Bantu Steve Biko, the man and the thought

A young and charismatic man, endowed with an exceptional intelligence, the struggle against apartheid, a short life, a horrible death, all this happened to Steve Biko, an icon in the black imaginary. But beyond the isolated quotes one can read, we will discover the very rich thought – and somehow surprising – of this glorious ancestor.

Bantu Stephen Biko was born in 1946 in the segregated South Africa, dominated by the racist and genocidal system of Dutch settlers and English who came later. He was 4 when his father died. His mother bore alone, in difficult conditions, the needs of the whole family. Biko was raised in the Xhosa tradition and Anglican Christianity. At the age of 18, he entered adulthood through the initiatory rite of Ulwaluko, when he was circumcised.

The birth of a thought

Brilliant student, he joined his brother Khaya in the locality of Lovedale. He developped sympathy for the Pan-African Congress, its organization and its ideas centered on the affirmation of the Black and African identity. The two brothers were arrested, suspected to belong to the armed wing of the party, then acquitted and expelled from Lovedale. Biko then considered law studies, but his entourage, worried about his rising political activism, convinced him to choose a safe career as a medical doctor.

Steve Biko at the University in 1966

In 1966, Steve Biko was 20 years old when, with a scholarship, he attended the “non-European” section of the Segregated University of Natal in Durban. The struggle against apartheid in the student community was dominated at the time by progressive Whites. Biko was at the start open to a large union. Then he realized that progressive Whites were paternalistic and that their will to determine the ideology, meaning and chronology of the Black struggle rested on the same thinking as that of overtly racist whites, namely that Blacks are inferior. Multiracial organizations were therefore a deception for him, because Whites always wanted to impose themselves as masters.

On the other hand, the progressive Whites would never give up, for the struggle of the Blacks, the privileges their color provided them. The problem being white racism, Whites who really wanted the end of apartheid had to fight against the system. It was not up to them to give themselves the paternalistic role to lead Black people, calm down their anger and treat as racist Black organizations from which they were excluded, because their superior sense of intelligence had been offended.

Biko concluded that the first problem of the Blacks was the inferiority complex, lack of trust and fear. This psychological condition was the breeding ground for their exploitation and was incompatible with the struggle for liberation. That is why he said this phrase, the best known of him to this day “The most potent weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”.

Black Consciousness, the thought of Steve Biko

Biko said “The basic tenet of black consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity.” The goal of the Black Consciousness is to restore the Black Man’s pride as Black and African so that he is it for the fight. Biko stressed that South Africa is an African country and the natural land of the Black man. Other people who live there must accept this African identity which must be dominant. According to his diagnosis, the elements on which the lack of pride (of the Blacks) relied on are:

  • The falsified black history that makes the black man believe he is an incapable barbarian since the dawn of time.
  • The European languages that make everything that is bad Black.
  • The Christian religion that serves to oppress Blacks, whereas the African spirituality has been soiled by the dominant system and described as an illogical superstition.
  • The Black culture that has been crushed in favor of the norms of the Western culture.
  • The beauty criteria that make Black people believe that they are ugly, and that beauty is white.

So, Steve Biko reckoned that it was necessary to resurrect and popularize black history and culture, to persuade Blacks of their beauty, to make the word ‘black’ positive, to restore the truth about African spirituality and to ensure that Christianity ceases to serve to the oppression of Blacks.

The philosophy of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM)’s members is to rely only on themselves. Biko said “Black man, you are on your own”. It is about appropriating – as whole and responsible human beings – alone the direction of the Black struggle against apartheid. Liberation is first mental. It begins by tackling all the psychological elements that chained Blacks and prevent them from fully expressing their potential. Liberation is also economic and goes through a black economic communitarianism. Steve Biko maintained friendly relations with white progressive leaders but excluded Whites from the BCM. The movement accepted Colored and Indians.

The action

In 1969, the South African Students’ Organization (SOSA), the black student union, was founded by Steve Biko and his fellow struggle partners. In 1971 the manifesto of the Black Consciousness, ideology of the SOSA was adopted. Biko was only 25 years old!!! His great eloquence and mental alertness hit the target. The SOSA engaged in an education campaign focused on the psychological empowerment of Blacks. Biko’s motto was “Black is beautiful”. The SOSA imposed itself in South African campuses and its leader, who used to write his ideas under the pseudonym of Frank Talk, stood at the forefront of the fight against apartheid.

The tragic end

In 1973, the BCM was declared dangerous by the authorities. Biko was intimidated, accused of terrorism, placed under house arrest, and his house shot. He still found some relays to communicate with the outside and stayed one of the main theoreticians of the fight. He raised funds for the construction of health centers, nurseries, for the assistance of the political prisoners, and helped finance scholarships.

In 1976, the government of the Dutch colonisers wanted to impose its language (Afrikaans) as the main language of instruction in black schools. On June 16, 1976, supported by the BCM, 20,000 Black students from Soweto protested in reaction and the White police shot. Between 176 and 700 people, mostly children and adolescents, were killed. Chaos spreaded across the country, it was the famous Soweto riots. The repression on the BCM members increased.

Soweto riots

Harassed by the police, Steve Biko was arrested on June 18, 1977 in Ikapa (Capetown) for breaking his house arrest. He was taken to a house in Port Elizabeth where he was chained and horribly tortured. Blows and wounds disfigured him, causing massive brain hemorrhage and kidney failure. He entered coma. He was driven naked, on a 12-hour trip, without medical assistance and in the back of a mundane car to the Pretoria Central Prison and was left agonizing on the floor of his cell. He died the next day September 12, 1977. He was 31 years old.

20,000 people gathered for his funeral. This was the first mass funeral South Africa would know since then, until the end of apartheid.

What to remember from Steve Biko?

What is striking is the angle under which the Black world knows Steve Biko today, superficially, only like a charismatic young man who fought and died. No, the most precious legacy of this man is his thought. The diagnosis and the solutions he has proposed are highly worthy of interest and needed in our days. In a way, it was Afrocentricity, that is to say, to strengthen the Blacks in their African identity, so that they can be fit for the economic and political struggle. This is what Cheikh Anta Diop also thought and it is the ideology of the Afrocentric movement to which Lisapo ya Kama belongs. The philosophy of Steve Biko must therefore be learnt and studied by Africans today.

