“While We Are the Same, We Are Not the Same”: Kwame Ture and the Contradictions of the White, “American” Identity

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Kwame Ture said, “In life, everything is the same and, at the same time, not the same.”  He continued by saying that “this may sound confusing if one doesn’t properly understand life’s contradictions.”  For example, (as Kwame Ture noted) all of us are the same, because we’re human beings.  But some of us are men, and some of us are women [and, we may add today: some are nonbinary genders].  “While we are the same, we are not the same.”  Using another example, Kwame Ture said, “While every human being in the world has fingerprints, every fingerprint is different.”

Anyone who wants to learn about life and revolutionary theory and many other interesting matters can learn a great deal from Kwame Ture, but– at the same time– it’s important to recognize that he was an African speaking to Africans as an organizer in the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP).  This means, while Pan-African socialist theories and perspectives are generally applicable to the life of every person who wants to learn about these things, they are also unique to the African liberation struggle, which is a global struggle shared only by Africans.

In order to illustrate this contradiction we could use the example of a person who tosses a rock up into the air.  Any person who does this can expect the rock to come back down, on account of the objective laws of gravity, which apply to any person any place in the world– no matter the gender, or “race,” of the one who tossed the rock up into the air.  But what we can also recognize about the person in question is that they are part of a specific people with a specific history and a specific culture.  They may be wealthy or poor.  They may be middle-class.  Yet their struggle to survive, as well as develop and grow as an individual, is related to some identity which has a past, and which is connected to a certain territory with that past.

This act of tossing a rock up into the air does not occur in a vacuum, detached from the space around it.  Furthermore, such an act requires a subject.  But this individual subject is also not isolated from the conditions or the people inside these conditions who gave them life and allowed them to grow.  Each action, thought, and feeling experienced by the person in question– no matter how unique they believe they may be as an individual– is the product of a specific history and a specific people who are connected to a specific area of land.

Now we can talk about white people in the United States.  We’re “white” because we came from Europe in order to settle on these territories outside Europe: to occupy Indigenous lands.  We can call ourselves “American” all we want, but that’s our history: genocide and colonization.  We can even go to Ancestry.com and find out that we are some percentage of Indigenous, and some percentage of African and yet another percentage of European– and also learn the specific area that our “ancestors” came from in North America, Africa and Europe.  A Black “American” could go to Ancestry.com and do the same thing, and also find that they are “part” Indigenous, or “part” European, or have connections to areas of Asia or some other place outside Africa.  And, at the end of the day, we would all still be humans, and still inhabit the same world, and our DNA would still be 99.6% the same.

Yet white people in the United States and Black people in the United States– Africans in “America”– are, at the same time, not the same.  Why?  Well, the white supremacists will tell you it’s on account of their belief that whites are superior and all other “races” are inferior.  While this claim is not only ridiculous but is extremely dangerous, the idea of white supremacy is not limited to a small percentage of the white population in the United States– or, for that matter, worldwide– who belong to the KKK and are listed by the SPLC as a “hate group.”  On the material level, this white supremacist behavior encompasses nearly all white people, regardless of our individual attitudes toward Black people and “other minorities.”  If we go back to the image of the person tossing a rock up into the air, we may not know the thoughts that are in their head, or the feelings that are in their heart.  We just recognize that a person– a subject– has tossed a rock up into the air, and we know that the rock must come back down, on account of the laws of gravity.

But if all humans are the same– and, specifically, our DNA is 99.6% identical– then why is it that the objective laws of nature have led to conditions in “America” where the median wealth of Black “Americans” will fall to zero by 2053, and the median wealth for Latinx “Americans” will fall to zero approximately two decades after that?  If all people are the same– we’re all human– then how is it then that, just three years from now, whites in the United States “are projected to own 86 times more wealth than [B]lack households, and 68 times more wealth” than the Latinx population?

If you take the same rock and toss it into the air in the same part of the world (“America”), and you’re doing this as a European, or an African, or an Indigenous or Latinx person, then the objective laws of nature will tell you that it will fall at the same rate.  Yet, under the system of capitalism, its laws do not apply the same to every person, regardless of their “race”– and this is because the laws of “America” and the “Western world” are based on the inhumane, unnatural belief in white supremacy, a belief which is limited to just a small percentage of the white population, but is perpetuated by an entire political identity, or all those who belong to the capitalist category of “whiteness.”

By 2044, whites will be a “racial” minority in the United States.  Yet whites are projected to control the overwhelming majority of this nation’s wealth.  If you listen to the white supremacists, including the racist President, you may be led to believe that “America” is being taken over by Mexican “rapists,” Black “thugs,” Muslim “terrorists” and other assorted villains– and that “America” needs to be made “great again.”  And it’s no accident that Trump and his white supremacist supporters are trying to place the focus on an “American” identity whose default is whiteness.  Where they are confused– or where they’re trying to confuse you– is by arguing that a white minority in the United States won’t enjoy the same benefits as when we were the majority.  In fact, we’ll enjoy more benefits.  Meanwhile, the typical reaction on “the left” to this white supremacist violence is to argue that Black people are “Americans” too, and so are Muslims of color (many of whom are Black as well), and so are Latinxs and Indigenous peoples.  “We’re all just Americans”– right?

Not so fast.  Although it’s hard to use the word “fast” when we’re talking about a process that has been going for the last five hundred years are so, ever since Europe began its attack on Africa, the “Americas” and, eventually, the rest of the world.  If we take in the entire scope or range of this history of European imperialism, and consider all the territories involved, we might hope that, after so many centuries, there would be greater equality among the so-called races.  And yet, we could ask these questions: why is it, when Africans have lived on this territory longer than most whites (most of us having not descended from the original colonial population who formed the United States) that even the most basic human rights of “Black Americans” aren’t recognized or enforced?  Why is the wealth gap between the “races” actually increasing?   Why did “America” just elect a blatantly racist President?  Why is it that, after “America” elected the “first” Black President, so many whites believed he still wasn’t an “American”?  Why is it that, when whites borrow (or steal) so much Black culture in the United States– as the basis for our favorite music, language, clothing, and so forth– we continue to treat Black people with such hatred, even whites of younger generations?

