“Black Wall Street”: Wealthy Africans and the Envy of Impoverished Whites

BlackWallStreet
“Black Wall Street,” Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921, being destroyed by envious European colonizers [photo credit: San Francisco Bay View]

Social justice workers– particularly “white allies”– often focus on the impoverishment of exploited Black people in the U.S. settler colony, pointing to statistical comparisons between whites and Black people regarding wages, and access to food, healthcare, housing, and good schools.  These are only a few categories that show “the wealth gap” in American society between whites and Black people.  We also could point to the prison-industrial complex, the school-to-prison pipeline, and (of course) police brutality.  In any case, the same narrative is used over and over: whites in the U.S. are wealthier than Black people and all other “people of color.”  Then it becomes a question of “why?” and then “what ought to be done about this ‘problem’?”

It seems to me that the key thing for us to remember when we’re talking about impoverished Black people in the U.S. is that the word “impoverished” indicates a process, not a state.  That is, to be “impoverished” means the subject was caused to be poor, not that the subject’s permanent, static being is poor.  By remembering that colonized Africans were impoverished, and are not simply poor, we may recognize that society changes through struggle.  That is, society evolves (or makes progress) through a dialectical process within material conditions, and not just through our subjective ideas about people.

European thought has been shaped by the view that society can achieve a permanent state of perfection.  We see this idealism in the United States today (particularly during the election of the next president).  The “United States of America” itself is a kind of ideal conceived as a perfect social arrangement, where freedom, justice, equality and peace are the rule, and the opposites are the exception to this ideal.  This idealistic view causes politicians, activists and scholars to ask: “How do we make this society work better for everyone?” or “How do we include everyone in the ‘American Dream’?”  If our society is a dream, then (in a certain sense) it’s perfect, and therefore requires no further evolution, other than (in Abraham Lincoln’s words) to make it “more perfect.”  America is Plato’s Republic, updated and revised to fit our times.

This European view of society as static, and capable of perfection, was influenced by Plato and Aristotle.  Kwame Nkrumah writes,  “Plato and Aristotle both conceived society in static terms.  Their conception was of a society which permitted of no revision.”  Kwame Nkrumah tells us that “what is perfect cannot change for the better” and so we have “the idea of the finite social evolution.”  Plato’s static view of society influenced the shape of Europe’s political system, and, in addition, the shape of Europe’s religious image.  Kwame Nkrumah teaches, “Plato’s reactionary philosophy received development at the hands of Christian intellectuals.”  Christianity has been used by Europeans to “civilize” the rest of the world; that is, to take their resources, labor, and land, while teaching them that they are inferior, but are still capable of a permanent status of “salvation”– if they only will change their religious beliefs (as opposed to their control of material wealth and power).

The development of European imperialist capitalism, which started with Europe’s invasion of Africa and the Americas, has meant the establishment of a society that white people want to make permanent: liberal or libertarian capitalist democracy.  Libertarian and liberal movements mainly attempt to include oppressed groups in their philosophically idealist, static vision of society, which is “the American Dream.”  But Malcolm X held a different view when he said, “I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.”  When white people are the subjects of history, America represents great progress– a leap forward from monarchy and feudalism, and the disease, poverty, and religious superstition of the “Dark Ages.”  Yet the development of this system, particularly in the U.S. settler colony, and its movement toward a perfect society, has come about only through the destruction of societies in Africa, the Americas, Australia, and most of the planet– as well as the planet itself.  If we view history in dialectical terms, as an ongoing struggle for the control of material benefits, perhaps we will recognize that the wealth and power of white people have come about only through the impoverishment of Africans and other colonized peoples.

Prior to the Maafa (African Holocaust), which began in the 15th century and is still going on today, Africa was wealthy and Europe was poor.  The richest man in history may have been Mansa Musa, who became ruler of the Mali Empire in 1312.  Mansa Musa was famous not only for his great wealth but also for his great generosity.  When Mansa Musa converted to Islam, and made the journey to Mecca, he gave out so much gold to the people along the way during this pilgrimage that he caused a global decline in the value of gold that lasted more than a decade.  And, prior to the invasion of Europe, the Songhai Empire also prospered.  Its university in Timbuktu educated the world.  The Gao Empire experienced a significant period of prosperity as well.  And Ghana became famous for its wealth in gold (at least among European invaders who named Ghana the “Gold Coast”).  While slavery was a global phenomenon at the time of Europe’s invasion, the structure of African societies differed greatly from those in Europe and the rest of the world.  Africans did not have the concept of private property, and (perhaps for this reason) feudalism did not exist in many if not all areas of west Africa.  Feudalism was a white problem.

During the Dark Ages, Europe was torn apart by war, disease, poverty and violent religious differences.  While the Christian Church in Rome consolidated its wealth and power, along with the nobility of Europe, most Europeans were serfs and peasants– in other words, slaves.  Yet the plundering expeditions known as the “Crusades” unified Europeans, who had been in danger of destroying each other, by giving them a common enemy: people who weren’t white, and weren’t Christian, but were rich.  During the so-called Age of Discovery (which, from another perspective, might be called “The Age of Terrorism”), Europeans became aware of vast, wealthy civilizations, gold, jewels, great artistic beauty, and tasty spices for our bland food.

