FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Being Black Palestinian: Solidarity as a Welcome Pathology

Last year, I wrote an article that made many readers unhappy. As soon as it was published, I began receiving messages of abuse and angry, threatening calls.

I hesitated about reporting the threats to the local police in Washington State and, in the end, I resolved to file the unpleasant experience under a burgeoning folder of ‘controversies’ caused by my writings. The title of the article was: ‘I Can’t Breathe’: Racism and War in America and Beyond.

As a Palestinian columnist and a book author over the past 20 years, it has not been entirely easy working in the United States. Nor has it been possible to be embraced by the mainstream while raging against mainstream ideas, constant appetite for war and unthinking support of Apartheid Israel.

George Orwell once wrote: “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”. With time, and with no other alternative, I have decided to comfort myself with that sage realization.

Having been born in a refugee camp in Gaza, I am the descendant of a generation of refugees and peasants, who once dwelled in a Palestinian homeland before it was brutally vanquished in 1948 and ‘miraculously’ became Israel.

For the better part of a whole century, generations of Palestinians have experienced every form of oppression that the twisted human mind is able to conjure up: massacres, ethnic cleansing, destruction of property, rape, unremitting war, siege and all the psychological torment that often accompanies such devastation.

In fact, being survivors of a perpetual injustice has, at least for many of us, become the main frame of reference through which we can understand the world, and ourselves.

As a refugee, I have always remained absorbed and totally committed to expose the suffering of refugees, wherever they are. But I am just one of an ever-growing movement of Palestinian intellectuals, artists, academicians and justice activists the world over.

Our shared experience and unrelenting fight for freedom and justice has molded us into a unique breed, where solidarity with others have become so innate, an uncontrollable urge, a pathology even, although a welcome one. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual.

Surprisingly, some of the anger that followed my writings on the subject of Palestinian-Black solidarity came from pro-Palestinian ‘White’ readers. One even went as far as disowning the Palestinian cause altogether. ‘Let Black people free your country,” he wrote, along with a few profane phrases.

Honestly, good riddance. There must be no racism in the Palestine solidarity movement anyway, and any solidarity that is conditioned on isolating Palestinians from the fight for human rights anywhere in the world is unworthy and unwelcome.

The truth is, I was not trying to score cheap political points by espousing justice for 12-year-old Tamir Rice, or Eric Garner or, more recently, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. These, among hundreds of other who are killed every year in the ongoing drama of police violence, come from the most economically and socially disadvantaged segments of American society. They hold little political influence and are rarely known for their powerful lobbies in Washington DC.

Yet, siding with them, however strategically useless such a move may appear to some, is the only moral path to be taken. I, like millions of Palestinians, know precisely what racism is, what oppression feels like, how being economically underprivileged and politically disadvantaged are often the inception of anger – and even counter-violence.

My people have been living that vicious cycle for a century and, for me, not to take a moral stance in solidarity with any oppressed group anywhere in the world is denying the very foundation of my being, the collective drive that keeps millions of Palestinians standing strong and moving forward.

There is an unmistakable sense of being permanently exiled that is shared by many Palestinians, regardless of their political backgrounds. That sense is both real and figurative to the extent that, with time, it has morphed into a culture, a mode of thinking and perspective.

Being ‘out of place’, the title of Edward Said’s powerful memoir is not unique to a single Palestinian individual, but to a whole nation. Even in our homeland, there is little sense of continuity; things can change so very quickly: by bombs, bulldozers or military orders.

To adapt, Palestinian culture – although rooted in a long history of uninterrupted existence that exceeds a millennia – has been quite fluid; culturally and geographically, as well. With the prolonged ‘exile’, our political identity surpassed time and place. Thus, identifying with Black or Native Americans, the refugees of Syria, the victims of South African Apartheid or the Rohingya of Burma is hardly an act of political expediency, but a natural moral inclination. A culture even.

Edward Said had convincingly articulated the concept of ‘global perspective’ that made the Palestinian struggle part and parcel of a global fight for social justice. For Palestinians, the lines have become truly blurred between their political identity, their own culture and that of a much greater fight with loftier goals.

“In the case of a political identity that’s being threatened, culture is a way of fighting against extinction and obliteration,” Said wrote.

“Culture is a form of memory against effacement.”

In a recently released poetry collection that I co-authored with two brilliant Palestinian poets, Samah Sabawi and Jehan Bseiso, what is Palestine merged into a much larger array of global struggles against injustice.

In the poem, written after the death of Herman Wallace – a Black man who was incarcerated in solitary confinement for 41 years on the basis of what many believe were trumped up charges – I attempted to include the old fighter’s struggle as part of my people’s own ‘memory against effacement.’

“.. My fist will rise from the charred earth; in a painting by Naji Ali,

Through the thick walls of Louisiana State Penitentiary

In the streets of Hanoi,

Amid the rubble of a Gaza mosque.

Even on my dying bed.

I have many names.

But my face is always my face.

On my forehead stitched the memory of pain.

I smile still.

And teach my son to never hate

Because hate is not love

And love is freedom

I am a Palestinian

My name is Herman Wallace

And I will always die free.”

Suddenly, being Palestinian and Black was the most natural feeling. It was not a calculated decision, but an innate feeling driven by the common struggle for justice and a shared history of pain.

More articles by:

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

November 20, 2018
John Davis
Geographies of Violence in Southern California
Anthony Pahnke
Abolishing ICE Means Defunding it
Maximilian Werner
Why (Mostly) Men Trophy Hunt: a Biocultural Explanation
Masturah Alatas
Undercutting Female Circumcision
Jack Rasmus
Global Oil Price Deflation 2018 and Beyond
Geoff Dutton
Why High Technology’s Double-Edged Sword is So Hard to Swallow
Binoy Kampmark
Charges Under Seal: US Prosecutors Get Busy With Julian Assange
Rev. William Alberts
America Fiddles While California Burns
Forrest Hylton, Aaron Tauss and Juan Felipe Duque Agudelo
Remaking the Common Good: the Crisis of Public Higher Education in Colombia
Patrick Cockburn
What Can We Learn From a Headmaster Who Refused to Allow His Students to Celebrate Armistice Day?
Clark T. Scott
Our Most Stalwart Company
Tom H. Hastings
Look to the Right for Corruption
Edward Hunt
With Nearly 400,000 Dead in South Sudan, Will the US Finally Change Its Policy?
Thomas Knapp
Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Agreed with Ocasio-Cortez Until About One Minute Ago
November 19, 2018
David Rosen
Amazon Deal: New York Taxpayers Fund World Biggest Sex-Toy Retailer
Sheldon Richman
Art of the Smear: the Israel Lobby Busted
Chad Hanson
Why Trump is Wrong About the California Wildfires
Dean Baker
Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?
Robert Fisk
We Remember the Great War, While Palestinians Live It
Dave Lindorff
Pelosi’s Deceptive Plan: Blocking any Tax Rise Could Rule Out Medicare-for-All and Bolstering Social Security
Rick Baum
What Can We Expect From the Democrat “Alternative” Given Their Record in California?
Thomas Scott Tucker
Trump, World War I and the Lessons of Poetry
John W. Whitehead
Red Flag Gun Laws
Newton Finn
On Earth, as in Heaven: the Utopianism of Edward Bellamy
Robert Fantina
Shithole Countries: Made in the USA
René Voss
Have Your Say about Ranching in Our Point Reyes National Seashore
Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail