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Black liberation is a highly complex topic, but what should or could it look like? One must first understand liberation in and of itself to understand Black liberation. Liberation in this context means destroying an oppressive system to free oneself from its chains. So, what sort of oppressive systems are Black people impacted by? To understand this question, there must also be some historical analysis of the Black American community and America.
America is a country with over 250 years of oppression to its name and over 400 years of oppression to its legacy. The formation of America and the trials and tribulations that people of color have endured are part of that legacy. One can’t exactly be an oppressor without a person to oppress. Anti-Black eugenics, American chattel slavery, the Reconstruction Era, the Jim Crow Era, and the Modern Era are all critical to understanding historical anti-black oppression.
These eras, including those not mentioned, are part of this history of oppression. Yet, what was the result? What was the outcome of all this condensed and focused oppression? What sorts of systems have sprouted up due to this concentrated hatred? It is finally time to explore the nature of white supremacy and all the other systems that impact the Black community.
White supremacy is one of the top three oppressive systems that impact the Black community. The eugenics attempts, the lynchings, and the systemic racism in America are guided by the ideology of white supremacy. Based on a false race science, white supremacy is so pervasive that it has impacted the entire world. Through colonization and imperialism, white supremacy and its arms of power have maintained themselves for centuries. From cops to teachers to government officials, white supremacy as an ideology has infected the hearts and minds of many. It has infected the entire American political system and is one-third of the total American ideology.
The second is patriarchy. While the way patriarchy specifically impacts Black people may not be as apparent as white supremacy, it can be just as harmful. To have a higher understanding of why that is, one must break down the Black community intersectionally. Of course, just like every system of oppression, it impacts different identities differently. That principle here is between men and everyone else.
However, patriarchy still negatively impacts men, just not as much as others. For example, men have to pretend that they don’t have feelings and are only allowed by society to express those emotions through acts of labor. For women and LGBT identities, the exploitation and oppression are much different.
Patriarchy inherently devalues the lives of women and those identifying as gay by objectifying them. The idea that a woman is simply an object to be used or what is essentially a talking incubator is inherently patriarchal. All of this applies to the Black community. There is also the fact that white supremacy and patriarchy don’t exist in bubbles. Instead, they interact with each other to create this sort of racialized patriarchy for Black people.
How patriarchy impacts Black people, specifically Black women and Black LGBTs, becomes evident at this point. Black women and Black gays have both white supremacy and patriarchy devaluing their lives and bodies. There is also the fact that straight, gay, and transgender Black women don’t all face equal oppression. There is a direct correlation between violence against women, how society views femininity, and the inherent value of women and LGBT people. Apply everything previously said, and one can quickly see how dangerous the patriarchy can be toward Black people.
Black Liberation Against Racialized Capitalism
Capitalism is the last piece; an economic system prioritizes profit over everything. It maintains the profit motive by privatizing, commodifying, and then monopolizing everything. Capitalism is why people have to pay for food, water, and shelter. Even though they are all things that humans cannot live without. The reason is that they are all commodities. They are not human rights; the things humans need to live are bought and sold instead of guaranteed to every human being. So what does any of this have to do with Black people? That is a good question that can quickly be answered.
Capitalism as an economic system interacts negatively with black working-class people. Because oppressive systems don’t exist in a bubble, they interact with each other to create racialized capitalism. This anti-black racialized capitalism shows itself in a multitude of ways. For example, redlining was the process in which people of color were systematically forced into specific neighborhoods to prevent upward social and economic mobility.
When working-class black people look for jobs, it is objectively harder for them to find employment because of the racialized capitalism they experience. When black people ask for loans from banks to start small businesses, they are more likely to be turned down because of the racialized capitalism they experience. All of this is on top of just normal capitalism, like the fact that capitalism will have corporations able to control the American political system through donations and lobbying significantly. Capitalism allows just a handful of people in the world to have as much wealth as half of humanity.
To Finally Answer the Question
The equality vs. equity conversation is relevant to understanding what Black liberation can look like. Equality in the Black community must be holistic; only destroying white supremacy and capitalism will still leave black people oppressed by oppressive power structures. If Black people are not liberated from the bondage of oppression, Black liberation has not yet been achieved. Equity, however, must also be seized. The thing about centuries of oppression is that it doesn’t stop inflicting pain on people when equality steps into the picture.
Any liberation project intended to destroy the three must keep this in mind. Just because the knife was taken from someone’s back doesn’t mean they have fully healed. Even after the wound is taken care of, scar tissue remains. The battle for Black liberation doesn’t end when Black people reach “racial equality.” It ends when Black people reach racial equity.
Unfortunately, reversing centuries of oppression may take centuries of equity work. White supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy have impacted Black people for decades, so it will also take decades to battle the impacts of said oppression.
To finally answer the question, what does Black liberation look like? First, it seems like a decades-long battle to defeat white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, and all of their children. Then after reaching equality, another multi-decade-long battle to achieve equity for all three. This is an arduous task, something monumental even to ask a nation of people to try. Revolution isn’t easy, but Black liberation is worth it.
Written by Kenneth Mazerat
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
OXFAM International: Just 8 men own same wealth as half the world; by Anna Ratcliff
Springer Nature: Social norms and beliefs about gender-based violence scale: a measure for use with gender-based violence prevention programs in low-resource and humanitarian settings; by Nancy Perrin, Mendy Marsh, Amber Clough, et al.
NPR: A ‘Forgotten History’ Of How The U.S. Government Segregated America; by Terry Gross
Center for American Progress: African Americans Face Systematic Obstacles to Getting Good Jobs; by Christian E. Weller
MIT Direct: American Journal of Law and Equality: EQUALITY VS. EQUITY; by Martha Minow
Columbia School of Law: Kimberlé Crenshaw on Intersectionality, More than Two Decades Later
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Tim Dennell’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Tim Dennell’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of Petri Damsten’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License