“What does it mean to live in the belly of the beast, if you possess a conscience and are more or less awake?” African-American scholar Russell Rickford once stated in his speech protesting against Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s scheduled visit to Cornell University.
It was just around the time of the tragic and ruthless murder of Stephen Clark, an African-American 22-year old who was shot 20 times and killed by two police officers while he was unarmed and carrying just his cell phone.
There was the pain, heaviness and anguish of the brutal killing of an unarmed black man. A despicable murder rooted in centuries of racism and oppression. And then there was rage. Perpetual rage against the visit of a war criminal who was responsible for the killing, torture, detention, and years of trauma and displacement for millions of Iraqis.
For Rickford, the two emotions cannot be disconnected. His heart was one and the same because he recognized that the beast was also one and the same. War not only leads to mass destruction, environmental and psychological devastation, it also breeds white supremacy, xenophobia and propels racial hierarchies. For years, scholars concluded that White-supremacist racial ideologies such as Anglo-Saxonism drove the American empire into the nonwhite world, and continues to drive neo-imperialism and form the ‘hidden underside’ of operations like the Iraq war.
Racist terminologies have also developed overtime, from “backward” to “underdeveloped” to justify further practices of neocolonialism. Today, the United States maintains around 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories around the world.
“The proliferation of torture and detention regimes—from Abu Ghraib to CIA black sites—is linked to a domestic prison colossus predicated on the disposability of nonwhite people,” Rickford stated, “We pontificate and deliberate and temporize. Yet in the end, we defend no one but the powerful.”
His words are echoed by Muntadhar al-Zaidi, Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush during a Baghdad press conference, shouting “this is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq.”
“As an Iraqi I have to stand with the Black Lives Matter protests and the oppressed in America because we were also oppressed by the policies of the White House and were abused by American forces. They also face these security officers, so I send all my solidarity and support for them,” he tells Egyptian Streets.
Share widely: National guard and MPD sweeping our residential street. Shooting paint canisters at us on our own front porch. Yelling “light em up” #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #JusticeForGeorge #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/bW48imyt55
— Tanya Kerssen (@tkerssen) May 31, 2020
— منتظر الزيدي (@muntazer_zaidi) June 2, 2020
On June 2, al-Zaidi did a small protest in Tahrir sqaure in Iraq to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the protestors that are calling for an end to police brutality, which gained huge traction on Twitter. “Americans have been contacting me and telling me that were ashamed of what Bush had done in Iraq, and how they feel very pleased that I’m standing by them in their protests,” he says.
“For what it’s worth, you were a brief hero to a young generation of developing minds,” wrote one Twitter user to al-Zaidi.
Since October 2019, Iraqis have been protesting to decry corruption and injustice, which saw the death of over 500 protests and 30,000 injured, as well as the disappearance of many youth since then, according to AFP from security and medical sources. The number of protestors have recently decreased due to fear of the novel COVID-19 virus, yet clashes between and protestors and security forces continue to occur. “Today’s protests only have one demand, which is bringing those who kill protesters to justice,” Iraqi activist Muhammed al-Inzi told Rudaw English.
For al-Zaidi, solidarity must be global. It is fighting the entire beast rather than living inside its belly. “Americans over the years have seen the cruelty of their imperialism happening elsewhere, which also fuels their rage every year. We must all stand in solidarity wherever we are in the world,” he notes.
As millions continue to die from years of imperialism, racism, and war all around the world, it is imperative to not let the most powerful hijack and co-opt movements to hide their own injustices, whether these shows of solidarity are coming from Former President George W.Bush or the Iranian Islamic Republic leaders.
Solidarity and demands for justice must continue with perpetual and constant rage. It must never end just as injustices also never come to an end. It is to rotate in a never-ending circle. When al Zaidi threw his shoes at President George W.Bush, he was expressing this utmost rage in front of the entire world.
“I want people to remember that I did not stay silent against the oppressor; against the occupation of my country and the killing of my people” he says. “I hope people around the world continue to fight against injustice.”