And then Europeans grew jealous.  Africans were rich, the indigenous peoples of the Americas were rich, and this material and cultural wealth– this advanced humanity– called the very identity of Europeans into question, leading us to feel inferior.  This was another white problem.  And its solution (from 1492 until the present) has been: rob and murder Africans, and build this static, perfect society on the pedestal of impoverished Africans.  The United States itself is a solution– through genocide, slavery, and capitalist exploitation– to the problems of Europe, as this settler colony has provided jobs, resources, and a middle-class lifestyle to millions of Europeans flooding the land of indigenous peoples, and climbing over the destroyed lives of African people.  The Dark Ages ended for Europe when white people jealously saw the wealth of Africa, and started our murder and theft of Africans which has continued until the present day.

In 1921, the colonized Africans of Tulsa, Oklahoma had survived systemic oppression so successfully that they had created what is called “Black Wall Street.”  Quite fittingly, another name for this Black section of Tulsa was “Little Africa.”  Segregated from white society, Africans in northern Tulsa had built a successful community of thriving businesses, with doctors, lawyers, and good schools, where Africans collectively helped each other and lived in an environment of trust and security.  This trust, security and prosperity occurred within Little Africa, but outside of it there was a very different story taking place among envious white people.  Whites had returned from World War I impoverished and desperate, similar to the whites in the Dark Ages of Europe, and they were jealous of Black Wall Street.  Impoverished whites couldn’t bear to see Black people with so much wealth, and in their envy the whites of Tulsa turned to the Ku Klux Klan.  Then the KKK attacked.

But members of the KKK weren’t the only whites who attacked Black Wall Street on June 1, 1921.  Jealous of African success, “truckloads” of European colonizers set fire to the Africans’ homes and businesses in Black Wall Street.  White people even dropped bombs from airplanes on Black Wall Street.  When the attack was over, 3,000 Africans had been murdered.  An estimated 600 African-owned businesses had been burned down (“[a]mong these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system”) and 1,500 homes of African people had been burned down by angry, envious, impoverished whites.  The attack on Black Wall Street by jealous whites was “the largest massacre of nonmilitary Americans [sic] in the history of this country.”

A subjectively idealist view of history may lead us to believe that the attack on Black Wall Street by jealous whites was a rare departure from the true principles of American democracy, and a tragic situation in which an otherwise just and humane system malfunctioned.  This view assumes that America is good— because America must be good.  This is the only explanation that fits the subjectively idealist conception of American society: it is good.  The fact that must be ignored by people who hold this view is that the founding documents of the United States, which were created by white, slave-holding men who owned property, reflected the social position of white, slave-holding men who owned property within the material conditions of that era.  This materialist view of history demonstrates that society is in a process of constant change and evolution, and is not eternally fixed in one place like the God-given words of a universal ideal carved in marble (and even this must crumble eventually).

The attack on Black Wall Street in 1921 by envious, impoverished whites, like the attack on Africa that started in the 15th century, is based on an ongoing, dialectical struggle between opposing national interests for control of material benefits.  The attack on Black Wall Street by jealous whites is a concrete example that demonstrates the colonial system is working, not breaking down, just as the ongoing attack on Oregon, which has elevated white prosperity at the expense of indigenous peoples (and Africans and Asians), shows that colonialism is working, and the gentrification of Portland by whites, which prices out Black and brown people from their neighborhoods, shows– yet again– that the system of European colonial power is working.

The white liberal and libertarian view that subjectively assumes America is good (and ignores the dialectical struggle between opposing national interests over control of resources) would lead us to believe that social justice work means including (or integrating) more and more “people of color” into the existing system.  This idealist view of society assumes that the material conditions, which are the basis for a system of power (and for its founding documents), and the basis for life itself, are static.  The question of how to improve a society becomes: how do we include more oppressed groups into this system that we assume to be good?  Progress is measured according to an ideal of inclusion and “diversity” within the system, and is made under the illusion that a perfect society is possible, ignoring the dialectic within matter that societies (as part of nature) are forever evolving.

Dialectical materialism demonstrates that white people in the United States are wealthier than Black people and other colonized nations (according to statistical measures) because the latter have been impoverished.  The cause of white wealth is Black impoverishment.  This part of the historical process started for Europe when it invaded Africa and the Americas in the 15th century, stealing the wealth of Africans and indigenous peoples through genocide.  Africa was wealthy; Europe was poor.  Europeans had experienced our own causes of impoverishment, but they were not on account of an imperialist invasion by Africans.  Europe faced a severe economic crisis during the Dark Ages (as well as political, social, and spiritual crisis) and our solution to this crisis (as it has been from the 15th century in Haiti and Ghana, to 1921 in Black Wall Street, and up until the present time) was and is imperialist genocide committed against Africans and indigenous peoples.  The impoverishment of Africans in the U.S. settler colony today is part of an ongoing struggle between white power and Black resistance, as the former uses colonial violence to maintain its control over material benefits at the expense of the latter.

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There are two historical lessons we can learn from the bombing of Black Wall Street, if we wish to study it in these objectively materialist terms.

The first lesson we might want to learn from the bombing of Black Wall Street deals with white jealousy of African wealth and success:

I sometimes think that the best way to make a white supremacist’s head explode (or at least we can hope) is to show them a picture of a happy Black couple standing in the beautiful Californian vineyard that they own.  Setting aside (for the moment) any concerns about promoting the politics of respectability, and patriarchy, capitalism, and the white gaze, this image of two happy, loving, wealthy “African-Americans” standing together out in the gorgeous countryside on land that is theirs, should be enough to make a white supremacist’s head explode.  White people often grow angry at the sight of “Black Girl Magic” and celebrations of Black beauty (in all its forms, not just the “respectable” ones), Black people winning, Black people being carefree, Black people not conforming to white stereotypes, Black people living– period.

