Pan-Africanists on Libya: Racial Identities and Pro-Gaddafi Propaganda

This blog post comes in response after reading this article: U.S.-NATO Robbing Africa at Gunpoint.

The San Francisco Bay View is a national black newspaper, and it once again raises “the race question” in Libya, which I have discussed several times before:

The Libyan Revolution and the Dilemma for Black Nationalistst

Racism Haunts the Libyan Revolution

NATO and NTC Must Demand an End to the Racial Atrocities

Revisiting my Libya  and Black nationalism Post

I have a lot to say about this article, and about racial identities and Pan-Africanism in general, but instead of a long rant, I will summarize my argument in a series of various points in regards to “the race problem” in Libya:

  1. I reject racism of any form or kind, and I have in previous posts called for an end to the racist atrocities occurring in Libya.
  2. The racist atrocities by Arabs against dark black Africans in Libya are absolutely deplorable and inexcusable, but one must remember that the revolution consists of a largely diverse faction of Libyans against Gaddafi’s regime. The NTC — the acting government of the Libyan revolution — has not endorsed or supported any racial atrocities against the black Africans, though it has accused Gaddafi of hiring some of them as mercenaries (which is debated, but to me seems likely), and that likely has caused a rise in anti-black African sentiment.
  3. The racist atrocities are not committed by the majority of Libyans, nor are they supported by any institution, but they are the acts of some rebels taking advantage of the lawlessness in a country going through a revolution. That does not make it acceptable, but it means that the entire revolution is not responsible for it either.
  4. Blaming the entire revolution for the actions of some Libyans is comparable to blaming all whites for the actions of the Ku Klux Klan, or blaming all whites in Mississippi for the white teenagers who intentionally drove over and killed an innocent black man.
  5. There is indisputable evidence of some racial atrocities against black Africans in Libya, but it is still currently impossible to know how widespread the atrocities are, so it is unfair, inaccurate, and premature to blame the entire revolution for it when it is currently unknown the extent of it.
  6. I have supported the revolution in Libya since the rebellion first broke out, long before NATO got involved, and I have supported every revolutionary movement in the long so-called “Arab Spring” movement because each of the leaders has been or is corrupt.
  7. I also support Pan-Africanism when it comes to African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and the entire African Diaspora, including Africans, identifying their struggles with one another and using it to benefit their people. But Pan-Africanism should not mean supporting any African leader who also claims to be Pan-African.
  8. To call someone a “great African leader and revolutionary” who crushed any dissent against his 42 year reign is extremely ignorant. Gaddafi was not the kind of leader that African leaders should model themselves on. He executed, tortured, raped, and arrested his opponents on will. He also supported terrorism against innocent civilians to further his agenda. Africa is better off without him in power, and no African leaders should take him as an example of a “great African leader.” Also, great revolutionaries do not keep the status quo for 42 years of their power; revolutionaries look for continual change and progress, and that means eventually stepping aside and handing over power to the people.
  9. What the Libyan revolution is demonstrating is that Africa is a diverse continent that, like all continents, cannot be expressed in a single “racial” identity. While I realize there is a history of tension between Arabs in North Africa and the dark black Africans, how are Arabs — who have had a presence in Africa for centuries — not considered African? Perhaps it is time to recognize that the terms “African,” “Asian,” and “European” to identify racial identities is extremely limiting and illogical. Africa, Asia, and Europe are continents, not races. Arabs have a strong presence in each of the three continents, yet when people mention one of these continents as a race, they do not think of Arabs. People often refer to people from China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam as “Asians”, but are not Russia, Saudi Arabia, and India in Asia as well? The time that we stop identifying continents with races is long overdue.
  10. With that said, I do not oppose Pan-Africanism if it means identifying with all of the African people. Arabs in North Africa have suffered from colonialism as well; why should they be excluded in Pan-Africanism? Suddenly, as soon as NATO began the military intervention in Libya, Pan-Africanists in the U.S. have began seeing Gaddafi as a champion of Pan-Africanism! Why were Pan-Africanists never praising Gaddafi before this campaign began? Is it simply a case of your enemies’ (NATO) enemy (Gaddafi) is your friend? Gaddafi exploited the black African migrant workers in Libya; they took jobs that the Arab Libyans would not. Despite calling himself a socialist, there was no equality of wealth in Libya.
  11. Finally, I should mention that I understand and agree that NATO had their own economic and political motives for supporting the revolution. They had a lot to gain with the demise of Gaddafi. Nonetheless, this does not discount the fact that Gaddafi did not represent the masses of Libyan people, which is clear by how well accepted the revolution was in each city it reached. Tripoli celebrated the downfall of Gaddafi as much as anyone. While the revolution may help the NATO powers, it also should help the Libyan people, and I support them, whether or not some capitalist powers supported their revolutionary efforts. In addition, to blame primarily the U.S. is naive of the situation; Britain and especially France were the leaders of the NATO intervention to overthrow Gaddafi, with the U.S. playing a supporting role. France has the most to gain with Gaddafi’s downfall.
In short, just because Gaddafi pretend to speak as a “Pan-African” does not mean that he was a good example of a leader for Africa. Pan-Africanism stands with the African people, and not some corrupt leader who uses Pan-African rhetoric to pretend to speak for the people. I sympathize with Pan-Africanism and anti-colonialism, but there are better leaders to fight the crusade against imperialism than Gaddafi, who used simply the rhetoric to maintain his grip on power until the Libyan people rose up against him.
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