By Chris Crass (March 2, 2016)
In the post-Super Tuesday analysis, my comrade Rev. Osagyefo Sekou wrote on his Facebook wall: “White folks who are Sanders’ supporters are far more dangerous than Trump supporters when it comes to race because they think they have all the answers on the question which is politically dishonest. Trump supporters are just racist which has a certain integrity.” Rev. Sekou received a lot of push back, mostly from white progressive/social justice activists.
I believe what Rev. Sekou is saying here, and in the other reflections he posted today, along with what many Black activists have been saying throughout this campaign, are important for all of us who are racialized as white to pause and meditate on. A key part of white racialization is the nuanced and deliberate training of white people to ignore and dismiss the voices of people of color, all the while thinking we know more, and know better than people of color anyway.
It’s vital to hear the voices of Black activists, not because we have to agree, but because racism wants our sense of justice and liberation to be malnourished of the wisdom and experience of the Black radical tradition and of Black humanity, in general. Listening and respecting doesn’t mean we are no longer able to think for ourselves. That’s the scarcity supremacy systems want us to think is reality. We must fight to get free of these dynamics and patterns. This is crucial for all of us who want the Sanders’ campaign to be dynamic and effective on the most pressing issues of our time and also want to build up the long haul multiracial, grassroots transformative liberation movements we need for the changes we need.
To my white progressive/social justice activist family. I believe Rev. Sekou is presenting us honest, and sometimes hard to mentally chew on, reflections about the Bernie Sanders’ campaign and white progressives in general, because it is vital to engage in the work to defeat the forces of racism on the march in the GOP, while simultaneously dismantling the anti-Black racism that is deeply entrenched in white liberal/progressive/social justice efforts as well.
While horribly disturbing videos circulate of Trump supporters physically attacking Black protesters, or Black students be ejecting from a Trump rally for being Black, we must also be vigilant about the repeated, and consistent denouncing, disrespecting, and condescending to Black activists who have raised challenges to the Bernie campaign – from the #BlackLivesMatteractivists in Seattle to what Rev. Sekou is raising today – challenges, which if listened to and reflected on, can and will actually strengthen the campaign for Bernie, and more importantly, help us build the visionary and courageous multiracial liberation movements we need for the long haul.
Some have raised the concern that Rev. Sekou is alienating his own allies. I believe this misses the fundamental point. Allies who reinforce racist patterns of marginalizing and disrespecting Black leadership, particularly when that leadership is raising concerns and challenges about racism, are not the allies we need, if we indeed are working for social transformation. Rev. Sekou is calling white people into being racial justice freedom fighters who take this work seriously, work rooted in liberating us all from the nightmare of white supremacy, work to bring white people into racial justice because our hearts and souls are on fire to end this death culture, work that lead to a different world, not just different rulers.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have your own opinions and just agree, but I am saying that the dynamic of racism on the left is to routinely squash people of color’s voices when they raise challenges of the left status quo, a dynamic that is similar in some ways to a Trump rally, but here it is white people verbally, psychologically, and emotionally telling people of color to know their place, listen to the more educated white people or shut up and get out.
We must rise to the challenge of the GOP’s racism unleashed, but we must also remember that white supremacy is working everyday to divide all of us and get white people on the left to assert their/my own internalized superiority and reinforce the anti-Black hierarchy of racist power. Our work is to defeat the right, and build the left we need to advance racial, economic, gender, disability, social, and environmental justice for all.
Rev. Sekou‘s reflections today, aren’t asking us to agree or disagree, they are reflections to help us live up to the challenges and opportunities of our time.