Black bodies, death and Reparations

8 June 2020 by Mireille Fanon-Mendès France

(CC - Flickr : dignidadrebelde)

Intervention during the webinar organized by the IBW21 –International Black World21- and NAARC -National Afro American Reparation Commission-, early May 2020

For several days, given the number of black bodies affected by this pandemic, it is time to refocus on the political process of reparations because without this passage through the rehabilitation of Africans and Afro-descendants, by their epistemological recognition, the sense of humanity will not change. It will remain as it : violent, liar, manipulated by dominant that ignore the lives of the poorest and the most vulnerable as well as that of the migrants, abandoned at the gates of Europe under the fire of Turkish or Greek bullets.

This pandemic confirms what we denounce from year to year: the consequences of enslavement, colonization and colonialism are visible in the bodies of our black brothers and sisters. And yet, even if admitted, their lives have never changed. Still faced with precarious jobs, which they had to accept in the aftermath of abolition from which they were never able to escape, they have no choice but to live in peripheral areas and are deprived, most of the of time, of all their fundamental rights. The State, in a colonial perception of their bodies, continues to not see them and to ignore them.

The way in which the western states have handled this pandemic and the silence which surrounded the death of a large number of damned – Afro-descendants, Africans, Arabs, natives, Aboriginals – show that the coloniality of power can only consider these people as Non-Beings.

Of course, there will always be experts claiming that if black people are more affected by the coronavirus, it is because they live in unsustainable socio-economic conditions. This is not false, but they will take care Care Le concept de « care work » (travail de soin) fait référence à un ensemble de pratiques matérielles et psychologiques destinées à apporter une réponse concrète aux besoins des autres et d’une communauté (dont des écosystèmes). On préfère le concept de care à celui de travail « domestique » ou de « reproduction » car il intègre les dimensions émotionnelles et psychologiques (charge mentale, affection, soutien), et il ne se limite pas aux aspects « privés » et gratuit en englobant également les activités rémunérées nécessaires à la reproduction de la vie humaine. not to offer a dynamic analysis specifying that the status of Non-Beings which is attributed to them dates back to the time when science and church decided that they had no soul, which de facto stripped them of all humanity and condemned them to a life of misery and invisibility. No matter the abolition, the moralizing texts, the analyzes denouncing racism, no matter the resolutions, the international conferences against racism. Nothing works. In the global collective unconscious is deeply encysted the certainty that Black is worth less than White which is the only standard-bearer of Euro-centered Modernity. Blacks only have to accept this subjugation.

If we know how the enslaved were treated, out of all rights, the inhuman treatment of which they were victims not crossing the fences of the plantation, then we see, in the treatment of exclusion which strikes those confronted with the violence of a State which ignores their rights, the continuity of the ideology of the white supremacy which prefers that the precariousness of the damned only very rarely cross the borders of the peripheral districts.

This health crisis has further weakened them since it has led to a production crisis; they found themselves without work, a decision taken by States which put them out of work or better by States which decided on a general strike at an almost global level, which had never been seen; these same States fiercely fight this form of resistance – the main weapon of the worker, the precarious and the migrant.

We have also seen how the black body is apprehended when a French doctor, even if he claims to have been misunderstood, proposed that the vaccines be tested in Africa for the good of humanity. Dehumanized, desacralized bodies; with this outrageous proposal, they would have become cobbayes. It is indeed the same paradigm of domination ; black bodies do not count only if they benefit to white domination. We can even say that Black is dispossessed of his body.

They die in dizzying numbers in Brazilian favelas, in certain North American or European peripheral cities, whether during the pandemic or in normal times. Any period is dangerous for the black human.

Who cares? who makes their voice heard? No one on the side of the international community when we are at the midterm of the International Decade for People of African Descent. No one on the side of the States where they die alone, often thrown into a mass grave like their ancestors were. Only a few organizations are trying to break this wall of silence, a new border installed between the communities.

A black jogger is killed by two Whites in Brunswick, it will take more than 3 weeks for the arrest of the two murderers. Imagine the reaction of the police if a white jogger had been killed by two Blacks.

Black bodies don’t count, stop believing otherwise. This belief is part of the long time that separates us from the transatlantic trade slave, enslavement, colonization and colonialism. It is our responsibility not to bury this reality, to let it emerge in the minds of everyone, including those who are mistaken in thinking that they are saved for having crossed the first or second layer of the glass ceiling. As long as it has not completely broken out for all, then our political struggle against the structural racism inherent in the white, liberal and domineering capitalist system cannot be satisfied with a half-victory.

Tomorrow, there will be other Trayvon, other Mohamed, other young Afro-Brazilians (more than 1,900 in 2019), and many more killed due to police violence, other young disabled people in life or incarcerated; other voices will be raised against these crimes and which, after being praised, have become inaudible while silence stifles the life of our brothers and sisters alone in the face of this structural and systemic racism which crushes and carries them away.

Perhaps even more so now, it is urgent to refocus on the political process of reparations from a decolonial perspective. There is an urgency in the face of the individualist – or even strictly liberal – way in which States have behaved, including between States on the same continent.

This movement for decolonial reparations must lead to the introduction of a rupture carried by all Africans and Afro-descendants in order to force the Western white world to reconsider the standards imposed to the detriment of a right to a human humanity where the humans matter more than capitalist profits and the systematic plunder of natural resources and brains.

We have no other choice but to work for the construction of a decolonial international whose cornerstone must be the reparations. Let us not get bogged down in moral postures aimed at artificial resilience. Take back control of our governments which, after forcing us to live in a state of emergency on the pretext of fighting terrorism, are tempted to add another for sanitary reasons. Let us not let the state of emergency become our horizon; in this context, the decolonial process of reparations has an important role to play because it is above all about the « anagnorisis » (recognition) of human identity and the dignity of black bodies whether in Africa or in the diaspora.

Other articles in English by Mireille Fanon-Mendès France (1)



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