By John Burns

Hotep

Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association

Considering the strong political and economic black nationalism of Garvey’s movement, it may seem odd to include an essay on him in a Web site on religion in America. However, his philosophy and organization had a rich religious component that he blended with the political and economic aspects. Garvey himself claimed that his « Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World, » along with the Bible, served as « the Holy Writ for our Negro Race. » He stated very clearly that « as we pray to Almighty God to save us through his Holy Words so shall we with confidence in ourselves follow the sentiment of the Declaration of Rights and carve our way to liberty. » For Garvey, it was no less than the will of God for black people to be free to determine their own destiny. His organization took as its motto « One God! One Aim! One Destiny! » and looked to the literal fulfillment of Psalm 68:31: « Princes shall come out of Egypt: Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God. »

Garvey was born in 1887 in St. Anne’s Bay, Jamaica. Due to the economic hardship of his family, he left school at age fourteen and learned the printing and newspaper business. He became interested in politics and soon got involved in projects aimed at helping those on the bottom of society. Unsatisfied with his work, he travelled to London in 1912 and stayed in England for two years. During this time he paid close attention to the controversy between Ireland and England concerning Ireland’s independence. He was also exposed to the ideas and writings of a group of black colonial writers that came together in London around the African Times and Orient Review. Nationalism in both Ireland and Africa along with ideas such as race conservation undoubtedly had an impact on Garvey.

However, he later remembered that the most influential experience of his stay in London was reading Booker T. Washington’s autobiography Up From Slavery. Washington believed African Americans needed to improve themselves first, showing whites in America that they deserved equal rights. Although politically involved behind the scenes, Washington repeatedly claimed that African Americans would not benefit from political activism and started an industrial training school in Alabama that embodied his own philosophy of self-help. Garvey embraced Washington’s ideas and returned to Jamaica in 1914 to found the UNIA with the motto « One God! One Aim! One Destiny! »

Initially he kept very much in line with Washington by encouraging his fellow Jamaicans of African descent to work hard, demonstrate good morals and a strong character, and not worry about politics as a tool to advance their cause. Garvey did not make much headway in Jamaica and decided to visit America in order to meet Booker T. Washington and learn more about the situation of African Americans. By the time Garvey arrived in America in 1916, Washington had died, but Garvey decided to travel around the country and observe African Americans and their struggle for equal rights.

What Garvey saw was a shifting population and a diminishing hope in Jim Crow’s demise. African Americans were moving in large numbers out of the rural South and into the urban areas of both North and South. As World War One came to an end, disillusionment was beginning to take hold. Not only was the optimism in the continuing improvement of humanity and society broken apart, but so was any hope on the part of African Americans that they would gain the rights enjoyed by every white American citizen. African Americans had served in large numbers in the war, and many expected some kind of respect and acknowledgment that they too were equal citizens. Indeed, World War One was the perfect opportunity for African Americans to fulfill Booker T. Washington’s requirement for equality and freedom. Through dedicated service in the armed forces, they could prove their worth and show they deserved the same rights as whites. However, as black soldiers returned from the war, and more and more African Americans moved into the urban areas, racial tensions grew. Between 1917 and 1919 race riots erupted in East St. Louis, Chicago, Tulsa, and other cities, demonstrating that whites did not intend to treat African Americans any differently than they had before the war.

After surveying the racial situation in America, Garvey was convinced that integration would never happen and that only economic, political, and cultural success on the part of African Americans would bring about equality and respect. With this goal he established the headquarters of the UNIA in New York in 1917 and began to spread a message of black nationalism and the eventual return to Africa of all people of African descent. His brand of black nationalism had three components—unity, pride in the African cultural heritage, and complete autonomy. Garvey believed people of African descent could establish a great independent nation in their ancient homeland of Africa. He took the self-help message of Washington and adapted it to the situation he saw in America, taking a somewhat individualistic, integrationist philosophy and turning it into a more corporate, politically-minded, nation-building message.

In 1919 Garvey purchased an auditorium in Harlem and named it Liberty Hall. There he held nightly meetings to get his message out, sometimes to an audience of six thousand. In 1918 he began a newspaper, Negro World, which by 1920 had a circulation somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000. Membership in the UNIA is difficult to assess. At one point, Garvey claimed to have six million members. That figure is most likely inflated. However, it is beyond dispute that millions were involved and directly affected by Garvey and his message.

To promote unity, Garvey encouraged African Americans to be concerned with themselves first. He stated after World War One that « [t]he first dying that is to be done by the black man in the future will be done to make himself free. And then when we are finished, if we have any charity to bestow, we may die for the white man. But as for me, I think I have stopped dying for him. » Black people had to do the work that success and independence demanded, and, most important, they had to do that work for themselves. « If you want liberty, » claimed Garvey to a meeting held in 1921, « you yourselves must strike the blow. If you must be free, you must become so through your own effort. »

But Garvey knew African Americans would not take action if they did not change their perceptions of themselves. He hammered home the idea of racial pride by celebrating the African past and encouraging African Americans to be proud of their heritage and proud of the way they looked. Garvey proclaimed « black is beautiful » long before it became popular in the 1960s. He wanted African Americans to see themselves as members of a mighty race. « We must canonize our own saints, create our own martyrs, and elevate to positions of fame and honor black men and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history. » He encouraged parents to give their children « dolls that look like them to play with and cuddle, » and he did not want black people thinking of themselves in a defeatist way. « I am the equal of any white man; I want you to feel the same way. »

Garvey organized his group in a way that made those sentiments visible. He created an African Legion that dressed in military garb, uniformed marching bands, and other auxiliary groups such as the Black Cross Nurses.

He was elected in 1920 as provisional President of Africa by the members of the UNIA and dressed in a military uniform with a plumed hat. At the UNIA’s First International Convention in 1920, people lined the streets of Harlem to watch Garvey and his followers, dressed in their military outfits, march to their meeting under banners that read « We Want a Black Civilization » and « Africa Must Be Free. » All the pomp brought Garvey ridicule from mainstream African-American leaders, but it also served to inspire many African Americans who had never seen black people so bold and daring.

While racial pride and unity played important roles in Garvey’s black nationalism, he touted capitalism as the tool that would establish African Americans as an independent group. His message has been called the evangel of black success, for he believed economic success was the quickest and most effective way to independence. Interestingly enough, it was white America that served as a prime example of what blacks could accomplish. « Until you produce what the white man has produced, » he claimed, « you will not be his equal. » In 1919 he established the Negro Factories Corporation and offered stock for African Americans to buy. He wanted to produce everything that a nation needed so that African Americans could completely rely on their own efforts. At one point the corporation operated three grocery stores, two restaurants, a printing plant, a steam laundry, and owned several buildings and trucks in New York City alone. His most famous economic venture was a shipping company known as the Black Star Line, a counterpart to a white-owned company called the White Star Line. Garvey started the shipping company in 1919 as a way to promote trade but also to transport passengers to Africa. He believed it could also serve as an important and tangible sign of black success. However the shipping company eventually failed due to expensive repairs, mismanagement, and corruption.

