The issue itself is one of human dignity and justice. No other group of people within the U.S. has been more in the forefront historically than the African masses here. In fact, as Kwame Ture aptly stated often, "the African masses in the U.S. have civilized this country!" So, anyone who reads our lack of participation in these rallies and actions as a statement about our apathy about this issue is wrong.
At the rally Friday night the initial dominant theme being expressed by the people taking the microphone was one of people in the U.S. coming together to stop this unusual activity of detaining families who attempted to come into this country simply because they were trying to escape oppression in their birth countries. The undercurrent of this thinking is that there is a criminal and anti-human element in power right now e.g. Donald Trump - and the primary struggle is the "majority" of right thinking people needing to overturn his rule. The end thought being once he's gone, something as heinous as the detention centers would not exist. Its the fallacy of this thinking which I believe accounts for why more African people don't participate in those types of actions. The paradox exists when the leaders of Friday's action began attempting to lead the crowd in singing "This Land is our Land." When the song started, I looked to the Indigenous sister standing next to me who was holding the sign and wearing a tee shirt which each expressed anti-colonial, U.S. is Indigenous people's land slogans. After we exchanged briefly about how much of a contradiction the song was, we both began somewhat heckling the song out loud. To the credit of the people leading the song, they heard the challenges we were posing to them and they called the Indigenous sister up to the microphone to which she spoke eloquently about the tribe who's land Yuba City was built upon and that the U.S. is a settler colony and the fact Indigenous people are being locked up for entering their own lands speaks to the real contradiction.
African people understand probably better than most colonized people the challenge of building a movement that involves European (white) voices. Imperialism programs and trains all of us to defend the empire at all times. We are taught that despite our grievances against the U.S., it is still the "best country on Earth" and the fact these oppressed souls are risking life and limb to get here is used by the reactionary apologists for capitalism as proof of that American Exceptionalism thinking. And, 98% of the time, conversations go no deeper than that because if they did, we would have to talk about the real contradictions. We would have to discuss that our grievances are not acceptable due to U.S. exceptionalism, they result because of it. Capitalism as an international economy was created, built, and is maintained based on exploiting Africa's human and material resources. America e.g. the U.S. is only exceptional in its unmatched ability to rob, steal, and murder more people than any other entity in human history to advance its own agenda of world conquest. Conscious Africans and other colonized people are tired of having to deal with protest signs, and especially the ideology behind the signs, that says "this is not who we are!" The country in its present form was founded on stealing African babies from their parents. That was the exact purpose of slave auctions, to sell us off. That industry, which is the reason Africans walk the Western Hemisphere today, wasn't created to keep African families together. Meanwhile, the Indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere were treated to mass warfare to steal their lands and like us Africans, their families were attacked on all levels to facilitate the trauma being carried out against them. So, we don't want to hear any nonsense about this not being what this country is. What's happening with caging up people who are only escaping destabilization that U.S. policies have enacted in their home countries is all nothing except the continuation of the type of anti-human policies that have defined this and all capitalist countries since their inception. No one understands this any better than our people.
Its not to say other people, particularly colonized people, don't understand these contradictions. They certainly do, but African people do benefit today from the Black power movement of the 1960s. It was that movement that presented the notion that this empire does not represent, nor can it ever reflect, the values and interests of the majority of African people. And, although its true that class struggle is active with us as it is with everyone, and therefore we have our fair share of people who push integration into U.S. capitalism, we know the majority of our people understand on some level that this system will never accept the majority of us. The Black Power movement planted that seed of independence from U.S. capitalism within the African consciousness and our similar movements around the world have germinated that seed in all our people everywhere. Another thing the Black power movement did for us was advance the notion that we have to lead our own movement. That the voices of European people are not relevant to our struggle. That movement addressed that issue by calling for white people to leave African organizations and form their own organizations in their communities to organize their own people against this backward system. That last development within the Black power movement is the core reason why the dominance of white voices in African organizing circles which was a constant in the civil rights movement of the early 60s, is no longer prevalent today. For the most part, Europeans tend to stay away from African articulated movements and if they come, they either understand - or they are made to understand quickly - that their voices are not going to define our movement's direction. Other colonized communities have yet to engage a movement similar to our Black power movement. And that is the reason their actions are still heavily participated in and dominated by European voices. By "this land is our land" thinking. Its not our place to tell other colonized people how their movements should proceed, but since we have already been through that process with Europeans, we know that most of them will never listen to colonized voices beyond tokenism, so therefore, when we see them, we prefer not to engage. That's why you won't see us in mass at these actions and events.
And, just because we are not there doesn't mean we are not doing work around the problem. Imperialism of course works overtime to confuse us all the time and this confusion is aimed at our people as militantly as its aimed at anyone because of our historical relationship to the capitalist empire e.g. our propensity to be the most militant segment in the society. Therefore, you can find elements and pockets of Africans who will parrot the anti-human "illegal immigrant, they are taking something from us" line. Fortunately, most of our people understand on some basic level that we were stolen from Africa. That means we understand this land was stolen from other peoples. That means we know that the fact Africans are in different countries is an artificial reflection of how colonialism has split up and divided our people. What sense does it make for us to see Africans from Guatamala or Honduras as different from us when the reality is we could be biologically related to them? The slave raids that brought all of us here to the West most certainly sent family members to different parts of the Western Hemisphere. This is an ill refutable fact that Africans understand on different levels of consciousness. So it makes no sense for us to adopt capitalism's analysis on immigration. I would argue that because of our historical relationship, our conversations with our friends, families, neighbors, co-workers, etc., around this question are doing a lot to shift consciousness around this issue in the country. And, while other communities are moving to the point where they are willing to openly confront imperialist institutions like ICE, it is the African masses who have proven time and time again that we will raise up at any time and challenge not just one U.S. imperialist agency, but the entire capitalist empire. The step we need to take is in moving that resistance beyond just spontaneous disruption towards mass organization. These detention centers are a crime against humanity and they are a slap in the face to all of us who recognize this land as colonized land. Actions and rallies are great and its good that all people are out there, but the time for controlled expressions of outrage based on ultimately protecting the capitalist empire from destruction is not the spirit that going to seriously challenge this contradiction. The ICE centers are the 2019 version of how this country has always handled its encounters with the colonized populations within its borders. On this one, everyone would do well to take the lead of the African masses. This land isn't your land and the problem is much deeper than regime change. We would never choose one rapist over another so you know we refuse to pick one capitalist over another.