Author Archives: Al Battles II

About Al Battles II

float like a monarch butterfly, sting like a carpenter bee! Judges 6:12 #ResistDaily #AnaBlacktivism

MLK and Fanon #ReclaimMLK

If one were to say that the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the late Frantz Fanon were two of the greatest intellectuals ever to walk among the  populace of the African diaspora, that would be an understatement. These two Black men were such a threat to White Supremacy, it was no wonder that the government conspired to have both killed. The white racist establishment desires for blacks and others among the oppressed to see the goals and aspirations of MLK Jr. and Fanon as diametrically opposed, and seeks to divide us between the “good, peaceable” (read: acceptable) Negroes and the angry, violent Black bucks prone to criminality (read: disposable).  Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, inspired the Black Power movement of the late 1960’s as well as Black Liberation theologies, and his labor in the Algerian revolution gave life to anti-colonial struggles world wide.  In the minds of mainstream academia and media, Fanon is portrayed as a dangerous revolutionary much like a Che Guevara.  Martin Luther King, Jr. is adored by people around the world (supposedly), with statues made after his likeness and streets and buildings named after him.  MLK Jr. was a prophet of love, preaching a message of nonviolence, racial equality, and economic justice.

If these two persons were indeed so radically different, it would seem quite strange that King Jr. gave Fanon a sympathetic yet critical reading of WOTE.  But this is exactly what he did in the second chapter of Where Do We Go From Here?.  MLK recognized the urgency of the moment, and the impact that Fanon’s words were having on young Black women and men in his day.  King, Jr. was a committed Christian, and dismissed WOTE‘s conclusion as being bent towards materialism and violence.  This is a rather peculiar and unfair assessment of Fanon’s own words. I think in a way, MLK, Jr. was reading WOTE’s opening chapter “On Violence,” as prescriptive rather than descriptive, and there’s a nuanced difference here. See, it was colonial domination that placed the Algerian people (and other colonized people groups) into a predicament and cycle of violence. Fanon was observing that colonized subjects, victims of violence, experienced an emotional release through revolutionary activity.

Frantz Fanon was far more graphic at depicting specific instances of structural violence: White supremacy, antiBlackness, and settler colonialism.  Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned the rise of the nonviolent person to overcome the violent history of modernity.  MLK believed that nonviolent individuals could come together to promote a nonviolent moral order.  Nonviolence, a practice out of Christ’s call to love our enemies, was a duty placed upon the marginalized.  “With every once of our energy we must continue to rid our nation of the incubus of racial injustice. But we need not in the process relinquish our privilege and obligation to love.” And yet Fanon argued in the same concluding chapter that MLK Jr. cited, “Europe has taken over leadership of the world with fervor, cynicism, and violence. [……] Europe has denied itself not only humility and modesty but also solicitude and tenderness. […] Let us decide not to imitate Europe and let us tense our muscles and our brains in a new direction.” In Fanon’s thought, there is space for an ethic of love and tenderness, but it must be a free choice that the oppressed must make for themselves. The problem with the colonial situation is that it is dehumanizing in its limitations of choices for colonized persons (see WOTE chapter 1).  Furthermore, we see in Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks that his view of freedom is far more essential to his ethics of liberation, since there is “one duty: the duty never to let my decisions renounce my freedom.”  Black people (in Fanon’s view) needed to recognize our natural capacity for self-determination over and against a White Supremacist/ antiBlack society where racial violence was the over-determining factor.

In so far as Fanon participated in the creation a nation-state, that of Algeria, Fanon’s praxis of a “new humanity” apart from Europe was merely a reflection of European, Western modern nation-state, which is built upon violence. Nation-states are formed through middle class hegemony, crony capitalism, and nationalist hymns. Liberation movements should lead us away from the war-mongering model of the nation-state, not sustain its mirror image. This is where we can look to MLK Jr.’s call to love although his message of blacks immediately integrating into a white supremacist society is somewhat questionable. MLK Jr.’s politics, much like his ethics, was built on love.

Unlike many con artists today who claim to be leading a “revolution,” Dr. King (and Fanon, for that matter), had  specific plans with details about how to go about real change. Rather than the nation-state, the U.S.A. would become part of what King called “the World-House” with a guaranteed income for every family, federal funding for local school buildings, and educational parks as well as a national affordable housing plan that consisted of low-cost rehabilitation loans and new public funded, racially integrated housing (think the inverse of gentrification).

Dr. King’s political model of Black citizens joining in loose alliances with either the Democratic Party or the GOP, along with “Puerto Ricans, labor, liberals, certain church and middle class elements” is pretty much outdated. It was a highly optimistic approach to electoral politics that correctly diagnosed Blacks potential as a voting bloc yet it was one that ignored the history of trade unions and racial resentment, and that perhaps overemphasized national politics over local.  Fanon’s program emphasized local municipalities governing themselves all the while maintaining an eye on the lumpenproleteriat (WOTE), the jobless and criminalized of the world.  We need to re-imagine a post-colonial politics that is glocal, that is global in outlook and at the same time prioritizing local issues.   The best way forward is to practice a politics of love and freedom.   It is possible for one to affirm Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s  nonviolent Christian realism as well as Frantz Fanon’s humanism simultaneously. Even with the installation of a tyrannical regime taking place later today, it’s not too late. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, the call to love and liberation is only the beginning.

