Why Disabled People Should Take the Pledge of Solidarity with African People
by Johann Bedingfield, member of the African People’s Solidarity Committee and Uhuru Solidarity Movement
As a child with cerebral palsy, I experienced severe isolation from white society. My first memory was being locked in a room at a stranger’s house. Growing up, other kids would not play with me or talk to me and this seemed to be encouraged by teachers, staff, neighbors, and society in general. Subconsciously I began to seek other cultures that were more humane. When I was in middle school, I wrote a story about an Indigenous boy and when I turned it in, I received a bad grade. I asked the teacher why she marked my paper off. She kneeled down at my side and whispered in my ear, “I think Indians are dirty.” At that moment, I was shocked and angry. I began to realize how white nationalism was not some fringe reactionary ideology. It permeated throughout the school system and society at large.
Later, I began to experience what America was really about. I started studying the history of how colonial America was born. For instance, I researched how Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson stole ideas from the Haudenosaunee, otherwise known as Iroquois, in order to build the white nation, as they were at the same time destroying the Indigenous nations and enslaving Africans. I brought this to the attention of my American Government teacher, in which she replied, “You are right, but we cannot teach this for it’s not in the textbook.” She deliberately suppressed the real history of how the US was born off of slavery and genocide of African and Indigenous people.
As I entered college, my isolation from white society grew. I started going through a process in which I began to see things through the eyes of oppressed peoples. I did not have the politic of African Internationalism, but I knew something had to be done. I challenged my professors regarding how they treated African and other colonized peoples as specimens to be studied. During this time, I discovered the Uhuru Movement. Immediately, when I heard Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the African People’s Socialist Party speak about how the resources and labor of African people were stolen in order to build the US economy, I knew I had to join in solidarity with African people. I knew there was no future for me in the white nation.
I saw the contradictions that I faced regarding not having a life experience of love was much deeper in oppressed nations. I learned that there was a whole program where African men are being locked up by the millions, isolated from their girlfriends, wives, and families. This dastardly US policy is a deliberate way of preventing African people from enjoying an economic life in order to continue to steal African resources so white people could experience things like love, community, and family. Africans are prevented from reproducing real life for themselves. Instead, they are being forced to produce life of slavery to feed the white nation. My experience of isolation is a microcosm to what the majority of the planet face everyday.
For my stance of solidarity, I was attacked. A white nationalist driver for a wheelchair transportation company threatened to choke me with a seatbelt. He was hostile not only to differently able people, but also to the entire black and Mexican working class communities. He desired to “blow away the n**gers and Mexicans.” At the time, I was on my way to an Uhuru Movement sponsored event.
As differently able people, these vicious attacks and isolation can take a toll on our well-being as well as our families and caretakers. We must understand that this system is based upon a culture of violence. For 500 years, Africans and Mexican/Indigenous people have borne the brunt of the US state. This can be seen in the current era of US economic crisis in which Africans are facing foreclosures, police and vigilante violence, and economic assaults.
Africans don’t have their resources to take care of the disabled. Imperialism has stolen health from Africans including medicines that could help the most vulnerable. Also, the bauxite that is manufactured to create aluminum for white people who are disabled to have wheelchairs and other devices that facilitates our well-being is looted by this vicous US colonial system.
I call on my fellow disabled people, families and caretakers who have to care for the disabled to Take the Pledge of Solidarity with African People. It’s in our interest to not live at the expense of Africans who don’t even benefit from the resources that go towards uplifting us in white society. As imperialism falls into deeper crisis, we must answer the call to see the future in solidarity with African people.