It’s 2017, and Black people in the United States– whatever they may believe about themselves, or want to call themselves– are still treated like foreigners, like the despised Other, by the white population.  And, even if we don’t feel this way, whites and Black people/Africans, in spite of the fact we are all human beings living under the same power of the same economic system, nevertheless, enjoy extremely different levels of material benefits from capitalism.  While 99% of the population is exploited by the capitalist system, it’s still the case that the same rock, having been tossed up in the air, seems to be coming down at different rates for whites in the U.S. than for Black people (Africans).  Why?

You may call yourself an “American,” or anything else you like, but the historical reality is that Europeans (whites) and Africans/Black people in the United States have totally different identities because we have totally different histories.  The space we are sharing on Indigenous lands is the same– while still largely segregated– and the objective laws of nature within our shared space are still the same (what goes up must come down).  And we are all people.  We’re all the same because– as Kwame Ture said– we’re human beings.  Yet, after hundreds of years on this shared space, Europeans and Africans, as well as Indigenous peoples and the global majority (“people of color”), are not the same.

The job of the enemy– capitalism– is to confuse you, not only about the economic and political oppression around you, but also to confuse you in your thought processes regarding how to deal with such an oppressive history (to echo again the words of Kwame Ture).  If we look at the way Africans in America are organizing their people to be free (which can only come about as soon as a people have gained power), we can see that they are not confused about who they are: they are Africans.  However, whites are confused about who we are, and what we believe Africans to be as well, because capitalism has successfully misled us about who we are.

In order for this system of imperialist exploitation to function, it needs the loyalty of Europeans.  In fact, we don’t even identify as “Europeans” at this point.  We say we are “Americans.”  We identify with the enemy of humanity: a backward system that requires the few to grow wealthier and wealthier at the expense of the many.  Capitalism is a global arrangement of power where the resources, labor, land, and culture of the world go in one direction, toward the European population, who can then enjoy these material benefits at unequal levels.  But, for us to tolerate our own exploitation, and to support the systemic oppression and genocidal violence against the majority of the global population, Europeans must now identify with each imperialist nation-state, and (in this occupied territory) the United States, and its “American” flag.  Now we are “Americans.”  And then we argue that Africans (Black people) must bow down to this flag, or stand up for it, and give their loyalty to “America” too, because they are also “Americans”– and should be grateful for all these “freedoms.”  The problem is, when capitalism is going out and robbing the world, and is destroying communities, this system and this imperialist nation-state– and its racist President– don’t treat Africans like “Americans.”  The entire capitalist system of power– and not just Donald Trump or his white supremacist friends– treats Africans the way “America” has always treated anyone it doesn’t identify as “white”: like colonized subjects, as Europeans continue to engage in an imperialist war against peoples and lands outside Europe.

So, because we are confused about who we are, whites in “America” try to confuse Africans and Indigenous communities, and all colonized peoples, about who they are.  Either way, they will end up with zero wealth in less than fifty years, even as whites will no longer be the majority (which Europeans have never been on a global scale).

As these contradictions in “American” society are exposed to a greater and greater extent, whites– no longer the majority– will be required to defend more and more aggressively the basis for our material inequity (in a country that promotes the ideals of equality and democracy).  And thus we will have to turn to the ideological basis of the “American” identity– which is white supremacy– or risk giving up our superior comforts and superior security as part of the white colonizing identity.

Since all people are the same, and since “America” promotes equality and democracy, why is it that the white minority is projected to gain an even larger share of capitalism’s wealth in the coming decades, even as many of us will likely experience more exploitation and discrimination by a system built for our benefit?  At some point, whites may be forced to wake up, and face the reality of this situation which we all share, as we discover that “America”– on account of its fundamental contradictions– is indefensible.

Rather than reacting to the racist reality of “America” and the white identity in a manner which is defensive– including reactions of guilt and anger– what can we do to address our own history as colonizers?  How can we overcome our confusion about who we are the way Pan-African organizers have moved against the same capitalist forces which seek to confuse Africans?  Europeans can do this by following the same scientific methods as African revolutionaries, except– at the same time– a very different method, because it would have to match our own history and identity.

The theories for African liberation– while they are universally socialist and feminist– are not applicable to white people or Europeans, because Pan-African socialism and Black feminism (or intersectional feminism) do not reflect our culture and our political identity, an identity which is based on our history as a people.  And part of the difficulty for Europeans in the United States (whites) who wish to be progressive or revolutionary is that, historically, we have not identified with anything other than the “American” identity.

White colonizers are so thoroughly confused about who we are that we identify with the enemy of human progress: “America.”  And then we turn to Africans and “people of color” and tell them to show us what humanity means– we say, teach us (without pay) what it means to be a decent human being, even as we are benefiting from the capitalist theft of their land, resources, labor, culture and lives.

But you can’t teach or show Europeans how to be decent human beings, although we are people just like everyone else … at least, not while we still benefit from colonial genocide against Africans and “people of color” (the global majority).  We may believe we understand progressive politics and revolutionary theories, but the “house” that we are constructing out of these ideas has a foundation that is rotten.  If we still identify as “Americans,” then the very basis of our identity will be the ideology of capitalism and white supremacy (which are inseparable).  And so, no matter how hard we struggle to “smash the patriarchy” or to “dismantle white supremacy,” whites who engage in this revolutionary process as “Americans” will still lack any positive basis for our struggle.

