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Blair Ryan

The pervasiveness of anti-blackness across the globe suggests that whiteness is not only spread through white people’s bodies but is also a system that survives on consuming and destroying other bodies. The only truly human body is the white body. Capitalism is the logical consequence of this. The challenge for societies across the globe is to nurture and defend alternative versions of being human.

Across the globe we observe similarities and intersections in black people’s struggles in both Western and non-Western contexts. This stems from pervasive socio-political and cultural notions that black bodies can a) be commodified, hence b) be consumed and, when of no use, c) killed. The consistency with which black people are made disposable is a result of the global grip of white economic templates.

At the core of the ripping, raping and exploitation of African descended people’s bodies, energies, creativity and souls (not to mention the eradication of entire societies-wisdoms-cultures) is the monolithic cultural thinking that is whiteness. Whiteness, as a system, converges it’s interests with other societies and institutions of ‘power’ across the globe to produce economic benefit through the creation of discourses, perspectives and structures that position being black as being sub/non-human and disposable (in narratives, bodies and futures). This instinct to consume black bodies has a name in some cultures, and Wetiko is one name given to it by the First Nations Peoples. The simplest definition we have is from Jack Forbes the Native American philosopher, who described it as “the consuming of another’s life for one’s own private purpose or profit.”

In the last few months I have been focusing on the ways in which the category human has been applied across time by human governing systems – in particular white-supremacist imperialist capitalist systems – as a lens through which to think about the resurgence of anti-blackness that is currently sweeping the world (in continuity of the well-erased profound historical contexts).

This trail of thought ensued in November 2015, when I joined the Black Women’s March in Brasilia. The march was part of a feminist global organizing platform for movement building, strengthening solidarities and critical rethinking of alternatives in relation to emergent post-capitalist rhetorics. The diverse conversations around Afro-Brazilian women’s rights to negotiate their thoughts, bodies and roles in Brazil’s democratic state were all underpinned by narratives of the racist structures that are silencing, commodifying (not metaphorically, there is a history of black bodies being circulated as commodities), overexploiting, victimizing and killing the Afro-Brazilian population - dating all the way back to slavery.

In the conversations building up to the march, community workers from across the Americas and the African continent met to share the contexts of their different geographies and collate new organizing principles. What became apparent in this conversation was the similarity in the lived experiences of young black people in these different contexts. Young black people find themselves faced with a (non)choice which comes down to either assimilation into capitalism (with an understanding that assimilation can, but does not necessarily mean benefiting i.e. we see black elites who assimilate and benefit and we also see the majority of black people assimilated as labor to be consumed) or, if one refuses assimilation, disposability through criminalization of poor black youths usually resulting in imprisonment or death.

As each person gave their organizing backgrounds from the Favelas in Brazil and the urban- poor youth in Kenya to black communities in the US, there was a realization that the common denominator in the shared experiences of extreme violence and criminalization was being black and unwanted within white- neoliberal-systems.

In Rio 2012, preparations for the World cup put a limelight on the persistent racism that affects the Black Favelas. The documentation of the “clean up” process to make the city “safe” for the games brought out the concentration of Black Residents more heavily in the substandard, precarious urban spaces effectively reserved for those without full rights.

Perhaps one of the most well known campaigns around this has been the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which ensued after the outrage over the number of young black and brown men criminalized, imprisoned and killed by the police in the United States. The last mapping is the profiling, abductions and killings of poor black youth in Kenya to control and protect property.

Grounded in these conversations, it seemed fundamental to map out the collective psychosis of white supremacist thinking in late-stage capitalism within the global socio-political and economic formations. Amongst the many deployed strategies to maintain power was (has been) the over assertion of control and silencing of the autonomy and voices of the majority of a people. The methods have varied from economic marginalization, creation of poverty, instigation of deep inequalities, eradication of diversity, excessive dispossession of the poor from their homelands for business ventures, investing in war economies, immigration restriction, and murder - through state and militarized violence, etc. The use of these tactics is most ignored and prompts least consequence when used against and over the lives of a) poor and particularly b) black people.

The pervasiveness of anti-blackness across the globe suggests that whiteness is not only spread through white peoples bodies but as a system that comes to work through various bodies. It is a system that functions to primarily benefit white bodies, but also one that has realized its survival depends on the assimilation, to different degrees, of other bodies.

For instance, the language of development in the African continent is one of assimilation. It has required African states to “move on from” the doings of colonialism to maintain good relations that in return “secure” economic growth. The frenzy of “Africa Rising” has allowed the re-possession of land and exploitation of resources by different foreign interests, and their local proxies - through whole strategies, relations and tactics to dispossess, divide and rule over the lives of African peoples. These interests may no longer walk in the same bodies, as in the colonial regime, but emulate the same cultures that reinforce anti-black and anti-poor sentiments.

