Jan
24

Stokely Speaks

Stokely Carmichael, better known as Kwame Ture, gave a number speeches and penned articles and letters, which were gathered in "Stokely Speaks: From Black Power to Pan-Africanism" (1965), with multiple prints and new Forwards added with each new print. A few quotes:

"I wouldn't be the first to point out the American capacity for self-delusion. One of the main reasons for the criticism of American society by the Students for a Democratic Society, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and other groups is that our society is exclusive while maintaining that it is inclusive." (p. 9)

"I maintain that every civil rights bill in this country was passed for white people, not for black people. For example, I am black. I know that. I also know that while I am black I am a human being. Therefore I have the right to go into any public place. White people didn't know that. Every time I tried to go into a public place they stopped me. So some boys had to write a bill to tell that white man, "He's a human being; don't stop him." That bill was for the white man, not for me. I knew I could vote all the time and that it wasn't a privilege but my right. Every time I tried I was shot, killed or jailed, beaten or economically deprived. So somebody had to write a bill to tell white people, "When a black man comes to vote, don't bother him." That bill was for white people." (p. 46)

"White Western society has been able to define, and that's why she has been the master. The white youth of my generation in the West today starts off with subconscious racism because he accepts the writings of the West, which have either destroyed, distorted, lied about history. He starts off with a basic assumption of superiority that he doesn't even recognize." (p. 80)

"Now we stand clear – self-defense will only maintain the status quo. If Egypt, Syria, and Jordan took a position of self-defense today, they would come out losing because the Israelis still occupy the land. If they want the land back, they must move aggressively against the occupying forces. And as they move aggressively, we have to move aggressively. There is no need to talk about peaceful coexistence; anyone who calls for peaceful co-existence is calling for the status quo to remain the way it is. The only solution is armed revolution! Those who say that we can exist with the imperialist forces are saying that we can exist with things the way they are, we never have to change them. But if we are suffering, we need change; and we must decide how that change is going to come about." (p. 139)

"There are basically two levels on which a colonized people move when they begin to move for their liberation: one is called, for lack of a better term, entertainment, and the second is called education. Both of them are necessary. The entertainment stage is very necessary. The entertainment is what's happening when black people say, "We're going to burn this city down. We can get Whitey. He ain't that bad." It's a sort of entertainment - we're entertaining ourselves because, for the first time, we are publicly saying what we always privately felt but were afraid to say. And while we're saying it - even though we're not powerful enough to do what we say - it's a sort of catharsis, a necessity, because, until we get to the entertainment stage, we are psychologically unequal to our oppressor. After that stage, after we begin to feel psychologically equal to the oppressor, then comes the stage of strategic planning, working out a correct ideology for a cohesive force, and moving on to victory." (p. 146-147) 

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Aug
28

The New Age of Empire

Kehinde Andrews' 2021 book "The New Age of Empire: How Racism and Colonialism Still Rule the World" was celebrated by many (Kimberle Crenshaw, Russel Brand, Ibram X Kendi, and a host of book reviewers) and critiqued by a few (book reviewers). The author is the first professor of Black Studies in the UK. I assume this book was not written for academics, but for a mass market. The book introduces readers to a lost list of centuries of Euro-Western genocide and plunder. Much of the book is summative. The author describes the aim as: "A central thesis of this book is that White supremacy, and therefore anti-Blackness, is the fundamental basis of the political and economic system and therefore infects all interactions, institutions and ideas. My aim is to trace how White supremacy has been maintained and plays out in the various updates to Western empire" (p. xxi).

