(Editor’s note: Despite life-threatening, debilitating bone marrow cancer, Don Rojas still retains enough energy and insight to comment on today’s current events, particularly the onslaught of Trumpism, which he expounded on during a recent event in Brooklyn. This is an abbreviated version of his closing remarks that were preceded by his heartfelt gratitude to the hundreds who turned out to honor him for the tribute. It should be noted that Rojas is a highly regarded journalist, often defined by his colleagues and comrades as an undaunted freedom fighter, and one time executive editor of this paper.)
At this moment in history, we find ourselves at a crucial juncture in the road, one at which the structures of liberation and the structures and institutions of authoritarianism are contesting each other on a global stage to shape what the future will look like. This is a global response to the deepening crisis of modern-day capitalism and its empire which have no lasting solutions to the deepening economic inequalities spreading rapidly across the globe.
This is a titanic struggle between those who are ready to boldly step into the future, to shape human society into one where truly democratic principles and practices prevail, and those (here in the western hemisphere) who have been duped by the lies and tricks of a toxic social disease we call “Trumpism,” a political and cultural phenomenon rooted in a sordid mix of white supremacist ideologies, manufactured lies, fake news and corrupt opportunism.
This phenomenon is bent on cowardly turning back the hands of time to “Make America Great Again” through the exercise of wanton dictatorial control over all the organs of the capitalist state. Trump’s fixation with reversing whatever legacy President Barack Obama left a couple of years ago borders on the pathological and is profoundly racist.
You all are here to support my own fight against cancer and for that effort I will be eternally grateful, but there is a much more dangerous social cancer that needs our urgent collective attention, one that is nothing short of mass terrorism against Black and Brown people.
This social cancer of Trumpism has metastasized and has infected every organ of the American body politic. Trumpism is the great white supremacy experiment of the 21st century and its basic playbook is the warped ideology of fascism as was attempted in the 20th century by Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in France, Franco in Spain, Batista in Cuba and other so-called “strong men.”
I’m not trying to be alarmist, folks, but fascism is once again on the march not only in Europe but also throughout the Americas…from Washington, D.C., to Brazil, to Chile, to Argentina and other Latin countries and making serious inroads into respectable institutions inside the U.S.A.
Trump, the protector and defender of these new American fascists, himself has no moral compass, no soul, no defined ideology, no loyalty to anyone or any set of ideas, no conviction to anything beyond his narcissistic and egotistical needs.
He is one of history’s great frauds. In a country filled with con-men, this megalomaniac stands on top of that pile of trash as America’s Con-artist-in-chief. Yet, sadly, a small percentage of Black and Brown people have fallen for Trump’s tricks and lies. I’m pretty confident that the ancestors will deal with these lackeys when the right time comes.
From the very beginning of this country, white supremacy provided the ideological underpinnings for slavery. The rallying slogans of today’s fascist right-wing such as “Make America Great Again” and “America First” are premised on hatred for the other, especially for Black, Brown and Jewish people, all of whom the racists label as “mud people” who have been punished by God and the Christian bible.
As wannabe dictator Trump nods, winks and tweets to these hatemongers who have falsely claimed a white race-based authority, the white supremacists here feel ever more emboldened to use hatred of “the other” as their weapon of choice these days, especially against non-white people and non-Christian people,
To all the writers and journalists among us tonight, let me say that white supremacy even hates memory, it hates history, it hates truth, it hates objective facts. And we, whose weapons are pens, not guns, those of us who fight for reparatory justice, those of us who dream of a truly fair society and a just economy, must never forget those billions of Black and Brown people who work hard each day here and across the continents yet are robbed by the ruling elites of the wealth and value they have created with their blood, sweat and tears.
Yes, indeed, we writers and journalists have a sacred duty to tell the inconvenient truths of history to our people and to the world, and chief among these inconvenient truths are the living legacies of enslavement as manifested in the rapidly growing social and economic disparities in the U.S., the Caribbean and Latin America.