Many white people on the “left” call ourselves “allies,” and carry signs that say “Black Lives Matter,” and contribute to anti-racist organizations, and study political theory– and that’s all well and good.  But deep down it seems that we still believe this isn’t our fight, that our own lives– and the basis for our own wealth and power– don’t depend on the total transformation of systems: on revolution.  And why should we believe otherwise when the actual basis for who we are, and what we want (our class interests), is the “American” identity and the interests of racist, imperialist capitalism?

Even as socialists, whites tend to uphold the white identity– often as “Americans”– and also the interests of capitalist empire, in relation to the rest of the people on the planet.  And this is because we are completely detached– at the level of our class or political (un)consciousness– from any history that is not part of the white supremacist, bourgeois “American” identity, and its history.

How do we overcome this obstacle to revolutionary consciousness?  Black people or Africans in “America” have looked to Africa, and have organized around their positive identity of Africa and Blackness, based on their culture and history (as opposed to the bourgeois and colonialist belief that the history of Black people began with slavery).  But whites in “America” really cannot look to Europe as a source for a positive basis to our identity, because even the European identity is, in many ways, a product of capitalism and imperialism.  In fact, this is why you see white supremacists– in Europe and in the United States– focused on the European identity: it’s because “Europe” upholds many of the same values as “America,” or any other white nationalist culture and history.

The struggle for European colonizers who wish to be progressive is to transcend these negative identities– these reactions to our violent past, and the violent present which grew out of that past– yet create an identity that is not disconnected from our history and culture.  Basically (very basically), Europe and whiteness are inseparable from systemic violence: imperialism and genocidal erasure, including the “Christian” religion in its imperialist context.  White culture is violence.  Even the act of attaching Black, Indigenous, Asian and Latinx creations to our isolated selves is part of this cultural violence which has become who we are, and is what we want.  The basic drive of the European identity is to acquire, and then to acquire more, through unequal power.

Therefore, in order to transcend these cultural and historical aspects of the European (and then white) identity, it seems that we have to struggle even harder to overcome our reactionary behavior.  This violence is so deeply ingrained into who we are that Europeans barely recognize it, much less move against it.  And, the sad thing is, we often treat people who have developed a higher sense of who they are– their culture, their community– as if they are at our level of development, and as if being the “first” white anything is such an outstanding accomplishment, or being in one of our spaces (which we probably stole) is the ultimate measure of success.  Meanwhile, capitalism is right there to promote this white supremacist behavior, by telling people to chase money, to buy their way into a higher level of humanity, and to make the white standard of goodness or beauty their main goal.  And then they may believe (like us) that just being able to enjoy a higher level of wealth is enough to escape capitalist exploitation.  But it’s only enough if you are willing to sell out to this evil and inhumane system, and totally identify your self-empowerment with its oppressive power– with “America.”

Wealth without power is worthless.  And that’s what white people have: power.  We may not have money, but that’s why white people (including 53% of white women) voted for the white supremacist Donald Trump.  We actually do know what’s in our interests, rich or poor, just as long as we identify with the power of a white supremacist system and “America.”

Africans and the Indigenous peoples of the Americas were wealthy too before Europeans showed up, with our greater capacity for violence and our greater willingness to commit this violence.  And then we constructed the white “American” identity on this foundation of imperialist genocide against Africa and the Indigenous peoples of North America and Hawaii.  So, even if we’re progressive today, and we want to move against the ideological constructs of “racism” and misogyny and other forms of systemic oppression, white people (on the “left,” the “right” or anywhere else) rarely move to exert a greater force of violence against the foundation of these oppressive ideologies than the system itself is exerting.  We just pick away at the edges of a racist, misogynistic, transphobic “American” society, rather than getting to its rotten foundation, which is imperialist violence.

We could argue that these contradictions of whiteness and the “American” identity require that Europeans in the U.S. (or whites) use violence– which is basic to who we are– to dismantle a capitalist system which has shaped the basis for our identity, and thereby quantitatively change not only system but subject.  But the very thing which ought to compel us to move in such a direction against the status quo– that being a desire to attain an equal level of humanity as the people whom we attempt to dehumanize for the purpose of greater profit– is the thing which is holding us back: a lack of humanity on our part.  This is not to argue we are something other than human.  We’re human beings, as Kwame Ture said.

But if we think about what Kwame Ture told a room of African people– not whites– when he said all humans are the same but are not the same, then we could ask ourselves: what would we do in a similar situation that they are in?  That is, if we– as white people, as Europeans– were stolen from our land, enslaved, colonized, and subjected to every atrocity imaginable for hundreds of years, what might we do to our oppressors?  And this, again, is where Europeans and Africans are not the same, even as we attempt to whitewash our identities and our differences by lumping us all together as “Americans.”  We would rise up and kill our oppressors, there is no doubt about it.  Well, there is some doubt: because of the difference between Europeans and Africans, we may not rise up unless it turned out to be profitable, or unless we could gain greater wealth on an individual level from this uprising.  Nevertheless, white people must have something in our identity where we hardly need the slightest excuse and we go on a killing spree.  Like it or not, it’s part of our identity.  All we needed was the incentive of capitalist exploitation, and it was off to the races.  Otherwise, Europeans had already been engaged in white-on-white crime for hundreds of years, destroying each other.  Whites just found it was more profitable to control and kill people outside Europe, and occupy their lands, and then send in the military and the police to keep them from doing to us what we have been doing to them– even if their attitude toward us has been far more generous and forgiving.

Of course, any peace-leaving progressive white person in “America” is going to say they oppose such violence and they just want people to coexist in all our wonderful diversity.  However, what they (or we) may not recognize is the way this racist, misogynistic, transphobic and capitalist ideology– this “American” ideology– has so thoroughly penetrated our thought processes and our patterns of behavior that it allows us to say we’re against such violence while, at the same time, we’re for it.

