Metaphysics, Materialism and the Struggle for Black Liberation
I remember my first introduction to “pro black” literature. I was young, couldn’t have been older than 7 or 8 years old, when my father showed me the Willie Lynch letters and excerpts from the “Issys Papers”. I thought these were the answers. I was taught that all Black people were descendents of kings and queens, and that all our people had to do was open our “third eye” to achieve full Black liberation. Documents like these taught that homosexuality was a European creation to destroy the Black family, and that a woman’s servitude to a man was correct and natural. In many Black communities, class consciousness and materialism is replaced with metaphysics and mysticism in an attempt to create some kind of “National Culture” for the Black person in America. It wasn’t until a decade later, I learned that it was all made up bullshit. Because Black oppression is a material struggle, Black liberation must also take on a material character, opposed to the metaphysical teachings of many separatists and the Hotep* school of thought. Why then, are so many Pro-Black types and Black nationalists so invested in studies of metaphysics? There are a few reasons for these dangerous trends.
The first reason for the dangerous trend of metaphysics and hotepism is the fact that it is easy. By easy, I mean that it requires no real knowledge of history, no real analyses of social systems, and no class consciousness. Writers who contribute to this school of thought capitalize off of the anxiety of having very little knowledge of their national identity that masses of Blacks in America face. Using this, they attempt to create an artificial identity for Blacks in the US. “We are all descendents from kings and queens in egypt” is the usual narrative, which is not only historically inaccurate seeing as though a majority of slaves came from West African, but it also erases the importance of the actual history of the Black diaspora and tells us that we are only deserving of liberation if we are the descendents of royalty. The nature of so much of this metaphysical garbage places an obnoxious amount of emphasis on a falsified national identity, that there is no room for an actual class analysis. In fact, class analyses are rejected on the grounds of them being “divisive to the Black community and struggle”. Black people (more specifically, cishet Black men) are not required to examine the relationships with groups within our own community. Our place in society is reduced to nothing more than this faux “blackness”, which is at the center of their analyses.
This reductionist outlook is dangerous because in lacking room for class analyses, the issues of class oppression, and the social hierarchies within our own nationality go completely ignored. This means that even if Black people ended up completely separate from White folks, there is no logical reason to believe that the oppressive hierarchies created by White supremacy and capitalism won’t carry on into the “decolonized” society. Colonization leaves a nasty scar, two of them being the scars of capitalism and class oppression. Bourgeois status is romanticized, and issues of misogyny, hypermasculinity, and queerphobia (which are direct results of European colonization) go untouched. The decolonized society is the exact same as the colonized, White supremacist society except instead of White men, Black men are the overseers of the oppression of women, the poor and queer people within the community. An understanding of Marx’s dialectical materialism and class oppression are necessary in not only decolonizing a colonized people, but fully liberating those people from the oppressive chains of capitalism. The metaphysical outlook focuses solely on things-in-themselves, and sees the world and world events as things that are outside of the control of the masses.
Another reason for the popularity of these metaphysical, pseudo-historical theories are the fact that they provide a sort of “divine plan” for Black people. It brings comfort to a people who have been exploited their entire lives to believe that there is some supreme being looking out for their best interests. However, it should be understood that if liberation is the will of some divine creator, than the oppression of Black people worldwide was also the will of that same creator, and if that be the case this is a creator that I want no connections with. What can be observed however, is the objective truth that every liberation movement started with the actions of mortal people. Whether or not we are the descendents of this king or that god, it is our responsibility to take our liberation into our own hands, and not rely on the goodwill of some “divine overseer” who oversaw the oppression of black people for over 400 years.
Lastly, within the Black community, given the non threatening and flexible nature of metaphysics, it is often the most accessible to Black folks who have been robbed of a proper education, looking to learn more about their history and place in society. History has shown us that Black nationalism on its own is not a threat to capitalism or white supremacy, the catalysts for our oppression. In fact, Black national consciousness can (and often does) exist alongside capitalist oppression and White supremacy. Marcus Garvey is a great example of Black nationalism cooperating with White supremacy. Garvey met with the KKK to help further his plot to send Black people “back to Africa” because he believed that Black people would not face the same forms of oppression as we did in the US, in colonized Africa. The first rule of liberation is that there can be no cooperation with the oppressor. The reason concepts like class consciousness and dialectical materialism are not as accessible in Black communities is that equipped with these tools we pose a direct threat to White supremacy. If Black people collectively understood that every economic system served a historic purpose, and that it was inevitable that each system proceed the last when its historic mission is completed, and that capitalism is in its final stages and a proletarian revolution that will do away with oppressive white supremacist social hierarchies is inevitable, we would be the most powerful people in this country. Which is why Black leaders who understood these concepts were assassinated, and or white washed, and systematically erased from history and school curriculums. These groups and individuals include W.E.B. Dubois, Huey P. Newton, Assata Shakur, The Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army, Thomas Sankara, and Nelson Mandela, who were all communists or socialists. In their place sprang up this pro-capitalist, bourgeois Hotep nonsense, and since it poses no threat to white supremacy, it was able to develop relatively unchallenged.
It is absolutely 100% necessary for Black people in the US to abandon metaphysics and adopt dialectical and historical materialism if we ever plan on achieving total liberation from the systems of White supremacy. We must also understand that capitalism in itself is a tool of White supremacy and the social hierarchies it promotes are the justification for our oppression. “Third Eyes” don’t exist, you can’t “charge” crystals in the moonlight, and a diet without pork won’t bring you closer to God, and even if it did, none of these things will help us overcome the systemic oppression we face at the hands of White supremacy. Metaphysics, Hotepism, and the works of writers like Francess Cress and the like, are obstacles in the movement for Black liberation, meant only to be trampled and exposed as the reactionary nonsense they are. They are weapons forged against the people. Our oppression is material, and only a materialist approach will liberate us.