Comfort Kills, and We are Dying Slowly

In News, Opinion, World by Nicole Crawford

In the last month, the global black and brown indigenous communities have been waking up to how western hegemony, capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism are ruining all of our lives. Furthermore, the indisputable fact that all of our lives and struggles are interconnected and interdependent became crystal clear, whether we have been occupying the lands of Turtle Island and fighting against the oppressive police state and hyper-surveillance, or fighting against settler-colonialism and exploitation in Haiti and Palestine. Our minds and souls have begun the long and painful process of unlearning colonial truths and two things have become unquestionable to those who have been searching for answers to these problems: first, we (black and brown indigenous peoples of the world) are at war no matter where we are in the world, and second, our enemy is the same. However, with significant leverage, some could argue that this truth is not one that our comrades within the Global South could afford to ignore and that those living in Nigeria, Haiti, Sudan, Syria, and Palestine have been violently exposed to the reality of this world for decades if not centuries. This leaves one pivotal question: if the majority of the pan-Afrikan diasporic and black and brown indigenous communities of the globe are conscious and principled in their struggle against the western capitalist empire, how have those in the west, who are part of these global communities, failed to realize the dangers we all face until now? Why is it only when the traumas of our brothers and sisters are so hyper-sensationalized in the media that we can no longer ignore it that we choose to act or begin to question the fallacies and propaganda we consume daily? Why does it take publicisation of an ethnic cleansing and active genocide that has been ongoing for decades for us to feel the need to act? I will provide a simple answer: we who live in the west are too comfortable. 

The problem is that those in the west have grown to be absent-minded and the curiosities that allow us to imagine a different world have dissipated as a result of our constant exposure to propaganda. You would assume that those who live within the belly of the beast would be able to recognize that we are not at war with some hungry dog that simply needs to be fed and coddled in order to make our existence tolerable, but that this beast has an insatiable appetite for violence and capital, so no matter how much it is fed, it will always desire to swallow us whole. But the propaganda of american exceptionalism tells us that we are different, that our systems cannot be abolished as they are the pillars upon which the rest of the world stands, and that reform is the only tangible solution as abolition is not only “too radical” but also “unrealistic”. To those who have yet to wake up to the dangers we face, I scream “WE CANNOT REFORM OUR WAY OUT OF OPPRESSION”. The principle of reform allows the institutions that uphold racism, capitalism, xenophobia, and imperialism to exist in the hopes of bending global elites to the will of our desires. It requires pandering to soulless entities in the hopes of swaying them into humanizing us, completely ignoring the fact that our systems are not “broken” but in fact working so well that we have begun to cosign our own demise. But Assata Shakur says it best, “only a fool lets somebody else tell him who his enemy is” and more importantly “nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them”. 

We are too close to the problem to admit that we benefit from it and are, in fact, part of said problem. The process of returning to indigenous ways of knowing and restoring our understanding and connections to our histories is one of uncomfortable introspection. We first must become disgusted with ourselves and our compliance with the dehumanization of those around us to begin to see our struggles through an internationalist lens. Most are simply unwilling to admit this. Most refuse to face themselves and that there is no grey area here, there is no compromise. Most refuse to acknowledge that you cannot vote your way into and out of freedom, that these systems are designed to fail us, and that we are only setting our immediate and international communities back by continuing to partake in the charade that is the amerikkkan political arena. It is our responsibility to become uncomfortable with the privileges that we have been given. The privilege that tells us that when we are “overwhelmed” by the truth we can look away, and that thoughts and prayers are enough to keep our comrades safe. Nothing we have done thus far has been enough, nothing we have done thus far has worked. The last two weeks of Palestinian resistance have made this abundantly clear, just as it was in 2020 when we watched the public lynching of George Floyd and again when we protested the war in Afghanistan that was funded by our taxes. Active genocides are being committed against Palestinians and the Congolese on the dime of both those who voted for Biden as a democratic savior and “lesser of two evils” and those who voted for Trump in the years prior. Understand clearly that no matter who is ruling the empire, the fascist and white supremacist regime will always value capital over the lives of black and brown people. Therefore, by virtue of our existence in the belly of the beast, we are complicit in its crimes against humanity. There is no amount of think pieces, community healing circles, reading, or civic action that can be done to rectify the harm caused by our presence here. The sooner that we realize this, the sooner we can take real action toward dismantling the systems of oppression that keep us stagnant. But as long as we are comfortable, and as long as our love of comfort holds more weight than our love for humanity, we will continue to treat our one good deed a year as a confessional that wipes our conscience clean while we still label those who can’t afford the comforts we have stolen as dope fiends. Be wary of the fingers you point to those around you, as the greatest addictions we must break are those to our comforts that enable the dissociation and apathy we fall into. Understand that dissociation and apathy are of the most cruel responses to death and ask yourself: do our martyrs not deserve to know your heart, to feel your grief that affirms your love for their humanity? Dissociation and apathy do not absolve you of your compliance in the evils we see, they make you a coward. Be brave enough to feel deeply. Be brave enough to fight against the habitual comforts we seek when we are met with the truth. Be brave enough to love and to grieve. 

We must change the ways in which we navigate this world and understand that of everyone who exists on this planet, we are the most responsible for the tragedies and devilry we have seen unfolding in the Middle East, the Caribbean, in Panama, and on the continent of Afrika. It is only in accepting our compliance and responsibility that we can then transmute the shame and guilt that comes with this into tangible steps towards the total liberation and autonomy of all black and brown indigenous peoples around the globe. 

As a final note, I will leave all who read this with a reminder of the importance of honoring our ancestors as we engage in collective struggle:

We cannot know where we are going and who we are to become if we do not know who and where we have come from, a principle of Sankofa. Our struggles have remained the same for centuries, it is only in acceptance of this: our common enemy, our divine love that transcends generations and gives us strength to move through the darkness of this world as the epitome of light, that we can set ourselves and our comrades free. The most important thing you can do in this fight is to first decolonize your mind, all other impactful actions will naturally follow. Practice without theory is reckless and dangerous and theory without practice makes you nothing more than an egotistical mouthpiece.  

Without this understanding, we fall back into complacency, and the evils of the western fascist empires begin to surprise us and we succumb to a grief so heavy that we can no longer think or act. Your mind is the tool that allows you to feel grief and transcend this into action. I urge you to your internal gardens, know and feel deeply that you have never been alone, that we are all connected and therefore we have to fight, we have to speak, we have to act. This is so much bigger than any of us alone. and we will remain protected as long as we know who we are.