This last several days have been heavy and dispiriting. Last Thursday, we breathed a collective sigh of relief that was all too brief. Our days, weeks, months, and years of organizing was successful in having the life of Julius Jones be spared from the death penalty in Oklahoma only hours before his scheduled execution. While the immediate theft of his life was blocked, Governor Stitt’s final hour clemency remanded Julius to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Julius has been on death row for more than 20 years for a crime that he was falsely accused of committing when he was a 19-year-old student at the University of Oklahoma. Just a day later, Kyle Rittenhouse, who – at 17-years-old – was driven by his mother across state lines and murdered two Black Lives Matter protestors and injured a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was acquitted on all charges. The criminal legal system protected this vigilante murderer, condoning the premeditated killngs committed at his hands, and made him a “hero” among white supremacists. Supposed “liberals” in the establishment gave a nod to Rittenhouse and the system, with President Joe Biden affirming, “I stand by what the jury has concluded. The jury system works.” Here in Los Angeles, Deputy Sheriff Luke Liu, the only cop to ever be charged under the tenure of ousted District Attorney Jackie Lacey of the 648 police killings on her watch, was acquitted in the murder of #FranciscoGarcia. This week we are bracing ourselves for the verdict in the McMichaels v. Bryant case – the murderers of #AhmaudArbery in Brunswick, Georgia, where Black pastors and organizers supporting the Arbery family at the trial have been cast as threats.
In the words of Paul Robeson, “The battle front is everywhere.” We are experiencing a full-on backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement-moment. Police violence is spiking in Los Angeles (with 61 people shot by LAPD so far this year) and across the country. Instead of defunding the police, police departments are proposing massive increases to their budgets, and elected officials, readying themselves for reelection or their next office, are falling in line. The erosion of Black political power through redistricting is happening everywhere from Galveston, TX to Los Angeles. Renewed attacks on ethnic studies in school districts around the country are gaining steam. Environmental racism is global and its effects are near permanent. Racist-misogynist-capitalist David Schwartzman was allowed to buy the Crenshaw Mall, despite the superior bid of Downtown Crenshaw. Gentrification is running rampant. Black folks are living in tents…comprising nearly 80% of the population on Skid Row and 40% of the unhoused city-wide and there is no plan to provide permanent-supportive housing. And we are witnessing support for Black Lives Matter wane among white folks. These hits can make it seem as if the system of white-supremacist-capitalism has won and is undefeatable.
Rather than retreat, however, now is when we must pause only long enough to restore ourselves and each other. Now is when we must assess the battles that we face and the war to be won. Now is when we must renew our commitment to struggle – not simply against white-supremacist-capitalism, but towards imagining and building new visions for the world and for Black people.
“Capitalism doesn’t love Black people,” says Jan Williams, core organizer of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and Downtown Crenshaw. Each of these struggles represent the convergence of white supremacy and a fundamentally exploitative economic system. White-supremacist-capitalism requires violent policing to protect it. Modern-day policing places the same targets on the backs of Black people through LASER zones, “hot spots,” and racist policing as the system of chattel-slavery-era paddy rollers from which it hails. White-supremacist-capitalism profits from gentrification, labor exploitation, environmental degradation, prison labor and consumerism. White-supremacist-capitalism is embodied by Walmart…inside which both #JohnCrawford and #StevenTaylor’s lives were stolen by police. White-supremacist-capitalism says that an alleged petty theft is worth the lives of Black mothers #RedelJones and #YuvetteHenderson.
When we think about the enormity of what we face…the thousands of lives stolen by police violence, each hashtag, police budgets in the billions, tens of thousands of our folks living unhoused, poisoned water, people confined to cages, centuries of miseducation, and the oppression embedded into every crevice of every system, it is too overwhelming to fight against. We must hold the line nonetheless. More than fighting against these structures that pummel us constantly, though, we must build new systems. We must dare to set our own agenda. Rather than merely resisting white-supremacist-capitalism, we must embrace and build cooperative economics (ujamaa).
For the last seven years, Black Lives Matter has been challenging people to “dream of a Black Xmas,” to intentionally use our resources to: #BuildBlack (invest in Black-led, Black-serving organizations), #BuyBlack (spend exclusively with Black-owned businesses from Black Friday through New Year), and #BankBlack (move our money from white corporate banks to Black-owned ones). In 2020, #BlackXmas expanded to a nationwide campaign, with a website, blackxmas.org, that provides a listing of organizations to support and businesses to shop. #BlackXmas is about not simply struggling against the systems that enable Rittenhouse, McMichaels, Schwartzman, Walmart, racist policing, violence, and exploitation, but fighting on our terms. #BlackXmas challenges us to shake off the chains of consumerism and step fully into our own collective power, to build new traditions, and run an offense as well as a defense. #BlackXmas is about being self-determined and felling existing structures by building new, and more viable, beneficial ones…in the names of our mightiest and most righteous warrior Ancestors, in the names of those stolen by police violence, in honor of our community, and as a commitment to the generations to come.