(Note: I struggle with many of the current political terms for various communities, as many are defined against the idea of whiteness, or through colonial rule, or for political expedience, or in contrast, rather than connection to each other. I continue to struggle to find terms that honor the history, complexity and humanity of groups of our human sisterhood and brotherhood better than People of Color, for example, or Black and Brown people, or LatinX, or Native American. I continue my pursuit to learn and grow and discern the path to language and identifiers that empower and draw together, while also respecting the leadership and autonomy of those communities. Though I will make reference to, in particular, the Black and Indigenous communities specifically at times, I will here primarily use the term SunKissed, and ask that it be read – in part one and part two of this piece – to include all communities marginalized through the act of being racialized.)
When it comes to real transformation, it has become apparent that today’s progressives are just like yesterday’s liberals, and they will only go as hard for an issue as it cuts into their own lives, and will not examine or build around the broader issues that affect other lives. They will throw the rest of us all the way under the bus in their quest for the realization of their “revolutionary” concerns.
This became clear to me when I read the oblivious piece by that progressive white man undermining the genius of Anoa Changa, for the sake of being provocative. (I have not named the author or article, nor linked to it, because I am not interested in supporting that trash by increasing its readership by even one person.) While not accusing her directly, he insinuated that she is a Russian operative, much like white leftists did to Ajamu Baraka at the Left Forum, for speaking up against the white-supremacist imperialism that people in our community simply are better at recognizing. The author didn’t care to understand how the narrative about Russian influence over Black Activists is a tool of the establishment—that is, a tool of liberal and progressive officials who are tired of the pressure to support racial justice issues on top of the already-difficult-to-pursue issues of their important white constituents.
Neither this author nor the so called left community protesting Ajamu bothered to understand the ways they were undermining the radical voices that speak from a true liberation-based political agenda. They chose not to see or care about how such seeds of doubt are enough to wreak havoc on the progress made by our community in addressing life-or-death problems—those that exceed medical bills and the resulting bad credit. They didn’t draw any parallels with the demonization of the Black Panthers, and the systemic justification of spying on, infiltrating, and murdering them in response to their “dangerous” activities–feeding, clothing, educating, and protecting the people of the Black community that had been abandoned by our government forces.
One exception to this abandonment was Whipping Wednesday (my term) for which our government always showed up. In parts of Mississippi, Wednesdays were slave auction days, and so to ensure that everyone was able to join the fun, all shops would close early. Though enslavement has been legally abolished for just over 150 years, the majority of shops in these communities still close early. And although an auction day is not necessarily one of the whipping days, the alliteration prompted me to use the term.
This phenomenon of progressives leaving out hugely-significant parts of the narrative is not new. It was discussed by Malcolm X when he said, “The white Liberal differs from the white Conservative only in one way; the Liberal is more deceitful, more hypocritical, than the Conservative. Both want power, but the White Liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor and by winning the friendship and support of the Negro, the White Liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or a weapon in this political football game, that is constantly raging, between the White Liberals and the White Conservatives. The American Negro is nothing, but a political football.”
But though Malcolm is often considered radical, he wasn’t alone in this observation of the white left as it relates to the issues of marginalized communities. Recall the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., a leader whose politics have been sanitized so that whites can celebrate him without feeling uncomfortable. “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate [i.e. the progressives of today]. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season’.”
“Wait for a more convenient season” sounds very much like the “incremental change” war cry of our current left-oriented friends.
The young Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael), who wrote extensively about this issue in “The Pitfalls of Liberalism,” says, “Many people want to know why, out of the entire white segment of society, we want to criticize the liberals. We have to criticize them because they represent the liaison between other groups, between the oppressed and the oppressor. The liberal tries to become an arbitrator, but he is incapable of solving the problems. He promises the oppressor that he can keep the oppressed under control; that he will stop them from becoming illegal (in this case illegal means violent). At the same time, he promises the oppressed that he will be able to alleviate their suffering—in due time.”
The dynamic radical Black lesbian feminist authors of the Combahee River Collective, in their statement from 1978, said “Our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity not as an adjunct to somebody else’s [but] because of our need as human persons for autonomy. This may seem so obvious as to sound simplistic, but it is apparent that no other ostensibly progressive movement has ever consIdered our specific oppression as a priority or worked seriously for the ending of that oppression….We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation are us.”
A clear current example of the disingenuous nature of white allegiance is the two-faced response of white progressives when dealing with Chenk Uygur, Founder and primary talking head of The Young Turks and of the Justice Democrats, vs their response to Laura Moser, an author who was vying for the democratic nomination for a congressional seat in Texas. Both Uygur and Moser expressed viewpoints that were insulting and denigrating. Uygur expressed his 20 years ago, while some of Moser’s were made less than four years ago. Uygur’s remarks were sexist and demeaning, and he was removed from the board of the Justice Democrats – the organization he started. However, that very organization endorsed Moser, with progressives protesting condemnation of her demeaning comments about Black people.
In other words, #TimesUp for those who devalue white women (Uyger’s primary targets since he is a white man), but not so much for those who devalue Black people. Because #BlackLivesMatter when they are a slogan on a tee shirt, but not when it’s time to actually confront the white-supremacist issues that are affecting those lives. This is why Changa, who simply speaks the truth about the politics of oppression, was slammed because of where she has spoken it (at times on a Russian-owned radio show), in spite of and in subversion of the importance of what she was saying.
