Letters to Jonas: The Matrix of Man

Dear Jonas,

I should start by apologizing for taking so long to reply to your letter. The World seems to be spinning faster than ever lately, and finding time to write for writing’s sake has become particularly difficult as of late. Since your last letter, we have elected a white supremacist president, I have led a rally against the white supremacist president, I have assisted latinx students in resisting the white supremacist president, and I have talked and engaged critically at Freedom School with young black peers about how we could resist and survive a white supremacist presidency. With all this being said then, it is safe to safe to say – though the World may appear to be spinning faster – the World continues to spin the same. White Supremacy rules today as it ruled yesterday. Donald Trump doesn’t change that; he only accelerates it. A discussion on this acceleration may be justified, perhaps, at another time.

Aside from an introduction into the general times that we are in, this relates to some of the comments that you made in your letter. What particularly stood out to me is this:

You asked how I could consider myself Christian still. I still ask myself that. Of course, on one hand, the easiest answer is we’re all Christian inasmuch as we’re Western. And, while I think that to be at least generally true, I think it’s an exercise in avoiding the question.

First to answer in this way is not to avoid the question, it is indeed an answer to the question. But it is an answer that is simply incorrect. We are not all Western. I believe that this gets at the root of the structure of the West and why anti-blackness and white supremacy structures the foundational aspects of thought, and the Modern world. If Trump’s wall, if the rise of Eurofascism, if the perfection of slavery with the project of mass incarceration, if the election of Trump itself, provides proof for anything, it provides proof to the fact that we are not all Western. To be Western is to be Human, to have your humanity affirmed, your existence recognized. To live outside of the West, to experience life outside of the West, is to have your existence perpetually questioned or denied to you. Black bodies are those bodies that gave birth to the West through an accumulation of its death. Black bodies are womb-and-tombs, not Western. So the question is still returned to you, in a double, in fact, triple question: 1) Are you Western, like are you truly Western? 2) How can Blackness ever be incorporated into the ontics of a Western “all”? 3) How can you accept that Christianity is Western and that to be Western is to be Human and still accept Christianity? I, of course, am not trying to convert you (divert you, perhaps, is better wording); I am more interested in understanding how this notion that “we are all Western” is justified.

Additionally, I think that your disagreement about my conception of God is, in fact, an agreement. God is like Race. This means that God does have a referent to which it signifies, or to which the name of God is applied. There is no distinction to be made between the socio-institution and the facticity. God is discursively-instituted and factually real. God has Being, God is socio-linguistically-derived, God is objectively real, and God is paradigmatically constructed. However, that signification is not an unification. God is not One. God signifies something different for different people and different bodies and different ideologies, and all of these are real insofar as they create/enforce an action into the immanent World. For different bodies have different conceptions of Being, of Language, of Facticity, and of Historicity.

Lastly, on the difference between intersectionality and the Matrix of Man. I have thought extensively about what constitutes the difference between intersectionality and my concept of the “Matrix of Man.” And I have come to a bit of a conclusion. Intersectionality implies that who I am when I say, “I am a cisgendered, heterosexual black man who grew up in working-class black family in white rural America” is an identitarian claim. Intersectionality teaches that these are identitarian claims that are denied to me through the White Male construction of the Law. However, I wish to cast off the shackles of identity, but not in the sense that the Alt-Left, or better yet, White Marxist would like me to; or in the way that liberal Black folks wishing to frame the “Negro Problem” in terms of a struggle for Civil Rights do either. I want to contextualize my blackness, my cisness, my heterosexuality, my ableness, my working class background, my rural geo-location as positions within the Matrix of Man. I am in all these positions, these locations, across a spectrum of subjection, power and privilege. What separates this from identity is that identity implies a simplistic space-time frame in the position of a subject in relationship to World. Identity says: I am here, as one subject with multiple identities. But, no, in the Matrix of Man, I am in multiple positions in relationship to access and denied access to power and privilege. The Matrix of Man says: We are here at the same time (inside the same paradigm) phenomenologically experiencing that time differently because of our positions, and we are occupying multiple spaces – positions – within that paradigm. Blackness is the position of absolute dereliction. It is the position that gave birth to the universal, globalized “transatlantic” comprehension of the Matrix. It is what orients, structures, stabilizes, and gives vital energy to the Matrix. It is the Matrix’s condition of possibility.

Sincerely from a Friend,

John Gillespie Jr.