And on an evening when we are talking about reparations, there is no denying that slave trading gave birth to the capitalist mode of production and that the warped and sick ideas of white supremacy were used by the rising bourgeois classes in Europe and America, by believers of the so-called free market, by respected scientists, politicians, academics, clergymen and even the monarchy and the nobility to morally and spiritually justify the hideous crimes of slavery.
Over time and over many generations the sick ideas of white supremacy became embedded into the very DNA of every major social, political, economic, legal and clerical institution and structure in society.
In America, white supremacy built an empire based on the theft of the lands and natural resources of the Native Americans and the theft of the collective labor of enslaved Africans.
The stolen labor of enslaved Africans remains a debt America owes to their descendants and this enormous historical debt can never be accurately measured in pounds, dollars or francs.
So we are clear: The historical debt owed to us has not been paid. The physical and psychological damages and the collective trauma that has been passed on from generation to generation have not been repaired.
Reparations is undoubtedly the most powerful moral issue of our times and we welcome the expressed interest in the topic on the part of many mainstream politicians who have called for a national discussion on slavery reparations.
Engagement with the reparations movement will educate the masses of our people that white supremacy and its proponents are the real terrorists in our midst, people born, bred and mis-educated right here in the home of baseball, motherhood and apple pie.
Fellow writers, journalists and documentarians, we must place the consequences of the trans-Atlantic slave trade at the center of our analysis of the social cancer we call Trumpism. We must continue to play a key role in shaping the public narrative and the popular conversation around reparations and, in so doing, continue to champion the new and updated version of legendary Congressman Conyers’ HR40 bill in the U.S. Congress.
The new version, which is being led by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, calls for remedies, not just studies of the living legacies of African enslavement in the Americas.
The time for action-oriented reparations is now. Let’s seize the time.
Finally, sisters and brothers, friends and comrades, I pledge to you all this evening to be by your side as together we fight the inter-related social cancers of Trumpism, globalized white supremacy, neo-liberalism and austerity forced onto the backs of working people everywhere.
I may not always be on the frontlines with you in the future but I’ll always be there behind the scenes offering my unqualified support as I continue to fight my own battle against cancer.
Remember, the fight against empire, the fight for truth and righteousness, is heating up and we need all on board. Join us as we continue to fight for reparations in the U.S.A., the Caribbean and the Americas writ large. Add your voices in support of the revised HR40 bill, which is now picking up momentum in the U.S. Congress.
In wrapping up, my conscience dictates that I dig deep down and tap into some of that radical energy that still resides in my soul and find a militant voice to say to Trump, Bolton, Pompeo and the other hawks:
—Quit banging the drums of war in the Caribbean and Latin America
—Stop with the bellicose threats towards Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua
—Hands off the Cuban Revolution
Tonight, I call on the political leaders of the Caribbean to reject any revival of the Monroe Doctrine, to defend the sacred principle of self-determination and to oppose any and all attempts by Trump and his cohorts to interfere in the domestic affairs of our sovereign states. Don’t be bamboozled into accepting the false promises of Trumpism. Stand firm and defend the Caribbean region’s right to be recognized and treated as a “Zone of Peace.”
I call on our scholars, writers and activists here and across the Black world to step up the production of intellectual critiques of neo-liberal orthodoxy. Such a comprehensive and ongoing analysis of the false values and discredited logic of capitalism today must address the political economy of slavery and in so doing we will act out the imperatives of reparatory justice.
Sad to say but we are living in a dark and scary moment. Despairing as it may be, we do not have the luxury of simply battening down the hatches and riding out Hurricane Trump. These troubled times call for us to be proactive, to resist and to push back against the onslaught of white supremacy in all its odious manifestations.
And when we fight together as a well-coordinated and disciplined global movement we will win, we will advance and we will surely please the ancestors in whose name we struggle.
Asante sana to all for your generous support and solidarity and for the beautiful vibrations that you have brought to this historic church this evening.
I leave you tonight with utterances from one of my favorite prayers, one in which I find great solace, especially in moments of reflection and meditation:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.”
Long live the reparations movement!
Long live the power of the people!
Long live the spirit of Maurice Bishop and all our people’s martyrs!
Long live the House of the Lord Church!
Forward ever, backward never!