[SAVARI and Round Table India are doing a series to put together the Bahujan perspective on the Coronavirus pandemic]
Pushpendra: Hi Akil. Let us start with your brief introduction for the readers in India.
Akil: For the future audiences, I am Akil Bakari, a long time activist here in America. I have worked for the past thirty-some odd years here in Jackson, Mississippi, which is in the south-eastern part of the internal US empire. I am a network engineer by training and I manage a technology company. That’s a little bit about me.
Pushpendra: We have been hearing about a lot of police brutality, which is a serious issue in America and there is a lot of discussion around racism. I would like to ask you how the issues of police brutality and racism are tied in with the issues of social and economic inequality?
Akil: The role of law enforcement in America since its inception was to control and police Black bodies. That’s it! That’s always been its role. It has never been about anything other than that in its essence. There are Black and Brown people within that institution; there are some decent people individually that are in that institution. But make no mistake about it; it is functioning as it was designed. It was designed to function in this manner. Period. It’s not like oh it is malfunctioning.. no no. It is functioning as it was designed. And as we are here in the late stage of vulture capitalism…. the increase in police repression and police terrorism is here with us because of the huge contradiction of the late stage vulture capitalism. And, what you are seeing manifest is young white people who have been lied to. What I mean by that is that they were told you are young and white, you have got all the credentials and education and you have this white privilege. And they have had that to a degree but not a degree to which they were told they had. And now what you have because of this huge contradiction of vulture capitalism whereby you have young white people who are saddled with mounds of student loan. They have all these credentials, but they can’t find the type of employment that will compensate them in a way that has been told to them historically or that has been demonstrated to white people in this country. So what you are seeing is a merging of the generational struggles of Black and Brown people in this internal US empire and the struggles of young white people that actually started with Occupy Wall Street, some ten years ago. That’s what you are seeing, combining with all the other factors, you know, the global pandemic.. So all of these forces and factors have merged into this moment.
Pushpendra: Akil, I would also like to ask you about this moment in American history. Do you find it specifically unique and unprecedented in the sense that these things have not happened before? Or is this a very unique moment?
Akil: Actually no. This is cyclical. This is the point that I am making. Carol Anderson is a professor at Emory University. She wrote this book 7 years ago that details the historical fact that anytime there is a white perception of Black upward mobility in this country there is a huge backlash. You can chart it from the end of physical enslavement of Black people who actually freed themselves— and that’s another conversation we should have, about who freed whom, or the myth of somebody freeing Black folks—Reconstruction. There was a huge backlash. Reconstruction was for roughly 11 years. Then there was the civil war and it was in response to the perception of Black upward mobility, the keyword here is perception, there was a hundred years of lynching that followed. And each time the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act passed in the 1960s… There were other Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act passed in the Reconstruction (era).. So you have the second iteration of those Acts. There was a huge backlash during the presidency of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, law and order, mass incarceration. So, 8 years of Obama, (led to) the perception and the myth of post-racial thing in this country and (now) you’ve got this huge backlash of overt white supremacy which is what this country was founded on and the visible increase, because it has always gone on, in the police repression and terror – in response. And you have in Trump the most vile nature of American society manifesting itself in the highest office in the land. So this is cyclical.
Pushpendra: If we look at various socio-economic indicators they give quite a grim picture. The socio-economic health of specific communities in America is not very good; with that background what is this a backlash to? Could you talk a little bit about the perception of upward mobility you are referring to? It is important here to know how far African-American communities have come.
Akil: The keyword in the previous answer is perception. They (the Black community) hold up successful athletes and entertainers, the Obama presidency as an illusion of Black upward mobility, Black empowerment for the lack of a better term. Which in reality is not widespread. We have the subjugated Black nation within the internal American empire. My political philosophy trains me, that is why I speak in those terms that we are a subjugated nation within the internal American empire. And as such the vast amount of poverty, the historical nature of Black oppression in America has been kept under a thin veneer but the cover has been ripped out and apart due to this Covid19 pandemic. All of the ills that we and others face in this country – lack of healthcare, proper housing, access to healthy and nutritious food, clean water, every element that contributes to a healthy lifestyle – the overwhelming majority of our people don’t have access to those things. That’s why I say the illusion of Black upward mobility, Black prosperity and the lie and illusion of America.