 

Thoughts on Rogue One A #StarWars Story

No spoilers ahead, so no spoiler warnings.

After the results of the 2016 Presidential election, liberals, progressives, radicals, and reasonable (anti-Trump) conservatives alike were searching for symbols  to invoke their outrage and disappointment. It was a bit of a coincidence that less than a month later a stand-alone film from the Star Wars franchise would debut.  The story of Star Wars has always been political, and in these partisan times, even more so. The idea behind Rogue One was to tell the backstory about how the Rebel Alliance were able to steal away the blueprint for the Death Star, and therefore know of its weakness in the final battle of Episode IV: A New Hope.  It was a prequel that takes place in between the prequel trilogy, after Revenge of the Sith and before A New Hope. 

In a funny way, members on the right and the left can identify with “The” resistance, seeing themselves in a story about a great struggle against the evil empire. The “white working class ” (according to the media’s narrative) is The Resistance having had to defeated the proponents of internationalism, the North Atlantic Treat Organization, and NAFTA. Disaffected democratic socialists and angry Hillary Clinton voters are now teaming up as the new “Resistance” against Orange Mussolini’s regime. Like the Rebel Alliance that is portrayed in the Star Wars canon, this alliance (the one of radicals and mainstream liberals) historically has been fragile in nature.

Rogue One provided a very helpful image of this relationship.  It took place during a discussion between Jyn Urso, the strong white feminist protagonist of the story and Saw Guerrera, the radical black freedom fighter.  Saw is angry because he has witnessed the transformation of the Republic into an evil Empire.  Saw (played by an African American man) tells Jyn of how disgusted he is with having to look at the empire’s flag everyday he wakes up.  Jyn (played by a white British woman) provides some simple advice, “Do not raise your head up.” The message is: keep your head down, keep quiet, and you won’t get into any trouble with your oppressors. For Saw Guerrera, that obviously would not suffice.  Jyn’s words ring eerily similar to the current controversy surrounding #theResistance to organizations like the Women’s March in Portland which said that signs mentioning #BlackLivesMatter were “too political.”  If you’re black, step back. Blackness, having black skin, participating in black culture and black institutions, is always seen as something Other, that any mention of Blackness as seen as going too far, too radical.

Was Rogue One a good movie? Of course, there’s no doubt that it’s a fine addition to the Star Wars canon, and in comparison to the other prequels, it was very well received. The feminist spirit of Rogue One was also comparable to the Hunger Games  and its dystopian world. I found the movie enjoyable, but going back to the issue of blackness.  The heroic tale of a loose band of goody-two shoe rebels adorned in white against a powerful group of dark-hooded men and women in black reads like a recapitulation of the American revolution.  Space fantasies and science fictions are never too off from historical events from which they find their inspirations. Good guys wear white, bad guys wear black.  Good guys are intuitive and make their decisions in the spur of the moment. The Bad guys are well organized, they have a plan, and often times they have a strict hierarchy. There was a point in my life when I found the Star Wars world to be uninteresting, but ever since I decided that what appealed to me were the Sith, it became much more intriguing.  If one thinks about the Sith Code as opposed to the Jedi, it’s actually the Sith values that save the world in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.   It is a blend of passion and the deep knowledge of the powers that be that helps the Rebels to triumph.  Stoicism and objectivity have no place in the Emperor’s fall.

The other part of the problem with Star Wars   as a whole is its reception by the average fan.  Everyone wants to be a Jedi sort of like every three year old child wants to be a police officer when they grow up.  The very weapons that the Jedi forge (lightsabers) are powered by the same crystal responsible for powering the Death Star: the kyber crytals.  The Jedi police the galaxy with the power of the Death Star in their hands.  Think about it. The Star Wars Animated Universe (Clone WarsRebels) is particularly adept at showing just how the Jedi and the Sith, the Dark Side and the Light Side are but two sides of the same coin.  Of course there is such thing as right and wrong, but these labels are not due to which ever side of the Force one chooses, Jedi or Sith, but rather what one chooses to do with the Force, or in the case of “The Resistance,” our choices as it relates to power and power differential.  Many aspiring Rebels in today’s politics want us to follow the way of “Occupy” (a term that rests on settler colonialist assumptions), marching for the sake of marching, demonstration to DEMONSTRATE that someone doesn’t like what’s going on, politicking on our intuitions and feelings in the moment. Yet this is EXACTLY how the opponents keep winning.  They are counting on the Resistance remain deluded with their Rebel logos and Safety Pin [TM] entrepreneurial endeavors as distractions.

