i've been involved a lot recently in some Southern Texas organizations and unions, which my best friend is involved in. one of the events i attended recently was a rally in Florida, hosted by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to encourage Publix to pay a living wage to the farm workers that pick their fresh produce. oftentimes, farm workers are in modern-day slavery situations and can barely feed themselves with the minuscule wage they're paid for strenuous labor.
Tonight, i attended a documentary screening that focused on the United Farm Workers (UFW) group that does similar work as the CIW. something that stuck out to me in the documentary was the never-ending struggle to get something; demand something from the system. either the fight is getting short hoes banned from the crops (because they contribute to back issues of farm workers), or getting restrooms in the fields, or allowing farm workers to claim something for their families or taxes or work benefits or minimum wage.
what i'm most interested in firstly, is firstly, the removal from and breaking down of the system. and secondly, the cultural implementation of our respective ancestral societies; gaining cultural knowledge and implementing it into our lives as a form of decolonization, as an alternative.
on the first point, i believe there are a multitude of ways in which one can dis-embed themselves or their communities from the system, but i question to what degree we seek dismantle completely this system. there is no half-way with breaking down the Western, industrial/post-industrial, globalization, capitalistic system whose foundation is sustained by a permanently exploited underclass. one has to go all the way or not at all. there is no...working within the system to change it; there is no "reform". the things of this system cannot be had without exploitation. this country could not have been built and thrived for as long as it has without the enslavement of Africans, the dehumanization of Native Americans, and more currently, globalization. so this idea that we can fight and fight and protest for fair wages and humane treatment until this system is livable for the majority of its people is impossible. this will never happen because of the foundation and basis of this system. at its core, it is exploitation, slavery, dehumanization, and ruthlessly capitalistic. there is nothing to salvage. there is only a complete breakdown and rebuilding from the ground up.
to illustrate my point, let's look at the issue of farm workers being treated like animals and being paid damn near nothing. as opposed to fighting for one thing after the other...forever, i think the focus needs to shift to the concept of the grocery store - without which, there would be no need for such high rates of fresh produce, thereby eliminating even the possibility of exploitative farm worker practices. the super market is something many of us have grown up with and see as completely normal and even necessary. however, historically is all cultures, prior to the industrial/colonial ages, the market or one's family garden is where one got their food from. the modern grocery store in which one can purchase food from 20 different states and 3 different continents, all for fairly affordable prices cannot happen without some level of exploitation. furthermore, grocery stores are not necessary for human life. our ancestors lived without them for most of human history, so why do we sustain the idea that it is vital to human life?
the fight should be in encouraging people to stop shopping at grocery stores, teaching gardening, moving to areas in which land is fertile, abundant, and affordable where we can grow our own food - healthy, fresh, ethical, and off the system. this aids in the breaking down the system.
within anthropology, it is known that, contrary to popular belief, industrial/ post-industrial societies in which there are large portions of land devoted solely to the production of food in high quantities have the highest rates of starvation. western societies actually produce more food and have higher numbers of starvation than any other type of food subsistence societies (e.g., agricultural, pastoral, and hunter/gatherers). in other words, the grocery store and the strenuous labor that goes into picking fresh produce everyday is largely unnecessary. grocery stores and high food production are not needed to feed America - they are needed to make profits.
the refusal to use the grocery store is simply one of the examples that i'm using to show that the focus of our struggles should be shifted. fighting within the system further embeds us within it because now we feel as though we'd be taking it for granted since we fought for it. this is the same type of argument i heard from people when i said i was not voting. "but our people fought for the right to vote! you're disrespecting them!". yes, thy fought for it because that was their focus at the time and i appreciate that i have that right. many of them had the belief that the system simply is broken and needs fixing. i have the belief that the system is not broken, it was built that way and will stay that way no matter how many sit-ins, protests, parades, rallies, or fasts we do. i don't want to change the system. i want to dismantle it completely.
to my second point, the dis-embedding/de-colonization from the system has to take place simultaneously with education of what our ancestors were doing, in their respective areas. certain foods and lifestyles for arid areas such as in the south west corner of the country and parts of Mexico have been developed by the Native Americans that lived here - those in this area have to tap into that, especially those whose ancestors populated these areas. as an African, my departure point for dis-embedding myself from the system and finding alternative ways to those i was taught lies largely in West Africa. medicine, diet, child-birthing and pregnancy practices, spirituality, farming and food subsistence knowledge, astronomy, familial relations, educational practices, and other beliefs are all critical for dis-embedding oneself from the system. without that knowledge, we have no tried and tested alternatives for societies. we should return to the ways of our ancestors (for the most part) not only because they were tried, tested, and were viable for for much of human history (in other words, they worked and functioned largely without mass enslavement and exploitation), but because they are also best suited for us, given our respective ancestral origins. for example, the diet that is probably best for me is one from West African pre-colonial societies. were it not for food fortified (produced from post-industrial food productions, again) with vitamin C in northern US and European areas, Black folks could not even survive in cold climates such as those in those areas (see rickets). it is important for us to know and our ancestral lifestyles in order to know what is best for us as we transition and remove ourselves from this type of system. what type of environment were our bodies acclimatized to? what types of foods were our bodies used to? what types of spiritual practices and beliefs did our ancestors have? what were their healing methods? - all of these questions we have to ask ourselves and find out when dis-embedding ourselves from the system and building viable ones for our communities.
for Black Americans, there always seems to have been some type of push to know and become acquainted with Africa. but right now, and what i feel has been missing from the larger collective, is the knowledge to be able to live outside of this system. as opposed to fighting that we be treated like human beings and not guinea pigs within the medical industry, we need to be learning traditional bone-setting techniques, herbal knowledge, West African birthing practices and belief, spiritual links with mental illnesses, understanding issues from a holistic perspective - as almost all of our ancestors did. the often-heard narrative is: "we need our own enterprises and industries! we gotta own our own hospitals and banks!" right, so we can do the same thing white folks are doing with it? no, we need our own communities to implement much more healthier, self-sustaining, and communal practices and leave white folks shit to white folks (although, even they have a much healthier and ethical past they need to reconnect with). we (Black folks) didn't have banks in West Africa (and most societies in Africa) because one's family is who one goes to when they need a loan or a favor. there was never a need for a bank. and if we know and understand this, and start implementing stronger familial ties, or use of banks will also diminish. can we see how these two things are tied to one another?
while i applaud any POC who fights for what they want within whatever system or situation they may be in, in whatever way they see fit, i think that we have to understand the limitations of this system. we cannot all want grocery stores fully stocked with 50 different types of fresh produce for affordable prices and ethical treatment of everyone involved in that process. unfortunately, within this system, there is only either/or. the struggle, as i see it, is no longer in protests in the streets and city court houses and the white house or the voting booths - it is in the minds of our people, and getting those minds and spirits aligned with our healthier ancestors whose societies didn't thrive slave labor and poverty.
comment. think. criticize. learn. grow. sustain.
and as a side for Black Americans, note that i've been saying 'West Africa' as opposed to simply 'Africa'. many of us tend to look to all of Africa, especially East Africa, for lifestyle adjustments. which is fine, but when we talk about ancestors, that means specifically West Africa because we did not descend from ancient Egyptian or Ethiopian societies. we descend from peoples as far up as Senegal, and as far south as Angola with some estimates also showing heavy cultural influence from Bantu-speaking peoples and other central African cultures. these are the societies we have to focus on as cultural blueprints.