Liberation Circle & Reading Summaries from D.A.T.T. Freedom School
Summer 2015 – Week 2
The Storify this topic’s Liberation Circle tweet chat can be found HERE.
Summary of “Stokely Speaks: From Black Power to Pan Africanism” by Kwame Ture/Stokely Carmichael – Chapter 7: The Dialectics of Liberation
In Chapter Seven of his seminal work, Stokely Speaks: From Black Power to Pan-Africanism (1965), Kwame Ture, also known as Stokley Carmichael, elucidates the connection between autonomy—as an ideal—and the institutional structures that affirm, legitimize, and undergird autonomy.
This “Dialectic of Liberation” distinguishes between an “individual racism and an institutionalized racism” (p. 78). The political injustices related to every milieu of Western society –from public health to the edifice of academia—is abstracted by what Kwame Ture notarizes as “distant and dismissible statistics” (Memoirs, p. 421). In this way, the Pan-African struggle to disentangle from the neo-colonial handmaiden of capitalism is decontextualized of intergenerational oppression— and the germs of wrought imparted by hegemony. In other words, Ture’s referendum on the “pure theater” (p. 420) of individualism within Western politics, catalyzed by his premise that the integration of black diasporic peoples into white hegemony does not decentralize power from the white establishment. In fact, integration merely casts a wider net of influence upon the governed. He cautions that individual reciprocals of oppression (e.g., low-income schools that pathologize students as nouns, rather than adjectives) or segregation, are not ameliorate as a result of integration into districts, gerrymandered by classist inflections. Proposition 13, which severely hampered the ability for post-civil war, black municipalities in California to appreciate tax wealth, was a prime example of corporate tools employed in colonial wedlock. As a result, black neighborhoods were blighted and the social proximity between low and high-income neighborhoods began to mirror that between predominantly black and white schools. Thus, integration failed to meet a semblance of financial equilibrium as instruments of capitalism were harnessed to influence propositions that swiftly catapulted the status of white neighborhoods—and by proxy, “white” schools—despite the SCOTUS decision in 1954.
Nkrumah’s reading last week methodically demonstrated the inexorable link between class and racialized colonialism. Similarly, Ture warns, it is important to not only recognize symptoms of oppression, but also the adaptations systems employ when one byproduct of neo-colonialism—like segregated schools—is perceivably eradicated. The sanctions upon integrated schools, while unofficial, are legitimized by a litany of capitalistic vultures and cultural extortionists such as charter hedge funders, vouchers, red-lining, the non-profit industrial complex, gentrification, and Teach for America—to name a few. In order to eradicate disproportionality of trauma incurred by black populations, Ture argues, the very metrics of progress and narrative of “liberation”, must be dramatically uprooted.
It is incumbent that his shift in dialectic, examines the systemic “luxuries of exploitation” (p. 79) rather than fall under the intoxicating spell of materialism and positivist reductionism that leads to ahistorical and tokenistic fallacies that white supremacy’s acceptance of integration is somehow emblematic of a collective rejection of racism. Another example of how progress measured through the singular lens of integration fails to meet radical ambitions for paradigm transformation, is found concretely in the school-to-prison pandemic. Under the auspice of objectivity, safety, and apoloticism, zero-tolerance policies have been imbued in school districts adopting draconian rules for surveillance and discipline that work in lockstep with martial laws—akin to those the from the Patriot Act to the Rockefeller Laws.
As a result, black students nationwide, despite comprising merely 16-18% of the K-12 populace (Losen, 2012) represent over 70% of students tried as adults, or suspended and expelled (Okonofua, 2015). Moreover, while Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (2010), profoundly reinforced the economic blight and exploitation tethered to the carceral state, black students are up to 40% more likely to be arrested as adults once they’ve received two or more suspensions (Skiba & Losen, 2011). What’s more, predatory housing impacts performance-based formulas that fund schools like landfills rather than veritable bridges to economic opportunity (lauded as salvation). To that end, housing is systemic policy and institutionalized germ of racism. One cannot integrate schools without contextualizing a poignant understanding of how black teachers were effectively dismissed following Brown v. Board, and metrics of achievement, synthesized for the white elite (see: the evolution of the SAT examination) propagated a collective deculturation from curriculum. The very notion of achievement bifurcates the black experience as what Ture coins as “identifiable as individuals only” (p. 78). Today, at the epicenter of the school-to-prison pipeline, discourse surrounding suspension rates are divested from the moral monstrosity that is implicit bias. This bias that exponentially criminalizes black students for the same “infractions” as their white counterparts (Eberhardt & Okonofua, 2015)—has been compounded in research and tragically, iterative praxis.
