A few weeks ago I wrote about Afroblivion and Afrotropia – the interrelated acts of forgetting Africa and distorting the ideological remnants of her image. In the weeks following that post, I have tried to direct my mind to how these two epistemically violent acts can be ended. For seekers, epistemic violence is the violence of knowledge production, the discourse involved in the practice of ‘othering’, using language to differentiate, demarcate, demean and ultimately dehumanise, thus inevitably creating the conditions for physical violence. When we think about it in this way, we see that Africa’s symbolisation as other, as less than human, as incompetent, has always framed African interaction with the rest of the world, whether it be on the continent or the diaspora. The practice of slavery is thus linked to colonialism and inexorably linked to social-engineering that masquerades as developmental measures. Thus we see that the goal of speaking of a new Africa is a serious, necessary and collective work. It is work directed to freedom; it is work for ending violence. How do we do this work?
Seek truth, read, listen, think, ask: I have lamented over and over again about the fact that African education systems seems designed to distort knowledge and not produce it. I make bold to say that no education system in the world is designed to seek the truth about Africa. NONE IN THE WORLD. So the imperative about learning African history and philosophy and science and reality is one which we have to take up as an individual responsibility. It has taken me a while to come to grips with political blackness and how it affects Africa and I am still learning everyday. Read books, articles, form discussion groups, go to conferences, network… piercing the darkness takes persistence and sacrifice.
Insist, resist, dismantle: The purpose of educating ourselves is to unveil the system of epistemic violence. The social construction of the world does not make this easy. Our schools do not teach the existence of anti-blackness as a global reality. By the time we graduate/start job hunting, we have been inculcated into the anti-Black system, such that we try to conform in a way that negatives our African consciousness. Anti-Blackness is a system which can be evidenced in many forms including Afroblivion and Afrotropia, also individual acts of racism or misogynoir. But like most systems of negative socialisation and repression, it is insidious and unseen; it also requires the complicity of its victims. Basically, we uphold this system because we do not see it. We need to unveil the system to we can dismantle it, because we cannot dismantle what we cannot see. So that is the first task – unveiling anti-Blackness in what we do, what we read, being able to recognise it. Only then can we dream of dismantling it. Dismantling Afroblivion and Afrotropia requires persistence, speaking up when no-one else does. Ignoring the eye-rolls from those who think we are being oversensitive. As Sara Ahmed says, refusing to be over, what we are not yet over. Pointing to the brick walls again and again and again saying ‘there they stand, those walls of oppression.’ And someday someone else will see and join. And then, and only then are we able to dismantle together, brick by brick, the walls that have caged us in.
Reach out, connect, pass on the flame: A lot of people can recognise anti-Blackness, but no one can dismantle it alone. Think of Obama, as president of a whole USA, he was unable to dismantle anti-Blackness. Kofi Annan as Secretary-General of the UN could not dismantle anti-Blackness. Furthermore, many times we argue different parts of the movement as if they are in opposition to each other – race and gender; empire and race; class and race; gender and class etc. We fail to realise that our arguments exist in the anti-Blackness movement but in different parts of its house. Dismantling Anti-Blackness is the job of a persistent and passionate, connected and concerted movement. The problem with the creation of a neoliberal, capitalist post-structural world is that we have become increasingly individualistic. We do not realise that we have been pushed off into silos. But we should be lighthouses. A silo operates in isolation from others; a lighthouse shines a light into the darkness of Anti-Blackness, illuminating the unseen, providing a powerful light that continuously signals to others the possibility of freedom. Which is why I speak Pan-Africanism. It is OUR collective and together work that will end Anti-Blackness. Pan-Africanism is now. Freedom is now.