People are working overtime to make sure that Black people are the face of empire. After a while, some will realize how myopic a pursuit “representation” is in contrast to institutional capacity (i.e., power). However, given the current and salient neoliberal logics regarding what passes for “activism”, this may be a long-time in coming and will likely result from the continued delegitimization of the Black elite. I do question whether the same mental energies that went into rationalizing acquisitiveness and (gaudy) representation as a pathway towards group power will be easily redirected towards more productive paths.
Seeing through nonsense
Historically, African social movements have had a mass character. They were struggles engaged with the masses and concerned with structural conditions. The present effort is to present farce as movement that is concerned with hypermediated symbolism (ex., hashtags), hyperindividualism, and more recently micro-nationalism.
If we have ever wondered what movement would look like under the aegis of neoliberalism, then we have been graced by its presence throughout this decade. It is a masquerade, dense with ideologically-weighted jargon, yet devoid of the potency or potential of past struggles.
In a day best exemplified by personal branding, bathroom selfies, ubiquitous marketing via incessant data-mining, and an anti-intellectualism that masks itself as vehement conviction for all manner of lately contrived causes, propaganda is the very fabric of this epistemic reality.
It is therefore ironic, that we are counseled to “stay woke” in a time where the communal infrastructure that sustained critical ways of seeing the world has become increasingly fragmented. Thus, our “wokeness”, our vaunted critical consciousness, is fed by an unending stream of conspiracy-laden commentators or other content (that is mere nanometers in depth) from the most well-known (though not necessarily credible) social media personalities.
This is why I have said and continue to say that confusion and alienation are the spirit of this age. It is a time for those who have sia, that is exceptional insight and susununya, knowledge born of reflection and contemplation to deploy these tools for the good of others. As Mwalimu Shujaa says: “Throughout human history, truly educated, critically conscious people emerge who demonstrate the capacity to see through nonsense, grow in wisdom, and share knowledge with others.”
The attainment of an emancipatory ideal in this system is, as Derrick Bell attested, unattainable.