Three Reasons Why Individual Ambition Is Not a Good Look for White People

CircleEssay

Individual ambition is a very repugnant trait among white people.  And there are three reasons why being ambitious on an individual level is such a repulsive thing if you’re a white person:

First, the entire white population is propped up by a global economic system (capitalism) that makes it easier for us to gain access to resources at the expense of everyone else.  So, whenever we focus on an individual’s success, we’re ignoring the reality that– if they are part of the European or white population– they are just climbing up on the backs of violently oppressed Indigenous/Native peoples, African/Black people and the majority of humanity.  That’s really not very impressive at all.  And to think it is impressive not only shows we’re ignorant, but that we are proud of our ignorance.

The second reason that individual ambition is a repugnant trait among whites is that it indicates we are failing to recognize why we have become successful.  If we recognized why the individual white person has become a “success story,” we would know that they are entirely powerless outside their class, and their class gets all its power from a political system (capitalism).

You might say, “Well, I’m not into politics, and I dislike all systems.”  But you do like being able to get out of bed in the morning.  You liked being able to go to bed the night before and get plenty of sleep.  And you like to sleep in a neighborhood that has been made safe for you.  You like a full stomach.  You enjoy drinking clean water and bathing in water that is clean– water that, in both instances, isn’t poisoned.  You enjoy being able to wear clothes to keep you warm.

And there isn’t one individual in the entire United States– if not the entire world– who has been able to provide any of these necessities for themselves without the work of the people first supporting them.  Any additional wealth or satisfaction that you may get from your own work has only been made possible by the workers in your own class or– if you are not part of the working class– by the exploited workers below your class.  And how was all this made possible?  By a system of economic exploitation– by capitalism.

So, while we may not be involved in political debates, and while we may not give much thought to who is running the government (Democrat or Republican), nevertheless, our individual desire to survive, and grow, and improve our own lives, has been combined with similar desires of people who share our interests– which have become class interests— and this force of mass power is what determines our ability to do anything.

But if white people in the United States were to look at the labels on our clothes, and where our food comes from, and the parts for our phones and other electronic devices, and if we were to consider how we have been empowered to live in houses on Indigenous land, we would recognize that we gain access to all these resources entirely on account of a system of power.  Without the military, the police, the courts, Congress, the White House, local governments, corporations big and small, immigration agents, and all the institutions and structures of capitalism, white people would not only lack all the wealth and power we enjoy (at whatever level we happen to enjoy it), but Europeans wouldn’t even be able to exist in this part of the world, so far away from Europe.

Therefore, anything we do on an individual level is only in addition to— it’s only on top of— the power we have as a class of white colonizers who occupy Indigenous land and who benefit from the colonial exploitation of Africans, Indigenous peoples and most communities outside Europe.  We can only enjoy these benefits– as “Americans” and as the “white majority”– because a system of power has been built to satisfy our basic needs, and then provide us opportunities to add onto these benefits: as industrialists, as missionaries, as “pioneers” in covered wagons, and as small business owners, artists, academics, and as colonizers with advanced degrees.

If you only focus on the things added to the top– the things we may brag about, or struggle to stay humble about– then, yes, these things might be a little impressive.  But if you recognize that our ability to do any of these things, or even live at all– at least as white people in the United States– comes entirely from a system of power that benefits us at the expense of Black people/Africans and the majority of humanity, then any personal ambition on our part is exposed as inhumane, and repugnant, and just plain wrong.

And there is a third reason that individual ambition among whites is wrong.  The first two reasons have a material or objective basis, but the third reason has a religious basis– it has to do with our belief in God.  If you don’t believe in God, or religion, then you can just go by the first two reasons– which are actually connected to the third reason, on account of the greater Power of the Creator, the One deity: Allah.

But let’s take my own life as an example.  I haven’t done anything in my life through my own power or effort.  I haven’t provided anything for myself.  I’m not self-sufficient at all but am entirely dependent on the Mercy of Allah.  And Allah has provided everything to me through His Mercy.

If we consider my own situation many years ago as a helpless child, it was Allah– the One God, the Provider– who provided me a mother who then fed me, and held me, and protected me from the heat of summer and the cold of winter.  I would have died without her care.  No ambition on my part could account for my survival, or my development as an individual person, or any good that may have been derived from this life after surviving those early years.

After all, where did any of these ideas of goodness originate?  I would be very proud to say that they have come out of my own imagination.  Because, just as we can’t create a tree that gives us fruit or the materials for our house, we also can’t say that we create ideas.  All we can do is absorb these ideas from our environment.  And none of us could survive long enough to absorb these ideas if Allah hadn’t created the tree to give us fruit or the wood for our homes, as well as everything else in the material universe.  Allah is the only Creator of the universe– the Lord of the worlds and all that exists– so any advancement we may have been blessed to experience within His creation is entirely due to his Power.  Alhamdulillah.  All praise and thanks are due to Allah.  And, indeed, Allah is over all things the Most Powerful.

Allah has blessed me so extensively through his Power and Mercy that it would only be ingratitude on my part to believe anything in my life was accomplished on my own, and was just a result of my “hard work,” “initiative,” “smarts,” and “ingenuity.”  But if we go back to the material basis for my advancement as an individual, and connect this to the Truth and the Power of the God who is One, then we know that the gratitude we show for His Power– which is entirely Self-Sustaining, and upon which all things depend for their existence– does not include any behavior on our part that contradicts His Truth.

In other words, if we steal from someone– such as snatch a grandmother’s purse, or steal Africans from their land, and then steal their land, and their resources, and culture, and refuse to pay reparations— then we cannot (by definition) be truly grateful for any stolen fruits that we may be enjoying after Allah had already provided the victims these fruits.  In fact, such behavior indicates instead that we have “a god-complex”: we seem to believe we can give and take away life (or the things which sustain life, which is practically the same) and this makes us look like we believe that we are gods.  There is only One God, One Creator.  But by putting the individual ahead of the masses– ahead of the many people who make up His creation– then it seems we are just behaving like the devil, who was rejected because of his pride.