Even the most blatant white supremacist man expects to see images of Black “gangstas” with guns, and these images comfort this type of racist even as they anger him.  Supposedly negative images of Black people– poor, oppressed, living in gang-infested and drug-infested ghettos– reinforce the subjectively idealist view of America that white people have created, which is: the system is good (democracy, freedom, security), and can be perfected through reform, and the only question is how to fix that problem over there (“the ghetto”) and integrate more of “those poor blacks” into this system.  White people are comforted by a static view of society which judges history to be a linear progression toward some ultimate good, wherein we are the subjects, rather than a constantly evolving struggle between opposing national interests (each a subject of their own struggle) for control of material benefits.  The blatant white supremacist and the white liberal racist (as well as the conservative) are united by their reactionary view that Black people are a problem to be solved within the existing framework of American democracy, and not that they are colonized Africans struggling against this very system to survive and, eventually, get free.

Steve Biko wrote: “The liberals view the oppression of blacks as a problem that has to be solved, an eyesore spoiling an otherwise beautiful view. From time to time the liberals make themselves forget about the problem or take their eyes off the eyesore. On the other hand, in oppression the blacks are experiencing a situation from which they are unable to escape at any given moment. Theirs is a struggle to get out of the situation and not merely to solve a peripheral problem as in the case of the liberals. This is why blacks speak with a greater sense of urgency than whites.”

As long as colonized Africans are “a peripheral problem” in “an otherwise beautiful view” of America, both white liberals and blatant white supremacists can be comforted by a permanent position of Africans in white society which is inferior.  This static view of American society gives comfort to whites, and allows us to justify the pursuit our own subjective interests in the name of some universal good (such as “spreading democracy,” “developing Third World economies,” and telling Hijabi Muslim women that they wear a hijab because they are oppressed).

Images of colonized Africans that are judged by the white gaze to be negative reinforce what European colonizers believe to be our inherent superiority in a society where only ideas can change, not the balance of power among struggling interests for the control of material benefits.  Perhaps it is for this reason that a Safeway store in Salem, Oregon has a big display for the video release of the film “Straight Outta Compton” about the “gangsta rap” group N.W.A.  I supposed there’s the possibility that middle-age, middle-class white people in Salem really are interested in N.W.A, and hip-hop culture and the struggles of colonized Africans to survive in the so-called ghettos of the United States.  Yet there’s also the possibility that the system of European imperialist capitalism uses films like “Straight Outta Compton” to promote the supposedly negative images of Black people that whites want to see, for these images lead us to forget that Black people aren’t gun-toting, bitch-killing “gangstas” whose every other word is “muthafucka,” and that they built great, wealthy societies in Africa (and Little Africa), and these societies were wiped out in the material interests of white power.  By attempting to dehumanize the image of Africans, and show Black people as the dangerous “Other,” white power can continue to elevate itself above the rest of the world, both materially and idealistically– and leave behind any feelings of inferiority that prevailed in the Dark Ages of Europe.

In her book Let the Circle Be Unbroken, Marimba Ani writes of Europeans who have invaded Africa:

“If they could not make themselves feel superior they were nothing … pleasure was derived only from power and control.”

The danger of social justice work by “white allies” today is that it capitalizes on the same self-serving inferior image of colonized Africans that blatant white supremacists use to dehumanize Africans.  By helping the “poor blacks” and doing our good deed for the day, then going back to our safer and wealthier neighborhood, feeling much better about ourselves, perhaps “white allies” forget that Africa was once rich and relatively secure, and Europe was a mess.  Africans, against all odds, once built up a successful community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, only to be bombed by envious, impoverished whites.  Black people aren’t simply poor– they have been robbed.  Yet the belief that American democracy is good requires the judgment that Black people are “an eyesore spoiling an otherwise beautiful view,” rather than the objective recognition that this “beautiful view” (from atop a pedestal of colonial oppression) comes as a direct result of the exploitation, murder and theft of Africans and indigenous peoples.  While “white allies” are struggling to change the ideas in people’s heads about Black people who are being gunned down in the street by the police, we miss the materialist reality that the struggle is not over ideas, but resources– the necessities of life.

Amílcar Cabral, the revolutionary leader from Guinea-Bissau who was murdered on January 20, 1973, wrote:

“Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.”

If we recognize that society is not static, but, instead, is constantly evolving through a struggle over control of material benefits, then our alignment with the interests of colonized Africans (in the U.S. and everywhere) will align us against the system of European imperialist capitalism.  Our “anti-racist” fight will become an “anti-colonialist” fight.  And the involvement of European colonizers in this struggle against white power will not be based on the subjective view that Black people are simply poor, or down on their luck, but are being attacked and robbed and (to paraphrase Dr. King) “are owed a lot of money.”  Reparations then become central in the struggle against colonialism and against the five hundred years (or more) of the Maafa.

The second lesson we may want to learn from the bombing of Black Wall Street by jealous whites is how colonized Africans are further endangered by their success– on account of European envy.  The (not entirely hypothetical) image of the successful Black couple who own a vineyard in California might cause the white supremacist’s head to explode with jealousy– or it might cause him to grab a gun and attack this successful Black couple.

