By BK Kumbi
“When Lewis said that Ferguson is not the Congo, he shows how he is very much inhabited by this idea, he shows that for him there are good and bad Negros.”
The author of the article that follows starts from an assumption that we all know Ferguson. If I hadn’t been reading recent news feeds on that nth US police brutality case against black people in America I wouldn’t know. I omitted deliberately putting the date when that happened, because it happens every day. Now you know. But where is the link between Ferguson and Congo?
In March 1978 US President Jimmy Carter commissioned a report – NSCM/46 – put together by the National Security Council Interdepartmental Group for Africa. Zbignew Brezinski as National Security Advisor had been tasked with reviewing what was happening in Black Africa from the point of view of possible impacts on the black movement in US. The exercise had to consider:
- Long-term tendencies of social and political developments and the degree to which they were consistent with or contradicted US interests
- Proposals for durable contacts between radical African leaders and leftists leaders of the US black community
- Appropriate steps to be taken inside and outside the country in order to inhibit any pressure by radical African leaders and organizations on the US black community for the latter to exert influence on the policy of the Administration towards Africa
When the report was submitted in the same year it included among other findings these ones:
- The mineral resources of the area [Black Africa] continue to be of great value for the normal functioning of industry in the United States and allied countries
- If the idea of economic assistance to black Americans shared by some African regimes could be realized by their placing orders in the United States mainly with companies owned by blacks, they could gain a limited influence on the US black community
The recommendations from the report privileged the sanctified principle of divide and rule in order to weaken any emergence of a strong black opposition to dominant policies serving inside and outside US national interests.
- Special clandestine operations should be launched by the CIA to generate mistrust and hostility in American and world opinion against joint activity of the two forces [Black America and Black Africa], and to cause division among Black African radical national groups and their leaders
- To preserve the present [we were then in 1978 but looking at it today 36 years later the situation has not much changed] climate which inhibits the emergence from within the Black leadership of a person capable of exerting national [or global] appeal.
- To support actions designed to sharpen social stratification in the Black community which would lead to the widening and perpetuation of the gap between successful educated Blacks and the poor, giving rise to growing antagonism between different black groups and a weakening of the movement as a whole.
BK Kumbi, Congolese activist, historian and founding member of Don’t Be Blind This Time, decrypts what such measures and probably many others similar taken over the years by US authorities and allies have had as consequences to black American community and black Africa. She starts her analysis with the intentionally engineered and differing perceptions of the other between the two groups. She moves on the inadequacies that such differences create and the behavior of the white in a well wheeled tragedy where all black as a race becomes a consistent victim. She finds the ultimate exit from the situation to be within the victim itself, or its own humanity.
As Africans our eyes are often turned towards America because for some of us there is the illusion that attracts but for others the eye focuses on how the black man is staged in the American reality. For many black Americans, as for the majority of Americans, Africa is a land of savages and this idea has a particular resonance among the Afro-American population because it shows how they were taught to hate themselves through the figure of a so to say original man, the one that is stored in the sub-humanity. However, when we look at things more closely, one has to ask if there is a real difference of treatment for us all? Imperialist policies affecting African populations are the same as those applied to the black population in the United States precisely because the principle states that the black body shall be exploited alive or dead, it must generate profit. I come from a country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where more than 6 million people were murdered and where the killings continue so that the world benefits from the wealth of this country, namely from the coltan, a mineral that is used to make cell phones, but also to manufacture weapons which kill other blacks thousands miles away of my land.
This tragedy is absent from the majority of the American channels or if it is presented, it is to say that there are blacks who kill blacks. There are no questions raised as per the people or the countries who arms those blacks and for what purpose? The corporate media rather prefers to broadcast on the visits of the gang leaders of our region that the United States has hired to do the job and fuel the black on black theory at an international level. What is striking here is how the story is structured or the fact that there is no narrative at all about this issue, just silence. What I want to point out here specifically is the question of how our bodies became objects of spectacles. If there is generally silence that surrounds the Congolese tragedy, there is nevertheless one aspect of this conflict that is portrayed more than the others. The issue of rape used as a weapon of war is the beloved subject of a certain American ”intelligentsia” and it has helped forward the image of some American ‘celebrities’.
The mutilated bodies of Congolese women have become an image that is made pornographic and that it is diffused freely under the idea of a feminist fight and the narrative of this tragedy is assumed by white feminists who actually fight for their own rights in a capitalist environment. This is not done to help the Congolese women and it is also done to spread the idea that this is a femicide and not a genocide. The story of Congolese women is a way to raise funds for these organizations, to write and produce documentaries that will also generate money and, -and this is perhaps the most important, it’s a way to reaffirm the idea that the black man is a savage, a predator whose violence is atavistic, mad and he is therefore the sole instrument of the eradication of his own black being. Is not also the narrative that is served to explain to the Afro- Americans that they are the very instruments of their own annihilation and their own poverty? Is that not what is said when the corporate media uses false images to say that Brown had stolen into a store and that was the reason of his death?
We all need to have our eyes open about the way we are treated and portrayed, and I say we because the image that is conveyed of the African man in Africa necessarily affects the way the Afro-American man is perceived. For those who are looking at us, as if we were in a cage like Lumumba said, there is no difference between a black African or an African-American. We are the ones making this difference because we think that for the white man there are good blacks and there are bad blacks. We don’t look at us through our own eyes but through the eyes of another person who has defined us as not human. When Lewis said that Ferguson is not the Congo, he shows how he is very much inhabited by this idea, he shows that for him there are good and bad Negros. When one really reflects on what is happening in Ferguson, one sees precisely that Ferguson is the Congo. The lesson of this tragedy is how we all rebuild our own histories, how we teach our children to see their lives and the lives of those who look like them as valuable, how we teach them that they are human beings and that they are part of this world even though some want to deny them this right.