So, if we are grateful for what Allah has provided to us, this is not the same as smugly believing we are “blessed” with all these comforts– or “the American way of life”– when the material reality is that we are sitting on a mountain of stolen wealth and power.  The objective truth is that our elevated situation– that we enjoy in “America” as whites– has come at the expense of the global majority (mainly “people of color”) whose labor, resources, land, culture and lives are being exploited by a system of power (capitalism) that benefits us.

Since humans have been created to struggle– to give praise and thanks to Allah and to do good deeds– then any consciousness we may gain of this unbalance or inequality in our conditions should inspire us to work against the system that brought it about.  And even this growing consciousness is not something we can take credit for, as if the idea to fight systemic oppression– such as white supremacy and patriarchy– originated in our own imagination.

All Knowledge comes from Allah, and so, once we are taught anything, it is our responsibility to educate the masses, to engage in mass political education, and to allow people to gain consciousness of this knowledge.  By doing this, we can (if God wills) move conditions closer to those that are just and equal, and bring about a qualitative change to the system of power and societies on earth.  However, in order to do any of this, each of us may be required to look beyond the individual and our individual ambition, and recognize that we are obligated– while we are living– to struggle.

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Three Reasons Why Individual Ambition Is Not a Good Look for White People

“Hate Is a Very Exciting Emotion”: From Reactionary White Nationalism (Hate) to a Revolutionary “Return to History” (Love)

GildaEssay

It is very difficult to organize white people for revolutionary struggle.  One reason for this difficulty is that we lack a revolutionary culture.  To be clear, culture itself does not lead to a people’s liberation from all forms of systemic oppression.  But culture is the basis for their identity— for what Amílcar Cabral called the “historical personality” of a people– which can then be organized in order to bring about revolution, or a “return to history” (again, in the words of Amílcar Cabral).

White people in the United States gave up most of that “historical personality” when we left Europe and then assumed the “American” (or white) identity on this continent and Hawaii, exchanging our authentic culture for the colonial benefits of genocide, slavery and capitalist exploitation.  In fact, most of the “culture” that whites enjoy in the United States today is just the commodified theft of culture, which is produced by the repressed classes of the world economy.  And, depending on how rich you are, you get to accumulate the cultural productions of global capitalist empire.

At the same time, working class whites in “America” do have their own culture, which is often associated with country music (another genre invented by colonized Africans, or Black people).  At least this is true of working class whites in rural areas, as indicated in the name of the genre: “country.”  In the large cities and suburban areas of the United States, working class whites– especially the younger generations– are attracted to Black genres of music such as hip hop and rock.  The “pop” genre is the bourgeois (or petty bourgeois) commodification of culture at its most distilled form: a homogenized  appropriation of Black and Latinx music stripped of any specific class and national context, then sanitized and packaged for consumption by the masses of upwardly-mobile whites.

Regardless of the music’s genre (as just one example of culture), the objective of the wealthy ruling class is the same, which is to repress any identification on our part with a culture or a history that runs against the dominant “American” capitalist identity.  That is the main objective.  The secondary objective is to divide the white working class of the United States, using commodified culture as a weapon against organized mass consciousness.  It’s hard to get people together when we can’t even agree on who we are, or what music to play at our organizing event.  Thus, capitalism keeps the white masses apart, not only through it divisions of economic exploitation (workers and bosses, or employees and executives) but through its divisions to our cultural identities.

In fact, the need to create a unifying culture– as well as a unifying class identity– has become a powerful recruiting tool for white supremacists, or white nationalists, on the right-wing of the colonizing population in the United States.  Because we ought to be clear about this material and historical reality: all whites in the United States (not to mention Canada, Australia, Israel, and South Africa) belong to the colonizing class.  We are European colonizers who occupy Indigenous lands, and who enjoy the greatest benefits of a global system of capitalist exploitation which primarily targets Africans and “people of color”– the colonized classes of the world.  In exchange for our loyalty to “America” (a white nationalist, imperialist state), this world economic system, created by “whites,” allows the “white” race (who usually identify only as “Americans,” or “just people”) to continue enjoying most of the benefits of its capitalist violence against the global proletariat, even as the largest share of these benefits goes to the richest whites at the top.  Within this arrangement of power, the wealthiest class must repress any revolutionary energy coming from poor and working class whites, and so it teaches us (through the institutions and structures under its control) to believe that– for all our economic struggles– whites are still superior to Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples, and all the brown people of the globe.

So why doesn’t this belief in white superiority unify the colonizing population of the United States (whether we are wealthy, poor or middle-class)?  It’s because the capitalist system of power was created with certain contradictions which cannot be resolved while this class structure remains in place, even as these class antagonisms hold our bourgeois, colonial society together.  Obviously, “America” hates poor people– including poor whites.  The poor and the middle-class white population also hates rich people– especially if they are rich “blacks” or “minorities,” but we also hate rich whites.  This hate, which goes in both directions, is our emotional reaction to class antagonisms in “American” society.  And it is our reactionary behavior– as white colonizers– that drives “America” forward and creates progress for whites, even as it threatens to derail the entire genocidal project of capitalist empire.

As Rita Hayworth whispers in Gilda (1946), “Hate is a very exciting emotion.”  Rita tells Glenn Ford (Johnny), “I hate you so much that I would destroy myself to take you down with me.”  And that’s basically the history of Europeans (or white-on-white crime) in one memorable line.

