Me thinks, Killer Mike is still a little sore about his candidate of choice not winning the nomination for president of the United States.
What am I talking about?
I’m talking about a video clip circulating around social media of the Atlanta-based rapper and former Bernie Sanders supporter, talking about Black folks not being ready for revolution.
The video is from a panel discussion at the All Black National Convention, which was held recently in Mike’s hometown. And according to one of the video’s commentors, Mike’s controversial remarks were in response to fellow panelist and audience member’s suggestion that young people, particularly, needed “to meet these police with force and retaliation.”
In the five-minute video, Killer Mike polled the audience about their level of revolutionary preparedness. More specifically he asked folks to raise their hands if they were trained in martial arts and knew how to hunt for their own food.
He then said that the lack of positive response to his poll was why he felt that the Black community could not survive a revolution. The video ends with several audience members interrupting him in protest.
You can check out the video below:
Personally, I find this thinking particularly ironic considering Mike’s most popular song is not about organizing farming communities and building community dojos, but rather folks rioting, rebelling and burning shit in the streets in protest.
But I won’t be totally dismissive. I too hate the overzealous intellectual-types who like to preach rebellion from the safety of their Ivory Tower or street corner soap box. And honestly, it couldn’t hurt to learn to rely one another – as well as ourselves.
Still, there is a subtle air of pessimism in Killer Mike’s critique of our community’s preparedness that makes me a bit leery.
The kind of pessimism formed out of both fear and hopelessness of our condition. The kind that says since we are outnumbered (70 percent of the country identifies as White), out-gunned and out resourced, we should accept our fate as perpetual second-class citizens.
The lazy kind of pessimism. The kind that ignores the fact that all White people don’t hunt or are trained in supermarkets or even on the same page politically. And the kind that forgets that Black folks ain’t never been helpless and we have always been survivors. And there were periods in history (like Mike alluded to in the video) when Black folks had our own.
But then what happened (see: the Tulsa Riots and Black Wall Street)?
A pessimism based in respectability. The kind that believes that what is happening to us is within our control. That we have some power. If only, we were “educated” right. If only we had the same political clout as our oppressors. If only we had our own banks, schools and boats. If only, we were united and all on the same accord – like the Borg.
It’s the kind of pessimism that ignores history. Specifically, how every major movement for social, political and economic justice or sovereignty started with folks, particularly those in the oppressed class (i.e. those without heavy artillery, large numbers and resources), who simply had had enough and decided to do something – anything – about it.
Think the American revolution and the Boston Tea Party.
Think the Stonewall riots
Think the Arab Spring.
Think the Orange Revolution.
Think Gaspar Yanga and the Maroons.
Think the single man standing in front of the line of tanks in Tiananmen Square
Think John Brown’s raid in Harper’s Ferry.
Think Claudette Colvin who sat on that bus by herself way before Rosa Parks did.
Think Jesus against the Pharisees…
Some folks died while others lived. But all went on to not only have a profound impact on history but progress the issue -whatever the issue might have been at the time – along.
Even episodic acts of riots and violence have been known to move society forward.
As noted by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in this 2011 column for the Socialist Workers Magazine, the urban rebellions of the 1960s were likely the encouragement the federal government needed to not only increase federal spending in urban areas but also to create the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
More specifically, Taylor writes:
“Not to be outdone, Vice President Hubert Humphrey directly connected the lack of aggressive congressional action on the rat control bill with growing alienation in urban areas. After the explosive riot in Newark, N.J., in the summer of 1967–and just days before the most deadly and destructive riot of the 1960s, in Detroit–Humphrey made a statement that shocked the political establishment. He said that without greater attention to the housing crisis in the U.S.:
‘We will have open violence in every major city and county in America…It is time for government officials to recognize that the National Guard is no answer to the problems of slums…People will not live like animals, nor should they live in some of the filthy rotten housing that make up urban ghettoes.’”
Every revolution doesn’t end in a dystopian wasteland where we all have to scour the area for food and water. Sometimes the best revolutions are fought and won by changing hearts and minds.
It should also be mentioned that Killer Mike wasn’t worried about our martial arts training when he was trying to recruit us for Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Because if you think standing up to the cops has been bad for us, imagine the how bad it would have been if Sanders had won and started pushing forward with his plans to break up the big banks?
Why, even the combined expertise of IP Man and Ong-Bak couldn’t save us from that fallout.
And granted there is nothing inherently wrong or counter revolutionary about supporting one another. As this current movement for social justice now goes into its third year, I am beginning to see how every strategy towards freedom – be it political, social and economically – all have a place in moving our agenda forward.
Still history has shown us that we don’t have to be a perfect people with the perfect plan to demand freedom. We just have to show up and do it.
As Martin had a plan. Malcolm had a plan. Garvey had a plan. Turner had a plan. And then what happened?