Written by Serie McDougal
Historically, even without any rights, African Americans have always been political actors (King, 2010). The political progress they have made has been the result of activities both inside and outside of so-called mainstream political processes. Malcolm X’s fundamental analogy for the Black liberation struggle was the slave planation. On the slave plantation, there were many forms of resistance including participation in abolitionist networks based in free territories, there were those who distributed anti-slavery literature written by people like David Walker and others, but then there were those who engaged in armed rebellion, those who escaped, and ultimately there were those who engaged in disruption in the form of sabotage, breaking tools, destroying crops, faking ignorance or illness, poisoning food, and planning work strikes. What makes one strategy more respectable than another when Black lives are at stake? Perhaps it will not be until each of these strategies is recognized for its contribution to the freedom we currently enjoy that we will put an end to shaming Black activists for using the tactic of disruption that has been a staple of the Black political legacy.
THE REWARDS OF CONTEXT
As #BlackLivesMatter has recently been criticized for engaging in the interruption of presidential candidates, it is important to put such political expression into historical context. Some think their tactics inappropriate or unsophisticated. However, disruptive activities have always been a feature of political expression in general and specifically for people of African descent in the context of the United States (Morrison, 2003). #BlackLivesMatter activists interrupted the campaign events of Bernie Sanders, Hilary Clinton, and more recently, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s press conference on violence.
This may be a case of objectives taking precedence over tactics. It must also be noted that in the wake of their tactics, politicians have been forced to address their concerns in the form of policy proposals and press releases on critical issues ranging from the treatment of Black transwomen to institutionalized police abuses. However, it would be a mistake to identify the recent tactics of #BlackLivesMatter activists as being outside of the respectable political process.
Originally, in this country, Black people’s humanity was not acknowledged, much less their political interests or access to official political structures. Because of Black people’s long time exclusion from these structures, they engaged in politics and gained political voice through other means, including protest and oppositional activities (Morrison, 2003). Indeed, many of the organizations that have been champions of civil rights and racial equity, such as the National Urban League, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and so many others have their roots in the very same tactics. The Southern Christian Leadership Council, for which Martin Luther King emerged early as a spokesperson and leader, emerged out of the politics of disruption (Montgomery Bus Boycott). Over time, Black people have learned that so-called official political channels, including voting and litigation alone are insufficient methods for gaining freedom and justice. They have also learned of the limits of moral reform strategies. What to do when public policies are undermined by a lack of political will, when votes are not counted, and laws are stymied by failure of implementation or enforcement? Black political movements have learned to couple mainstream political channels with the kinds of strategies #BlackLivesMatter activists are currently using.
An additional mistake that is made in understanding these tactics is the assumption that interruptions are the organizations’ sole form of political activity. Perhaps mistake is the wrong word, because, this false characterization of #BlackLivesMatter serves a functional purpose. This view is a tool used to delegitimize the movement so that political leaders can feel justified in not addressing authentic political concerns.
Leaders who think that these disruptions are mostly spontaneous and unorganized, driven by emotion and not strategy, and are short-lived are making an error in judgement as such thinking is demonstrably contradicted by the successes of the civil rights movement.
NECESSITY OF MEANS
It was disruptive tactics combined with behind-closed-door meetings and official political channels that resulted in the passage of the voting rights act of 1965. When the masses of Black people put the strategies used by Black organizers and political activists in historical context, they cannot be shamed and undermined as unconventional or inappropriate. If Black lives are on the table, who has the luxury to play respectability politics with political expression? After all, whose convention is the standard of political activity? In 1941, A. Phillip Randolph called for a March on Washington due to the government’s failure to pass an executive order banning discrimination in job industries that receive federal funds. Randolph’s strategy was to immobilize the government and force it to pass an executive order. In response to the plan, President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed executive order 8802 creating the Federal Employment Practices Commission. How do you challenge institutionalized racism by relying solely on afflicted institutions? Such a strategy is beyond the concept of hope or gradualism, it is the politics of superstition. What should prioritize one strategy over another in any given scenario if not necessity? If Malcolm X’s proclamation is correct, then indeed, necessity should be the basis on which we evaluate all available means of political expression, not the mainstream politics of respectability that secure the status quo.
King, K.A. (2010). African American politics. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.
Morrison, M.C. (Ed.). (2003). African Americans and political participation. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO
The First Thing We Ate was not Each Other: Black on Black Violence and Toxic Black Masculinity - Self Mutilation Disguised as Salvation
Written by Chris Roberts
Baltimore, and Black People Waking Up to Shoot Back
This article makes the argument that intra racial criminals who commit “Black on Black violence” are puppets, both willing and unbeknownst, doing the bidding of white supremacist patriarchy. This article makes the supplemental argument that Black people have historically resisted this intra-racial violence, and not been solely collaborative or compliant in our destruction. This article highlights, but is not exclusive to, Black men who commit intra racial violence, but such violence is committed by all Black people in different ways (those examples are beyond the purview of this article). The intra-racial criminal assumes participation in this puppetry will save them from the fate of those in their community they harm. However, they are nothing more than pawns in a larger scheme, ultimately mutilated by the same toxic masculinity and/or mechanism where they seek refuge. The two examples of “Black on Black violence” drawn as parallel in this article are Africans trading other Africans into slavery and Black people harming each other in “inner city” communities in the U.S.
Baltimore is my hometown. My coming of age as a youth was in both Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Having resided in Oakland, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as an adult, I am familiar with the buoyancy of Blackness throughout the “inner cities” of the United States, floating in the irksome waters of white supremacy. And though I have lived in each of those places for a substantial period of time, and each holds a piece of my heart, Baltimore has been, and always will be, my hometown. Baltimore is both battleground and bunker, ghetto grave and gullah island, many of us either shooting up or shooting out someone or something. Whether looking for a way out, a way in, or a way up tired of being down, be it at basketball games or burials, in Baltimore one becomes accustomed to shooting. The phenomenon encountered in these communities is propelled by “anti-blackness” described by Saidiya Hartman, Jared Sexton, and Hortense Spillers and others, specifically Frank Wilderson as a “structuring irrationality” where Blackness is non-human, humanity is only white, and its very conceptualization is intrinsic to being enslaved. For further literature on anti-blackness check out the exemplary online “gathering of resources” at antiblacknessisatheory.tumblr.com.