If Europeans hadn’t redirected our imperialist violence at Africans and Indigenous peoples, and eventually at most of the global population outside Europe, and if we hadn’t created the United States as an escape plan from white violence (toward the creation of more white violence), we would have destroyed ourselves many centuries ago.  Nevertheless, a Civil War, two nihilistic World Wars and a Cold War (threatening destruction on a global scale), and– most recently– the self-destructive election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, all indicate that capitalist power holds contradictions which cannot be resolved, one of which is the division of the white identity against itself, even as whiteness has been launched at the world like a missile.  Ultimately, the Black and Brown people of South America (the setting of Gilda), and, of course, North America, and the globe, must be destroyed, or Rita Hayworth may end up destroying the whole arrangement of power, along with herself, as capitalism goes up in smoke like Chicago during the fire.

So “hate can be a very exciting emotion,” indeed– as repeated by the delightfully villainous George Macready (Ballin Mundson).  And hate can be a very uniting emotion too.  Just as hate keeps us apart, ready to destroy each other, it can be a magnet that brings people together– in order to destroy something else (or someone else) that we hate.  For this reason (not entirely explained here by its material basis), the “alt-right,” the Ku Klux Klan and the white nationalists have a ready-made tool for recruiting members of the European colonizing population in the United States, whose contradictions are highly volatile and thus easy to exploit.

After all, the United States is itself a white nationalist, genocidal project: the U.S. government and the institutions of global capitalism have done more damage to Black and Brown people than the KKK and Richard Spencer could ever dream of doing.  For one thing, the imperialist nation-state that is the United States has the power to inflict more damage: it has the military, the police, schools, prisons, and ICE, and it can make contracts with G4S, and do just about anything else it wants (never mind what the worthless U.S. Constitution says).

One would think that such a “hateful” government– and “hateful” world economic system— would be enough to satisfy the disillusioned masses of white people on this occupied continent.  Aren’t the United States and global capitalism sufficiently white nationalist and racist enough to meet the demands of these “hate groups,” who are labeled as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center (while the SPLC ignores the larger, if not more hateful, capacity for violence by the U.S. and its capitalist system)?

But we can go back to the fundamental contradiction of bourgeois society in “America”: the rich must continue to oppress the poor– white, Black or otherwise (which is hateful, right?)– because, if they don’t, the rich will no longer be the ruling class that holds power, and the United States will no longer exist.  The United States was created by its ruling class for the purpose of repressing some class, or classes: colonized Indigenous peoples, Africans, Latinxs, Chinese.  For repressing people of color– yes.  But also to repress dissatisfied whites.  Whites who simultaneously benefit from this repressive arrangement even as we feel injured by it.  Whites whose dissatisfaction with “big government” (and its boss, “big business”) grows stronger every day, providing the white supremacist hate groups more and more opportunities to exploit this building rage.  And who are the easiest whites to exploit?  Those who believe that not only is their economic status under attack (by a Black ex-President), but that their very lives– their culture, their identity, their history– are being ridiculed, violated, wiped out by “racist” Black people, by “dangerous” immigrants (“illegal aliens”), and by hijab-wearing Muslims with brown faces (“terrorists”).

Such extreme volatility in the white nationalist “American” identity doesn’t mean conditions are ripe for revolution– at least coming from the white population itself– but it indicates instead that whites in the United States are more prepared than ever to inflict reactionary violence on the oppressed peoples of the world.  Organizing such a hateful mass of destructive (and self-destructive) white bodies, this white heat, goes against the very cultural basis of who they (or we) are.  Organizing for socialist revolution goes against not only the economic and political factors that determine the amount of wealth and power that we have within our class (as white colonizers), but also our “historical personality”: our identity as a culture.

And this destructive and self-destructive energy in the white colonizing population becomes even more intense in its heat– in its volatile elements– the more we reach into the “white community,” and travel to rural areas which have the highest levels of poverty, and the greatest sense of powerlessness, and where whites feel the most injured, the most alienated from the structures and institutions whose ongoing genocide against Indigenous peoples and Africans is the only reason these angry whites are allowed to survive at all.  Even if we wanted to organize this mass energy of hate, we wouldn’t be able to … not for socialist revolution at any rate.  For (further) genocide against people of color?  Yes.  But an anti-colonialist, anti-capitalist struggle?  No.

Yet it seems to me that one mistake the anti-racist “SJWs” (“social justice warriors”) on the left-wing of the colonizing population make is the failure to recognize that people will only move in the direction of what they perceive to be their own interests as a group, a class.  You can get white people to be “nicer”– in one sense– to the people whose ongoing oppression makes our existence on occupied territory possible (whether we’re “nice” or mean).  You might get us to pay reparations to Black people– motivated by what blatantly racist whites call “white liberal guilt.”

But, ultimately, the only way we will move against the oppressive system of power, in the United States and on a global scale, is if Europeans (whites) feel that it is in our own interests to do so.  We won’t give our lives only to be nicer people, or to escape feelings of guilt.  In fact, one could argue that questions of justice, equality, freedom and peace can only be answered when our very lives depend on not giving an answer to these questions in the negative– when we are compelled (by a system) to behave in a humane, egalitarian manner, or otherwise perish.  We could go one step further: this behavior (the “politically correct” behavior, of acting like a decent human being, as imposed by the “tyrants” and the “thought police” of some socialist/communist “authoritarian” system) is the very thing that reactionary whites (and not only the rural and poor) fear.

So, what do we do?  It seems we should consider ways in which we can transcend these white nationalist divisions, in order to move beyond the “American” context for organizing against racism and other forms of systemic oppression.  What does this mean?  Instead of simply arguing that we are “on stolen Indigenous land” (which we are)– or ignoring this historical reality in favor of the liberal framework of the U.S. Constitution– we can begin to remap “America” according to the specific demands of Indigenous nations (or tribes), as well as the demands of Africans, New Afrikans and Black people, and all colonized peoples.

And what exactly does that map look like anyway?  Who is organizing to create that map?  How do we go about meeting their demands while assuring our own survival, which we will not forfeit at any rate?  That’s a lot of questions to be answered.  But what we do know is: such a map of North America (and the world) will not look the same as it does right now, with this white nationalist, capitalist empire dividing the working class of the globe (Black and Brown people) from their land, resources, culture and the fruits of their labor.