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Letters to Jonas: On God and Theology

Dear Jonas,

I wanted to write you concerning God. I remember writing to you in an emotional wreck one night while I was working at Sandy Cove. I remember telling you that I couldn’t continue to work there and lie incessantly about my relationship to Christianity. I remember telling you that I didn’t believe in God, and I could no longer hide behind a façade as if I did. I also remember asking you how you could continue to believe in God, or continue to consider yourself a Christian with all that Christians and Christian discourse has imposed on bodies, like ours, that “exist outside the frame of Man.”

It is this “existence outside the frame of Man” that stirred my initial incredulity towards Christianity and Gods in general. Anti-Black children who were anti-Black because “this is how they were raised” caused me to question how I was raised. These lies-told-as-truths about my black body made me question the lies that could have been told-as-truths to me by my own parents. I often framed my questions in a theodicean manner wondering, “How can God be real and racism exist?” I went through many phases of my life attempting to find the answer to this question. I felt an incessant need to not only place a label on my theological convictions (calling myself at one point a Christian Deist, at another point an Agnostic, at another point an Atheist, and at one point via your influence, a Christian Atheist), but also to epitomize a redefined form of blackness as if there was a way I could individually transcend anti-Blackness through better manners, linguistic mastery, and educating people. I often say that this “existence outside the frame of Man” is exactly what encouraged me to pursue philosophy at all. I needed to know the lies, and be able to differentiate who was lying to me and who was telling the truth. I need to be able “know God” beyond the rather frivolous, tranquil relationship that was being encouraged at Churches. I also needed to know why my body always felt outside of my own conception of it, why I always felt like an “object among other objects” and why my black body always fell victim to the crushing objecthood of consistent “look-a-nigger” moments. The former fueled my interest in theology and science, the latter fueled my interest in black studies.

The irony currently, however, is that the very thing that caused me to reject God at first (my blackness) is the very thing that is causing me to believe in God currently. I recently wrote: Everything that’s worth studying philosophically is theological. I say this sincerely, but primarily as a personal tautology. It is the framework I have come to accept for approaching the World. And whereas it might be seen as a statement of irony, especially since we live in a secularized and secularizing World, for me, it is almost certainly the case. I understand theology quite plainly to be the study of God and religious beliefs. I understand God in the same way as St. Anselm with some important caveats. God is “that which there can be no greater than” however, “that which there can be no greater than” is discursively-historically- constituted. In the words of Feuerbach, “theology is anthropology.” In this sense, I believe God is real in the same way as race is real.

When I first came to this conclusion, I thought that this meant that God was “not really real” but God was “real.”  But, I do not believe that to be the case for race. Race is real – plain and simple. There are no lines to be drawn between discourse and the materiality when it comes to being a body marked for death.  Race is not a construct that was made in flippancy and it is not a construct that can be evaporated with flippancy. Race is a socio-politically-instituted concept that symbolically marks differentiated bodies for death. God is a socio-instituted concept that symbolically marks what we socially designate as “that which there can be no greater than.” For this reason, God is real, but God did not have to be and does not have to be. We do not need a “that which there can be no greater than.” Currently Man posits himself as “that which there can be no greater than” and Man posits his Logos (Science) as “that which there can be no greater than.” The religious beliefs of Man are anti-Blackness, settler-colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy, cis-supremacy, heteronormativity, transphobia, and ableism, something I’ve learned to call the “Matrix of Man.”

With this being said, I’ve come to believe in God, but I am a “Fanonian death of God theologian.” Whereas Nietzsche told folks to “break the tablets” I want to tell folks in a Fanonian register to “end the World” of Man. I do not know if God, if “that which there can be no greater than,” is ever good as a universal, perhaps as a particular universal, but as a universal I cannot say for sure. I do know that the God of the Enslaved, the “that which there can be no greater than” of James Cone, the Christian God of black liberation theologians, is a God that I would be willing to worship wholeheartedly. I do not believe that everyone worships Man, but I do believe that everyone is forced to come in contact with the concept of Man-as-God, or the beliefs of the “Matrix of Man” due to Man’s paradigmatic imposition upon the World. Escaping Man-as-God is impossible, in the same way that my black body escaping its being as a being-marked-for-death is impossible. I must live with blackness like we must live with the God-of-Man, Man-as-God.

Sincerely from a friend,

John Gillespie Jr.

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#WeAreMizzou: Reimagining Radical Black Politics at the Public PWI University

The radical, committed to human liberation, does not become the prisoner of a “circle of certainty” within which reality is also imprisoned. On the contrary, the more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into dialogue with them.

