Independence. Freedom. Liberation.
These synonyms are the most potent forms of human existence. And, for people of color, these concepts remain some of the most elusive. One of the main barriers to liberation is that many white people, and, unfortunately, some Black people, want the average Black person to have degrees of freedom. Not the same freedom that is matter-of-factly enjoyed by the privileged. Naw. Not when it comes to Black folks.
The denial of freedom isn’t always the bloody and gruesome story that we see in history books or viral videos. It isn’t just the stark and brutal oppression in the name of European benevolence, Manifest Destiny, and all the other sophisticated names for what was just ugly, vicious hatred of other human beings.
The denial of absolute freedom, the very same enjoyed by a few, and the championing of Black disenfranchisement and subordination continues through the same limbs of those who present themselves as “for the people.” Often the placard being held in one hand belies the actions being actually enacted by the other.
The resistance to absolute freedom comes from all angles. Booker T. types, “reformers”, some members of organized labor, fake Hoteps, long-lost organizations like the NAACP, lily white PWIs, with faculty who’ve always known what’s best for Black people, etc.
The Truth About Liberals
While there are steps to disenfranchise Black people further through fake voting fraud investigations, that several states, including Pennsylvania, are rejecting, there are other, more pervasive ways that Black folks continue to be marginalized and their enfranchisement wholly and consistently undermined.
The denial of independence and freedom is grounded in denial of access to quality of schools. Schools that educate our Black children, in particular, in our own neighborhoods have always been undermined through the restriction of funds, quality staff, and other resources.
And, the resistance to educational justice for all, one of the most basic human rights that include clean water, clean air, wholesome food, comes from all angles—even from our so called liberal friends.
There were liberals in antebellum South as well as in the North. There were some who could be considered active collaborators (putting themselves in harm’s way) in Blacks’ quest for justice such as John Brown (my personal favorite), William Lloyd Garrison, Thomas Garrett, and others.
But, there were many masked liberals who, although balked at the idea of enslavement for religious, moral, or, often, political reasons, were steadfast at keeping Black people subservient. Forever.
Decades ago, Malcolm X said it plainly,
The liberal elements of whites are those who have perfected the art of selling themselves to the Negro as a friend of the Negro. Getting sympathy of the Negro, getting the allegiance of the Negro, and getting the mind of the Negro. Then the Negro sides with the white liberal, and the white liberal use the Negro against the white conservative.
So that anything that the Negro does is never for his own good, never for his own advancement, never for his own progress, he’s only a pawn in the hands of the white liberal. The worst enemy that the Negro have is this white man that runs around here drooling at the mouth professing to love Negros, and calling himself a liberal, and it is following these white liberals that has perpetuated problems that Negros have. If the Negro wasn’t taken, tricked, or deceived by the white liberal then Negros would get together and solve our own problems.
Implicit Bias Will Continue to Champion the Status Quo
One of the primary, and most effective, places white people’s efforts to perpetuate Black subordination was and is in schools and education.
While today, “enlightened” liberals espouse the harm to America’s democracy when Black people exercise school choice, in yesteryear, educated and empowered Blacks were looked at as affronts to democracy.
In 1831, a group of Black male activists gathered for an anti-slavery convention in Philadelphia. One of their walkaway deliverables was to create a school for Black children in one of the New England states that had seduced them through their seemingly overwhelming support of the anti-slavery movement.
Eventually, white “liberals” rejected the aspirations of these Black men and razed the school they were building to the ground. This happened in Connecticut. It wasn’t the only bastion of “liberalism” and “goodwill” where Black folks’ aspirations for quality education were dashed either.
As we strive to establish schools that are well-funded, well-rounded, and successful in our neighborhoods, know that all the resistance to our liberation and independence won’t come from white-robed masked men and women. Those who are absorbed with implicit (and explicit) biases will continue to champion the status quo.
As James D. Anderson reminds us in his brilliantly researched book, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935, “It is crucial for an understanding of American educational history…to recognize that there have been essential relationships between popular education and the politics of oppression. Both schooling for democratic citizenship and schooling for second class citizenship have been basic transitions in American education.”
Our collective independence, liberation, and freedom has always, and will always be yoked to our communities’ access to quality education and schools.
At the end of the day, liberals who are serious about the humanity of others, don’t “take up space, take up the inherent risks” of fighting for equity and justice of communities of color.
In the meantime, beware of our masked liberal friends. Black folks aren’t the only ones who wear masks. But, our masks are worn to survive. Some of our liberal “friends” masks are worn to maintain the status quo.