What we also know is: the white supremacists (who would seem to be enjoying such an oppressive arrangement of colonial exploitation) are no longer satisfied with the status quo either.  More than five hundred years of capitalist, imperialist genocide by Europe apparently won’t get the job done for these reactionaries– they want a “white nation.”  As if “America” hasn’t shown already that it is a white nationalist project.  Yet this is the contradictory nature of the situation.  “America” has been robbing the reactionaries too. So there’s no love involved.  They don’t even think “America” is great– it has to be made “great again.”  One minute they say they love the “American” flag (or hate anyone who doesn’t bow down to this symbol of white supremacy).  The next minute these racist reactionaries embrace the symbol of the failed Confederacy.  “Hate is a very exciting emotion.”  And while this reactionary process has held together the “American” map of white supremacist empire, this “hateful” energy appears to be on the verge of tearing it apart– for good.  Literally, for good.

Of course, white liberals are trying to preserve and reform the United States– “this isn’t America,” they insist, as they paint pictures of Muslimahs wearing “American” flags as hijabs, or they sport ridiculous pink hats.  But the contradictions are too great, too volatile to stop the process.  Hate is not only “exciting,” it’s explosive.  And the historical forces leading up to the implosion of the “American” empire– released at the moment of its birth– are building every day, coming from both reactionaries and revolutionaries.

If you are a white person in the United States who hears the word “nationalist,” you might automatically associate this word with “hate” or “hate group” (although probably not the white nationalist U.S. government and the capitalist system that controls it).  And that’s the white liberal mindset: to oppose automatically anything that threatens to overturn– particularly with violence– the current arrangement of power which (through its own violence) benefits white liberals, the same as it benefits white conservatives and all whites.

If the “white nationalists” are bad, then the “Black nationalists” are bad too … right?  That’s what the SPLC seems to believe (or wants its donors to believe).  “Marcus Garvey hated white people, didn’t he?  Malcolm X too?  Black Lives Matter can sometimes alienate white allies.”  Yet the person who is a materialist– the socialist revolutionary– will seek to transcend this binary approach to understanding the world.  To be a “nationalist” isn’t bad in itself, even as far as moral judgments are concerned.  Nationalism is bad when it means genocide, slavery, colonialism, terror and capitalist oppression– when it means the United States.  But, if you are a revolutionary, you seek to leverage the power of the nation (or the nation-state) against itself– you create an opposing force of power to move against the current state, as part of a dialectical process.  In other words, you organize a nationalist struggle.

And what is the basis for this revolutionary nationalist struggle?  Who is the subject engaging in this struggle?  Not some race– “white” or otherwise, since “race” (like “racism”) is an invention of reactionary, capitalist empire.  The basis for any revolutionary nationalist struggle– which of course is connected to the larger internationalist struggle– is a people’s culture, their “historical personality.”

The subjective basis for revolutionary struggle is what a people love about themselves– their music, their language, their religion, everything that brings them together as a people.  And these cultural productions grow out of our struggle within and against nature– as a part of nature.  That is, our work.  Art or culture is one vital aspect of a society’s produced wealth, and it grows out of a specific people’s work inside a specific territory which has a specific history.

Once we can locate, define, and develop that history– that “historical personality”— then we can move in a progressive or revolutionary manner, not as some reactionary “white” race seeking to inflict greater harm on the oppressed people of the world, but as a nation, a people, who (through struggle, through work) can become part of the global community of nations and peoples.

“Hate Is a Very Exciting Emotion”: From Reactionary White Nationalism (Hate) to a Revolutionary “Return to History” (Love)

Numbers Never Lie: 94 Is More Than 53, Yet Trump Is President of the United States (Or, The Power of White Women on the Left)

JemeleNNL

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it could be demonstrated that the vast majority of workers who are part of this world economic system called “capitalism” did not use Facebook and Twitter.  So, while white socialists are arguing for hours on Facebook and Twitter about who (or what) is correct– when it comes to political struggle– the food we enjoy eating, and the clothes we enjoy wearing (as well as the parts for the phones and other devices we use to access social media), are being produced by exploited workers around the globe, most of whom are Black and Brown: African, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and so forth.

That’s the material reality of the situation.  And this material reality contradicts our ideas as white socialists; which means we aren’t truly moving in a revolutionary direction.  Because, in socialist revolution, ideas grow out of practice, and practice out of ideas: the contradictions between these two (between practice and ideas) are constantly being resolved as part of a process that leads us to ever higher levels of class consciousness.  While we may believe we have the correct ideas– ideas that are progressive or revolutionary– these ideas in the minds of white socialists typically have not grown out of our consistent practice at the material level.  So, instead, white socialists tend to argue about what’s in our minds, rather than focusing on organizing the people, and working together in order to transform our shared environment, or material conditions.

If we keep this observation in mind (recognizing its own contradictions) then maybe we can understand why it is incorrect for white socialists to criticize Imani Gandy (“Angry Black Lady”) on Twitter, or any Black woman, regardless of her “neoliberal” and “imperialist” and “pro-Hillary” politics.

And by “incorrect” we mean “it doesn’t work.”  It’s also racist, misogynistic and just plain rude for a white person– regardless of our politics– to abuse Imani Gandy or any Black woman on social media or “irl.”  It’s reactionary behavior.  But the main reason it’s reactionary isn’t that it’s bad or evil (which it is), but that it doesn’t move conditions any closer to revolution.  That’s what makes it incorrect.

Either we are moving conditions toward revolution (which is progressive), or away from revolution (which means we are preserving the existing power structures of capitalism).  Either we’re moving against capitalism, as revolutionaries, in order to destroy it, or we’re strengthening its power to destroy, by reinforcing its ability to oppress Black people, including Black women … including Imani Gandy.   So, if we wish to be principled in our behavior, then we need to make a choice: either attack Imani Gandy, and reinforce the power of the existing system, or place our focus entirely on destroying this system.

