A-Z of Black Radicalism

L is for Liberation

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

Liberation is not the same as equality. We could be equal and not free. If we are only struggling to remove racial disparities then we are basically fighting for the same chance to be poor, locked up and disadvantaged as White people. The current political and economic system is based on inequality. Inequalities of race, gender, sexuality, class, etc. Even if it were possible to remove the specific inequalities of race (it is not), then we would still be trapped in an unjust society. To be radical means to demand liberation, complete freedom from this wicked system.

Demanding liberation means that we cannot rest when we win small victories, or find spaces of momentary salvation. We have always found ways to experience joy, even in the darkest times of our oppression. We have created some of the most beautiful culture whilst being brutalised by society. The fact we are still here, still strong and full of hope is a testament to the strength of the spirit. Throughout hundreds of years of oppression we have supported each other, resisted and survived. Without survival there is no struggle. The Panthers stressed the need for survival, but it was ‘survival pending revolution’. If we only struggle to survive then we will continue to exist, but the nature of our existence will not change. By stressing liberation as the goal it is a reminder that freedom is the place where we no longer need to worry about or survival, how we find dignity or create spaces for our joy.

Language matters because if we use the frameworks of our oppressors we will always be limited by them. Race relations, equality, discrimination are all ways of framing the problems so we believe they can be reformed out of the system. If only we would be patient and work with those in power, we will be able to inch our way to progress. The very idea of ‘progress’ should make our stomachs churn. Progress to what? Progress to where? Change is not always for the better and the marks of so called ‘progress’ are delusions. A few more Black people with money, or yet more Black elected officials may be change but it is not leading us to freedom. If anything it is the opposite (see G is for Grassroots).  We should not be asking for equality. We should not be looking for signs of so called progress. We must be organising for liberation.


Ten Point Platform of the Black Panther Party

Joyce Ladner The Death of White Sociology

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

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