  • Paolo Freire

This is the only possible relationship to the American university today. This may be true of universities everywhere. It may have to be true of the university in general. But certainly, this much is true in the United States: it cannot be denied that the university is a place of refuge, and it cannot be accepted that the university is a place of enlightenment. In the face of these conditions one can only sneak into the university and steal what one can. To abuse its hospitality, to spite its mission, to join its refugee colony, its gypsy encampment, to be in but not of – this is the path of the subversive intellectual in the modern university.

  • Fred Moten

#WeAreMizzou created a ripple effect in Universities across the nation. A sleeping giant rose, a spark was lit, a new age of student activist was born, and predominately white institutions shuttered in the aftermath. However, what became noticeably clear after the direct action protest was that every predominately white institution didn’t function the same, and this became evermore clear in regards to whether or not the institution was private or public. For example, Johns Hopkins University black student activist were able to rapidly receive the Diverse Faculty Initiative which promised to invest $25 million dollars over the next five years in order to better recruit and retain minority faculty. Additionally, Yale University student activist were able to receive $50 million dollars for practically the same thing. These big dollar initiatives are rarely capable of being granted to public universities, even if they are flagship Universities. For example, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill received a sum total of $1 million dollars in order to “diversify students pursuing doctoral degrees in the humanities, social sciences and fine arts,” a total that can easily be seen as a “small grant” in relation to the two former mentioned Universities.

The purpose of bringing this up is to illustrate that the beast of white supremacy and institutional racism manifest itself in a multiplicity of ways, maintains itself in a multiplicity of ways, and reforms, rectifies, and adjust itself in a multiplicity of ways. With that being said, it’s not necessarily true that Johns Hopkins and Yale students have been able to achieve more than the students at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, but that the reforms and adjustments created by white supremacist private institutions, the amount of capital these institutions are willing to give up while still maintaining their place as institutions of white supremacy differ depending upon the socioeconomic and political power of the individual institutions. I will not speak much more about private institutions and the future of black student activism at these institutions, but I will urge these students to think of these initiatives like small reparations, and take seriously Frank Wilderson’s critique of the American reparations movement when he says:

The reparations people present the issue to blacks as though slavery is an essentially historical phenomenon that ended, but the effects of which put blacks at what they call an “unfair disadvantage” to those in other positions who are also chasing the American dream. Through such a move the reparations folks waste a political weapon, they dull the knife, they keep the tiger in the cage, because here is a weapon which could spew forth in untold directions: I’m thinking here of Nat Turner’s greatest night.

In other words, do not waste that political weapon, do not dull the knife – release the tiger, and capture your entire institution sparring no hall, cafeteria, and/or department.

As for black student activist at most public universities the economic realities of low funds from racist donors, or funds primarily from the state and/or federal governments, and the political reality of dense anti-black bureaucratic processes makes achieving even a feat like that of University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill extremely difficult. This fact requires an alternative politic. One that rearranges the notion of the radical, one that understands that radicalism is not speaking truth to white institutions of power, but that radicalism is gaining, building, and sustaining black power and not allowing the institution to assuage the student activist with “fine-dining and meetings” that create the façade of progress at the expense of what is needed, namely, a cultural-social-political-educational revolution. What does this look like? I do not intend to provide the dogma of black activism for I am as new to this as any other, but I only intend to provide an option, a possibility of a future – a future of a radical black politics at the public PWI University.

First, in the words of Sey Elemo, Bilphena Yahwon, and Korey Johnson, three remarkable black feminist/womanist undergraduates at Towson University, “The revolution must always be ratchet.” This remark reflects the alterity of the black student/black student activist at the PWI. To be ratchet is to be Other. The black student is de facto Other at any University, and even more so at the PWI because through the gaze of white supremacy and in the words of Kanye West, “Y’all know that niggas can’t read.” This idea is reflected both by the #StayMadAbby phenomena and Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s remarks on affirmative action, and black student admission into prestigious universities. For the revolution to always be ratchet is for the revolution to always maintain its otherness, to always maintain its unwillingness to be coopted, to always be principally pro-black, unabashedly attached to black culture, black thought, black students, and black people. This concretely means three things: first, that culture is to be taken seriously – hip hop (conscious or trap) is not a black student’s plaything, it is a part of the black student’s social and psychological livelihood. Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole are as instrumental to that psychical survival as Migos and Young Thug. Second, that black parties are not spaces where blacks simply go to have fun, black parties are revolutionary spaces of the subaltern where black people go to, in the words of Alice Walker, “possess the secrets of joy.” When those spaces are heavily policed and militarized they mirror the policing practices of the rest of black America and remind black students that their University is nothing more than a microcosm of the macro-manifestation of anti-black structures that plague the rest of America. Third, black sexuality and conversations on black sexuality regardless if the conversation is being had with smiles and giggles, or sincerity and seriousness is a sexuality and a conversation not to be disavowed. Embracing and radicalizing intersectional sexual orientations, practices, and methods of discussions are a part of the ratchet revolution that must take place at the PWI University.

