‘Black People Aren’t Going Backwards. We Never Went Forward’
Ahead of his talk in London this month, US writer and producer Tariq Nasheed talks to The Voice about the existence of white supremacy, why voting is just a distraction and the importance of group economics.
TARIQ NASHEED chuckles as he recalls watching the award-winning film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, based on the 1971 novel written by African American author Ernest J Gaines.
The title character is played by Cicely Tyson and tells the story of a woman’s life from a childhood in slavery through to the civil rights movement.
“Throughout the whole movie she is just getting beat up by life and, in the grand finale, she is old, so old she is shaking and she goes into a restaurant and can drink from the white water fountain and that’s when the movie ends,” says Nasheed with a laugh, before getting serious. “That’s basically the experience of black people in America. We get to drink from the white water fountain, so racism must be over. What are we complaining about?”
Of course, the climate in America suggests otherwise. Last Thursday (Feb 26) marked the third anniversary of US teen Trayvon Martin’s death, which coincided with the announcement that the Department of Justice would not be prosecuting his killer George Zimmerman with a hate crime because the evidence did not meet the threshold.
It prompted a sharp reaction from Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, who remarked that Zimmerman had got away with murder. The reaction is similar from a wide cross-section of society.
There is widespread frustration that in the same year the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Selma protests – which resulted in the voter rights act and paved the way for African Americans to sit on juries – there still seems to be a two-tier criminal justice system where black people are drawing the short straw.
LA-based Nasheed, who will be speaking at Friend’s House on March 5, is surprised that people are still surprised.
White supremacy, a term he uses voraciously and in reference to those who feel like they should be in a superior position over non-white people, is alive and kicking.
He tells The Voice: “I still, as a person who is classified as non-white, feel the effects of racism worldwide and it is definitely not going anywhere. It has just refined itself and is more hidden, because it is institutional and systematic. You can’t just point it out like a klan member, a skinhead, or any other white extremist like you could in the Jim Crow era but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
“Systematic racism dominates every form of people activity; economics, education, law, war, sport – everything.”
It is because of this that the father-of-three – including two sons who he confesses makes him “go even harder to protect black communities from racist violence” – has produced three documentaries in his critically-acclaimed Hidden Colors series, which he says focus on black empowerment.
Part three, which he funded himself with help through a Kickstarter campaign, examines the “policies and techniques that are used to maintain systematic racism” and how to combat them.
He says: “Hashtags like Black Lives Matter are just symbolic gestures. Nothing gets done because we fixate on the hashtag but Darren Wilson is still walking free, Zimmerman is still free, the officer who killed Tamir Rice is still free. I’m not falling for those Jedi mind tricks.”
Nasheed, who counts controversial psychiatrist Doctor Frances Cress Welsing (The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors) and author Shahrazad Ali (The Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Black woman) as two of his biggest influences, compared life for black people in America as living in a prison based on race.
He explains: “Of course the people oppressed by that system are going to say we want something to change, but we do not have the military, the legal system or the resources of the dominant society to get us out.
“The onus is on them to do something about it, but it doesn’t look like they are going to do that any time soon. We have to empower ourselves. We have to start practising group economics. We have been programmed to not own things. We don’t own anything. We’re just consumers. We send our children to schools where they end up with inferiority complexes. We have to start educating our children.
“People may say we have gone backwards, but we haven’t. We have not progressed. We have not gone forward. Things are just less violent. We have been given symbolic token positions, a mayor here, some legislation there, it has pacified us but that’s not real progress. Power is progress. Equal treatment is progress. Equal access to economic resources is progress. Equality is not sitting up in a restaurant we don’t own spending the money we do have.”
Nasheed points to US President Barack Obama as an example, arguing that his election has not “translated to the rest of the black population and does not equate into power”.
According to him, “when black people are in positions of power, it gives white supremacists the chance to say that racism does not exist. Then that black person is isolated and deprived from helping other black people.”
When asked if this means he doesn’t support initiatives encouraging black people to participate in the democratic process, he responds: “Absolutely. Unless you have the money to back up your vote. Politics is all about who has the most money. You can vote until you are blue in the face but if a corporation is giving a politician thousands of dollars they are going to do what the lobbyists want.
“We can keep on voting and voting but we don’t get anything done because we never bring money. Nothing will change unless you have money and an agenda.”
He says he is looking forward to visiting the UK and learning about how racism has affected his British “brothers and sisters”.
In closing, he adds: “I hope people enjoy what I have to say. I want people to leave not only conscious but empowered.”
Tariq Nasheed will deliver a lecture on The International Rules of Racism at Friends House, in Euston, on March 15. -Elizabeth Pears, The Voice (March 7, 2015)
(You can view more articles written by Elizabeth Pears here.
You can more articles from The Voice here.
You can visit Tariq's sites at www.tariqradio.com and/or www.tariqlive.com.)
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