Regardless of your opinion or allegiance relating to the African rebellion in Baltimore, the increasingly tense situation gives everyone in America something to be at least a little afraid about – more or less afraid depending on your place in it all and your level of awareness. My studies in history, sociology, military, religion, etc. have removed all fear for me; rebellions like this have happened before, it’s the only natural reaction to injustice, and it was prophesied millennia ago, so there’s no surprise on my end. Instead, I grow more excited every day, because the beginning of this Black Spring could mean freedom from our oppression and the renewal of justice for Black people…
… if we play our cards right. And therein lies my only fear about the situation: that we have incorrectly defined “freedom” and “justice” and will therefore settle for tokens instead of working to create the real thing. Follow me for a minute.
Throughout our history in this country, we have struggled against oppression both valiantly and blindly. Though we rarely lack courage, we have often been deceived about what our goals are or should be. Of course, the oppression itself is a huge barrier to revolutionary clarity (see The Prince by Machiavelli), so don’t think that I’m saying we’re just mindlessly ambling towards freedom. But, if we’re honest (and informed), we must admit that we’ve been deceived at many crucial points in the struggle, despite warnings and teachings from some of the most revolutionary minds in human history.
For example, immediately after Emancipation, Africans began building the foundations of a thriving nation within a nation from scratch (that’s what we do!). Civic orgs like the African Society, the Knights of Tabor, and the Freedmen’s Bureau began supporting the building of institutions in every area of society. Skilled workers entered the workforce and excelled, and some even went into business for themselves or with each other. Churches expanded, hospitals opened, and schools were established by ingenious leaders like Booker Washington to equip our people to survive in the agricultural economic environment of that time, and leaders like Marcus Garvey led us into the Industrial Age. We were becoming self-sufficient and free… until we were deceived to believe that our time would be better spent preparing for our place at the forefront of Euro-American development. So we dropped our agro-industrial progress and began training in the then-collectively-useless fine arts and sciences – often overseas because of segregation – which re-separated struggling families and re-drained shallow piggy banks. Though the racist stubbornness of Jim Crow held many of our educational institutions intact for a while, they were sapped of the funding and good faith that were necessary for them to thrive.
A few decades later, in a continuance of this fatal error, we again fought gallantly against our oppression as second-class citizens. Africans went head-to-head with Jim Crow in the courts and capitals of America in an effort to dismantle the apartheid that ruled since Emancipation. Clairvoyant leaders like Malcolm Shabazz warned us that our efforts were futile, and that our energy would be better spent reinstating the self-sufficiency that we abandoned decades earlier. Yet, we were again deceived into believing that America was ready to share her ever-growing success with us. We surrendered our few struggling institutions to be administrated by our oppressors, happily filled positions in the industrial sector (as America’s economy moved into the service sector), and celebrated our seeming inclusion in the very system that was destroying us. Laws were written and media propaganda disseminated to cement this deception until this very day.
In the decades since integration, many smaller movements towards freedom have occurred. When peaceful protests commence, they are soon quelled by treacherous leaders (for a fee, of course); when rebellions (aka “riots”) break out, those same leaders are trotted out again, with a little muscle to back them up; when an African individual is mistreated/harmed/killed, all the legal theatrics are turned on and soon all is well – usually after someone receives a healthy monetary settlement.
I say all this to illustrate the fact that our struggle for freedom and justice has been prolonged by a fundamental misunderstanding of what those terms really mean and how they apply to our specific situation. I must re-emphasize that this misunderstanding is not the result of pure ignorance or imbecility, but rather a reflection of the atrocious inhumanity that we are emerging from. The terror of chattel slavery has deceived some of us into believing that freedom from chains is freedom indeed, when true freedom means the ability to fully self-determine. The effects of the Dred Scott Decision have led many of us to mistakenly believe that the mere recognition of our mistreatment is justice, especially if that recognition comes with public rebuke of the culprit and/or monetary compensation to the victim. Even as I write this, I’m receiving news that all 6 officers involved in the murder of Freddie Gray will be charged; but even if they’re given maximum punishment, what does that do to protect the millions of other Africans in America from the brutality of this police state?
So, as with any real revolution, we must start by creating new definitions of cultural ideals; namely, “freedom” and “justice”. Again, “freedom” is “the ability to fully self-determine”, meaning that every event in our lives is the direct result of our own collective decisions, free from any direct influence from the outside. This requires us to have our own institutions in every area: economic institutions (banks, chambers of commerce, etc.), educational institutions (schools, governing bodies like school boards, etc.), governmental institutions (legislative/executive bodies, data collectors, think tanks, etc.), military institutions (law enforcement, neighborhood patrols, armed forces, etc.), social welfare institutions (healthcare, faith/charity, leisure/entertainment, etc.), and any others that we find ourselves in need of at any given time. It must be emphasized that for us to truly be free, each of these institutions must be distinctly different from those of our oppressors.
Finally, true “justice” means that all of the duties of these institutions must be executed with parity and with truth. Remember, “freedom” is the ability to self-determine, so trying to have justice (parity and truth) without first having freedom means that “parity” and “truth” are defined for us before they are delivered… and we know that America’s definition of these terms is insufficient.
Punishment, payment, and pacification do not equal Justice. Justice for Freddie, Mike, Rekia, and the many others victims of American racism – named and unnamed – requires us to resurrect the building process that will give birth to our freedom. Put simply, we can’t guarantee justice and safety for our people until we are free from the system that endangers their lives.
Long live Black Spring!