This choice shouldn’t be too difficult for us to recognize.  However, white people’s political consciousness has been seriously obstructed by our racism.  We’ve been taught by a racist system to believe that, while we are enjoying the greatest benefits of capitalism’s violent exploitation of the global majority, even so, our opinions as whites– on the right-wing, the left-wing, or in-between– are still expressed on the same plane, or the same class level, as those expressed by Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples, Latinxs, Palestinians … as those expressed by Imani Gandy.  If our consciousness of these material conditions were not so obstructed by our racism– and by the white supremacist belief that our particular view on this plane of our elevated colonial lifestyle can somehow be more revolutionary than the view of a person who is struggling to survive under its weight– it would be easy to leave Imani Gandy alone.  We could just go away.

Yet, the main problem for European colonizers in the United States, who occupy Indigenous lands while consuming the labor, resources and culture of the global majority, is that we can’t go away.  After all, where might we go to?  Not back to Europe, where white people belong– because the Europeans there are also dependent on the labor, resources and culture of the world outside Europe.  This means, if we’re talking about the fundamental practice of white people (socialist or otherwise) in our day-to-day lives, then the common denominator for our behavior, particularly in the United States of “America,” is that we take up space.

So, naturally, whites take up space on Twitter and Facebook.  For one thing, Twitter and Facebook, as institutions that belong to the capitalist ruling class, make rules that favor colonizers (whites) at the expense of colonized peoples (Africans/Black people and so-called people of color).  Twitter “verifies” Richard Spencer’s account, while he is a violent white supremacist, and permanently suspends Gazi Kodzo’s account, while he is fighting against this very system that is violently white supremacist.  The racist system has the power to make the rules, so, of course, the rules are set up to favor Richard Spencer, and white colonizers, at the expense of Gazi Kodzo and Imani Gandy, and all people in colonized communities.

This means, whenever a European colonizer approaches a “person of color” on Twitter (and it doesn’t matter if we’re rich, poor, middle-class, Muslim, Jewish, transgender, disabled or whatever) the dynamics of the situation are the same.  By “dynamics” we are referring to the relationships of power involved: our ability to bring about change, development and growth within a system or a process.

Since we know the United States and the global arrangement of power called “capitalism” were created by Europeans for the benefit of Europeans, we ought to recognize the power we have in this colonial situation.  White colonizers have more power for us to leverage within capitalism than colonized Africans/Black people and “people of color” have.  This is particularly true of cisgender white colonizers and wealthy white colonizers, even as this system of power benefits all whites.  Capitalism was built on the hierarchy of white supremacy, as well as transphobia, sexism, and class exploitation.  So the whites who enjoy the greatest benefits from this hierarchical arrangement of global capitalism also have the greatest power– not as individuals but as a class.

As a class, African/Black women (particularly if they are transgender, working class, disabled, immigrant, Muslims or sex workers) basically have no power within the capitalist hierarchy.  Here’s one example of Black women’s lack of political power:

94% of Black women (among those who voted) voted for Hillary Clinton.  Yet who was elected President of the United States, with 53% of the vote of white women who voted?  Trump, of course.  If Black women were powerful as a class– even according to the rules set up by this racist, misogynistic system of democratic capitalism– then Hillary Clinton would have won easily.

If Black women were powerful as a class, ESPN wouldn’t have suspended Jemele Hill (former co-host, with Michael Smith, of Numbers Never Lie) for speaking out against the system that subjugates her people.  And Senator Bernie Sanders wouldn’t have voted to extradite Assata Shakur from Cuba, because she wouldn’t have been forced to seek asylum in Cuba in the first place … because Black women would have had power.

In fact, if African/Black women had power as a class, then the entire political, economic and social landscape of “America” and the world could be entirely transformed– because the shape of these global conditions would reflect their interests rather than moving against them.  No wonder the capitalist system hates and fears African women everywhere in the world.

But we might ask: what good is accomplished by a white person on Twitter criticizing Imani Gandy, or any Black woman?  The answer is clear: none.

No good comes out of such criticism of Black women by whites, not if we measure this goodness by what is correct: or what is effective in moving the conditions of the world in a progressive direction.  Yet white “leftists” will spend all day defending their support for Bernie Sanders and their opposition to Imani Gandy.

Even Bernie Sanders doesn’t have any power which is disconnected from his class: the ruling class of rich, cisgender whites whom he represents in the United States Senate.  As a member of that class (the white colonial bourgeoisie), if Bernie Sanders ever got it in his head that he had any power separate from the interests he represents, they would totally cut him off from the real source of his power, which is not only the U.S. government but the whole capitalist system.  If Bernie Sanders started to think he had any power other than that of his class, he wouldn’t be allowed to speak on CNN and MSNBC or at a Women’s Convention, or be considered as a potential candidate for the 2020 Democratic Presidential ticket.  And Bernie probably recognizes this reality better than the vast majority of his supporters, which is why he doesn’t organize for power outside the Senate, outside the ruling class, where he could engage in working class revolutionary struggle like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro did with the people of Cuba.

Considering Bernie Sanders is essentially powerless outside the power of his class (as a wealthy white cisgender man and a member of the U.S. Senate), you ought to find it relatively easy to recognize that Imani Gandy is essentially powerless outside the power of her class.  And how much power do Black women have in this country– this empire– which is built on white supremacy, misogyny, transphobia, misogynoir, and transmisogynoir?  The answer should be very clear to us if have we taken the time to pay attention to Black women (and pay Black women), and if we have looked at all the statistical evidence.

These facts are available.  However, our view of these facts is obstructed by our racism.  So, instead of looking at our conditions, where the white population is unjustly elevated at the expense of the global majority, we focus on our opinions, on our ideologies, and then we start to believe that these contradict the views of Imani Gandy, rather than contradicting our own class status and how we are empowered by a system of power to behave as white colonizers.