Pushpendra: It is interesting that you use the word ‘empire’ and I think it captures America very well. Could you please talk a little bit more about why you use that term and what do you mean by it?
Akil: As the late EL-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, commonly known as Malcolm X said: history is the best teacher. The best rewards come from history. So just look at the history of America. It is a colonial, settler state. That’s what it is. That’s how it was founded. And it has subjugated the population or different populations here. The indigenous folks who were here, they were exterminated and their land confiscated. Just straight up gangsters took their land. They kidnapped and transported African people to this country as a labour force. Even North American whites, to a degree. If you study the inception of this country, particularly people without land or property, and see how they were treated and still to this day they are treated that way (including) Asians (and) South-Asians. So you have this mix. That way America is an empire, it has a global footprint, it has hundreds of military bases all across the globe. It’s an empire. It is interesting that over the past 5-7 years even those who support America are characterising it as an empire. They don’t characterise the internal apparatus of America but we do because that is what it is and that is how people are dealt with in this country.
We are living in very interesting times and I say that not in a cavalier type of way but what I am saying and what you are seeing is that these white people aren’t careful. It is the unravelling of the myth of America. What I mean by this is that there has always been this myth of the so called ‘United States’ and you see how the federal government is moving in terms of the Trump administration and how these governors and mayors and how these so-called blue states are moving and reacting as opposed to the so-called red states moving and reacting. This time that we are living in is the continuation of the Civil War. That’s what this is.
Pushpendra: I was reading your interview with Noel, published in Prabuddha in 2018. In that you talk about how North American whites have also been an oppressed community, as you also mentioned it just now. For people who don’t know about the American context how would you describe that? In what sense are the North American whites oppressed.
Akil: Whiteness is obviously an artificial construct that has been put in place as a buffer between Black, Brown, indigenous populations and the ruling class of America. So obviously a huge majority of white people in this country use and have enjoyed that consciousness of white privilege. However, even with that you can see the huge contradiction that is now out in the open. There is a huge mass of them who also suffer. From not having the proper accoutrements to living a healthy and fulfilling life. Let me put it this way— and this is a very crude calculation— but I’ll use it. I think roughly 63 million people voted for Donald Trump in the last presidential election. So I am going to be very conservative and extrapolate it by a factor of two. So I would say if 63 million folks voted for him then there is at least one other person within the rounds of those that voted for him that agrees with him and voted for Trump. So we will say roughly 126 million or let us round off a bit and say 130 million based on a crude calculation. So about 130 million, mostly, overwhelmingly white folks support all that is happening with the administration – the crass, naked white supremacist attitude and actions. So about 130 million people support this and revel in it. That’s why I say that yeah there is privilege but most of these people have nothing but the idea of whiteness. What I mean by that is their living conditions. Because if you notice, we are in this so-called post-truth environment where scientific ideas, scientific and provable facts are downplayed in this country and that is because a huge portion of white population has not had access to those kinds of educational advantages, those kinds of economic advantages. That’s what I mean when I say that North American whites are also oppressed by the American empire. What they have been left to hold on to is this artificial construct of whiteness.
Pushpendra: So it is deeply tied in to the idea of class as well.
Akil: Yes, yes.
Pushpendra: I would like to talk about what is happening right now. We are seeing these large-scale protests in America and those also being covered so extensively for the international audience. Based on my reading of the articles and news items that make their way into our computer and phone screens in this part of the world I get a picture that one of the factors that caused these protests are the policies of the current American government, the Trump administration. However, if you go back to the 1990s, the policies of Bill Clinton and Joe Biden had a very important role to play in bringing things to where they are today. For example, bringing up the Crime Bill in 1992 and which became a law in 1994 and how that facilitated these long jail terms for the marginalised people. How do you look at that?