We support capitalist violence– as white colonizers in the United States– because we do nothing, or very little, to change the accumulated basis for our power.  After hundreds of years of colonial genocide, we look at the thin layer of “racial tension” at the top of this accumulation of violence and say, “Well, I don’t like that– I’m against that,” but then we ignore the massive amount of systemic oppression below it, all of which, when taken together, has created the “American” identity whose default is whiteness.  In fact, we barely look beyond our own neighborhood, at the systemic factors– the forces of extreme violence and colonial exploitation– which allow us to enjoy not only the liberal values of “inclusiveness” and individual goodness, but the material benefits which support our ability to develop and grow according to these ideals.

And so, by 2053– when the median wealth of Africans in “America” will be zero– whites may have a very “tolerant” attitude toward our Black and Brown neighbors, at least those who are left in “our” neighborhoods.  And we will probably be especially welcoming to the “respectable” Black or Latinx couple down the street who have worked so hard to survive in this system, and– at the same time– haven’t shown too many signs of disrupting its basic structure, which creates greater profits for the (already rich) white ruling class, no matter who is working hard to create these profits.  That is, capitalism won’t care very much who benefits on an individual level in the United States– they can always be used to point out that racism is no longer a problem– just as long as the overall arrangement can remain intact, one in which Black wealth is projected to be zero by 2053.  Why?  Because Black people– no matter how successful they may be on an individual level– will still lack power, as long as their survival and wealth is pursued in the context of the “American” (or white supremacist) identity.  By 2053, whites may be the minority in “America,” but the “American” identity will still mean what it has always meant: white nationalist, or white supremacist, power.

In 2053 “America” will mean what it meant in 1776: white power.  And that’s how an imperialist nation-state whose majority population is Black and Brown can still be forcing them to work hard in order to create wealth for the enjoyment of the white minority, even as the former are experiencing increasing levels of capitalist exploitation.

Right now, it’s exceedingly crucial– if we are white people who consider ourselves to be progressive– that we put our heads together and organize for … for what?  That’s what we need to figure out on a collective level.  But it’s the collective itself– the identity– that creates the basis for political leverage against the racist, misogynistic and capitalist state.  Essentially, we must organize for power, but not white power, and not “American” power.  How we go about this can only be determined inside an organization through the process of revolutionary struggle.  We cannot say what we are organizing for, until we– as a community– find out what that is, and who we are.

Kwame Ture taught that “while we are the same, we are not the same.”  All people are the same, but history, culture, identity and material factors of colonialism and capitalist oppression have also caused Europeans and Africans to be very different.  And since the United States and its class-based system of power have already imposed these divisions that exist between the colonizer and the colonized, we know that all white people are the same in the sense that we are all under the same system.  And yet we are not the same either.  Europeans are not the same as Africans, but Europeans– or whites– are not all alike either.  And that’s why we can use these differences as leverage points to organize against capitalism and the imperialist state.

While all whites are alike– we’re all racist, as the main benefactors of white supremacist and capitalist exploitation– we are different too.  Our skin color may be the same, and the colonial privileges– that we are granted by a backward system of power on account of this political categorization of “race”– may be the same.  But our identities– which are essentially political as well– contain ideological forces which, as soon as we discover their contradictory power, can then be used to move against the power of capitalism and the United States.

Instead of allowing this racist state– this imperialist power– to unite us as “Americans,” we (the revolutionary European colonizer) can beat the enemy to the punch, and say that, while we are not the same (as “Americans”), we are unified around some other organization of thought and matter, some critical difference, and we are the same as part of this new antagonistic identity.  Then we can say that we want “America” to be in crisis, splitting apart, because we are now something else altogether, moving against “America” too.  We may look alike, and often behave in the same racist, inhumane manner, but some white people (not those whites over there, those “Americans,” those counterrevolutionaries) are redirecting the elements of our identity and are coalescing around … what?  That’s what we need to figure out.

What is it about us that can make us different– from whiteness and from “America”– even as we remain white, objectively so?  And then– once we take this difference and organize it– what will allow us to create some new, transformed sameness (mass power), to be leveraged as part of a revolutionary process– stage by stage– against whiteness and against U.S. capitalism?

 

 

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“While We Are the Same, We Are Not the Same”: Kwame Ture and the Contradictions of the White, “American” Identity

Of Puppies, Kittens & Humans– “The Individual Is Dependent Upon the Masses of the People for Everything” (Kwame Ture)

 

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Capitalism is a global economic systemic that uses its oppressive power to isolate the individual from the masses of the people.  In fact, this reactionary process of isolation begins– or perhaps it ends– with capitalism alienating the individual from ourselves.  Capitalism isolates us from ourselves.

Human beings gain our humanity from the people.  We live in societies, in communities, and we work together as a people in order to create the material wealth which becomes the basis for all our needs, including our culture.  Yet this cruel system of European power called “capitalism”– specifically in the capitalist United States, a settler colony of Europe– will convince you and me that freedom or “liberty” (as well as equality, peace and justice) is merely a question of individual rights.

This capitalist ideology of alienation places the “American” individual in an antagonistic relationship with not only the global majority, but with themselves, and the very essence of their “humanness,” their humanity.  The exploited resources, labor, lives and land of Africa and the globe flow in the direction of the “American” individual (or the European colonizer occupying Indigenous soil); and yet this very same white person is supposed to believe that freedom, peace, equality, justice, and all the ideals of goodness and humanity are based on a single person’s ability to explore and develop their alienated self– the self isolated from the self.  Is it any wonder, then, that capitalism is such a backward, inhumane system of power?