I have not had anything close to the first hand experiences with drug trafficking, gun violence, domestic violence, and homicide that so many of my peers have undergone. But these things were always right outside my window, at family gatherings, or right down the hallway at school. Not as close as possible, but certainly not far away. This is important because, though not in the same way, and not nearly to the same degree, I find resonance with my own life’s journey and the words of Baltimore City native D. Watkins: “I never consider myself to be a shooter, but gunplay is all I know.” It is not only those of us who experience first-hand this “spectacle of death” who are accustomed to gunplay, for though this happens, the violence, as outlined in the work of Lawrence Grandpre in The Black Book: Reflections From The Baltimore Grassroots, is as spectacular as it is mundane. And due to the routine nature of anti-blackness, many of us become too petrified or pacified (through no fault of our own) to pose certain questions. Amidst the bullets, bodies, and balls cascading into buckets above and below the ground, we rarely pause to wonder who wins, why have we been shooting ourselves for so long, and whose guns are these? Earlier this year that changed, and masses of Black people in Baltimore, and across the world remembered the first thing we ate was not each other, we remembered that we can not only shoot up, or shoot out, but in the words of Dr. Akinyele Umoja we can shoot back, we did shoot back before, and we will shoot back again.
Freddie Gray, Police Smokescreens, and Black on Black Violence Defined
On April 12th 2015, Freddie Gray was killed by the Baltimore City Police Department while in their custody via an arrest that the Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby Esq. termed illegal. Gray, once in police custody, was placed in a police van, the functional descendent of the slavery-era paddy wagon, for a “rough ride” to the police station. Gray never made it to that police station, instead during the process of his arrest and transport he suffered what the State Medical Examiner’s Office termed a “high energy blow” which severed his spine and caused his death in the hospital days later. Gray’s murder was, at the time, the latest in a litany of murders of Africana people at the hands of the police departments of the United States. Yvette Henderson, a Black woman was killed by Emeryville Police in Oakland, California in February; Mya Hall, a Black trans* woman two weeks prior was killed by the National Security Agency in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area; Walter Scott, a Black man from South Carolina was killed by Charleston Police eight days before Gray’s arrest.
Following Gray’s murder, Black people have continued to be under assault by the police state and other appendages of white supremacy, the latest examples being 1) the massacre in Charleston at Emmanuel AME Church where nine Black people were executed by racist terrorist Dylan Roof and 2) Sandra Bland, a Black woman, was killed (author’s assertion) in police custody in Waller County, Houston, Texas with her death being framed as a suicide. Meanwhile Baltimore, in the aftermath of Gray’s death was the epicenter of an uprising of Africana unrest, justified rage, and focused activism. Property damage, theft, and protest were just some of the valid modes of resistance deployed by Africana people in the face of constant anti-black policies and practices that have permeated the city for centuries. Gray’s death has, in the city of Baltimore, been this generation’s boiling point. A boiling point that has bubbled for decades with names such as Tyrone West, Anthony Anderson, George King, and many other young Black people who met a similar fate as Gray at the hands of Baltimore police. In the months following Gray’s death and the subsequent uprising, Baltimore City has seen an increase in violent crimes, with 43 homicides in May and 31 June this year. These numbers are some of the highest the city has seen since the 1970s and 1980s. According to The Atlantic, “... arrests are down across the city—there were 1,177 arrests in May 2015, as compared to 3,801 in May 2014,” a practice known as a “slow down.” Also, residents have noted that there has been a decrease in response to their calls to the police. David Graham of The Atlantic writes that “A slowdown would be to both punish citizens for lashing out against the police and also to create a cautionary statement: This is what your streets will look like without cops. Is that really what you want?” In addition to pointing to the slowdown as the reason for the increase in crime, there have been other theories postulated by police and politicians.
One of the more prominent among those was issued by Former Police Commissioner Anthony Batts when he stated “There’s enough narcotics on the streets of Baltimore to keep it intoxicated for a year… That amount of drugs has thrown off the balance on the streets of Baltimore.” Given these options, one is led to think that Black people have either overdosed themselves into oblivion or have the capability only to cannibalize themselves without the constant surveillance of the police. Both views lay blame for death and destruction endemic in Baltimore at the feet of poor and working class Africana people in the city. These perspectives posit that their pain is their fault and their death is their desire. The premise established by these perspectives is that Africana Baltimoreans who rose up and protested against the police must enjoy their children attending more funerals of family members and friends than field trips. The “real” solution in the eyes of the proponents of these perspectives is to create an environment where police can “do their job” and the “bad guys” can be taken off the street. In a previous Afrometrics article, I analyzed the inability of the police as a profession and institution to substantively curb violence in Black communities due to its intrinsic function to protect white property, white safety, and “correct” Black bodies. Nevertheless, the primary cause of the death and destruction in Africana communities the eyes of the mainstream media, politicians, pundits, police, and many others is Africana people themselves. Statements such as “it’s their fault” “we kill ourselves more than they kill us” and “the real issue is Black on Black crime” are abound in the popular discourse.
The result has been an inability to craft culturally rooted efficient and humane long term solutions to the very real problems of intra-Africana community violence. Having been inculcated in pathologizing ourselves as deserving of pain and designed to destroy has rendered us ill-equipped to harness the cultural recesses of our ancestral knowledge in a liberatory fashion. Instead we lean on white supremacist interpretations of our reality to determine how we solve the problems of white supremacy (their solutions: police reforms, legal amendments, etc.). Such an approach is futile and reductive, one that only leads to our continued place with our necks under the proverbial boot of white supremacist patriarchy. Alternatively, this article seeks to reverse that trend by using our own creativity and history to show that we have repeatedly resisted such intra-Africana community violence and sought solutions in our own ways. For the purposes of this article, that intra community violence, with Black men as both victims and perpetrators, will be understood as Black on Black violence: “the assaultive, homicidal, and suicidal violence committed by Blacks against Blacks in ways that are self-and mutually destructive, egregious, and gratuitous” (Wilson 1990).
Herein there are two examples of Africana people resisting and creating solutions to that “Black on Black violence" while understanding white supremacist patriarchy as the root cause and beneficiary: 1) Africans and the Slave Trade, 2) Baltimore and Crime Spike post-Freddie Gray uprising. Those two examples serve as the foundation for a main argument of this text; that Africana people, and Black men in particular, are not reckless and uncontrollable savages incapable of existing humanely without the surveillance and correction of white supremacist patriarchy. We as Africana people are full human beings with our own cultural epistemologies and ontologies, capable of bringing into the world our own accountability models and liberation concepts. In order to effectively understand the phenomena Wilson describes as “Black on Black crime” we must begin our analysis on the African continent and the institution of slavery.
The Maafa and the “Savages” it Purported to “Save”
For centuries, white supremacy and Arab domination constructed the African as sub-human and functional only in the role of an enslaved tool for their own perpetuation of power and domination. Each of the aforementioned enslavement systems functioned in large part due to the narrative that both systems propagated of the African as backward and savage, unable to come into the modern world without the “assistance” of the “benevolent civilizing conqueror.” Large scale trade of enslaved people became normalized through the Arab trade (7th century to 20th century roughly), but it was the European trade (16th century to 19th century roughly) though concurrent with the Arab trade, which exacerbated that enslavement into a global and chattel phenomenon. Justification from the Europeans came in many forms, but the three most common refrains were, and in many cases still are, “Africans traded other Africans into slavery,” “they did not resist being enslaved” and “they were uncivilized; in need of saving.” These three statements, assumptions, and falsehoods operate together to create the idea that Africana people deserved the pain of enslavement and desired to be enslaved.
