Black Experience Between Global War and Universal Peace

Ali A Mazrui

Ali A Mazrui, Writer and Broadcaster, Director of the Institute of Global Culture at Binghamton University New York.




When is the story-teller part of the story? This article sprang from the African elite view of world order and world security. As one among African intellectuals and media elite this story teller has not too sharply separated participant from observer.

Partly because African history and the Black experience were profoundly affected by racism and imperialism, African perspectives on the world system are influenced by a fear of imperialism and a profound suspicion of racism. The article tries to indicate how this gave rise to a race-centric worldview and a racial paradigm of world order.

In the African experience, as in the Irish experience, the past is part and parcel of the present. The day-before-yesterday is part of today. Samuel Huntington is wrong that the clash of civilizations is something to be confronted after the end of the Cold War. The Western world made sure there have been clashes of civilizations for the last four hundred years — inspired by Western racism.

We have identified the following waves:

The FIRST wave of racio-cultural confrontation was the peopling of the Americas in a manner which involved large scale decimation of Native American populations. This was the genocidal phase of history.

The SECOND wave was the Trans Atlantic slave trade, the enslavement phase and export of millions of Africans to the so-called new world. For many Africans this horrendous past lives on in the present. This history has been an impediment to Black military and upward social mobility.

The THIRD wave of racio-cultural confrontation was Europe’s colonization of much of the rest of the world: Asia, Africa, Latin America and the islands on the sea. This was the imperial phase, the era of the West triumphant.

The colonial past is central to the post-colonial present: Once again history is impediment to economic and military security.

FOURTH wave of racio-cultural confrontation is the present one of military discrimination and economic stratification. This is the hegemonic phase.

White countries may have nuclear weapons but darker races should be denied. Israel may have weapons of mass destruction, but Muslims in the Middle East may not. The United States may use chemical weapons against Vietnam and use nuclear weapons against Japan, but Middle Eastern countries may not develop either weapon.

The greatest economic victims of the new racial cold war are Black people; greatest military victims are Muslims. More than 500,000 have been killed by westerners since 1980. These happened before the Iraq War of George W. Bush.

Curiously enough the two world wars of the twentieth century were initially intra-civilization. Starting as European civil wars they coincided with a period of history when Europe was calling the tune in most of the rest of the world.

In reality two factors turned European civil wars into world wars, the involvement of European empires and the co-option of the United States. But for Africa World War II was also a positive development. It weakened the European powers, stimulated anti colonialism and set the stage for genuine de-colonization and independence. For Africa World War II was, on balance, a liberating experience; terrible as it was for Europe and parts of Asia.

The Cold War was also a liberating and trans-racializing experience. White Russians were supporting Black liberation movements against White minority governments in southern Africa. Karl Marx and V. I. Lenin, two White men, were the icons of millions of people of color. Oppression and liberation were deemed race neutral.

The liberation of Portuguese Africa and southern Africa might have been delayed for a generation had there been no armed struggle. Armed struggle was made possible by an alliance between Black Nationalist fighters and white socialist governments who provided Africans with arms.

The Chinese were also major allies of Black liberation fighters in Southern Africa. Once again the Cold War was a trans-racializing experience. The end of the Cold War has threatened those trans-racializing tendencies. Russia is now too weak to be a major player in North-South relations.

Western moral commitment to Africa has drastically slackened. Racism has increased in Western Europe and has emerged in Eastern and central Europe. Affirmative action and other civil rights gains are under threat in the United States. The shadow of global apartheid hangs over the world, in the form of a racial pyramid:  White-ruled countries at the top, followed by East Asian countries, and then South East Asian countries, after them South Asia and Arabs. Black people have been pushed to the bottom.

And yet the solution preferred by Africa is not “leave us alone.” The solution has three parts. To avoid further imperialism from outside, Africa will police itself more efficiently. A Pax Africana needs to be developed. Stronger African States would come to the rescue of weaker ones; RACIAL SOVEREIGNTY as a principle.

So in the issue of military security, the preferred option is regional self reliance. ECOMOG in Liberia, “Bay of Pigs” in Rwanda, Pan African sanctions against atrocities in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

On the issue of economic security, Africa will sell its minerals and its agricultural products. It does not want to opt out of the world economy. It wants a fairer basis for global economic interchange and pricing system. If a motto was needed for this strategy it would be “Military Regionalism and Economic Globalism.” Regions should solve their own military problems at the regional level. But in economics, the scale has become global.

On the issue of racial rehabilitation, Africa demands compensation for hundreds of years of enslavement, exploitation and racial degradation.

  • Jews got compensated for the Holocaust
  • Japanese-American internees in World War II got compensated by the
  • USA.
  • Kuwait got compensated by Iraq for Iraqi aggression.
  • Steps towards making it up to the Aborigines of Australia are beginning to be taken

But what kind of reparations should Africa demand and get? The options include the following:

  • Capital Transfer (like the Marshall Plan)
  • Skill Transfer (to transform the educational and skill capacities of Black people)
  • Power-sharing, giving Africa access to such citadels as the veto or permanent membership of the Security Council and weighted membership on governing bodies of World Bank and IMF.

In the military field regional self-reliance should be consolidated as much as possible. In the economic field, equitable global interdependence in trade, investment and, where appropriate, foreign aid would be promoted.

In the racial field there would be a long drawn out struggle to bring the western conscience to the level when it can one day accept the principle of compensation for the awful damage to Black people; a damage which is here and now, and not simply a page in history.