A glimpse into the book: "Racial science arose as a discipline to explore the superiority of the White race, and it is telling that basically all the key Enlightenment thinkers were architects of its intellectual framework. Voltaire (in France) believe that "None but the blind can doubt that the Whites, the Negroes, the Albinos [sic], the Hottentots, the Laplanders, the Chinese, and the Americans, are races entirely different." Hegel (in Germany) thought that "Negroes are to be regarded as a race of children who remain immersed in their state of naivete. They are sold and let themselves be sold without any reflection on the rights and wrongs of the matter." John Locke (in seventeenth-century England) believed that 'Negroes' were the product of African women sleeping with apes and therefore that we were subhuman. David Hume (in Scotland) was 'apt to suspect the negroes and in general all the other species of men (for there are four of five different kinds) to be naturally interior to the Whites.' One of the architects of the Greatest Democracy on EarthTM, Thomas Jefferson (in the United States) believed that Black people 'whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the Whites in the endowments of both mind and body.' All agreed that race was real and defined in biology that determined the extent to which a people could claim full humanity." (p. 7-8)

The author concludes that the "glimmer of hope for true transformation in the West is that if the system is left to collapse under its own weight it may well end human existence as we know it" (p. 207) and therefore maybe "it is in this moment, standing on the cliff-edge of annihilation, staring into the abyss caused by Western so-called civilization, that the depth of the problem and scale of the solutions can be grasped." (p. 207) The book details the former but provides none of the latter (beyond "create an entirely new framework for the world's political and economic system", p. 207). It also seems to discount any kind of transitional steps or processes of transformation (as per many Marxist-inspired thinkers, awaiting the revolution, or in this case a Western-based scholar awaiting the fall of the Euro-Western system or revolution that takes it down). 

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Jun
14

Unthinking Social Science

Arguments aplenty about specific forms of biases; in "Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of Nineteenth-Century Paradigms" (1991) Immanuel Wallerstein suggests the problem runs much deeper. The paradigms / worldviews, and assumptions that uphold them, prevent us from truly understanding the world. Drawing upon Marxist thought and critique. Wallerstein offers the beginnings of arguments that would later be developed (in different forms) by Samir Amin and Mbembe, amongst others. A few notes:

"Suppose, however , that the problem with our analyses is not the accuracy of our data , nor the diligence of our research, nor even the sophistication of either our methods or our theorizing, but simply (simply?) the metahistory we have used to organize our data and formulate our generalizations . Suppose that all , or much , of what we have been collectively saying has not been true, not because the data were false, but because the mirrors in which we have been reflecting these data have been distorting more than was necessary." (p. 56)

"Whence racism and underdevelopment? Both racism and underdevelopment are phenomena of the modern world. Racism is not xenophobia, which has of course existed throughout history, and underdevelopment is not poverty and/or a low level of technology, which have also existed throughout history. Rather, racism and underdevelopment, as we know them, are specific manifestations of a basic process by which our own historical system has been organized: a process of keeping people out while keeping people in." (p. 83)

"… everyone (or virtually everyone) denounces racism and underdevelopment, and considers them illegitimate, unfortunate, and eliminable. That is, almost all people, almost all ideological schools of thought have for some time been proclaiming the universalist ideal of a world without racism and without poverty; but all have nonetheless continued to support and maintain institutions which have directly and indirectly perpetuated, indeed increased, these presumably unwanted realities. How has this been possible? Let me develop my seemingly paradoxical formulation in which I suggested that one of the basic formulae on which our own historical system, the capitalist world-economy, has been organized is that of keeping people out while keeping people in. It is less paradoxical than it sounds, and it is in fact the key to our understanding how the system functions." (p. 84)

"Racism and underdevelopment, I fear, are more than dilemmas. They are, in my view, constitutive of the capitalist world-economy as a historical system. They are the primary conditions and essential manifestations of the unequal distribution of surplus-value. They make possible the ceaseless accumulation of capital, the raison d'etre of historical capitalism. They organize the process occupationally and legitimize it politically. It is impossible to conceptualize a capitalist world-economy which did not have them." (p. 92) 

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May
08

Amilcar Cabral

Ohio University Press has a series of "Short Histories of Africa". I recently decided to pick up most of the collection for potential use as reading materials for classes. This post covers "Amilcar Cabral: Nationalist and Pan-Africanist Revolutionary" (2019), by Peter Karibe Mendy. This book in relatively longer in this series, like the Nkrumah book, contains a rich historical contextualization and offers a detailed account. Some notes:

