On the Dialectics of Domestic Colonialism & the Role of Violence in Liberation from Fratricide to Suicide

Article excerpt

Unlike the colonialism of Africa, where Africans were the majority population, enslaved Africans began populating the U.S. colonies of North America along with English settlers and emerging as a domestic colony. While in the early stages, Africans in the U.S. colonies were classified as indentured servants, the distinction as slaves began to sharpen in 1640 "when three runaway servants, two white and one black were recaptured, [and] the court ordered the white servants to serve their master one additional year. The black servant, however, was ordered 'to serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life here or elsewhere.'" (1)

The Africans were a very significant part of the development of the United States. "Slaves supplied the foundation of the American economy in three ways: as a basic commodity in the New England-West Indian trade, as workers producing agricultural commodities for the market, and as property." (2) While they were considered non-persons, they were "personal (or 'chattel') property that could be bought sold, moved about, inherited, given away, insured, and used as collateral for all kinds of business transactions. As items of trade, producers of agricultural commodities, and capital, slaves fed the American and British economies and made possible the industrial revolution of both countries." (3)

Dialectics of Racism and Resistance

The clearly delineated categorization based on color intensified the development of structural violence against African people enslaved in the colonies. Basic rights weren't granted to the slaves and educating them was made illegal. Unlike contract labor whose basic human rights were guaranteed under law, slaves were given no such protection. The violent exploitation and forced labor of Africans enslaved in the U.S. produced "two decisive political options ... resistance and accommodation." (4)

Racism ensued from racial prejudice towards a particular socio-political category (called the Negro or Black race) which was coupled with the power of the states to institute laws limiting the behavior of this group. Color connotations further reinforced the sense of social purity of whites versus the negative, evil connotation of blackness. Racism, as it has developed over the centuries, unveiled its dialectical character. it has imbued a sense of superiority within whites while dialectically causing blacks to internalize a sense of their own inferiority. The depersonalization of the society says to the blacks, "I don't see you." The master's conversation about freedom and liberty in the presence of the slave says, "You don't exist." However, the master's very privilege and position are inextricably tied to the existence of the slave. Once the slave resists or refuses to accept his condition the relationship is forever transformed. No matter whether in a direct colonial or domestic context, the basis of the superior/ inferior relationship existed. The master/ slave relationship carried with it very similar socio-political dynamics as those implied in the colonizer/colonized relationship.

The post reconstruction status of the population of African descent in the U. S. has effectively been a domestic colonial relationship to the white settler colonial population. This continues to carry with it the dialectical contradictions of racism discussed above.

The internalized oppression and rage retained among the colonized (or domestic colonial) has been expressed in a range of different forms which Fanon has addressed. "The black man among his own in the twentieth century does not know at what moment his inferiority comes into being through the other." (5)

The racism and violence of the developing economy of the United States did not go unanswered. "Many slaves responded to the daily exploitation of the work place by resisting--running away, destroying machinery, burning crops, killing the master and his family. …