The argument that, because there are rich Black people and poor whites, we shouldn’t pay reparations fails when we consider the concrete examples of the destruction of Black Wall Street and, on a far larger scale, the ongoing genocide against Africa and Africans.  Part of the problem– which is a white problem– is that (according to one study) we feel like we are the victims of anti-white racism by Black people.  Europe, the upstart culture, having clawed its way out of the poverty and misery of the Dark Ages, continues to play the self-defined role of the “underdog” in this story, of which we are the star (of course), and in which Black people who get full-ride scholarships, or are hired for the job when we should have been hired, or are given handouts and special treatment by the government, are the oppressive villains while we are the oppressed victims.

European imperialist capitalism, through its institutions of media, schools, governments and businesses, lies to white people and tells us that Black “thugs” and “illegal aliens” are the great threat to us.  This lie is necessary for capitalism to perpetuate and expand its control of material benefits, and whites rush to believe it because we are dependent upon the system of colonialism for our survival, which we feel is threatened by Black and brown people who have not been fully assimilated into this system.  Rather than recognizing that Black people built the American empire without the compensation of wages or ownership, and since 1865 have been largely excluded from the material benefits of this empire, while this very same system of white power has been wiping out 98% of the indigenous population (forcing survivors onto reservations), struggling whites in the lower middle-class and impoverished whites idealistically believe Black and brown people are the problem.  The solution to this problem among disgruntled, struggling whites in the “99%” is either to deport and imprison “them” or to make “massive investments in rebuilding our cities”— presumably by taxing at a higher rate the white capitalist class that robbed the cities (and country) in the first place (and we know that from every investment in this system there is the expectation of a profitable return).

Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the African People’s Socialist Party has stated:

“Capitalism was born in disrepute, born of the rapes, massacres, occupations, genocides, colonialism and every despicable act humans are capable of inflicting.  Capitalism was not responsible for some great, otherwise unimaginable leap in production, which—despite its contradictions—resulted in human progress and enlightenment. What capitalism did was to rip the vast majority of humanity out of the productive process—in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and what has come to be known as the Americas. The hundreds of millions dead due to the slave trade and slavery itself; the millions exterminated everywhere Europeans ventured—these are people whose hands were forever removed from a relationship with nature that would result in ‘production.’

“Europeans achieved their national identity by way of this bloody process. This is not something that only happened a long time ago. The world’s peoples are suffering the consequences of capitalism’s emergence right now. Locked in colonies and the indirect rule of neocolonialism, restricted to lives characterized by brutality, ignorance and violence in the barrios of the Americas, in other internal colonies characterized as Indian reservations and black ghettos, kept under the paranoiac, nuclear-backed, armed-to-the-teeth watch of military forces born of a state power that has its origins in protecting the relationship between capitalism and its imperial pedestal, capitalism has been the absolute factor in restricting production and development. It has concentrated productive capacity in the hands of the world’s minority European population that sits atop the pedestal of our oppressive reality. Capitalism was not the good, ‘progressive’ force that is the precursor to something better for ‘humanity.’ Capitalism was a disaster that rescued Europe from a diseased feudal existence at the expense of the world.”

If European colonizers (whites) can begin to examine history according to the dialectical relationships within the evolution of society, recognizing that Africa was once wealthy while Europe was poor, and that nothing about the social arrangement that disrupted Africa’s progress is static, then perhaps we can align our material interests with those of African revolutionaries who are struggling for control of their own lives, labor and resources.  We don’t have to feel sorry for Black people, like they are the perpetual losers of history, because their survival, from vineyards in northern California to so-called ghettos in Los Angeles, is success.  Colonized Africans are currently engaged in a successful struggle against a system working for their complete destruction, from California, to Oklahoma, to Guinea-Bissau, to Ghana and Azania (South Africa).  Africans have shown again and again that, when they have control of their own material benefits (on Black Wall Street or in the Songhai Empire), they are able to succeed, not only by surviving, but by prospering as an advanced civilization (that gave civilization to the world).

If European colonizers can find a way to resolve our contradictions of envy and impoverishment, of our feelings of inferiority with our feelings of superiority, and our endangerment of communities because we fear they are endangering us, then perhaps we can begin to evolve out of this American Dream/American Nightmare and change toward the realistic view of a shared humanity on a shared planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Black Wall Street”: Wealthy Africans and the Envy of Impoverished Whites

The Historical Consequences of White Power’s Assassinations

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When President Eisenhower ordered the murder of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, resulting in the CIA-backed assassination of Lumumba on January 17, 1961, this imperialist act by the U.S. set back the liberation of Africans by a certain number of years that is impossible to determine, but also is difficult to overestimate.  By 1965, the neocolonialist dictator Mobutu Sese Seko was leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he is known as one of the most corrupt heads of state in the twentieth century.  His reign until 1997 was filled with numerous human rights violations– not that a supporter of the U.S. government would be in any position to judge, since Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush were among Mobutu’s friends (as well as television performer Pat Robertson).  If the system of European imperialist capitalism (which we can call “white power”) had not murdered Patrice Lumumba, who knows what social strides the African nation would have taken through his leadership.

