Though a word many learn in the early years of their lives, it is a noun rarely personified. Yet, despite its rarity, I saw this term employed twice this year in public forums. The first time referenced Candace Owens, the second referenced those who support Kamala Harris’ recent VP appointment “without caveat.” The term courage references those not following the majority or socially accepted opinion. Candace Owens, a living and breathing embodiment of white consciousness personifies the polar opposite of courage. Similarly, those who espouse themselves to a candidate for the optics sans accountability convey America’s anticipated reaction, not courage. These examples illuminate what an anti-black world project as courage to denounce and discourage the pursuit of the real thing. Courage is what we as a collective must embody to overcome the forces collectively cast against us.
The recent VP announcement drew a firm line in the sand within the black collective. This line reflected a division into three groups, all of which exude a concerning extremity. The first group are staunch Harris supporters who espouse themselves to the campaign for the clout of pseudo representation. This group spews venom at the second group who perceive Harris as performing identity fraud—her blackness reflecting not an inheritance but a choice. The third group opposed Harris due to her record as attorney general. This group cannot unsee Harris as a “top cop.”
There are of course a plethora of other perspectives, but these three seem the most pervasive and most vocal across social media platforms.
Staunch supporters seem impenetrable to an external perspective, but they find joy where those turned off by Kamala Harris’ “diverse” identity find remnants of white supremacy. Similarly, the third group is not to “unsee” Harris in a role she wore proudly. Diversity in perspective is a good thing, and we must find a way to employ our differences as a bridge to the other side. Without this bridge, we are doomed to the cyclical disenfranchisement this country promises with each day and every election.
Seeking to change the perspectives of others is simply not plausible or relevant. Some will say that Harris is like Obama. Others will vehemently disagree. Some will find comfort in a black woman running for VP. Others are excited that HBCU’s are getting their place in the limelight. Others feel unseen or erased by another black person not descended from those enslaved in America. These perspectives all have value, but, in isolation, do not attain chief relevance with regard to the perils we face as a people. What is relevant is that we as a community do not let performances in white hegemony, be it an election or a candidate, drive us apart.
Many watched yesterday as Joe Biden officially announced Harris as his running mate at their first collaborative event in Delaware. The exchange, though overtly acceptable, roused a derogatory undertone to which every person in the black collective must take note. Here, Harris took on an Oprah-like role, where her words and presence, though employed as minority representation, placed Joe Biden into his role as a white savior. Not only is Biden he who can “rescue” the masses from Trump, but he is also a “prodigal counter-racist” who ran beside the first black president and now selected a black woman to run beside him. Despite the phrasing, the social hierarchy that permeates America precludes any non-white candidate to stand beside a candidate of the majority. For example, though Pence takes on a vice-presidential role as Trump’s “back-up,” reinforcing his ideals and being an understudy image for the presidential administration, they both benefit from their pairing and governmental praxis to the same degree. The Biden-Harris ticket, on the other hand, presents a vastly different dilemma.
As a melanated woman the praxis that Harris will have to implement and enforce may earn her a salary but the products of her labor will never benefit Harris as it does her husband, Biden, and every white person in America. This dilemma is an experience shared by every one of African descent. Thus, this praxis illuminates that we cannot fall apart now, because us falling apart brings our oppressors together.
The music played immediately after Harris finished speaking encompasses two subliminal messages that also delineate why this upcoming election must unite, not divide, the black collective. The campaign was quite deliberate in playing Curtis Mayfield after Harris’ speech to cast two subliminal messages. The first was to suggest that Harris and Biden are the means to “move on up” as Mayfield sings in the selected song. The second was to account for the absent black male presence. Biden spoke of his wife, who encompasses the white female presence in the campaign, and Biden and Harris’s husband, of course, encompass a white male presence. The issue here is voice. Mayfield’s voice functions to posit the black man as “heard,” though the black man, nor the black collective, have a prominent voice in this upcoming election. Thus, the democratic effort to delineate an omission as presence is a contention that must foment unity amongst the black collective. Our voices prove louder when a chorus. Nevertheless, optics and audio are not enough to appease our political and social demands as a collective.
Now, I will say, in contention with many discussions surrounding this topic, that black people should contemplate and contest blackness. I see the contentions Harris’s actions and ancestry engender as a good thing. While some engagement with this contention is certainly personal, the white world should not determine who and what represents an ideology we endure as a people. I say this to say that the media castigates the black people questioning Harris’ blackness because they want the right to decide who speaks for and represents black people. So, to call the inquisitive or enraged African “judgemental” and “foolish” is a way to maintain authorial control over our identity politics. This is a power we must reclaim as a people.
The white world determines blackness based on a hate-fueled hierarchy that places black people at its base. Thus, Kamala Harris, Barack Obama, and every other mixed-race body selected to represent the African in America are legally black due to this hate-fueled hierarchy. White hate should not inform how we as a collective compartmentalize ourselves. Blackness should be partially genetics and partially commitment to the people. This is an equation that I believe alot of black people implement. This equation would never contest Malcolm X, Kwame Ture, or Gil Noble’s blackness because they exhibit African ancestry, cultural dedication, never tried to be anything else, and did not benefit from diverse conceptualization. This same logic relegates skin folk Candace Owens and Clarence Thomas as melanated but disparate from blackness in the harm they cause black people in their professions. Blackness, like love, is something that you can see, but it’s also what you do and how you live. Thus, it is imperative that we as a people continue to have standards for our leadership regardless of what these standards are, who agrees or disagrees. Positing standards as anything other than healthy engagement with human form is just another means to coax black people into an inferior societal position.
Furthermore, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have much faith in the government, and I see the Democratic and Republican party as presenting a choice that does not truly exist. The Democratic and Republican Party are two sides to the same coin—the only difference is the approach. The same can be said for the individuals who represent the collective. This truth, however, does not negate accountability.
As a united force, it out duty to hold those who ask for our vote and are employed for our governance accountable to our needs.
Accountability, for many, comes second to usurping Trump, but he embodies the hegemonic forces that have governed and united the states since the country’s conception. Defeating Trump means nothing if there is no detailed agenda to oscillate systemic racism as it permeates the black collective. To defeat Trump politically does not disseminate racism, it merely allows for the same actions to take place with less transparency. Our demand is not for a president who puts a bow on racism, the demand is for a president and government that cannot see and engage black people when convenient for them.
I want to be clear that by accountability I am no by means encouraging black people to vote for the Biden-Harris ticket. By accountability I contend that being of black form does not encompass a social or political inconvenience but embodies a social and political obligation.
This obligation, which we must actualize with an agenda, will not incite a overnight change that will occur rapidly or even one election, but it does not mean that we should not take strides toward justice, franchisement, and equity today.
Furthermore, we must hold ourselves accountable to exhibit the courage to look past personal disposition and look toward a world that spins on an African Axis.
What are three things you would place on a political agenda for African peoples?