With all his talk of a mighty race that would one day rule Africa, it would have been foolish for Garvey to underestimate the power of religion, particularly Christianity, within the African-American community. The churches served as the only arena in which African Americans exercised full control. Not only did they serve as houses of worship but also as meeting places that dealt with social, economic, and political issues. Pastors were the most powerful people in the community for they influenced and controlled the community’s most important institution. Garvey knew the important place religion held, and he worked hard to recruit pastors into his organization. He enjoyed tremendous success at winning over leaders from almost every denomination. One of those clergymen, George Alexander McGuire, an Episcopalian, was elected chaplain-general of the UNIA in 1920. McGuire wrote the UNIA’s official liturgy, the « Universal Negro Ritual » and the « Universal Negro Catechism » that set forth the teachings of the UNIA. He attempted to shape the UNIA into a Christian black-nationalist organization. Garvey, however, did not want the organization to take on the trappings of one particular denomination, for he did not want to offend any of its members. McGuire left UNIA in 1921 to begin his own church, the African Orthodox Church, a black-nationalist neo-Anglican denomination that kept close ties with the UNIA.

The UNIA meetings at Liberty Hall in Harlem were rich with religious ritual and language, as Randall Burkett points out in his book Black Redemption: Churchmen Speak for the Garvey Movement. For even though Garvey rejected McGuire’s effort to transform the UNIA into a black-nationalist Christian denomination, he blended these two traditions in his message and in the form of his UNIA meetings. A typical meeting followed this order:

  • The hymn « Shine On, Eternal Light, » written specifically for the UNIA by its music director
  • A reading of Psalm 68:31: « Princes shall come out of Egypt: Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God. »
  • The official opening hymn « From Greenland’s Icy Mountains, » stating a commitment to the Christianization of Africa
  • Recitation of the official motto, « One God! One Aim! One Destiny! »
  • « The Lord’s Prayer » and other prayers spoken by the chaplain
  • A sermon or some brief remarks
  • The business meeting
  • The closing hymn, either « Onward Christian Soldiers » or the UNIA’s national anthem, the « Universal Negro Anthem. »

Garvey’s black nationalism blended with his Christian outlook rather dramatically when he claimed that African Americans should view God « through our own spectacles. » If whites could view God as white, then blacks could view God as black. In 1924 the convention canonized Jesus Christ as a « Black Man of Sorrows » and the Virgin Mary as a « Black Madonna. » Garvey used that image as an inspiration to succeed in this life, for African Americans needed to worship a God that understood their plight, understood their suffering, and would help them overcome their present state. Garvey was not interested in promoting hope in the afterlife. Success in this life was the key. Achieving economic, cultural, social, and political success would free African Americans in this life. The afterlife would take care of itself. Perhaps Garvey’s greatest genius was taking that message of material, social, and political success and transforming it into a religious message, one that could lead to « conversion, » one that did not challenge the basic doctrines of his followers but incorporated them into the whole of his vision. One of Garvey’s top ministers gave witness to the powerful effect of that message when he claimed in 1920, « I feel that I am a full-fledged minister of the African gospel. »

Garvey’s message of black nationalism and a free black Africa met considerable resistance from other African-American leaders. W.E.B. DuBois and James Weldon Johnson of the NAACP, and Chandler Owen and A. Philip Randolph of the publication Messenger, had their doubts about Garvey. By 1922 his rhetoric shifted away from a confrontational stance against white America to a position of separatism mixed with just enough cooperation. He applauded whites who promoted the idea of sending African Americans back to Africa. He even met with a prominent leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Atlanta in 1922 to discuss their views on miscegenation and social equality. That meeting only gave more fuel to his critics. In 1924 DuBois claimed that « Marcus Garvey is the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world. » Owen and Randolph, whose paper saw the race issue as one of class more than skin color, called Garvey the « messenger boy of the Klan » and a « Supreme Negro Jamaican jackass » while labeling his organization the « Uninformed Negroes Infamous Association. » The federal government also took an interest in Garvey and in 1922 indicted him for mail fraud. He was eventually sentenced to prison and began serving his sentence in 1925. When his sentence was commuted two years later, Garvey was deported to Jamaica. With his imprisonment and deportation, his organization in the United States lost much of its momentum. Garvey spent the last years of his life in London and died in 1940.

How Argentina ‘Eliminated’ Africans From Its History And Conscience

Tens of millions of black Africans were forcibly removed from their homelands from the 16th century to the 19th century to toil on the plantations and farms of the New World. This so-called “Middle Passage” accounted for one of the greatest forced migrations of people in human history, as well as one of the greatest tragedies the world has ever witnessed.

Millions of these helpless Africans washed ashore in Brazil — indeed, in the present-day, roughly one-half of the Brazilian population trace their lineage directly to Africa. African culture has imbued Brazil permanently and profoundly, in terms of music, dance, food and in many other tangible ways.

But what about Brazil’s neighbor, Argentina? Hundreds of thousands of Africans were brought there as well – yet, the black presence in Argentina has virtually vanished from the country’s records and consciousness.

According to historical accounts, Africans first arrived in Argentina in the late 16th century in the region now called the Rio de la Plata, which includes Buenos Aires, primarily to work in agriculture and as domestic servants. By the late 18th century and early 19th century, black Africans were numerous in parts of Argentina, accounting for up to half the population in some provinces, including Santiago del Estero, Catamarca, Salta and Córdoba.

In Buenos Aires, neighborhoods like Monserrat and San Telmo housed many black slaves, some of whom were engaged in craft-making for their masters. Indeed, blacks accounted for an estimated one-third of the city’s population, according to surveys taken in the early  1800s.

African-Argentinean woman in Argentina c.late 30s early 40s

Slavery was officially abolished in 1813, but the practice remained in place until about 1853. Ironically, at about this time, the black population of Argentina began to plunge.

Historians generally attribute two major factors to this sudden “mass disappearance” of black Africans from the country – the deadly war against Paraguay from 1865-1870 (in which thousands of blacks fought on the frontlines for the Argentine military) as well as various other wars; and the onset of yellow fever in Buenos Aires in 1871.

The heavy casualties suffered by black Argentines in military combat created a huge gender gap among the African population – a circumstance that appears to have led black women to mate with whites, further diluting the black population. Many other black Argentines fled to neighboring Brazil and Uruguay, which were viewed as somewhat more hospitable to them.

Others claim something more nefarious at work.

It has been alleged that the president of Argentina from 1868 to 1874, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, sought to wipe out blacks from the country in a policy of covert genocide through extremely repressive policies (including possibly the forced recruitment of Africans into the army and by forcing blacks to remain in neighborhoods where disease would decimate them in the absence of adequate health care).

Tellingly, Sarmiento wrote in his diary in 1848: “In the United States… 4 million are black, and within 20 years will be 8 [million]…. What is [to be] done with such blacks, hated by the white race? Slavery is a parasite that the vegetation of English colonization has left attached to leafy tree of freedom.”