When white power backed the assassination of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965, it murdered the one person, perhaps more than any other in the twentieth century, who could have unified and led the struggle of colonized Africans in the United States against its system of colonialism.  During his time in the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X was speaking primarily for a religious organization, yet, as the years passed, he became more and more politically conscious, which put him at odds with the organization’s leader Elijah Muhammad.  After his trips to Africa, and his meeting with Fidel Castro, Malcolm X began speaking more frequently against capitalism and colonialism.  He made connections between the socialist revolutions in Africa, Latin America and Asia and the liberation struggle of Black people in the United States.  This was a global struggle against a capitalist, colonial power.  There is a high probability that Malcolm X would have united the revolutionary masses of Black people in the U.S. colony with revolutions in other areas of the world, yet white power murdered him first.  He was only 39 years old.  Who knows what could have been?

A year after the assassination of Malcolm X, and the rebellion in Watts, a young Huey P. Newton and his friend Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California.  The Black Panther Party did carry on the work and legacy of Malcolm X to a large extent, in terms of its goals, its ideology and its image.  Perhaps no other organization in the history of the U.S. settler colony has so clearly moved against the system of white power as the Black Panther Party did fifty years ago.  Huey Newton was a genius.  He was also incredibly handsome and he loved his people.  White power saw that Huey Newton was a real threat right away.  During the last years of the 1960s, the colonial system put Huey Newton behind bars during a trial for a crime he didn’t commit (the killing of Oakland Police Department Officer John Frey), but the Black Panther Party still thrived and expanded, unified through demands to “Free Huey!” and by the Party chapters forming across the U.S. settler colony.

One of the most important chapters of the Black Panther Party was in Los Angeles and it was led by Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, along with John Huggins.  Bunchy Carter’s charisma and leadership skills were similar to Huey Newton’s.  In Los Angeles, and in other chapters, the Black Panther newspaper was distributed widely as the people learned and unified around the ideology of revolution.  The Party created free breakfast programs because impoverished Black and brown children were going to school hungry.  The colonial power refused to feed them, or create employment opportunities for their parents, so the Black Panther Party provided this material necessity, along with free shoes, free health clinics and other programs.  Huey Newton called these “survival programs.”  Some “white allies” showed material solidarity with the Black Panther Party and gave money to help sustain these programs.

As black power took control of its own material necessities, white power was threatened by this loss of colonial control.  FBI director J. Edgar Hoover vowed to crush the Black Panther Party in 1969.  So the COINTELPRO project of the FBI set up a confrontation between the US Organization (led by Ron Karenga) and members of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party.  On January 17, 1969, Bunchy Carter and John Huggins were murdered on the campus of UCLA.  This was a huge blow to the Black Panther Party because the Los Angeles chapter never recovered, losing two leaders who could unify and serve the people of southern California.  With Huey Newton incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit, Bunchy Carter was perhaps the most effective leader on the West Coast, and white power murdered him.  The historical consequences are immeasurable.

Perhaps the greatest act of treachery by the U.S. government against a member of the Black Panther Party was the FBI’s collaboration with the Chicago Police Department which led to the ruthless murder of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Chicago chapter of the BPP.  Fred Hampton was brilliant, charismatic, and principled and he loved the people.  Fred Hampton had the ability to unite people of different identities and form organizational coalitions, and he stressed the importance of a revolutionary education.  The combination of these qualities in Fred Hampton made him a serious threat to capitalist white power, and for this reason he was murdered (along with Black Panther Mark Clark) on December 4, 1969 while he slept in his bed.  He was only 21 years old.  Of course, the Chicago police tried to cover up the killing and the fact that Fred Hampton was unarmed.

I’ve read in numerous places that the Black Panther Party effectively was destroyed in 1969.  The Black Panther Party was destroyed by the system of white power: the federal government, state governments, city governments (including “the pigs”), the media, and the complicity of the silent white majority.  Bunchy Carter, John Huggins, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark are only a few of the Black Panthers murdered, falsely imprisoned, or forced into exile by white power.

The result of this counterrevolutionary attack on the vanguard party of the revolution was the violent defeat of a movement whose goal was the liberation of Black people.  As Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the African People’s Socialist Party has stated, Black Power didn’t just fail or run out of energy– it was brutally defeated by white supremacist, imperialist capitalism, and this attack was carried out on a global scale against all these revolutionary movements in Africa, Latin America and Asia.  The consequences of the CIA-led murder of Che Guevara in Bolivia on October 9, 1967 are also global in scope, affecting all oppressed peoples wherever they live (including Congo, where Che secretly had engaged in guerrilla warfare with Congolese revolutionaries).

This takes us to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is celebrated each January by the system that is responsible for murdering him.  Dr. King was only 39 (like Malcolm X) when white power murdered him on April 4, 1968.  How can we say where Dr. King would have led the movement for Black liberation had he not been assassinated?  The consequences of this assassination by white power are still felt today, just as colonized Africans in the U.S. still experience the material consequences of the murders of Black Panthers, and Malcolm X– and the destruction of the Garvey movement, and the executions of Gabriel Prosser and Denmark Vesey, all the way back to the first slave revolt by courageous Africans determined to be free.  White power has been and continues to be maintained through violence.  What this national holiday in honor of the sanitized, whitewashed version of Dr. King really means, in historical, materialist terms, is that European imperialist capitalism continues to expand its power at the expense of colonized peoples, absorbing even the leaders of the movement against this system into its canon of mythologized, nonthreatening “American legends.”

