For as much as I oftentimes stray from having firm resolutions for the new year, I think that given the circumstances of this past year, it’s worth at least taking time to thoroughly reflect on what is up next. 2020 was the most important year for my political education journey, largely prompted by the unconscionable amount of grief and violence folks faced. 345,000+ people died here in the US from COVID-19, and thousands of others lost their lives for related reasons tied to the stress and isolation from the past nine months. As I’ve thought about how I attempt to rationalize my praxis for what I believe in, the single goal I want to prioritize this year is fairly straightforward: center the most vulnerable in every facet of my politics.
For 2020, I spent far more time actively writing, reporting, and reading about the conditions of the oppressed all over the globe. Whether it is locally or internationally, I sought to understand the systems that inhibit people from living with joy and with fulfillment. Time and time again, the failures I would learn about in movements that attempted to liberate people came (at least in part) because they would decenter the folks the movement was built by. To organize and center, for example, Black movements and Black issues around people of my socioeconomic group instead of working-class folks would be futile. It’s why the attempts at so much anti-racist education come off as disingenuous at best, and flat-out anti-liberation rhetoric at worst. If they center around the experiences of people like me being treated poorly at a restaurant or at an airport instead of the folks that are killed by lead poisoning or denied COVID treatment even when showing symptoms, it is a non-starter for organizing.
The failure in not practicing a politic that is not based on seeing the most vulnerable live the most fulfilling lives is deadly. As we know how the global racial capitalist system is antithetical to colonized peoples having any semblance of self-determination. The rationale behind organizing or working with the most oppressed in mind is that by liberating those people, you in turn then will be able to liberate everyone. That’s why Black liberation and Black studies are such a powerful framework for helping folks understand the systems of oppression that exist around the world. That was the basis for groups like the Combahee River Collective that began to use the phrase “identity politics,” and how those like the Black Panther Party worked on the political education of the working class in Oakland(along with many other important efforts).
As I’m finishing up reading Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, he continues to reiterate the failures of the colonized bourgeoise as incapable of building a new independent state that is equitable. He notes that “In the underdeveloped countries we have seen that there was no genuine bourgeoisie but rathe ran acquisitive, voracious, and ambitious petty caste, dominated by a small-time racketeer mentality, content with the dividends paid out by the former colonial power.” The elites of colonized peoples have in some state formations abandoned the rural and urban proletariat citizens that had fought for liberation. They chose to enforce a politic not built around the most vulnerable, but those with the most power and resources.
This goes all to say that while I know I have grown and practiced a politic with the most oppressed being centered in 2020, I have so much more room to develop here. I think a lot of that writing was strong, but I know that for writing about Hyde Park or international struggles, I have so many more opportunities to help people share their stories. If anything, I am confident in doing this work because I do it to build a better world and for the respect of those I care about. That’s it. I’ll see y’all next week.
Being Noah Tesfaye #164: Practicing a Politic Centered on the Most Vulnerable
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