Every day Black women on social media are treated like they are the bullies– as if their lack of “good manners” and “nice, respectable” behavior is the reason for poverty, deportations, drones, terrorism, assassinations of world leaders, G4S, gentrification, police violence, mass incarceration, poisoned water in Flint, and the exploitation of workers in Africa and around the globe.

Since capitalism is such a backward system, it’s no shock that our view of conditions in the world today are so twisted.  Capitalism is backward, and it teaches whites to behave in a backward manner, and to treat Black women like they are the problem.  So we think, “If only they would get in line, or settle down, and passively accept the leadership of our ‘progressive’ and ‘revolutionary’ leaders,” … then what?  But everything becomes twisted under this backward system of capitalism: up is down, down is up, Bernie is a revolutionary, and Black women on Twitter are neoliberal imperialist meanies.

Capitalism has us going after the people without power– the people whose power and wealth have been stolen from them by capitalism– and then calling this “progressive” and “revolutionary” behavior.  And next, we make the demand that a Black woman should apologize for stating her opinions on Twitter, when all white women– as a class– enjoy the benefits of the colonial exploitation of her class, which is the oppressed political category of Black women in “America.”

Instead of going after Imani Gandy on Twitter, or any Black woman, or any person in a colonized class, it seems that progressive Europeans (whites) ought to be focused on attacking the main source of exploitation and oppression: capitalism and the imperialist United States.  But when you’re white (and therefore racist), and you are not part of the global proletariat, it’s difficult to recognize the necessity of engaging in this type of struggle, because the colonial class at this point lacks the political consciousness to work together for revolutionary change.  White socialists do love to argue on Twitter though– whatever good that accomplishes (none).

Numbers Never Lie: 94 Is More Than 53, Yet Trump Is President of the United States (Or, The Power of White Women on the Left)

What’s Normal, Who’s Human, and How Do White Colonizers Recognize Who Gets to Have Power?

KeithEssay

All too often there seems to be an attempt on our part– as whites– to humanize the victims of systemic violence based on their experiences of victimization, rather than on the recognition that they are fully human already and have only been placed in a dehumanizing situation.

A similar thing happens to the individuals who victimize people (especially when their victims are women), only this time it happens in reverse: such an individual is dehumanized (by the usual shapers of white opinion) and thus becomes a “monster,” a “madman,” “unhinged”– or simply “f*cking crazy” … as if these larger-than-life adjectives are the only way we can conceptualize the run-of-the-mill, all-American violence that sustains the day-to-day lives of the vast majority of white people.

In the United States (a settler colony of Europe built on slavery and genocide), there is the liberal (“democratic”) tendency to rush toward the center of any debate or any crisis in order to find the largest number of people who share a particular experience, as if this growing perception of unity will legitimatize the experiences (as well as the identities) of all those involved– and some not involved.  “Normal” has become boring; it’s yesterday’s trend; old news.  So, today, the previously “abnormal,” and invisible and marginalized, are brought to the center, and the more they are allowed to trend, and are talked about, and pitied, the more we’re told that their visibility indicates progress.

This country– or, rather, this capitalist empire– will make a commodity out of anything, and any person or community.  So it may be helpful to consider how the institutions of capitalism– such as the capitalist media– move to congeal our diverse experiences and identities into commodified exchange-values, as the system creates a “Black Friday”-kind of rush out of the most intimate aspects of our lives.  Like a new smart phone or a hit movie, our trauma and oppression– as well as each joyful and artistic expression– are converted into commodities whose marketability is based on how “honestly” and “authentically” they conform to some predetermined set of values established within the democratic, capitalist state.  Meanwhile, the wealthy ruling class grows even wealthier … and their power to oppress likewise becomes stronger.

So many of the narratives highlighted by capitalist media show the victims of oppression expressing pain, crying, bleeding, dying, and being humiliated, actions which seem to affirm our own humanity as the audience of whites who are agreeably shocked or touched, with our hearts full of empathetic grief.  In one sense, it might be refreshing if– as a change of pace, or place– we could watch the oppressors [triggering images ahead] screaming in agony, pleading for mercy, trying to escape the guns and knives and bombs of their victims, the blood of the white colonizer flowing in the streets, our bodies discarded.  After all, this is the story of the United States of America, as it might have been told from the viewpoint of its victims, whose voices have been largely silenced by colonization, slavery, genocide and capitalist exploitation.  The fragments of their narratives that do remain (and are highlighted in capitalist media) are required to be superhuman in their goodness (“I will fight no more forever”) and bravery, as well as their heroic resolve in the face of total annihilation.  Why?  Perhaps because white people– particularly cisgender, middle-class and wealthy whites– require constant reminders of a humanity which we exchanged long ago for the colonizer’s lifestyle in the United States.

No, perhaps we need instead more stories of victims– colonized communities– rising up and killing their oppressors, driving them off their lands, making the “good guy” (or is he the “bad guy”?) bleed.  And (most importantly) getting away at the end of the movie: “law and order” not restored; “law and order” smashed.  Because the institutions and structures of the colonizer have meant injustice and chaos for the colonized peoples of the world.

It’s not that we oppose all order, all systems– we want a new order, and each oppressed community to choose their own system of power.  By centering narratives where the bullied and the oppressed are engaging in armed struggle, and are terrifying the bully, making it difficult for him to survive, then perhaps we can give hope or (better yet) provide tools to the forces of resistance.

Such narratives would no doubt be highly unpopular.  The revolutionary movement narrated in this manner wouldn’t become a hit movie, and (of course) it would not be televised.  White rappers wouldn’t touch this material when centering their opposition to the racist ruling class, or to one individual– the U.S. President.  Keith Olbermann couldn’t write a book about it.  Yet it would clarify the situation, and show us that white violence against Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples and the majority of the global population (so-called people of color) is normal, is sane, is central.  Because capitalism, a backward and inhumane system of power, requires this behavior, and promotes it, and treats white supremacy, sexism, transphobia, misogynoir, homophobia, Islamophobia and ableism as business-as-usual, as just another day in “America.”