The historical consequences of white power’s assassinations of leaders in the Black Power movement have meant that material conditions in the U.S. settler colony have continued to grow worse for Africans trapped in so-called ghettos.  Dr. King said, “The ghetto is a domestic colony.”  These colonies in the U.S. are like the colonies in Africa controlled by the Belgians, French, British, Dutch, Portuguese and– generally speaking– the system of European imperialist capitalism.

Capitalism lies to colonized peoples (as well as everyone else) to keep them from making connections between seemingly separate international struggles against the same system of white power.  Capitalism lies so oppressed peoples won’t make the connection between the fact that 50% of global poverty exists in sub-Saharan Africa, and the fact that 1 in 8 imprisoned men in the world are African men in the U.S.  One of the consequences of white power’s assassinations of the leaders of the African liberation movement is that their voices– that speak truth to power– have been silenced.  And when their voices haven’t been silenced, they’ve been sanitized, made “safe” for mass consumption and the soothing of white feelings.

White power’s assassinations of leaders of the African liberation movement have meant a consolidation of power by colonial capitalism, and this means greater oppression of colonized Africans, including more violently aggressive behavior by police departments– those guardians of white power.  Having removed Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X, Dr. King and key members of the Black Panther Party, white power’s dialectical relationship to colonized peoples has become even more oppressive.  What Michelle Alexander calls the New Jim Crow is directly related to white power’s defeat of the African revolution, whose goal was Black community control of their own criminal justice system.  When white power murdered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  a person of the greatest integrity and humanity, it removed a key critic of the capitalist system.  When we talk about “jobs being shipped overseas” and “the wealth gap,” we’re really talking about white power’s defeat of the global African liberation movement.  Yet Malcolm X and Dr. King weren’t around to speak out against these economic injustices, any more than they can speak out against gentrification in Portland, Oregon, and the arming of security guards at Portland State University.

If we can make the correct historical connections between events in the world today (terrorist attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso, Charlotte and Kenya, student uprisings in Missouri and South Africa, and colonial and neocolonial violence everywhere white power dominates) and the blows suffered by the African liberation movement during the 1960s, we will recognize that Dr. King’s legacy perhaps is honored best by uniting with oppressed peoples in their fight against this system of white power.  Only the masses of people can determine history, so it’s up to the people to decide whether white power destroyed the African liberation movement, or only delayed and thereby increased the impact of the revolution when this social transformation takes place.

Dr. King said, “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.”  Oppressed Black people/Africans are rising up.   White people who say “Black Lives Matter” have a choice of which role to play in this uprising: we can actively take the side of oppressed Africans, and all other colonized peoples, or we can passively sit by as the colonized masses win freedom and control over their own lives, resources and labor.  History has shown that there are material– as well as moral– consequences to our actions, or our inaction:

Dr. King said: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

 

 

The Historical Consequences of White Power’s Assassinations

“MLK said”

Whenever white people bring up Dr. King on social media, it seems like we’re actually talking about Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, who famously said, “A vote against me is a vote for Stokely Carmichael.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael were good friends.  Dr. King never denounced Stokely Carmichael (who later changed his name to Kwame Ture in honor of the great African revolutionaries Kwame Nkrumah and Sékou Touré).  There was a lot of pressure on Dr. King to condemn Kwame Ture because the latter was so “controversial.”  However, when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee came out against the imperialist war in Vietnam (the first civil rights organization to do so), and Kwame Ture said, “Hell no, we won’t go!” and members of the U.S. Congress were moving to arrest the leader of SNCC, Dr. King not only refused to denounce his friend, but gave his famous anti-war speech on April 30, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York.

In fact, one would be hard pressed to find a single instance in Dr. King’s career where he publicly condemned any of the other leaders in the movement for Black liberation.  While leaders like Whitney Young of the National Urban League and Roy Wilkins were calling for patience and urging Dr. King and the movement to slow down, Dr. King was agitating, and speaking out against white supremacist capitalism, bringing righteous anger to the cause as only he could.  I’ve never seen a quotation by Dr. King where he harshly condemns Malcolm X or any of the young Black people in the cities who actually didn’t always have the nicest things to say about him– but still loved him (and showed it in April 1968).

Dr. King was anything but an example of “respectability politics.”  Yes, he wore a suit and tie, and he looked very handsome in his suit and tie.  But white people murdered Dr. King anyway.  The system of European imperialist capitalism murdered Dr. King even though he was one of the finest human beings ever to live.  That tells us something about the essence of capitalism and white power.  But when white people bring up Dr. King’s name today (and a few words from one of his speeches) we ought to remember that the government and system that most of us still support murdered him.  We wouldn’t be guessing what Dr. King might have said about this or that topic if white people hadn’t killed him.

Dr. King has become St. King in the version presented by European imperialist capitalism.  In other words, he was so good and saintly, that he patiently endured all the racist taunts, blows, rocks, and bullets launched at him by white people.  This version is easier to control.  That’s the “official version” of colonialism.  But Dr. King wasn’t just good– he was a brilliant strategist.  He could face that big-eared racist Lyndon Johnson, who was going to let Dr. King be killed at any moment, and make demands, getting something out of a rotten, white supremacist system by pressuring LBJ to listen to him– or else.  Dr. King knew how to use that “or else”– but then in the 1960s, the “or else” was Malcolm X, Kwame Ture, the Black Panther Party and the revolutionary masses of colonized Africans.

