ANALYSIS: International solidarity re-emerges from Ferguson’s fires
By Mark P. Fancher
Special to the Michigan Citizen
Missouri’s flames of rebellion are now smoldering ashes, but in the aftermath of the tragic killing of Michael Brown, at least one bright ray of hope shone through smoky clouds of despair. Young rebels in Gaza tweeted protesters in Ferguson and not only expressed solidarity, but also provided advice about how to cope with teargas. This event attracted little media attention, but it is encouraging evidence of the international awareness of the plight of African-descended communities in the U.S., and the potential for international alliances in struggles against shared enemies.
For generations, oppressed populations around the world identified with those in America whose ancestors were enslaved and who continued to suffer the indignities and humiliation of Jim Crow well into the 20th Century. For example, the poor of Nicaragua under the leadership of the “Sandinistas” overthrew the dictatorial Somoza family in 1979. A decade earlier their leaders pledged to: “support the struggle of the Black people and all the people of the United States for an authentic democracy and equal rights.” The oppressed in still other countries were inspired by the American Civil Rights and Black Power movements to wage their own struggles.
As time passed and memories of the liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s began to fade, the perceptions abroad of “Black America” began to change. In the 1980s, the high profile presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson, the crowning of Miss Americas of African descent, the premiere of the Cosby Show, the mega stardom of Michael Jackson, and other perceived breakthroughs fueled a belief that a formerly oppressed population had indeed overcome. Ultimately, it took the horrific images of suffering black humanity in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans to shock others who struggle around the world into an accurate perception of the continuing desperation of many African-descended communities in the U.S.
Nevertheless, the election of President Obama distorted yet again the overseas image of America’s black community. When President Obama made drone strikes, extraordinary rendition, AFRICOM, the overthrow of Libya’s Gadhafi government, sanctions against Zimbabwe and a variety of other political/military initiatives central elements of his foreign policy, there was an unintended negative impact on countless innocent civilians. When grieving mothers whose children were killed by drone strikes intended for suspected terrorists became very angry at President Obama, they must certainly have questioned the decency and empathy of the millions of U.S. citizens of African descent who apparently give the Obama administration unconditional support.
The President’s job description implicitly requires him to preserve the U.S. global empire and the military-industrial complex that profits from it. However, this imperialist agenda is in direct conflict with the needs of oppressed people everywhere, including African-descended communities in the U.S. It has been a great tragedy that would-be allies abroad have associated many who suffer in this country with oppressive forces. It is for that reason that the tweets from Gaza are so welcome. Those in other parts of the world who fight desperately for basic dignity need to know that America’s Africans share and understand their pain.
Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who writes frequently about the U.S. military presence in Africa. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.