By C5Damani & Bukata
Killer Mike is a good dude. As a rapper and social activist, he is a powerful brother. But recently the brother explicitly agreed to a problematic notion put forth by conservative black pundit, Candace Owens at the Revolt Summit hosted by P. Diddy. When pressed for a response over and over by another rapper and activist, T.I., on her assertion that “there was a time when it was great for Black folks in America”, Killer Mike played Captain Save’em and came to the sista’s defense with a flurry of statements.
While he said some things that we agree with… One Black Agenda… Controlling our own economic future… There were three major tent poles of his retort that we flat out reject.
The first tent pole we disagree with was with his “free people arguing over who’s got the better master” opening salvo meaning that both parties are working for our demise and destruction. There is and was a clear difference between the slave owner and the abolitionist which here he is equating as congruent in the desire to subjugate us and work against our betterment. He is wrong on that premise. When it comes to the treatment of and belief in the inherent dignity of Black folks, there is a stark demarcation between the parties. That is undeniable.
Second, Killer Mike stated that “seven years after the Civil War, we were great”. He went on to run down a few statistics outlining this greatness i.e. only skilled laborers at the time, accumulation of 15million acres of land and wealth.
The reason this romanticized and inaccurate notion of “we were great then” is deeply problematic is that our achievements during that time, while real, were “illusionary”. “Life has two aspects: Defense and Development. What you cannot defend, it’s senseless to develop”. Racist whites may have seen our capabilities and even allowed us a little leeway, but they knew they could destroy our accomplishments any time they so desired and they DID.
Killer Mike’s referencing of “our greatness” after Civil War is just inaccurate. While we had black institutions and economically were doing good, we still lived under the constant real threat of violence, discrimination and death during that period. So his, “Candace was right and we were doing good” lacks historical context and paints an unrealistic picture of the complete Black existence during that time period.
At the same time of our great economic and educational achievements, we had no political power and therefore no decision making control over our own future. Almost all we built was destroyed at the whim and will of white racists. They controlled the police, the military, the militias and the mobs of white terrorists and unleashed them periodically whenever they felt we were “getting too big for our britches ” or getting too “uppity” or forgetting our ” place” or overstepping our bounds. All of us, the Black “Wall Street” class as well as the sharecroppers couldn’t go or do what whites deemed unacceptable without severe and even deadly consequences. No, America has never been great, especially during that time, when they could take any Black man, woman or child and hang them from the nearest tree, with impunity.
The perspective we take is that America has never been great as it relates to Black people. So the rhetoric of make America great AGAIN, which Candace Owens and even conservative commentator, Katrina Pierson support and espouse, doesn’t look good to Black people. Unless you can point to a specific time in America where it was great for Black people, we think Malcolm X’s assessment that he (and WE – Universal Black Family) didn’t see the American Dream but the American nightmare is the most correct view and most insightful response to the assertion that America was once great for Black folks.
We will use this example: Let’s juxtapose the experience of a white person’s grandfather who fought for his country, the U.S. of A., in World War 2 and a Black person’s grandfather who fought for that same U.S. of A. in the same World War 2 against the Germans. This will provide a clear example of why we don’t see a so called “great” America.
When the white soldier came back, he was greeted warmly, could use his G.I. bill to establish a good life for himself and his family, take advantage of all the richness America had to offer. Even before returning, the black soldier who went to war in Germany fighting for America was subjected to segregated ranks. If that wasn’t injurious enough, upon capture German prisoners, those very same ones fighting to advance white supremacy and exterminate millions of Jewish residents, were treated with more respect, dignity and fairness than Black American soldiers (this has a familiar feel today given our current “kid gloves” approach to white mass shooters/murderers vis-a-vis unarmed Black motorist and civilians). Then when Black soldiers and veterans returned back to the country we shed our blood for, we were not received as heroes and protectors but were greeted with oppressive Jim Crow laws and legalized segregation. Black soldiers were subjected to white mob violence and many were lynched, some even still in uniform. The white grandfather and the black grandfather experienced two separate and distinct Americas. One, the black soldier, got the American nightmare, the other, the white soldier, received the American dream.
Our last point of disagreement was with Killer Mike’s soliloquy about “illegal immigrants” taking Black folks jobs. Of top, there is no such thing as someone being “illegal” on stole land. Also immigration is a civil matter not a criminal matter. Yet in that statement reflects and echos white supremacist utterings and underpinnings… “other Brown and Black folks are the reason or part of the reason for my circumstances”. That is wrong. This is classic divide and conquer tactics used by the oppressor against marginalized peoples.
The emphasis should be on the real culprit, that white people control the money, resources and access AND dictate what Brown and Black folks value is, economically. So Killer Mike parroted the talking point of right wingers, racists and white supremacists when it comes to pitting minorities against each other. I don’t think the majority of Black folks believe what he said. Why?! Because we didn’t have jobs and weren’t getting paid our worth long before the new wave of immigrants and undocumented folks came to these shores.
Killer Mike, we love you brother… you are a strong, good brother accomplishing some major things for the Black community… BUT we just don’t see the issues outlined above the same!
Love & Struggle