In Fighting the Slave Trade: West African Strategies Sylvianne Diouf (2003) writes, “If the idea that the deported Africans walked quietly into servitude has lost ground in some intellectual circles, it is still going strong in popular culture; as are the supposed passivity or complicity of the rest of their compatriots and their lack of remorse for having allowed or participated in this massive displacement” (ix). The enslavers and colonizers of Europe utilized Christianity as a vessel for justifying their enslavement as they needed to cast the non-Christian West Africans as fit for serving Christianity, hence serving whites. The Africans’ lack of the “right” kind of religion deemed them in need of being “saved” from their toxic past, and brought into a more “civilized” future. And the historical narrative that makes such a practice seem benevolent and not toxic is the one that Diouf has highlighted as needing interrogation.
Most historians, according to Diouf, cast Africans as only either trading partners or cargo in the context of the slave trade(s). The trope of trading partners of the past can be read as the Black “thugs” and “criminals” trope of the present age. The cargo trope of the past can be read as the concept of the “helpless and ignorant" Black community trope of the present age at the mercy of the evil Black gangster and his or her crew. The African collaborators and traders of the Transatlantic Slave Trade exists in much of the same way that the inner city Black person who kills and sells deadly drugs to other Black people does today. And in mainstream discourse it is argued that Black people “or any human beings” being cargo would have been bad, in the same way that so many Black people dying en masse is not unique but “any human beings” dying en masse would be wrong. But the reality is that it wasn’t just “any human beings” who were cargo in the 17th-19th centuries, nor was it “any human beings” who introduced that system of enslavement that made them cargo. And today it isn’t “any human beings” that are dying due to state sanctioned (police normality) or state (so called Black on Black) violence. The rhetoric of “any human beings” is akin to the “All lives matter” rhetoric.
When mainstream scholars, theorists, and pundits exalt “all people had slavery and slaves” they obscure and ignore the specific nature and horror of the Translatlantic Slave Trade. The flattening of perpetrators of the transatlantic slave trade as a vague “everyone” is how white supremacy absolves itself for being held accountable as the root creator and beneficiary of that enslavement system. Simultaneously, framing the primary resistors to the transatlantic slave trade as white abolitionists allows contemporary whites to historically see themselves as the “good” white people who sought to rid the world of a toxic system and save the “helpless” Africans. This is emblematic of what Dayvon Love describes occurring in Baltimore during the context of a fight against a new Youth Jail in The Black Book: Reflections from the Baltimore Grassroots. Love writes: “... through Baltimore’s self-proclaimed social justice communities was the overwhelming presence of white adults and Black youth... Black youth were literally being used to give legitimacy to the white liberal fight against the youth jail” (Grandpre and Love 2014). The Black youth in this case the “helpless” and the white adults, the “good.” Meanwhile, this scenario leaves the Black youth only two options to see himself as: perpetrator or follower, as it left the enslaved Africans only two options to see herself historically, as Diouf states, either as trading partner or cargo. Never as emancipator, resistor, liberator, or freedom fighter. We are inundated with the language of white abolitionist and white savior, yet we are not nearly as often exposed to language that positions us as agents in our own survival and defense.
Speaking of language, “If the word Holocaust is a fitting and immediately understood description of the crime against humanity that it was, the expression slave trade, by contrast, tends to let the collective consciousness equate this crime with a business venture. Naturally, genocide and other crimes against humanity are not commercial enterprises...” (Diouf, 2003). The term genocide did not exist until 1944 (possibly 1943) when Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the term as, in his view, the most accurate descriptor for the Nazi Holocaust of Jewish people in Europe.
Before such wide scale annihilation met Europe, the exacting of the very similar actions by European powers was deemed necessary for the project of imperialism and the expansion of Western civilization. This similar phenomena of the paucity of worth Black trauma and death in the eyes of the West emerged with convict leasing, segregation, and police brutality in the United States, each being a non-issue until few whites met similar fates as countless Blacks. With convict leasing it was Martin Tabert, young white convict working in Florida in 1921, with segregation it was Goodman and Schwerner, two white Civil Rights activists in the “Deep South” of the U.S. in 1964, and with police brutality it was the militarized crackdown of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011. Each of the aforementioned representing a moment where Black people had endured something for decades prior, but it was “just the way things were” until it happened to white people. Therefore, African Psychologist Marimba Ani operationalized the term Maafa; "a great disaster of death and destruction that is beyond human comprehension and convention… it’s chief feature is the systematic denial of the humanity of people of African descent, which occurs in many ways and across numerous circumstances” (Ani 1994). Due to the function of whiteness to dehumanize Blackness for white validation, the traumas experienced by Blacks must not be seen as crimes against humanity committed by whites, but intrinsically deserved due to some defect of character or mental faculty. And if Black trauma somehow is considered tantamount to genocide and more specifically, a Holocaust, White society demands we view the perpetrator as always Black themselves. This is where retorts such as “they let themselves be enslaved” “they didn’t stop it” “they kill themselves” and so on begin to sprout from the discursive landscape like weeds.
African people did indeed collaborate and often benefit financially and otherwise from providing the Europeans with Africans to enslave. Such a massive entrenchment of whites into the heart of the African continent would not have been possible without substantive African betrayal and collaboration. This cannot be ignored, nor should it. The Akan, Dahomey, and other African people established decade-long (sometimes century-long) partnerships with enslaving Europeans. They received gold, copper, gunpowder, rum and other goods from Europeans in exchange for the human bodies of their fellow Africans. However, such a business was not something that any of these African peoples sought out, none of them sought out the Europeans to whom they desired to sell fellow Africans. As with much crime in inner cities like Baltimore, the drugs and weapons are funneled into these communities with indifference and/or assistance from local and federal governments. One of the more prominent cases of this was cocaine trafficking fueled by the Iran-Contra conflict in the 1980s exposed internationally by San Jose journalist Gary Webb. In Los Angeles, there were individual Black drug dealers and gangs that benefited financially from the drug trade, ensnaring their own communities in the web of crack addiction and the subsequent gun violence. However, they did not create the drug system nor the drug supply, and ultimately their financial gain was minimal when compared to the political and economic benefits it garnered the U.S. in their foreign policy objectives. Similarly, it was the European who came onto African soil and created the capitalistic climate where many of these African countries assisted in the enslavement of other African peoples, so that their particular group would harness some semblance of safety. In the case of both the African slave trader and the inner city drug dealer/gang leader, these are collaborators, not to be confused or conflated with instigators and primary facilitators.
