Teaching life: Black freedom, Palestinian liberation

I am not writing this to provide fodder for the onslaught of Zionist and inherently racist rhetoric that is sure to accompany my words in the comments section once this is posted online. It is not that I don’t respect those who disagree with the basic aim of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which is “to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.” I simply cannot, as a black man in America, waste any energy engaging those whose denial of reality and the existence of white supremacist propaganda threatens my existence and the lives of countless others, including my Palestinian siblings in the struggle for earthly freedom and self-determination. I, like hundreds of students on this campus, am simply in the business of unapologetic truth telling. This is not the “Black voice” on the “issue” of Palestine — this is my Black voice on how Palestine is my issue.

To be Black in America is to both have your back used as a bridge and your bones used as toothpicks after colonial digestion of the displaced — to make sense of the nonsensical and wash away the deep imprint of history on the individual consciousness. Black people in the United States have always been towering trees with damaged, scarred roots, as the late political leader Marcus Garvey reminded us. To be Black and to be Palestinian are to be free with centuries of colonial imposed asterisks.

Black people in America and worldwide must reject the hegemonic white supremacist narrative that insists our continued oppression, co-option and mortality are isolated incidents. As the Black, radical activist Angela Davis said, “Once we know something, let’s not pretend we don’t know it.” Just as the racial hierarchy and all of its spoils, born from the greatest (slave) nation in the world, are not accidental, nor are the bombs dropped on schools in Rafah or the maintenance of hundreds and hundreds of militarized checkpoints throughout occupied Palestine. As a black American, not only will my silence, as Audre Lorde says, not protect me, but that silence is, in fact, a resounding endorsement of the same violence that continues to be visited upon my community, my body and the bodies of those I love.

While those that lead and benefit the most from the white supremacist state that is these United States of America have no incentive to advocate for the liberation of Palestine, black Americans are, as are anti-Zionist Jews, implored by our own histories to say, “or nah … not in my name,” with the aim of making visible the obfuscated connections between oppressions worldwide. Our oppression is not identical, yet our resistance is inextricably connected. This work demands that I refuse to engage in futile discourse and instead focus on subversive education of my self and of my community. To rupture the fear that there is not enough space or time or money or people to fight for revolution in every context is critical and, as a Black person, I cannot afford to buy into the myth that I am alone.

I am never alone. Neveen Jamjoum was never alone. Mohammed Abu Khdeir was never alone. Tamir Rice was never alone. We are and always have been united in our resistance to that murderous and malicious violence manifested in nation, in mob, in police officer and in wall. We are together, so let’s not pretend we don’t know it.

Let’s not pretend that we must prioritize speaking love and power to the oppressed bodies of some while neglecting others — being honest about the terror that millions contend with everyday is not an option. Let’s not pretend that violent resistance is a cause and not an effect. Let’s not pretend that Palestinians can refuse being bombed anymore than Blacks in the U.S can refuse being shot down like prey. It is our societal positioning that makes invitation or consent to this violence a blatant fallacy. Let’s not pretend that when little Black and Brown children are taken from their parents, their blood is not on the hands of the silent and supportive. Especially considering the work being done by paranoid Zionist lobbies like AIPAC to shore up support among Latinos and Black Americans for Israel’s crimes against humanity, it is imperative that I remind myself again and again: The oppression of Palestinians is, and always has been, a civil rights issue that demands my attention.

As a Black American, I am descendant of a people that have for centuries known resistance like the backs of their hands and the tips of their noses. Resistance is not an option, but how I choose to resist is. I choose to resist beautifully, paying close attention to the ways in which I am implicated in the erasure of others, and reminding myself that I am not the first Black man to wake up unsure of everything.

As Tufts’ Students for Justice in Palestine continues to provide a radically honest and approachable forum for discussing what Palestinian liberation means on campus during this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week, I urge Black students to learn more and embrace a politic that centers around narrative disruption, embracing resistance and radical realness over superficial comfort and accommodation of white discomfort. We cannot afford to get lost in neo-liberal rhetoric of respectability and co-operation.

Let me be clear: Those that stand in the way of Palestinian liberation, either through inaction or reinforcement of the settler-colonist’s narrative of symmetrical power and religious fanaticism are not allies to Black people, nor are they our accomplices in the dismantling of the post-colonial world.

I don’t care if you’re cute or vegan, or anti-nation, or a socialist, or voted for Jill Stein or that you listen to The Roots. If you’re not about my freedom (and Palestinian freedom, right now) then I’m not about you.

To resist truly is to love acutely, and Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadah summed up this sentiment beautifully when she said, “We Palestinians teach life … after they have occupied the last sky.”

We teach life … and don’t intend on stopping anytime soon.


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