An artist's representation of Black Liberals throwing away internationalism and social justice movements now that Democrats are back in office.

Black American Apathy and Internationalism

“…There is no “American dilemma” because Black people in this country form a colony, and it is not in the interest of the colonial power to liberate them. Black people are legal citizens of the United States with, for the most part, the same legal rights as other citizens. Yet they stand as colonial subjects concerning the white society. Thus institutional racism has another name: colonialism.”

-Black Power: Politics of Liberation.

For those organizing African people towards Revolutionary Pan-African Socialism, a Joe Biden presidency is not a win. It’s a detriment. Understanding neoliberalism breeds fascism would mean that it is a mistake for anyone alleged to be of a “radical politic” to celebrate Biden becoming the president-elect and, by extension, celebrating his running mate, Kamala Harris. Unfortunately, many Africans in the US have strapped themselves in willingly for a presidency that will attempt to be even more hawkish than the Barack Obama administration in every warmongering, drone-dropping, coup-backing, militarized-policing way.

Much of the issues around internationalism stems from a communal lack of political maturity, which helps one analyze their material conditions as they are. Furthermore, a lack of political education obstructs international solidarity with Africans and oppressed people globally. African people in the US make up a colonized nation not dissimilar to colonized nations always under attack by the strongarm of US imperialism and their western allies.

The US military and its 400 bases worldwide serve as occupiers in the same way the (overt) police state does in our neighborhoods. What is the difference between the US African Command (AFRICOM), which is said to “combat the War on Terror,” and militarized policing units like Operation Relentless Pursuit and Operation LeGend, both used in multiple cities across the country to “combat crime and domestic terrorism”? What is the difference between the murderous Israeli occupation of Palestine and the occupation of a colonized neighborhood in the US using IDF trained police units?

There is no difference.

The primary contradictions of imperialism have been distorted by dishonest conversations around “anti- Blackness,” as well as a new sense of American ‘pride’ found in Black Americans that assists in framing all geopolitical issues from an ‘us vs. them’ lens. Global and domestic imperialism are counterparts. African people’s allegiance to the US, and military enlistment, has always existed as a contradiction within the community. While it may be true historically African people were the least favorable to war, Obama’s presidency set the stage for a bold backing of US imperialism by way of patriotism from ‘Black America.’

Although most unite under hating Trump, many earnestly believe the US is worth saving. Mass “get out the vote” mobilizations across the country ensued to “stop full-blown fascism” by asserting a false sense of power in electing a majority unfavorable democratic candidate. The mainstream media announcement of Biden as the 46th president has caused a mass reactionary hysteria and sighs “of relief” that things may return to normal.

As the celebrations have been going on, despite Donald Trump not formally conceding, Biden’s team has been busy, too. Names for potential cabinet members who range from the center to the right have been circling the internet. Jim Clyburn and other democratic centrist moderates are currently vowing to protect the country from going “socialist” by pushing back against the messaging of “defund the police.” 

Benjamin Netanyahu and Narendra Modi have congratulated the presumed  president-elect and madame vice president-elect, promising even closer ties and relations. Both Netanyahu and Modi are fascists, in their own right, and part of a more extensive global expansion of fascist leadership, yet neither Biden nor Harris find an issue in continuing the existing relationships despite the very real murderous actions of both men in their prospective countries against Muslims. Coincidentally, alleged crimes against Muslims is the same propaganda use to be actively aggressive towards China and President Xi Jinping that Biden intends to continue with through the Indo-Pacific Command. 

With rumors of Dick Cheney potentially being an advisor to Biden on foreign policy, a majority conservative Supreme Court and a majority GOP senate would be a convenient cover for Biden’s actual geopolitics and non-plan for the poor working-class. Biden has built a career in the US government on criminalizing Africans and other colonized people in the US with the racialized “War on Drugs” through policy measures like the crime bill (domestically) and Plan Colombia (globally).

The “open-letter left,” which includes characters like Noam Chomsky and Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, has decided, as a predominately white and economically stable coalition of signatures, to ignore historical materialism for the sake of ousting Trump. They have agreed that any policies that will place colonized people the most at risk, here and abroad, would be worth it so long as it’s not policies signed off on by Trump. Just like during the Obama era, the US left is proving itself useless in not only helping the masses comprehend imperialism but fighting against it by not voting for the man who has never seen a war he disapproved.

“Imperialism, which is the highest stage of capitalism, will continue to flourish in different forms as long as conditions permit it.  Though its end is certain, it can only come about under pressure of nationalist awakening and an alliance of progressive forces which hasten its end and destroy its conditions of existence.”  

Kwame Nkrumah, Consciencism

‘Black American’ apathy through American exceptionalism creates that “sigh of relief” people express now. The indifference to wars and occupation is the result of a rupture in the ability for African people to make the connections between a man promising more policing as a campaign strategy during the height of mass uprisings against the police to his aggressive rhetoric towards nations like Venezuela, China, Iran, etc. Nor the US’ role in establishing brutal neocolonial leadership in the Global South and on the Continent.

It is becoming more and more evident that despite the strengthening calls to ‘Free Palestine’ and more recent actions to ‘End Sars,’ internationalism will again become a backburner issue. How will Africans in the US combat this and re-establish the anti-war internationalism politics that cemented the Black Radical Tradition and politics of the past?

First, we must ruthlessly attack the aversion to political education. The lack of understanding of the Third World struggles adjacent to the struggles of Africans in the US has resulted in liberal reactionary responses to anti-imperialism. Imperialism can not continue to be a vacuum issue by Africans living within the empire of the US. This isolated framing of the world prevents the practice of revolutionary internationalism – international solidarity against the same white supremacist forces that oppress Africans domestically. We are witnessing the frantic reactionary calls to “let people enjoy things” for the sake of identity reductionism.

Revolutionary internationalism: A #BlackLivesMatter solidarity action in occupied Palestine drawing connections between the murders of George Floyd and autistic Palestinian youth, Eyad Al-Hallaq
A #BlackLivesMatter solidarity action in occupied Palestine drawing connections between the murders of George Floyd and autistic Palestinian youth, Eyad Al-Hallaq

Online discourse centered around anti-imperialism is met with push back primarily because people do not possess the political maturity to comprehend the ways imperialism materially affects their everyday lives and the importance of internationalism. Once Africans in the US understand themselves as colonized people on stolen land, there will be a more precise analysis of how liberation is sought and gained through tactics not tied to revolutionary internationalism – not to continuously voting for one’s demise.

For colonized people within the imperial core, there should be no allegiance to America.

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Erica Caines is a poet, writer and organizer in Baltimore and the DMV. She is an organizing committee member of the anti war coalition, the Black Alliance For Peace as well as an outreach member of the Black centered Ujima People’s Progress Party. Caines founded Liberation Through Reading in 2017 as a way to provide Black children with books that represent them and created the extension, a book club entitled Liberation Through Reading BC, to strengthen political education online and in our communities.