Slave Trading as Black on Black Violence to Protect and Empower Whiteness
Diouf, in her work, shows that the collaborations between Africans and Europeans were far from simplistic. In some cases, Africans sold other Africans into slavery to avoid being enslaved themselves. Quite a few African peoples, with the barrels of guns facing them down, were given the choice of being collaborators or corpses. Many Africans were convinced by whites this was their destiny, and that escape from the system was impossible. There was often no fine line between starving and feeding the system due to the consistent reduction of African agency this process caused; “Resistance, accommodation, and participation in the trade and attacks against it were often intimately linked… (Diouf 2003). Though Westerners and African traders and rulers entered “commercial relations” the parties cannot be seen as equal business partners, protected puppets perhaps, but equal partners, no. Though monies and benefits were exchanged between Africans and Europeans “The violent seizures of people, however, did not entail any transaction; the affected African communities were not involved in business deals” (Diouf 2003). One sees violent seizures of power of a similar variety in cities like Baltimore today, the harsh realities to which Black people in such places are subjected to are often anti-Black and anti-human, often producing self-mutilating and community destroying psychologies that people take on to survive. In an interview with two Black men from Baltimore City, Dayvon Love of the Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle organization, is told by Gary Johnson and Orlando Gillyard that one has no clue the depths to which daily existence under state violence, and socio-economic decimation via anti-Blackness will drive a person. Those who judge people in these circumstances as choosing this life for themselves are woefully in denial about the power that white supremacy wields. Though it may not appear that way to those on the outside, no one wakes up feeling thrilled about aiding in the enslavement or harming of their community, these are not the things people dream of doing when they are children. Black people have pushed back against these psyches, from slavery to today, whether the historical records acknowledge it or not.
“If nothing else, the need for shackles, guns, ropes, chains, iron balls, whips, and cannons — that sustained a veritable European Union of slave trade-related jobs — eloquently tells a story of opposition from the hinterland to the high seas” (Diouf 2003). However, opposition to enslavement is often the last thing that many think of when thinking about Africans’ relation to enslavement.
The function of the idea of the enslaved behaving solely as willing, docile, and non-confrontational in their enslavement serves to bolster the ability to craft the Maafa as business, not genocide. It does not seem logical (to a Western capitalist society) for a person to willingly accept negative outcomes of a genocide. With business, on the other hand, one is expected to accept negative outcomes as the sometimes unsavory costs of any trade or venture. However, enslavement was not merely unsavory, it was mass murder, and we must confront this, the sooner, the better. If history downplays and dissolves the narrative of resistance while exalting acquiescence, Africana people are reduced to enslaved or slaving, never liberatory resisters. However, the threat of African resistance to slavery was a constant and daily reality that confronted the enslavers and the collaborators. On a practical level, Diouf cites the recollection of a slave trader that “‘One must, without any hesitation, shoot at them and not spare them. The loss of the vessel and the life of the crew are at stake.’” Above all, the crew and the vessel were to be protected, any glimmer of the light of resistance that shone in the eyes of the enslaved Africans was to be gouged out with haste. Such efforts to quell insurrection proactively were framed as being beneficial to the physical safety of the enslaved, protecting them from sure death that they would meet if they dared to resist their captivity. “‘In some areas… the level of distrust and hostility [between enslavers and enslaved] was so high that as soon as people approached the boats ‘the crew is ordered to take up arms, the cannons are aimed, and the fuses lighted’” (Diouf 2003). In 2010, Detroit Police Department SWAT threw a flash grenade into the house of seven year old Black girl Aiyana Stanley-Jones, then shot her in the head within seconds. Police were conducting a raid of the house, and without hesitation Jones was shot dead, because her life was not as valuable as making the “dramatic arrest.” The suspect they were looking for, her Uncle, submitted without incident to the police. In 2014, Cleveland Police shot twelve year old Tamir Rice within “1.5 to 2 seconds” after arriving at the park where he was playing with a toy gun. One more sentence on Tamir, then connect to paternalism and shoot first attitude since the slave ships. Symbolically, Rice represented a danger to the life of the crew (whiteness) therefore he was to be shot and not spared. Whether Rice represented any real physical threat to those around him (which he did not) was not of consequence, as in the slave trade, such choices are to be made by the protectors and proprietors of whiteness without hesitation. The police assumed the role of parent and arbiter, the one with the endowed moral compass to decide whether Rice lived or died. The same paternalism is imbedded in many social justice movements “... often animated by the idea that white people are needed to save Black youth from this cesspool of pathology” falsely presented as protection (Grandpre and Love 2014). The historical record of African indigenous resistance paints quite a different picture.
Walter Hawthorne returns us to the era of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, providing the following as an example of resistance “abandoning places that were easily accessible and therefore vulnerable to attack” (Hawthorne 2003). This practice of intentional migration and exodus was something that many African peoples practiced whose communities were being raided and destroyed by the slave trade. One may read this as a precursor to the practice of creating maroon communities that emerged throughout the Caribbean and North America by many enslaved African peoples during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The other modes of resistance which I seek to highlight here are quotidian and armed rebellion. Along with the migration patterns, these are vital because they are forms of resistance that were not sanctioned or supervised by members of the European enslaving society. These were not Western Abolition movements, nor were they the American Colonization Society, nor were they “reformed" students of Christian missionaries, these were Africans who resisted enslavement on their own cultural terms and with their own cultural tools. For Rashid, resistance was “a plethora of spontaneous, organized, covert, or overt actions designed to thwart the intentions of the kidnappers, slave traders, and slave holders” (Rashid 2003).
Rashid informs readers about a rebellion in 1750 on a Danish slave ship that ended with the people on this vessel fleeing and establishing their own "free settlement in the mountains off the Sierra Leone coast” (Rashid 2003). “The free communities should be seen as counter to the ronde. Like the maroons in the Caribbean and the Americas, the enslaved Africans consciously created these communities to assert their freedom, separate themselves from their slaveholders, and gain autonomy over their lives” (Rashid 2003). Rashid reminds us that resistance occurs on multiple levels, and that slavery was a layered process, and one’s enslavement was not just on the plantation. “Those who were in the process of being enslaved, as well as those who were enslaved, used different methods to counter the different manifestations of servitude. From the point of capture to the ships or to the slave villages, they utilized escape, violence, and maroonage to try to restore a sense of self-dignity and autonomy over their bodies” (Rashid 2003).
Self-dignity and bodily autonomy was, for many of these Africans, not about seeking the next available seat of power, instead, Rashid contends “enslaved Africans routinely affirmed their freedom, not by absorption into the slaveholding societies or by renegotiations of dependent relationships — as argued by some scholars — but by outright rejection and opposition to servitude” (Rashid 2003). This historical lesson in the ancestral recesses of our African past teaches us that to be free is not to replicate our dehumanization of each other, but rather to fully honor the humanity of ourselves and our community. It is from this lesson that Africana people may begin to understand both enslavement and Black on Black violence as harming us, and strengthening the very system of oppression that is oppressing us.
