“Democrats are for the poor, and Republicans are for the rich.” My parents first told me this when I was maybe three or four. There was some kind of uproar about a rigged election then, in which George Bush won the presidency I think. I was small and ain’t understand why my parents and neighbors were mad, but as soon as my parents linked our economic struggles to the interests of the Blue party, it instantly made sense why they was upset. They wanted the party whose platform would extend to us as working class folk.
My parents were the first people to discuss class with me. Much of my childhood was in the shelter system, so they often spoke about poverty as a structure of neglect, and how the economy was set up against us as poor people, and how it intentionally put us in a cycle to get sent to jail or get killed.
But I was not convinced of the equation, this schema that they were tryna teach me about which political party could help the poor out. Could the Democrats truly have been for the poor when the majority of the poor I was seeing—myself included—were Black and most of the Dems, like the Republicans, were white? It just seemed to me like both parties actually had a shared interest in white power.
My mind was on a racial wavelength at that age. My parents would play recordings from Martin Luther King, Jr. and so discussions on segregation were beginning to take deeper shape in my mind. While King was from decades ago, though, the issues they talked about still seemed real to me. Because all the white people I saw were not in my neighborhood; they lived in big houses with lawns and stuff while we were in infested buildings. What had the Dems, who supposedly support the poor, done to help people who look like me from being trapped in shelters like I had grown up in, or in smelly projects, or underfunded schools?
My mind was on a racial wavelength at that age. My parents would discourage us playing outside with toy guns because the police could think it was real, assume us criminals, and kill us. All the cops I saw were white. What had Dems, supposedly on the side of the poor, done to help people who look like me from being trapped in a cycle of poverty that put us in contact with police and prisons?
My mind was on a racial wavelength at that age. Everyone was bullying me for my gender nonconformity by telling me to ‘act Black’ instead. I got into fights and suffered deep psychological scars, and became aware of the harassment that other gender variant Black people had to face. What had, for example, the Dems, supposedly here for the poor, done to help the houseless Black kids who were often abandoned by queerphobic family members, the jobless Black folk who employers refused to hire because of their sexual/gender biases?
My mind was on a racial wavelength at that age. I was reading about pollution in my mother’s science encyclopedias and then finding out that industrial toxins were ravaging plant and animal species’ bodies, and then making members our species sick. What had the Dems, supposedly here for the poor, done to assist the masses of Black people suffering from asthma or lead poisoning because we couldn’t afford to not get industrial waste and poison dumped into our environments like the whites could?
Nearly two decades after I asked those questions, New Afrika (“Black America “) is still having to make the same inquiries. At this point, though, we done had a Black president, we done had Black mayors, we done had Black police chiefs, we done had Black principals, we done had Black entertainers and business folk. And yet our economic and social position is still pretty much the same (if not worse) than it was just before the passage of Civil Rights legislation that MLK helped fight for. And no, our present struggles cannot be linked to the resurgence of fascism and the Trump presidency. Certainly, the Republican takeover has superficially made things more difficult for us, bringing credible dangers with regards to public education, LGBT+ rights, hate crime protections, welfare programs, and more. Yet, when had liberalism and the “diversification” of American institutions truly served us?
Everything about US liberalism, even its Black voices, is about supposedly accepting the most marginal of Black folk, all while still blaming us for our plight. US liberalism and its policies and politics can be summed up in this way: using ‘diversity’ cards and tokenism as a disguise for the conservative idea that we will stop being shot and neglected once we pull up our pants or pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Instead of identifying anti-Black violence in the US as born of imperialism and colonialism, and calling for a massive structural change, liberals instead tell us that our liberation comes from better becoming parts of the system. US liberals will go so far as to coopt the popular Black hood/working class idea that ‘if I eat, my niggas eat’ into the silly notion that if we get a few Black rich men or Black representatives, their class position will translate to liberation for the poor masses by ‘inspiring’ us to Grind harder to join them. How are these ideas any different from the ‘trickle down’ economics myth (what benefits the rich will automatically benefit the poor) or the myth of ‘meritocracy’ (if we work hard we can get social mobility) that conservatives use to disguise how violent and exploitative capitalism is?
Im reminded of something Malcolm X once said:
“The white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but they at least don’t try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling. The white liberals are more dangerous than the conservatives; they lure the Negro, and as the Negro runs from the growling wolf, he flees into the open jaws of the “smiling” fox. One is a wolf, the other is a fox. No matter what, they’ll both eat you.”
Malcolm X’s words are important today as the Democrats claim to lead a pallid ‘resistance’ to neofascism. They are currently pandering to rebellious energy that has continued to build in Black communities’ hearts even before the Right in this country took the white house. These foxes are coming to us with fake radical language, with talk of ‘democratic socialism’ and ‘accountable capitalism’ and even a pair of Black faces (Booker and Harris) to spice it all up. They know they need to do this because they see our Black frustration, they see how we are beginning to understand that capitalism is environmentally unsustainable and genocidal against our people, and they want us to believe what we know deep down just ain’t true: that their systems can protect and affirm us. So, behind all their smiles there is actually a voracious thirst to destroy us. Behind their promises, there are policies that are just as anti-immigrant, just as carceral, just as anti-sex worker, just as imperial and neocolonial—which is to say, just as anti-black, just as violent to the most marginal in Amerikkkan society —as the stuff the conservative wolves call for. The dems want to pacify us so we can quietly let them devour us, in contrast to the Amerikkkan Right, eager to consume us openly and proudly.
The only hope for the Negro is to realize this: that we are not a passive sheep caught in the US’ political teeth, but a wildcat who must fight with every snarl and claw against Massa’s house and prevent the Man from forcing us into a domesticated, servile state.
The Wildcat, not the fox or the wolf, should be our go-to symbol for political activity here. Such activity is the politics of the unruled, the ungoverned, the indomitable—of the revolutionary, even the anarchic—which New Afrika must turn toward more deeply if we are to free ourselves of our conditions. The wildcat represents the legacy and undying cultures of radicalism, rebellion, subversion, waywardness that have threatened Europe since they first encroached on Afrikan lands. Where the fox is US liberalism and the wolf is US conservatism, the wildcat is the Black revolution. We do not have to and should not depend on ballots and billionaires when we can turn toward Black radical traditions.
It is wildcats (Black radicals) who feed us while the foxes (liberals), even Black ones, allow our people to starve; it is wildcats (Black radicals) who arm us or ride for us while the foxes (liberals), even Black ones, allow us to be shot by pigs and blame us for it. It is wildcats (Black radicals) who burn plantations, who get racist bosses fired, who protect sacred lands, who hold down natural sites from capitalist toxicity, who educate our kids when the school system fills our heads with lies or throws us in jail, who send letters to our prison fam and work to get books and medical care to us too; it is wildcats (Black radicals) who house street queers when no one else will, who box fascists over the head when the cops show up to defend them, who offer free therapy sessions to those of us who need it and couldn’t afford it otherwise, who hold down gardens and grow plants and herbs for us to nourish ourselves with when city infrastructure leaves us locked out of food or medical access. It is wildcats (Black radicals) behind why progress has not yet stagnated, all while the foxes (liberals) give us empty promises that only lead to then filling their pockets.
The poor, queer, Black, disabled masses have no allies in the white power structure, even if the powerful are ‘melanated.’ All these foxes do is work to convince us that our only hope is to remain subject to the very system that violates us and our cousins overseas. But, there is no savior within the Amerikkkan Empire. We alone are our magic hands, as Fanon once said, and so it is on us to protect ourselves, by ourselves, for ourselves and for our planet.