In more plain terms, Kwame Ture asserts, “racism is mystification” (p. 79), because it fails to imagine the culture of racism as an “imposition” upon the humanity of others (p. 80-81). Reflexively, this delusional psychosis of white supremacy, Ture testifies, is the lure of “cultural integrity” (p. 79-80) related to intergenerational wealth—rendering white elites as inherently superior for “producing civilization” (p. 81). To critically resist ahistorical notions of superiority, Ture asserts that dialectics of liberations must lean into the discomfort of “cultural imposition”—meaning, how civilizations were actually cultivated by brute force and the imminent, “barbaric”, (p. 83) threat of extermination. His example of Rhodes Scholarship and the occupation of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) captures the historical mangling and decontextualization that created a superlative regard for philanthropist Cecil Rhodes (p. 82). Capitalism cannot exist without exploitation, he rightfully argues, so any subversion of capitalism through reforms that harness tools of capitalism (such as philanthropy) are morally bankrupt. These corporate politics espouse “war without violence” (p. 93). Black Power can only arise when a collective trauma is affirmed, through unadulterated and demystifying interrogations of white “cultural impositions”. Until then, Ture concedes, we are doomed to legitimize our executioners for troubles we did not stir. In this way, black students are existentially criminalized through the same metrics of fear (e.g., suspension/expulsions rates) and policies of suppression (e.g., zero-tolerance in schools) which do very little to pierce –much less unspool—the thick tapestry of bias that re-created balkanized society within superficially integrated schools.
– This summary was written by Arash Daneshzadeh (@A_Daneshzadeh)
Summary of “Class Struggle in Africa” by Kwame Nkrumah – Chapter 12 “Socialist Revolution” & “Black Marxism” by Cedric J. Robinson – Chapter 3: Socialist Theory & Nationalism
Kwame Nkrumah summarily explains in Chapter 12, that socialist revolution must be fermented and catalyzed by several factors. Among them are bucolic and archaic structures within industrial fronts. To that end, only “workers and peasants” (p. 81) can achieve revolutionary pivots but not without violence, loss of life en masse, and surrender of totalitarian power (p. 80). Nkrumah elaborates that capitalism agitates the proletariat, whose only freedom is to serve the “ruling bourgeois class” (p. 81), thereby rendering itself “anarchic”. To this end, pluralism and socialism are tethered within Nkrumah’s thesis as he purposes that proletariats can only measure their worth by the degree to which they actively shape, sustain, and ultimately “participate in every aspect of government” (p. 81). It is important to distinguish Nkrumah’s contention from that of neo-conservatives, as he is conspicuously not making referendums against industrialization itself. However, he does invoke anarchy when the fates of proletariats are trumped by the global competition for industrialized evolution. Nkrumah advances this idea by unpacking the importance of proletarian leadership but that, which is distributed and co-owned by the people. Thus, industrialization itself isn’t the problem, but rather the balkanization and subsequent centralization of its utility. Technology harnessed by a few figures, will antagonize many others. Nkrumah makes a searing argument with infra-red precision that race is used by the bourgeoisie to obviate, stir cultural antagonism, and deploy fissures in the collective movement of the proletariats. In this regard, middle class agency is often much more deterministic given its social stature than the proletariat clarion calls for change.
Robinson’s stance in Chapter 3, underscores Nkrumah’s multi-pronged position: On agricultural bedrocks that do not share governance of germinating industrialization, coupled with bourgeoisie competition for global recognition, petit competition within the middle class ranks aspiring to ascend the veritable ladder of class, ultimately inoculates an untenable state of anarchy that must be met with socialist revolution. In this thesis, Robinson makes a parallel between England’s burgeoning industrialization with the hard-lined agricultural landscape of Germany (p. 101-102). The jingoism and inherent competition of capitalism, expedite the transformation of Germany towards the “practical requirements of viable political economy” (p. 102); uprooting the national interests of Marx and Engels who were forced to concede liberation politics for economic solvency that were beginning to manifest as “cultural strains” (p. 103).
Robinson deftly points to the omission of Mexico, India, Middle East, Latin America, and Africa as several nations (of color) with a myriad of cultural enclaves that grew vehemently resentful as a result of industrialized bourgeoisie takeovers of cultural collectivism that yielded suppressed revolutions and regression to neo-colonialism. One example is Iran in 1953 (preceding the Algerian FLN Liberation Front Army’s revolution by one year), which re-imposed the reign of the Shah’s hard-lined monarchy. Three sets of national changes facilitated this event in August 19,1953. First, Mohammad Mosaddeq was elected as the unprecedented socialist Prime Minister. Second, proletariats recognizing the waning and merely symbolic power of the Shah during this historic precipice forced him into exile in France. Third, and most importantly, Mosaddeq forced OPEC and other global vultures (proxies for neo-colonialism) to share industrial resources and to hire Iranian and Kurdish workers for the oil plants, before he would resume negotiations for global rates in natural gases and minerals. This provided the impetus and structure to catalyze a coup that was co-sponsored by the CIA and British forces—watermarking a slippery slope of draconian dictatorships for the past 40 years. For more information, I would strongly encourage those interested to read, The Coup: 1953, The CIA, and The Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations by Ervand Abrahamian.
– This summary was written by Arash Daneshzadeh (@A_Daneshzadeh)