Black studies in the 21st century: resistance to colonization, globalization, and genocide.

Author:Kunnie, Julian E.


Given the turn of the twentieth century 15 years ago and the crises facing the Earth and all life on the planet, Black Studies is one of the few remaining indispensable disciplines that provides an illumination of the history of the world through the epistemological lens of African people on the continent of Africa and the Diaspora that speaks to the condition of the intensified decimation of impoverished humans, the annihilation of the ecology, and the obliteration of life itself through protracted extinction of plant and other forms of life and relentless wars against Mother Earth.

The progressive alienation and marginalization of young people from working class communities, especially those of color, from strong ancestral roots that has sparked a sense of embedded nihilism, depression, and devaluation, induced by a high-tech electronic culture that forcibly submerges 2 billion youth around the world in an illusory world fabricated by television, computer, iphone, ipad, and tablets, is another critical dimension warranting earnest interrogation and subversion by the field of Black Studies that has been historically concerned with the radical liberation of the oppressed and the transformation of a colonized, capitalist, and imperialized globalized world into one humane, just, and peace-loving. (The Times, South Africa, February 12, 2015).

The unprecedented escalation of the institution for the incarceration of youth, again particularly of color, that has grown 700% over the past three decades in the U.S., and now locks away close to a million Black women and men, is a sub-discipline within Black Studies that all Black Studies educators are called to analyze. Further, the intensification of the impoverishment of the world's women maintained, institutionalized, and enforced by the system of colonial patriarchy and globalized capitalism, the majority of whom are persons of color, sharpens the thrust of Black Studies in the 21st century that sparks a powerful nexus with womanist, women's and gender studies. Women, the bearers and reproducers of life, can no longer afford to be silenced or made invisible by any academic discipline, including Black Studies.

One of the noted developments in the last two decades has been the momentum in Black women's and gender studies where issues of culture, sexuality, and mutuality of women and men have come to the fore. Scholars like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, Barbara Smith, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Toni-Cade Bambara, Paula Giddings, Patricia Hill Collins, Audrey Lorde, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, Barbara Ransby, Darlene Clark Hine, Nell Painter, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, and others, have drawn on the works of revolutionary Black women freedom fighters like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Nzingha, Nehanda, Yaa Asantewa, and other warriors, and have developed important scholarship in the Black women's liberation movement, all of which are integral to the Black Studies movement today (Aidoo, 1993; Amadiume 1987; Bambara 1970; Bell, Parker and Guy-Sheftall 1979; Clark-Hine 2005; Davis 1983; Giddings 1984; hooks, 1981; Hudson-Weems 1984; Hull, Scott and Smith et al 1982; Collins 2000; Lorde 1984; Morrison 1987; Nnaemeka 1998; Ogundipe-Leslie 1994; Oyewumi 1997; Painter 1996; Ransby 2005; Steady 1994; Terborg-Penn 1998; and Walker 1985).

Black Studies in the 21st century ineluctably assumes a formidable holistic character, demanding the resistance to the interlocking evils of racism, classism, gender colonization, and cultural oppression that continue to dehumanize Black people and all impoverished people in a globalized world.

Black Studies is essential to educationally expose the biological warfare foundation of the AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) epidemic (and the fallacy that the AIDS virus causes AIDS) that is responsible for the "... toxic poisoning of young people in the West and the industrial poisoning and social disruption of Africa ... pure insanity ..." in the words of medical scholar, Nancy Turner Banks (Banks, 2010). In the same vein, Black Studies is concerned with the return to ancestral ways of living and knowing, in harmony with the rest of the natural world and the cycles and circles of nature, including with natural ways of cultivating, growing, and eating food.

This article will illuminate the radical calling of Black Studies in the 21st century, as a leading cutting-edge discipline that challenges the foundations of academia and the social structures of globalized oppression, so that African and other indigenous and colonized people can be impelled towards praxes of resistance and wholeness in the deliberation towards liberation from every form of genocide, given the historical and contemporary persistence of colonialism and imperialism toward eradicating Black people from the face of Mother Earth by the obdurate refusal to recognize the humanity and cultural integrity of Black people.

