There’s a phenomenon that many Black folks, particularly in the U.S. are accustomed to witnessing…
Black families, here for multiple generations - of struggle, loss, organizing, facing down white terror- still find themselves impoverished and fighting to make ends meet.
Immigrants, typically belonging to non-Black families, arrive in the U.S. and find the means to advance socially within a generation or two.
Are the circumstances under which non-Black immigrants arrive amenable? Do they have an easy time navigating obtuse and discriminatory policies of naturalization? Absolutely not.
The proximity of low income immigrants to the redlined neighborhoods many Black families are forced into, however make the comparison between the struggles of these groups close enough to behold but just distant enough to misunderstand. Black freedom fighters like Fred Hampton understood this and derived from it frameworks like the Rainbow Coalition which assembled various racialized groups to fight for their common humanity in the face of white supremacist ideologies. Still, even today the complex experiences that map the ways migrant populations experience poverty and racialization is rarely contextualized within the day-to-day grind of Black American folks cobbling together wage work and navigating social service apartheid – thus, resentment continues. What’s worse - after many of the immigrant families struggle and find that their labor begins to yield benefits, many, including Black immigrants, join the cacophony of antiBlack voices pondering aloud, “Why can’t Black people just work hard like we did?”
This phenomenon is not only familiar - it’s manufactured. AntiBlack immigration laws, employment, housing, education, penal and medical racism and more, make it so that even if chattel slavery had fully ended, the remnants of its structural impact remain powerful in our everyday lives. Black neighborhoods have been flooded, Black thriving businesses bombed, Black voters lynched and Black professionals dismissed en masse.
These histories are only discovered with much investigation and dedicated study. Thumbing through archives and attending lectures along with gathering the stories of elders after spending the time to gain their confidence, might, over several years, bequeath one with the types of insights that could combat this seemingly commonsense curiosity - why Black folks just don’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
Still - there is another familiar phenomenon Black folks also partake in. Solidarity movements. Black folks not only are responsible for the overwhelming majority of policy and laws that various non-Black marginalized groups benefit from, they willingly and loudly have partnered with these same groups to advance shared causes.
There has not, nor will there ever be, wholesale investments on behalf of Black people, or any group for that matter, of any cause. There are in fact, loud Black dissenters of each of the previous groups’ struggles mentioned. Still, these two phenomena should inform one another and help all marginalized groups firm up the ‘solid’ in solidarity. What are the core challenges that your specific communities’ racialization has caused both historically and contemporarily? How have past movements been frustrated for said groups? What missteps or unintended consequences of organizing have said groups experienced that may be avoided through study?
Our work together recognizes our shared humanity that, as COVID has demonstrated, we cannot ignore without swift and often irreversible detriment to ourselves and our planet. Still, uncritical commitment to solidarities that negate the historical struggles and social and political formations that over time have already demonstrated a tendency to accept absorption into the ruling classes only to leave folks racialized as Black, behind, is not only imprudent - it’s a one way ticket to the bottom.
For solidarity to be solid we must study as much as we struggle, resisting quick and attractive wins that only serve to privilege enough buffer class representatives to keep a permanent underclass churning below.
Am I down for your cause? And can you count on me to fight alongside you?
Well - we are in this together. I will always fight for the cause of humanity. Fighting amiss, though, is tantamount to fighting for the enemy.
The better question will always be - do you know who you are? And where you come from? Armed with this knowledge, the answer to, “Will you fight alongside me?” goes from “Yes, I think I will.” to, “I will not only fight for you, I will fight for us, because my study of self goes far enough back to encounter you, and to appreciate our shared destinies.”
[photo credit: https://portside.org/2020-11-27/portside-message-multiracial-democracy-or-no-democracy-all]