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The Black Panther Movie gives us an opportunity to talk about Colonialism, the African Independence Movement and US Imperialism

February 27, 2018

This post is primarily for White people. It is for White people who have seen Marvel’s Black Panther movie. Black Panther is an important film for a variety of reasons, many of which have been written about, but it is also an important film because it can help us to expand our radical imagination.

When I say the film can expand our radical imagination, what I mean is that the Black Panther movie can be a mechanism for us, especially for White people, to come to terms with the history of Colonialism in Africa, the African independence movement and the role of US imperialism throughout the continent of Africa.

Colonialism

The great African writer Walter Rodney, published in 1973, his powerful book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. In Rodney’s book, he lays out an important framework for how European colonialism undermined Africa.

So many of us White people have grown up with images of Africa that were dominated by starving children and those damn religious commercials trying to appeal to our guilt about the awful poverty that existed throughout Africa. What those images and commercials never told us was that African wealth and African resources were being extracted to benefit people living in Italy, France, Belgium, England, Spain, Portugal and Germany, along with the Europeans who were occupying African land as colonizers overseeing this massive resource extraction.

This massive extraction of resources from Africa were in the form of diamonds, oil, cocoa, coffee, wood, animals and of course African labor. The South African Anti-Apartheid movement did a great deal to make us aware of the massive levels of wealth extraction and which companies were profiting from structural racism & apartheid.

Imagine the millions of lives that were lost from colonial violence and exploitation. Imagine how many lives were ruined, how many families were torn apart and how much knowledge and creativity was stolen from African people. Also, it must be said that the massive wealth extraction from Africa and the brutality of European colonialism was all sanctioned by the christian church.

Lastly, just think of the incredible amount of cultural artifacts that were also extracted from Africa, only to end up in European museums without any acknowledgement of the colonial violence perpetrated to steal so much culture from Africa.

African Independence Movement

Like most of the Global South, many Africans grew tired of living under the boot of Colonialism and began to organize independence movements. After WWII, there was tremendous hope that Africa could once again be for Africans.

Anti-Colonial organizing in Africa had begun at the same time that European colonizers began their campaigns of conquest. The anti-colonial movements in Africa often began small, but continued to gain momentum over the centuries. These anti-Colonial movements took many forms, such as the formation of political parties, labor organizing and various manifestations of Pan-African campaigns to unite common struggles.

WWI and WWII greatly weakened many of the European powers and the anti-Colonial movement took advantage of this weakness, particularly after WWII. Anti-Colonial movements were begun in countries like Ghana, Kenya, the Congo, South Africa, Algeria, Namibia, Angola and Nigeria.

We know a great deal about these movements because of the relationship that people in the African American community had with those fighting for justice throughout Africa. Malcolm X had traveled to African in 1959, visiting several countries in an attempt to plan a tour by the head of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm X later went to Africa in 1964, in two separate trips, where he met with many independence leaders. In fact, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria had all invited Malcolm X to serve in their governments.

However, some European countries and the United States were not happy about Africans wanting to their own independence. The US in particular was involved in several campaigns to undermine African independence movements, such as the US role in assisting the French battle for control of Algeria, the Congo independence movement and the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, Ghana in 1966, Angola in the 1970s and 80s, putting Mobuto in power in Zaire, destabilizing Libya during the Reagan years, support for the dictatorship in Uganda and the continually siding with the South African government right up until the system of Apartheid could no longer be saved.

The US government spent billions of dollars to destabilize much of Africa, provided arms to dictatorships and refused to support any African independence movement.

US Imperialism in Africa today

The focus on the part of US policy in Africa has been an extension of European Colonialism or as some scholars would say, a form of Neo-Colonialism. Since the end of the Cold War, where Communism was no longer the primary justification for US intervention, you can see a rhetorical shift for US foreign policy, where the justification is now anti-terrorism, radical Islam or even humanitarian intervention.

Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the US has directly intervened militarily (sending troops, missile strikes, sending arms, training, drone attacks) in Africa on the following occasions:

  • Somalia 1992 – troops
  • Rwanda 1994 – weapons sales
  • Sudan 1998 – missile strike
  • Congo continuously – weapons sales
  • Uganda continuously – weapons sales
  • Kenya continuously – weapons sales
  • Egypt continuously – weapons sales
  • Morocco continuously – weapons sales
  • AFRICOM 2007 – Expanding US military bases, training, drone strikes, etc
  • Libya 2011 – direct military intervention

One of the most important developments in US Foreign Policy in Africa, is the creation and expansion of AFRICOM, The United States Africa Command. Established in 2007, AFRICOM really took off during the Obama administration and has been involved in expanding the US military footprint throughout Africa. This has meant more US military training of soldiers from African countries and training non-governmental forces who have been instrumental in creating destabilization throughout the region.

Nick Turse, writing for TomDispatch.com has been reporting on AFRICOM for years, with articles like this one from 2014. Turse, also has a book published on the subject of AFRICOM entitled, Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa.

Another person who has been providing important analysis on AFRICOM, is Margaret Kimberley, who writes for Black Agenda Report. She was recently interviewed about AFRICOM. To listen to that interview click here

This post is just an overview of Colonialism in Africa, the the African Independence Movement and US Imperialism in Africa. There is a whole lot more we need to investigate and come to terms with as White people, who have knowingly or unknowingly been complicit in the colonial and imperialist violence that has been committed and continues to be committed in Africa.

We all have to do the work of learning this history and then providing support and solidarity to the current African movements that are still fighting for liberation. Going to see the Black Panther movie is an important introduction, but it is not enough. White people can’t claim some sort of empathy for Black Africans, just because we saw a movie. We have to come to terms with Colonialism and White Supremacy. Making a Facebook post about going to see the film doesn’t mean much if we don’t work to end US Imperialism in Africa.

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