But why would capitalism seek to alienate the European (or white) colonizer from ourselves and from our essential humanity?  Isn’t capitalism a system that is built for the benefit of whites?  It is, but if we want to gain access to these benefits of colonial exploitation, we must first give our loyalty to the global system of capitalism.  At the same time, if the capitalists told you to give your loyalty to “capitalism,” you might not even know what “capitalism” is.  Even if you are blessed with sight, you can’t see “capitalism.”  You may be able to touch its commodities, and want to get your hands on some more of them.  But you may not able to make the connection between a system of power and this individualistic pursuit of more and more things (“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”).  So, instead, capitalism asks– or demands– that you give your loyalty to this racist nation-state and its white nationalist flag: the “American” flag.  And capitalism demands that you look at a map on the wall of a schoolroom, displaying imperialist boundaries around occupied Indigenous territories, and call that “the United States of America.”  And capitalism further demands that you no longer identify with your essential humanity, but, instead, with “America” and its capitalist institutions, particularly its military.

What’s more, if the capitalists said, “You have white skin, therefore you can enjoy the colonial privileges of whiteness,” then you might begin to ask a few questions of your own and demand that capitalism answer these.  You might start to ask, “How can we say ‘all men are created equal’– and women and people of all genders– and yet, at the same time, occupy the soil of Indigenous peoples while living off the stolen labor and resources of Africans, and off the exploitation of the masses?”

But the capitalists excel at this type of deception.  They give you the ability to progress– at least if you are European or white– and to develop a higher and higher level of “progressive” politics, while the capitalists’ uncivilized violence against the people of the world simultaneously increases.  This seems like it could turn into a contradiction in our lives, and it has.  This is the violent class antagonism, the primary dialectic of global capitalism (colonizer/colonized), that holds bourgeois society together while also threatening to tear it apart.  But, as long as you feel that you are a peaceful person, and one who looks at everyone the same way, without a “racist bone in your body,” then– in your isolated, unconscious state as a white individual– you will continually fail to recognize the greater and greater violence that capitalism is inflicting on humanity … for your benefit!  And so you give your loyalty to the capitalist state– to the United States– and keep on enjoying the liberal or libertarian belief that if you merely have the ideals of justice, freedom, peace, and equality in your mind, then that’s enough.  However, the material reality is: you have been entirely isolated from the masses of the people.

The Pan-African socialist revolutionary Kwame Ture taught his people– Africans everywhere– that “the individual is dependent upon the masses of the people for everything.”  Kwame Ture had very good teachers: famous professors at Howard University, and Ella Baker (who led the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960 in North Carolina), and African women in SNCC like Judy Richardson and Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson, and his friend Martin Luther King Jr., and the Pan-African socialist leaders Kwame Nkrumah and Ahmed Sékou Touré, and (most importantly) a lifetime spent engaging in revolutionary struggle as part of the masses of the people.  Based on this wealth of experience– created through the process of struggle– Kwame Ture was able to illustrate, in very descriptive language, the reality that “the individual is dependent upon the masses of the people for everything” by using these words:

“An individual human being isolated from the human species is totally incapable of making any contribution to life.  These are biological facts.

“If you take a kitten the minute it’s born, before it opens its eyes, if you take a dog—a puppy—when it’s born, before it opens its eyes, if you throw both of them in the woods, isolated by themselves, they will grow to their fullest animal potential.  The dog will walk on four, he will bark; as soon as he finds a bone he will love it.  The cat will meow; the cat will chase mice as soon as he finds them.

“But if you take a child—a human being—the minute he or she [sic] is born, without opening their eyes, and put them in the woods, isolated by themselves, if they live– if they live!– they will never arrive at their fullest human potential.  It’s questionable whether or not the child will walk.  Certainly the child will not talk.  And it is clear the child will be able to make no contribution to the society. …

“A human being isolated from the human species is more stupid than any other animal isolated from its species.  Take the same kitten, take the same puppy, take the same child, as soon as they’re born, without their eyes open– throw them to live with monkeys.  The dog will walk like a dog, bark like a dog, and love bones.  The cat will meow like a cat, walk like a cat, and love mice.  The child will walk like a monkey, talk like a monkey, eat monkey food and try to make a contribution to monkey culture.”

Through this memorable illustration, Kwame Ture showed that “you can smash quickly all of these nonsensical ideas of individuality.”  Again, “The individual is dependent upon the masses of the people for everything.  Consequently, the individual must subsume themselves to the desires, the struggles and the aspirations of the masses of the people.”

But what does capitalism cause us to do instead?  How does the white identity educate (or mis-educate) Europeans to behave the way we do as we occupy a continent (plus Hawaii)?  What is it that the “American” identity accomplishes?  Together, these systemic forces of power achieve the purpose of isolating the European person from the struggles of the masses of the people.  We no longer identify with humanity.  We identify with “America.”  And this identification of the self with “America”– its flag, its military, and all its capitalist institutions and structures– cuts us off not only from the exploited, terrorized masses of the world, who suffer on account of this violent system of power, but also from ourselves.  And that’s the whole point!

Once you are isolated from your essential humanity, which is entirely dependent on the masses of the people, then you become politically unconscious of the violence– the inhumane, genocidal violence– which brings to you all these material benefits that you enjoy as a white person, as an “American,” a European who is part of the colonizing, exploiting class.  Through capitalism’s process of alienation of the person from their personhood, they become an object, which can then fulfill the purpose of objectifying people.

Only a very backward person– what Kwame Ture would call a “stupid” person– would give their loyalty to such a backward system of power.  If we were conscious of the contributions of Africans to humanity– when Africa gave civilization to the world– we would never identify with such an inhumane, uncivilized empire as the United States of “America.”  We would wish to destroy this empire!  No matter how much wealth we accumulated as individuals, we couldn’t be happy, we would feel dead inside– we wouldn’t even feel human.  We’d feel worse off than a monkey, a dog, a cat.  At least they are true to their nature.  In this country– this empire– we are required to reject our nature, because (unlike a cat or a dog), a human being can only make progress when they struggle as part of a community.

