by Ajamu Baraka
“The MXGM reports exposes the massive human rights violations that take place in the U.S. and contradicts U.S. efforts to project itself as a champion of human rights.”
The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) has just released a follow-up to its controversial report Every Thirty-six Hours, published last year, which was a gruesome compilation of killings of Black people in the U.S. MXGM characterized these killings, which took place in streets, houses, gated-communities and alley-ways across the country at a pace of one every thirty-six hours as “extra-judicial executions.” The new report, Operation Ghetto Storm, updates this figure, saying that Black people are now being killed by some representative of the state or a paramilitary vigilante at a rate of one every twenty-eight hours.
Even though Every Thirty-six Hours was widely disseminated through social media and received some coverage from a few alternative news outlets, both reports have failed to generate much interest, moral outrage or comment from mainstream news outlets, human rights organizations or even the self-elected “leaders of the black community.”
The silence of liberals, both black and white, is understandable. After all, allegations that the police are murdering Black people across the country with little, if any, concern by relevant federal bodies such as the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division – all during the administration of the country’s first Black President – must be difficult and embarrassing to explain. And for an administration that relies on “soft-power” rhetoric in support of human rights and democracy as an integral part of its strategy to maintain and advance U.S. global hegemony, I am sure that the administrations calculation is that the less attention to racial oppression in the U.S. the better. The administration prefers that attention is given to more “important” and human rights violations taking place in whatever nation/state it is currently targeting for destabilization, such as Syria, Iran and now North Korea.
“Black people are now being killed by some representative of the state or a paramilitary vigilante at a rate of one every twenty-eight hours.”
But for those of us who have to live the nightmare of systematic domestic repression and build opposition to it, silence is a luxury we cannot afford. The MXGM reports exposes the massive human rights violations that take place in the U.S. and contradicts U.S. efforts to project itself as a champion of human rights, even as it subverts governments around the world, engages in high-tech State terrorism through its’ Drone warfare, and its intelligence and police agencies infiltrate, monitor and disrupt lawful domestic oppositional groups and kills its own citizens.
In the introduction to the report Kali Akuno, National Coordinator of MXGM, offers an explanation as to why there has been an escalation of state sponsored violence in black communities and the relative acceptance of that violence by the broader society.
“What Operation Ghetto Storm reveals is that the practice of executing Black people without pretense of a trial, jury, or judge is an integral part of the government’s current overall strategy of containing the Black community in a state of perpetual colonial subjugation and exploitation.”
Akuno’s explanation is right on point. There is an edifice of control and domination that has been built in the U.S. which functions by criminalizing whole sectors of society it deems to be “dangerous” or “undesirable” – in particular our young people. But Kali raises an even more ominous point. He suggests that the targeting of Black people, as a vulnerable but potentially significant oppositional force to the prevailing U.S. political elite, is part of a broader strategy of repression that is slowly permeating all aspects of life in the U.S.
“The United States settler‐colonial government has built the most full‐spectrum network of repressive enforcement structures in human history. They include the Police, Sheriff’s, Rangers, Customs, FBI, Homeland Security (including INS), CIA, Secret Service, prison guards, as well as the numerous private security and other protective services. It has also created the largest and most invasive surveillance system in human history. This system includes everything from satellites, police, FBI, and DHS operated surveillance drones, and electronic tracking and monitoring via our cell phones, computers, tablets, email, Facebook, Twitter, and chip‐filled passports, driver’s licenses, and identification cards.”
“The targeting of Black people is part of a broader strategy of repression that is slowly permeating all aspects of life in the U.S.”
What Kali is describing here are the developing tactics of a post-modern fascism in the U.S. The essential point that both reports emphasize is that the escalation of brutal police violence is not an aberration, the circumstantial result of particularly vicious policing or bad apples on the police forces, but a systemic response to a social crisis and a surplus population in which the control and containment of that population is the main concern for state forces.
The historical antecedent for this development is clear. African Americans have been the most consistent force for social justice throughout the history of this country and since fascism is a particular response to capitalist crisis there is a certain perverse logic in the fact that African Americans would be the initial targets of an incipient new fascist practice.
