My younger daughter asked me a profound question as she and her sister recently prepared to protest in Pittsburgh PA, joining others across the nation in a cry for justice on behalf of George Floyd and the black community. She asked if I thought her son, my grandson, would have to march during his lifetime. My grandson is just about three months old. In that moment I had a revelation. My mother protested. I protested. Now my daughters protest. That’s three generations of protesting directly connected to my life alone. That’s three generations of being angry, full of rage, disgusted, bearing trauma after trauma, losing brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunties, leaders and more.
I began to wonder if we fully grasp the depth and breadth of racism in American society; the depth and breadth of a racist society designed to maintain status quo; the depth and breadth of the commitment to keep black people in a place that has been systematically designed for them in America. Its reach is just as far wide as it is deep. It’s a commitment based on lies, deception, false pretenses, false superiority, false interpretations, false allegations and false privilege; to keep us in our place of subjugation by any means necessary. We can continue to burn buildings from LA to Georgia and everywhere in between but to what end as the brutality against us escalates? Should we, perhaps, pause to ask ourselves, if this strategy is most effective to reaching the end goal—that we be left alone to live, to prosper, to thrive, to exercise full liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and, above all, self-determination? Or to be left alone to live as a nation within a nation utilizing our collective resources to create and accumulate in our own social power and will? Or to create a network of Black Wall Streets as a perpetual presence for future generations?
Damning Ideologies — Manifest Destiny, Doctrine of Discovery, Cornerstone Speech
The roots of racism are so incredibly deep that a burnt building in our neighborhood or theirs may not even reach down that far. Do we play right into the hands of the enemy because they expect us to burn, they expect us to riot, they expect us to be violent because it fuels their agenda? They want us to be violent to aid in their ability continue to perpetuate the lie that we are deserving of the treatment we receive because we are less human, less intelligent inferiors created to be subordinate. What if we recognized the point where things shift from protest to chaos; that point when those who came with the intent to incite violence move to the forefront with a commitment more to anarchy than justice. Chaos simply cannot be the endgame.
While I understand that organized protest serves a purpose, my endgame is to prevent my grandson from having to protest against the same injustice that I have seen across my three generations. What would happen if the community of fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles of little black boys decided that a burnt building doesn’t even scratch the surface of deeply rooted, institutionalized, generational, underground, dark money-based racism — the very foundation of this nation? Or what if we systematically developed a different strategy? What if the key is to think differently; to attack the problem from multiple, related angles; to think wisely and comprehensively; to build from within; to develop the leadership that collectively lies within each of us, for the purpose of dismantling racism from the root up, instead of just knocking off a few leaves or branches.
Let’s start with the underpinnings of racism in America. There are three interconnected ideologies at play in America all designed to preserve the falsehood of white supremacy. Manifest destiny is a doctrine put forth in the 19th century. The term was coined by a newspaper editor that describes the belief that God intends for the United States to dominate North America from the Atlantic to Pacific through continental expansionism—from sea to shining sea. It furthers posits that white Americans were divinely ordained to settle the entire North American continent. The ideology inflamed genocidal attacks on the native population and tensions over slavery, ultimately leading to the Civil War.
The Doctrine of Discovery is a concept of public international law put forth from the United States to explain and apply ways in which colonial powers could lay claim to lands belonging to sovereign nations during the so-called, “Age of Discovery”, favoring colonial and post-colonial governments. It basically gave colonizers the right to occupy a specific territory, ignoring, invalidating and disregarding aboriginal possession of the land.
The Cornerstone Speech given by Confederate Vice President, Alexander H. Stephens is centered around defining slavery as a fundamental and just result of the inferiority of the “black race” and explaining the fundamental differences between the constitution of the Confereracy and the constitution of the United Stares government. The speech also laid out the Confederacy’s rationale for seceding from the United States. He stated, “Our new government foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.”
We build from within.
What if we began to holistically and strategically think long-term instead of short-term?
What if we revised the Black Panther’s 10 Point Plan and used it as a model for comprehensive community engagement to raise ourselves up?
What if we actively managed health and social equity through the eyes of our community to meet needs?
What if we engaged in cooperative economics in our community?
What if we implemented the principles of the Nguzo Saba as a way of life?
What if we cultivated leadership as influence and influence as power from within our community?
What if we root out racism by building ourselves up from within?
We have the resources to reconstruct our communities in the way we want them to be. We’ve done it before—Tulsa OK (1921), Springfield IL (1908), Colfax LA (1873), Wilmington NC (1898), Altanta GA (1906), Elaine AK (1919) and Rosewood, FL (1923). Yes, they burned them down, the massacre years are indicated parentheses. The reality is whites were (are) threatened by upwardly mobile and successful black communities. But for my or your grandson’s sake we can’t let that stop us.
We are stronger now. We have more resources now. We have more consumer dollars now. We are more educated now. It is time for us to rise together and build from within. Let us stand together in community to defend our right to exist while black.
As a grandmother, I refuse to even entertain the possibility that my grandson will one day be talking to his mom as she prepares him to protest. I will do everything in my power to raise up my community economically, socially, culturally, and politically so my grandson does not have to protest for his right to exist while black. A lifetime of #BlackBoyJoy is what I seek for my grandson. #WakandaForever.