‘Black’: two in one

The meaning of the political term Black carries a double inflection. I mean, the term Black - rather the political category that is denied of politics qua subaltern - doesn't only code or signify what it means to be the embodied underside of the New World (the 500 years-plus project to create whites as we know them).

Saturated in Black, is a grammar of suffering aimed to push back from the designated station to be 'the named'. In this particular 500 years-plus project, the project to create White (as we know it), Black has meant a particular genre of oppression and a commensurate denotation against that oppression, in other words how the black movement, ala Black Consciousness (and other resistance traditions) has been resisting.

As the oppressed group, against the oppressor-camp, we are all Black. And for that reason, we must do all the things Biko suggests we must do: such as “cling to one another with a tenacity that will surprise the oppressor”; “rally together around the cause of our oppression - the blackness of our skin” and provide the antithetical counterpoint that will arrest and dismantle the oppressor-camp’s assault on us. Namely, “Black solidarity” against “White racism”.

And here, it's important to note that not all oppressed Blacks are resisting Blacks. So, this 'black' may not be that 'Black'.

Those who are Black by denotation of oppression, Biko realized they needed further descriptors. You could say, Biko understood well that as we respond to blackness the condition (or anti-blackness) - the multi-layered problem that Whites (the project of creating whites) visited on us - we must also be held accountable for all that we do. We cannot only appeal from the valid station of our undeniable centuries-long oppression.

In this sense of being compelled to account individually, or with each action we commit, being held to account by a cause higher than any one of us, one could say Biko was not only calling the collective “self” to constantly reflect. But Biko knew that the individual “self” must also reflect on his tastes, his desires, his preferences, his idiosyncrasies, the entire complex that belongs in his zone of the personal. This latter “self” is the “self” Sobukwe says must be called to “total subjugation”.

Sobukwe's formulation represents a much higher call. A call that set Sobukwe apart. A call by which Sobukwe changed the way politics were done before him, by the older 'liberation' guard. This notion of “total subjugation of self” made Sobukwe to lead from the front: whatever sacrifices were required, Sobukwe typified those required sacrifices. Hence he said “serve”, “suffer”, “sacrifice”. He was all these, combined. And so was Mama Sobukwe. Who, even in her death-bed, refused, to her last hour, to be treated more special than the least among us.

So, to Whites, we are all Black. But among one another, we call each one to hold one to a much higher expectation, to a standard of much higher accountability than our common affiliation as 'the oppressed group'.

Among ourselves we must act consistent with the group’s aspiration for liberation, in order to be called Black- the actively resisting Black.

The best of us who call ourselves black-consciousness, by that I mean mostly those who khumsh a lot, have read the most books and call one another ‘kliye’, ‘woke’ and such affections as ‘leadership’ when they greet one another (lol), I have observed are quick to escalate the fight - as we all must - to oppressed-group versus oppressor-camp antagonism.

Truth is, the assault over time has morphed and changed so much that it is not as easy - as apartheid made it - to know who is the oppressor-camp.

The results of this focus on identifying the correct oppressor members, and identifying the correct oppressed constituency, has made us sleep on the intramural wheel (the inner workings of the oppressed group).

We are sleeping on the wheel of consolidating our silo responses to the assault. By "silo response" I mean: our varied ways of arresting and dismantling the assault of “White racism”.

We are sleeping on advancing and defending the gains we make, gains we make and must make every day.

So, you can't be black of skin, one who has chosen to "escape" from blackness, or escape from the anti-black reality, by being carried on our backs, and still want us, Blacks, to call you black. You are non-white to us. What Sobukwe called a "collaborator".

In a word, you can't have tribalists being defended as Black when they "escape" blackness and by their actions show solidarity with the easy norm of anti-blackness. In a word, you can't defend so-called coloureds when they re-elaborate the plantation mode of our social packing order, ordered by the historical oppressor-camp. And you can't have backward Indians defended in the name of Black, when they show no active solidarity with our conditions of continued oppression.

Black is a membership card whose good-standing measure is paid up for in the "as good as your last game" field of play, the crucible of everyday struggle. Black is not an affiliation serviced by the currency of your well written opinion piece, or great chapter contribution to a seminal book, or your moving speech and last interview - where you did well by tuning liberals and racist where to get off.

Unfortunately, we have been resisting having the political-party imagination in mind, an imagination that has put some serious cap and damper to our lift - the take-off wind we need beneath our resistance wings. We are yet to organize as Black, or the oppressed class, one that resists not only visibly during elections. We are yet to mount resistance against everyday psychic ill-health targeted at Blacks. We are yet to mount resistance against dis-ease worked in in our food we eat, our textbook we study, our spiritual homes - where we spend ourselves, our dimes and our nickels, and our forcing & fighting families where we learn to hurt and hate, rather than love and heal. We are yet to mount resistance informed by the fact that: value that saturates our land, is the same currency that flows from our relation to land. A currency meant to influence our relations with one another, in a word: how we value one another.

Let me stop there before I get people throwing all sorts of insults and shades, for my short-sightedness, worse: armcharism.

Comments