"Desperate to establish the pax lusitana, the Portuguese exploited the differences of language and culture and played off one group against the other, constantly making a distinction between the Islamized "neo-Sudanese" Fulas and Mandinkas of the interior, and the "builders of strong states," and the "animist paleo-Sudanese" of the coastal region, the " more backward peoples." Applying a racist anthropology, colonial officials-cum-social scientists considered the neo-Sudanese to be of the Hamitic / Semitic racial origins, which supposedly made them superior to all the other groups regarded as paleo-Sudanese." (p. 31-32)

Cabral commented: "All Portuguese education disparages the African, his culture and civilization. African languages are forbidden in schools. The white man is always presented as a superior being and the African as an inferior. The colonial "conquistadores" are shown as saints and heroes. As soon as African children enter elementary schools, they develop an inferiority complex. They learn to fear the white man and to feel ashamed of being Africans. African geography, history and culture are either ignored or distorted, and children are forced to study Portuguese geography and history." (p. 46)

"Regarding the supposed racial and intellectual inferiority of Africans, the famous Portuguese writer and politician Joaquim Pedro de Oliveira Martins insisted in 1880 that education for Africans was "absurd not only in the light of History but also in light of the mental capacity of these inferior races." Contemptuous of Portugal's proclaimed double mission of civilizing and evangelizing the "inferior races" and "barbarous peoples" of Africa "placed between man and the anthropoid" Oliveira Martins sneered, "why not teach the Bible to the gorilla and the orangutan, who have ears even though they cannot speak, and must understand, almost as much as the black, the metaphysics of the incarnation of the Word and the dogma of the Trinity?"" (p. 59)

"At Porto, the exhibition of sixty-three pretos da Guine (blacks of Guinea) drew huge crowds of spectators who gaped and gawked at the half naked "savage" women with their exposed breasts, the scantily clad men, and the nude children. The exotic Africans on display also included Angolans and Mozambicans in their replicated "natural habitats" of "primitive" mud-hut villages, in which they were required to live and display their putative lifestyles and cultures for the duration of the exposition. On show in much the same way as the animals in the nearby Porto zoo, the human exhibits were meant to testify to the supposed superiority of the white race." (p. 60-61)

"The increasingly favorable international environment was also due to Cabral's skillful use of the media to publicize the cause of the armed struggle, particularly in countries that were Portugal's NATO allies. From the early years of the war, he continually invited a number of journalists, writers, and film makers to make eyewitness accounts of the armed struggle in progress." (p. 152-153)

"When Luis Cabral's ex-wife, Lucette Cabral, met Nelson Mandela after his release from twenty-seven years of imprisonment, she admiringly told him, "You are the best." Mandela quickly responded, "No, there is Cabral."" (p. 200)

Notes on enablers and those standing in solidarity:

"… the concerned Lisbon authorities quickly sent reinforcements that included a detachment of F-86 Sabre jet fighter planes provided to Portugal by the United States for NATO deployment in Europe. These were later complemented by American T-6 Texan light attack planes and West German-built Italian Fiat G-91 light attack fighter aircraft." (p. 124)

"[Cabral] substantially increased the number of men and women sent abroad for military training, mainly to the USSR, the PRC, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Cuba, besides African countries like Algeria, Morocco, Ghana, and the host country ( Guinea-Conakry)." (p. 138)

"Following the report of a UN fact-finding mission sent to Conakry three days after the aborted invasion, Security Council resolution 290 (1970), adopted with the abstentions of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Spain, reaffirmed "the inalienable right of the people of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea (Bissau) to freedom and independence," condemned Portugal for the aggression, and declared that "the presence of Portuguese colonialism on the African continent is a serious threat to the peace and stability of independent African states." (p. 150) 

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