Sink or Swim
I saw a Black man drown alone.
No one ran to his aid. He bled, and bled, and he must have died right there on the sidewalk. Some bullets got him down, and those who pulled the trigger sped away. It was a bright and sunny day in D.C.. I heard the shots, then watched the wake from my aunt’s car. My mother told me not to look, but I looked anyway. I must have been eleven.
I almost drowned thrice. I’m not the best swimmer, but I’ve avoided bloody pools. Bullets have never come for me. I pray that they never do, but it seems at any moment they could. It feels that tense around here. These streets are haunted by the slain, their spirits remind me of death. So, I wonder if my body will one day add to the wraith pile of corpses.
If not me, then who will know the burning sensation of hot lead or sharp steel scoring through their flesh? Whomever is harmed will desire retribution, if not aloud then certainly in private, or in the recesses of the mind for those forgiving souls.
If I am shot down for my wallet, by some man who resembles me, will I be happy afterwards, that a Black man set me free?
How do we get out of this mess? So many of us have been born into the cracks and crevices of a territory that is maintained by racists who prefer that we perish. Once we perish, that’s it. The slaughtered Black lives are gone. They might be here in spirit, but they’ve left us to our own devices. None have returned to stop all of the violence. None have returned to build better communities. None have returned to abolish the system of White supremacy, and none have returned to solve any of our problems.
So, what can we do?
Let’s take a step back to look at the power dynamic at play. Is it not obvious that White supremacy needs Black people to operate? African Americans make up about 12% of the American workforce. So, if 0.1% of employed African Americans decided to go on strike all at once in an organized fashion, I think those in charge would be compelled to bargain with close to two million people striking for justice.
Minister Louis Farrakhan called for many to gather in D.C. for the Justice or Else rally back in 2015. I was present, and so were many other Black people who traveled from all over. We assembled for justice. I wanted to hear ideas, suggestions, and ultimately instructions for how to get justice. Minister Farrakhan suggested we save our money instead of spending all of our savings on Christmas gifts.
Well, everyone I know still spent money on Christmas gifts.
People have been conditioned to spend money on things that they don’t really need. So, that habit will be hard to break. I think we can build up a resistance to spending, but I think we need to be able to get behind something that takes a lot less willpower first. There are already plenty of people who despise their jobs, and are tempted to walk out right now. So, my hypothesis is, if there was community support for black people to “strike for justice,” we would.
#StrikeForJustice is something that black people might want to think about because we don’t have enough resources to bargain with. However, the most valuable resource that we have is our collective unity. We stock shelves, secure stores, manage teams, type letters, cook, serve food, and more. If we collectively went on strike for justice we could make an enormous impact. Sure, our jobs pay us, but many of us are barely surviving with that pay. Many of us are overworked and underpaid. Many of us are exhausted from trying to compete within this racist system. So, how about we stop showing up to the jobs that keep the system running? How about we stop reporting to our cubicles, desks, and stations while the news reports slander?
I think that If we really want justice, if we truly want to be free from the manacles of White supremacy, we’ll need to take a collective stand. There’s power in numbers, and if enough of us walked out on a Tuesday, maybe there would be pay increases by Friday, or maybe more Black people would be hired and promoted, maybe resources could be spread more evenly, or maybe none of that stuff would happen. I think it’s worth a shot though. I think it’s worth a shot to strike for justice because if no one in charge wants to offer concessions, perhaps the newly formed collective of Black people would be empowered to build something from scratch.
Striking for justice may sound far fetched, but to me it seems like the next logical step in our progression towards liberty and justice in America.