Confessions of a Black identity ‘extremist’
In full acknowledgment of the FBI’s leaked recent statement that a “black identity extremist” movement presents a domestic threat to national security, I do hereby humbly admit to being a Black identity extremist.
I believe in the original Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program with some slight adjustments for gender inclusivity. I do not believe in violence of any sort save for that enacted in self-defense. I also believe that we could radically alter the common sense gun debate if Black folks legally armed themselves and joined the NRA.
I celebrate Kwanzaa and I have done so for my entire life. I believe in the Nguza Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. I celebrate and practice these principles with family and with my community on an ongoing basis.
I direct an Africana Studies program at an elite institution in the state of Pennsylvania. I hire and work with faculty who research, teach, and write about Black people throughout the African Diaspora. I believe that this research writing and teaching is beneficial to people from all backgrounds and that it is impossible to understand the history and culture of America without a deep and abiding understanding of the history and culture of Black people in America.
I believe that the Abolition movement against America’s “peculiar institution” of chattel slavery in the 19th century and the Civil Rights movement of the 20th Century are the blueprints for social justice movements all over the world. Black peoples’ efforts to resist tyranny and oppression and their capacity to survive systemic anti-Black violence are amongst the most extraordinary feats in the history of humanity.
I believe that humanity originated on the continent of Africa and that African civilizations were the first human civilizations. I believe that the rape and plunder of the African continent, in terms of both human and material resources, is the greatest most consistently sustained form of globalized, organized crime in the history of this world. Our willful ignorance of these histories is the second greatest crime.
I believe that Identity Politics are and will continue to be a permanent feature of our body politic. Those that argue or suggest that people of color should dispense with these political instruments often refuse to acknowledge the extent to which white identity politics distort and diminish our national political experiment. Inclusive identity politics are but one solution to the current iteration of white solidarity politics that regularly play in the anti-Black “sandboxes” of white nationalism and white supremacy.
I believe in the power of Black arts and Black culture. I am an ardent fan of Public Enemy, Lauryn Hill, Blackstar (aka Mos Def/Yaasin Bey and Talib Kweli), Queen Latifah, X-Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers, Lupe Fiasco, Rapsody, and Kendrick Lamar. I believe that Solange’s album, “A Seat at the Table” is better than all of Beyonce’s albums combined. I never dress up for Halloween, but I plan on attending the premier of Marvel/Disney’s Black Panther film in some any kind of attire that signals the excitement that the Black community has surrounding this important superhero film.
I believe that being married to and being the life partner of a Black woman is both a privilege and a political statement in a nation that routinely dismisses Black families and Black fathers/husbands as absent and/or invisible. I believe that raising two Black children in and through an array of anti-black institutions – especially media and schools – is as important a political act as I will ever have the fortune to pursue.
I believe that BLACK LIVES MATTER and that activists’ various efforts to sustain a movement around equity, racial justice and human dignity for the Black community in this nation and abroad is the most important movement of my lifetime.
Maybe you believe some of these things too. If so, you may be a Black identity extremist – and, apparently, a threat to our nation’s security.
Dr. James Peterson is the Director of Africana Studies and an associate professor of English at Lehigh University, and is a contributor of MSNBC. Follow him on Twitter @DrJamesPeterson.