The time has come upon us, once more, to fight for our freedom and survival. The cyclical rise of Black revolution is a mainstay of American racial politics, where every few decades the weighted realities of continued inequality, proves far too burdensome to shoulder by a population already so weary, sick and tired. This fight, this revolution, will require evolution. It will require we face the failures of our past, dispel the failed rhetoric and ideologies of our ancestors. It will require Black unification, across all political orientation. The pointed acknowledgement that our fight is not for “social progress”, White acceptance, political power, economic gains, but against a cruel system that will continuously disallow, disenfranchise, indiscriminately target, lynch and murder young Black people with impunity. For, in a game rigged against specific participants, all gains won can be lost.
To better contextualize this discussion, one must delve into American history to highlight the cyclical nature of Black oppression, revolution, socio-political “progression” and the inevitable White terrorism in the form of legislative, judicial, economic and social warfare that disrupts, prohibits and destroys Black progress.
When African-Americans were freed from the shackles of slavery, unprecedented political, educational and economic gains threatened to disrupt America’s preordained status quo that positioned Blacks at the lowest rungs of society’s hierarchy. During this time of “Reconstruction” (1863-1877), a racially harmonious America was first envisioned and strived towards. Black people were being educated at a rate that out paced their White counterparts– the importance of that education culturally reinforced after years of in access to basic reading and writing skills that rendered the population powerless. Black men gained access to the state political arena, even outnumbering their White counterparts in some Black-majority states like South Carolina. Institutions of higher learning were established for Blacks, including Wilberforce University. Black land ownership sky-rocketed. And a new class of hardworking, educated Black people rose, from the ashes, a powerful Phoenix.
What precisely brought these gains to a halt? White fear and White terrorism.
White opponents of reconstruction formed political parties with haste, many of which were “Democrat” and populated by terrorists, I repeat terrorists, who intimidated and assassinated their Black “republican” political opponents and any Whites who were closely aligned with the “Republican” party that supported the Reconstruction agenda at that time. The Colfax Massacre presents the most telling example. After failed attempts at complete voter suppression, White paramilitary groups such as the White League massacred Black republicans (and few Whites) in an attempt to usurp power obtained through fair democratic process. America’s judicial system failed to convict any perpetrators of these these heinous deeds, empowering Whites to terrorize with impunity. Which they did. By 1870, The Democratic Party regained most of the political control in the state legislature by way of intimidation and the suppression of the Black vote. Similar losses were felt by Black Republicans all throughout the South where Whites took back power by brute force.
Still, A class of Black elites emerged in spite of these trials and tribulations. A class of Black men who sought assimilation, who emphasized the importance individual economic progress, rather than the progression of their race. A class who gave rise to Black conservatism that cared more for White acceptance than Black gains. And thus, a Black “political spectrum” was borne. For some, individual success supplanted unified striving towards collective empowerment. Nevertheless, White supremacy sees no class of Black man.
Jim Crow legislation was quickly written into law. By 1890 and 1910 new constitutions or amendments were passed that disenfranchised the vast majority of Blacks and even many poor Whites by requiring unfair literacy and/or comprehension tests and implementing poll taxes that many simply could not afford. Some whites were permitted to vote through certain provisions, but blacks were essentially locked out. And no right to vote meant to no right to power. For decades, measures would be put in place by Whites through legislative practice that made the possibility to obtain an education, have access to employment or own land, practically impossible for the vast majority of African-Americans.
And, still, despite segregation and disenfranchisement Blacks fought hard for their piece of the pie. In the early 1900’s, one of the most wealthy African-American communities ever Greenwood, a neighborhood in Tulsa
Oklahoma, popularly known as Black Wall Street, sprung up becoming a home for about 10,000 Black men, women and children.The area was home to several multi-millionaires and had serviced its population with a variety of very successful, thriving businesses. It was home to various professionals and even had its own airport.
What brought this striving, successful neighborhood to a halt? White terrorism. Whites burned the town to the ground, shot and lynched men women and children alike. Who has ever been held accountable for this travesty?
The success of Greenwood and its destruction tells the ongoing tale of White American oppositionalism. A tale most recently underscored by the Post Civil Rights Era that started in the mid 1950’s.
For just a moment, let us now return to a point of optimism– to our middle school history class outlooks on race relations in America. Let us discuss The Black Civil Right’s Movement and its gains. Talk of Black revolution. Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks. Black power. Black beauty. Black leadership. Desegregation. Black suffrage. Sky rocketing Black higher education attainment Black struggle. The formation of a successful, flourishing middle class. Black gains. Let us speak of civil disobedience. Non-violent protests. American “progress”. Let us, once again, envision the racially harmonious nation first promised to the freed enslaved Blacks of the south. Let us revel in the election of the first Black president of the United States of America.
Sadly, that moment of optimism was fleeting.
In a system of White supremacy, in a game rigged against specific participants, all gains won can be lost. Black America witnessed its beloved leaders assassinated and exiled. As Black women exit institutions of higher learning at staggering rates, hundreds of thousands of Black men rot in a prison system designed as a for-profit model to the benefit of the White man. Thousands more are branded felons; their rights and freedoms stripped mercilessly. Drugs infiltrated Black neighborhoods. The War on Drugs, The War on Crime; All pseudonyms to disguise a war on Black people. A strategic war that allows injustice to prevail and White supremacy to rule the day. A war waged with consent and assistance from the government. A war that tells Black people they have no right to breathe. That Black lives do not matter. That Black children are not innocent and have no right to education. That Black women are not feminine and have no right to love or protection. That Black people are not human merely animals; monkeys, a sub species. There is no economic, political or social gain that will change these outlooks.
For, all gains won can be lost to White terrorism.
As Black people continue their fight for “social progress” in the same vein of “nonviolence” and “civil disobedience”, with internalized ideologies of “economic unification” and ascension in this despicably anti-Black nation, I wonder what makes us believe the outcomes will be any different? What makes our fight any more potent than our ancestors’? Our losses any more important? What makes our approach any different? The marches, the sit ins, the speeches? What, Black America, makes White supremacy any different today than it was yesterday?
I, for one, believe it is more insidious. That, perhaps, it has evolved.
And for that reason, it requires Black revolution evolution. An evolution that begins with the birth of new ideologies, new strategies and a brand new Black political spectrum.
One where all Black people stand, side-by-side– whether poor, gay, straight, atheist, Christian, male, female, against our collective enemy: White supremacy.