When I was in the 5th grade, during our recess period the school gave out chess boards for us to play with. I would always compete with my white classmates. The challenge of figuring out how a person was going to respond to how I moved a piece and strategizing attacks specific to a piece’s power fascinated me to no end (I still love a good game of chess by the way).
While the other black children wanted to play basketball or to jump rope, I chose chess matches.
When I was a child, my father used to teach me how to figure out the psychology of people’s motives and the science behind how they act on them. While most kids were watching Disney movies or after-school cartoons–which I still watched at times, dad had me reading books and watching documentaries about the civil rights movement and different wars throughout human history
Pops wanted me to understand why and how societal power structures and systems work and the methods by which they’re supported and enforced.
So, I found chess more appealing than other pastimes because of the way I was raised, and I believe, in many of the households of those white kids, the art of strategizing and calculating risks in playing the game of life was the norm–a cultural element amongst their families. They, like I, learned how to think “5 steps ahead,” whether that’d be in making investments or competing against an opponent, at a very young age.
For instance, I had a white friend growing up in Duncanville, and, at around age 14, his parents were already teaching him how to participate in the stock market.
Not only that, he started a lawn mowing hustle, where he was going around the neighborhood passing out flyers advertising it. He even got me in on it because he understood, rather than keeping all the profits to himself, more manpower could more effectively and professionally accomplish work for bigger yards–ones owned my rich people willing to pay out more than the average Joe. And, it worked (one guy paid us 100 bucks for one lawn).
He was taught strategizing and how to maximize the effectiveness of efforts at a young age.
Black people–and white people–must begin to understand, the white supremacists who wield the type of power to affect the laws and policies that govern our society play by the rules of chess, not checkers, not dominoes, and not dice. They DO NOT leave anything to luck or chance; they, instead, create the reality they want to see, and they enforce it with it a vengeance.
Those who practice systematic white supremacy, whether that’d be consciously or unconsciously, understand the need to leave no area of human activity untouched by the sphere of their domination. Their criminal enterprise is a well-oiled machine that hasn’t thrived for centuries off its most powerful practitioners being reactive. Not only do they have the subjugation of African American Descendants of Slaves fully mapped out and codified, they already have plans in place to deal with our reactions to that very subjugation, just in case we decide to take it there.
Collectively, we haven’t even made it past the stages of “just being outraged” at racist jokes or comments nor understanding what is and what isn’t just a symbolic victory in the name of our liberation (being outraged is merely the beginning of understanding and challenging systematic racism).
They already have operations put in place to deal with our response to our own oppression, and we’re over here worrying about if Lebron James is a better all-time player than Jordan.
We’re over here thinking Black Panther’s box office success and that black kids marching alongside white kids in protest toward gun violence was some kind of milestone in the name eradicating racism. We don’t think about how those with real power utilize literally every form of media to socially engineer the masses to either support or “be ok” with our disenfranchisement.
They’re ironclad codified and masterfully strategic in how they do business, and we, as black folks, must think and operate in the same manner. Not only that, we need to exceed their cunningness, and we need to understand how “the long game” is played.
We need to be willing to be in it for the long haul–keeping in mind the work we do now is probably work our children will have to continue.
Like with chess, everyone needs to understand their role and their area of expertise in combatting this system. Whether you’re a rook, a knight, a bishop, or a pawn dammit, knowing how and where to exert your efforts in systematically deconstructing this structural oppression is a business, we as a tribe, need to be in.
Like Alonzo said in Training Day, “This game is chess. This ain’t no checkers.”