How far will we go to put an end to systemic oppression?  The line we draw– at what we consider to be “normal,” “sane” and “American”– is the line that the anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist narratives (or the stories that center the struggles of the masses against white supremacy, patriarchy and exploitation) perhaps should cross.  Because, whenever we avoid crossing that line, we merely show the power that the oppressive ruling class has over us, even at the imaginative level, the stage of the struggle where we mostly use our voices and the language of resistance: words as weapons.

Donald Trump is normal, sane, very average as far as white colonizers go– white people who have been elevated by a racist, transphobic, misogynistic system of power.  He has the power— the colonizers have the power– and the victims of white supremacist, patriarchal capitalism and colonialism don’t.  What are the narratives that can challenge the normalcy of white power in the United States, where misogynistic, exploitative violence are business-as-usual within the institutions and structures controlled by the wealthy ruling class?

If the victims resist– with violence, when necessary– will the “good white progressive” still recognize their humanity?  Or do we only need to be reassured, again and again, that the victims won’t start to turn the tables on their oppressors, and get themselves some power?  As if this too is not a human right for all nations, all peoples?  Do we require the victims to keep on crying out in pain, rather than organizing for power, and thereby causing the source of their pain to express our share of suffering as well, at least up to the point that we stop our violent exploitation of them, and recognize their right to self-determination?  These, and so many more questions, could be asked, but instead we continue to poke at the victims of U.S. colonial and capitalist violence and ask, over and over: “How does this feel?  How does this feel?”

The argument here isn’t that we should want violence, or want to pick up the gun (in order to get rid of it).  It’s the opposite view: we want to end the violence, but truly put an end to it, and start to build a system of power based on egalitarian principles.  And it seems we can’t begin to create that system until we have destroyed this system.

Let’s consider the situation with sexual violence against women and femmes [more trigger warnings]: you either oppose this violence, or you don’t.  But once you oppose it, then you need the power to root it out of society.  It’s not rational and it’s not humane to ask the victims of sexual violence– or any systemic violence, since they are all connected– to work through their trauma without the support of society’s institutions, as these institutions grow wealthier and more powerful off the very violence that is traumatizing them.  Smash that system of power– take away the unequal power held by cisgender white men (and cisgender white women who break the glass ceiling by climbing up on the backs of Black women), then we can really get started on “smashing the patriarchy.”  It seems we can’t even begin to build new institutions and structures that are safer for women and femmes until we get rid of a system where the profit motive must always come first.

Hopefully, we won’t have to use violence.  But the ruling class of the United States should be scared, not its victims.  Let the “pigs,” “crackers” and imperialist “paper tigers” tremble with fear, as they recognize that their system of power is being taken from them– so they can know for certain that Africans, Indigenous peoples, and transgender women of color in particular, are getting some power for themselves.  That’s the main thing whites fear: loss of power.  Because whiteness means power.  But the European population will simply have to adjust to a new world order if we want to avoid the weight of resistance coming in the other direction– at us.

It’s easy to feel bad for someone when they’re on the ground, powerless, and when we believe we can do nice things for them, and grant them “freedom” and “equality.”  But it’s an entirely different question if we want them to seize power for themselves (the only way it can be gained), even if this means less power for us, because up until now we’ve had an unequal amount, at their expense.

Perhaps we ought to remember that most of the violence in the world is committed by “normal,” “sane,” “moderate” people– or it is supported by these people, which is basically the same thing as committing it.  But we don’t recognize our violence because it is so institutionalized, and is so integrated into our daily activities– going to Whole Foods, calling the police, buying a house, replying to a Black woman on Twitter, joining or contributing to a white-led nonprofit organization, not paying a Black trans woman.  This behavior is “normal.”  It’s not “f*cking insane” like Trump is.  But who are the victims of this normalized violence?  Typically the identities who are just assumed by “decent, mainstream” [white] people to have less worth in this society: sex workers, nonbinary transgender persons who don’t conform to our expectations of who is a “man” and who is a “woman,” the unemployed, the homeless, the imprisoned … the political prisoner Imam Jamil Al-Amin who must “deserve” to be locked away, out of sight, out of mind, otherwise he wouldn’t be (because “America” is “good,” right?).  In fact, we don’t even notice him long enough to arrive at any judgment one way or the other, so “guileless” (or ignorant?) are white people.

Yet it seems it’s not enough for us just to become aware of these so-called narratives– the lives of the people and communities hidden from our view, and the stories only they can tell.  It’s not enough especially if we’re white and middle-class, and are the main benefactors of colonial violence.  No– it seems, if we want justice, perhaps we should begin to picture more scenes like this:

Let’s think about “what if” George Jackson had escaped with his comrades, as dozens (hundreds?) of African revolutionaries busted out of the gray walls of California’s concentration camps (under the control of then-Governor Ronald Reagan and the racist, fascist bourgeoisie).  Let’s think about how they could have done some serious damage to the ruling class of this capitalist state.  How much damage?  As much as would have been necessary to free colonized Africans and allow them to establish their own system of power.  In this scenario, white middle-class housewives would have been frightened for their lives, it’s true … but they (or we) fear even the slightest loss of respectability at any rate.  As members of a jury (very respectable, very normal), these white women have no fear of sending a Black person to prison for life.  We raise the blood pressure of the colonized masses every day, just by taking up space on Indigenous lands– let our blood pressure rise, then we can adapt or die like everyone else.

So let European colonizers (white people) be afraid for a change, until we can all get some change: the entire global population and the planet itself.  Except this time, we can use our fear to create progress for humanity, rather than at its expense– which is the way things are set up today in the United States, and throughout the globe, as they have been set up ever since Europe began its invasion of Africa and the “Americas” more than five centuries ago.