When white people bring up Dr. King today it seems we want to focus on how nice and inclusive he was, as if he never ruffled any feathers or caused any problems and that’s why everybody loved him.  Actually, Dr. King was hated by white America.  And Dr. King’s whole strategy was agitation– nonviolent agitation.  In fact, as much as the Black Lives Matter protesters emphasize the words of Assata Shakur and other armed revolutionaries, the Black Lives Matter movement is part of that same tradition of nonviolent protest and agitation that Dr. King used.  Yet white people have the audacity to call out Black Lives Matter protesters for being too rude, and too loud, and alienating too many [white] people.

What we see again and again on social media is Dr. King’s legacy being used by white people against Black people.  It’s bad enough when white people feel the need to correct Black people on Twitter and Facebook who we don’t even know, treating them like children.  But to use the words (real or imagined) of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. against the very people– his people– whom he died fighting to liberate is the ultimate disrespect and disgrace to his legacy, and to Black people.  White people bringing up Dr. King on social media are usually trying to defend white people (ourselves) while criticizing Black people, trying to “put them in their place”– which is how whiteness (that is, colonialism) works.  We see it all the time: “MLK would have …” or “Be more like MLK” or “MLK said.”

But what did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. actually say?

Dr. King said, “Yes, I’m Black, I’m proud of it! I’m Black and beautiful!”

Dr. King loved Black people.  I hope we can remember that fact on a national holiday which has been set up by the U.S. government in order to whitewash Dr. King’s legacy of fighting against this system of capitalist, colonial oppression.  Dr. King loved Blackness.  And it’s important for white people to remember that Dr. King loved being Black because often we act like that one line that we love to quote– I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”— means that Dr. King didn’t see color and wasn’t proud to be Black.  He did and he was.   

Dr. King believed in revolution.

In Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, she cites this quotation by Dr. King from May of 1967:

“It is necessary for us to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights. … For the past 12 years, we have been in a reform movement. … [but] after Selma and the voting rights bill, we moved into a new era, which must be an era of revolution. We must see the great distinction between a reform movement and a revolutionary movement. We are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society.”

Dr. King was a socialist and a revolutionary, and he recognized the material basis of the rebellions in Watts, Detroit, Newark and all across the U.S. settler colony:

MLKRiots

Less than a month after Dr. King gave this speech he was murdered by the white supremacist system– on April 4, 1968.

Before white power killed him, Dr. King was planning on going to Washington D.C. again– leading the Poor People’s Campaign– and he was about to demand reparations for his people.

Dr. King said:

“At the very same time that America refused to give the Negro any land, through an act of Congress our government was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest, which meant it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor. But not only did they give them land, they built land grant colleges with government money to teach them how to farm. Not only that, they provided county agents to further their expertise in farming. Not only that, they provided low interest rates in order that they could mechanize their farms. Not only that, today many of these people are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies not to farm, and they are the very people telling the black man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps. And this is what we are faced with, and this is the reality. Now, when we come to Washington in this campaign, we are coming to get our check.”

White people who support Dr. King’s legacy, and recognize his role in the Black liberation movement, should consider carrying on the struggle for freedom, justice, equality, and peace by joining the Uhuru Solidarity Movement today.  The best way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to stand in material solidarity with the Uhuru (“Freedom”) Movement, which is working for the liberation and self-determination of Africans (Black people) wherever they live in the world.

Dr. King said, “We are coming to get our check.”

If we love freedom and humanity as much as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did, white people should start paying the debt we owe for stolen Black lives and resources.

 

“MLK said”

Africa, Oregon, and the Future of White Supremacist Capitalism

Half of the world’s poverty is in sub-Saharan Africa.  Africa has been invaded and occupied by Europe for more than five hundred years.  Following its enslavement of Africans for centuries, it was at the Berlin Conference in 1884-1885 that Europe divided up the African continent in order to steal more resources.  And the murder and theft of Africa and Africans continues to this day in the form of neocolonialism.

The most impoverished people in the world are Africans, in spite of the fact that Africa is the richest continent in the world, as far as its natural resources are concerned.  The most impoverished peoples in the United States– which is still a settler colony of the European empire– are colonized Africans (Black people) and indigenous peoples, against whom the system of white power has committed genocide, from Maine to Oregon, and from Florida to Hawaii.

Meanwhile, armed white men are occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon.  This white militia, which is being allowed by the government to carry guns out in the open in an unambiguous threat to this very government, aims to “free these lands up … getting the ranchers back to ranching, and getting the miners back to mining.”  These armed white men (supported by some white women) see their occupation as a long-term fight against the government and they say this movement’s goal is to “spread through the whole United States.”

Oregon is a state that banned Black people from living here in its original constitution.  If Black people didn’t leave this “white Utopia” they would be whipped until they left.  The white occupiers in Harney County today, like the white people who first occupied Oregon with the full military support of the federal government, are on the land of the Paiute.  I am writing this essay while sitting on land stolen from the Kalapuya people by the same system of white supremacist capitalism.  In Portland, which is, of course, Oregon’s largest city, decades of gentrification (another form of colonization, if not genocide) have “priced out” Black and “Native American households.”

