In the days since Dylan Roof’s terror attack on black parishioners at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, a renewed energy and focus of activism has arisen around the battle flag of the Confederacy; the origins of the current advocacy, I’m unclear of. Cries to remove the flag from the South Carolina state house have come from the most unlikely of allies, including Mitt Romney. Other states are seeing a similar movement, like Maryland, where even Larry Hogan came out against the use of the Confederate Flag on state license plates. Frankly, this is all quite sad and a clear statement of the powerlessness of black folks in America: nine lives in exchange for a flag?
In 1860, there were 412,320 enslaved Africans in South Carolina to only 291,300 whites. Despite its small size, the state’s slave population was only rivaled by Georgia and Virginia- states at least twice the size of South Carolina. Indeed, four of the eight proprietors of the colony were members of the Royal African (slave trading) Company. Although superior in number, there was no realistic pathway for blacks to exercise power under such conditions. Slaves, after all, were not humans but property. Blacks could be and were killed without consequence and of course, merely not showing enough respect to whites could lead to massive terror campaigns against blacks. For some reason, in 2015, things feel eerily similar.
Today blacks are no longer the majority in South Carolina but at roughly 28% of the population, a sizable minority. Fueled completely by racial hatred, a young man walked into a church and committed yesteryear-style terrorism and the response? Blacks are called upon to forgive and not express hatred. Blacks are told to even overlook the obvious racist sentiments which fueled the attack. The one concession? Blacks are finding white allies in the long battle to remove that damn flag from the grounds which their tax dollars maintain. That flag. The battle flag of the forces fighting to maintain chattel slavery, among other causes. This is the sum total of the value of those nine black lives.
I say no deal. How can we, in good conscience, accept this as an appeasement for black lives murdered in cold blood, purely for the cause of white supremacy? To do so is to accept powerlessness. To do so is to say, in essence, that the removal of this blatant symbol of oppression is enough to merit calm acceptance of the status quo. A much more radical course must be pursued. In a word: revolution. The entire order must be changed and hitherto this has been challenging because, quite simply, revolutions are bloody. Yet I am not suggesting a physical, armed revolution but an economic revolution. One which relies on the same bloody principles, but where the physical wounds are replaced with purposeful fiscal cuts, sacrifice and inconvenience. one which is economic. Refusal to endure this economic bloodshed is precisely why black America has resisted the [economic] revolution for so long.
An economic revolution means radically altering our spending habits. It involves inconveniencing ourselves and like in any revolution, there will be a few casualties. One casualty might be the burden of driving across town to bank rather than placing deposits in institutions that are invested in prisons or have their roots in the slave trade. It might be necessary to boycott companies and various other industries that do not hold our community’s best interest at heart and instead support businesses in our own communities: even if this leads to another casualty, some blacks losing their jobs in the meantime. An economic revolution requires a strict allegiance to spending, investing and organizing our capital in such a way as to increase black employment, black wealth and most importantly, black power. We need not beg anyone to take down a flag when we have the economic means to bring down entire industries.
It is important to remember that unlike a bloody war which requires the sacrifice of several human lives, an economic revolution only requires temporary economic sacrifices that, while inconvenient, will not literally kill you. We have endured and continue to endure the physical bloodshed brought upon us by the war on drugs, police brutality, and the systemic proliferation of poverty in our communities. Surely, we can sacrifice our quick trip to Target to drive a few more minutes to Zahra’s book store. Furthermore, we can support those who have experienced a “casualty” by building institutions that employ those that have been displaced and, in the process, lessen those inconveniences by having more Sankofas and Industrial Bank’s right in our backyard. So yes, the process is bloody but if we wish not to deliver our children into a world much like the one we live in today, it is necessary.