Sankofa tells us that one’s past is an important aspect of one’s future. And so, to make the best of the future, we must visit our past.
Sometime around 1619, crisis christened our villages at the hands of people with a strange complexion. Sorcery and priesthood were vital to our society, but we had never seen such violence and destruction. Also, these people always seemed to be under some kind of mad rushing spell – brothers and sisters from my village and neighboring villages were forced to move quickly, go go go, all while being stolen away from our own family and community time. We were forced every which way, some to the sea for a while to board what looked like magnificent white birds floating on dark water, others sentenced to painfully boring hours of listening to men who were overdressed and always holding a spiritual cross very close to the center of their chests. In this time, leisurely farming songs became coded survival plans, dance morphed into veiled self-defense training, basic hair braiding designs advanced to maps of freedom, usual ritual and ceremony were outlawed, our greatest warriors – the hills, the rivers and the trees – were drafted for combat. In Swahili, we call this time the MAAFA – or great disaster. One of the greatest characteristics of this calamity was the dehumanization in being made into a living, breathing currency.
Conventionally, White power players, as well as a few tokenistic Black puppets, parrots and pawns, sworn into rooms of all sorts – boardrooms, courtrooms, rooms for world conferences – have assessed the global inventory of organs, minds, physical bodies and the labor of Black captives. Today, the ancestors of White people are the co-conspirators of the real life monopoly game in which Black people still suffer. The banks, properties, laws, lands, utilities, education systems and means of productions are frozen in White society, effectively lynching, ghettoizing, gentrifying, mass-incarcerating, mis-educating, raping, criminalizing and exploiting Blackness. Structural, institutional and historical double-dealing and looting has advantaged and privileged the White collective, if not monetarily or through assets, then through the contrived VIP pass of Whiteness itself. White supremacy, the functional form of racism dominating mankind to date, is the kindling in the wild forest of capitalism. In this forest, organized labor seeks to put out the forest fires of imbalance between employers’ power and workers’ power.
White supremacy is the kindling in the wild forest of capitalism.
In the 18th century, organized labor surfaced, strengthening the alliance of Whites only associations. While the White working class sought to leverage power with their employer, Black people sought to leverage self-determination for our humanness. This founding difference in the Labor Movement has challenged the Black collective’s ability to authentically receive aid from mainstream organized labor. As the hands of civil and social justice organizing pried open the doors of labor unions, Blacks either traded in their race identities for workers’ issues, or they built and sustained their own labor unions. For this reason, the modern day Labor Movement has conduced the colorless, race-less, culture-less working person who joins together with members of their economic class to fight the greedy 1% of power and resource holders.
For the Black working person, this narrative neglects the onerous reality that the white union member standing strong with you on the picket line systematically benefits from Black suffering, and even pushes actively for policies that are brutal for Black workers. By virtue of their whiteness, white people can choose to play either a passive or active role in maintaining, expanding and refining racism, White supremacy. Differing from white working people, Black people who were also the original capital of the transatlantic economy, do not need to negotiate with the masters of corporations. Rather, we need a complete withdrawal from the role of the oppressed. Even if all union contract fights were won, benefits secured and candidates in favor of working people elected, the reality that the Black community from Papua New Guinea to the streets of Los Angeles and from South Africa to Norway would not change the tug of war in the greater revolution of Black minds, bodies, spirits and labor to own ourselves once again.
Power-FULL and Free
Foreshadowing the future condition of Black working people as fully in power and free in union and worker collaboratives causes cognitive dissonance and discomfort in your average union communities. Family of Black working people, in our future, utterances of being “too-Black” will be permanently put to rest; you will have ownership of your mind, body, spirit, labor, life possibilities and resources; and after we secure strength within Black communities, coalitions will be attained solely with organizations that are secure and extensive enough to accept unapologetic and revolutionarily Black warriorship.
There is a good chance that White supremacist capitalism will be obliterated by your final resignation from enslavement. But no worries. All these years of negotiating MAAFA, the great disaster brought on us, has made you a fine decision maker! Your Black future is yours to create!
This post is part of the Black Futures Month blog series brought to you by The Huffington Post and the Black Lives Matter Network. Each day in February, look for a new post exploring cultural and political issues affecting the Black community and examining the impact it will have going forward. For more Black History Month content, check out Black Voices’ ‘We, Too, Are America’ coverage.