Akil: You know, historically in this country Black people have had to be extremely pragmatic in how they move because we are a minority in numbers inside the internal American empire. I don’t like the term minority the way they use it because I am a global citizen and Black and Brown people form the majority of the planet. But inside of the internal American empire the Black people have had to move in a very pragmatic way. What you are seeing is calculation by some of our people in the sense that ‘look we have got to get rid of the current occupation of the so-called White House’. In their thinking, it poses a clear and immediate danger. Obviously that is true. Then you have the Democratic Party structure that is trying to maintain the neo-liberal idea. Young people, for the most part, are saying ‘no, no, we are tired! That has not worked for us’. And it is not going to work for us as they have more of their lives ahead of them than a lot of the older folks who are pushing for the Democratic Party and Biden and that whole crew. We have to really look at the nuances and complexes of that. It makes perfect sense. By the way, I don’t support Joe Biden or any of that. But I also understand the immediate danger that people feel with the overt white supremacy that is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Again I would argue that all of them, and them being past presidents including Obama, their job is to maintain white supremacy. So I am not just singling this one out. There are varying levels and degrees of how they move but the fact is that their number one job is to maintain the structure. That’s the number one job of the guy who is there. What we have in the Black community is trying to figure out how to navigate this whole contradiction of America and just trying to stay alive. This is what it has come down to. So you have older citizenry in the Black community who have been through what the young people are facing today. As I said, this is cyclical, this is nothing new what you are seeing. This is new to a lot of young people. But it is nothing new as it relates to America or what America is and it has always been. So, there are so many pieces and we are just trying to hold it together and Black people have had to have the mindset particularly in national elections—actually in any elections. Who is most palatable to white people, that’s the thought process. That’s how you get (Bill) Clinton, Jimmy Carter and like that and here we have Joe Biden. Now there is this huge push where young people are saying, ‘hold up, wait a minute. All is fine, but look all these folks are problematic and these warmed over bad ideas don’t work for us’. That is why there was this huge push around for Bernie Sanders and some of the policies that he was promoting. That is the nuanced struggle within the community. So first and foremost is the immediate survival and how to navigate America as Black people have always had to try to figure out.
Pushpendra: In that sense, the very idea of the American empire, as you call it, has these basic limitations or primary contradictions for the subjugated people whether it is the domain of polity or something else. So they have to choose between the devil and the deep sea and I think that itself says a lot about the state of things today. And that is not a very happy space to be in. And in that context I want to bring in MXGM’s idea of self-determination.
Akil: Yes! As I said, the whole point, at least in our view, philosophically speaking, is that all oppressed and subjugated people across the planet suffer from a lack of self-determination whereas human beings have the right to determine how we move, how we govern ourselves, how we imagine what we should be or could be without the constraints of white supremacy, capitalism or the other “isms” that prevent people from being as human as they possibly can. At this moment in time, as I see it, the planet is rebelling against all that has happened to itself. The forces of humanity are pushing and rebelling against these ideas, these backward, destructive notions, this subjugation of humanity, the stifling of human ascension. So all of these forces are merging to where we are today and the real tangible fact that white people have always been a minority in this world and they are rapidly declining. In America, in my view, as Dr Frances Cress Welsing, who was a psychologist and she wrote a book called ‘The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors’. In that book, her job as a psychologist was to decipher customs, signs and symbols of white supremacy so that Black people would know how to move within this hostile place. This book was written in the 1990s and in that she talked about everything that has happened. She discussed that in the subconscious of the average white population and not in the frontal lobe or consciousness, (there is this idea) about their genetic annihilation as it relates to their numbers. Move forward from when she wrote this book to now. Now it is in the conscious mind. And I am not talking about the ruling classes, they have always known. I am talking about the average everyday white population that believes they have a zero population growth, actually negative. That they are dying more than they are having babies. There has been a huge amount of study around this over the past 10 years. Because anything that deals with whiteness or any threat to whiteness is taken as oh god! What are we gonna do with this problem.. Over the past 5-7 years there has been this huge amount of suicides in the white community from drug overdose, killing themselves in myriad of ways and the anxiety about dwindling of their population. Now it is within their conscious mind that is being acted out right here in America when you see white people engaging Black folks just for existing. You see white folks attacking Black folk in all kinds of ways. It is in their conscious mind, now, and that’s what we are seeing. Dr Welsing talked about this 30 years ago.. that they are not reproducing at a rate and more of them are dying than reproducing. It is just a matter of nature and biology.
