Make it Plain is exploring Black Radicalism with Kehinde Andrews exploring a new letter each day. All of these are sourced from Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century, proceeds of which go to the Harambee Organisation of Black Unity There are some limited suggested resources below but please send in suggestions for more, these are just a few to start with
If you have any experience of Black politics you will have heard the word justice frequently. As Black people we are forced to live in a racially unjust society and any campaign for progress has to include a call for justice, whether that be in the courts, the schools or the economy. But an unjust system can never produce justice.
Black Lives Matter was sparked by the continued racial abuse of the criminal injustice system. Whether it be deaths at the hands of the police, or the killers being allowed to walk free by the courts we have consistently protested. I’ve been to numerous rallies and chanted ‘no justice, no peace’ but there can be no justice for the family, or community of someone slain by the police. At best we can hope to force reforms so that the perpetrators are prosecuted and there is less chance of tragedy striking again. The problems that create police brutality are far more deeply entrenched than the encounter that takes place on the streets between the officer and victim.
Campaigns to end police brutality are part of wider movement for social justice. But justice is impossible in a social world built on oppression. Too often when we are striving for social justice we really mean that we are trying make the situation slightly more bearable. To remove some of the harder edges of racial oppression. Justice will not be found in any institution that relies on disadvantage.
The struggle for reparatory justice is a good example of the impossibility of justice within the current system. There is no doubt that reparations are due to the descendants of the enslaved (and colonised). Slave-owners received their compensation at the time, although the British taxpayer was still paying off this debt until 2015. On the other hand the formerly enslaved received nothing for their labour or hardship. The poverty experienced by their descendants is a direct legacy of this injustice. Reparatory justice is more than just economic, but if we were to calculate the debt owed it would be a number so large that it would be impossible to pay. The wealth produced from slavery underpins the economy, repairing this debt (let alone that owed for colonialism) would cripple the West, making the money useless. Even if it were possible to pay reparations the West relies on the exploitation of Africa and the former colonies to produce wealth today.
True reparatory justice would destroy the West, ending the current economic system. There is no chance that this will ever come about by putting pressure on those in power. The lesson here is that revolution is the only way to deliver justice.
Sister Esther Stanford-Xosei Reparations March 2019