“Nobody can give you freedom, nobody can give you equality, or justice or anything. If you a man, you take it.” ~ Malcolm X.
Confronted with the specter and horror of white America’s inhumanity – white supremacy, white terrorism and racism – and seeking a doctrine to make sense of the brutality of whiteness, many Blacks fondly, albeit painfully, quote and ruminate on the ameliorating words of some of recent history’s great orators like Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Baldwin.
However, no matter how majestic these icons uttered their words, no matter their godly rhetoric and unreserved insistence on loving the enemies of Blackness unconditionally, both King and Baldwin wander oftentimes into a forest of inconsistencies. More than habitually, they confine their followers and bestow on them a resistance to explore the reaches of faith, hope and despair, even in a contemporary racist America.
Despised, oppressed, beaten, shackled and incarcerated for over 400 years and still wading in the midst of one white terrorist after another – be they cops, vigilantes or outright devils – African Americans are faced with a difficult history and an even more profound decision to make in the 21st Century.
And can they unite around it?
The doctrines of King and Baldwin, which for some time held the fabric of Black emancipation movements together, now seem to fall apart on their head when examined against the light of recent white crimes against Black humanity in America. Held up to their own merits, the King-Baldwin convictions fail to prescribe a pragmatic step towards a safe America let alone an equal one for many African Americans.
Their philosophies, notwithstanding their profound depth of wisdom; despite their literary mastery and passion, now seem to cut across the aisle as products cajoled predominantly before white Church alters, and which have now turned out to be unworkable solutions in the African American community towards achieving safety first and even freedom in America.
The King-Baldwin legacy has completely missed the mark on America’s race problem. Rather than situate the ills and evils of white terrorism of Blacks within the bosom of a hypocritical and brutal white (non) Christian tradition, they put the onus of achieving a sense of humanity in America in the hands of Blacks.
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” or so goes parts of a prayer, famously credited to Jesus Christ as the Lord’s Prayer, and from which the ethos of the King-Baldwin “peaceful movement” derive.
Within this context, it is possible for King-Baldwin to refer to white oppressors with phrases like “my brother.” The sentiment is hardly verifiable in any Black community in America; nonetheless, the meme has evolved to occupy the fulcrum about which all African American political struggles for freedom and civil rights pivot.
The King-Baldwin essence sought to admonish African Americans to continue loving white men even though these men shackled them, raped their women and threw them in jail for absolutely no human or law enforcement reason.
It also absolved these white people- who for all intents and purposes are the oppressors, killers and murderers of Blacks in America – of any wrongdoing. By profound implication, these white people who committed crimes against humanity often found not only forgiveness from Blacks but also a copious bath of solace from the people they tormented.
Hence the question in the 21st Century: On what denominator does the King-Baldwin movement lay its foundation of loving the white terrorist as a brother? What does the tormentor and the tormented have in common as to make them brothers?
It is in this light that the King-Baldwin trope is summarily occasioned on a falsehood – that being human necessarily makes us all brothers.
But it doesn’t.
If the Lord’s Prayer can be recited to its normal resolution, it reveals a singular misreading of Dr. King and James Baldwin.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from evil.”
In its most extravagant extrapolation, the King-Baldwin movement amnesia-rized one particular statement – “Deliver us from evil.”
Hence American whites continue to be presented to Black America as brothers and sisters to love and to cherish, no matter the crime and without a fundamental need for this Christian God to deliver Black American from the evil that is whiteness!
After 9 Black worshipers were massacred before the alter at the first African Methodist Episcopal Church by a 21-year-old white supremacist – with God and Christ still missing from the alter upon which the killing occurred – a line must now be drawn in the sand.
What way forward would proceed for a 21st Century African American community still suffering and bleeding from white terrorism? Perhaps that line between other humans and our brothers should now grow bolder and thicker in order that we can shield ourselves from the menace that white supremacy is.
Each day that Southern cities in America fly Confederate flags, which represent, symbolically, the gravest affront to African American safety and freedom in America, African Americans must embolden themselves even more with the necessity of protecting themselves.
The bold line between “human” and “brother” must be drawn clearly in concept and in practice.
However, this does not mean this bold line should represent the new color line in the 21st Century.
By establishing boundaries of co-existence, African Americans can ensure a safety well beyond what the King-Baldwin movement has ever afforded them. This boundary should not necessarily become one of race, nor should it be founded upon specific laws.
Blacks in America have for centuries carved out unique ethnic identities even though the organic evolution of these ethnicities has been hindered first by draconian white laws and second by the King-Baldwin movement which has made it impossible to establish a firm distinctiveness that is based on culture, language, food and music.