Second, in the words of Baby Joker in a screenplay written by record producer, actor, filmmaker, and rapper, Ice Cube, No more locked doors!” What this mean is that there needs to be a deconstruction of white bureaucratic ideals of privacy, logistics, and fictitious appearances of progressivism for the sake of public relations. In a world of what Bonilla-Silva calls, “Racism without racist” the task of black student activist is to publicize and criticize every event, every act of racism, every meeting with institutional power-holders, and to open the space up to accountability. Accountability both politically and psycho-politically, a remark I will come back to later. Nevertheless, the purpose of this principle is to radicalize the process of change. Change does not occur over coffee, tea, and shirts and ties; change comes through revolutionizing even the process of bringing about that change. It comes from creating alternatives to the current, and breaking down contemporary conceptions of the possible. This means taking seriously the idea that “the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house.” The master’s process of change is not ours. Thus we must open the doors.

Third, the radical politic must be driven by 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 anti-racist, 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. 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. Solidarity, for black persons, must be a pluralist solidarity.

Fourth, transforming what is typically known as radical activism to what we call, “Radical Therapy.” This means shedding the idea of an activist since the activist is primarily focused on transformation of the political. The radical therapist is primarily focused on the psycho-political. Second-wave feminist constructed the feminist mantra that, “the personal is political.” The radical therapist’s mantra is that, “the political is psychological.” In Robin Kelly’s excellent article “Black Study, Black Struggle” he quotes Naomi Wallace in order to critique this idea. She says:

Mainstream America is less threatened by the ‘trauma’ theory because it doesn’t place economic justice at its core and takes the focus out of the realm of justice and into psychology; out of the streets, communities, into the singular experience (even if experienced in common) of the individual.

However, I tend to disagree with the supposed separation of the psychological and its potential for an economic-political-racial critique of institutions. Psychological trauma invoked by oppression, repression, and subjugation can result in a psycho-political analysis, like that of the work of Frantz Fanon, where structures of domination are psycho-politically analyzed and deconstructed for the sake of structural political, economic, and racial transformation. This means the black radical therapist is dedicated to black mental health and devoted to transforming the psychological effects of the structural political situation that is damaging to the totality of black personhood, which includes psychological health. The radicalism is sparked by the openness of the process, the virtue of community building of the process, and the trust and faith in the rest of the persons who become radical therapist in the process. In Robin Kelly’s own words:

[R]esistance is our healing. Through collective struggle, we alter our circumstances; contain, escape, or possibly eviscerate the source of trauma; recover our bodies; reclaim and redeem our dead; and make ourselves whole.

Radical therapy is group therapy, radical therapy is community-creating therapy; radical therapy is family-making process; radical therapy is subversive, political, and transformative.

Five, we must be practitioners of a world that doesn’t exist. This means creating the world we want now. Being the black professors we want now, being the black administrators we want now, being the black counselors we want now, being the black occupiers we want now. We have to teach each other by creating our own Black Studies syllabus; we have to create policies with each other that continue to create and recreate the demands of black students across all intersections of gender, sexualities, and religions; we have to be dedicated to creating self-care and counseling spaces with each other that are radical destroyers of depression and radical annihilators of suicidal thoughts that emerge from white supremacy; we have to begin to occupy and create the University we want now or the destroy the University we are in now by being living, breathing examples of what is means to be unapologetically black at all times. This means in the words of Fred Moten, we have to “steal the University,” now, and bring it back to our people. We have to “steal the University” and bring it back to the people who attend this University, people who attend other-local, regional, national Universities, people in high-school, people in middle-school, people in the suburbs, people in rural localities, and people in the hood. We have to create the world of the demands within ourselves and build the power within ourselves until the University does not only concede to those demands, but concretely devotes itself to creating and being a radical space against economic, political, and racial exploitation.

So in conclusion, I suggest we operate on five principles.

