A phrase that has echoed in the chambers of my head for some time now, with the advent of the internet we are present with a visual representation of media trends and areas of popular interest that are enjoyed by those who are fortunate to enjoy access. As this amorphous space has grown we have seen the birth of platforms, groups, websites, Internet radios – really you name it – that have connected and arguably consolidated countless peoples conceptions about the state of Africa and the diaspora – for better or for worse.
This space has become a physical visualisation of communication and consciousness that provides us with a great opportunity to interrogate how we react and build as a collective of people’s who are at least in principle – in solidarity with one another.
This space has provided an amplifying device for activism on various levels.. Allowing us to stay in contact with everyone from our favourite journalists to grass-roots protesters in faraway lands that we will likely never even step foot on.
This space, like all else, is not devoid of the presence of the various social systems that constrain and maintain us in our status quo. So in the context of so called Pan African project, the patterns of movements driven, to some extent, by social media courage – what we choose to care about over time becomes a crucial point of inquiry.
I would argue, generates part of its support among Africans and her diaspora across the globe partly out of recognition of a common history of struggle articulated by the political traditions of the early founders of feminist, black consciousness and Pan-African thought. This ancestral spirit has since been reincarnated and reinvigorated by the children of the soil time and time again in different forms at different times.
In the context of so called transnational “Black” solidarity it becomes necessary for us to interrogate what do we understand by “Black”?
I would contend that the process of racialisation changes, unsurprisingly, from context to context, and is therefore weaponised in different ways for different politics applications – but in so far as persons are racialised by their society, in light of the history and present shape of this structure, it consistently takes on mutations that retain the unthinking objectives of the White Supremacist system.
I hold this to be self evident.
What is particularly interesting is the relationship within peoples represented in so called “global Blackness” that inherit the class status of the white supremacist (et al.) structure that exists to oppress them – when juxtaposed to “other” black peoples operating in a different context that has a different class inheritance and proximity to epistemic “Whiteness”.
To expand on this I take the example,
We see the dialogue in the online space pushing movements like #Blacklivesmatter to be consistent to their intersectional roots by calling for equal attention for the lives of those who are consistently erased by an existentialist understanding of the “Black struggle”.
While it seems difficult to ignore the effect of the countless blogs, websites, web series and otherwise that have brought – at the very least – access to severely underrepresented experiences, we see the use of intersectional analysis tools applied from everything from social movements to popular television shows with consistently growing international audiences. These tools however, located largely in pockets of the Global North and driven by the diapsoric populations of the Global South seem to rarely to apply serious attention to social justice issues in the Global South therein compromising the intersectional approach by failing to acknowledge arguably the largest intersection of all, the global class division of labour which is direct consequence of the neo(?)-colonial project of both today & yesteryear. This kind of disparity is seen clearly through the comparatively minimal uproar for the hundreds of African.. Black lives lost to the mediterrean sea as they set a course on a migratory path towards Europe earlier this year from activists in the Global North who otherwise readily invoke the spirit of transnational Black solidarity.
When one interrogates the question, “Which #BlakclivesMatter?”, I contend that these bubbles of interest in “Black lives” are driven apart by the overarching class structures that those manifestations of black expression operate in.
In a context closer to home for my experience, noting the furor around the #RhodesMustFall movement starting during March of 2015 that captured an escalating amount of city wide, national and international attention. In the broader South African context we are no strangers, all together, of so called “poo protests” so the shock and outrage that lit up this particular decolonial conversation should be understood, I believe, as akin to but one of the sparks that caught fire from the consistent grinding of anti-colonial flint against each other by African students who could no longer breathe.. So when I look at this conversation in the context of a broader resistance and not as a sudden exceptional experience, I begin to question why physically violent protests in University campuses at multiple sites across the country do not incite as much analysis.
When we juxtapose these demonstrations to to mass marches, severe property damage, prolonged strikes in campuses such as Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape, it becomes interesting to wonder why comparatively more passive actions suddenly capture the public’s attention invoking the ever present fear of looming violence in the country.
The black student organisers, regardless of their individual class status, inherent – to some extent – the class status of the University they operate it. In this way it seems to me to be no surprise that the early alliances between black student organisers in the wake of #RhodesMustFall are strongest between Universities that considered in the elite class of Higher Learning institutions in the country.
If we take this example one step further, we look at the recent wave of attention surrounding the demonstrations at the Oxford Union regarding a unquestionably racist programme invitation, a protest demonstration by “Rhodes Must Fall Oxford” and consequently a motion that had been passed in the structure declaring the union “institutionally racist”. These events, organised- seemingly- by not more than a handful of organisers caught the attention of a multitude of international news agencies.
Through their proximity to whiteness. Proximity to the empire.
It would seem that acts of resistance echo loudly from the high chambers of Oxford out into the colonies in a manner that is simultaneously exciting, full of potential and deeply concerning.
It becomes concerning for me as I begin to consider the role of graduates from the likes of Oxford (not at all dissimilar to the likes the University of Cape Town) in the continued domination of the continent. While we have many heralded scholars, heroes and activists who have re-appropriated Western platforms and resources to subvert the domination of the empires, we also have a long history of children of the colonies who have left countless shores in search of affirmation from the West en route to ruling class positions in the likes of the World Bank, IMF or comfy “leadership” positions in the top tier of their home colonies.
What does it mean for organisations in spaces like Oxford to organise under an anti-colonial banner?
As one who is irrevocably complicit to the platform created by several elite institutions, I even wonder if I am really in a position to commit to the change I demand.. Or if we, as a collective, are simply in a phase of populist politics that will secure the new breed of Post-colony elites safe passage in a time where anti-capitalist rhetoric is regaining its currency in the imagination of the public.
Will we betray the call for the destruction of White Power when we realise that along with it we lose the class inheritance that their empires have afforded us?
I just don’t know.
This class division of activism presents a problem. Obstacle? Limitation?
You name it. You choose it.
The bottom line from my perspective is that it seems difficult to ignore that while operating in the context of elite institutions/structures struggles that sound invariably be connected become alienated from one another.
The question then becomes, can we commit class suicide?
Can we leverage the disproportionate public attention to further collective aims?
Can we move fast enough to ensure the collective itself separates completely?
– If it hasn’t already-