Neoliberal restructuring of the domestic economy had a devastating impact on the African American working class. The intense contradictions of global capitalism that exploded as the current crisis that began in 2008 for the broader population, only magnified an ongoing economic crisis of more than four decades for African American workers. With the completion of the transformation of African Americans from a rural, land based labor force to an urban based labor force that was completely dependent on capitalist wage labor by the 1970s, African American wages have stagnated or declined, depending on the sector, for more than 40 years. When broken down by gender, the plight of African American women, also burdened with the economic reality of being the sole provider for children, has been nothing less than tragic.
But it is not just stagnate and declining wages that confront African Americans. Today the current reality facing African Americans is that black, unskilled and semi-skilled, low wage labor is superfluous, redundant, not needed, making our very physical existence a social problem in which draconian control methods and mass incarceration has emerged as viable solutions with tacit support from the broader U.S. society. Criminalization of our people and the continued militarization of the spaces where we are confined is an essential component of the containment strategy.
“Black, unskilled and semi-skilled, low wage labor is superfluous, redundant, not needed, making our very physical existence a social problem.”
The open season on black bodies and the lack of interest from the broader society, silence from liberals and even many leftists, is graphic testimony to the precarious situation in which we find ourselves. But more insidiously, what we are experiencing in our communities appears to be the harbinger of a new white, cross-class hegemonic racial bloc that is now unacknowledged but yet is the basis of support for U.S. war-making abroad and the relative silence on domestic racial repression. The essential ideological glue for this new racial bloc has a familiar historical basis in the unearned material privileges of white supremacy. Its essential recognition is that in order to secure and maintain white privilege, certain populations must be controlled and subordinated nationally and globally. Could this be why it appears that very few are moved by the MXGM report?
It is important to make clear for folks still looking for the “brown shirts” to emerge that fascism in the U.S. is not taking the same form as “classical fascism” that emerged in the particular circumstances of Europe gripped in the capitalist crisis of the 30s. That is why so many, and even many on the left, are sleeping while the foundations and actual practices of a particular “American” form of fascism is developing. A fascism that with its ability to selectively repress dangerous populations – African Americans, in particular African American males, inner city Latinos, undocumented migrants, Arab and Muslims and radical elements that have not surrendered – while also adhering to the requirements and practices of a liberal “democratic society” for the rest of the society, is a new form that will be particular to the political, ideological and institutional context of the U.S.
“In order to secure and maintain white privilege, certain populations must be controlled and subordinated nationally and globally.”
The killings and beating of black people, black mass incarceration, the terrorism of targeted repression of migrant workers from Central and South America and Muslim and Arab communities by the national security apparatus are the canaries in the cage for U.S. fascism. While the particular class forces have not yet congealed and the social policies and legal framework are not in place or consolidated for a new American fascism, Every Thirty-Six Hours and Operation Ghetto Storm should be dramatic reminders of what we face if progressive forces fail to recognize the historical writing on the wall and come to terms with the war that is being waged against all of us.
As African American revolutionaries MXGM has taken up its responsibility to educate, organize and build resistance. And even in the social context of the U.S. where the marginalization of “Blackness” and Black people has become normalized and Black human rights defenders find ourselves in the cross-sights of the repressive apparatus, we will follow MXGM’s lead and continue to raise the contradictions and call for a new kind of revolutionary politics to meet the challenges and opportunities the contemporary situation offers.
And as we observe liberal and left forces in this country continually falling prey to the subtle but pervasive influences of Eurocentric white supremacy and U.S. exceptionalism that results in many of those elements finding themselves on the same side with U.S. imperialism from Libya to Venezuela, we understand our tasks as Black revolutionaries in defense of our communities as having a historical urgency and importance that is unique to this period of capitalist/colonialist decline.
So for us, we will continue resisting and struggling, because we still have a decolonized vision for this territory called the United States and also because we know that if we don’t build an effective movement collectively, the technology of control and terror that this State can deploy will make Dante’s inferno seem like a desirable alternative.