After #Afromation: Notes on Black Courage

It must take more than courage. For if courage was all that it took to be free, then freedom would have been reached decades, perhaps centuries ago. This must be said, and it must be said a million more times. There is a way in which courage is mythologized as the necessary and sufficient condition for black liberation as if courage has not been embedded in our blood, as if courage had not been a requirement for the sake of maintaining any fragment of black life since being brutalized into the transatlantic slave ship and onto stolen land.

Courage is the way black people survive in the status quo. There is no way for black people to march to/for courage. Courage is our entire existence. It is the way we learn to smile and encourage ourselves, against all evidence to the contrary, that “we gon’ be alright.” It is the way we learn to utilize our rage in both cathartic and political ways when all the evidence proves that the voice of reason in our rage is not wanted here, and the release of pain that our rage attempts to alleviate is incomprehensible to a world founded on black death. Courage is the way we learn to love when love for another seems to be love with a body eternally stalked and shadowed by the possibility of death.

The question of liberation must transcend courage. We have always – by necessity – have had to have courage, and re-positioning this question doesn’t necessarily mean that we must look for a void. We are not searching for something that black people have dropped along the long road of “history.” Black people came into “history” with courage, love, hope, desire and chains; black people came into “history” with courage, love, hope, desire and brands on our arms and backs; black people came into “history” with courage, love, hope, desire and a will to live and grow against the weight of a (White) world. The only lack in blackness is that which has been negated by whiteness, but whiteness has always required of black bodies to have courage in order to make it through the day.

There is often this  false causation that we are given. We are told that liberation has not been reached due to a “lack” of something we possess. We are told that it is because black people have not done something correct that black people have not become free.  We are told that our continual struggle against the course of “history” is due to something we are “lacking.” But black people have never lacked any of the spiritual requirements for liberation, and the material/metaphysical requirements (political, economic, ontological) are the very reasons why the battle we fight continues to be fought in the first place.

What we need is already set in place and has always been set in place from the birth of blackness. What we need is the same courage, remythologized, not in the form of absence-returned, but in the form of presence-surpassed. It is not that we are looking for something we lost in order to overturn a system that has required our death to fuel itself. We are creating surpluses of something that has always been there. The same courage, love, hope, desire that has allowed us to continue to exist at all. This does not mean that we must situate ourselves in optimism, or that optimist is the “myth-leading-to-liberation” (the myth that constitutes what emancipation is). It is very possible that it is the courage, the love, the hope, the desire of the pessimist that leads to liberation. It is very possible that our best hope is hopelessness. But having this be the case it does not mean that we must lose nor gain something.

We – black people – are always everything and nothing at all. In the maroon society of black bodies, where we learn to thrive, resist, and exist, we become all that we ever were, and all that we ever could be, and this is the force of uncontainable possibility. In the world, created by us, yet never for us; in the world, a world that hopes to cyclically destroy our bodies in hopes to destroy our will to destroy it, we find ourselves existing as a standing negation: to the white world, we are nothing-at-all. But we must remember how true this is, and yet still how untrue it is. It is here where Du Bois consciousness returns. We must be conscious that to whiteness (the system of whiteness as the system that constitutes the ideological backdrop for every institution of power and knowledge) we may be nothing, and it is this self that we wage war against, and we must also be conscious that to blackness – that modern positionality of negation – we are everything. We are the hands that laid the foundation for a world. We are the backs that carried it into civilization. We are the legs that globalize its notion of linear progression.

The fight for liberation is a fight towards the fantasy of a world unthinkable to the world we currently live in. Our current world is a product of a combination of white colonial violence and white supremacist mythologies. A new world – a world of black liberation – is a fight towards a world free of white supremacy, heteronormativity, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia and capitalist exploitation. The fight for liberation requires a courage that has always been there, and it requires a will that has never vanished, but has always been here.

