Calling Upon All of the Enraged: Speak Their Names
Updated: Jun 4, 2020
“I am calling upon the Enraged.”
—Calling the Magician, Aimé Césaire
Source: LA Johnson/NPR, https://www.npr.org/2020/05/29/865261916/a-decade-of-watching-black-people-die
Read each of these names. Read them again. Read them again. Read them again. Human beings. African descendant human beings murdered by or at the hands of law enforcement in the last six years. Human beings with mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sisters, brothers, children, nieces, nephews, cousins, godchildren, friends, and lovers. Human beings, Black human beings murdered at the hands of law enforcement or in law enforcement custody. Today, I am calling upon all of the enraged to turn our anger, our rage, our outrage into righteous action and active commitment to do better.
I’ll say this as plainly as I know how: I am tired of this shit. I am tired of seeing faces of my brothers and sisters splashed across the news announcing their murders at the hands of the very people who are meant to serve and protect. We have a serious problem in this country, and indeed on this planet: white supremacy. “White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today,” writes Charles Mills in his seminal work, The Racial Contract. This is no complement, but the root of the dis-ease Black people all over this globe have been experiencing for over half of a millennium and it is the root of what we are continuing to experience today. Global white supremacy is not a virus as some are suggesting; however, it is a grand delusion perpetrated by the delusional through epistemological violence, warfare, ontological terror, and the political structures of the day.
Why am I writing about white supremacy in relation to the violent deaths of my people or in light of the protests occurring all around the globe in solidarity with American Blacks? It is very simple, white supremacy is the unnamed global political structure—the root of the problem—and it must be eradicated. This is not an easy public conversation to have, but it is one that I have with my Black and POC friends all of the time; today, I will let you in on the secret. Black people, people of color, marginalized peoples are not the problem. Even while we continually try to make plain our humanity, conform to ways of being that are non-threatening to the majoritized population, and practice and model ideal citizenship, we know that we are not the problem. The delusion of whiteness and the fallacy of white supremacy is the root problem. This problem is exacerbated when every global political, economic, social, cultural, and major religious system is designed to make reality the delusion and make true the fallacy. Insanity.
Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia remind us, “Racism never detects the particles of the other; it propagates waves of sameness until those who resist identification have been wiped out (or those who only allow themselves to be identified at a given degree of divergence. Its cruelty is equaled only by its incompetence and näiveté” (p. 178). Physical violence, fear, and ideological conditioning are white supremacy’s most powerful coercive tools. History is our witness and the recent remarks of the nation’s sitting president are evidence enough, so I’ll refrain from mentioning the genocide of Native Americans, slavery, the prison industrial complex and convict leasing, and the creation of the American system of policing, which was a way to keep resistance of subjugated persons, Black people, in check (see the research on slave patrols).
No Humans Involved
If you have not read Sylva Wynter’s “No Humans Involved”: An Open Letter to My Colleagues, then you must. It was written directly after the jury’s acquittal of the policemen who savagely beat Rodney King in 1993. The piece is very much about police violence and centers on the phrase, “No Humans Involved,” which law enforcement used at the time to describe crimes committed against “undesirables” rather those alleged as drug addicts, prostitutes, transients, and those with a criminal record. The classification is anti-Black and most assuredly anti-Black male.
I bring this up for two reasons. First, Wynter is writing to her university colleagues and critiques them and our higher education institutions for being complicit in creating, reinforcing, sustaining and legitimizing racial hierarchies within their hallowed halls whereby it is possible to produce educated human beings who can think of other human beings as non-human. Second, Wynter questions what it means to be human in this country. Wynter asks:
How did they come to conceive of what it means to be both human and North American in the kinds of terms (i.e. to be white, of Euroamerican culture and descent, middle-class, college educated and suburban) within whose logic, the jobless and usually school drop-out/push-out category of young Black males can be perceived and therefore behaved towards, only as the Lack of the human, the Conceptual Other to being North American?
As a higher education researcher and administrator, I am compelled to ask the question what is wrong with our education? How might we transform it?
I have no answers just a litany of questions to ponder.
A New Day is Dawning
African diasporic peoples have endured debates about our counting as persons and assigned percentages of personhood, have been enslaved and thought of as chattel yet forcibly bore the children of white enslavers; jailed for life without cause, forced to live in government created ghettos, and denied access to equal and equitable resources and opportunities. Yet, for two millennia we have endured and for the last half of a millennium African diasporic peoples have persevered.