Often, the intra-Africana violence aspect of the transatlantic slave trade is cast as desired and causal solely on the part of Africans who traded other Africans, their benefit is rendered equal to that of European society writ-large. Furthermore, their role as “equal” in the Maafa is used to situate and posit the European enslaver as “no different” than anyone else, and having no more blame in the genocide of Africans that was enslavement than “the Africans who traded other Africans into slavery.” Joseph Inikori succinctly outlines why it is Europe who owns fundamental blame for what Ani terms the Maafa.
The evidence is clear that the Atlantic slave trade was caused by European demand for captives… European explorations brought together Atlantic basin economies and societies at different levels of commercial and politico-military development. The commercial and politico-military advantage of the western European nations meant that the needs of their states and economies determined what was demanded and produced in the trade relations between Western Europe and Western Africa. European colonization of theAmericas radically transformed those needs, which in turn radically changed what the European traders demanded in western Africa — from trade in products to trade in humans (189)
Inikori establishes Europe as both instigator and chief beneficiary of the Maafa. This assertion calls into question many of the assertions Eurocentric scholarship has made about “everyone” being “equally” to blame for the atrocity of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. For example, “[By] Depicting slavery as natural, inevitable, and necessary, texts offer tacit support of slavery as central to the rise of the Eurocentric global capitalist economy (Ogden et al., 2008 ) without considering its link to racist ideology and accumulation of resources (Magubane 2004 ; Sivanandan 1982)” (Weiner 2014). Meanwhile, scholars such as Henry Louis Gates posit we should, “publicly attribute responsibility and culpability where they truly belong, to white people and black people, on both sides of the Atlantic, complicit alike in one of the greatest evils in the history of civilization.” Such a de-racialized power analysis seeks to be very elaborate in “exposing” the violence in our reactive treatment of each other , yet remains very obtuse and vague in calling out Europeans’ casual and violent treatment of Africans (enslaving). Complicit, yes. But alike, most certainly not.
When historically dishonest people conflate the creating of the enslavement system with participation in the system, they critique the puppet as if she isn’t guided by strings. When people conflate the intra-racial Black criminal with the system of self-hatred ingrained in him by white supremacy, they critique the puppet as if he isn’t guided by strings. Of those who would blame Africans for their own Maafa, Penny Hess of African People’s Solidarity Committee profoundly writes:
The setting up of collaborators among the colonized population has been a successful tool of domination in every instance of European colonialism around the world. Africa is no exception… A unilateral colonial economy, which starves the people and creates the dependency on the colonial power, is militarily enforced. The European invader gets richer and richer through his bloodsucking relationship, and offers resources, guns and special status to a minority sector of the oppressed population. The selected “elite” or the colony can themselves become enslaved or carry out the will of white power. If they take any stand independent of the colonizer as have, say, Panama’s Noriega or Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in today’s world, white power spares them none of its wrath… It is an anti-black expression of unity with the oppression of African people, saying, ‘They did it to themselves.’ Meanwhile all white people everywhere still benefit from the parasitic economic system which has as its foundation the enslavement and continued exploitation of African people.
Part of African resistance is holding accountable the internal traitors and perpetrators, the internal agents of the system, but from a position that critiques and analyzes their unique participation in the system not collapsing their participation in the system as the “same” or “equal” to white supremacy. Ultimately, understanding that their participation is that of a puppet to a ventriloquist. The puppet is purposeless without someone pulling the strings and a puppet cannot both be puppet and puppet-master and the same time. In the case of extended-self mutilating Africans, some are unaware they are puppets, but others willingly embrace the strings.
Though it has been argued here that European desires are the crux of the issue when it comes to intra-Africana communal violence, this piece in no form seeks to absolve Black collaborators and contributors to the oppression of other Black people. In fact, it is my assertion that only through understanding European desire as the beneficiary of Black on Black violence will we be able to stop it and hold certain intra-Africana communal abusers accountable in a way that is relevant. Relevancy in my view is not “ending” the blame game, as Gates has argued. If we begin our analysis by placing blame primarily on the individual African enslaver or Black gang member, we lose any way to establish the origin of our cannibalistic fatalism via intra-communal violence. If we end our analysis without placing any blame on the individual African enslaver or Black gang member, we lose any way to establish trust and safety of those harmed by them, removing all possibility for communal accountability among African people. Additionally, if we flatten blame across the board as the same, we blunt the need for specificity of solutions and equalize roles of Africans and Europeans in the trade. Instead, relevant accountability is a recognition of intra-Africana communal violence as a betrayal of Ubuntu for individual gain. There must be a confrontation of culpability, such an adoption of Eurocentric individualism is something for which one must atone, and atonement does not equal acceptance back into community, and may very well end in exile/banishment. Wade Nobles, Black Psychologist, speaks of the extended self: the idea that the self is not composed merely of an individual human, but that individual in relation to their wider Africana community. Slavery operated on breaking down communal bonds between Africans (many family units were torn apart, children were taken away from their mothers, etc.) and we were sold individuality as our path to survival. At this crucial point in our existence as Africana people, we must work to remove violent people from our spaces who make our spaces unhealthy and unsafe for others. This might be accomplished via exile or banishment or some other mechanism. There is no place for Black people who harm and oppress other Black people in our community and negate their humanity. Liberators and leeches cannot inhabit the same body. There will be no liberated African future if African people are unable to trust, affirm, and be accountable to each other.
Neo-Plantations and the Function of the “Bad” Black Person
In Baltimore, and urban cities like it throughout the world, though temporally different, we find a similar social order to that which confronted the African peoples who were enslaved by the Europeans centuries ago. Instead, the physical enslavement of yesterday through shackles and ships has taken the contemporary form of cultural castration, epistemological starvation, deadly drug inundation, weapons influx, deplorable housing infrastructure, and abhorrent health care protections. White supremacy still demands captives, yet today those captives are not destined for Brazilian plantations and the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Nowadays, the captives demanded of white supremacy are fed into the Prison-Industrial Complex and the grave. There is money to be made in bailing, bonding, body bagging, and burying Black bodies. Black people exist in perpetual captivity in the 21st century neo-plantation of the Americas. Black people in the U.S. makeup 13.2% of the country’s population but 37.5% of the prison population, thus disproportionately represented as prisoners. In the past eleven years, the number of private prisons in the United States has grown from five to one hundred. “Just between 1980 and 1994, profits [of contracted prison labor] went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month.”
The racist system of incarceration that permeates much of the United States benefits and is populated by the mass of intra-Africana community violence and stop and frisk/broken windows policing that exists in cities like Baltimore. The mainstream media contends that the uprising in Baltimore produced a spike in crime, yet I assert there is no way a police force can stop these very crimes. By nature of the very profession of police, it requires Black people to correct, corral, or put beneath concrete. Therefore, “bad” Black people who police can send to the prison industrial complex is what the system demands, not what the system shall eradicate. But, their validity within the eyes of the society is that they operate for the collective benefit of the society. However, the more insidious reality is that much in the way the white abolitionist/missionary movement on the continent serves to establish whites as saviors and Black people as helpless, the narrative of the police as necessary casts whiteness the savior (police as proxy for whiteness because it serves and protects white interests) and Black people again as helpless. In both cases, indigenous Africana people represent a sort of evil, on the continent it was the false conception that they had backward religions and propensity to sell each other into slavery. In Baltimore, it is the false idea of the Black on Black criminal as the chief perpetrator of crime and violence who needs to be shut down by the “good guys” (i.e. the police).
