‘Black Lives Matter’ is destined to fail unless it embraces Garveyism
Malcolm and Marcus would be ashamed of us.
All these years later, the children of the enslaved are still trying to wrestle their humanity out of the hands of the inhumane. What a waste of precious energy.
So, I’ve got a question: Have you had enough of trying to be an American yet? We’re protesting, chanting and marching, all to what end? To get something as basic as equal treatment under the law?
Ultimately, we still seek to convince an indifferent, complacent white majority we are more than three-fifths human and above the level of dogs in the American pecking order.
As radical, revolutionary and threatening as the Black Lives Matter movement appears, it has a fundamental flaw. It’s still an ‘ask’ to white people to validate our worth.
However aggressive the language, however disruptive the protests, black people already know that ‘Black Lives Matter.’ The statement is meant for white ears.
Researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough conducted a study that found the human brain is considerably slower to register the activity of someone outside one’s own race. When witnessing simple actions of non-whites, researchers concluded the study’s white participants might as well have been watching a blank screen.
They don’t see us. They don’t recognize us.
We’ve got a self-esteem problem, and thus, we get the mechanics of power all wrong. They’ve got us externally directed, when power is an internal thing.
When we say “Black Lives Matter,” we say it at an audience and are depending on the desired response. It asserts that the power to make them matter is outside of us. It is literally disempowering from the very utterance.
But hey, we have dependency issues. How could we not? Stockholm syndrome is real.
As a culture, we’ve been bred like dogs to depend on our masters. The very language used in the terms “black” and “white” put us on correlated, interdependent terms. The two terms define each other, but in the real world, it is quite different. The fact is African people were the only people on earth for four-fifths of human existence.
Not only do we not need white people; it may well be the other way around.
Frankly, the only movement that didn’t rely on white opinion was the one that started it all.
Marcus Garvey’s ideas of self-reliance and self-determination are as applicable now as they’ve ever been. Despite his flaws as a man, his grasp on common sense collective self-determination put the finish line on ground we can actually reach: within our own power to manifest.
The first leaders of independent Africa were Garvey’s followers, including Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah. These men understood that we suffer from institutional racism. The only way to stop it is to win and control the institution, and a collection of institutions is a nation.
Upon close inspection, “Black Lives Matter” has been the subtext for almost every movement we created in America. The Civil Rights movement was actually “Black Lives Matter.” It said that they matter enough to have the rights to live as civilians who have equal protection under the law.
Even the Black Panthers were “Black Lives Matter;” they matter enough to take up arms against the police if they try to take our lives. Abolition was “Black Lives Matter;” they matter enough to have the bonds of slavery cast off and to live in freedom as all men should. Get it? Nothing has changed but the cast of characters.
It’s sad that a human lifetime is so short, because it can’t perceive when history repeats itself. This is why knowing your history is so important. It’s the only tool we have to measure the present and calculate the future.
“Black Lives Matter” is doomed, as all of its predecessors were, unless it evolves.
The mechanics are the same old game: placing the finish line behind white people’s change of mind. They giveth, and they taketh away in this position. They abolish Jim Crow while investing in prisons. They allow a black president after removing the power of the office. They allow integration but financially handicap us from buying homes in their communities.
That is not a sustainable plan for survival.
So should all 44 million of us move back to Africa? Not necessarily in a physical sense, but our mindset has got to refocus and get realistic about long-term freedom. Freedom is responsibility. An employee isn’t responsible for the company sinking or swimming; it’s the owner or CEO.
We’d actually have to know how to build our own houses, grow our own food, manufacture our own products, fortify our existing financial and educational institutions, create bonds with our brothers and sisters throughout the diaspora, and defend our own territory if we were going to be free.
These tasks sound daunting to some. They’d rather continue arguing with white people about how evil their system of government is instead of learning the skills to make them obsolete.
Others see these challenges as a growth opportunity. They know that nothing is out of the range of knowledge for African people. From particle physics to weapons manufacturing, from global aviation to organic gardening, we can do all these things and more. Screaming “Black Lives Matter” will solve nothing in our quest for self-reliance. But go ahead. Make another hashtag for the next black man to die senselessly at the hands of police.
Go the rally and lament about why black folks are so oppressed. Maybe the question is not “What did we do to deserve oppression,” but rather “What haven’t we done to gain respect?”
The answer: love ourselves enough to put us first, the opinions of white America be damned!
Theo E.J. Wilson is a social commentator and columnist for the Denver Urban Spectrum. Follow him on Facebook.