TikTok & Neo-Colonialism: The Race to Serve the Enemies of Humanity

Social media in general and Tiktok in particular have exploded across the entire planet. Everything from losing weight to romantic tips to movie and show clips are featured in short, quick video snippets for millions of people to experience in a matter of moments. Situated evenly among the catalog of topics are wide ranging and hard-hitting videos that attempt to discredit any efforts to promote the actual histories of colonialism, slavery, and current day oppression of marginalized people everywhere.

These specific types of videos range in topic from denying the existence of systemic white supremacy to support for zionist israel (and its systemic oppression of the Palestinian people) to denying African identity for Africans living in the U.S. The videos employ a strategy of clever superficial talking point logic that appeals to millions of people who want to be able to sound like they comprehend complex political issues without having to do the intense study required to properly understand those issues.

Examples of what we are speaking of are the steady flow of videos showcasing people, presumably African or Indigenous youth, engaging in smash and grab activities against large retail stores like Apple or Target, etc. These specific types of images were utilized by the country music singer Jason Aldean in his music video for his song “Try that in a Small Town.” Using those two examples, the smash and grabs and Aldean’s video, we can see the clever and superficial method in which these videos are utilized. They are often narrated by people like right-wing blabbermouth Candace Owens and others in a tactic to criticize long time Democratic Party governed cities and states like San Francisco and Oakland, California U.S. 

Please understand that we are in no way making an argument in support of the Democratic Party in the U.S. Actually, we are making a larger argument against the capitalist system as a whole (Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, so-called Independents, Americans etc.). Without question, if crime is the issue these creators wish to focus on, then there is more than enough blame to go around for Democratic and Republican “controlled” cities and states. The highest crime state for as long as anyone cares to document it is Alaska which has been a Republican state for quite some time, but that’s not the most important rebuttal against this nonsense. 

Imagine the world we live in today where African people are called criminals for breaking into an Apple store and taking out laptops and iPhones when Apple is only Apple in the first place because of its consistent and criminal exploitation of Congolese youth who are forced to mine coltan by hand for nothing except suffering and death. The only issue any clear thinking African should have with these smash and grabs is that whatever Africans are actually doing, they are not providing any financing to the African liberation movement (ala the Black Liberation Army in the 70s and 80s) from their exploits. That last part is the only obscene element of smash and grabs, but this right thinking logic of course flies in the face of the current Tiktok generated world we live in where our youth are demonized for smash and grabs while this entire backward country just celebrated Christopher Columbus – the historical definer of smash and grab ideology and practice.

As for Aldean, his song generated a series of Tiktok videos, many of them narrated by African people, which use snippets of smash and grabs to express support for Aldean’s message that the inner cities are cesspools of lawlessness and violence while small town U.S. is safe and pristine. Clever and superficial because any deeper analysis of Aldean exposes that he was born and raised by his divorced parents. A mother that raised him in Macon, Georgia, U.S., and a father that raised him in Homestead, Florida, U.S. In both locations, apparently a whole lot of people decided to “try it in a small town” since both places currently have crime indexes that compare percentage wise, based upon populations, to cities like San Francisco which are routinely demonized in Aldean’s and many other videos. A more correct analysis would be that capitalism is in trouble because of its systemic decline. People all over the world are deciding they will not sit back and go without while capitalist corporations steal all of the wealth on earth.

Back to Aldean, we are particularly galled by said videos supporting people like him that are narrated by Africans. There are also a growing number of videos, also narrated by Africans, that attempt to argue that Africans were as much responsible for the transatlantic slave trade as European colonialism and that current political and economic conditions throughout Africa result from African mismanagement and corruption entirely.

There are many, many examples of this filth, but the primary point is that these efforts are so dangerous because of our people’s lack of desire and commitment to study our history and conditions for ourselves. Although no one would admit it publicly, we all know that many of our people, everywhere on earth, rely upon these backward videos for our analysis around these issues. We know this to be true because we hear the talking points expressed in these videos often being presented against us in our work to achieve Pan-Africanism.

We don’t currently have evidence, but possibly these “campaigns” are orchestrated and funded by corporate interests who aspire to capitalize off of dehumanizing the African masses. Before anyone says this theory is far-fetched we have to remember that the history of capitalism is built upon the same model i.e. dehumanizing Africans to justify exploiting us. In fact, it can be irrefutably argued that the entire concept of white supremacy was created as a justification for colonialism and slavery. We needed the European colonizer to come into Africa and save us from our primitive reality. Clearly, the concept of telling us to “go back to Africa” is without question rooted in this type of white supremacist reasoning as if going to Africa is an indictment, or going means we would lose something – that something actually being the human and material resources stolen from Africa that finance the Western capitalist world (for example, one out of three houses in Paris, France, are lit by atomic power generated from uranium stolen from Niger. The Eiffel Tower lit up is fueled by that same uranium while the masses in Niger have no electricity).

The question for truth and justice loving African people is how do we combat this anti-African work, regardless of where it originates?  Certainly, we know that Ahmed Sekou Ture was eternally correct when he said “one truth will crush a thousand lies!” We need a campaign of all our people and anyone else who genuinely wants to support justice for the African masses, to commit to training all of us on how to make videos that express the true nature of our struggle for justice. There are definitely some who are doing that. There is even a nicely coordinated campaign by Asian comrades denouncing white supremacy against the African masses within their communities, but these efforts are still way too few. And, these efforts shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. They should of course be a part of an organized effort to propagate justice for the African masses and all exploited and oppressed humanity. That requires people, our people, to commit to organization. The forces producing this filth on Tiktok are organized. All you need do is spend 30 minutes scrolling through the videos and that will become painfully obvious. We can’t win this propaganda war against us trying to match each video the enemy puts out because they are fighting a downhill battle. This system is already committed to racist values whereas we are fighting an uphill battle, even among our own people. This means our struggle is objectively going to be more difficult. As a result, there are no shortcuts. Only a question of how many of us are ready to start a real campaign. A campaign designed to provide our people on a mass scale with the type of organized political education that will serve as the inoculation our people desperately need to protect us against the constant poison being aimed against us while inspiring us to believe we can do much better than the world we live in today that relies on our suffering to ensure its gears are routinely oiled.

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Ahjamu Umi is revolutionary organizer with the All African People's Revolutionary Party, adviser, and liberation literature author.