And white people do not have a community.  We have a system of power: capitalism.  Since capitalism is an inhumane system of power, and our humanity is dependent upon the community– which is to say, on the masses of the people– it follows that, in order to be loyal to this system, and to “America,” we must be disloyal to ourselves, to our family, our friends, all our loved ones, as well as the larger community of humankind.  If we aren’t obeying the laws of capitalism, we won’t survive.  And, for Europeans in the United States, we not only will lose all our wealth and all our power, as soon as we have turned against capitalism, we will lose the only identity we have– because we gave up all earlier identities and cultures in order to be “white” and to be “American.”  So we allow capitalism to exploit, rob and kill Africans, and Indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity (“people of color”) so that we can enjoy the “American” identity— the “American Dream”– and so we can fulfill our desires and aspirations at the individual level.  Thus, we become complicit in genocide.  Our lives become parasitic.  We sacrifice our own humanity so that, as objects, we can then become the objectifiers of Black and Brown people, and thus bring greater wealth and profits to the ruling class within this global system of capitalism.

“Whites” don’t love ourselves, or anybody else, because we’ve already made a deal with the devil– with the system that leads to the politically unconscious, anti-spiritual, arrogant, and reckless path toward greater wealth and power for ourselves as individuals … until we reach the point where we believe we are self-sufficient as individuals, and that goodness can only be found inside our isolated self.  We gave our loyalty to “America” and to the capitalist system of power and thus lost the essence of our created human self– our nafs— until one day we may visit the graveyards and we may look down and know then that all our riches won’t save us from death.  Dogs are true to their nature (they bark); cats are true to their nature (they meow); yet whites perversely argue that the “liberty” of the individual, and all its “success,” will be able to fulfill us, and can also absolve us from humanity’s responsibility to struggle.

 

Of Puppies, Kittens & Humans– “The Individual Is Dependent Upon the Masses of the People for Everything” (Kwame Ture)

Defining the FBI, the United States, and Other Hate Groups As “White Identity Extremists” (Something the SPLC Isn’t Going to Do)

SPLCEssay

Once you identify the enemy and you define them on your terms (not theirs), then you can expect them to act like the enemy at all times.

Well, not all the time– because, once in a while, the enemy may begin to act friendly, but this will only cause you to move with greater caution than you did when the enemy was showing their true nature, as the enemy.  For you will remember that this “friendliness” on their part simply means they are working even harder to deceive you.  So the enemy is still acting like the enemy at all times, whether their actions are openly hostile or they are more subtle and deceptive (and liberal).

For example, the FBI is the enemy of all people who want peace, justice, equality, and freedom, and who want the one thing that is necessary to enforce these humane principles: power.  That is, the FBI is the enemy of all oppressed communities who want power for themselves.

But the FBI isn’t the enemy because Donald Trump is President of the United States, or because they have become incompetent, and corrupt, and can no longer function smoothly.  When the institutions of capitalism and the United States are functioning smoothly, that’s the time to be concerned.  If we have identified them as the enemy, we will want them to stop functioning, completely; we will want the institutions of capitalism to break down, because we don’t want them to remain strong so that they can then use their strength for the purpose of keeping the people who have been weakened by this power in a continually powerless condition.

We know the FBI is the enemy of progressives– as well as the enemy of humanity– because of their history.  We only need to go by the historical facts.  These are (for the most part) the same facts that are available to the people who support the FBI.  Except the supporters of the FBI look at these facts from a different perspective– the perspective of the enemy.  And we can expect them to do that.  But if we study history– either as supporters of capitalist institutions or as their enemy– then we won’t be surprised when the FBI cites a “new U.S. terrorist threat” of “Black Identity Extremists.”

The FBI is merely doing what the FBI does: acting like the enemy.  The United States– as a white supremacist, patriarchal, imperialist power– is merely doing what it always does: it is acting like the enemy.  And, if you support human rights— which is to say, you oppose capitalism– then it’s not difficult to recognize that capitalism is simply doing what it has been designed to do: keep the oppressed, the powerless, the colonized (specifically, Africans/Black people) from gaining power for themselves.  As soon as Africans move to gain any power for themselves, they become “Black Identity Extremists (BIE”)– at least according to the enemy, the FBI.

We don’t need to go into the long historical record of the FBI targeting African and Black people in the United States, particularly African revolutionary organizers.  You will know this history already if you feel that you need to know it, because the facts are easy to look up and you could learn it in a very short time.

Even capitalism and the United States government won’t make it too difficult to study their history, because, at this point, their advantage of power is so great, the enemy has more to lose, and far less to gain, by attempting to hide the FBI’s history of deception and brutal violence against Black and Brown people.  If they tried to hide it, people might begin to ask, “Why are they keeping this knowledge from us anyway?”  And after we have moved to answer that question, we might start asking a lot of other questions, and looking for a lot of other answers, and pretty soon our revolutionary consciousness would be on the rise.

One of the purposes of capitalism is to destroy all revolutionary consciousness.  Because any rising consciousness can become a threat to this world economic system’s main purpose: increasing profits through increasing oppression.  Since “Americans” (especially white colonizers in “America”) have so little revolutionary consciousness at this point, capitalism doesn’t need to keep these facts from us.  Capitalism knows we are too focused on watching sports or buying a new car or gossiping about a coworker to look up the facts– so why bother to hide them?

