What Does it Mean to be a Weapon of War?: Settler Colonialism and Black Labor

From Decolonized Tech, an Anti/De/Postcolonial Informed Tech, Gaming, and Comic Blog:

“If liberation is at its base about freeing oneself from an oppressive system, then our knowledge of our relationship to white settler colonialism needs to be taking into account. I think for many people, liberation is primarily articulated in relationship to your community specifically. For Black people on Turtle Island liberation means something more than simply freeing ourselves from the grasps of our slaveowners. Because we are important parts of the genocidal war machine, our liberation also impacts indigenous peoples and their struggle against the same system. For example, the struggles we have with Black liberals who want a place within the settler system has added meaning in that their need for inclusion not only fucks us but also means continuing to contribute to the settler project. Solidarity between Black and Indigenous peoples in this context is not a matter of convenience or “we are all suffering”, but a matter of our oppression upholding theirs and vice versa. Its not a matter of non-Black people demands for our labor, but coming to terms with the true weight that our labor holds over this whole system beyond just our relationship to whiteness, and how refusing to do labor is an even more revolutionary act that we often give it credit for.”

Digital Talking Drum

What does it mean to be a tool? This is a question that comes up in Afrofuturist conversations on the regular via discussions of AI, robots, their humanity, and exploitation. The question is rooted in the knowledge that under chattel slavery, stolen Africans were legally and socially rendered as objects, a process I call chattelment. Orlando Patterson alternatively called this objectification ‘social death’. As it would be taken up in afro-pessimist theory, social death creates an ontological divide between humans and non-humans, the non-humans of course being Black folks. Our history under chattel slavery amounted to us being used like cattle, lawnmowers, or shovels to till the land and produce profits and resources for our slaveowners. As a scholar interested in the intersections between Turtle Island Indigeneity and Blackness I wanted to think about this idea of “Blackness-as-technology” in the context of US settler colonialism and it brought…

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