Sketched Thoughts on Black Radical Love as a Political Theory

The conversation at hand is not simply one about intersectionality, it is one about black solidarity. A solidarity that has been further devoured by the history and continuation of white supremacy and its effects on the black community. White supremacy is the problem and it does not end at the conclusion of this conversation. In fact, the conclusion of the conversation is the birth of another conversation in hopes of further developing a praxis in addressing the central issue at hand. Henceforth, in reference to the term, solidarity, we have usually imagined a unified whole in which the multiplicity has been shrunk down to something almost atomical. Solidarity has been colonized by Western images and manifestations of the “Melting Pot.” Solidarity of the atomical sort has historically been governed by those whose ideals give definition to what it means to be solidary and what it is that we should be solidary to. If you are apart of the category that falls out of the consolidated whole, then you become anti-solidarity, anti-unification when it may be more just to consider you diverse, unique, or quite simply, beautiful.  I will like to suggest that any solidarity that perpetuates a unification of this atomical sort is a solidarity that will inherently become oppressive.

Solidarity, for black persons, must be a pluralist solidarity. As such, the metaphysical condition, blackness, in which a subject-became-object, in which the person, defined by their flesh, became synonymous with slave, in which the human became cow or cargo, in which the subject’s history became blackened and unreachable, must be addressed. To address this condition, we must not dissect it through the lens of black essentialism, treating black persons as if all blacks were colonized from the same region or tribe with the same language and cultural values, and then, acculturated under the same conditions of alienation and oppression. For any dissection of the condition of blackness and anti-blackness that completely essentializes the phenomena fails to understand the complexity of white supremacy and the diversity of the tools of mass destruction black folks are forced to face. Additionally, we cannot dissect the issue of blackness through the lens of black patriarchy, nor through the lens of black capitalism, black heteronormativity, or black classism, for this is, in the words of bell hooks, “slave’s freedom.” For liberation, comprehension of self, and the quest for the authentic living that follows this direction is simply staring upon what the master has and wishing to obtain it for yourself. We must go beyond this. The intersectional tools of political power used by white supremacist are not ours to harness, but they are ours to transcend.

Therefore, we have to assess blackness through the lens of black particularity, black feminism, black anti-capitalist exploitation, black sexual politics, black anti-elitism, and black anti-hierarchicalism. This provides a complete denunciation and critical analyzes of white supremacy: how it functions, what caused it, and how we cannot only destroy it, but more importantly transcend it. This transcendence should always be accompanied by a desire to understand the diverse ontological aspects of the black self, aspects that have been thwarted and undermined by white supremacy. It could be said that I am arguing for a unified black solidarity under a black leftist/progressive agenda. Truly, however, I am arguing for a pluralist black solidarity that truly is not much of a “solidarity” at all. Solidarity dehumanizes. The dehumanization of solidarity is that it takes the individual and transforms them into an objective whole. To turn the black, already made into an object by the spatio-temporal conditions of the Middle Passage, into another object, under the consolidated notions of what it means to be black by black elites is still objectivizing. The purpose for assessing blackness with black particularity, black feminism, black anti-capitalist exploitation, black sexual politics, black anti-elitism, and black anti-hierarchism, is precisely because these are networks and analysis by which we can come to grips with blackness while refraining from objectivizing it.

The question becomes: How can we stand together at all if we are so focused on the plural, yet subjective nature of the individual (see. Okot P’Bitek, “The Sociality of Self” for the way I understand the “individual”)  black? The answer is not, and never will be: tolerance. We cannot simply tolerate each other. Toleration means, put simply, to bare or deal with the existence of another. It does not require any form of acceptance, any form of true understanding, or any form of will/desire to grasp ahold of the particularity and allow it to play a crucial role in the understanding of yourself, the Other, and the intersubjective world. Toleration is not enough. Imagine if Martin Luther King desired simply to be tolerated by Whites. The notion of Martin’s Dream would have been watered down ( to a paltry desire to live among white folks relatively invisibly for toleration is simply an invitation to be among someone, but in a translucent kind of way. Then, the answer must be: acceptance? But even this is not enough. Acceptance is love, but particular love. Acceptance is the “hate the sin, not the sinner,” logic that permeates Christian culture that limits the true ability to accept another’s true self. For if the “sin” is a significant part of identification for the sinner, how could you truly accept them? Acceptance, in a way, is a cheap multiculturalism. It is a multiculturalism that encourages someone to embrace the parts of the individual that is agreeable to you, but disdain the parts that don’t.

Henceforth, the answer to the quandary is, what I shall call: Black Radical love. Black radical love is the relationship between two persons, one of whom is black, who embark on the ontological quest to be radically political, radically inclusive, and radically anti-oppressive to one another; all the while additionally, being radically subversive to any one or any institution that dehumanizes. The position of radical love is pluralistic in that it denies the unified whole in favor of loving the multiple layers of personhood that make up the black identity. These layers include race (in this specific case, black) class, gender, and sexual orientation, etc. Emphasizing this love makes this love more than a social love or a kind of simple social bonding. Black radical love is a black radical political theory. For a black person to love themselves is a radical step forward, not only individually, but socially and politically. The same logic must be applied to black radical love for each other and the oppressor as well. Truly, in order to engage in the black radical love that I’m outlining. the black must love their oppressor too. To elaborate quickly on the notion of black radical love for the oppressor, I want to say that, “to love your oppressor,” is not to love that they oppress you, but instead to know that the way in which they oppress you and their desire to hate or fear you only hurts them. The black who acquires the politics of black radical love understands that in order for an oppressor to dehumanize others they must first dehumanize themselves, and to engage in this form of political love for others is to radically desire for all persons to reach full humanization.

For black persons to love each other, radically, is a political move. This is indicated by white slave masters emphasis on not wanting or validating slave marriage or by not allowing black families to stay close-knit. For black persons to love the oppressor, radically, is a political move as well. This is indicated by the radical necessary and sufficient transformation that must occur in the heart and mind of the white person who wishes to be in a relationship with a conscious pro-black black person or be an ally to the black freedom and humanization freedom movement. To love all black persons radically is to be truly subversive to white supremacy and to be truly embracive to black personhood and diversity. To love all persons radically is to be truly subversive to all global systems of oppression and dehumanization. Loving the black, “sins” and all, must stand as the priority beyond anything else. It becomes of grave importance not to silence the black individual’s individuality, and not to project a systematic understanding of the individual in order for the black person to be taken seriously and lovingly, historically, socially, politically, culturally, and individually.


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