Future Focused – Jalil Muntaqim

By 2023, the US will be 40 percent minority and 50 percent of the entire population will be under 40 years old. These are demographics that cannot be ignored as progressives move forward building opposition to institutional racism and plutocratic governing.

In my thinking, it is incumbent on today’s Black activist academic community to take into account what America will look like in ten years to  better position Black people in opposition to the deniers of change. In this regard, I am raising dialogue toward the building of a National Coalition for a Changed America (NCCA) comprising Black historians, social and political scientists, demographers, economists and statisticians along with political activists who are prepared to build a future focused America. It is in preparation for the inevitable, we will better control and forge our common destiny with the necessary ideological, socio-economic and political determination to preserve our existence in a changed America.

It is extremely important progressives seek the means to organize greater unity and uniformity in ideological and political objectives that build and sustain a mass and popular determination that is currently evolving with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) “anti-racism social consciousness movement.” Similar to the moral civil rights consciousness movement, the BLM “anti-racism social consciousness movement” has challenged the symbols and social character of America’s racial divide. It has placed front and center the inequities of racial division in America’s social order demanding the demilitarization and defunding of the police, and a more equitable diversified inclusion in the capitalist-imperialist system, among other perfunctory systemic demands. In its platform it has called for the ending of mass incarceration and the criminalization of poverty, to support climate change initiatives, and to stop gentrification of communities of color and housing displacement, demanding debt relief for students and challenging dysfunctional and racist school systems and curriculums. In each of these and other demands are racial and economic implications that may ultimately create social conflicts and confrontations since change will not come easily in a socio-economic and political order that for centuries has existed under the delusionary cloud of white supremacy.

Racial Wealth Inequality Chart

However, the most pervasive and devastating cause for all these issues is the racialized unequal distribution of wealth in this country. It is well researched and recorded that the wealth disparity and income gap between whites and Blacks is 40% greater today than in 1967, with the average Black household net worth of $6,314 compared t o the average white household of $119,500 (NYT, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” Nicholas Kristof). When such economic disparity is accounted toward the lack of educational opportunities and criminal behavior in the Black community, we are better able to identify the pernicious problem. The Brookings Institute reported three years ago: “As poverty increased and spreads during the 2000s, the number of distressed neighborhoods in the United States – defined as census tracts with poverty rates of 40 percent or more climbed nearly three quarters.” The report continued: “The population living in such neighborhoods grew by similar margins (76 percent, or 5 million people) to reach 11.2 million by 2008 -2012 (NYT, “Crime and Punishment”, Charles M. Blow). Today, with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rate of Black deaths compared to white deaths, lends to a greater understanding of  how unequal distribution of wealth presents a genocidal dynamic to poor and oppressed peoples, especially Black people.

With the country in increasing economic crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to take in account reports on the rise of wealth: “According to a recent paper by the economist Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics, almost all of the increases in American inequality over the last 30 years is attributable to the ‘rise of the share of wealth owned by the 0.1 percent richest families.”‘ (NYT, “Another Widening Gap: The Have vs. The Have More,” by Robert Frank). And much of that rise is driven by the top 0.01 percent. It further states: “The wealth of the top 1 percent grew an average of 3.9 percent a year from 1986 to 2012, though the top one-hundredth of that 1 percent saw its wealth grow about twice as fast. Sixteen thousand families in the tiptop category – those with fortune of at least 111 million – have seen their share of national wealth nearly double since 2002, to 11.2 percent.” When consideration is given to the fact that just one individual, the head of Amazon, Jeff Bezo, can make 13 billion dollars in a day, this obscene wealth hoarding must have a devastating impact on America’s social order. This is especially disconcerting when 16,000 families out of approximately 350 million Americans control 99 percent of the country’s wealth—which demands structural and institutional change.

Can there be any serious opposition to this reality when the American populace are under the delusion of being governed in a democracy in as much they are permitted to vote for a millionaire to govern them, when in truth the corporate government is a plutocracy. The American populace has no understanding that the U.S. corporate government is in fact a corporation established by law in 28 U.S.C.A. §3002(15)(a) which states: “(15) “United States” means – (A) a Federal corporation.” Hence, the majority of the American populace as wage earners hustle and scrap for the crumbs off the plutocracy table, demanding an increase in the minimum wage, when they should be demanding control of the means of production. It is this inequitable distribution of wealth, and the amalgamation of disparity as the middle and lower classes become less distinct, that requires the progressive academic community to persistently address this issue to raise consciousness and to direct attention to the real culprit of peoples’ suffering. Most recently Congress held hearings on the monopolies of Amazon, Facebook and Apple, discussing whether they were “too big.”