By 1895, there were reportedly so few blacks left in Argentina that the government did not even bother registering African-descended people in the national census.

The CIA World Factbook currently notes that Argentina is 97 percent white (primarily comprising people descended from Spanish and Italian immigrants), thereby making it the “whitest” nation in Latin America.

But blacks did not really vanish from Argentina – despite attempts by the government to eliminate them (partially by encouraging large-scale immigration in the late 19th and 20th century from Europe and the Near East). Rather, they remain a hidden and forgotten part of Argentine society.

Hisham Aidi, a lecturer at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, wrote on Planete Afrique that in the 1950s, when the black American entertainer Josephine Baker arrived in Argentina, she asked the mixed-race minister of public health, Ramon Carilio: “Where are the Negroes?” In response, Carilio joked: “There are only two — you and I.”

As in virtually all Latin American societies where blacks mixed with whites and with local Indians, the question of race is extremely complex and contentious.

“People of mixed ancestry are often not considered ‘black’ in Argentina, historically, because having black ancestry was not considered proper,” said Alejandro Frigerio, an anthropologist at the Universidad Catolica de Buenos Aires, according to Planete Afrique.

“Today the term ‘negro’ is used loosely on anyone with slightly darker skin, but they can be descendants of indigenous Indians [or] Middle Eastern immigrants.”

AfricaVive, a black empowerment group founded in Buenos Aires in the late 1990s, claimed that there are 1 million Argentines of black African descent in the country (out of a total population of about 41 million). A report in the Washington Post even suggested that 10 percent of Buenos Aires’ population may have African blood (even if they are classified as “whites” by the census).

“People for years have accepted the idea that there are no black people in Argentina,” Miriam Gomes, a professor of literature at the University of Buenos Aires, who is part black herself, told the Post.

“Even the schoolbooks here accepted this as a fact. But where did that leave me?”

She also explained that almost no one in Argentina with black blood in their veins will admit to it.

“Without a doubt, racial prejudice is great in this society, and people want to believe that they are white,” she said. “Here, if someone has one drop of white blood, they call themselves white.”

Gomes also told the San Francisco Chronicle that after many decades of white immigration into Argentina, people with African blood have been able to blend in and conceal their origins.

“Argentina’s history books have been partly responsible for misinformation regarding Africans in Argentine society,” she said. “Argentines say there are no blacks here. If you’re looking for traditional African people with very black skin, you won’t find it. African people in Argentina are of mixed heritage.”

Ironically, Argentina’s most famous cultural gift to the world – the tango – came from the African influence.

“The first paintings of people dancing the tango are of people of African descent,” Gomes added.

On a broader scale, the “elimination” of blacks from the country’s history and consciousness reflected the long-cherished desire of successive Argentine governments to imagine the country as an “all-white” extension of Western Europe in Latin America.

“There is a silence about the participation of Afro-Argentines in the history and building of Argentina, a silence about the enslavement and poverty,” said Paula Brufman, an Argentine law student and researcher, according to Planete Afrique.

“The denial and disdain for the Afro community shows the racism of an elite that sees Africans as undeveloped and uncivilized.”

How Police Officers Are Murdering Black People And Getting Away With It

Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Freddie Gray; these are a few of the names of the hundreds of African descendants that have lost their lives as a result of encounters with police officers throughout the United States over the years. The names are important because they are human beings with loved ones.

Yet the occurrences are so predictable and systemic that we must not allow the names, the gender, the ages, or the horrific circumstance of each death to distract from the true culprit — the system that so devalues the lives of Black folk that no matter how outrageous each killing, including the shooting of fleeing Walter Scott in the back, they continue to occur anyway.

The individual officers kill because they are confident that the system will find them blameless and exonerate them. The system has never failed them.

Given a choice between the lives of Black folk and the officers who police them –keeping the “natives” at bay– the system will always side with the officers no matter how guilty they are.

The system’s attitude is: the police are the ones who separate us from barbarians. The capitalist power structure in these United States needs to rest assured that, every day and night, the police forces will always maintain “law and order.” Translation: prevent the “natives” in check so much so that they will never rise up against the many grievances: income and wealth inequality; unequal access to jobs and loans to finance businesses; abysmal public schools that don’t educate; and, the sum total leading to increased unemployment and poverty and more people on the pipeline to prison. Black folk are only 14% of the U.S. population but nearly [35%] of the more than 2 million people in prisons.

The system hypes racial fears to convince even poor and working class Whites that Black folk are the enemy; witness the rise of Donald Trump.

So in order for the system to operate “efficiently” the police forces are granted license to enforce the “peace” however they choose to do.

Everything else is regarded as minor detail by the system — whether it’s executing unarmed Michael Brown or little Tamir Rice, or hanging Eric Garner for allegedly selling a loose cigarette.

These are real lives of African descendants but to the system they are expendable.

When the district attorneys, the first line of defense in the system deal with each case they don’t say — “how awful,” shooting a little kid like Tamir, or executing Michael Brown in broad daylight, or jumping on Eric’s back and choking him until he is dead even though he kept yelling “I can’t breathe” eight times.

No the DAs say: how can I make sure it doesn’t get to a jury? The first utterances are from the leaders of the police benevolent associations who invariably say the officer “acted lawfully.

This is where the media and police start working together. The police chief, as was the case in Ferguson said “he stole cigars!” A New York Times article said “he smoked pot” and he was “no angel.” In these instances media’s role, historically, have been to invoke the “Black Peril.”

Easy now for the DA not to secure an indictment. To the system, six bullets for Michael Brown sounds just about right for the cigars and weed transgressions.

The police departments are so confident in their ability to manipulate media and feed misleading stories that the initial New York Times story about Eric Garner’s killing didn’t even mention the chokehold; the emphasis was on his weight to make it appear as if that’s why he died while being arrested. The story was attributed to the police.

So while the names of the victims going forward will vary –and yes there are many more people who will be killed by police until the system itself is challenged– the pattern will remain:

First an outrageous killing; a public outcry and some protests and candle light vigils; a call by the mayor and other elected officials for the masses to remain calm until all investigations are completed –they know the masses’ anger dissipates by then; and, a vow by the police commander to work to restore “confidence” with the communities as if, given the origin of the role of police forces in Black communities there once was any.

Then there is either no indictment and even if there is there are acquittals as we saw in the Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell cases and, as we are currently witnessing in the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore.

In some cases a few millions of dollars are paid to the families of the victims. These are miniscule amounts relative to maintaining “law and order” for the overall benefit of the economic system and power structure of these United States.

Then there is calm. Until the next killing. That’s how the system works.

