This episode is a recording from September 11, 2018.
Khury Petersen-Smith, a comrade and friend of The Red Nation, spoke to my Red Power Revolution class not only about the solid links between the Black Power and Red Power movement but also about the tethered histories of oppression from African slavery to Native genocide.
Khury Petersen-Smith is the Michael Ratner Middle East Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He researches U.S. empire, borders, and migration.
Khury graduated from the Clark University Graduate School of Geography in Massachusetts, after completing a dissertation that focused on militarization and sovereignty.
He is one of the co-authors and organizers of the 2015 Black Solidarity with Palestine statement, which was signed by over 1,100 Black activists, artists, and scholars.
In this talk, he focuses on a history of the present that begins with #BlackLivesMatter solidarity delegations to the 2016 uprising at Standing Rock.
Khury then traces Native and Black solidarity to the sixteenth century.
The first European settlement, a Spanish colony, in what would eventually become in the United States, was successfully overthrown in 1527 by a slave revolt orchestrated by Natives and Africans brought to the continent as chattel.
It was Africans, not Europeans, who became the first permanent non-Indigenous inhabitants of Turtle Island and North America.
They were not colonizers. They were relatives and comrades.
To my mind, this is the true history of this land borne of revolution and struggle.
What came after 1776 with the founding of the United States, a white supremacist empire, has been a long, bloody history of counter-revolution.
The expansion of slavery coincided with westward expansion and the theft of Native lives and lands.
With the waning of national liberation struggles in the twentieth century, whether Black or Indigenous, there is a trend today to view the only horizon of possibility as the colonial nation-state.
In other words, instead of asking how we get free, we ask the colonizers to recognize the injuries they have inflicted upon us.
This sentiment is pervasive, as Native Nationhood has moved from aspiration to prescription—fortifying our relations to colonizers instead of undoing them or in the place of fortifying our relations with other oppressed nationalities and groups.
Or worse, we tend to fragment our liberation struggles as competing in a loser-takes-all Oppression Olympics of who has it worse or whose injury is getting more attention from the oppressor.
Khury counters this cynical trend by proposing a political alternative for the future grounded solidly in five centuries of history.
In a word, it’s solidarity.
That is, as Black and Indigenous people, we have waged the longest anti-imperial struggle in the Western Hemisphere.
What is possible is always more powerful than what is not.
That is what inspired our ancestors’ freedom dreams.
And that is what propels our movements into the future.