We Care

Last week, two articles came out on this site about Black women. One of them was about Nicki Minaj and the way media tried to force a “beef” between her and Taylor Swift. The other was a reflection on the death of Sandra Bland. On the latest Arsenal for Democracy radio show, Maria (the writer of the Sandra Bland article) and I tried to articulate how these two things are connected in terms of the lives of Black women. (You can listen to a clip here before reading the rest below.)

Still, I feel the need to make this important point: Black people are allowed to care about both.

There is a quiet suffering that is expected especially from Black women the moment tragedy hits our communities. With every case of a Black man’s death at the hands of police or racist vigilantes, after the gruesome videos of death that are becoming more and more common since last year, there has then been a video of a grieving mother, sister, wife, or daughter who — when asked over and over again about the death of their family member — is expected to give calm and even-voiced answers. If ever they stray away from that restrained grief, if ever they show anger towards the person who murdered their family, their emotions are considered too aggressive. When Eric Garner’s widow refused to accept the condolences of the man who killed her husband, it was a shock for some to see her react so negatively at a press conference.

The same attitude is used against Black people as a whole. This week, after the death of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, outraged protesters gathered at the office of the dentist who killed him. On the internet, Black people began to compare the outrage over Cecil’s death with the lack of outrage shown over the deaths of so many Black people at the hands of police over the past year. It wasn’t long before people began to accuse Black people online of not caring about Cecil’s death and accusing us of being myopic in our fight for justice.

While I cannot and will never claim to speak for all Black people, I can say this for sure: we are capable of caring about two things at once. Despite stereotypes about our ignorance, Black people have long been able to deal with the oppression of systemic racism and also other issues as the same time.

It is not our responsibility to forgive those that are killing us. Nor is it our “place” to ignore when our lives aren’t treated with the same dignity as the lives of anything else, including wildlife. Not only that but we also have a right to take a break from dealing with systemic oppressions day in and day out. We are people, just like you, and because of that we’re not only capable of focusing on multiple issues, we’re also capable of taking a break from that when the weight of the world is too much for us.

We can care — and talk — about several things at once. Stop telling us which ones to focus on.

Mujuru faction in Zimbabwe ruling party collapses

As I predicted on November 19th, after an alleged assassination plot was cooked up, a massive political purge in Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF has unfolded in the past several days. Vice President Joyce Mujuru, once widely seen as a potential successor to President Robert Mugabe, has been blocked from rejoining the party’s vast central committee ahead of the party conference in December. Her allies were also not re-elected. As a result, unless President Mugabe reverses course and uses his 10 discretionary appointments to restore their committee spots, none of them will be permitted to join the smaller Zanu-PF Politburo, the policy-making body of the ruling party that by default holds all the cabinet posts and deputy secretary positions in the country’s government.

Although she was not the only leader of a faction struggling for control of the Zanu-PF and jockeying to succeed the elderly dictator, Vice President Mujuru was the most direct threat to the rising star of Mugabe’s (much younger, second) wife, Grace Mugabe, who has no political experience but sought to appeal to the same female activist base in the party. (That base had previously been pretty locked in for Mujuru.) In sharp contrast with the First Lady — who was just a teenager when her now-husband was handed the keys to the country by Britain’s transition supervisorsMujuru is a hardcore combat veteran of the liberation war (of which Robert Mugabe was a top leader) against the White Rhodesian government, a highly experienced politician and government official, and generally a serious figure in the way Grace Mugabe doesn’t seem to be.

Vice President Mujuru’s bid for re-election to the Zanu-PF central committee was blocked back home by her own province’s party committee, on the grounds that they didn’t want to support an alleged assassin. (Or a “demon,” if Grace Mugabe’s colorful accusations are also to be believed.)

Similar explanations were provided by local/provincial party committees for blocking all her cabinet allies, or else they were pushed to resign. In total, at least nine other cabinet ministers are now out, including very high-ranking officials such as the foreign minister.
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Zimbabwe purge imminent?

Joyce Mujuru, the main (or most direct) rival for Zanu-PF ruling party control against Robert Mugabe’s wife in the increasingly public battle to become then next president of Zimbabwe, has been accused by state media of plotting to kill President Mugabe. I assume this accusation means she is about to be purged on trumped charges, possibly along with key supporters, thus securing Mrs. Mugabe’s succession (or at least narrowing the field to eliminate direct competition for the same base).

Al Jazeera:

Zimbabwe’s vice president Joice Mujuru has said that she is taking legal action against pro-government newspapers that accused her of corruption and plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe.

“I am accused of being involved in a plot to overthrow the legitimate Zimbabwean government led by His Excellency RG Mugabe,” Mujuru said her in first full response to charges against her in the state media, including recent reports that she is leading a plot to assassinate the leader.

“I deny any and all allegations of treason, corruption, incompetence and misuse of public office being routinely made against me in The Herald and The Sunday Mail newspapers.”

She said she consulted her “legal practitioners to take the necessary steps at law to restore my good reputation, political standing and dignity”.


Zimbabwe succession struggle bursts into the open

Robert Mugabe, age 90, is on his way out of power, after ruling Zimbabwe continuously as either prime minister or president since 1980, just months after independence. This is really happening this time. The scramble inside the ruling Zanu-PF party — between his previously non-political wife and various political competitors — to succeed him is now fully out in the open. No one is pretending otherwise or talking around it.

Given recent events in Burkina Faso and talk of a possible wave of sub-Saharan African dictators and strongmen being toppled or exiting suddenly, Zimbabwe’s succession struggle is rapidly taking center stage on the global radar… and all eyes are on whether the military will get involved.

According to The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, the military says it has no interest in choosing sides in an internal party matter, but it has recalled all its furloughed troops (previously sent home for budget reasons!) just to keep them from getting involved in the political scene while off-duty.

However, the ruling party has also hired a number of former senior military officials and troops will likely be deployed to restore order after the one faction inevitably loses.


Zimbabwe: First Lady Rising

90-year-old Robert Mugabe’s 49-year-old second wife (and former secretary, with no political experience) recently “earned” her PhD in just 2 months and unexpectedly became head of the ruling party’s Women’s League. Is she being positioned to succeed the dictator as Zimbabwe’s leader? Is she being manipulated by political factions to undercut rival contenders for the succession?

Whatever the reason, the barely suppressed outrage at her rapid promotions, even within President Mugabe’s own ruling party, is threatening to open the floodgates to open dissent and criticism of his leadership. Then again, it might be the case that he has already become so isolated and afraid that he could only trust his wife.