So while we mourn individual cases and call for the heads of specific cops remember it’s the system that must be fought. To attack the systemic killings and exonerations of the killers: media must not allow the PBAs’ outrageous statements to go unchallenged; media must stop disseminating police department spins and allowing them to establish the false narratives, instead of conducting actual reporting from the scene; media must stop producing stories that are meant to convict the victims pre-trial (what relevance does it bear on his execution that Michael Brown smoked pot? Even if he’d smoked a trailer load of weed so what? He deserved to be shot six times?); police departments must be purged of K.K.K. members through constant background checks; drug testing of officers immediately after each incident; and, as is increasingly being done, jurisdiction must be removed from local district attorneys and handed to state or federal prosecutors.

These are small but important measures — to make it harder for DAs, PBAs, Police Departments, media and judges to manufacture the exoneration of officers who kill. In terms of ending the systemic killings themselves that is the subject of another commentary.

Suffice to say it won’t happen without tackling the system whereby the haves increasingly have it all; and have-less increasingly have less.

Otherwise we could also just sit back until multiple executions by police on one single day –and at the current rate that day will come — finally sets off that Big Fire and convince the world that there is a state of emergency in Black America.

By: Milton G. Allimadi

Africa can liaise and exchange knowledge and information.

12. Mai 2019 – Tod einer Frau im Abschiebelager

Mit Entsetzen hörten und lasen wir gestern vom Tod der 31 jährigen Frau im Abschiebelager Regensburg. Daraufhin sind wir heute zum Lager gegangen um das Gespräch mit Geflüchteten vor Ort zu suchen. Den wenigen Geflüchteten, mit denen wir sprechen konnten, standen die Erlebnisse von gestern immer noch ins Gesicht geschrieben.

Geschockt von der Nachricht wollten viele der Geflüchteten zur Verstorbenen und verstanden zunächst nicht warum ihnen dies von der Polizei verwehrt wurde. Nicht zuletzt durch die Inobhutnahme der drei Kinder der verstorbenen Mutter, spitzte sich die Situation weiter zu. Die üblichen, kriminalpolizeilichen Abläufe oder auch das Einschalten des Jugendamts waren ihnen nicht bekannt und wurden scheinbar zunächst auch nicht ausreichend kommuniziert.

Allerdings war und ist die eigentliche Frage, welche uns alle beschäftigt, was der Grund für den Tod der Frau gewesen ist. In der Presse war zu lesen, dass sie schon seit längerer Zeit sehr krank war. Die Geflüchteten erzählten heute davon, dass sie gestern Nachmittag erst im Krankenhaus war – von wo sie wieder ins Lager zurückkam. Sie kritisierten, die ihrer Meinung nach gängige Praxis der Bagatellisierung psychischer und physicher Beschwerden durch behandelnde Ärzt*innen in Krankenhäusern. Viel zu oft würden sie gar nicht oder nicht adäquat reagieren und nur Schmerzmittel verschreiben. Sie befürchten, dass eine mangelhafte medizinische Versorgung der Grund für den Tod der Frau sein könnte.

Wir Alle hoffen darauf, dass sich die Ursachen aufklären werden. Es bleibt abzuwarten, welche Erkenntnisse die nächsten Tage mit sich bringen. Wir bleiben weiter im Kontakt mit Geflüchteten.

Büdnis gegen Abschiebelager Regensburg

Racist Brutal Murder of TONOU-MBOBDA in Hamburg.

HE CAME TO LOOK FOR GREENER PASTURES BUT IS GOING BACK IN A COFFIN:
The story of how a brother from Cameroon, TONOU-MBOBDA, was brutally battered and suffocated to death by security guards at the university clinic of Hamburg last week Sunday the 21st of April 2019.
While still in Cameroon, young, energetic and thinking of what to do next, his cousin that was like a big brother persuaded him to come on over to Germany to study and he agreed. Shortly after, the cousin processed his papers and he came over here and on arrival, he used the first year to learn the German language before gaining admission to study mechanical engineering at a university, but later changed courses to economics and graduated successfully.
According to his fellow student and friend, upon graduation he wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue to live here or go back to Cameroon and after a mind rubbing session where the two talked of their future plans and agreed to work on a project together in Ghana that the friend conceived and was in the process of actualizing, he decided to do his masters and was just about finishing with just a few weeks to go, this tragedy struck and his life and plans were cut short.
Somewhere along the line, probably from the enormous stress from his studies, he realized he wasn’t feeling too well. He was probably suffering from depression or anxiety (a very common thing around the country these days), so he went to the psychiatric department of the university clinic of Hamburg to seek for help, but will soon realise that his condition wasn’t improving but rather getting worse.
He stopped taking his medication just like most of us do, said one of his fellow patients who was also a witness to the tragic incident. It is our right to refuse medication and it’s against the law to force it on us, he further said.
He came outside to smoke a cigarette and I was out here too. We talked and he was nice and jovial as usual. He took a short walk around, came back to where I was and just then a nurse accompanied by three security guards came to him and without much ado, grabbed him and slammed him to the ground. They forcefully handcuffed him, kneeled on his back, sat on him, yanked his head up, forcefully opened his mouth and the nurse administered the drug which he resisted taking and so they covered his and nose for a very long time while he struggled for air.
Observing what was going on, we quickly called the police but before they got there three minutes later, he was already lifeless, said the young man and three other witnesses
He was treated in an undignified manner that no human being should be treated, was the closing remark of one of them.
One of the eyewitnesses who knew that things might be hushed by the hospital management immediately contacted members of the Afro German Community after talking to the police and filing a complaint against the hospital and true to her fears, the hospital and its staff have been trying to place a tight lid on the case.
They initially disregarded the accounts of the eyewitnesses who are also patients saying that they are not mentally fit to give witness, but the patients insisted on talking to the police and not surprising at all they all recounted exactly the same thing and have volunteered to stand up as witnesses for the family of the deceased and the Afro German Community in a lawsuit against the hospital.
Up till now the hospital has not apologised or even offered condolences to the family and friends of the deceased. Instead they’ve been busy giving flimsy excuses and trying to make him look bad while everyone who knew him said he was a very, including fellow patients, calm and jovial person and was never known to be aggressive like they tried to paint him.
Thinking back, I feel guilty because I encouraged him to come to Germany and even processed his papers. If I hadn’t done so, he’d still be alive today and with his family back home in Cameroon, said his cousin…
It’s been a very sad day because while standing in the rain and marching peacefully on the hospital grounds, most of us couldn’t help but think that it could have been us because being black seems to be a crime in this crazy world. Not even Africa is safe for black people to peacefully dwell in, so year in, year out we lose young promising people, mostly men, to the cold claws of racism.
Heartfelt condolences to members of his family.
ADIOS BROTHER… may your gentle soul find eternal peace.
You will always be remembered as a hero who stood his grounds and died in the process.
Report by Lillian Kunu

Sondergesetzgebung, strukturelle Gewalt und Repression

Im Angesicht einer Sondergesetzgebung müssen Schwarze Menschen, die sich als Flüchtlinge und Asylsuchende in Deutschland aufhalten, ihren Alltag bestreiten. Sie müssen sich mit Wert- und Moralvorstellungen auseinandersetzen, die oft die eigene Existenz in Frage stellen. Die Black Students Organisation leistet Hilfestellung im Kampf gegen staatliche Macht oder individuelle Ohnmacht.

