Have you seen it? That “feel-good, we are the world” bumper sticker which says “Coexist.” You ever ask yourself what this sticker really means? While people who promote this sentiment are presenting themselves as “peace loving” people who hearken back to Rodney King’s statement of “can’t we all just get along”, after the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion; they are essentially stating their desire to continue the status quo, be it conscious or unconscious. Let’s look at the Haitian Revolution as an example. Would it have been possible for the Haitian Revolution to be successful if Dessaline decided that he wanted to coexist with Napoleon, even as the French regime continued with their plans to enslave the Africans on the island? Could the struggle have been concluded by passing out “Coexist” stickers to the Africans who fought? Well….we see what happened to Toussaint when he tried to “coexist”, so history tells us the answer is hell no!
We know what you’re thinking….”those C-101 editors are just unremitting Black Nationalists.” While this is true, we still make our analysis based on historical materialism as opposed to what’s in people’s “hearts.” No one can deny that Western imperialism, which is currently dominate, has created a very repressive and reactionary society. By not completely denouncing the structures of this society, and claiming that we can “coexist” without fundamental changes, the “coexist” people are claiming that we should all learn to “get along” in an oppressive reality. By extension, this leaves oppressed people at a disadvantage and constantly hoping for the good graces of the dominate culture. “Coexist” is a euphemism for “you niggers shut up, don’t rebel and we’ll ALL get along.” Voila….there’s your “coexistence” where the “peace lovers” can go back to their gentrified neighborhoods and enjoy their lattes!
This anesthetizing ideology seeks to dupe the oppressed into quiet subjugation, which is commonly understood as a “left-wing” or “liberal” form of colonial domination. While this ideology may have a strong grip on people’s conceptions of the world, it is very tenuous because it does not reconcile with the material realties that people contend with daily. These material realities produce ideologies that compete with Western dominant culture to come to the forefront. Kwame Nkrumah elucidates our point as follows:
Just as there can be competing ideologies in the same society, so there can be opposing ideologies between different societies. However, while societies with different social systems can coexist, their ideologies cannot. There is such a thing as peaceful coexistence between states with different social systems; but as long as oppressive classes exist, there can be no such thing as peaceful coexistence between opposing ideologies.1
As Kwame Nkrumah succinctly explains, there is no way to coexist with a dominant culture that needs to suck your blood to survive. When people who belong to an oppressive dominate culture promote coexistence, they are basically telling the oppressed not to resist. Take the ideology of “non-racialism” in Azania (South Africa) promulgated by the neocolonial African National Congress (ANC), this ideology, which is in the same vain as “coexist”, maintains the status quo where the white settler minority still owns the majority of the fertile land and Africans are subsisting as beggars in their own homeland! At the same time, Azania is held up as a shining example of “coexistence” by the Western world. You know….it’s the “Rainbow nation”, where the white people are still the center of the universe, in Africa! There’s your precious “coexistence” again!
So in retrospect, the slave cannot “coexist” with the master, just as an abused women cannot “coexist” with her abusive spouse. At the end of the day societies must learn to coexist in harmony because we all live on this planet (we can’t just move to Jupiter), and this is ultimately the type of world we want to live in. However, we must examine the world in its current state. We cannot ignore that cultures have a historical relationship with each other and the dominant Western culture was built on and currently maintains itself based on subjugating the majority of the world. To uncritically bandy about the term “coexist” under the present political economy is a ruse to maintain this same domination. Therefore, as the world is now….no….we cannot “coexist!”