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The Public Intellectual: The Series

The purpose of the public intellectual series is to shine light on the unspoken intellectuals of the academy and the unspoken intellectuals outside the academy whose ideas contribute to the intelligentsia and whose presence make them direct public servants to the world. This series has personal resonance with me as a student and advocate of, and for, public education at the University level. The Public Intellectual series will focus on academics who work in the state-University public school systems or on the ground in grassroots activism. The Public Intellectual is: 1) An intellectual whose work and presence affects people from poorer backgrounds directly, on the daily and not the families of elites. 2) An intellectual who writes, speaks, or teaches in order to say something about the world and contribute to a conversation about the world at large. 3) They are in the Humanities, Arts, or Media Studies, primarily, and only occasionally outside of these, if and only if, their ideas, research and/or outside work contributes to attempting to change something about Humans and/or Non-Humans. The idea for this series arose after contemplation on three rather inconsistent ideas and encounters, all of which solidified my idea of what a public intellectual is not, and what a public intellectual is.

The first contradicting encounter was the realization that a majority of people considered, “public intellectuals,” work at private schools that have a historic and contemporaneous interest in exclusivity and an oppressive interest in raising profits for administrators, donors, and stock-holders under the “non-profit” label. This contradicted the notion of the public intellectual since the public intellectual was so far removed from the public. They were more affiliated with institutions that tended to serve only the wealthy, elite and “promising.” For me, the public intellectual works in the public institutions or in public life. They are public servants of the people. They teach three-to-four courses a semester to students who come from poor backgrounds, students who are the first to attend college, students who were told they wouldn’t ever be able to attend college for either mental ineptitude or financial instability. They educate as much as they publish and they deserve to be admonished for their uncanny ability to juggle both sides of what it really means to be a public intellectual.

The second contradicting idea was the fact that a majority of people working in the public institutions are considered to be “lesser-than-intellectuals,” whose research interest is deemed meaningless, and this kind of ideology makes its way into their students making their students feel like, “lesser than students.” It goes without saying that students who attend public schools and Universities are consistently reminded that they “only go to a public school,” or that, “they aren’t at Harvard.” However, occasionally it takes a true public intellectual to step in and assure their students that they “can receive an Ivy-School Level education right here,” that I was motivated to pursue this series further. A Public Intellectual is an intellectual regardless of their institution. A Public Intellectual incessantly reminds their students, and the public that the intellectual strives to give intellect and ideas to the world beyond the confines of elitist institutions with histories’ born out of exclusion and oppression.

The third contradicting idea was the idea that the liberal arts and humanities did not and could do add anything to the world. A Public Intellectual gives language to a world that has lost it. The Public Intellectuals works to share ideas in a world that has commercialized the intellectual and scientized the academy. They are anthropologist, sociologist, political scientist, philosophers, cultural historians and studiers, and occasionally, they are scientist who have something to say about the implications of their science and of science for the world. The Public Intellectuals I am after are intellectuals who have dedicated themselves to the people and to the world and to changing it every day. They are not elitist educators (and I struggle to give even that word to them) who care more about writing essays for academic journals for only academics to decipher and comprehend, traveling the world with world leaders and famous persons, and ascending to the upper-echelons of the Academic world only to serve the children of the wealthy. They are Public Intellectuals because they don’t only speak of the people, they speak to the people, teach the people, and work with the people.

#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.

Occupying Towson: We Will Not Go Gently

Recently, I posted a statement on Facebook on my concern about Towson University’s Student Government Association’s failure to bring the demands of the black students who participated in #OccupyTowson to Annapolis during what is considered “Tiger Pride Day.” The purpose of Tiger Pride Day for the Student Government Association, according to the Towerlight, is “to meet with key lawmaking committees from the Senate and House to make their concerns known on a state level.” I considered the silence of the Student Government Association to be a silence that reified the physical, psychological, and educational violence that stifles the development of Towson University’s black student population. I considered the silence of the Student Government Association to be a silence that proved that the concerns of the black students at Towson University is seen as marginal and peripheral to the overarching vision of Towson University. In other words, at Towson University, black lives don’t matter – at least not enough to be brought to the lawmaking committees from the Senate and the House.