Black Studies and the History of Black Genocide

Even though African people and peoples of the Mediterranean and the rest of what subsequently came to be known as Europe (Europe is a 200-year concept following the consolidation of colonial imperialist powers from that part of the world), had amicable relations for many centuries, however, the stripping away of the resources of "Europe" by monarchical and imperialistic powers from the medieval period in which Europe's forests, ecology, and coastlines were depleted of natural resources by the 14th century that resulted in a barren landmass devoid of any vital economic wherewithal, induced the aristocracy within countries like Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Italy, and Belgium to pursue the trade in African people from what was then called the Gold Coast (Ghana) in the 17th century (Crosby 1986; Jackson 1970; Harris 1987; Rodney 1980; Sale 1990). Thus, "Europe" itself has never contributed anything distinctive to the diversity of human civilizations save the plunder of the Earth and capitalist accumulation; in terms of "civilization," it was that part of the world that developed the "finer arts of civilization" last (using the Eurocentric linear sense of time!) compared to Africa, Asia, and the Americas. W.E.B. Du Bois accurately pointed out in this regard that, "... Europe has never produced and never will in our day bring forth a single human soul who cannot be matched and overmatched in every line of human endeavor by Asia and Africa ..." (Lewis, 2005).

Europe itself was an ideological construction that is only two centuries old, fabricated to justify the "superlative" and distinctive "civilizations" of the European colonial powers so that European economic and political hegemony and white supremacy could be foisted down the throats of indigenous peoples of color around the world (Toynbee, 1987; Bernal, 1987, 1991, 2006).

The progressive decline of towering and formidable states like Ghana, Mali, and Songhay from the 9th through the 15th centuries left a swath of the African continent severely debilitated, socially fragmented, and economically vulnerable to external invading and eventual enslaving and colonizing forces. European slavers thus took advantage of the socio-economic decay on the continent and set into motion what would become the largest violent depopulation of indigenous people from their ancestral homelands in Africa through a process of chattel slavery in the western hemisphere--North and South America and the Caribbean--where indigenous peoples there numbering in the tens of millions were themselves subject to policies of systematic genocide as the result of Iberian conquest, colonization, and enslavement (Galeano, 1997). African people were kidnapped, brutalized, raped, maimed, and forcibly removed from their homelands in Africa onto slave-ships that began a torturous journey across the Atlantic into the already stolen lands of indigenous Indians in the Americas. That legacy of unprecedented cultural violence and chattel slavery that induced what came to be known as the "Black Holocaust."

It was the very institution of chattel slavery that provided the foundations for the emergence of monopoly capitalism and the cultivation of the richest materialist European ruling class in history in the subsequent United States empire, now the most powerful economically in the world (Baptist, 2014; Chinweizu, 1974; Du Bois, 1946; Inikori and Engerman, 1998; Johnson, 2013). Yet for African people in the Diaspora, that legacy of enslavement and forced dispossession and cultural decimation from indigenous African ancestral roots on the Motherland, Africa, has generally produced a painful cultural inferiority in which the perceptions of racist Europeans that dehumanized Africans are continually reinforced through the historical and contemporary machinations and working of white supremacy in the 21st century. Though the evil of white supremacy in the world was predicated on specious claims of Western European cultural supremacy that ostensibly traced its roots to classical Greece (a civilization that itself was built on the cultures and civilizations of ancient Africa like Egypt, Nubia, and Ethiopia), the damage from continued white supremacist violence for four consecutive centuries has taken its toll on the world, particularly in the United States, where white supremacy has reached epidemic proportions and the vulgarity and ugliness of anti-Black hostility is boundless, witnessed recently for example in the spate of virtual daily killings of Black men by trigger-happy police officers.

The fact of white supremacy being reproduced daily within the curricula of the U.S. educational system, reinforced by a racist media establishment, a judiciary, a political order where whites hold the bulk of power even in predominantly Black settings, and most importantly, an economic system where Blacks possess...

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