Pushpendra: This fear of being outnumbered is a colonial fear. Wherever colonial powers have gone they have always felt this fear of being outnumbered by either the subjugated groups or the local indigenous people. How do you see it?
Akil: You are right, absolutely. The history of subjugation of India by the British.. So yes that is true.
Pushpendra: I want to come back to racism for that is the keyword here. It seems like it is all about the actions of these people who have been filled with hate and they are biased and it is the ‘individuals’ who are committing these acts. However, I would like you to give us a macro picture of systemic racism as to how policies are designed, how the private sector discrimination takes place with respect to specific communities and how it translates into practices?
Akil: These individual aggressions of average white people in this country we have endured since our kidnapping and being brought here. Those individuals and groups have always been a part of the extrajudicial forces of the American empire. Now, the structures of institutions that have been built to absolutely subjugate and to stifle the natural growth and yearnings of self determination for all groups within the internal American empire. But within this context we are particularly talking about Black folks, where these are intentional, they were created to be intentional, to make sure that wealth accumulation, health outcomes, housing, education and every area of human endeavour is to be stymied and create an instance of a ceiling so to speak, that Black people will never remove themselves from in the eyes of those who designed it. So the whole idea of some of the pushback that you hear that the system is broken or the system is malfunctioning.. no, no, no.. the system is functioning just as it was designed. The problem is the system. It has to be dismantled.
Pushpendra: Another important thing that one is witnessing is the unusual numbers of white people that are joining the protests and even in predominantly white states like Maine, Idaho etcetera. What does participation of large numbers of white people signify in the Black people’s movement today?
Akil: I think there are a number of factors that are involved. One of them is the interaction of younger people with other younger folks of different races. The total ingestion of the Black culture among young white people contributes to that. The huge contradiction around whiteness has contributed to that. And they are looking at their own circumstances. Also, again they are looking around and saying ‘look I am 21, 22, 23, 24, 25.. I am white and what was laid out for me does not exist. That doesn’t exist. You lied to me!’ I think it comes to a point of carrying that weight. Oppression has two victims, the oppressed and those who oppress, Frantz Fanon taught us that in Wretched of the Earth. That’s a tremendous burden to carry around the lie of America and the lie of whiteness. That’s tremendous weight. I think what I see around me is that a lot of white people are unburdening themselves from carrying around the lie of whiteness.
Pushpendra: I was recently going through something written by Ex-President Obama wherein he was talking about how you need to vote in order to bring about change. He said, protest and vote, do both, don’t let go of one thing to do another. I want to link it to something else. In the wake of the protests in America one of the most voiced out demands is the demand for budget cuts in the police funding. Now my question is how does it tackle such a fundamental problem of systemic racism, something that lies at the base of the American society? I am asking this to you recalling your interview with Noel in which you said that ‘structures and systems were not built or designed to empower anybody other than the ones who control them’. I think it is important to bring about budget cuts but can it really mean a big change or can it bring about a change at the fundamental level that may be expected of this moment?