This is the crisis of imperialism which provides the background for the white militia’s occupation of federal lands in Oregon in the beginning of 2016.  The system of European imperialist capitalism– white supremacist capitalism– which has committed genocide against Africans, indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity, exploiting the world’s true proletariat for the material enjoyment of white people, is no longer working the way it is supposed to work– for white people.  The same system which sent troops into Oregon to take it over for white people is now being threatened by whites with rifles and pistols.  These white people see the government as the enemy, and they are willing to die to move against it.  They don’t see the white-controlled, capitalist government as a “tyranny” against indigenous peoples like the Paiute, but against them– white people.  These white people are angry, they have guns, and they are not only willing to die in order to protect and expand their material interests– but to kill.

Yet the truly oppressed and occupied masses– those people suffering in the stranglehold of imperialist aggression– are the indigenous peoples of the Americas, and African people wherever they live in the world.  Africans and indigenous peoples have survived genocidal theft and murder for over five hundred years during Europe’s ongoing attack against their sovereignty and ability to live.  As stated before, half of the world’s poverty is in sub-Saharan Africa.  White supremacist capitalism is continuing to rob and kill Africa and the rest of the world.  White supremacist capitalism gunned down a 12 year old African boy, Tamir Rice, who was only carrying a toy gun.  White supremacist capitalism has caused the life expectancy of trans women of color to be 35 years.  White supremacist capitalism pushes Black people out of their neighborhoods in Portland.  And yet a white militia in eastern Oregon says the enemy is this very government (and system) which brings Europeans material benefits at the expense of everyone else on the planet– and the planet itself.

If colonized, impoverished Africans were to rise up in Africa and “take back” what is rightfully theirs, this would cut off the supply of labor and resources from Africa and Africans upon which white people parasitically depend.  Chaos would break out in the U.S. settler colony.  The current system of parasitic European imperialism couldn’t handle Africa and Africans actually controlling their own resources and their own nation.

The economic instability of white ranchers, miners and loggers in eastern Oregon today would seem like a golden age of prosperity compared to the shortage of resources all white people would face if the working class of Africa seized control of their resources, labor and lives.  Europeans are used to sitting on a pedestal of material comfort and safety.  Even a slight push from the white-controlled government leads white people to pick up guns and threaten to revolt.  What dangers and discomfort would white people experience if our pedestal of genocidal theft and murder were to collapse completely and the system of white supremacist capitalism were to face a much larger crisis than the one confronted by a handful of whites with guns in eastern Oregon?

These angry whites have guns and are prepared to die (and kill) in order to defend their material interests.  For European colonizers in the United States who wish to bring about a world of peace, justice, equality and freedom for all peoples, it is of the greatest importance that we get on the right side of history today.  The smug security of white progressives may not last much longer if the forces of capitalist oppression grow much worse.  And the white nationalist citizens are ready to move with their guns at the slightest hint that the white nationalist government will fail to look out for their interests.  It should be fairly clear that Black and brown people would be their first targets– because they already are.

Idealistic feelings of nonviolence and Christian charity won’t stop the angry whites with guns, any more than such feelings stop the police or the military who murder colonized peoples every day.  A movement against systemic oppression– against these reactionary forces– must be created and sustained by the masses of people.  This will be particularly difficult for white people to do because we enjoy the material benefits of white supremacist capitalism’s exploitation and genocide against Africans, indigenous peoples (including Latinas/Latinos/Latinxs) and the majority of the people of the globe.  However, if we say Black Lives Matter, and we believe that people matter more than profits, European colonizers will get on the right side of history today and support a revolutionary movement against this system of white supremacist capitalism.

As the system of white supremacist capitalism breaks down, and fails to meet the material needs of Europeans who have benefited from its murder and theft of Africa, the Americas and the rest of the world for over five centuries, most of these same Europeans are looking to “take back” what they feel belongs to them– not to the nations experiencing this ongoing invasion by Europe.  The NRA and the GOP (and, yes, the Democratic Party), along with the capitalist media, have filled the minds of these European colonizers with white nationalist ideology, and through their greed have become wealthier and more powerful as white people stock up on guns.  The people of the world must be protected from them.

So this is a period in history where Europeans who love humanity need to wake up and become conscious of the necessity for a revolutionary ideology, and to join an organization that moves against these reactionary forces.  Europeans who seek a world free from systemic oppression need to stand in material solidarity with the revolutionary movements of the world’s working class peoples– colonized Africans in the U.S, Africa and throughout their nation, as well as all other colonized nations.  Europeans who say Black Lives Matter need to unify under a revolutionary ideology or political theory in which Africans and Africa are the subjects of their own struggle against white supremacy.  Europeans who recognize the objective reality of our genocidal history must step down from our pedestal of parasitic wealth and power that we so unjustly enjoy, and join the rest of humanity.  We need to organize under the leadership of the African working class, and the true proletariat of the globe, and prepare to move against these white people with guns in Oregon– because they are going to move against us.

White supremacist capitalism’s oppression of Africa can last only so much longer before these class antagonisms create a revolt by Africans.  This revolt of Africa against their oppressors will throw the whole world into chaos and disrupt an order brought about by the control of European imperialism.  Material conditions will be thrown into disorder on a scale that is unimaginable to whites who are accustomed to our colonial advantages.  Resources will become scarce and more expensive.  White reactionaries, like the people in eastern Oregon with their guns, are willing to kill in order to maintain the white supremacist, capitalist order imposed on the world.  Armed white people– armed not only with guns but with white supremacist beliefs– will be a great threat to humanity and the planet, because they already are: here, now, in early 2016, in occupied Oregon.

Stand up, fight back– pay reparations to the African revolution!

Africa, Oregon, and the Future of White Supremacist Capitalism