Rebuilding A Culture of Struggle: Breaking Chains Instead of Hugging ThemBy Dr. Maulana Karenga
To refresh our memories of ourselves at our best, to recommit ourselves to principles and practices that demand and draw from us the excellent, uplifting and enduring, and to rebuild our Liberation Movement and go forth to repair and renew ourselves and the world, we must reaffirm and reconstruct our culture as a culture of struggle. By a culture of struggle, I mean a culture founded and formed in struggle by a people who understand and embrace struggle as a normal and necessary way of life. That is to say, they see and approach it as an indispensable way forward and upward, as a rightfully required way to break social and psychological chains, cross wrongfully restrictive boundaries, realize themselves fully, and bring good in the world.
It is a culture that understands and asserts with Frederick Douglass that “if there is no struggle there is no progress” and it’s a contradiction to “profess to favor freedom” and “deprecate agitation.” It is a culture that recovers and reaffirms Fannie Lou Hamer’s contention that “we must bring right and justice where there is wrong and injustice.” And that “Every step of the way you’ve got to fight.” And it is a culture that embraces and acts on A. Phillip Randolph’s assertion that “Freedom is never granted; it is won. Justice is never given; it is extracted.”
Here struggle is defined as righteous, rightful and ongoing striving on every level and in every area of life, as the Odu Ifa says, “to bring good in the world and not let any good be lost.” This is obviously and intentionally a moral conception of struggle rooted in the Maatian ethical teachings of our ancestors who perceived struggle as morally compelling, necessary and natural for human good and the well-being of the world.
It is morally compelling, because our ethical tradition obligates us to struggle against wrong, evil and injustice everywhere and bring good in the world. It is necessary, for without struggle, as noted above; there can be no real or righteous progress. And it is natural, because it is in the interest of human freedom and human life. For we are born in freedom and it is unnatural to be unfree and likewise, it is natural to struggle to recover freedom when and where it is denied, and to struggle to expand it in dignity-affirming and life-enhancing ways.
Thus, a culture of struggle has as a central contention that every constraint on human freedom and flourishing is immoral, unjust and unnatural as Anna Julia Cooper taught us. And this is so whether it is outright or disguised oppression or discrimination, imposed poverty, institutionalized ignorance and miseducation, monopolies of wealth and power or structured dependence of any person or people on another. A culture of struggle, then, of necessity holds with Malcolm X and Martin King that we have the right and responsibility to struggle against evil and injustice everywhere. King urges non-violent active resistance and Malcolm, leaving our options open, sanctions “freedom by any means necessary,” i.e., depending upon how the oppressor responds to our rightful resistance.
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