Akil: It is a good one because it gets to the heart of the matter. The structures are such that they have to be dismantled. Now, on the way to trying to build a force to dismantle them, which is the larger strategy, what tactics do you employ to help create space? One of those is to attempt to reshape how police operate in Black communities. Again, it is a tactic, not a strategy. Ultimate strategy is to attain self determination, that is what we are trying to get to. Our training and philosophy in the New African Independence Movement, of which Malcolm X Grassroots Movements (MXGM) and New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO) are a part, it is our job to try to educate and analyse what is happening and how we move. Not that we have monopoly on all the information and knowledge. That’s not it. But as you pointed out you can get derailed and sidetracked on tactics as opposed to what the actual goal is.
Pushpendra: It is just an observation, for I think it is easy to look back at the Obama administration and say ‘Oh look it didn’t change much’. As if it was meant for that. I don’t think it anyway would have changed things completely.
Akil: Of course not. That’s the titular head of the empire, the presidency. And his job is to maintain the empire. That’s his job. That’s the job of that space.
Pushpendra: Because even in India different ruling class groups turn around and say see it (Barack Obama’s election to the President’s office) did not change anything in America. I think it is undermined by people and they may not understand what it means symbolically for Black people about Obama being there in that highest office.
Akil: I struggle on this. We were on air during our radio program during part of the Obama tenure in office and as a Black person I understood the psychic and symbolic (significance).. emotion that the Black people felt.. It has to be understood as the history of Black people in this country, which has been miserable and absolutely miserable. There have never been any good old days for Black folks in this place. So, I understood a lot of my people’s psychic nature of what that felt like. Then at the same time I understood that it was me and the organization I am part of, we are what we say we are about and we had to tell the truth and analyse the situation as it is and what it was with the Obama presidency. That out and beyond the symbolic and psychic nature of him being there and that Black family being there, there wasn’t much that we were going to get from that because of the nature of the structure.
Pushpendra: I want to now move on to talking about the global pandemic that is bothering all of us. What do you think has been the impact of Covid19 on the homeless people in America?
Akil: As would anything that is negative in a society would impact those who have the least, and it again exposes the nature of raw, naked, unbridled vulture capitalism where any and everything is exploited for profit. And the whole idea at the root of all of this is the idea of expendable people. That’s the root of white supremacy, that’s the root of capitalism, that the people are expendable. So how it (Covid19) has ravaged those who are homeless because of circumstances. Then there are those homeless people who choose that way and there is the fact that America simply ignores them or criminalises them with the idea if not in practice, or not stated with the practice… they’re expendable. So it impacts those who have had huge disparities historically such as the Black people. And the type of health disparities that we face along with Brown folks and how the healthcare system such as it is in this country has been designed in such a bad way. You remember when they were saying they didn’t have enough beds, ICU beds, ventilators and all of that. That is because in the neo-liberal mindset you only have enough beds and equipment for those that can pay. For-profit healthcare system in America is designed strictly for profit. It really is designed for elective surgeries. That’s where they make the most money.
Pushpendra: Is there a race component to the homeless population for one sees homeless people from various races? There are white homeless people and there are Brown homeless people as well. Do their numbers vary in terms of their composition?
Akil: I can’t really speak about that intelligently beyond the population in Jackson, Mississippi because we have done work here and interacted with that group historically. I don’t know how race plays a factor within the homeless people outside of Jackson, Mississippi. Here in Jackson it is abysmal, regardless of who you are, if you are homeless. To be able to access basic services such as – okay I am homeless but is there a place where I can go to shower, to get a meal or to get healthcare. So I think here in Jackson, Mississippi I don’t care what race you are, I think you would suffer from those issues within the homeless population regardless of who you are. What we do know is that there is a huge growing population of homeless people in this country. It has grown so much in major cities like Seattle and Los Angeles and there is an increasing number of white people who are homeless, particularly in those areas where it has gotten to the point where political systems are just doing the lip service to address that situation. There are talks about building institutions to help the homeless. You obviously won’t know until something actually happens.
