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Kwame Speaks is the regular column from the Kwame Ture Society (KTS), a student organization founded to further the development, dissemination of knowledge, and the advancement of the Africana studies discipline. Members of KTS regularly contribute to The Liberator.
The Politics of Race Betrayal: Recently, we have seen inevitable attempts by Black bourgeoisie politicians, from Africa to Howard University’s campus in DC to exchange the interest of their cultural and political base for the interests of power. Unsurprising to many, the long history of cultural gerrymandering by political puppets of African descent continues to rear its ugly head.
The ruling class continues to demonstrate its proficiency at cajoling the masses into believing that a leader whose racial and even cultural heritage is theirs must mean that their interests align. The Black-face Roman governors should have taught us this lesson.
Let us take the case of Guinea-Bissau. Unbeknownst to many students, who rarely dabble into world affairs even as it affects their kin, the president of Guinea-Bissau Joao Bernado Vieira was recently assassinated by his country’s own military. This killing came in retaliation to the killing of the nation’s chief of staff, Batista Tagme Na Wa. We will attempt to take the analysis further than the Western press, who has its own agenda. According to many news outlets, these killings are a result of long standing ethnic strife in the region. However, when we discuss Africa and its relationship with the rest of the world in such a context, we must do so through a lens of its political economy. The principal (official) export of Guinea-Bissau is cashew nuts, followed by fish and seafood. This is very different from other African nations such as the Congo and Azania (South Africa), who have immense amounts of wealth such as diamonds and gold. However, as many of know, there are two economies in the world. Guinea-Bissau is heavily involved in the underground (or not) cocaine trade, serving as intermediary between Latin America and Europe. It sits in a strategic location for global imperialism and its ‘second’ economy. What it lacks in the ‘official’ economy it makes up for in the black (white) market. Of course none of this ‘trickles down’ to the masses.
This is related to the recent assassinations in that they were no doubt the result of economic issues in the nation. African politicians often serve as conduits for imperialism’s expansion, and in this case President Vieira and Chief of Staff Tagme Na Wa were pawns in a much larger imperialist game. The people of Guinea-Bissau continue to suffer as a result of these games, and have the unwelcome distinction as one of the world’s poorest nations, while Portugal, its neo-colonial master, ranks in the top 40 economies of the world. One of their main exports is fine linen, by the way. Ironically, as expected the first nation-state to respond to the assassinations was Portugal, no doubt to ensure that its interests are taken care of.
A more familiar instance of race betrayal is the Obama administration’s recent refusal to attend the World Conference Against Racism. This conference, by no means designed to end racism, is a continuation of the conference held in 2001 in Durban where the United States walked out due to its love affair with Israel, whose Zionist policies were branded racist. It is also a continuation of the Bush-Clinton policies toward Israel. Any nation who has ‘overcome race, and is now post-racial’ should be willing and ready to attend a global discussion on racism and its pernicious effects. However, this ambivalent feeling is the type of change we are forced to believe in. Although, Obama does not come from the genealogy of slavery, he effectively utilized racial tensions and attitudes that developed as a result of the enslavement process as a springboard to the Presidency. 96% of the descendants of Africans who were enslaved in the United States voted for President Obama. Normally, the favor would be returned, however the discussion of reparations for slavery scheduled to take place at the conference was too much for the administration to stomach. We have to be critical of decisions like this as a collective.
Maybe politics is not the answer to our problems. As Baba Jacob Carruthers has taught in his Intellectual Warfare, even the etymology of the world politics has to do with the interests of the few, and that we should as ‘political scientists’ learn our ways of governance. However, as we are engulfed by this political system, we must empower our Black-face politicians to follow the model of iconic figures like Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. As John Hope Franklin asserts, “one hopes they (Black politicians) will not lose focus on the problems black people face, for if they do, they will have gained the prize, but will have lost their souls.”