A new day is dawning and it is no coincidence that in the year 2020, we are starting to see more clearly what must be changed, what must be transformed in this nation for Blackness to thrive, and for the idea of America to become what it has always professed but has yet to fulfill. Every state in this country has held protests and the African diaspora around the globe has joined in. Indeed, a new day is dawning, and the myths of the old world are dying away.
As Césaire proclaims:
Civilization is dying all around the world because myths are dead or dying or being born.
We must wait for the powdery frost of outdated or emaciated myths to blow apart. We are awaiting the debacle.
…And we shall be fulfilled.
Indeed, a grand spiritual and political transformation is occurring. The physical world teaches us that shifting, transformation produces chaos, which always proceeds growth.
Advice to Black Folx
Keep fighting, keep resisting and keep demanding justice, but we cannot let it kill us. We need you—we need each other—and stress induced by trauma has real effects on the body.
Sit with yourself, gather virtually with others, be still. Call on the Ancestors and listen to them for guidance. As I sat with mine a week ago, this is what they spoke to my heart and spirit:
Have you forgotten that power comes from within? From the connection of mind, body and spirit? Have you forgotten when things get tough and you can’t find your way to sink your hands in the earth- the matter from which you spring and to which you will return? Your hands are the antennae of our soul. Get them moving.
Have you forgotten that this life is yours? And that freedom is for the taking? Each of us is as free as we want to be. Do not let your mind trick you in believing lies someone else told you about yourself, about your people, or about those who are to come. The mind got the world into this mess, look to Spirit. Spirit is your escape. We, Africans are people of blood and bone, yes, but even more we are people of Spirit.
Remember, hope is to be lived and joy is not be made a crumb. We have dreamed you into being, we walk alongside of you, we carry you when necessary, and pray for you to endure the slow work of resistant joy. You are us and you always already have everything you need – just be still and know.
You are grateful for us and we rejoice for you. You are the fruit of a seeds planted long ago, continue to stand tall. We are with you.
Love Blackness. Love your Blackness. It is a blessing.
Advice to White Folx & Non-Black POC
You have a responsibility, those of you of good conscience, who recognize the immorality of Whiteness as a system of socio-political domination—you have a responsibility to resist, to learn, to listen, to call out, and to spread the truth of what you know to those who look like you.
As I wrote over the weekend to my white friends, colleagues, and social media followers, we do not need more empty words from forked tongues or “liberal, progressive whites,” we need changed behavior. Changed behavior!
You call out your racist white friends and family. You commit and actively work to being anti-racist. You go protest for equity and justice. You expand your friendship circles and invite people of color into your homes and gatherings. You slide your chair over in the boardroom to make room for the person of color, who out performs you yet is still excluded from executive leadership. You stop with your public shows of solidarity and live it in your private life.
I need you to care more about a human being than you do about loss of property. I need you to be just as outraged that Black men and women are being killed as you are about the abuse of domesticated animals.
It is nice to participate in social media protest campaigns, but I am more interested in whether or not your friend group reflects your Black Lives Matter solidarity. For corporations, I am more interested in the composition of your executive leadership teams and the diverse demographic of your employees. Universities, you are not exempt from this either. More than your public displays of solidarity, I am interested in the composition of the President’s Cabinet, your Board of Trustees, the diversity of your faculty—those that are tenured and/or in positions of leadership; the resources you provide for your students of color, and that what you preach is congruent with your policy and practice.
The time for progressive white liberal performativity is over. We need you to put some skin in the game, to put some money on the table and pull up some more chairs around it.
No, we demand it.
My Fervent Prayer
My fervent prayer is for the safety of those protesting in the street, for wisdom and discernment for those who are employed to keep order, and for the power of the Spirit to take hold of each one of us to transform us into what we are not yet, but must become. And may the delusion of whiteness and the lie of white supremacy crumble like the challenged ego of a mediocre white man or crack like the thin veneer of anti-racism slathered on the public face of a liberal, progressive white woman when questioned by blackness.
Ancestors protect us, Spirit guide us and strengthen us to endure the joy and the wounds of this life. Victory.
Questions to Consider
What will you commit to doing to becoming anti-racist? To eradicate white supremacy? To dismantle systems of oppression? How will you vow to be differently when the streets have emptied, and the outcry is hushed to a whisper?