By Aswad Walker
Blackfolk, we have to accept a hard truth: we have been conditioned to bend over backwards in extending compassion, love, forgiveness and expressions of humanity to everyone on the planet (mainly whitefolk), yet don’t give that same compassion, love, forgiveness and expressions of humanity to each other.
Knowing this, I’m still absolutely amazed at how many of us are attacking each other for not crying crocodile tears for the late Queen Elizabeth. There are Blackfolk who are absolutely irate with other Blackfolk for not wrapping themselves in sackcloth and ashes and entering into a period of deep mourning, while also having the unmitigated gall to “bring up old sh*t” like the absolutely brutal and horrific colonization by the British Empire that killed millions of Blacks and other people of color—and literally created the wealth upon which the British crown rests. These Blackfolk pointing out the history non-melanated folk don’t want us to teach or learn are being labeled as “mean,” “tasteless,” “classless,” and a bunch of other adjectives…by other Blackfolk!
Lord, have mercy.
We are the only people on the planet who suffer some horrific tragedy (i.e. the mass murder at St. Emanuel AME Church a few years ago), and then news reporters ask surviving family members “Will you forgive the murderer?” And, we’re the only people on the planet who will then prioritize forgiving the murderer of our family members over seeking justice or seeking the healing we need ourselves.
And we extend that same illogic to the passing of the Queen. Many of us think it’s hard-hearted to actually point out a gruesome history of cruelty and global theft that made the United Kingdom a wealthy superpower and hurled countless African and Latinx nations into abject poverty.
I contend that you don’t have to question Blackfolk’s humanity. We damn near always extend it to the Nth degree (except to each other). We feel the pain of any family who is suffering the loss of a loved one. And we feel and respect and empathize with the Queen’s people. But bringing to the attention of the public about this gruesome past that is still impacting our gruesome “present,” is not being disrespectful. Rather, it’s attempting to wake us up so we don’t consign ourselves to an equally gruesome future.
On Sept. 12, 1977, a former medical student-turned-political activist, Steve Biko, was brutally tortured and murdered by the apartheid regime in South Africa, a country colonized in 1806 by the British Empire. What was the crime for which Biko was tortured and murdered? For attempting to wake his people up to their worth and value as human beings—a definite crime in the eyes of the colonizers whose profits and plunder depended upon Blackfolk failing to recognize their own humanity.
But Biko and South Africa is just one example of the blood that’s on the British Monarchy’s hands—blood they have for centuries refused to apologize for or shed a tear for (like those tears so many of us are shedding for the Queen).
While we’re mourning the United Kingdom’s loss, who is mourning those who perished at the hands of the British Empire? Who is mourning our ancestors in St. Lucia, Grenada, Bermuda, St. Kitts, Barbados, Nevis, Jamaica, the Bahamas, India, the 13 colonies of the US, Canada, Tasmania, Australia, Singapore, Palestine, Transjordan, Iraq, Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Nigeria, Ghana and so many more?
One media person discussing this paradox within the Black community said the British Empire, regarding its treatment of Blackfolk and other people of color, has “a checkered past.” I beg to differ.
If checkers is the simpler, basic “game,” then what the British Empire did (and is still doing) to Pan-African nations is not checkers, it’s chess.
Chess is that game that requires deep thinking, strategy and purposeful moves made while envisioning the future moves of your opponent. What the British Empire has done to steal the wealth from the African continent (and then have the nerve to display much of it in their museums and wear it as jewelry around their necks and built it into their castles in which they reside to this day), is chess, not checkers.
It was no accident. It was not haphazard. It required deep thinking, strategy and purposeful moves of coordinated and directed cruelty and theft. And they did this, they have done this, they are still doing this without one thought of shedding a tear for the Black and Brown lives taken and wealth pilfered.
If you are one of those Blackfolk who are outdone and “throwed” off and in deep mourning over the passing of Queen Elizabeth, I am certainly not attacking or belittling you. You are displaying that deep well of humanity that we seem to have in abundance.
My prayer, however, is that we reach into that well and share that same level of care and concern for each other. And maybe also for those folk murdered in mass (and their surviving families) by the British Empire.
Maybe then, we’ll start playing some chess of our own.