Presentation at the 30th Anniversary of the Black Community Process (PCN), Bogota, Colombia, November 12, 2023
The modern concept of race and what became known as racism can only be understood within the context of the European colonial project at the center of the larger project called modernity.
When the people who eventually became known as Europeans spilled out of “Europe” into what became the “Americas,” their encounter with the Indigenous peoples of this region was already informed by a racialized consciousness, as the great Black revolutionary theorist Cedric Robinson helped us to understand.
Informed by this consciousness that combined the tendency toward dehumanization based on race and a crude, strange, violent religious framework called “Christianity,” the European barbarians engaged in a genocidal rampage across this region and many others across the globe. With brutal land theft of indigenous people, coupled with forced and free labor, including that of fecundity, of millions of Africans, the material base was established that translated into a vast racial empire—today referred to as the “Collective West.”
As Anibal Quijano clearly stated:
The idea of race, in its modern meaning, does not have a known history before the colonization of America.
In America, the idea of race was a way of granting legitimacy to the relations of domination imposed by the conquest. After the colonization of America and the expansion of European colonialism to the rest of the world, the subsequent constitution of Europe as a new identity needed the elaboration of a Eurocentric perspective of knowledge, a theoretical perspective on the idea of race as a naturalization of colonial relations between Europeans and non-Europeans.
So, the task is not to focus on what is in anyone’s head regarding race—we should not be concerned with whether or not white people like us—the task is to build the capacity to liberate and develop ourselves, which is the larger task of dismantling the Pan European white supremacist colonial/capitalist patriarchy and building our capacity to govern, develop and transform ourselves and our environments—it is indeed a project of life for ourselves and mother earth from which all things emanate.
Let me give you a concrete, contemporary example of how race and the colonial project are fundamentally intertwined; the obscene assault on Palestinians being conducted by the colonists in Israel.
The driving force of the settler-colonial project in what is known as Israel were non-religious European Jews primarily from Eastern Europe that aligned themselves with Western colonialist, first the British and then the U.S. empire, to impose and consolidate a Jewish supremacist state complete with apartheid laws and practices in which the millions of Palestinians, who have historically stewarded that land, now find themselves subjected to arguably the most horrendous manifestation of fascism in the world today. Their democratic and human rights, as well as their right to self-determination are completely ignored, indeed the most precious human right—the right to life- has never been recognized by the Israeli settler fascists and is being systematically violated right before the eyes of the world!
And up to this day, how did the European Jewish settlers get away with normalizing the brutality of the occupation and even framing themselves as victims? By racializing the Palestinians as the “other,” what Edward Said referred to as Orientalism, a project that dehumanized Palestinians rendering them a threat and justifying their brutal treatment, including forfeiting the right to life itself. Even though the Palestinians were the ones conquered, displaced, colonized, and occupied, the Israeli narrative constructed them as the aggressors, the “terrorists,” categories and characterizations that were racialized as “natural.”
This racialization that dehumanized Palestinians has translated into a bombing pogrom in which thousands of Palestinians can be murdered with impunity—this is the behavior of the racist colonists. And what is the objective of this violence—complete and total control of the land from the “river to the sea.” An objective that renders Palestinians to what Franz Fanon referred to as the permanent “zone of non-being.”
It is this reality of the connection between racialization, genocide and colonialism that the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) embraces an approach to the issue of race from an angle that prioritizes the structural elements what we call white supremacy and the white supremacist ideology that we argue can be inculcated by anyone subjected to white supremacist ideology. In other words, one can be blackest of black and still be an ideological white supremacist.
This is how BAP defines white supremacy,
The combined ideological and structural expression of ‘white power.’
In its ideological expression, it posits that the descendants of the peoples from the territories now referred to as Europe represent the highest examples of human development. That their culture, social institutions, religion, and way of life are inherently and naturally superior.
This position is combined with what BAP calls the global structures and institutions of white supremacy—the structural expression. The material means to maintain and advance global white power: the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organization, Global Banking system, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), dollar hegemony, and the international capitalist cultural and ideological apparatus—media, entertainment industry, Big-Tech etc.
For BAP, white supremacy, therefore, cannot be reduced to individualized attitudes and values just among people identified as white. Instead, it should be seen as a structure of domination that is also ideologically embedded into every aspect of U.S. and European society to the extent that it has become normalized and, consequently, invisibilized as general common sense. White supremacy is fundamental to the Pan-European Colonial/Capitalist Patriarchy that began with the invasion of what became the “Americans” in 1492.”
In the Colombian context, white supremacy is alive and well. Its’ manifestation as racism was apparent with the racist reactions that elements of Colombian society directed at the candidacy of Francia Marquez and her tenure now as Colombia’s Vice President.
It is also demonstrated in the systematic denial of Afro-Colombian self-determination—that the denial of Afro-Colombian agency—the ability of Afro-Colombians’ to control their territories and institutions with justifications for that denial emanating from the right and unfortunately even from some sections of the left that embrace a political project that defines attempts by Afro-Colombians to independently organized as part of a process for broader national liberation and transformation, as “reactionary.”
There must not be any confusion, no liberal tendency to believe that Africans in Colombia or in any colonial context, will satisfy their national aspirations for self-determination, justice and development, without a fundamental alteration in the correlation and balance of forces that will result in a shift of power from the western international imperialist bourgeoisie, with its national comprador bourgeois allies on the national level—to the masses of the people globally.
There will be no liberation, development, or territorial integrity in Colombia as long as the global system of colonial capitalist plunder continues to extract value and impose violence and misery on collective humanity. Therefore, this is not just a challenge for militants in Colombia but a global imperative for oppressed, colonized peoples.
As I have said on numerous occasions, when we understand that white supremacy is not just what is in someone’s head but also a global structure of power with ongoing, devastating impacts on the people of the world, we will understand better why some of us have said that in order for the world to live, the 525-year-old white supremacist Pan-European, colonial/capitalist patriarchy must die.
Defeating the anti-people barbarism of this project is our historic task and responsibility and will be the inevitable outcome of the peoples struggles in Colombia and globally.
All Power to the People!
No Compromise, No Retreat!!