The Alt Right, like the conservative movements before it, the Moral Majority, the Reagan Revolution, Nixon’s Southern Strategy,  knows that in order for them to remain in power they need to divide and conquer (in this case, the poor, liberals, progressives, radical academics, People of Color, moderates) and so far, so good. The Alt Right white supremacists have a plan, they have specific policy goals, and they have both well-oiled corporate media outlets as well as popular independent fake news sites to get their message out there. In other words, they have a Death Star. The major challenge for Rebels in 2017 isn’t knowing what we are up against or what’s the best way to resist; the major challenge is planning what type of country/ Death Star are we going to replace Orange Mussolini’s regime with.

 

(Photo: The picture is of the Death Star from Star Wars.  It is a space ship shaped like the moon.  The sky is black. Found on Flickr. Taken by Mirek and Coop)

Self-Determination.

Today marks the second day of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a seven day holiday celebrated around the world by people from the African diaspora. Ever since I was a fifth grader, I have been aware of this holiday. At that time, my family and I were attending a predominantly Black Baptist megachurch which celebrated both Christmas and Kwanzaa. As a family, we didn’t really celebrate the holiday but I grew to respect people who chose to. One of the laziest criticisms of Kwanzaa is that it is a “made-up” “fake” holiday. If we are gonna be honest, all of our holy days are socially constructed, or “made up” as they say. I would argue what matters not is the origin stories of holidays, but ultimately the values that they teach.

In his significant work, Black Theology & Black Power, James Cone quotes Kwanzaa founder Maulana Ron Karenga and his criticism of Christianity, and the need to “concern ourselves more with this life which has its own problems. For the next life across Jordan is much further away from the growl of dogs and policemen and the pains of hunger and disease” (page 33). In the era of Black Lives Matter, I find Karenga’s words timely. U.S. Christianity, specifically White evangelicalism, has sneered at visions of black liberation for decades. Rather than join the struggle versus mass incarceration and the pre-school to prison pipeline that subjugates an overwhelming number of young black boys, White Christians would prefer to continue to perpetuate antiBlack narratives and politics for the sake of maintaining their power.

White Supremacist myths that continue to oppress Black people include the slaveability and dependent nature of Black souls. In this mythology, Blacks do not like freedom, Black people are servile, they play the entertainer, the really good athlete, the nice Black soldier, the “welfare queen,” or the uncritical “uninformed” Democratic party voter all at the same time. We see these images in the white supremacist media from good liberals at ESPN to the nice establishment conservatives at the Wall Street Journal. Black intellectuals are never seen as unique thinkers, only the black versions of European greats, like Frantz Fanon as the Black Jean-Paul Satre, for example.

These racist myths exist only to justify the current status quo, and to justify the four hundred year legacy of Black enslavement without any means of reparations, justice, or reconciliation. And yet, today is what celebrants of Kwanzaa call Kujichagulia Day, a day to reflect on SELF-INITIATIVE, SELF-RESPECT, AND SELF-DETERMINATION. If our notions of the human involve racist ideas, then I suggest that unfreedom, oppression would be part of our understanding of personhood. This would explain the preferred viciously antiBlack racist anthropological gaze of the majority population here in the United States. However, if one’s understanding of our humanity is that freedom is an inextricable part of our being, then the desire for self-determination shouldn’t be considered anything to be but natural. Over the years in my experience as an educator in a special education program, I have had to re-learn and learn with teenagers with disabilities about the value of self-determination. When working with various students with disabilities, I have learned that autonomy is going to look a whole lot different from one student to the next. For example, for one student who may be higher functioning with a slight learning disability, independence could look like moving away from study helps like dictionaries to newer reading strategies. Or, for another student who may have a significant intellectual disability and motor impairment, self-initiative could look like learning how to crawl and then walk for the very first time with the help of leg braces and a gait trainer. Self-determination isn’t going to look the same for everyone.

This essay is not only a push for the Black community to being more inclusive of people with disabilities in the practice and idea of Kujichagulia, but also to make it (self-determination), the strive towards freedom more contextual and less hegemonic. Such a move would allow us to also make a break away from essentialism that we sometimes see from defenders of Black culture. What if all Black college football players decided to boycott the NCAA until they, and all other student-athletes were paid? Or imagine a world where Black writers didn’t have to be the only ones left to navel-gaze of the history of white supremacy? Hear me out, but maybe what if Black scholars started doing work independent of White theorists and started appreciating the intellectual history and labor of Black people? What if Black self-initiative looks like not needing the approval of Whites, whether they be conservative or liberal or Marxist? We cannot have any form of racial reconciliation or racial justice without first developing a self-respect for our own work in a world where there exists a preferred hierarchy of values.

 

Photo Description:  Photo is a drawing of the 7 Kwanzaa candles, from left to right, 3 green candles, 1 yellow candle, then 3 burgundy candles.  Photo was taken by Katallna-Marie Kruszewskl. found on flickr.