            My critique was met with a responses by the Director of Legislative Affairs, Pierce Jaffri and President Kurt Anderson, two response that were essentially a circumvention of the major concern in order to evade the specificity inherent to black plight, two responses that went on to promote what basically amounted to an “All-Lives-Matter” Legislative agenda. Pierce Jaffri ran down the list of agenda points and then, went on to try to argue that this “All-Lives-Matter” agenda into something that, “directly affects black students”:

  1. Keeping college tuition affordable

 Black students will benefit from this initiative because many black students struggle with paying college tuition and are burdened with loan repayment after graduation.

  1. Promoting and sustaining a University System of Maryland graduate workforce.

This specifically asks the state legislature to create incentives for businesses to hire students who graduate from University System of Maryland schools, such as Towson. You and I both know that black people need more job opportunities in this country, and this initiative directly helps (in a way) black students find jobs more accessibly in Maryland.

  1. The advancement of transgender rights.

Transgender students in Maryland will benefit from this initiative. In fact, a black student whom I will not name for privacy reasons, met with my assistant director and help us compose this initiative.

  1. Securing the operating budget.

This initiative ensures that we as an institution are able to secure operating funds from the state government that will help our university operate. This students of color just like you John, because this allows the university YOU attend to operate to its fullest capacity possible.

  1. Capital Improvement Projects

This initiative allows for students, regardless of color, the ability to have a greater experience if they are to select a major program in either the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics or the College of Health Professions. This will allow those students to get a top-of-the-line education in these fields and will make them more well-educated and better prepared for the workforce upon graduation.

 

Not only does his comment unconvincingly explain how these agenda points DIRECTLY affect black students in regards to the specificity of their plight (For example, Jaffri fails to recognize that black students struggle with college affordability, job availability, transphobia, entrance into Towson University, and success in the Sciences, Mathematics, and Health Profession programs in drastically different ways than white students), but it fails to address the true issue I had with SGA’s Legislative Agenda.

I had to reiterate to Jaffri that the agenda itself wasn’t problematic. It was, in Derridean fashion, what the agenda decided to leave out. I am well aware of the importance of college affordability for all students. I am well aware of how important promoting and sustaining a University System of Maryland graduate workforce is. I am well aware, and extremely in favor of the importance of promoting transgender rights. I am well aware of the importance of securing the operating budget and I am well aware of the significance of the Capital Improvement Project for the Sciences and Health Professions in our evermore scientific and technological nation. However, I say that Jaffri failed as a Director of Legislative Affairs not for what he wrote, but for what he forgot to write, namely, anything in relation to protecting and representing the specific concerns that plague black students at this University. President Kurt Anderson’s response was simply a technical evasion of the issue which went on to state all the other things that the Student Government Association is doing on behalf of black demands and #OccupyTowson. If what he says the Student Government Association is doing for black students is true, then the works they are putting in in the aftermath of the #OccupyTowson has been fine work. However, the work that has been done outside of Tiger Pride Day was not my concern.

My concern was about Tiger Pride Day and why the Student Government Association, on a day supposedly dedicated to making University concerns known on a State level, did not consider the concerns of black students to be significant enough to be taken to the House and Senate. Director of Legislation, Pierce Jaffri said this was because, “The SGA Legislative Agenda, under my directorship, cannot include an initiative that is exclusive to a racial group on campus.” However, this problem appears to be either a non-problem (meaning an exclusive legislative point is actually something he is capable of doing, but didn’t want to) or there must exist a racially exclusive logistical measure that permits gender exclusivity while not permitting racial exclusivity. Why? Because the third agenda point precludes any statement that attempts to say the specificity is not possible unless there is a mandate or statute that specifically states that Jaffri is not allowed to be specific to race, but is allowed to be specific for gender identification.

Ultimately, the situation amounts to a disregard to the demands of the black students of #OccupyTowson and then, a disavow on behalf of the Student Government Association when asked to be held accountable and transparent about the reasoning behind their decision making. Nevertheless, this just means that we all need to be reminded that even in inaction there is an action, typically of indifference. This is a reminder that we must not #OccupyTowson, we must be #OccupyingTowson. This is a reminder that we will not and cannot go gently into that good night until every last demand is met.

