As victims of – and hopefully rebels against – white supremacy, we should recognize by now, that we also fight against patriarchy and class exploitation. We also recognize that other people suffer from similar forms of oppression.
Therefore we often discuss and attempt to identify which traditionally oppressed people constitute our “natural” allies domestically and globally.
For the record, whites collectively were our chief external enemies for centuries. However we don’t know what the future holds, and we shouldn’t lock ourselves into the notion that only whites compose enemy forces to us.
As political, economic, and demographic trends shift, Blacks might find that other “people of color” will emerge as our new exploiters. and oppressors. Certainly we’ve had the experience of betrayal at the hands of allies before.
interesting-group tension like this naturally occurs when people compete for what they believe to be limited resources, and when deep hostility exists toward the other group. This problem escalates when people are in denial about it.
“Natural” alliances might exist between wild animals in the animal kingdom, but we humans are another species altogether. Humans, unlike wild animals, are not imprisoned by instinct. We can strategize, be vindictive, jealous, and self-serving. We feel shame, guilt, and have the underestimated power of choice. Given this, the subject of alliances is not that simple in the human jungle. Alliances are but on shared interests or experiences, shared consciousness, and relationships of trust. Alliances in short, must be cultivated.
As you read this, a new generation of people are investing heavily in African infrastructure, technology, finance and medicine. In Guyana, they hold numerous timber contracts. In many cases, they hire their own folks to do the work and ignore Guyanese workers, with whom they appear to hold contemptuous feelings. This group is neither white nor capitalist.
In our local neighborhoods, some fellow “people of color” look upon us as lepers, harbor deep hostility toward us, refuse to work in solidarity with us and neglect to share economic and political resources. They are not white but are heavily capitalist, culturally disconnected, and becoming increasingly corporate and reactionary by the minute.
Some will come talking “solidarity” but practicing clannish and divisive behavior. Some preach intergroup alluances with us but don’t even respect and support Black activists.
We are vulnerable to such treatment because we are sometimes too welcoming and trusting of others, and we are fractured and powerless in certain regards.Vulnerable groups, dependent on others for employment, goods and services, have little political leverage with the group’s upon whom we depend, and who resent and mistreat us in daily interactions. Beyond dogmatic proclamations, how do we trust or struggle with people who disrespect our heritage and perceive us in demeaning ways strikingly similar to our white oppressors?
In this climate, I urge us to be shrewd and strategic Black folk! Study Marcus Garvey more closely, especially his ideas about group political and national interests.
Regardless of who our enemies or so-called allies are, we must develop power to sustain, advance and protect ourselves and our interests! We also must have the capacity to make people pay for betrayal and duplicity!
This doesn’t imply that we don’t have allies. It means that we can no longer think in terms of seeing this or that group as a “natural ally.”Simply being “of color” means nothing to us politically, if that group sides with establishment thinking, anti-Black practices or illusions of supremacy over us.
Every racial or ethnic group contains people who absorb anti-progressive ideas. Likewise some members of every group are self-hating and deeply conflicted on matters of group solidarity and political empowerment or identity. Don’t get caught with your “pants down.” Take ancestor John Henrik Clarke’s words seriously and follow local, national and global news/trends.
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and protest. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.”
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at email@example.com.