The violence that Black people face/d at the hands of other Black people is/was real. Under slavery, the African collaborator often believed that their privileged status with the Europeans made them better and afforded them some sort of protection against meeting the same fate as their fellow Africans. For the collaborator, they viewed their position of trader and collaborator as a choice, they fancied themselves business partners with Europeans, for many Africans bought the myth of slavery as business too. However, in genocide, today’s collaborator is tomorrow’s corpse. The inability of the collaborator to see that, combined with the selfish urge to preserve oneself by any cost and all means is what the oppressor counts on. Inikori argues that the “…process of establishing captive-collecting vassals … depended on the continued widespread existence of politically fragmented communities” (Diouf, 2003). In other words, part of why the slave trade was able to perpetuate itself was because Europeans created a climate where Africans did not see their extended self in the African who was in shackles while they lived in relative comfort for the moment. Europe, as Inikori established, created a societal structure where individualism became indicative of survival and communalism ended in capture.
This positioning of individual protection and safety became something that Europeans cast as their divine right to dole out, only to the most worthy of the “lesser people”, the Africans. And of course, for an African to deem oneself worthy in the eyes of whiteness, this African had to emulate (but never reach) whiteness, which by definition meant to dehumanize Blackness. The more willing one was to sell other Africans into slavery, the more cache one gained with the Europeans. However, this cache, unbeknownst to the collaborating Africans, was not secure, but fleeting. As soon as one African’s favor in the Europeans’ eyes wore out, there would be another more ruthless, more anti-Black African willing to sacrifice other Africans for the myth of momentary safety from whiteness’ wrath. Such desire to show off for whiteness how anti-Black one can be out of the false belief that it will garner some protection from whiteness’ wrath is as contemporary as historic. We see this daily in the abhorrent treatment by many Black men of Black women, Black women to Black men, and Black men to other Black men ourselves. Intra-group violence does occur between and by Black men, Black women, Black gender non-conforming people, and all other folks who exist within Blackness. It is imperative to note that each of those intra-group violences are not the same due to systems of power that privilege certain Black people, often “cisgender” Black men over others such as patriarchy, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc. The foci of this essay are violences perpetrated by Black men intra-communally where their victims are Black men and Black women primarily.
The Anatomy of Toxic Black Masculinity
In Black on Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination, Amos Wilson, African Psychologist, outlines the way that Black men are socialized to view harming other Black people and themselves as necessary for their ascension to manhood. Wilson lists a myriad of examples of media and historical platforms that frame Black men as inept unless performing procreation or persecution. White supremacist patriarchy does not desire for Black men to reach the status of white men, but the system counts on Black men viewing the status of white men as desirable. In the realization that as Black man one will never reach that status, the adaptation many make as recourse is often to harm those they feel have made their reaching of that precarious pinnacle impossible: other Black people, Black women especially. In their minds it is their proximity to these “others” that has stained their ability to transcend the blemish of Blackness, forever marring them in the eyes of whites. Therefore, harming other Black people becomes a way of attempting to wipe the stench of Black from one’s manhood and gain access to the power and privilege of white manhood (which is beyond a mere desire to “be a white man”). This is what shall be understood in this work as toxic Black masculinity.
When speaking of toxic Black masculinity, social scientist William Oliver describes “dysfunctional compensatory adaptation, in that it causes more problems than it solves” (Oliver 1989). The trading of Africans into slavery by other Africans was also a dysfunctional compensatory adaptation, in that it ended up exacerbating the reign of the slave trade instead of exterminating it. For contemporary context, of Africana people who develop these adaptations to white supremacist patriarchy “chewed up and spit out as shells of what they once were… in motion for the sole purpose of rabid materialism and consumption… and young African-American males in particular, suffer from a cultural void” (Jackson 2015). This cultural void means that before people will seek to remove all resemblance of their community from themselves, they must see that community as separate from themselves. This dehumanizing process leaves the Black person that remains as little more than a hollow shell, attempting to fill oneself with the blood and bodies of “others” consumed in their wake. Not out of some innate evil on their part, but because they quite simply don’t know how to eat anything but themselves.
Hiphop artist Lil’Boosie encapsulates this mindset better than most, when in his song Mind of a Maniac (2009) he proclaims: “Man, you wonder why ya child so bad, because the f*cking body bags done hypnotized my a**.” Boosie is explaining how the normalization of Black death warps one’s mind to view taking and destroying Black lives as not only normal but necessary to humanity. As was the case during The Maafa, the loss of Black life was so commonplace that it manipulated some Africans to only see the lives of other Africans as valuable in their ability to secure money or safety (albeit momentary). Lil’ Boosie also states in this song that his “Heart full of f*ckin pain cause I’m tired of gettin’ stabbed and grabbed.” This fullness of pain often drives those who have been consumed by this toxic Black masculinity to deploy violence and posturing of being violent for protection. D Watkins provides a searing example of how this posturing plays out when he writes of himself and his friends having guns in Gunplay is All I Know, “We weren’t killers and didn’t even think about dealing at the time. We were just scared kids who didn’t want to lie dead in the streets like our brothers, fathers, friends and the rest of the black dudes who get murdered all over the country.” This confluence of fear and fate leaves many Black men believing that their choices are limited to doing the killing or doing the dying.
In Black Power: Minstrelsy and Electricity in Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man", Johnnie Wilcox writes of Black masculinity and dehumanization explored in Ellison’s classic “...black boxing machines fight one against the other as schizoid subjects, members of a pack together in their aloneness...present functioning prepares them for a lifetime of pursuing symbolic capital while reassuring the powerful white men who watch that these machines will not recognize anything beyond the ring's borders as legitimate targets of their violence” (Wilcox 2007). Incendiary levels of violence are allowed to exist in the “inner cities” is because their ramifications are experienced within the borders of Blackness by Black people, with whiteness as the unharmed spectator. Black bodies existing under white supremacy are cast as deserving of the violence they inflict upon one another, self-inflicted harm is said to be their “natural” disposition. In the “inner city” the police play the roles of referee and promoter, walking a tightrope of ignoring and inducing the violence. In cities like Baltimore the police are simultaneously everywhere and nowhere.
