Dear revisionists, Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes. You will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. ‘Let’s get together, and feel alright.’ Yes, you will do that. You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.
Nelson Mandela was not a god, floating elegantly above us and saving us. He was utterly, thoroughly human, and he did all he did in spite of people like you. There is no need to name you because you know who you are, we know who you are, and you know we know that too. You didn’t break him in life, and you won’t shape him in death.
Excerpts from his brilliant essay Mandela Will Never, Ever Be Your Minstrel. I love that he included Bob Marley’s lyrics, because he too like so many very much so human yet very much so remarkable people have been turned into memes and reframed to serve White supremacy and make the status quo and the State comfortable, literally what these people were fighting or singing or marching or writing or speaking etc. against.
When sentiment doesn’t allow for complexity and seeks to serve White supremacy, it cannot respect Mandela’s legacy. It cannot respect Black lives. It cannot be truthful in relation to justice—the justice still needed today for the racism and oppression that still thrives today.
Nelson Mandela was a human being and a complex one who fought with people, not alone, for a justice that cannot be separated from both the desire for peace and the necessity of self-defense from the State, both unity and the reality of racism so virulent and so pungent that we still smell and experience that stench today. His enemies—people who wanted him imprisoned or dead—are the same ones (literally, by name, in some cases) who are desperate and thirsty to reframe his life and legacy in a way where “peaceful” means “sought White approval; didn’t believe in self-defense.” Let’s remember him for who he actually was and what he did, with all of its complicated, difficult, radical and glorious complexity.
His body isn’t even cold yet and the New York Times has already put out a shameful article declaring Nelson Mandela to be an ‘icon of peaceful resistance.” News outlets around the Western world are hurrying to publish obituaries that celebrate his electoral victory while erasing the protracted and fierce guerrilla struggle that he and his party were forced to fight in order to make that victory possible. Don’t let racist, imperialist liberalism co-opt the legacy of another radical. Nelson Mandela used peaceful means when he could, and violent means when he couldn’t. For this, during his life they called him a terrorist, and after his death they’ll call him a pacifist—all to neutralize the revolutionary potential of his legacy, and the lessons to be drawn from it.
Don’t fucking let them.
BOOM! And we knew this was coming. It’s everywhere. Media outlets. Individual conversations with Whites. Even some people of colour have bought into the lies because we are not taught the truth in schools because the media, U.S. Gov and education industrial complex work together to sanitize, erase, be ahistorical and manipulate through revisionism. NO!
Chris Hayes [X]
And we know this! I’m not a Democrat or Republican, but I know when fellow Black women put in WORK. Meanwhile the narrative of “women” voters remains White. Even when the polls during smaller elections reflect a greater percentage of White women vote conservative than liberal, White women are given the praise for liberal candidates being elected and it’s always framed as being about pro-choice, as if Black women have the luxury of being single issue voters, or as if reproductive justice for Black women is solely about abortion. Check those stats for voter turnout in 2008 and 2012 for national elections. By race/gender demographic, Black women turned out like nobody else (this is partially because Prison Industrial Complex disenfranchises many Black male potential voters, but also speaks to Black women’s long history of political work at the grassroots level).
- Asshole #1: "If you had self-esteem, racism would end! If you speak of oppression, it means you don't have self-esteem and thereby want racism to remain--I mean if it existed. Because...certainly there is no such thing."
- Asshole #2: "If you would simply do what Whites say, no matter how often it changes or no matter how regularly they don't care and proceed as planned via White supremacy, racism would end! Institutional racism, evaporate!"
- Asshole #3: "If you were a good person, you would automatically 'attract' wealth! It obviously works for good and caring people like the Koch Brothers, Mitt Romney, Jamie Dimon, and Congress! Anyone who doesn't have wealth is automatically lazy and ultimately rejected it versus attracting it!"
- Asshole #4: "We are all samely and equally oppressed, thereby oppression doesn't exist as it all cancels out, thereby I still make double your salary based on my race and gender. See? The same."
- Asshole #5: "If you don't like the way in which you're oppressed, you're just jealous of the oppressors."