  • Sustain a ratchet revolution.
  • Deconstruct bureaucratic ideals
  • Operate on the principle of radical love
  • Become radical therapist before radical activist
  • Imagine and Build the World We Want Now

College is not about becoming what you want to be in the aftermath of graduation, it’s about being what you will be today and destroying every oppressive structure that stands in our way.

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Love is Not Colorless

           The Huffington Post recently posted an article on Romeo Miller, hip hop artist and No Limit Forever record label founder, entitled, “Romeo Miller Can Teach Us All Something About Interracial Dating.” The article highlights Romeo’s new relationship with Toneta Morgan, a blonde haired white girl from God knows where, and goes on to talk about the backlash Romeo received from the black community on Instagram for being with a white women. Romeo responded to this backlash in foolishly colorblind fashion saying, “Love is colorless at the end of the day,” a quote which the Huffington Post just praised.

            “In other words, love has no limit,” Taryn Finley wrote to close out the article. But the fact of the matter is, Romeo’s statement proves the complete opposite to be true. Advocacy for colorless love implies that love’s limit lies within the confines of blackness as a significantly, recognizable aspects of a person’s identity and personhood. Romeo’s will to colorlessness negates the fact of blackness and anti-blackness that manifest within the social and private sphere of black social life. Love doesn’t render Romeo free of the white gaze that imparts criminality onto him regardless of his status and celebrity. Love doesn’t render Romeo free of the unconscious and preconscious racism that will find itself conscious and distinguishable the moment the “Negro” attends the first white family dinner. Love doesn’t render Romeo free of white murmurs that will forever question the integrity of the relationship as a relationship consummated by affection and tenderness first, and sexual phantasms of the “animalistic black phallus,” second.

            Love is full of color, struggle, and power dynamics. The interracial relationship is not exempt from that, on the contrary, the interracial relationship is permeating with the socio-political context of race and gender. Whereas the black man (and it is different for a black women), being a man, may dominate the private sphere with physical prowess, the white woman, being white, dominates the social sphere by being the institutional queen of white supremacy. Her position as queen in the systemic structure of white supremacy will become known when the police stops you on the highway and wants to ask her and her alone if she’s “okay.” Your position as dominant in the private sphere will become known when her Aunts, friends, and cousins want to know if, “What they say about you [the black] is true.” It is this fact of blackness that made Fanon say, “Whoever says rape says black man.”

Interracial love is a power struggle built on an asymmetrical racist, patriarchal foundation. But to love and love truly is to love the struggle you’re engaging in. For Romeo, a black man, and Toneta Morgan, a white woman to be involved romantically they can’t ignore this crucial part of the struggle. They can’t cast color to the wayside as if anti-blackness doesn’t cast a question mark on Romeo’s entire existence. The problem has to be faced head on. It has to be discussed, argued, disagreed on, and solidified as part of the communicable discourse in the relationship. Race is as significant, perhaps more significant, as the rest of the discourses that make the struggle in love worth the struggle of love.

As a black man, in an interracial relationship, I’m not here to say whether or not you can be pro-black and date a white women. Personally, I love black people, and I love my white Hispanic girlfriend from the Basque Country. But what I am here to say is that interracial love is not and cannot be colorless. It has to be as color-conscious as the world is, and this consciousness need not be an obstacle. To love and love conscious of color is to love the person as the person is in their fullness, whether it be black and ostracized to the margins of civil society, or white and postured as the symbolic beacon of civil society. And truly, if the person you love can’t love, can’t handle, or won’t attempt to understand your blackness, then that person loves a false imago of you that’s neither helpful nor honestly loving.

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Fanon’s Minister: Towards A Decolonial Theology

When one first looks at the colonial situation, one is immediately brought face-to-face with the permeation of death. Death, in the form of social death, insofar as social death is, “having no social existence beyond that which [one] has with [their] master,”[1] haunts the colonized. This is, of course, until their social death collides with their physical, leaving in return no memory, no residue of existence, no posturing position in the social order capable of differing the colonized from any other aspect of the colonizer’s personal items. The fact that death characterizes the entire colonial situation is not a surprise to the colonized. To be colonized is to be dehumanized, to be stripped of oneself as a self and to dwell existentially in a state of non-being. In the words of Aime Cesaire, “colonization = thingification.”[2]