Eine unvollständige, subjektiv und emotional vorgetragene Analyse zur existenzbedrohenden Gewalt staatlicher Institutionen in einem Land namens Deutschland

Einleitung
Dass es in Deutschland eine Sondergesetzgebung für Flüchtlinge und Asylsuchende gibt, ist sicherlich kein Geheimnis mehr. Vielmehr spiegelt sich hierin die Werte- und Moralvorstellung dieser Gesellschaft wider, in der sich auch Menschen dem ökonomischen Prinzip der Verwertbarkeit unterziehen und ihre Existenzberechtigung legitimieren müssen. Diese Werte- und Moralvorstellung wird immer wieder offen zur Schau gestellt, in ökonomischen Debatten diskutiert, bei politischen Gesprächsrunden präsentiert und im Alltag von Menschen in diesem Lande ganz praktisch umgesetzt.

In diesem Beitrag geht es um die Auswirkungen dieser Situation für uns als Schwarze Menschen. Schwarze Menschen, die im Angesicht einer Sondergesetzgebung ihren Alltag bestreiten müssen. Menschen, die sich mit Wert- und Moralvorstellungen auseinandersetzen müssen, welche die eigene Existenz in Frage stellen. Menschen, Schwarze Menschen, die Kinder großziehen, Familien gründen oder einfach nur glücklich werden wollen.

Ein kleiner Einblick in den bundesdeutschen Alltag, verbunden mit Beispielen aus der Arbeit der Black Students Organisation, kann hierbei als Orientierung dienen und auch hilfreich für den zukünftigen Umgang mit staatlicher Macht oder individueller Ohnmacht sein.

Die Black Students Organisation wurde vor fast zehn Jahren in Hamburg gegründet. Von Anfang an stand neben der akademischen Aufklärungsarbeit gleichberechtigt ein gesellschaftspolitischer und sozialer Anspruch, der die Würde Schwarzer Menschen in einem System weißer Vorherrschaft im Blick hatte. Hierdurch wurden wir mit Themen konfrontiert, die uns sehr schnell deutlich machten, dass all die menschlichen Schicksale keine Einzelfälle waren, sondern in ein System eingebettet sind. Ein System, welches wie ein Krebsgeschwür gewachsen ist und systematisch von Seiten der Behörden, von Seiten der Polizei, von Seiten der Justiz eine Repression auf uns als Einzelpersonen, aber auch auf uns als Community ausübt. In diesem Klima mussten wir aktiv werden und im Interesse der Community einen existentiellen (aber oft auch existenzbedrohenden oder -zerstörenden) Kampf führen.

Nobody knows, the trouble I´ve seen …
Ein Beispiel, welches vielen noch im Kopf sein wird: In Hamburg wurde 1995 bekannt, dass in einem Polizeirevier am Hauptbahnhof systematisch Schwarze Menschen misshandelt wurden. Es gab das Einsprühen des nackten Körpers mit Reizgas und die Misshandlungen gingen bis hin zu Scheinhinrichtungen. Ein weiteres Beispiel ist das Verhalten der Polizei auf dem Polizeirevier in St. Pauli, der Davidwache, gegenüber einer Schwarzen Frau, die eine Anzeige erstatten wollte. Die Anzeige sollte aufgrund der Eintrittsverweigerung gegenüber allen Schwarzen Menschen in einer benachbarten Disco erfolgen. Die Polizisten weigerten sich, die Anzeige anzunehmen und warfen nach kurzer Zeit die Frau aus der Polizeiwache heraus und erteilten ihr ein Hausverbot. Weitere Beispiele, und das sind alles Themen, mit denen wir uns intensiv auseinandergesetzt haben und die wir entsprechend dokumentieren können, ist das Verhalten von BGS-Beamten am Flughafen Hamburg. Nur ein Beispiel: Ein Student, der mit einem gültigen Studierenden-Visum einreisen wollte, wurde am Flughafen aufgehalten, eine Nacht lang dort beleidigt und misshandelt und am nächsten Morgen zwangsweise wieder zurückgeschickt.

Flüchtlinge, all diejenigen, die als Flüchtlinge in Deutschland leben und überleben und auch die, die sich mit diesem Thema beschäftigen, wissen, dass Flüchtlinge täglich zu Opfern rassistischer Gewalt und Übergriffe durch Polizeibeamte, durch Wachpersonal, durch staatliche oder para-staatliche Strukturen und Institutionen werden. Oft geschieht dies im Rahmen von so genannten Razzien, bei denen dann Flüchtlingseinrichtungen durchsucht werden. Es werden Menschen beleidigt und erniedrigt und diejenigen, die dem Druck der repressiven Ausländer- und Asylgesetzgebung nicht standhalten können, werden in menschenverachtender und oft auch tödlicher Art und Weise abgeschoben.

Aus Angst vor einer solchen Razzia ist 1996 ein Flüchtling aus Sierra Leone in Hamburg von einem Flüchtlingsschiff in die Elbe gesprungen. Die Polizisten haben keine Rettungsmaßnahmen eingeleitet, sondern andere Flüchtlinge durch eine Absperrung an der Rettung des Ertrinkenden gehindert. Kurze Zeit später konnte nur noch die Leiche des 17-Jährigen aus dem Wasser gezogen werden.
Ein anderer Fall, den wir dokumentiert haben, ist derjenige einer jungen Schwarzen Frau, die im 7. Monat schwanger war und in einer Polizeiwache als « Negerschlampe » bezeichnet und geohrfeigt wurde. Eine andere Schwarze Frau wurde in der BGS-Wache am Hamburger Hauptbahnhof von Polizeibeamten brutal die Treppen herunter gestoßen und vor die Tür gesetzt.

Und am 14. Juli 2001 kamen zwei Polizeibeamte in eine Wohnung, um bei einem Streit zwischen einem Ehepaar in Aschaffenburg zu vermitteln. Der getrennt lebende weiße deutsche Ehemann hatte einige Tage zuvor das gemeinsame zweijährige Kind der Schwarzen Mutter entzogen und zu seinen Großeltern nach Köln gebracht. In dem Streit versuchte die Mutter, das Kind zurück zu bekommen. Die eintreffenden Polizisten begannen ein Gespräch mit allen Beteiligten und plötzlich sollte die Frau in die Küche gegangen sein, um ein Messer zu holen. Und mit dem Küchenmesser hätte sie dann versucht, einen der Polizisten anzugreifen und da hat der andere Polizist diese Frau einfach erschossen.