Take, for instance, the collusion between state and capital in the Marikana massacre of 2012 in South Africa where police killed 34 miners for protesting the over- exploitation of their labor. Or the linkage between the U.S. war on terror rhetorics and tactics of the Kenyan state’s desire for economic and hegemonic domination to extract resources in Somalia. Or the vicious cycle of civil war in the Congo, which has been instigated, controlled and funded by imperial powers to mine the world’s richest minerals.

As a result of this, the societies, and most importantly the land, have become unbearable for African peoples to nurture and exist in, forcing immigration into foreign lands - where the same conditions of erasure, exploitation or disposability continue. Many people do not survive the passage out of the continent. Last year only, the death resulting from immigration of Africans from Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and other war torn countries attempting to cross the Mediterranean was unfathomable. Those who do survive the passage face increasing levels of immigration restriction into Europe, paired with a cycle of deportations that amount to sending people back to their deaths.

African migrants across the world face anti-black violence the most notably being the slave-like conditions of exploiting labor from, and murders of, domestic workers in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Many of whom only return through the repatriation of their dead bodies.

There is a lens that is largely being ignored in attempts to imagine post-capitalist futures - this missing link is a result of the evasion of the reality that capitalism is born of white supremacist thinking and domination - and is therefore directly linked to anti-blackness, and consequently the erasure of black lives and futures. Unless capitalism’s origins in the project of Empire are acknowledged we will continue to hold the flawed assumption that humanness is universally agreed upon. The current circulating prescription of being human is one offered by white capitalism and is highly fueled by control, greed and need for constant accumulation. As different societies across the globe increasingly invest in these structures and relations, we risk narrowing the potential for nurturing of alternative (less cannibalistic) versions of being human.  

* Gathoni Blessol is a decolonization movement builder and community organizer in Kenya with /



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Comments (2)

  • Editor's picture

    Dear Editor, I read the above article by Blessol Gathoni with very profound interest. Surely Brazil's excesses in Slavery exceed other countries in the Americas. Thus, it is not surprising that it was the last country in letting go of this abhorrent institution in the Americas. for instance during Brazilian Slavery, a wife of a slave holder ordered her husband to physically kick out the teeth of one of her much younger female slave, lest he left her for this slave. The atrocities committed against the black populace belies the myth of Brazil as being " a racial democracy" despite its being in possession of the greatest football (soccer) player of all time, the legendary Pele. In fact, despite his race, Pele has been accused of not doing enough for his people though one may wonder how much he can do in light of the entrenched white supremacy in Brazil; the same obseravtion could be advanced at Obama in the USA. Police brutality against blacks in Brazil makes the police in the USA look like saintly figures vis-a-vis its black populace. Therefore, as the Olympics are on the verge of commencing, these issues need to be critically looked at in Brazil and the world at large. Stephen Isabirye Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

    Aug 03, 2016
  • kevin.mayer's picture

    Nothing I tell could make me "less white". But I'm discontent with our system for reasons that Dr, Jose Rizal helped me to understand. "Whiteness" does not entitle "WE"! It is not sufficient. You can be even non-white and be part of "WE". There is no real loyalty by capitalist elites to the White Race. They do practically the same thing that they are accused here, to white people in Europe. The intensity may be different, and Europe gets destroyed last or last but one, by that ideology and mindset. The perpetrators are the same, or have the same tradition of reasoning, same as the colonial perpetrators of the past, like were centered around the Spanish Hapsburg. Everyone else learned from them, and continued the evolution of that system and its diversifications. Therefor, Rizal is extremely relevant still today. Or more than ever. Because his intellectual concepts are attacking the European colonial mindsets very directly. OTOH, most Europeans are ignorant of these connections and consequences, and would not support or tolerate their own elites if they knew. In that sense, all those "alternative" views are disinfo. Not going down to the core of the matter. So the question is, on what intellectual base and idea people of different color including white can collaborate to the better of the world? I would say we must also learn about Constructivism the way Heinz von Foerster looked at it. He was not against God. But he said, among humans of different culture and perception, consent about important matters is stronger than the idea of a "truth", imposed on the "other", including vice versa. Assimilation means imposing of unilateral "truth" on the weaker. "Communication is the interactive computation of _a_ reality." So this is a huge entitlement to a power, using words by Foerster. But his work is being abused for imperialism, because there is some kind of monopoly in understanding these ideas. Rizal and Foerster should be taught in EVERY school. I believe they are also compatible with the Zulu Nation (that declares Math as one basic force in the universe).

    Aug 05, 2016