“The spectacle of convulsing black bodies entertains and comforts the white men… provides the white men with some assurance that their own place in the system of capital is not a bad one” (Wilcox 2007). This is the sadistic truth; the reality that having Black men bounce from bellies to burial grounds like pinballs reifies the position of dominance whiteness currently enjoys in our society. As a result, the interior psychological architecture of many Black men is indeed as Lil’ Boosie says in his song: “I ain’t got no mind. Welcome to the mind of a maniac.”
Baltimore, Arnesha Bowers, and the Brutality of Toxic Black Masculinity
Intra-racial “Black on Black violence” is real, harsh, traumatic, and sometimes hurts more than violence from white people because one feels a sense of experiential betrayal. This is poignantly articulated by Black women and Black LGBTQ people who write at length about the ways that patriarchy, homophobia, and transphobia provide havens of momentary faux safety for Black people whose sex, gender, and sexual orientation identities afford them privilege in this society. Authors such as Audre Lorde, Patricia Hill Collins, Janet Mock, Kimberlee Crenshaw, Dawn Elissa-Fishcer, Layli Mapryan,and Assata Shakur among others outline how such privileges have often made violence against Black women by Black men, structurally permissible and ancillary in the “broader scheme” in the eyes of many people. Currently, activists like Patrisse Cullors and Charlene Carruthers have used #SayHerName and #BlackLivesMatter and #BYP100 to address this very issue. In the same way that many Black men are socialized to not see their fellow Black men as their extended selves, many Black men are socialized to see Black women and other Black people similarly. These are two sides of the same self-alienation coin that are flipped daily in the mind of the Black on Black criminal. In the case of the male Black on Black criminal, Amos Wilson describes this as his inclination to “equate violence with masculinity. His capacity for violence is correlated with his sense of security, his use of it, the most appropriate expression of his ‘manhood.’ Violence is often his most effective way of gaining ‘respect’ control of others, and his environment” (Wilson 1990).
Following the uprisings surrounding Freddie Gray, Baltimore City saw a most gratuitous case of just this type of violence, physically perpetrated by Black men against a young Black girl. On June 7th 2015, the body of 16 year old Arnesha Bowers was found, having been raped and her body badly burned inside of her home, which had been set ablaze by arson earlier that day. Three Black men have since been indicted in the rape and murder of Arnesha Bowers. Some City officials have grotesquely scapegoated the uprisings in the name of Freddie Gray and others as the catalyst for Bowers’ murder and other violent crimes committed by Black men in Baltimore. However, what these officials fail to realize is that Black people have been killing each other long before the Gray uprisings, and the flowing of white supremacy’s internal toxins in our communities has been an issue for us long before 2015. A mind capable of the violence in the Bowers murder, as Wilson reminds us, is one the male Black on Black criminal (and the writ large Black on Black criminal) received from and shares with the white male narcissistic racist; “...the Black on Black violent criminal in American society is essentially a “copycat” or imitator of the narcissistic racism endemic to the White american community” (Wilson 1990). In line with that type of Black brute self-fulfilling hypermasculinity performance, Bowers’ death has since been connected to a supposed “mission” for gang initiation, as has been the case in Baltimore plus other major cities, around instances of intra-racial violence. Toxic forms of Black masculinity are often defined by the veracity with which one can berate Black women/girls who don’t acquiesce Black men’s/boys’ whims. Black on Black violence is used to prove one’s dedication to the objectives of white supremacy, particularly in the form of debasing and sexually assaulting the bodies of Black girls and women. Wilson says the intra-racial criminal shares the following with the white narcissistic racist: “his intended victims have no rights they cannot defend successfully against his depredations… An authority onto himself… his victims have rights only he may condescendingly give them” (Wilson 1990). Bowers a young Black girl, was dehumanized on multiple fronts, being both Black and a girl. This was not the result of the Baltimore uprisings, in fact the uprisings brought many of the gangs in Baltimore together. The Baltimore Uprisings brought Black people closer to seeing themselves in Arnesha Bowers, not farther away. Black people in those gangs who, as Wilson states, were taught to emulate the white racist narcissist, began to remove the strings of racial cannibalism, and see themselves as a collective of Black people, under attack against the real power structure, white supremacist patriarchy. Arnesha Bowers’ murder was a form of intra-racial violence with roots more insidious than the public officials of Baltimore City are willing to admit, the uprisings are a nothing more than a convenient scapegoat. There are droves of Black women in Baltimore City who are doing the work of healing, therapy, and organizing around the issue of intra-racial violence committed against Black people, girls and women in particular. One such exemplar is Mothyna Brightful is a social justice advocate who works at Turn Around, a non-profit in Baltimore “that works with victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault” as Director of Community Education. Brightful does invaluable work in the lives of Black girls and women throughout the Baltimore City area. Additionally, Shawna Murray-Browne, MSW, LCSW, is a Baltimore based Social Worker whose practice Kindred Wellness LLC provides “mental health therapy, life coaching, Sista circles and events that heal, empower and renew women, girls, & families particularly those of color.”
Though the situation is dire, African people are not defeated in our quest to overcome this systemic violence against our bodies and minds. In the same way that enslaved Africans, as we learned from Rashid, focused their resistance on thwarting the objectives of their oppressors, Jackson posits that rooting one’s sense of self, purpose, and identity culturally in African people collectively serves to thwart the objectives of white supremacist patriarchy as it relates to Black men.
CityStreets+SlaveShips: Tidal Waves of Intergenerational Anti-Blackness and Resistance
The Middle Passage, where millions of Africans were submerged in the depths of clipper ships, many of which docked in Baltimore City’s Inner Harbor less than 250 years ago, was the original rough ride. Surrounded by decaying flesh, death, and defecation, along with the tumultuous tides of the Atlantic, the ride to the Americas for enslaved Africans was a most abhorrent one. In fact, “Slave ship owners often threw Africans off the ships just to collect the insurance money. One famous case was that of a ship owned by William Gregson and George Case (both former mayors of Liverpool, England). The captain threw 133 Africans into the sea….” Freddie Gray was also thrown into a sea of sorts, every curve of the city streets analogous to the ripples of the ocean that thrashed the bodies of his ancestors. His shackled body bouncing to and fro, his transporters indifferent to the suffering of their cargo, his survival tangential. During a rough ride, this “dark tradition of police misconduct… suspects, seated or lying face down and in handcuffs in the back of a police wagon, are jolted and battered by an intentionally rough and bumpy ride that can do as much damage as a police baton without an officer having to administer a blow.”