Auch den 9. Dezember 2001 sollten wir nicht vergessen. Am Sonntag, den 9. Dezember 2001, verhaftete die Polizei unseren Bruder Achidi, nahm ihn mit zum gerichtsmedizinischen Institut der Hamburger Universitätsklinik in Eppendorf. Gemeinsam mit einigen Ärzten setzte die Polizei Gewalt ein, um Achidi zwangsweise ein Brechmittel zu verabreichen. Kurz darauf verstarb unser Bruder.

Das sind einfach nur Schlaglichter, Einzelfälle, die sicherlich aus der Perspektive einiger auch als Einzelfälle gesehen werden. Wir als Schwarze Menschen, als Black Community, die mit diesen Situationen zu tun haben, die damit arbeiten müssen und dagegen arbeiten müssen, wissen, dass es keine Einzelfälle sind. Wir wissen, es ist ein System. Ein System, das einerseits die Polizei als direkte Konfrontationspartnerin auf den Straßen hier in Deutschland zum Einsatz bringt. Aber andererseits auch ein System, welches andere Möglichkeiten der Reaktion hat und diese anderen Möglichkeiten auch nutzt. Und hier kommt die Justiz ins Spiel.

Die juristische und politische Ebene: Kriminalisierung ist das Ziel
Zahlreiche Beispiele könnte ich hierzu anführen. Beispiele, die auch ganz konkrete Erfahrungen sind, die wir im Rahmen dieser Arbeit gesammelt haben bzw. sammeln mussten. Als Organisation, als Einzelpersonen, als Community wurden wir immer wieder zu Opfern staatlicher Repression auch durch juristische Maßnahmen. Wir wurden verurteilt zu Geldstrafen. Wir wurden verurteilt zu Strafen, die als ordentliche Gefängnisstrafen durchgesetzt wurden. Wir haben es immer wieder erleben müssen, dass Zeugen und Zeuginnen von diesen Ereignissen oder Menschen, die mit uns gemeinsam an diesen Fragestellungen gearbeitet haben, abgeschoben wurden, um eben nicht aussagen zu können, um nicht Stellung zu beziehen. Und auch im Fall unserer erschossenen Schwester Mareame sind wieder Anzeigen gegen uns erstattet worden. Wieder wurden wir als Schuldige hingestellt. Aber zumindest in diesem Fall ist es uns gelungen, durch ein geschlossenes Auftreten der Community zum einem das Andenken an unsere erschossene Schwester aufrecht zu erhalten und zum anderen der Kriminalisierung Einzelner entgegenzutreten.

Vor diesem Hintergrund gibt es jetzt auf politischer Ebene seit mehr als zwei Jahren eine Diskussion um die Einführung einer neuen Zuwanderungsgesetzgebung. Selbstverständlich wissen wir, dass diese Zuwanderungsgesetzgebung auf diesen Erfahrungen aufbauen wird. Sie wird auf den Moral- und Wertvorstellungen dieser Gesellschaft aufbauen und damit einen gesellschaftlichen Konsens widerspiegeln, der keinen Platz für eine Black Community lässt. Institutionalisierte Machtverhältnisse werden juristisch, politisch, ökonomisch und sozial aufrechterhalten oder ausgebaut. Und gerade im Zusammenhang mit der neuen « Sicherheitspolitik » (Sicherheitspaket I +II) wird die Perspektivlosigkeit für den Aufbau einer Schwarzen Gemeinschaft und Identität innerhalb des existierenden Systems deutlich.

Ein Blick auf die Sondergesetzgebung, wie sie beispielsweise durch die so genannten « Ausreisezentren » zum Ausdruck kommt, bestätigt diese Analyse.

Ausreisezentren? – Abschiebelager!
Ein Symbol der rassistischen Asyl- und Ausländerpolitik in Deutschland
« Ausreisezentren » sind Lager für Flüchtlinge und Migranten, die aufgrund fehlender Papiere nicht abgeschoben werden können. Sie werden dort zentral untergebracht, mit dem Ziel, so lange beratend auf sie einzuwirken, bis sie « freiwillig » ausreisen, als Illegale untertauchen oder abgeschoben werden können, weil ein potenzielles Herkunftsland bestätigt, dass es sich bei der jeweiligen Person um eine Staatsbürgerin oder einen Staatsbürger dieses Landes handelt.

Der Begriff « Ausreisezentrum » ist aber nur ein weiterer Versuch staatlicher Institutionen, die real existierende Ausländer- und Asylpolitik in Deutschland durch ein verharmlosendes Vokabular zu verschleiern. Tatsächlich handelt es sich bei diesen « Ausreisezentren » um « Abschiebelager », in denen Menschen unter menschenunwürdigen Bedingungen einer Repression ausgesetzt werden, die nur dem rassistischen Konsens in dieser Gesellschaft gerecht wird.

Für die politische Partizipation einer Black Community oder Schwarzer Menschen mit einer ebensolchen Identität an gesellschaftlichen Entwicklungen stellt sich daher immer eine elementare Frage: Kann unsere Perspektive einen Beitrag zur gesellschaftlichen Entwicklung leisten, ohne zuvor die eigene Identität verleugnet zu haben? Oder gilt immer noch der Spruch aus den Kindertagen unserer Sozialisation, der da lautet: Macht kaputt, was euch kaputtmacht?!?

Sipua Ngnoubamdjum

It’s White America’s Job To Fight White Supremacism?

White supremacist hate is a growing problem that all Americans ― but white people in particular ― need to face head-on, said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Huffington Post spoke with Beirich last week at Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit, after she took part in a panel discussion titled “Life After Hate: Defeating White Supremacy.”

“White supremacy is an indigenous idea ― it’s from our culture,” Beirich told HuffPost. “I think there’s a reluctance on the part of people to say, ‘I play a role in this. My culture plays a role in this.’”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking white supremacist hate for nearly three decades. Beirich, who heads up its Intelligence Project, has been following white extremist movements since 1999, when she first started attending white supremacist meetings as part of her work.

What she sees today ― from an increase in the number of hate groups, to the white supremacist movement’s emerging young leadership, to White House staff ties to hate groups, to the continuing reluctance of many Americans to even acknowledge the problem ― has her deeply concerned.

Joy-Ann Reid, Heidi Beirich and Brendan Cox
Photo by: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
“If somebody asked me five years ago, ‘What do you think the future for the white supremacist movement is?’ I would have said the grave,” Beirich told HuffPost. “I can’t say that today.”

