“If the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do it to yourself.” wrote James Baldwin.
At a vigil for six-year-old Aniya Allen, who tragically died from her wounds on April 19 after being shot in the head when her family was caught in the crossfire of a shootout, someone said, “We killed her.” The inference was that the community, particularly the Black community, killed the child. Few things can be further from the truth. We (the Black community) did not kill the child!
If there is someone to be blamed it is the shooter, but more importantly, there is also some “thing” that is to blame and that is the environmental conditions and the system that created the shooter.
Lately, Minneapolis and other major cities have been experiencing an uptick in inter-communal (so-called Black-on-Black) violence, and as a result, some have taken to blaming themselves, the community, and even activists trying to protect the community, from police violence.
This is a trick of the enemy!
Struggle is against the same enemy
There is no dichotomy, no either/or in these struggles. Those who are opposed to our murder at the hands of the system are also opposed to death at the hands of one another. They are not mutually exclusive.
Those who are pointing fingers at activists and denigrating them for putting energy into fighting police violence and citing them as a problem, surely do not believe that there should be no opposition to cop brutality. Surely they are not ok with police killing us and surely they agree that there should be an organized struggle against State repression. And surely they don’t intend to pit one group of grieving mothers against the other.
Ironically, our enemies point to crime in our community as proof of our unworthiness of defending ourselves against police abuse.
No army in the history of warfare has ever had every soldier perform the same function. We have to struggle on two fronts: the struggle within and the struggle against racism/ White supremacy and yes capitalism. Make no mistake, we are at war, or maybe a better way to put it is that the White power structure is at war with us. And as a result, some of us have internalized our oppression and are at war with ourselves.
Some of this finger-pointing is simply the result of misguidance. But if we are honest, some springs from opportunism. Most come from confusion and a lack of understanding of just what we as Black people are up against. Internecine community violence and police violence spring from the same source. They are rooted in White supremacy and the social/ political/ economic system: capitalism.
The violence in the community is the result of internalized self-hatred, internalized oppression exacerbated by poverty, poor housing, poor and substandard education, lack of jobs, and a sense of hopelessness. Add to that a sub-culture and underworld that develops around this mixture of angst, aimlessness, hopelessness, machismo, and self-hatred and you have what we are experiencing now.
Hussein A. Bulhan explained this phenomenon in “Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression,” when he said, “the oppressor without becomes an oppressor within. The well-known inferiority complex of the oppressed originates in this process of internalization. Because of this internalization and its attendant but repressed rage, the oppressed may act out, on each other, the very violence imposed on them. They become autopressors as they engage in self-destructive behavior injurious to themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors.”
Fanon, Paulo Friere, and Amos Wilson have broken this down in their works as well, which all should read. The oppressed internalize their oppression and even see the oppressor in one another, thus they are more violent toward one another, than those actually running the system of oppression.
Police violence stems from the need of that same system to hold Black folks down, to stereotype them, and to make sure they stay in their “place.” But the police also victimize immigrants and poor folks and any others that challenge the system. That’s why the police kill because their job is to make everyone comply and if you do not comply you are viewed as a threat to the State.
Ultimately the only way we will get rid of internecine violence is by getting rid of the system that manufactured it. The only way we will get rid of police violence is by ending the system that requires it.
In the meantime what we can do to deal with the community violence is to rebuild real community: embrace the old school values of neighborliness. Say hello when you pass a brother/sister on the street.
Check on that child who seems lost. Offer a neighbor a ride. Form block clubs and be your neighbor’s keeper. Begin again to open schools and institutions for after-school activities and tutoring. Reestablish outreach programs, summer camps, academic programs focused on sciences, math, writing, and technology.
Establish real job training programs and threaten boycotts of those industries that refuse to let our youth in, like Silicon Valley. Open doors to creating independent small business and take advantage of the tech age and create new social media tech like Tik Tok, even a Black Facebook.
The ultimate answer
Police violence can only at best be minimized (until folks are ready to take on the system) by continuing to demand that the cops be prosecuted every time they do something to us. And by standing with families who have lost loved ones to police violence and demanding that ALL THE CASES BE REOPENED! And we will have to demand that the system of policing as we know it brought to an end. And be willing to fight until that happens.
At the end of the day, what ails us all is this system, this lowdown, filthy, rotten, murderous, necrophiliac system that teaches us to doubt and even hate ourselves, which exploits, oppresses, limits our potential, dampens our spirits, ambitions, and even kills our bodies.
We can only defeat it by understanding it and resisting it and by locking arms, laying down dumb unnecessary divisions, and standing together and demanding and fighting for the kind of society fit for ALL human beings. A society free of White Supremacy, borders, and discrimination of all kinds. One that allows every person to make a decent living and provides a roof over every head, food in every belly, well-rounded quality education for every mind, and a sense of dignity in everybody.
Lem Seveer is a longtime journalist and commentary writer.