What is Black Power, and What Does It Mean?
This question has been dealt with in various ways by different people. Thinking about the vicious murders of Black people by police, it is an important question to answer. Are we to be continuously gunned down by police officers and discriminated in against in the social system forever more? It is clear that the nation we live in is controlled by white power and that is run by white supremacy. White supremacy isn’t just people in Klan robes or Neo Nazis, but is systemic worldwide. The idea that Europeans are superior to others by nature, God given right, or by conquest is something that has been pushed fervently since 1492 and has successfully convinced many of the world’s peoples that this is true. It was in 1966 where Kwame Ture uttered the phrase “Black Power”. Since then and even before then different ideas about what Black Power is have been articulated by various black leaders.
Black cultural nationalism emphasizes the role of culture. Many think that before we have freedom, we first must fight culturally first. This is usually coupled with a rejection of Eurocentric thoughts, norms, ideas, and religion. Under white supremacy domination, Black culture is degraded and white culture is upheld as the norm. However culture in and of itself can’t gain anyone power. Many people have made being an “African” something that is unrealistic and ahistorical. The emphasis on superficial culture doesn’t change the outside world nor does it change the actual conditions we’re in. However, culture can play a positive role in liberation. All liberation of the oppressed has to face the idea that a cultural change needs to happen. Oppressed peoples also have to shed the culture of their oppressors.
Black representation within the system is problematic in that black elected officials get bought out and don’t represent our best interests. Black police shoot us just like white ones. The absence of adequate representation is a sign that we don’t live in a just society and the people who are chosen to represent us become tokens. Some see Black people in power as the equivalent of “Black Power”. The question becomes, who is this “Black Power” for? If Black representatives of the ruling class opress working class Black people then is that really Black Power?
Many eschew voting for either republicans or democrats and instead make an argument about group/collective economics. Black people, as a collective, lack economic power and our net worth as a collective has decreased in the past decade. While large capitalist institutions still benefit from the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Jim Crow, the new Jim Crow and present day discrimination keep black people from building wealth the same way white people can.
Historically speaking, the modern capitalist system was built off of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. Without it the amount of wealth accumulated by the ruling classes in Europe/Americas would not have been so disproportionate. Without slavery, America would have never become an industrial power and would not be the main superpower in the world. It is the main capitalist and white power entity on the planet and effectively shuts down any resistance at home or abroad.
Power is political, economic, and social, and cultural. One cannot have one without the others. Black Power must be all the above. White power is maintained through the racist capitalist system nationally and internationally. In order for their to be Black power is has to be a Black power for the oppressed and not just for the wealthy black people who have made it in the system. Black CEOs work for the same system we are against and Black celebrities and other well-to-do people often live in another world that doesn’t accurately reflect the experiences of the black masses.
Black Power can only exist when both white supremacy and capitalism are overturned as they are interrelated. The wealthiest of black folk can’t deliver our liberation because of their position in society. They benefit from the system. When we think about ideas of how to collectively pool our money together and help one another, we have to remember that “black dollars” are still green and no different from anyone else’s money. Yet who prints the money and makes it legitimate? When the economy crashes, that same dollar can become useless.
The system includes the corporate institutions, the schools, the police, the banks, and the social ideas that they pump in our heads. The corporations exploit us and feed us poison; the schools indoctrinate us, the police murder us, and the media feeds us propaganda. We are taught to look down on less fortunate black people. Black men are fed the idea that black women aren’t worthy of equality and that masculinity means dominating non cishetero Black people. The system teaches us to blame personal failings, not systemic issues for the problems we see in society. This system needs to be dismantled for us to have any “power” whatsoever any small changes can be taken back.
Black Power means we control all the institutions within our communities without outside interference, without exploitation, and without White supremacy.