The idea is understandable. Five hundred plus years of African people being terrorized systemically all over the world would certainly generate a strong desire on behalf of our people to strike out against the terror we experience. So, the concept is perfectly valid. The only question/concern is what the proper response actually is to address our oppression?
The answer to that last question can only be answered one of two ways. Either we desire to engage in performative actions that make us feel better about the oppression we experience every-day. Or, we want to figure out how to eliminate this suffering once and for all.
The challenge of this internet/social media based reality we live with today, is we all function under the illusion that just because all of us have the same accounts, a computer, and an ability to voice a perspective, it has become normalized for people to believe all opinions matter. Or, just because someone has the ability to express an opinion in a post, meme, video, etc., that constitutes a perspective where its value is gauged not on the quality of the information within it, but the form in which the perspective is presented. In other words, form always supersedes essence. If something looks good, it will get more likes and attention than something with much more substance that doesn’t appeal to us the same way.
As a result, most Africans, and most people overall, are choosing symbolic actions that make us feel better over actual work to eliminate the oppression. The European woman in Portland, Oregon, U.S. stripping naked and standing/sitting in front of terrorist police makes some of us feel better because for that moment, the police left. Of course, the gestapo terrorists came back with a vengeance the very next night, probably further infuriated that they couldn’t terrorize as they wanted the night before. This reality hasn’t stopped scores of primarily European observers from praising this individual act. This symbolic act as if it represents some tangible victory. This is the surreal reality we face when we know not one less African has been brutalized by state sanctioned terrorists anywhere on earth as a result of that woman showing her genitals to those terrorists.
By the same token, these Africans come out in the thousands with these guns. There is no clear plan or idea about how the guns will be used. And, as someone who has lots of experience handling firearms, I was more than a little squeamish, watching the video of the action today, about how careless many of the armed participants were in handling their weapons (and that was before there were reports of gunshots at the action).
Still, more than a few Africans and other good hearted people were jumping to the ceiling at the sight of these armed Africans as if this symbolic action was going to intimidate one gestapo cop or white supremacist from their plans to terrorize any of us. In fact, the videos from today’s events show glimpses of the white right militia members of the Three Percenters present at the NFAC action. I’m speaking as an activist/organizer who has stood up against the Three Percenters on multiple occasions. If those Africans permitted those clear white supremacists (their name depicts their racist interpretation of the history of how this country was formed) to rub shoulders with them armed, that’s nothing we should feel any comfort and strength from.
There should be absolutely no question that guns, no matter how many of them, without organized political education guiding the usage and existence of the guns, is never a good formula. Guns without political education, like the title says; is like a journey that has absolutely no direction. We like the guns and the imagery because it symbolizes us having the power to defend our lives, but as was demonstrated when the shots rang out earlier today, the police – the same gestapos we are in the streets protesting in the first place – were able to instantly take control of the day, despite the presence of all of those Africans with guns. If nothing else, that should show you how its performative and not anything designed to build capacity and strength for our liberation because if it was, we could never surrender our authority to the same gestapos who are killing us.
The final conclusion for us has to be that even if we have a militia of 10,000 people, even 50,000, while the overwhelming majority of our people are not even involved in any organization, that represents no real strength for the masses of our people. Instead, it has the potential to be a detriment to our forward progress. Our history is full of examples of para-military groups with no political education and clearly this has not worked out well for us. In Azania (South Africa), we had the Inkatha Movement in the 80s which was mobilized by the racist apartheid regime to use its massive military strength to work against the African National Congress, the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania, the Black Consciousness Movement, the Azanian People’s Organization, and all the anti-apartheid forces operating there. This was possible because of the lack of political education which caused people who rallied around Inkatha to believe the talking points that the anti-apartheid organizations mentioned were fronts for outside “communist agitators.” In the same vein, the U.S. government was able to manipulate the lack of political maturity within our Black power organizations to easily facilitate violence between the Black Panther Party and the US Organization in which a number of Panthers, including Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter and John Huggins were killed on the UCLA campus in 1969. There are volumes written by those who lived through those experiences expressing dismay at the toxic masculinity, patriarchy, and the use of guns without the level of organization to ensure the masses are being organized to confront the state to seize power (the only logical reason weapons should ever exist for us).
Until we get people engaged with organizations, the guns are useless you all. We realize that Mao Tse Tung said “power grows out of the barrel of the gun” but his statement should be viewed in the context of mass organization which his Communist Party in China certainly demonstrated. Without the organized masses – which requires people in organizations – we can’t do anything with guns above just attempting theater to make us feel better about the system continuing to dominant our lives. At least the good news is simple. Join some organization working for justice and if you don’t see an organization you feel you can join, start one. And make sure your organization has a strong political education process. Once those components are in place, you can add community defense projects that help you train with weapons, but all of that work should always be couched in political education context. Once we recognize this, we can really begin getting to work towards liberation.