The number of hate groups in the U.S. has doubled in the last 10 to 15 years, Beirich said during the panel discussion. Last year alone, the number of hate groups rose from 892 to 917, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual hate-tracking report, and around 80 percent of those groups advocate white supremacist or white nationalist beliefs. The number of anti-Muslim groups tripled last year.

Membership on hate group sites has also ballooned, Beirich noted. Leading white supremacist site Stormfront doubled its registered users during the Obama presidency to over 300,000 today.

“Their ranks are growing,” Beirich said.

While it was once a hopeful sign that the most notable names in white supremacism were older people, a younger generation of leaders has emerged in the past five years. These are individuals like Richard Spencer, the 38-year-old face of the so-called alt-right movement, an effort to rebrand the white supremacy movement and appeal to millennials and the middle class generally. They wear “suits and ties and you would think are Hill staffers,” Beirich said.

Richard Spencer is the media-friendly face of the so-called “alt-right” movement.
Photo by: Joshua Roberts/Reuters
Perhaps most concerning to Beirich are the new links between the white supremacist movement and upper echelons of the federal government. “People need to know white supremacists are in the White House,” she said.

In particular, Beirich named President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, who led Breitbart News, a publisher of white nationalist content; Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, who reportedly has ties to a Nazi-aligned group; and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has received awards from and spoken at events of an anti-Muslim hate group listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“They’ve gotten awards from [hate groups]. They believe their ideas,” Beirich said. “They are putting into place policy that’s driven by hate groups ― that has to be stopped.”

In its first 11 weeks, the Trump administration has taken aim at Muslims with two executive orders barring travel from Muslim-majority countries ― which have been blocked by the courts ― and targeted Latinos with an order to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

Speaking of white supremacists, Beirich said, “We’d like to think these people are fringe. But the fact of the matter is the stuff on immigration and on Muslims, this is right out of the white supremacist playbook.”

Steve Bannon
Photo by: Carlos Barria/Reuters
White supremacy appears along a spectrum ― from the more subtle forms of institutionalized racism such as de facto school segregation, to more overt manifestations in hate crimes. In its most extreme form, it produces domestic terrorism. White people tend to look away from that reality, according to Beirich.

“White supremacists ― white guys basically ― commit way more domestic terrorism than radical Islam inside the U.S.,” Beirich said. “[Yet] there has been a general reluctance in this country to see white people as responsible for terrorism in some sort of organized way.”

Between the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and the Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooting in 2016, for instance, more people were killed in the U.S. by right-wing extremists than by Islamic extremists, according to a New America foundation study. There is an attempted domestic terrorism plot by white supremacists in the U.S. approximately every 34 days, Beirich said during last week’s panel discussion.

Dylann Roof said he killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in hopes of starting a race war.
Photo by: Charleston County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via Reuters
“When people talk about white supremacist terrorism, they want to call it a one-off, he’s a crazy person. There’s this list of excuses,” Beirich told HuffPost. “It’s like white people can’t handle the idea that there are devils in our midst.”

Last month, for instance, James Harris Jackson, who is white, murdered Timothy Caughman, who was black. He reportedly told police that he’d traveled to New York City expressly to kill black men. Some news outlets still chose to describe the killer in headlines as “well-dressed” or an “army veteran” (HuffPost included). Protesters that week decried him for what he is: a “white supremacist.”

Such double standards were also apparent when Trump, who tweets often about terror attacks, stayed publicly silent when a white man killed six people at a Quebec City mosque.

“When it’s an Islamic terrorist, [it’s] ‘Muslims, clean up your backyard,’” Beirich said. “Have you ever heard someone say to the white population that we need to root out the white male supremacists in our midst? No, we don’t want to look at ourselves on this front.”

But the history of white supremacist violence runs deep. As Beirich noted, the Ku Klux Klan is often judged to be the first terrorist group in the U.S.

A protester with a Confederate flag drives past other demonstrators in Roseburg, Oregon, in October 2015. President Barack Obama was visiting a week after the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College.
Photo by: Steve Dykes/Getty Images
For white Americans who are alarmed but aren’t sure what to do, Beirich suggests they begin by educating themselves about white supremacism. Learn “the history of white supremacy in this country and its impact,” and also what it advocates for: “a scary, anti-democratic and racist universe.”

“People need to know more about this movement now than they did in the past,” she said. “By not talking about white supremacy, we are not stopping its ideas ― or its personnel from infecting the highest levels of power.”

Journalist Farai Chideya, who has reported on politics and white nationalism for some 25 years, echoed this idea in a recent essay, “The Call to Whiteness.”

“We as Americans have avoided the topic [of white nationalist movements] out of a mix of ignorance, fear, and aversion,” Chideya wrote. “I would argue we can avoid it no longer.”

“It remains very much up to white America to control the baser urges of the call-to-whiteness,” she concluded. “You are not above it, particularly if you have not bothered to learn about it — and especially if you claim it doesn’t exist or doesn’t concern you.”

A makeshift memorial for those killed by a white supremacist at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015.
Photo by: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Another critical way to combat extremism is to get out of your own racial, cultural, political bubble.

“Go out and meet people from other cultures. Learn about them,” Beirich said, pointing to “contact theory,” or the well-researched idea that contact with other groups can increase tolerance.

Note that this meeting and learning works in multiple ways. White Americans need to interact with non-white Americans. Liberals would benefit from talking to conservatives, and vice versa. “Engage in civic activities that bring people together,” she urged.

“I know these things sound simple and sound boring,” Beirich said, “but they make a huge difference.”

Consider how taking the time to hear other people affected former white nationalist Derek Black, whom The Washington Post profiled last year. He began to pull away from the movement after being invited to a series of Shabbat dinners by a Jewish student on his college campus. “That’s how most people get out,” Beirich said.

But she added that the work of reaching out to people from different backgrounds or beliefs should not fall on people from marginalized groups.

“It shouldn’t be on the groups facing this,” Beirich said. “It’s on the rest of us.”

Felicia Sanders, who watched as white supremacist Dylann Roof killed her son in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015, sees the same need for people to reach out to people.

“I see so many Caucasians in here ― and we really don’t mean you harm,” said Sanders at Women in the World. “The problem is that we don’t take time to know each other.”

Americans ― and white Americans in particular ― also have a responsibility to make sure their government makes fighting white supremacism a priority, according to Beirich.

“It would be nice if everyday Americans were reminding the government ― whether talking to legislators or state [and] local officials ― about the importance of battling this,” Beirich said. She specifically noted the importance of accurate statistics on hate crimes, which the U.S. government doesn’t track in any comprehensive way.

The bottom line is fairly simple. As Beirich put it, we need to “take responsibility for things screwed up in our own history.”

The United States does not do a good job of tracking incidents of hate and bias. We need your help to create a database of such incidents across the country, so we all know what’s going on. Tell us your story.

Hotep