Progressives, if they wanted to, could discuss how the military complex is built on racism, colonialism and white supremacy. Such a discussion, and real efforts to dismantle that system– which could be accomplished only through direct confrontation with its foundations–would free up plenty of money for their pet issues. But taking colonialism head-on is a terrifying venture for colonizers. It could be divisive.
Progressives will pour through piles of files and emails to undermine any of the progressive darling candidates’ liberal democratic opponents. They reviewed and summarized thousands of pages about Hillary Clinton, but they somehow never found or perused any of the 700 pages that make up the Kerner’s Report. In “Freedom For Every Citizen: The Missed Opportunity for the Kerner’s Report,” William P. Jones describes the Kerner’s Report, developed under the commission of President Lyndon Johnson, as a vehicle that provided understanding of and a guide for transformation of the realities that create unrest in the Black community. It explained that it is explicitly white racism that puts the Black community’s lives on the line not for a season, but at all times, and that white ignorance and denial perpetuate it.
Jones writes, “What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto,” in the radical lines of the report’s introduction. “White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”
The Kerner Report presented government-funded research and a resulting opportunity to have created a scenario in which, by today, my community’s annoying issues of life and murder wouldn’t have to come up because they’d have been addressed, and they would be resolved. This matters when getting money out of congress is so important. It would be much easier for today’s progressives to get the support they desire had liberals (yesterday’s progressives) given this report the attention it deserved. And addressing these issues would have made it much harder for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be built, because we would have done the work to ensure that the rights of the Indigenous were as protected as those of the white people of Bismark.
Instead the white left sat idle as laws were put in place to legalize the oppression and disempowerment of the ghetto communities that were intentionally created as sacrifice zones. Those discriminatory laws were enacted without protest because they didn’t affect white people. Black people were used for further normalization of the system; impose it on us first, then expand into other SunKissed communities. But only now, when problems are moving into white people’s safe zones, is it time for everyone to activate. Fighting back then for the issues that were facing SunKissed communities would have been good for everyone.
The white left didn’t fight for the liberties due our communities at that time for the same reasons they aren’t going to do it now: because they aren’t concerned with everyone, they are only concerned with themselves. And all indications are that, as before, when whites are more secure, they may show up to get funding to organize a permitted march, but otherwise they will leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves. So that is what we have begun to do.
This is why we in SunKissed community always look at history, and incrementalism, and the cycles of no progression that have the appearance of progression, and refrain from getting excited by progressive issues or the progressive energy behind them. We need look no further than the trajectory of abolition in the Black community to know what incremental change looks like: enslavement buffered by a decade of reconstruction before morphing into sharecropping, metamorphosing into Jim Crow, buffered by two decades of a post-civil rights era, before transforming into mass incarceration. If you add the times of reconstruction and the post-civil rights era, that’s about thirty years since settler colonialism began that did not have some active form of apartheid or enslavement. And to be clear, those thirty years were in truth incubation periods. The elites who run the establishment took from the ashes of its previous incarnation of enslavement the elements needed to recreate it and continue the destruction of our communities and the exploitation of our bodies.
We have come to recognize that if they are successful in securing the policies they desire, progressives will leave our community on the sidelines just as their great-grandparents did during Roosevelt’s era, when the New Deal built a solid white middle class, sacrificing whatever was necessary to provide the resources needed to establish a broader nexus of wealth in that community. Sacrificing, in fact, basically everyone who wasn’t white.
The disingenuous or at best uninformed author of that piece against Anoa Changa didn’t care that the establishment that controls most media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, and The Young Turks, does not give voice to radical Black ideas because they don’t want them discussed. Black freedom is too dangerous, and so they need to undermine the legitimacy of the only outlets that are willing to be a conduit for discussions of Black liberation. He doesn’t care that our community of activists is dreadfully under-resourced, and that someone like Changa shouldn’t have to adjoin to her list of duties (mother, lawyer, family supporter, organizational leader, and community contributor) the burden of refuting ridiculous, blatant lies. He didn’t care how this might affect her livelihood, or the community of other Black and SunKissed people who depend on her.
He does not decry the fact that the only way Changa’s important perspectives get voiced is through platforms she and others like her create, or through a Russian news outlet. He does not discuss the reality that even progressive news outlets won’t center radical Black voices to discuss Black issues, but rather only those Black voices that are compromised by elite activism – another nuanced approach of the establishment. Instead this “ally” tells his audience that if Anoa Changa and other radical Black voices can’t be heard on the establishment-approved networks, they should shut up. And he is comfortable doing that because the issues Changa is discussing – which are imperative to the Black community – are not important to him and his audience.
Black voices, the voices, in fact, of all SunKissed communities are supposed to align with white issues, and are expected to get their family, their neighbors to support those progressive candidates who don’t care about them, but only about their vote. That is the high-interest debt we would owe to them for their ever-so-valuable, ever-so-precious allegiance to incremental (as in put off forever) addressing of the tragedies of mis-education, profiling, incarceration, exploitation, and murdering of our relatives. We cannot afford to pay it.
We are realizing that it is time to stop begging white progressives to finally mean it when they say they are standing up for Black, Indigenous or other SunKissed lives. It is time to turn to each other, to be the directors and the determiners of our efforts, including of our methods—of whatever it means to win. We have gained too little to justify continuously prioritizing their allegiance in our struggle. In leaving them on the sidelines of our fight, as they have left us on the sidelines of their wins, there is little risk for us. At this point, we have nothing to lose but our chains.