Race is a Team Sport

The content originally appeared on: The Barnacle News
Lenrod Nzulu Baraka

By Lenrod Nzulu Baraka

Claude Anderson, the author of Powernomics and a number of other enlightening books that all Black people should read, reminds us both in his books and in his lectures that the game of race is a team sport.  As in all team sports, it matters little how skillful each individual player is.  Until each player learns how to combine their individual skills with the individual skills of their team mates, victory will continue to be illusive.

As I write this article, there are fifty-four countries in Africa with two additional states whose independence is under dispute.  Many African countries can be compared to highly skilled football players.  Nigeria with its oil reserves and massive population is the star player in Sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda are all highly gifted players as well. The Congo and many other African countries are brimming over with hugely undiscovered potential and talent. The tragedy of the African continent is that notwithstanding its depth of resources and talent, Africa continues to punch way below its hitting potential.  

China, the US, and India are three shining example of nations that have created strong national identities out of a potpourri of ethnicities, culture, tribes, and languages. All three of these three nations have been successful at creating ethnic melting pots that have managed to produce sufficiently homogenous populations needed for national cohesion.  Even though there are still pockets of political resistance in China, the US, and India, the central government is strong enough to overcome any resistance that threatens national cohesion.

It should be noted that Kwame Nkrumah (may our ancestors always be remembered) envisioned the creation of a strong African state that would have been able to overcome any threats to its stability and existence.  Our great ancestor Nkrumah urged his fellow African heads of state to sacrifice their individual national ambitions to facilitate the birthing of the United States of Africa. President Nkrumah warned that if African leaders were seduced by their own individual talents, they would be picked off one after the other by nations that had learned the lesson of how to play the game of race as a team.

Even though the Arab and the European invaders of Africa came from many different nations, they were still united in common purpose often by religion and culture.  Islam and Christianity helped to forge the Arab and European invaders into a unified philosophical stream that was willing to unite to defeat the common African enemy when necessary.

Africans hampered their own cause by embracing the religion, culture, and languages of their colonizers. As Chinua Achebe observed, the invaders plunged a dagger into the center of that which held African societies together resulting in everything falling apart. Unlike the Chinese and the Indians who were also victims of colonization, African jettisoned their own spiritual traditions, culture, and ancestors for the spiritual traditions culture, and ancestors of Jews, Arabs, and Europeans. To this day much of what Africans claim as African culture is nothing more that recycled Islam and Christianity.

The reconfiguration of the global order as the US retreats from its role of being the policeman of the world had created a small window of opportunity for African, Caribbean, and Pacific states to evolve a new set of rules, structures, and organizations to help the global Black collective punch more efficiently and more effectively. President Ruto of Kenya and a few other African leaders seemed to be moving in a direction similar to what President Nkrumah envisaged. The same can be said of a few Caribbean political leaders.

Regrettably the window of opportunity will not remain open for long.  African, Caribbean, and Pacific leaders have to make some hard choices about the future of the three regions.  We can choose to continue flexing our muscles and talents as individual nations or we can decide to pool our national resources under one central authority that will then speak and act on behalf of the majority of the black collective. 

The current Black generation, like the generation of the 1960s, is faced with the choice of playing the game of race as a disjointed collection of skilled players totally lacking in coordination and communication with equally skilled but disconnected players in the rest of the Black collective. History has already demonstrated that this course of action is a dead-end street for Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific nations.  Going forward, we will either learn how to swim together as one global Black collective or we will stay disconnected and disunited as we struggle against the rising tides, eventually succumbing to the deadly currents, and drowning one after the other.

Lenrod Nzulu Baraka is the founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center and the author of Oreos, Coconuts, and Negropeans.