What is pivotally important about this state of death and commodification imposed on the colonized by the colonizer is the way this manipulation of power manifests itself across every aspect of the colonized life. Colonial occupation, as an act of violent usurpation of another’s social, political, economic and spiritual livelihood, casts the shadow of death upon all social, political, economic and spiritual aspects of the colonized existence in the world. This shadowed death inside the spiritual world consolidates the relationship of social death in a pacifying way, as Fanon puts it, “The colonized subject also manages to lose sight of the colonist through religion . . . The individual thus accepts the devastation decreed by God, grovels in front of the colonist, bows to the hand of fate, and mentally readjusts to acquire the serenity of stone.”[3] When religion, specifically in this case Christianity, plays a role in the pacification of a people suffering from debasement and enslavement, it will not only continue the state of social death for the oppressed, but perpetuate spiritual violence. Violence in the colonial situation is not only something that occurs when colonized subjects are shot, raped, beaten, battered, or bombed, but violence occurs institutionally in the colonial situation at the level of status quo. This means that colonized subjects encounter the psycho-social effects of the colonial situation in their everyday lived experience regardless of the other minor and major potentiated attacks directed against them. The colonial situation and the institution of violence occur simultaneously and inseparably from one another. It’s a world where you “are born anywhere, anyhow. You die anywhere, from anything”[4] and accepting the religion of the oppressor makes it no different. This why the decolonization process is more than just an economic, political, and social revolt against an oppressor. It’s a spiritual revolt as well, and it is the task of decolonization to make anew all those aspects formerly instilled by the oppressor in order to foster a whole new world in the economic, political, social, and most importantly for our review, spiritual realm.

The fact that Christianity has been utilized as a mechanism of power by white oppressors in the task of pacification, “civilizing,” and occupation of the oppressed is socially and historically undeniable. These circumstances have resulted in many African intellectuals, especially Fanon[5], to consider the position of Christianity in the liberation and decolonization process as antithetical to the struggle for freedom. The argument follows along the logic of: If decolonization is creation of a new man, then the religious must too be made anew, and Christianity, being the religion of the oppressor must be done away with. There is considerable thought that must be given to the idea that Christianity in and of itself is a spiritual war waged against colonized subjects. In fact, it could be argued that there is no greater theodicy than the relationship between the Christian God and African persons all across the world. The high concentration of Christians in the African-black community is undeniably a result of effective colonialism, imperialism, and European domination, not only of the black psyche, but of black spirituality. However, the answer to the crisis in black religiosity in reference to those persons who are Christian who wish to maintain their faith, but are troubled by this critique, is not a retreat to some pseudo-pre-colonial African spirituality that can never be retrieved in the honest meaning it had prior to colonialism, or the move towards anti-Christian atheism. Colonialism creates a new world, and any retreat to pre-colonial religiosity does not take seriously that creation and the impact of the creation in the making of a new world, and atheism may not be who the colonized are and who they wish to be. Instead the colonized through the process of decolonization, “must work and struggle in step with the people so as to shape the future and prepare the ground where vigorous shoots are already sprouting.”[6]  If these “shoots” just so happen to include some aspects of Christianity that were imported into the colonized religious psychology, since Christianity may be as much a part of the colonized subject’s new personhood as the new economic urban centers that sprung about as a result of the same colonial occupation, these aspects have to be taken seriously as a part of the collective thought processes of the African persons. However, just as the rest of national culture must, “work and struggle in step with the people” in order to, “shape the future,” Christianity, if it wishes to remain in the lives of the colonized, must do the same. Christianity must be decolonized.

The task of decolonial theology in the midst of the decolonization revolution is utter and violent destruction of oppressive European theology. Hence if, “the task of a good theology is acculturation—to draw upon the cultural formation that is already present,”[7] then, decolonial theology must be both cognizant of and attuned with the transformational cultural processes emerging within the colonized subject. The colonized subject at the moment decolonization begins is a subject violently thrusting forward towards an unforeseen personhood, towards a sense of self that has long been ostracized from her, towards a collective cultural understanding that is both cognizant of the precolonial period and equally aware of the contemporary thought processes that make unified revolt not only possible, but necessary. This violent thrusting is an exertion requisite for any decolonization.  For, “decolonization is always a violent event.”[8]

