Black Folk, Let’s Allow Ourselves the Freedom to Dream Radically

On a large scale, I find that Black folk refuse to dream radically. We have vast imaginations and deep yearnings for freedom and liberation, and yet … we remain stunted within the confines of oppressive systems.

When the prolific Ta-Nehisi Coates disclosed on Democracy Now! that he is voting for Sen. Bernie Sanders despite disagreeing with the candidate’s position on reparations, I exhaled a gust of exasperation. On his reasoning, Coates remarked

“One can say Senator Sanders should have more explicit antiracist policy within his racial justice platform, not just more general stuff, and still cast a vote for Senator Sanders and still feel that Senator Sanders is the best option that we have in the race.” – Emphasis mine

For Coates, Sanders “is the best option that we have in the race.” And this may be true, depending on one’s pro-Black political value system. Sanders is miles ahead of the presidential field in regards to campaign finance reform, health care, and college affordability.

But my pro-Black value system doesn’t fit on the mainstream bookends of reactionary conservatism and liberal progressivism. I exist on the socio-political spectrum between reform and abolition. And in most occasions, I am more an abolitionist than I am a reformist. I do not believe in marshaling resources or expending labor for bullshit incremental bureaucratic changes that can be easily unraveled by the stroke of a white rich man’s pen.

For example, as an abolitionist I am ardently opposed to police-worn body cameras; a neoliberal half-measure that’ll only invigorate the anti-Black surveillance state while ensuring monumental profit for private companies. Bernie Sanders supports police-worn body cameras.

The growing wave of self-professed #BlackBerners will be a crucial determinant for Sanders’ underdog campaign. He desperately needs more support from Black voters, and celebrities and culture-makers like Cornel West, Shaun King, Killer Mike, and Ta-Nehisi Coates are valuable assets in persuading Black voters to support the firebrand democratic socialist.

Hillary Clinton leads among older Black voters. Older Black voters, I imagine, are supporting her because the Black political establishment is. Name recognition is also a factor.

And yet, Black support for Clinton is literally voting against pro-Black communal interest. She has a longstanding, researchable track record of disenfranchising Black people, pushing Black people into poverty, and fattening the unaccountable criminal justice system to the point where private prisons are mainstays in, and lifebloods for, many local economies. Michelle Alexander, noted author of The New Jim Crow writes about these convoluted dynamics in a recent article for The Nation.

This presidential season reminds me that Black folk are afraid, unwilling, or unable to dream radically. 

In the era of Black Lives Matter, where mass popular uprisings against the police state are fixtures on the 24/7 news cycle, I fear that millions of us are refusing to leverage our collective power to dismantle the very systems we are FOREVER fighting against.

There are many reasons why Black folk refuse to dream radically. There are tactical reasons; many Black folk are closer to reform than abolition. They believe in “engaging” and “integrating” within the system to bring about widespread pro-Black socioeconomic muster. Which is a belief I wholeheartedly disagree with, but respect as valid. On a micro, local scale … it could work …maybe.

However, in my political reality — when I’ve seen this mindset deployed in my neighborhood — I’ve “engaged” with local politicos that spewed the the basic pro-Black jargon, but voted for 1,300 more police officers to roam the streets of NYC.

On a more personal level, I believe Black folk refuse to dream radically out of necessity for survival. We inherently police ourselves to maintain our friendships, lovers, and paychecks. We don’t want to appear threatening or “crazy” to white power structures. We want our white friends to like us, and our white bosses to promote us. We want our white colleagues to trust us and not be afraid of us. So we limit ourselves to their expectations.

We fail to internalize the truth that white expectations of Black bodies are rooted and executed in racist violence. 

Our desire for their “approval” is exactly what white privilege is and how racism works. Racism is defined by an uneven power relationship in which white people are the masters of our destines, and we are locked to their whims.

And sure, your white friend might desperately try to impress you by spittin a Drake verse, but their livelihoods don’t depend on their ability to have a token Black friend. Be clear … your tokenism gives them license to say fucked up shit about Black people to their white friends when you’re not around to hear it.  

I also believe there’s a misconception of what Black radicalism is. The term “radical” is thrown around by pundits and politicos to describe fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, and thus, the term has taken a meaning that is Islamophobic and misunderstood. Throw in the wide reach of the volatile Patriot Act, and folks get rightfully scared into submission.

But pro-Black radicalism means looking at the fundamental causes of societal ills, and placing blame accordingly. In the spirit of Angela Davis, pro-Black radicalism means to grasp at the root.

And the root is anti-Black racism. Our entire social paradigm is designed and managed by it. 

My radical vision is for Black people all around the world to grasp at the root. To refuse to engage with systems of oppression that do not serve our collective, long-term interests. My radical vision is for us to self-determine how we shape our world; to build masterfully, cohesively, and inclusively. To create sustainable and accountable institutions that suit our needs and identity.

And we have evuh-ree right to do so. We don’t need to trap ourselves in the anti-Black cycle of wash-rinse-repeat.

Of course this vision is incomplete without implementation. And of course the transition of disengaging from white supremacy and self-determining our collective destinies will be fractious and complicated. But that’s the organic process of developing an effective empire, and this path is worth our thorough labor and selfless sacrifice.

As Black people, we need not be imprisoned by “best options” within the context of inherent anti-Black systems. We can build for ourselves. And we need no one’s blessings or approval to do so.


