft on the ages old dreams of those that have come before

I am reading The New Jim Crow in preparation for a class that I teach on inequality and social policy. As I read I keep thinking to myself, “This is why Black people emigrate from America.” I know that emigration is no panacea (believe me I do), but the U.S. has been and continues to be such an abominable expression of the dehumanization of African people.

What’s more, we are presented with (sham) democracy as one solution to our problems, yet little historical evidence suggests that this has ever been consequential in us improving our lot here. In fact we have yet to mount an effective response to the corrupting influence of neoliberal capitalism on the American political process so as to remove obstacles to the unfettered expression of our agency.

The most visible and vocal response that we have seen of late by African people to America’s continued odyssey of racial terror is the use of mass protest and civil disobedience. While these do have a place in movements for social change, they are also ill equipped to facilitate both a transformation of the political-economy of U.S. society or to provide the ideological and tactical instruments requisite for us to transform our communities. Impassioned appeals to or denunciations of a recalcitrant foe will not bring about their undoing. In the end, when the emotional fervor has inevitably exhausted itself, we will be back where we started.

Our history at the end of the 19th Century demonstrates two responses wherein community formation were central to our resistance to White racist tyranny. The formation of independent communities was one. This was a dynamic solution that saw the establishment of independent Black communities throughout the nation. This is something that we must study in order to understand the ideological and structural mechanisms that compelled these acts. While our capacity to do this today may seem limited due the capitally-intense nature of such an approach, we mustn’t dismiss the enormous waste that occurs in our slavish indulgence of America’s culture of mass-consumption. Money that could (re)build a Black economy now enriches the already super-rich.

Another response from over a century ago was emigration. But this was a far cry from what we see today, the movement of individuals and families to far-flung global destinations. Instead people sought to create societies and communities for those who dared to leave the U.S. Of course these efforts abounded by contradictions, which must also be studied. However they do offer lessons. Moreover, the centuries’ old ideal of African American’s resettling abroad is gaining new traction as many seek to relocate their bodies and their human capital elsewhere. A particularly compelling potential manifestation of this might be the creation of a modern community on the continent that acts as a beacon for diasporic Africans that provides assistance in such tangible areas as resettlement, housing, entrepreneurship, education, and the like. The formation of a single community of this kind or of several would be an interesting signpost of the maturation of the emigration strategy in modern times.

I will close with an excerpt from a book chapter that I’m writing on Du Bois and Woodson that aptly captures our past and present, but hopefully not our future. “Du Bois and Woodson recognized that Black people, as ever, stand at the precipice, facing on one side a familiar tyranny and on the other a new world that exists just beyond the bounds of our knowing and the fruits of our unfettered social agency.”

The abyss of madness

Like a body that rejects a transplanted organ, so too has America continuously repulsed any effort to reconcile the contradictions inherent in its inception—its allegiance to white supremacy in the face of its vaunted democratic ideals. The hard-fought independence won at the end of the 18th Century, the attempt to erect a legal framework ensuring a limited racial equity after the Civil War, and the Civil Rights victories of the mid-20th Century all reveal themselves to have been illusory in so far as the status of African Americans is concerned.

The backlash against these progressive gains and the general institutionalization of a truly multi-racial democracy are not just the features of a bygone era. They live in the dogged pursuit of alleged voter fraud that results in recurring challenges to African American voters, the provision of insufficient polling places that serves to discourage Black voters during major elections, partisan redistricting that reduces African American voting power, the invocation of racist hostility in the form of xenophobia and recalcitrant opposition to the generally moderate presidency of a man of African descent, the antipathy towards the mild suggestion that Black life has some value necessitating reform of policing practices, the transformation of the Black community into an open air prison via processes of mass-incarceration and policing practices that amount to racialized containment, the dismantling of the state apparatus which disproportionally affects African American lower and working class citizens, the denial of capital to African American communities, the targeting of Black borrowers for high-interest home loans, the pervasive underemployment and unemployment of African Americans, the generalized and institutionalized failure of schools serving Black communities, and on, and on, and on.

The American body has rejected a retrofitted “racial tolerance” and the call to move beyond pretense to actual democracy. The vitriolic rhetoric of politicians about Muslims, Mexicans, and African American activists are not novel occurrences in and of themselves. They are an echo of another time, a time that, far from resembling the horror that was the lived experience of many people of color in general and Black people in particular, is reconfigured as a halcyon mirage of idyllic tranquility, where naked racialized terror was but one instrument of White dominion. The appeals to that past are also an invitation for its return. After all, it was never truly rejected, simply asked to stand aside while the sham of a multi-racial democracy was momentarily instantiated, undermined, and then summarily dismissed as untenable due to the incompatibility of the American body with the incessant demands for an honest redress of its past and present misdeed

But like any body that rejects a transplant, the American body does so at its own peril. The fervor to embrace a virulent, racist past encoded as a restoration of greatness and order, is also an appeal to a profound simplicity, the notion that reactionary ideology is sufficient to solve the deep structural problems born of decades of deindustrialization, disinvestment in the public sector, privatization of state assets, the slow erosion of civil liberties, resource scarcity, militarism, and climate change is beyond foolhardy—it is madness. But America, in the abyss of madness masked as courageous defiance, may mistake lunacy for reason, after all the howling mob is invariably convinced of the rightness of its actions. To this, many a decimated Black soul can attest.

A happy day?

Since we’re at this supposedly progressive moment, with the state declaring a posture of non-interference in the rights of sexual minorities to legally marry, I wonder if this sentiment of non-interference can now be extended to the cessation of the extra-judicial killings of Africans, the cessation of destabilization campaigns and surveillance of African social movements, the cessation of the media assaults on African American culture and identity, the cessation of neoliberal structural reforms in African states and communities globally, the cessation of birth control schemes in Africa, the cessation of medical experimention on African Americans, the cessation of population displacements (i.e., Black urban removal) in the global metropoles and their satellites, the cessation of toxic dumping in African communities globally, the cessation of political assassinations by the west of African political leaders, the cessation of economic terrorism by the banking industry in African American communities, the cessation of the mis-education and de-education of Black children, the cessation of the displacement of Black educators via contemporary educational reforms, the cessation of promoting the false iconography of Black deviance and criminality, and ultimately the the cessation of the historic and on-going suppression of the rights of Africans to be self-determining. However we all know that these actions are and will continue to be incessant. Thus absent a fundamental dismantling of the systems of white supremacy and global capitalism I see little cause for celebration.

This moment of jubilation for some is a mere adjustment, the inclusion of a formerly marginalized group within the state apparatus. It is a reformist victory. It is not in any way revolutionary.

The state continues to drip with the blood of extinguished Black lives. The machinations of our collective demise function unimpeded.

Embrace the revelry of forgetfulness for remembrance dampens the jubilant spirit.

White supremacy continues to dominant America

Darren Wilson was held to account today to the same degree that he would have been in 1914 for the murder of an unarmed Black person. The passage of a century does not signify any humane valuation of Black life. Quite the contrary, Black folks are viewed as a social malignancy, subject to arbitrary violence, harassment, and neglect. There is nothing new here. White supremacy continues to dominant America.