However, if we do know the history of the FBI then we can expect not only the FBI, and not only the U.S. government, but every other institution controlled by the capitalist system of power to try to convince us that there is the rising threat of “Black Identity Extremists.”  And, while the capitalists are lying, they are also correct (by accident): after all, anyone who puts humanity ahead of profits should be considered a threat to capitalism, because it means they want the very opposite thing that the enemy wants: peace, freedom, and self-determination for every community in the world.

If we have studied history, we know that “America” has always treated the Black body as a threat, simply for breathing, for existing.  “America” has always criminalized the very existence of Africans, because the violent oppression of Africa and African people everywhere is the basis for capitalism’s power.  If you oppress– or repress– a people, and if you keep pushing down on them, they will push back; they will resist.  So capitalism and the United States, as long as they are allowed to exist, will always regard Black people– and particularly Black people who are resisting capitalism the most– as the enemy.  We should expect it.

Of course, we don’t use the language of the enemy.  We don’t say “Black Identity Extremists.”  That’s a ridiculously racist term which goes along with the ignorance of the enemy.  But if we’ve been paying attention to African revolutionaries like Kwame Ture we know that whatever the enemy is for, we must be against.  So if the enemy uses the term “Black Identity Extremists” to describe Africans in “America” who are struggling to get free from its oppressive power, then we will describe capitalism and the United States as “White Identity Extremists.”

That’s all “America” is: white identity extremism, white nationalism.  It’s extreme to commit genocide against the Indigenous populations of an entire continent plus Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, and much of the globe beyond these occupied territories.  If we’ve studied history, we know that the United States and capitalism are the most violent terrorists of all time.  And we know that the FBI– especially through its “illegal” Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO)– is one of the greatest threats to humanity in the entire history of the globe.

If we expect the FBI, and the United States, and capitalism, to be decent and friendly, then it’s understandable that their use of the label “Black Identity Extremists” will alarm us and throw our whole value system out of whack.  It may seem everything is falling apart or “going off the rails.”  But if we recognize that the FBI is part of a vile, backward system of capitalist oppression, then we know that they are going to come up with these ridiculous labels.  At the same time, if “America” decided that it was going to put Assata Shakur on a postage stamp, we’d know that it was just trying to deceive oppressed people once again.  We don’t want or expect the enemy to act like a friend.

So, by identifying the FBI as the enemy of all oppressed peoples, then we can recognize when it is acting like the enemy, even when it is being friendly.

However, it may be more difficult to identify the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as yet another pro-U.S. institution of capitalist power.  The SPLC has a history of acting friendly to oppressed peoples, and it probably has done some good, maybe a lot of good.  But it’s doubtful that the SPLC has ever identified the FBI or the CIA as “hate groups,” even as these two groups have done more damage to the world than even the KKK has.  In fact, the KKK is on the same team as law enforcement and the FBI.  This isn’t a conspiracy theory– it’s part of history.  Anyone can look it up in a history book or find the information on YouTube.

But here’s one example of how the KKK and ameriKKKan law enforcement are on the same team: when the KKK was attacking Africans/Black people in Monroe, North Carolina back in the late 1950s and early 1960s (and long before then, of course), the local chapter of the NAACP– led by Robert F. Williams– began to arm themselves with guns in order to protect themselves from the Klan’s violence.  But this Monroe chapter of the NAACP also went to the local police and tried to get their protection.  Since the local police– like all police– were White Identity Extremists, the same back then as they are today, it can only be expected that they were already working with members of the Klan to move against colonized African people in Monroe, North Carolina.  Then the FBI got involved and– before much time had passed– Robert F. Williams, and Mabel Williams and their family were on the run and were forced to leave this occupied territory (the United States); and then Fidel Castro welcomed them into Cuba and offered them the protection of the socialist Cuban government.  So Robert F. Williams and Mabel Williams lived in Cuba for a number of years, and then traveled to China and Vietnam where they met more friends of African liberation among Chinese and Vietnamese socialist revolutionaries (enemies of the United States).  And it was during his exile, when the U.S. government regarded him as an enemy, that Robert F. Williams was named the President of the Republic of New Afrika.

Fast forward to 2017, and now the SPLC (not the FBI) has published an article called “Return of the Violent Black Nationalist.”  This sounds a lot like the FBI’s “Black Identity Extremist.”  And it sounds equally ridiculous and meaningless.  In fact, if you look at the SPLC’s map of “hate groups” in the United States, you might be led to believe that the greatest number of threats to humanity doesn’t come from white supremacists but from Black people– from the Nation of Islam and “Black Nationalist” groups.  That particular way of labeling who is “hateful”– the one used by the SPLC– would be laughable, if it weren’t so enraging and dangerous.

We ought to consider: if you hate white people after hundreds of years of violence against you, coming from whites, then that does not make you a “hate group”– it actually makes sense as a natural reaction.  What’s unnatural is white people hating Africans/Black people, or calling them hateful, when their labor, resources, land, culture and lives have been the basis for our existence in the United States.  What has the Nation of Islam done to you lately, in terms of its violence and “hate”?

Of course, the Nation of Islam has its own contradictions to work out, and it is entirely up to Black people to work these out.  Once they have worked out these contradictions, then they will have more unity among Africans to move and to get themselves power.  So if we say, “Well, the Nation of Islam hates women and gays,” and if we’re saying this as white liberals or white socialists, then we’re probably talking about the way they view white women and white gays, not members of their own community.  Because, if we truly cared about Black women and queer Black people, we would be doing a lot more than just opposing the Nation of Islam– we would be moving against the entire unequal arrangement of power that is the United States and global capitalism.  After all, who is oppressing African people the most and who has the most power– the Nation of Islam or the imperialist nation-state called the United States?  The answer should be clear.  So, while the SPLC may seek to deceive us about these objective conditions which we all are part of (as the colonizers and the colonized), we don’t need to deceive ourselves: the Nation of Islam is not the number one threat to women and the “LGBT” community.  The United States is.  Global capitalism is the enemy.  And if the SPLC can’t recognize this, then they are the enemy too.

