The Durable Archaeology of Anti-Black Racism in North America

Ali A. Abdi
Few minutes before I started writing this short blogpost, the results from two independent autopsies on the death of George Floyd were announced. He did not die from so-called underlying conditions, but directly from asphyxiation due to physical pressures applied on his neck during close to nine minutes, complemented by extra force applied to his back, which constricted his airflows and by extension, the functioning of his lungs.
Beyond these ‘just-in’ facts, it is worth restating this oft-repeated question: just for the past few weeks, how many times have we seen this anti-black racism that devalues, then destroys the lives of African North Americans? The North American point is intentional here as the situation also applies to this northerly earth block called Canada. It is with this in mind and to rationalize the term ‘archeology’ in the title, sort of euphemistically, that one need not de-shelf or de-dust, a few thick volumes to decipher and analyze the intersecting and interconnecting historical, cultural and quotidian designs and applications of white racism on the psychosomatic existentialities of African Americans and African Canadians. Beyond the deliberate asphyxiation of George Floyd, we witnessed, just in the past weeks, the killings – at close range – of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, by white police officers and self-styled white vigilantes. We also not need forget the narrow escape from the same fate of Christian Cooper, a Harvard graduate, an avid bird watcher and member of the New York Audubon Society. By politely asking a white woman, Amy Cooper (no known relationship) to leash her dog as was required for the area in NYC Central Park, a barrage of racist accusations were suddenly unleashed on him. Fortunately this time, Mr. Cooper survived, and Ms. Cooper got some (not all) of what she deserved.
In the Canadian case, I can list a number of African Canadians killed by the police in the past little while, but I shall stay for now more with the current American situation. Just to mention that there is the ongoing investigation into the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet from Toronto who fell to her death from her balcony recently while police officers were in her apartment. For the racist killers of George, Ahmaud and Breonna, and their racist supporters, it should be clear by now: BLACK LIVES DO NOT MATTER. Well, in pure scientific terms and with the massive genetic evidence available, there is only one human race. Possible conclusion here: if black lives do not matter, then this tragic principle applies to all lives. Of course, black lives matter and by extension, all human race lives matter which is, by the way, a legislated fact in both the Canadian and American constitutions. So how is it that we cannot so far solve these tragedies through the law? A brilliant answer from Martin Luther King Jr.: human morals and decency cannot be legislated, and legislation cannot repair the hearts of the heartless.
In terms of my current professional context (EDST), and speaking for myself ONLY, I can achieve better ethical and morally constructive platforms by accepting others as an extension of my own humanity. That is, by living the basic tenets of the African life philosophy of Ubuntu: you are only a person through the full personhood of others. To go back to the archeology point, euphemistically again (with extractable allegorical escape routes if needed), this inter-connected humanization of our lives can be expanded via the excavation and urgent re-examination of our primordial (even primeval) cognitive constructions, across-time-and-space ontological formations, and epistemological socializations and valuations, all analyzed into our currently globally linked contemporaneous realities and attached pragmatisms.
Indeed, if I am hurriedly deploying, in my teaching and research, as I actually do, the central role of education in the social, cultural and political liberation of societies with the main objective of achieving people’s wellbeing and ecological sustainability, then I must minimally accord all persons their primordial right (at birth) for human dignity and viably safe life conditions. By doing so, through interpersonal, dialogic and wider professional connections, I could advance the urgently needed antiracist projects, even achieve, to borrow half a line from Martha Nussbaum, wider and thicker threads of my common humanity with others.
To be continued.

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