Pushpendra: Do you find any kind of a correlation between the current pandemic situation that has hit the world and the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor influencing the resistance movement to such prominence, that it feels everybody is impacted by it?
Akil: Yeah, I do. I think the pandemic coupled with the continued brutalisation of Black bodies by law enforcement agencies coupled with a total lack of a coherent response by the governing authorities at the national level of this country, all of that has contributed to it. People have had to self-quarantine. And I guess people had the chance to be still for a minute and I am talking about white people now, to see this country for what it is and they are looking at how it impacts them directly where the lie of “the structure is here to protect you and to serve you,” while the situation was such that even a lot of white people in the initial stages of the pandemic could not go and get tested. White people in the medical profession, how they were treated, they didn’t have proper equipment, they were fired. A lot of healthcare professionals were fired. They dared asked to have equipment to protect themselves because they were trying to treat people who were infected. There is again this whole dynamic, whole lie of America is now wide open. Not for those of us who have always been seeing America for what it is but for a lot of white people who had their eyes closed, they were forced to fully open them and see America for what it is. So that whole dynamic is happening. In the presidential elections, the neo-liberal structures on the Democratic side, you can see they are trying to put everything at the foot of this current Trump administration and obviously we know that all of this occurred prior to him. He came out of it. He didn’t create it but he is a manifestation of it. This whole dynamic is trying to lay and push forward the idea that we can just get rid of Trump and we can get back to “normal”, which was never normal for Black, Brown and oppressed people.
Pushpendra: I want to briefly talk about prisons. I think prisons are modern nation-states’ way to control subjugated people so as to put them literally to the extreme margin. In that context, what impact has Covid9 had on prisons? It is well known that prisons are full of subjugated people.
Akil: It is devastating. And probably much more so than we are really privy to. It is devastating. These are literally human warehouses whereby people are just existing. Because they are not living, they are existing in some of the most putrid environments that you could ever imagine. With this virus or any kind of virus, whether it is Covid19 or whatever it is, it’s just a place where spread is inevitable and predictable. There are no progressive and revolutionary groups outside to push this to the forefront. Even amongst the coverage by the mainstream media of the various protests, you hear very little about the impact of this virus on the incarcerated. Because as I said the structures are there to do just what they are doing and to function just as they are functioning. There have been movements against mass incarceration and the whole industrial complex is part of the structural and institutional systemic oppression and it functions as they designed it to function. All the movements and tactics are trying to dismantle and trying to create more space to move towards the ultimate, at least in our view, goal of self determination and totally dismantling this white supremacism.
Pushpendra: I will extend the question further. What is the composition of the people lodged in the prisons in the US jails? Are they from specific ethnic groups, races, social groups?
Akil: The overwhelming majority of people in the US prisons are Black and Brown. Over the past 10-12 years the fastest growing prison population is of Black women and it is the criminalisation of a race of people. That moves you from a place where you are already at a huge disadvantage, just moving about through society as a non-incarcerated person and then you are incarcerated and the trauma of incarceration — all that happens in that space. And if you are lucky enough to be able to get out then you are limited even more as a formerly incarcerated person. How do you secure employment as a formerly incarcerated person? Housing? How do you deal with the psychological trauma of being in prison? The stripping of your so called civic rights of being able to vote and whatever is again a systematic process to strip you of your humanity in this place. And they treat you as if you are nothing and you are expendable, you are invisible. We don’t have to see you.
Pushpendra: I was reading up on the kind of work your organization is doing and you have been working on the ground with people and you have networks also as you have different chapters across the country. Thus you will have a better understanding of the kind of impact Covid19 has had on the local populace, on the African-American and other oppressed communities in the USA.