The U.S. capitalist socio-economic order demands the capacity to exploit and profit from peoples’ labor. Thus, American workers consciously or unconsciously are complicit in their exploitation abiding the social rules of wage earners, which limits participatory democracy to oppose their oppression. Labor unions and other representatives of workers’ rights are themselves, for the most part, instruments of the capitalist system. They have not demanded workers’ ownership of the means of production on behalf of the wage earners they represent. Rather, they ensure the viability of the corporation by preserving the interest of the wage earner/worker in cooperation with the corporate interest of profitability. They do not prohibit the exploitation of the worker but make it more palatable for the worker to be exploited in a less egregious manner and for the corporation to continue to reap exorbitant profits from workers’ labor. The union’s hard-fought concessions from a reluctant corporate entity generally amounts to pennies (or a percentage of a penny) to a dollar of the corporation’s largesse. How can this be explained and presented to the American wage earners in order to persuade them to oppose American capitalism as it currently exists?

While it is heartening to see young people, especially Black Lives Matter (BLM) advocates protest in the streets challenging the impunity of police repression and racist violence, demanding the tearing down of symbols of white supremacy, it should be noted these demands are readily adopted by the system of oppression to preserve its existence and capacity to exploit the American worker. These demands are not a threat to the system of capitalism, although they expose the socio-cultural institutions of racism, and how racism is utilized to forge divisions among white workers and workers of color. I believe we can define the BLM as an “anti-racism social consciousness movement” and not an anti-capitalist workers movement. I am not confident these struggles by young people will result in substantial institutional changes or concrete changes in the corporate culture and reality of capitalist profiteering. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) created similar national attention, but void a national organization, leadership and agenda, their demands for change were ignored, held in abeyance or whittled down to cosmetic acts of appeasement until the struggle was annihilated as a public nuisance and disappeared. The removing of Confederate statutes and allowing Black Lives Matter to be painted in the streets, has little bearing on how the corporate government operates. It in essence appeases the protesters and presents a false sense of achievement. While challenging the socio-cultural dynamics of white supremacy may have liberatory psycho-social value, it does not change the conditions of workers’ exploitation and capitalist profiteering, especially Black workers who are generally super-exploited and vulnerable as the pandemic has exposed and made explicitly obvious.

So, I pose the question to the Black academic-intelligentsia: how do you perceive your continued contribution to an anti-capitalist imperialist movement being developed in this historic time of turmoil in the United States? How will this progressive community of Black erudite activists support this generation of Black protesters and dissenters and challenge their engagement in this protracted (r)evolution for a changed America? Again, in three years this country’s minority community will be 40% of the population, 50% of which will be under 40 years old. It is incumbent of Black academic-intelligentsia to consider the idea of the development of the National Coalition for a Changed America (NCCA), specifically functioning as a think-tank and policy development apparatus offering position papers that are Future Focused and which provide strategic guidance in the development of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movement.

Respectfully submitted,

Jalil A. Muntaqim

Sullivan – Black August 2020

[The featured image above is from FreeJalil.com]

About Jalil Muntaqim:

Former member of the  Black Panther Party (BPP) and Black Liberation Army, Jalil Muntaqim was imprisoned in August 1971, at the age of nineteen, during the height of Cointelpro and political repression instigated by US police forces. Currently held in New York State’s Sullivan Correctional Facility, Jalil is serving a 25- year to life sentence for his role in the deaths of two police officers killed. On April 27, 2020, a New York State superior court judge ordered him to be released into temporary custody of a family based on his high vulnerability to COVID-19 and NY prisons’ inability to provide adequate protections against the pandemic. Jalil, age 68, also had chronic bronchitis and hypertension. NY Attorney General Letitia James—who campaigned as a beneficiary of civil rights— appealed the ruling and prevailed, setting a precedent to bar the release of elderly, medically fragile New Yorkers. Jalil contracted COVID-19; and survived with impaired health. Other New Yorkers, under adverse conditions and inadequate health care, were and are not so fortunate. 

On August 4, 2020, a NYS judge ruled that DOCCS/parole board could not deny Muntaqim parole based on his BPP membership or self-identification as a “political prisoner.” The judge noted that Muntaqim earned several college degrees, became a published author, mentored incarcerated youth, helped to prevent two prison riots and other violence, taught classes, and helped farmers bring food to impoverished people. The judge also noted that Jalil Muntaqim was not sentenced to life without parole and that his panther affiliations did not justify denying him parole given his evaluations that show he poses no risk. A de novo hearing was granted for September 2020 to review his case and why he was repeatedly denied parole although DOCCS own data indicated that he posed no risk and met their metrics for parole. 

Jalil’s writing appears in Black Panther Afterlives, edited by Diane Fujino and Matef Harmachis. His interviews appear in the Freedom Archives. Incarcerated for 49 years, Jalil Muntaqim has served nearly double his minimum sentence. His advocates request supporters to continue to work on behalf of all political prisoners, including Jalil Muntaqim.

For more information, see: 

Commutation Campaign to Governor Cuomo for Jalil Muntaqim

BIUs June 26, 2020, Statement for the Release of Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom) and Others Named and Unnamed

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