As previously mentioned, in the days of the Maafa, the enslaved who died en route to the Americas were often tossed overboard. But in the age of social media, Gray’s body couldn’t have been dumped on Mosher St. after he indicated he couldn’t breathe, it would’ve been bad for business. Instead, he succumbed to his injuries in a hospital days later. Death by rough ride is the death by overboard toss of the 21st century. Now let’s juxtapose Gray’s murder in police custody with the murder of many Africans in custody enslavers. In both cases, Africana people are often blamed for our own suffering. The argument goes like this: with murder on slave ships, A. Africans sold each other into slavery, so that equals B. they did it to themselves. And with Gray, A. Black people exhibit intra-racial violent behaviors (Black on Black violence) so that requires B. the constant police surveillance and aggression practices which led to Gray’s illegal arrest. The crux of this narrative about the deserving of decimation thrust upon Black people is that it is upheld by the falsity that only through white-led organizing/activism have Black people come to resist their enslavement and intra-racial violent behaviors. This is how the uprisings in Baltimore get classified as unruly and unorganized riots that will accomplish nothing. It is the same premise that allows historians to cast African resistance to slavery as minimal and minute, irrelevant until the benevolence of the white abolitionist movement. It is the same logic that fueled the police slow-down in Baltimore City following the uprisings, a logic that contends: without the police, without white protection and white guidance, the Negroes will eviscerate each other. Hence, all resistance before white people show Black folks the right way isn’t real resistance, but misdirected anger and frivolous rioting. Resistance indigenous to Africana people, prior to and independent of white guidance is removed from the annals of mainstream history and rendered myopic in mainstream contemporary discourse. The fact of the matter is that whiteness has no issue with the “Negroes” eviscerating themselves, only that it be done in a manner and medium to their liking. The fact of the matter is, the only thing that white guidance has led Black people to has been a myriad of rough rides masquerading as salvation. From the shackles on the slave ship to the handcuffs on the police wagon, Black people have borne the burden of white benevolence with nothing less than our lives.
“Most Africans resisted enslavement with all of their energy. Rebellions on slave ships were common. According to one source… There was probably at least one insurrection every eight to ten journeys.’” However, in most educational settings abolition and resistance are said to have begun with William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe. “Africans successfully rebelled in 1532 aboard the Portuguese slave ship the Misericordia. The 109 Africans on board “rose and murdered all the crew except for the pilot and two seaman. Those survivors escaped in a longboat. But the Misericordia was never heard of again.” However, in most educational settings Roger Sherman Baldwin, lawyer in the Amistad case, and John Brown, white abolitionist are said to have given the “real” traction to abolishing to the peculiar institution. The valorization of the individual white resister obscures the vile systemic reality of white supremacy while obfuscating African resistance methods as imperfect and inadequate. Such is the case in Baltimore City, however, there are many Black people and organizations throughout Baltimore who are in their own way, shooting back against white supremacist patriarchy and using African culture plus Black lived experience as their foundations.
B African to B More: Culture and the Necessity of Sankofa
On the importance of culturally endemic and indigenous resistance Shawn Ginwright, Africana Studies scholar, writes “An emancipatory vision for Black youth means that being rooted in African culture is a starting point for identity development, but not the end point…. Once Black youth understand why Blackness is degraded around the world, they can identify ways that they degrade Blackness in their own lives” (Ginwright 2010). For the African who enslaved other Africans, and for the Black on Black criminal who harms his own people, this means unchaining oneself from the entrapment of white supremacist puppetry, and cutting the strings. Ginwright continues by saying “Constant and relentless questioning of Black youth’s assumptions about Black identity can develop in them social justice habits” (Ginwright 2010). The Baltimore Uprisings were the example of the emergence of a social justice habit (resistance to oppression) in real time by a people who questioned the killings, the shootings, the racism, people who resisted what they were being told about why Freddie Gray died, about why Tyrone West died, about why so many in Baltimore for so long have died. From Ginwright we learn, “culture and identity provide Black youth with purpose that is both rooted in the history of Black struggle and connected to the problems of everyday life” (Ginwright 2010). In the sankofic (term introduced to the discipline by Donela Wright, M.A.) connecting of shackled Africans killed in the past to Freddie Gray in shackles killed in 2015, many Black Baltimoreans through culture and identity became rooted in their purpose, resistance to white supremacy for the goal of African liberation. The Baltimore Uprisings were an instantiation of Baltimore’s Black youth accepting what Serie McDougal and Michael Tillotson, two Africana Studies scholars, term their “ancestral assignment.”
In Baltimore City, there are numerous examples of Africana people utilizing indigenous modes of resistance, birthed and cultivated within their own cultural context, doing the work of their “ancestral assignments.” The following are examples of such groups and individuals. The group 300 Men March is a group that believes in “responsibility and non-violence” as a guiding philosophy and seeks to curb local violence. Author D. Watkins has used his life experiences and literary acumen to position his voice as a seminal one in the movement for a more affirming and just Baltimore, particularly for Black low-income and working class people. In his articles such as Too Poor For Pop Culture, Gunplay is All I Know, These Are The Two Baltimore’s: One Black One White, and Black History Bulldozed For Another Starbucks, Watkins has established himself as a voice in both the nuanced battle against intra-group violence and the war against white supremacist patriarchy. In the arts, there is the work of Mia Loving, curator and founder of Invisible Majority, a creative community incubator, led by her and Blaqstarr together. Loving has done extensive work in Baltimore City around creating and holding intra-communal spaces of affirmation and justice for Black people. Invisible Majority holds space for Black youth and community members to have opportunities to artistically express and work through the anti-Blackness which inundates people daily. Loving’s sister, Sache Jones runs the Afya Community Teaching Garden, which is located in the Park Heights community of Baltimore City. Jones’ space address the abundance of food deserts and structurally racialized food inequality in Baltimore. Lastly, but far from least, there is a Baltimore based organization called Leaders of A Beautiful Struggle (LBS), “a grassroots think-tank which advances the public policy interest of Black people, in Baltimore, through: youth leadership development, political advocacy, and autonomous intellectual innovation.” LBS’ Board of Directors members are Lawrence Grandpre, Adam Jackson, Brion Gill, Deverick Murray, and Dayvon Love. In their own way, each of the aforementioned groups and individuals are doing the work of shooting back against white supremacy in Baltimore City and beyond.
“In the Morning, Will U Be Here in the Morning?” Intra-Violence is Ultimately Homicide
The belief that sacrificing some members of the community for the protection of others against a community that seeks to destroy the entire community is as reductive and flat out wrong, resulting in what I term “faux safety.” It has never brought the collaborators anything but a postponement of their day of facing the same fate as their victims. But, the comfort of this faux safety is often so intoxicating that Black people, many times Black men, will serve other Black men, Black women and Black LGBTQIA people to the wolves of whiteness for one more day in their wool. This illusion is what enticed so many Africans to send other Africans into slavery, and it is the same illusion that makes Black people harming and destroying other Black people will lead to anything short of our collective genocide. It is as Angela Davis said, “For if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.” As long as so many Black people remain puppets to the desires of white supremacist patriarchy, we will continue to be the undertakers of whiteness, decapitating our people, not realizing it is us who is due to the gallows at dawn.
 Henry Louis Gates, “Ending the Slavery Blame Game,” New York Times (New York, NY), April 22 2010.
 Vicky Peleaz, “The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery,” Global Research (New York, NY), Marchl 31 2014.