Decolonization is a transformation of the individual and the collective wherein being-in-itself connects with being-with-others resulting in a much needed social, political, economic, and spiritual revolution. Theology must tap into this energy and the creative exertion of violence that spurs from it, never shying away from the energy of the people nor the violence of the people, but fully encompassing the entire range of the newly developing national culture. Fanon defines culture to be, “the collective thought process of a people to describe, justify, and extol the actions whereby they have joined forces and remained strong,” going on to add that, “National culture in the underdeveloped countries, therefore, must lie at the very heart of the liberation struggle these countries are waging.”[9] Decolonial theology, then, is the Christian language used to describe, justify, and extol the actions of the colonized in the process of decolonization. What should then be insinuated in this acculturative understanding of theology and its relation to the decolonization project is that decolonial theology not only understands the necessity of violence in the process of the liberation struggle, but decolonial theology itself, is violent. That decolonial theology understands the necessity of violence in the process of liberation is not a bastardization of Christian scripture; on the contrary, it’s an appropriate understanding of scripture insofar as God, the liberation of the oppressed, and violence have always walked hand-and-hand. One needs only look to the role of God in the liberation of the Israelites in the book of Exodus to find support for such a statement. It is for this reason that Aime Cesaire describes the death of his master in, Lyric and Dramatic Poetry as, “the only baptism that today I remember.”[10] Violence, insofar as it is used by the oppressed to overcome their oppressor, is redeeming.

But how is decolonial theology violent in and of itself? Decolonial theology is violent because once again, “decolonization is always a violent event.” Decolonial theology must decolonize white oppressive theology that forces the colonized to be passive, oppressed, and docile when speaking about religion, and in doing so, they must destroy the toxemic constructions of white, Eurocentric theology and, “blow the colonial [God] to smithereens.”[11] This is the central focus of decolonial theology: bringing an abrupt and catastrophic end to the colonial God. Taking seriously the current state of social and spiritual death, decolonial theology attempts to obliterate the connection the slave has with his master in relation to God. Decolonial theology, or any offspring of liberation theology, is the only option available for anyone wishing to continue practicing Christianity during or after decolonization. Any other theological understanding permits the colonized to remain in the condition of social death whereas decolonial theology, like every decolonization project, is a resurrection. It is a spiritual uprising towards personhood, and a recognition that, “Oppressed and oppressors cannot possibly mean the same thing when they speak of God. The God of the oppressed is a God of revolution who breaks the chains of slavery. The oppressors’ God is a God of slavery and must be destroyed along with the oppressors.”[12]

[1] Erna Brodber, History and Social Death, (Caribbean Quarterly. 2012), 111-115

[2] Aime Cesaire, “Discourse on Colonialism,” in African Philosophy 1998, edited by Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze (Malden, Massachusets: Blackwell Publsihes Inc.), 226

[3] Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, (New York, NY: Grove Press. 2004), 18

[4] Ibid, 4

[5] For example, Fanon writes, “I am talking of Christianity and this should come to as no surprise to anybody. The Church in the colonies a white man’s Church, a foreigners’ Church. It does not call the colonized to the ways of God, but to the ways of the white man, to the ways of the master, the ways of the oppressor.” Ibid, 7

[6] Ibid, 168

[7] Josiah Young, Pan-African Deliverance: Providence and The Legacy of Ancestors, (Trenton, NJ:Africa World Press. January 1992), 18-20

[8] Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, (New York, NY: Grove Press. 2004), 1

[9] Ibid, 168

[10] Found in Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. Ibid, 46

[11] Ibid, 6

[12] James Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. 1986), 61

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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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Post-Racial Racism and Kendrick Lamar: How Do We Know Racism Is Still Bad in America?

There used to be a time where your neighborhood racist was easily distinguishable. Well, not your neighborhood, but the white neighborhood that still just so happens to be close enough for you to see the crosses burning in the back yard and the black bodies still hanging from the “party-down-at-the-square.” This racism, this overt racism, has been arguably destroyed. Arguably, because the black population still sees that symbolic cross burning over futures left standing in the flames of poverty, institutional racism and white supremacy, and covert discrimination in housing markets, conflict governmental policies, and school-to-prison pipelines. Arguably, because black bodies still hang from white police chokeholds, spinal breakages, and white nationalist gun shells; because black bodies still hang from their social death, their status of fungibility, and what is essentially, the hazardous de-facto unlawfulness of that black body. Nonetheless, we will say, arguably, American racism in its former form has diminished.

