In the coming months and years, the left faces a historic juncture. On the one hand, racist violence is on the rise across the West, and the political class seems intent on mobilising both overt and subtle racism. On the other hand, strategies of anti-racist organising, which have developed on both sides of the Atlantic, have reached a theoretical impasse. Now, more than ever, a serious project of historical and intellectual retrieval is necessary. This article interrogates the theoretical limitations of ‘anti-blackness’ as an analysis of racialised oppression. Through the thought of Frantz Fanon and Steve Biko, among others, this paper argues that theories of ‘anti-blackness’, specifically those rooted in Afro-pessimism, are predicated on a theoretical shift away from relational social theory to identitarian essentialism which obscures, rather than illuminates, the processes of racialisation which undergird racial oppression.