Akil: It has been devastating, obviously from a health perspective. The fact that prior to this there were huge health disparities in the communities. There is a huge problem of being able to access healthcare for Black and Brown communities. But then you double that with the fact that services that are low wage jobs they now deem essential is interesting. Five months ago they were just expendable populations there to serve institutions. Folks that are working as cashiers, at convenience stores etc., now they are “essential personnel”, who have to now continue to go to these low wage, non-livable wage jobs and be exposed even more to the virus and then there are those who were laid off on jobs. So you have the double whammy of the health impact and the economic impact that continues to ravage our communities and our people. Then you have the psychological impact whereby Black and Brown people have huge and serious distrust, and rightfully so, of the healthcare industry, because of the past heinous acts by the healthcare system against Black and Brown bodies. So, you couple all of that and it is devastating for our communities and people also have huge and serious distrust, and rightfully so, of the government. So you have some sections of our community who just refused to believe mostly anything that the government put forth.
Pushpendra: The impact of the virus as we see it today, do you think it could have been minimised if the general health of people was a little better because people are already suffering from all kinds of liver and kidney diseases because of poor healthcare?
Akil: Again it is the historical nature of oppression in this country whereby there is a distrust in the Black community, among Black men and Black women, based on past practices of the healthcare system where there is direct experimentation on Black bodies. Our move forth with lack of access to proper healthcare and then the distrust which is always at the back of your mind as to whether you are getting the proper information from a healthcare professional, particularly from those who don’t look like you. When you do feel like I want to be able to get (treatment), you have no access. Economically, it is just totally beyond your reach to get it. So again, all of these factors point back to the systemic structures, how they were built and how they function. They are functioning the way they were designed to function.
Pushpendra: It is ironic that you are talking about having distrust in people who are supposed to save your life.
Akil: That is the nature of Black experience in America. Having to trust people, with your life, that you know have historically killed you in every way possible.
Pushpendra: Also the emotional impact of this on people. It is also true for the oppressed sections here in India. Noel was mentioning Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee experiments..
Akil: It is just one of the examples. The Tuskegee experiment involved injecting syphilis into Black men and women. We could go on and on (with such examples). There was a book written by this Black woman several years ago that delves into the history of that kind of practice towards the Black community by the so called healthcare community that had led to this kind of distrust. And that distrust of course has an impact on us negatively in our healthcare outcomes.
Pushpendra: In the readings over the last decade in America this term called ‘post-racial’ keeps coming up. What does this term mean and signify?
Akil: It is a pseudo, artificial construct that is not real. Just like whiteness. It is a propaganda term. It was used to push the populace, white and Black. It became popular around Obama’s term. They said ‘oh we have got a Black president and there is a Black family in the so called White House and this is post-racial. Oh, everything’s cool. And so what’s happening to you has nothing to do with race. The fact that you don’t have healthcare, the fact that you can’t secure proper education or a decent wage or not be able to manifest yourself and grow into a full human being, all of that has nothing to do with race. That is just another artificial construct by white people to say that it is all your fault. As Malcolm X would say and I am quoting him as he is one of our philosophical fathers but he could put things in plain terms. So he said that you are running a 100 yard dash and white people have a 90 yard head-start and you are at the start line and 500 pounds weight on your back and they cross the finish line ahead of you and turn around and ask ‘what’s wrong with you?’ That’s what post-racial is, it is a propaganda tool to mask the excuse for white supremacy and the privilege that this artificial construct of whiteness has bestowed tangibly on the ruling class and somewhat tangibly on the masses of white people but absolutely psychically. It gives them this crutch to have this backwards idea that whiteness makes them any better than everybody else.
Pushpendra: It has been a fascinating conversation with you. Thanks a lot, Akil.
Akil: Thank you very much for sharing your time with me. Noel is always a silent force behind the tremendous amount of work that has been going on in Jackson over the past 10-12 years. So, I really appreciate your time and hopefully we will have further discussions and I can learn more about the struggles and movements in India.
This interveiw was conducted on 29 June 2020 and it was transcribed by Pushpendra Johar with support from Sierra Mannie.