The SPLC states:

“According to their propaganda, Black Nationalists would like a portion of the Southeast United States reserved for a black [sic] nation. Further, they are known for their antigovernment and anti-police sentiments due to their long-held views on government corruption and police brutality.  Like most extremist movements in the United States, Black Nationalism’s worldview is shaped by conspiracy theories. In their case, these conspiracies relate to perceived white oppression. They believe that whites — oftentimes conspiring with Jews — control the financial system, government and the media.”

How is this hate?  It’s pretty hard to boil down a long history of slavery, genocide, colonization, and capitalist exploitation (facts available for most students to read in textbooks that haven’t been banned or replaced by the hate group that is “Texas”) as a “worldview shaped by conspiracy theories.”  Where’s the conspiracy in the observation that the U.S. government oppresses Black people?

And where’s the conspiracy that the police behave brutally against Black people?  Perhaps we need to do some homework at the end of this article.  Let’s check the SPLC website and see if the LAPD and the Chicago Police Department are on its list of “hate groups.”  If not, then the SPLC is itself a “hate group.”  If you call Black Nationalists “hate groups” but you don’t call the LAPD a “hate group”– or the U.S. government a “hate group”– then you must hate African people, and this makes you the enemy as well.

The SPLC writes:

“They believe they are mistreated as a result of their race and ethnicity. For these reasons, they refer to incarcerated Black Nationalist inmates as ‘political prisoners.'”

It’s common knowledge– to everyone but the SPLC and their friends– that the Angola Three were political prisoners, that members of the MOVE Organization (bombed by the city of Philadelphia) are political prisoners (along with Mumia Abu-Jamal), Leonard Peltier is a political prisoner, and Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Jalil Muntaqim and Sundiata Acoli, and the former Black Panther Dhoruba Bin-Wahad was a political prisoner of the United States government.  This is not a conspiracy theory– the FBI and the city of New York were forced to pay Dhoruba Bin-Wahad close to $1 million dollars for their “illegal” treatment of him … as a political prisoner.

And Dhoruba Bin-Wahad has talked about how COINTELPRO (who made him one of its targets) used to give false information to the capitalist media in order to make the Black Panther Party look anti-Semitic.  Today, the SPLC is performing the same function as COINTELPRO by saying that Black Nationalists [sic] “believe that whites — oftentimes conspiring with Jews — control the financial system, government and the media.”  Because, once you raise the red flag that an organization is anti-Semitic, then you can totally discredit them– on account of the Holocaust against Jews (their focus being on white Jews).  This way of labeling “hate groups” according to their attitudes toward the victims of historical genocide– which is used by the SPLC to confuse us about the difference between Judaism and Zionism– apparently doesn’t apply to the white genocidal forces against Africans in Congo and Namibia and against hundreds of millions of Indigenous peoples in North America.  It doesn’t apply to Churchill, Roosevelt, Lincoln and all the leaders of the global economic system of capitalism, past and present.  It doesn’t apply to Israel.  But anyone who calls your knowledge about six hundred years of European imperialism, colonialism and neocolonialism just a “conspiracy” has declared themselves to be your enemy.

So the SPLC is part of the enemy system of power.  But they don’t have a lot of power on their own– if you expect the SPLC to stop the next white supremacist attack in the U.S. or the next drone attack in Africa, then you aren’t a friend to yourself.  So it seems our focus should not be on the SPLC as the primary enemy.  Whatever power they get comes from the same source of power that sustains the existence of all whites on this occupied territory: that is, the power of the U.S. government and the global capitalist power structure.

It may be helpful for us to recognize right now that the SPLC (like the ACLU) is no friend of oppressed peoples.  Anyone who gets in the way of oppressed people gaining power for themselves is not their friend.  This is particularly true when the same arrangement of power that commits violence against the powerless also benefits us– which is to say, Europeans (white people) in the colonizing class, whether we are wealthy, poor or in-between.

This is Indigenous land.  And if Indigenous people were able to unify and move to kill every single one of the colonizers until we got off their land, they would be historically justified.  At the same time, the SPLC would probably be calling them a “hate group.”  We could expect that reaction coming from all of capitalism’s institutions.

This means, if we are for African and Indigenous liberation, and we love humanity, then we must be against the enemy of their (and our) progress: capitalism.  And we shouldn’t police how the African community or any oppressed community goes about getting power for themselves; such as calling them “hateful” and “racist” and other hateful, racist nonsense like that.

Either people are free or they are not free.  If they are not free then it means someone is preventing them from having freedom– with greater violence.  Because nobody chooses to be oppressed.  So whoever is moving against the freedom of humanity– and is depriving oppressed communities of power– is automatically going to be our enemy.

And why, at any rate, would we believe what the enemy is saying about our friends, or expect the enemy to say anything other than the worst things about them– the most disgusting lies?  We only pay attention to the enemy, and learn their labels, their definitions, so we can learn how to move against them in order take away their power.  And, as part of this process, we can apply our own labels to them, for our own purposes.

So, we know that the United States is a genocidal settler colony of Europe, controlled by a violently exploitative, capitalist class of White Identity Extremists (WIE), or White Nationalists: conspiracy theorists and Zionists who perpetrate violence against Jews, Muslims, women (transgender and cisgender), queer people, Africans, Indigenous communities, and all historically oppressed groups.  And we know “WIE” will continually invent lies in all the institutions under their (or our?) power, until this system of power is totally destroyed and replaced.

Defining the FBI, the United States, and Other Hate Groups As “White Identity Extremists” (Something the SPLC Isn’t Going to Do)