MLK Day: I have a dream for liberation from the Congo to Palestine

Good afternoon everyone,

It is an honor to be with all of you on this incredibly important day.

I’ll jump right in and start with an article about Dr. King’s judicious internationalism, written by Anthony Syracusa. In the article, he says:

Dr. King called on the US to undergo a radical revolution of values. He believed that Jim Crow segregation and the war in Vietnam were rooted in the same ethic of race-based domination. By 1967, Dr King’s religious vision for nonviolence went beyond street protests, to include abolishing what he called the “triple evils” threatening American society. He defined them as racism, poverty, and militarism.

And the interplay between these 3 forms of violence continues to define our present world.

Here I’d like to reference the work of another Black radical thinker. 

Cedric Robinson believed that Marxism failed to account for the racial character of capitalism. He rejected the idea that capitalism was a break from feudalism. For him, capitalism and racism evolved to produce “racial capitalism” which relies on colonialism, slavery, and genocide. 

Racial capitalism created the modern global system we live in, by making race central to all kinds of hierarchies – hierarchies that guarantee life, liberty, and freedom to some but not to others.

Racial capitalism explains why the US and UK are bombing Yemen to protect shipping lanes, but refuse to protect the lives of Brown children in Gaza. Racial capitalism explains why the House passed a $14.5 billion package in additional aid to Israel. The understanding is that Israel will spend that money on US bombs, and redirect taxpayers’ money (which is publicly owned) into private pockets. Racial capitalism is why the impulse to ‘empty’ Gaza went hand in hand with bids for gas exploration along its coastline.

In the same way, the intersection between racism, the creation of ethnic divisions by colonial powers, and non-stop, capitalist extraction has led to horrors in the Congo. In Sudan too, the atrocities that we are seeing emerge from a divide and rule policy that created conflict and facilitated colonial theft. 

Whether it’s the domestic policing of Blacks, immigrants and Muslims, increased incarceration and border security, or racist wars such as the war on terror or the war on drugs, we always return to the unholy alliance between racism, economic exploitation and military violence.

Hence, we must rely on Dr King’s sharp analysis and remember that we can only fight today’s unjust systems, if we make the connection between racism, capitalism, and unending wars. 

Let’s erase the colonial divisions and fractured ways of thinking imposed on us by imperial regimes, and find strength in resistance and solidarity. We are the majority, and we have much more in common than we can ever imagine. Thank you.  

My speech at the Nassau County Legislature, 1550 Franklin Ave, Mineola, on Monday 1/15/24 at 12PM

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