The Oklahoma Democratic Party headquarters defaced by anti-Semitic graffiti. Credit: Kate Bierman via Facebook.
Published 9/24/2019 Reading Time 2 min 9 sec
OPINION | By Deon Osborne
Malcolm X once spoke of two choices for black Americans seeking equality in society: the ballot or the bullet. But the threat from climate change adds a terrible dynamic that our revolutionary martyrs hadn’t anticipated: The combination of climate change and institutional racism represent a spirit bomb of epic proportions that threatens our very existence.
The threat of climate change disproportionately hits communities of color. And with research indicating average black wealth will be zero by 2053 if trends continue, our children will be defenseless against the worst environmental effects of white supremacy’s hunger for capital and power.
Donald Trump, in turning away Bahamian survivors of Hurricane Dorian, has already shown us a glimpse of how white supremacist power plans to treat climate refugees in our own nation: those with pale skin and economic resources will be supported while low-income victims with darker skin will be denigrated and abandoned.
Here in Oklahoma, we’re well-versed in the stings of white supremacy. We all know an Isaiah Thomas, a Terrence Crutcher, or another unarmed African descendant of American slaves (ADOS) gunned down by police.
We all know someone locked up in Oklahoma’s largest per capita prison system. And we all know the excuses from officials to hide the plain fact that black lives simply don’t matter to them.
Workers for the State shoot us when we comply, run away, or when we’re unarmed and mentally ill. They lock us up and place barriers to our survival when we are released. They defund our schools and plan prison beds based on third-grade test scores.
Workers for capitalism offer us sub-prime loans and sinful interest rates. They keep our wages depressed and our communities impoverished.
White supremacist politicians and their electors deny immigration to people with similar skin color. And they deny our children a sustainable future.
But we can still win the war for the soul of this nation if we’re willing to put everything on the line. Because without black people to force the Constitution to live up to its words, this nation would already be soulless.
Winning the war means survival and the opportunity for all people to thrive. Losing the war means a slow, painful erasure of black American’s collective existence.
The way to win this war is simple in theory but difficult in practice: we must come together socially, politically and economically to ensure our continued existence.
We must look beyond the superficial textbooks and dive deeper into our history as the first builders of ancient civilization and the modern United States. We must dismantle the complex practices and policies that keep our communities void of businesses or opportunity and demand reparations for the centuries-long theft of our resources, bodies and minds. And we must defend our communities, by force if necessary, to begin charting a new future with shared goals for how that future should look.
As elements of this nation seek to deprive us of oxygen, our God-given right to breathe enables us to use lethal force against threats to our existence, even if that threat carries a government badge.
In 2020 and beyond, we must consider using both the ballot and the bullet because entertaining all options at our disposal is the only sustainable way forward.
Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has written for OU’s student newspaper the OU Daily as well as OKC-based Red Dirt Report. He now lives in Tulsa, where he works at a local youth shelter. He is also a former intern at Oklahoma Policy Institute.