By calling all whites in America and, in fact, all peoples in America “brothers and sisters,” the King-Baldwin legacy pushes, rather, for a monolithic – one ethnic identity for all Americans.
But this ideology is impossible. Even in a country like Ghana in West Africa, where more than 95 percent of all African Americans’ heritage lies, one ethnicity for a West African identity would be foolish. Why is it then not stupid in America, especially for the one that the King-Baldwin movement strives to accomplish in incorporating whites into an identity that is African American?
Brotherhood is an ethnically aligned relationship. There can be nothing wrong with stressing the organic ethnicities of African Americans and encouraging community building around a common culture.
This is the recipe for building strong communities that are capable of protecting themselves from the tyranny of whiteness in America.
This is exactly why the emphasis on race, Black versus white, is misleading in galvanizing the different African American communities towards action in achieving peace and freedom in America.
Race, unlike ethnic identity, is no doubt a social (re)construction. It is as unnecessary as the Queen of England. It is a tool that has been used to persecute and hate. Europeans have deployed it only for evil doing – notably by the likes of Adolf Hitler and the builders of the American Slave Empire!
Ethnicity is a humane concept and defines broader and more substantive relations among people. Ethnicity is about culture, customs, traditions, habits, food, festivals, and so on. It is about where you come from as a people. What you do as a people and who you are as a people.
As a nation, America itself has stalled the development of everything African and African American, preventing Black Americans from organically developing their ethnic identities for a diverse nation.
But that is because America itself, racist by nature, is more interested in dividing America into Black and white and enforcing an institutional oppression and terrorism of Black America – slavery, Jim Crow and the more recent mass incarceration of African Americans.
The economic benefits to the “Lords of the American Slave Empire” are obvious and that is why the King-Baldwin movement in seeking to engage white America to heed the calls of Black America’s forgiveness has failed.
Developing distinct ethnic identities can unify residents of different regions in ways that simultaneously overpower their artificial and superstitious racial identifications.
For instance, in Nigeria, China, or Sweden, where most people look alike – have similar skin tones – people are still defined ethnically. This plays an important role in harnessing political power for change. But above all, it also prevents, by and large, the kind of white terrorizing we see today in the United States.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Baldwin in referring to whites as their “brothers,” sought to popularize the phrase “Christian brother” from too broad a context that, from its very conception, was doomed to fail Black America in every respect. While they stressed the brotherhood of whites in Black America, whites stressed the fear of Blacks in their neighborhoods – through the media and through barbaric methods of state and Federal law enforcement.
Obviously, the brotherhood espoused by the King-Baldwin movement has summarily never been reciprocated in white America. Perhaps, if white America had achieved a fraction of the ideals of King and Baldwin, the result would have powerfully transformed America and launched it into the post-racial worlds that they imagined.
But the King-Baldwin belief is not just flawed only because white America is evil; it is flawed because it also overlooked the power of Black America’s various ethnic identities in first, protecting itself from harm and second, joining the force of all Black America and other well-meaning whites in fighting for the total emancipation of all peoples in America.
Rather, in an all-consuming fight against racism, African Americans have been led into believing in a war that is unwinnable. For instance, people who advocate for Black businesses or a Black Hollywood presence desperately want ethnic representation – not people in Blackface! They also want to patronize products that express an ethnic Black culture and experience – not take advantage of it.
In that way, America can never be a monolithic culture. In fact, that will be catastrophic.
So Black America must now ask itself what role it must play in making the United States of America the diverse place it should be for the change they believe in. And the question that needs to be asked of the white American Federal government should center on what role it wants to play in guaranteeing the safeties and freedoms of all people in the nation.
Black people in America must now realize that integration, from its shaky foundation in the King-Baldwin paradigm of brotherhood, has failed in its entirety. Nothing is left of the Black community to account for it.
But it continues to be promoted at the expense of striving Black ethnic traditions. If at all, everyone cannot rush to join the white tech company. Who should start the Black one? By this, we don’t necessarily mean a racial Black tech company, but a company whose methods and practices are rooted in the culture and traditions of a particular Black ethnicity.
It is time that Blacks (re)consolidated their ethnicities, understood their differences and stipulated their frustrations clearly in an America that has for so long brutalized every bone in their bodies and terrorized every facet of their lives.
For those whites in America – contrary to the King-Baldwin ideology – they are not brothers, they are only fellow countrymen and they, like any individuals, must be held responsible – not forgiven – for the way and manner in which they have tormented Blacks in America for the past 400 years!
These whites gallivanting the planet, clad in whiteness, are not brothers. They are to be held fully responsible for their crimes against humanity in Black America.They are, in this life and the next, to be held wholly accountable for every single act of tyranny committed against Black America.
These white people remain unforgiven.