There is no doubt that the recent events of Ferguson has uncovered a dramatic gulf that exists between the young who seek freedom from oppression and are willing to pay any price to remit that oppression and the old that seek reform only through old tactics of non-violence. This cleavage between the young and the unyoung comes at a time when youth dominated protests movements have crystalized throughout much of the so-called Third World: The Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, the sit-in at Taksim Gezi Park in Turkey, Occupy USA, the various Arab Spring movements from Tunisia to Cairo including the struggle for dignity in Gaza.
After Ferguson there can be no denial of the truth –no other way than to face facts beyond change: since 1865–the end of the Civil War, segments of American society have been engaged in a low-grade genocidal war against Native and African- American communities. From the 19th well into the 20th century this war saw the exile of indigenous people to reservations, the destruction of centuries old Indian cultures and the obliteration of all black towns: from Rosewood to Tulsa; the segregation of blacks into urban ghettos, the mass incarcerations and the extension of that war to the deportation of thousands from immigrant Latin American communities residing in the U.S.
Young African Americans activists must realize that their desire for justice must be tied to and understood in the larger world wide historical demand for justice that extends from David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829) against international slavery to the continued war against police and State brutality in Brazil, to the continued suburban ghettoization of European youth. This war is a fight against oppressive government sanctioned and institutionalized power that seeks to force people of color into accepting the status quo where 1% of the world’s population controls 99% of the world’s resources–from land where people of color are in the majority. Make no mistake this is a genocidal war of domination of such epic magnitude that it would make Julius Caesar green with envy.
Non-violent struggle (the authors assert that non-violence is, and can often be, a form of low grade violence) was borrowed from Henry David Thoreau who devised this strategy in the face of an American government attempting to profit from the expansion of slavery in the west. Non-violence was later taken up by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to unseat a racist European power that, through force of violence, dominated every facet of life in India. Martin Luther King, Jr., borrowed these same tactics and preached a form of non-violence that showed the world the true colors of southern racism as they raped, lynched and destroyed black lives, undermined black potential, and forced blacks into a caste system that relegated blacks to poverty and despair. As Civil Rights victories mounted blacks internalized these victories and began to seek the spoils of American life in earnest.
Over time we witnessed the expansion of the black middle and upper classes that earned their way to wealth and prosperity and in some cases to positions of power and authority in American society. Yet, there remained cracks in the veneer of success. Black urban poverty became a way of life rather than a temporary condition, prestigious black colleges that had educated generations of black intellectuals were abandoned and many closed, black health disparities increased, and the mass incarceration of youth to enrich the prison industrial complex gutted communities of color and with that came the loss of voting rights for numerous black males. This was tantamount to the emasculation of black men. This was largely accomplished through the now recognized failed war on drugs, a conscience effort to funnel children of color into prison (see school to prison pipeline) and through state and local legislative policies that solidified institutional racism. No one was spared–neither the poor, the colored, nor the young. Blacks from the middle and upper classes, who had hoped that the content of their character would be the sine quo non of a new American racially egalitarian society, bore witness to their own struggles of racism at work, in their communities and the countless confrontations with police and state authority.
During the past 50 years the older generation of African Americans strived to enter American society as co-equals with white Americans in the work place and in seemingly diverse communities. And while blacks strove they abandoned historically black colleges and universities, abandoned the poor in inner cities, and failed to create any lasting structures that would enable young blacks any real opportunity to move ahead without losing their culture and their dignity. In effect whites demanded a form of cultural monotony while, at the same instance, they denigrated blackness. Black Strivers incorporated a go-along-to-get-along strategy by adopting white cultural values while abandoning the very black values that had created Washington, Garvey, Dubois, Johnson, Angelou and Shakur.
The young have to understand that their education has been defiled in a way to placate them and give them a sense of duty and loyalty to a country that desires to see them give up their culture for a way of life that has destroyed the environment, emasculated Native Americans, fought catastrophic wars from Vietnam to Iraq for resources–the last being for oil; destroyed Union protections for workers and seeks to give Wall Street cartels carte blanche in enriching the 1% while the middle and poorer classes see their stake in society erode.
Protest marches have failed because black leadership has failed. Boycotts have failed because black strategies and tactics have failed. Old ways must be torn asunder. New ways of thinking and acting must be deployed, a new vocabulary that seeks to honor the environment, seek justice for all regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual and religious orientation must be at the forefront of this and future struggles against the forces of darkness that, if given their way will destroy every ecosystem on this planet and along with it human life.
Black, White, Brown, Yellow and Red youth must envision a new alchemy, a new spirit, a new way to thinking. Old revolutionary talk will not free the imprisoned mind, this will only occur through the creation of new paradigms, and new articulations of justice. We, old must work with the youth to achieve new symmetry that will eradicate race as a dominating factor in the life chances of millions from the impoverished Favelas of Brazil to the Detroit’s 8 Mile.
The fight will be hard, and fraught with difficulty. The benefits of justice will require thick skins, strong backs and a firm resolve—but without this resolve what price freedom? What price continued enslavement?
To summarize we assert the following:
- African Americans must seek international condemnation for a racist American justice system that unfairly targets people of color; African Americans must seek condemnation for genocidal practices by Federal, State and Local governments that seek to use State sanctioned violence and oppression against People of color;
- Build coalitions with minority communities and those whites that seek an alternative structures to replace existing hegemonic institutions;
- Create new democratic organizations that value diversity of opinion, diversity of race, color, creed, sexual orientation and religious orientation; and to seek greater and open access to affordable education for all.
- Develop institutions that value the natural environment and those creatures that depend on its wholeness for their survival.
- Recognize and respect the varied ways in which people seek to govern themselves; and to only wage war only as a tactic of defense and when no other options are available.
Also contributing to this article was Major Aldo Putman, USAR. (Ret.). Major Putman served as a combat advisor in Afghanistan.