The "year with bell hooks" Project: Letter #007
All About Love: Greed - Simply Love
“Skin is a passport. Epidermal citizenship”
is what Tao Leigh Goffe, Ph.D. called the conflict in Ukraine. The hashtag #AfricansInUkraine showed this “skin passport” in full view, all in real-time. From seeing on social media, the countless Africans built their lives, for however long the season, in Ukraine, be rejected from entering spaces of refuge was and is sickening.
The crisis between Ukraine and Russia isn’t a stand-alone event. And while the Black Agenda Report, Black Alliance for Peace, and more, all explained in deeper detail what this conflict is about and means, especially for us who are Black in this constructed world – only shows how deep anti-Blackness is – globally.
Was it when a reporter said,
Or was it when Paul Massaro said,
I’m racking my brain for a historical parallel to the courage and fighting spirit of the Ukrainians and coming up empty. How many peoples have ever stood their ground against an aggressor like this? It’s legendary.
As if the struggle for liberation and self-determination is uniquely European.
I think the collective framing of ‘war’ as a necessary/masculinist-like endeavor that must be done to protect the vulnerable is what makes the act of war, domination, and violence become glamorized, romanticized, and even honorable. And with that framing, both intentionally constructed and covertly done in a way that turns the eye – literally and figuratively – away from seeing that war in this sense is not new but has been ongoing on this (Native) American soil since the Euro-American inception.
Because what is the difference between the bombings of Afghanistan from 1998 to 2021 and the systematic decimation of Native American people for their land and goods?
Because what is the difference between the over 300,000 bombs dropped in Iraq, Syria, and countless countries by the U.S. and the U.S. bombing Black-dominated populations like the Tulsa Race Massacre or the 1985 MOVE Philadelphia?
Because what is the difference between claiming war as a necessary pursuit for peace against ‘terrorists’ abroad when the U.S. itself is a militaristic, violent oppressor – morphing from slavemaster to Jim Crow's to Police upon Black people?
Because what is the difference between Israel’s actual identity as a settler state – internally displacing Palestinians in their home and Euro-Americans likewise a settler-state - the U.S. internally displacing Native Americans?
Surveillance, terror, brutalization, chemical warfare tactics, and more – all upon who is created as the ‘other’ – Black people and people of color (the distinction is important) isn’t a new phenomenon.
War is the U.S. Violence is the U.S. Terror is the U.S.
And America has been in an ongoing imperialist mission to protect whiteness, power, and access to goods – by any means necessary.
I say this because I don’t believe in any good actor of war. I also don’t believe that U.S. has the right to declare what actions are good, ethical, moral, or just; because its inception has been the contrary. Its roots are destruction. Its fuel is greed. Its advancement is through theft. Its image is preserved through deceit.
The #AfricansInUkraine shows how anti-Blackness remains in unique and stunning ways. It shows that the U.S. as a global power has not only provided the blueprint, but exemplifies and models what it means to construct, subjugate, and demonize Blackness/Black bodies as a crucial requirement to maintain itself and its structures.
So what is democracy, peace, vitality, and equality in a state which claims those words as its core values but whose actions, pursuits, and prioritization countlessly prove otherwise? Who is deemed worthy of life? Who is seen as human? Who is regarded as being able to have?
And this is what makes blocking borders against #AfricansInUkraine so evil because who legitimately has the right to declare the borders, and who can cross them? Who truly has the right to decide who are citizens or not? Why would Poland open their Ukrainians but not to the Syrians, Africans of varying countries, Iranians, and more who also find themselves in an ongoing power-constructed migrant/refugee byproduct of conflict?
In this era of globalization, we find ourselves in profits and privileges those with “rightly designated” skin color and birthplaces. As Ja’Tovia Gary says,
if anti-blackness is the structuring principle for the entire world then the world must end.
America is a prime place for unpacking and highlighting how the seven deadly sins play out here. Greed, most definitely, is one of them. For this week on chapter seven of All About Love: Greed - Simply Love, bell hooks’ words ring eerily on-point for what is happening in our present climate.
Greed is rightly considered a “deadly sin’’ because it erodes the moral values that encourage us to care for the common good. Greed violates the spirit of connectedness and community that is natural to human survival. It wipes out individual recognition of the needs and concerns of everyone, replacing this awareness with harmful self-centeredness…No doubt this government-funded social services while huge sums of money fuel the ever-growing culture of violent imperialism. The profiteering prophets of greed are never content; it is not enough for this country to be consumed by a politics of greed, it must become the natural way of life globally.
All About Love - p. 117
So what does this mean for us – the everyday people? I think that it means adopting, believing, embodying, and continuously practicing an anti-imperialist, decolonial, and anti-patriarchal/domination ethic that grounds our transformative definition of love.
When you reflect, what comes to your mind on what to let go or adopt?
Greed subsumes love and compassion; living simply makes room for them. Living simply is the primary way everyone can resist greed every day. All over the world people are becoming more aware of the importance of living simply and sharing resources.
All About Love - p. 125
Love, in this context, isn’t in a superficial or toxic positive way to dismiss or silence our lived realities, but this ‘simply love’ is a communal endeavor actualized in our day-to-day commitments, values, and ethics.
We can work to change public policy, electing leaders who are honest and progressive. We can turn off the television set. We can show respect for love. To save our planet we can stop thoughtless waste. We can recycle and support ecologically advanced survival strategies. We can celebrate and honor communalism and interdependency by sharing resources. All these gestures show a respect and gratitude for life. When we value the delaying of gratification and take responsibility for our actions, we simplify our emotional universe. Living simply makes loving simple. The choices to live simply necessarily enhances our capacity to love. It is the way we learn to practice compassion, daily affirming our connection to a world community.
All About Love - p.125
Love and domination cannot co-exist
Until the next chapter, and with love,