Why I Organize
by: Kadijah Means
White people ask me about the origins of my organizing most frequently. I gently remind interviewers that, as a Black person, I’ve always been Black. I have experienced many forms of racism since childhood. My activism is not the result of a teenage epiphany, but my life. There is no other option for me. The world told me that my Black skin, nappy hair, and wide nose weren’t worthy of praise. I firmly disagreed. I’ve been disagreeing for years now. Activism is how I survive. I often feel that white interviewers have a plan for their article before they sit down to hear my story. Therefore, I am always reluctant, though proud, to reveal my family’s history of activism, because so many assumptions about who I am are made. I eventually relent and explain my paternal grandmother worked with both the Black Panthers and Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers Association.
So when asked why I organize, I must note that there is always room for improvement in a country built on injustice. The United States has an unsettling habit of putting a band-aid over gaping wounds and ignoring them. These wounds go untreated until they get infected, or until an activist douses them in rubbing alcohol. Yes it is painful, but the truth hurts.
Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. The effects of white supremacy are wounds. Explicit and implicit bias are wounds and they are inflamed after each new act of bigotry: cultural appropriation, blackface parties, red lining and murder. When radicals—rationals—disrupt the idea of equity via direct action, they are cleansing the wounds of American slavery, Jim Crow etc., so that one day they will heal. As activists we remind the average American that although the symptoms may be less apparent than during slavery the wounds are not healed. White supremacy has not ended. We are not post-racial.
Challenging the idea of white supremacy is necessary for any change. I believe that the step after awareness is action. If you are ignorant of the crippling racial divide in this country, then you have made a choice not to educate yourself. We are past proving racism is thriving here. Check twitter. There’s a new hashtag every week, evincing the loss of Black life at the hands of white supremacy. While writing this, I checked twitter. I scrolled through news of more unregulated police brutality to find the next hashtag in my city, #NathanielWilks.
We don’t need to waste our time trying to prove there’s a problem to white people and skeptics. We’ve lived the injustice. We’ve seen our kin slaughtered. We’ve seen our people dehumanized, the Black body weaponized and denied childhood too many times. We’ve lived the struggle in every sense of the word. Either they care or they don’t. If we try to change every bigot’s mind, educate the ignorant, and console the “colorblind” white moderates, then Black liberation will never come.
I do not know if the revolution will happen, and I will make no predictions as to how it will occur, but I can assure you that it won’t happen if the movement is centered around white feelings.
Activist Deray Mckesson has coined the phrase “watch whiteness work” in regard to police cover ups, poor news coverage, and everyday white entitlement. I challenge you to watch whiteness erase, watch it destroy, and watch it destruct. The movement relies on Black people with free minds. Keep your eyes open and your fist up.
Kadijah is the chief of staff for the Afrikan Black Coalition’s communication department. You can follow her on twitter here.