If history should be any teacher, it has taught us this: the state has no interest in serving the needs of the masses of Black people in this country, who are poor and working class. Billions of dollars for a war abroad (from which weapons manufacturers and their shareholders profit handsomely) yet we can’t pass a minimum wage of $15 an hour — let alone a living wage — at home. COVID has exposed the horrors of having a for-profit healthcare system, with the wealthiest country on Earth having the highest infection and death rate, and with Black people in general, and Black men in particular being the hardest hit community. There were nearly 600,000 people homeless in the US at the end of 2021, yet half of the luxury condos built in Manhattan in the last 5 years remain vacant — and that phenomena isn’t isolated to New York.
None of this is by accident. Corporations and the wealthy have lobbied our Senators, Congressmen, and state and local officials to create, maintain, and profit from the inequities present in our society. In fact, former Applebee’s executive, Wayne Pankratz, was recently fired after leaking a Wall Street secret — that inflation is good for business. In an email, the executive suggested inflation would force people to accept longer hours for lower wages due to increasing financial strain in the economy, and since employees might be juggling several jobs to make ends meet, Applebee’s should position itself to be the employee’s favorite workplace — not by paying people more — but by sending out schedules earlier than their competitors. This type of exploitation would not be possible if the majority of corporations and government were not colluding to maintain poverty wages, which ultimately increase the bottom line for companies’ shareholders and executives.
It is clear that in this plutocracy we call Amerikkka, most of those in power have no interest in creating healthy and striving communities for the majority of poor and working class people; and in fact, have every stake in maintaining our status quo of poverty and inequity. It is up to we, the People, then, to create the society we wish to live in. And through the study of past and present movements for Black liberation, I believe in 3 main strategies to begin:
I. Robust Care Networks
There is no revolution that has ever been financed by its oppressors. We cannot and should not depend on the same state and corporations that profit off our exploitation, to invest in our liberation. Moreover, the systems in place are designed to punish and control our bodies —police, jails, and prisons act as solutions to social ills, like poverty, mental illness, homelessness, and addiction; workfare programs covered in redtape, requiring mountains of documentation and identification before people are granted access to basic necessities like food and water. So, then, what do we do to fill the gaps and regain autonomy?
In every movement, including the Black liberation movement, there has always existed mutual aid. Community members working together in solidarity to share resources and support each other. Everyone shares what they can so everyone can have what they need. Where the state has failed, mutual aid has filled in. Examples include the survival programs of the Black Panther Party — the free breakfast program, medical and legal clinics, and ambulance services, among other initiatives. During the COVID-19 pandemic, mutual aid networks popped up across the country, as neighbors pitched in to buy and deliver groceries, prescriptions, and offer cash assistance to other neighbors in need. It is time to scale this model to all of our communities, schools, and workplaces — including through unionizing with our more vulnerable co-workers. Capitalism conditions us towards individualism, even though we literally need community for survival. How do begin to return to a collective mindset that eases our individual burdens? Instead of outsourcing, how can we begin to share responsibility? Childcare, cooking, cleaning, employment opportunities, legal advice, medical care, etc. We can begin doing for each other to both ease our lives and meet our needs. We can even take control for accountability processes in our communities without the need for police.
People cannot fully engage in resistance when they are focused on their daily survival. Robust care networks will help to alleviate this — though we must be careful not to be paternalistic in the formation of such networks, but to allow communities themselves the agency to lead and manage them. Decentralized and autonomous care networks are also harder for our opponents to destabilize. Once care networks are in place, the focus can shift to item #2 — political education and consciousness raising.
II. Political Education & Consciousness Raising
Political education will heighten and expose the contradictions of capitalism and our government in the eyes of the oppressed. Having been shown how capable it is for their material needs to be met, and that their government is purposely failing them, more people will be driven to resist the status quo. The more educated we are on the history of Amerikkkan capitalism and imperialism, and of efforts in the Black Liberation Movement to resist, the more prepared and adept we will be in facing our current struggle. The propaganda arm of Amerikkka has infected all parts of society — from public school curriculum, to children’s cartoons, to mainstream media, to the college classroom. None of us are completely exempt from beliefs ingrained in us by a racist, sexist, transphobic, xenophobic, patriarchal society; so it is of paramount importance that we unlearn the hate and individualism we were conditioned towards, and relearn the divine power of love and collectivism.
III. Direct Action for Liberation
With a people that is able to meet and sustain its needs through the power of mutual aid, and having been made aware of the forces in society that maintain their oppression, direct action can be taken to challenge the oppressor’s power. In 2020, we saw this across the US en masse during the uprisings that followed the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by white law enforcement. Sustained protests in New York City led to a significantly reduced police budget and shifts (though, inadequate) to fund social services.
Black Liberation requires us to support radical demands for change — not those that are convenient and politically expedient. Black Liberation demands that we look past our individual interests to consider the good of the whole. If we want the masses of Black people to thrive, we must support the demands of anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and abolitionist organizers, because anything less helps to maintain the status quo. It is time to move past granting opportunity only to those deemed exceptional. It is time to truly make the pursuit of happiness a right for all. All power derives from the People, and an organized majority scares the shit out of Amerikkka. An organized people can no longer be taken advantage of. The revolution is approaching. Slowly, but surely, we are building the structures that will render the state obsolete and redistribute power where it belongs — with Us. In the meantime, check out these police “reforms” that you should always oppose — and which you should support — written by Mariame Kaba, as we work towards a just future.