*Featured Image Credit:

photo 1Arielle Newton, Chief Homie. Get at me @arielle_newton. Get at us @BlkMillennials.


12 responses to “Black Folk, Let’s Allow Ourselves the Freedom to Dream Radically

  1. love the article, great ideas and proposals. how do you feel about more black people in rural areas owning their own businesses in their communities, as a way to help combat these oppressive systems in play?


  2. Love the way you write and express yourself, people like you will change the world one post after the other.
    In an African context, the same happens, people will chose to adapt to western system and values even when indigenous alternatives are better. I think that deep down most people be they black or white, African or American would rather fit in the existing system than create one of their own. But things are changing and fast. Especially in my country Rwanda, there has been a true revolution going on this last years. like Imihigo, gacaca, Itorero, Umuganda, all precolonial institutions brought back to life in a 21st century context, to resolve 21st century problems.

    PS: There is a continent of 54 countries full of optimism, opportunities and challenges that awaits Black investment and tourism, it saddens me to see so many Indians, Chinese, Turks, Filipinos, immigrating and getting rich in Africa but our Diaspora is only interested in charity even that leaves lot to be desired. I would love to see you write an article on this, if you need help in research i’d love to help. And i’m pretty sure it would cheer up from the constant negativity your are faced with as a Black Activist.


  3. Arielle,

    My name is Lucas, I’m 18 years old and I’m currently finishing my senior year of high school. I tried to post a message on your website, but I don’t think it showed up so anyway, now I’m writing you here. Anyway, my main goal in life is to end the capitalist/corporate economic/political system in America, and it’s been clear to me for a long time that the number one obstacle in this fight is white supremacy. Through the white supremacist power structure, poor and middle class whites are indoctrinated from a young age to view black people and so called “welfare queens” as their enemies, while in truth, the true oppressor to most whites and blacks (although blacks get hit about 100 times worse) is the corporate, capitalistic economic system that is controlled by the rich and controls our political system. Anyway, I first saw your website on a link posted by Azealea Banks on “4 THINGS BERNIE STANDERS NEED TO STOP SAYING TO BLACK PEOPLE” and as a Sanders supporter myself, I did find it to be very informative and constructive. Anyway, I’m emailing you here because I would like to know more about the Black Millenials group, what I can do to help, and if I can contribute in any possible way, either through donations or through other means (I don’t really have much expendable cash so my ability to contribute donation-wise is very limited). I would also be interested in knowing if there is anyway that I can possibly write anything for the site. Anyway, thank you for considering what I have to say, and thank you for taking part in the movement,



  4. This article is so full of things that need to be said. The real issue is getting people to really hear it. Not only do we need to think more radically but we need to stop oppressing ourselves. We need to stop telling our kids things will be harder because they are black.


      • Things really aren’t if they are loved and told the truth. As black people we walk many areas of life from “rich” to poor yet all black children are told these same lies. Life isn’t as hard as it once was. Yet we aren’t raising our kids in a way where they can see that. Life is not the best for minority but it’s WAY better than it EVER HAS been. Once we start telling our kids to just be what they want and imagine things that exist outside of this idea, we can grow and our ideals will follow. We are black. We are creatives. We are doctors, We are presidents.
        Yes it WILL be harder. But, I really feel that the real point we should be teaching our kids to embrace it because they are kids…… It’s why white kids grow up without a care in the world and black kids grow up stressed about the weight of responsibility on theirs and wether there good enough to rise to it. We don’t have to forget but we don’t need to snuf out child’s creativity by telling them its impractical for black people to be creative. The only avenues that black people are really allowed to be socially creative is in music and with words. Change is on the horizon. Black is really just a color and brown is really just a shade. We should support ourselves and try to make it better for people like us, but, we gotta realize that unity with everyone is always the best. Think of how toxic, in general, conversations between black people can get. Why is that? We gotta stop tricking ourselves first. Forgive ourselves then forgive everyone else. We are already here in large enough numbers with enough intelligent to move worlds with e stroke of a keyboard or paintbrush.


  5. I’m over 40 & in my personal family, I have older Aunts & Uncles who came up in the “Segregated Era’, when they were forced to go to separate schools…etc…..yet the MAJORITY of them have college degrees, solid financial standing & are very successful. WHY? Because they were DETERMINED & MOTIVATED to do so. I have other relatives & know of other non-relatives who I would consider ‘My generation’, that seems to be wandering & not as focused or motivated to do something great. They’re at jobs they hate or don’t feel passionate about. WHAT’S the difference?
    I think if anything history has taught us, is that WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE SET OUR MINDS TO DO, inspite of what is going on in the world. Yes, of course we know Profiling still exists & Racism still exists, but NOTHING is IMPOSSIBLE. This younger generation seems to have lost zeal & motivation. I still have BIG GOALS & BIG DREAMS & I plan on every one of them coming into fruition, because I REFUSE to be average & mediocre. If MORE black would let go of their provincial thinking & would grasp a ‘limit-less’ mindset…we’d see MORE change & MORE success stories, that would skyrocket this next generation into orbit.


  6. Is it possible for you to direct me to some current abolitionists material. I only seem to find abolitionist material concerning the mid 1800s, I would love to see how that movement has grown and how it applies to the 21st century and the policies it promotes.
    Or am I overthinking this, and you are talking about abolishing mental slavery by completely dismantling white supremacy.


  7. Pingback: Black Folk, Let’s Allow Ourselves the Freedom to Dream Radically — Black Millennials | Darlene B. The Author·

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