But does this mean that racism has? Now, I can hear conservative pundits with their fist-raised and their cheeks glowing that disdainful red exalting, “Of course! No one is hung any longer! No crosses burn any longer! And your argument that ‘crosses are burning over futures’ or that ‘bodies are hanging from police bullets’ is not only an inflation of contemporary reality, but a negation of the truth.” And I can hear the left and the black nationals contemptuously refuting their claims with piles of evidence to support that it is not an inflation nor a negation, but a fact that conservatives aren’t willing to acknowledge. Since this is the case and the articles are piled high with people trying to prove or disprove that either racism exist or that it may exist, but its “getting better,” I wish to redirect the conversation for a moment.

For the most part we can agree that racism exist in America. The problem, however problematic this problem may be, is identifying the quantity of the racist practices or the reality of white love for black folks. How can we tell definitively if we have a race problem in America, if we live in a nation of “racism without racist” as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls it? Lewis Gordon stated in his lecture Living Thought, Living Freedom: A Lecture on Black Existential Philosophy, “We live in the great age of the post . . . postmodern, postcolonial, postracism, posthumanism, a lot of post, but all post these days ultimately means is that you continue doing the same except your admitting that you’re ashamed of it . . . Post-racism essentially means racism in a world where people are ashamed of being racist.” Even if this is true, a conflict still arises when shame becomes denial. When denial permits the continuing practice of post-racial racism and ultimately, all the maledictions of the past transfuse into contemporary forms under the guise of shameful faces and white guilt.

What results from this post-racial racism is Kendrick Lamar’s truly philosophic inquiry in The Blacker, The Berry, “You hate me don’t you? You hate my people your plan is to terminate my culture?” What is so philosophic and significant about this inquiry in our age is that it is the race question of our age. Do white people hate black people still? How pervasive is this hatred? And why do we feel all too often as black persons in America that are lives are secondary, our existence is fungible, and our body is an absence-desired-presence? Why do we feel like black lives don’t matter? The question bring us to Du Bois. Whereas Du Bois was asking, “What does it mean to be a problem?” We are forced to ask, “What does it mean to exist as a problem while living in a world ashamed and unwilling to admit that we are one?” Du Bois didn’t have to ask if white people hated him. It was clear that they did. He wasn’t blind to the bodies, to the cross, to the segregated cities, to the howling souls of black folks scratching with bleeding nails on the stern walls of white supremacy, begging for acknowledgement, opportunity, and humanity. Kendrick isn’t blind either; however, the bodies Kendrick are seeing are hidden behind a cloak of shame, guilt, and relentless dismissal of his reality, the crosses being burnt are churches with “bad electric wiring,” the segregated cities are poverty stricken enclaves dominated by the “lazy” and “thuggish,” the howling souls are hip hop artist “poisoning the youth” with notorious tales of their reality.  How can we know if the white Other is not racist, apologetic to racism, or silent and submissive to racial realities?

Black Lives Matter! That is how we know. The discontent this phrase raises in the white Conservative right is a discontent of black lives. It is an uneasiness on behalf of the right to face the cries of black persons in this country. It is a wish to return to silence, to the swept-under-the-rug racism of post-racial America. The importance of this phrase for white people is truly in its opposite. Black Lives Don’t Matter!

This is the articulation of those who remain silent in fear of saying, “Black Lives Matter.” For when your sister cries, “I feel insignificant. I feel worthless. Do you love me?” And you stare at that broken black body and dismiss her, you would have done better just saying, “I don’t.”

This is the articulation of those who say, “All Lives Matter.” For when sorrow reigns in the heart of your brother, and he says, “I feel insignificant. I feel worthless. Do you love me?”

And you say, “I love everyone.” Your brother will spurn your inflated humanism as inconsiderate to his current condition and situation.

What Black Lives Matters is saying truly is, “I love you,” to a group of oppressed persons burned by the weight of historic oppressions, suffering under the disaster that is post-racial racism. When Kendrick Lamar asks, “You hate me don’t you?” And you answer with silence or you answer with, “I love everyone,” you are unwilling to say you love him. Put plainly, you are unwilling to say you love or care about black life. And that is how we found out. That is how we know how bad racism is in Post-Racial America. We discover the secret racism in post-racial America in its unwillingness to be outspoken in its love for black life and its unwillingness to be considerate to black suffering. And the dreadful silence that has occurred in the aftermath of the Dylann Roof shooting, the dreadful silence that has occurred in the aftermath of the burning of 8 black churches in America, the dreadful silence that has occurred in the wake of mass incarceration, on the school-to-prison pipeline, on the cases of police brutality, on the rise of rape cases to black women, on the rise of black suicide, on the decline in opportunities for black persons, all make it painfully clear, that the post-racial America is just as racist as the racist America of the past.