The Towson University Demands

What is #OccupyTowson?

 

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

Gallery

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.

#MuslimLivesMatter

R.I.P. to Deah Shaddy Barakat

R.I.P. to Yusor Abu-Salha,

R.I.P to Razan Abu-Salha

Now we wait patiently for a news article to emerge from the right entitled, “What You Didn’t Know About the 3 Muslims Who Were Killed” in which the writer will attempt to stigmatize and degrade the importance that lies in the simple fact that three innocent people were killed. I am going to say that this man, Hicks, will probably file as “insane”, but I will also like to note that this kind of thing is simply a lawyer’s ploy to try to allow a person to receive less time for any crime that their client committed. They usually try to find evidence to support their insanity claim (which is easier) rather than trying to find evidence to support a far-out and improbable innocence claim (especially since he turned himself in). So, white or not, the presumed assumption that an insanity claim will happen is likely for that reason. It is the media’s will to accept the notion that is race tinged, race biased. The left will deny it; the right more willing to accept it.

What is more important to me, if we want to speak about the man’s race and the religions of the people murdered, is the fact that this isn’t considered a terrorist attack. I’m sure many people of the Islamic community are in fear and I’m sure Hick’s political agenda was silencing the free expression of their (Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha) religious beliefs. If you don’t believe the community is full of fear, check out the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter. It is streaming with fear, bulging with concern. Now Christian friends, before you go off and defend this radical in whatever way you find necessary, he is not a Christian. He is an atheist according to his social media. However, there is a racially tinge selective use of the word “terrorist” (which I believe is a word that is overused, an overemphasized word in our spectator culture). When the act of terror does not refer to the actions done to white people or the act of terror is done by white people, and the results are stimulated fear within a sub-community of mainstream (white) society, the phrase “terrorist act” is rarely used. This is because power and privilege.

There is power in the ability to discern when something is a terrorist act and when something is not. It is a power in the hands of the white community and the mainstream white-controlled media. There is a power in being able to write your own speculated “truth” on the series of events occurring today and have it accepted by the world. It is a privilege to be able to have your fears confirmed by wider society instead of taken for granted. It is a privilege to have the support of the world.  It is a privilege to have the world view events and severity through your own lens and perspective. As Dr. Yasir Qadhi (@YasirQadhir) tweeted, “I wonder when all the world leaders will come and hold hands and march on the streets of Chapel Hill to condemn Islamophobia.” Islamophobia and the actions that result from it is not taking seriously by wider society because it is not an issue for the persons whose perspective the world is viewed. Therefore, the fear that the people of the Islamic faith have, due to crises like this, is dismissed and belittled as a minor moment spurred from an individual radical. And perhaps he is an individual radical, but does that make him less of a terrorist under the broad definition of, “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”? I am forced to say, “No,” and confirm his act as terrorism under this broad definition of a term handed out so selectively.

Now atheist friends, I am sorry, but in a world that generalizes and stigmatizes, this man will probably become the face behind some radical religious (both Islamic and Christian) justification of the “irrationality and bizareness of Atheism” as if it is some secular religion, high on science and testosterone, bent on overthrowing religious traditions all over the universe. As if you can run up to a group of atheist and easily discern the why behind their disbelief in a deity; as if you can run up to group of atheist and easily discern the ethics that guide their ideology; as if all atheist are “disciples” of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins; as if that is always a bad thing; as if one person’s actions is another person’s actions, simply because one aspect of one’s beliefs coincides with an aspect of the other’s. Do not let this action generate hatred toward atheist. Hicks is the terrorist, not atheism. The structure of power given to a white community unaffected by these murders is the reason the story was not attended to and the reason the word “terrorist” was not used.

Articles on the Event: http://www.wral.com/chapel-hill-police-parking-dispute-may-have-led-to-triple-shooting/14438074/

                                  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/02/11/reports-3-young-muslims-slain-in-chapel-hill-shooting-n-c-man-charged/

                                  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11405005/Chapel-Hill-shooting-Three-American-Muslims-killed.html