Our ability to humanize the victims of capitalist violence should not be predicated on their narratives of trauma– let’s wish instead to see the victims become victorious, as they gain power for themselves, since we ought to recognize they are fully human already.  If we do not, then where’s our humanity at?

 

What’s Normal, Who’s Human, and How Do White Colonizers Recognize Who Gets to Have Power?

Unlike the Puppy or the Kitten, the Human “Individual Is Dependent Upon the Masses of the People for Everything”

EssayEmojis

Capitalism is a global economic systemic that uses its oppressive power to isolate the individual from the masses of the people.  In fact, this reactionary process of isolation begins– or perhaps it ends– with capitalism alienating the individual from ourselves.  Capitalism isolates us from ourselves.

Human beings gain our humanity from the people.  We live in societies, in communities, and we work together as a people in order to create the material wealth which becomes the basis for all our needs, including our culture.  Yet this cruel system of European power called “capitalism”– specifically in the capitalist United States, a settler colony of Europe– will convince you and me that freedom or “liberty” (as well as equality, peace and justice) is merely a question of individual rights.

This capitalist ideology of alienation places the “American” individual in an antagonistic relationship with not only the global majority, but with themselves, and the very essence of their “humanness,” their humanity.  The exploited resources, labor, lives and land of Africa and the globe flow in the direction of the “American” individual (or the European colonizer occupying Indigenous soil); and yet this very same white person is supposed to believe that freedom, peace, equality, justice, and all the ideals of goodness and humanity are based on a single person’s ability to explore and develop their alienated self– the self isolated from the self.  Is it any wonder, then, that capitalism is such a backward, inhumane system of power?

But why would capitalism seek to alienate the European (or white) colonizer from ourselves and from our essential humanity?  Isn’t capitalism a system that is built for the benefit of whites?  It is, but if we want to gain access to these benefits of colonial exploitation, we must first give our loyalty to the global system of capitalism.  At the same time, if the capitalists told you to give your loyalty to “capitalism,” you might not even know what “capitalism” is.  Even if you are blessed with sight, you can’t see “capitalism.”  You may be able to touch its commodities, and want to get your hands on some more of them.  But you may not able to make the connection between a system of power and this individualistic pursuit of more and more things (“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”).  So, instead, capitalism asks– or demands– that you give your loyalty to this racist nation-state and its white nationalist flag: the “American” flag.  And capitalism demands that you look at a map on the wall of a schoolroom, displaying imperialist boundaries around occupied Indigenous territories, and call that “the United States of America.”  And capitalism further demands that you no longer identify with your essential humanity, but, instead, with “America” and its capitalist institutions, particularly its military.

What’s more, if the capitalists said, “You have white skin, therefore you can enjoy the colonial privileges of whiteness,” then you might begin to ask a few questions of your own and demand that capitalism answer these.  You might start to ask, “How can we say ‘all men are created equal’– and women and people of all genders– and yet, at the same time, occupy the soil of Indigenous peoples while living off the stolen labor and resources of Africans, and off the exploitation of the masses?”

But the capitalists excel at this type of deception.  They give you the ability to progress– at least if you are European or white– and to develop a higher and higher level of “progressive” politics, while the capitalists’ uncivilized violence against the people of the world simultaneously increases.  This seems like it could turn into a contradiction in our lives, and it has.  This is the violent class antagonism, the primary dialectic of global capitalism (colonizer/colonized), that holds bourgeois society together while also threatening to tear it apart.  But, as long as you feel that you are a peaceful person, and one who looks at everyone the same way, without a “racist bone in your body,” then– in your isolated, unconscious state as a white individual– you will continually fail to recognize the greater and greater violence that capitalism is inflicting on humanity … for your benefit!  And so you give your loyalty to the capitalist state– to the United States– and keep on enjoying the liberal or libertarian belief that if you merely have the ideals of justice, freedom, peace, and equality in your mind, then that’s enough.  However, the material reality is: you have been entirely isolated from the masses of the people.

The Pan-African socialist revolutionary Kwame Ture taught his people– Africans everywhere– that “the individual is dependent upon the masses of the people for everything.”  Kwame Ture had very good teachers: famous professors at Howard University, and Ella Baker (who led the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960 in North Carolina), and African women in SNCC like Judy Richardson and Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson, and his friend Martin Luther King Jr., and the Pan-African socialist leaders Kwame Nkrumah and Ahmed Sékou Touré, and (most importantly) a lifetime spent engaging in revolutionary struggle as part of the masses of the people.  Based on this wealth of experience– created through the process of struggle– Kwame Ture was able to illustrate, in very descriptive language, the reality that “the individual is dependent upon the masses of the people for everything” by using these words:

“An individual human being isolated from the human species is totally incapable of making any contribution to life.  These are biological facts.

“If you take a kitten the minute it’s born, before it opens its eyes, if you take a dog—a puppy—when it’s born, before it opens its eyes, if you throw both of them in the woods, isolated by themselves, they will grow to their fullest animal potential.  The dog will walk on four, he will bark; as soon as he finds a bone he will love it.  The cat will meow; the cat will chase mice as soon as he finds them.

“But if you take a child—a human being—the minute he or she [sic] is born, without opening their eyes, and put them in the woods, isolated by themselves, if they live– if they live!– they will never arrive at their fullest human potential.  It’s questionable whether or not the child will walk.  Certainly the child will not talk.  And it is clear the child will be able to make no contribution to the society. …

“A human being isolated from the human species is more stupid than any other animal isolated from its species.  Take the same kitten, take the same puppy, take the same child, as soon as they’re born, without their eyes open– throw them to live with monkeys.  The dog will walk like a dog, bark like a dog, and love bones.  The cat will meow like a cat, walk like a cat, and love mice.  The child will walk like a monkey, talk like a monkey, eat monkey food and try to make a contribution to monkey culture.”

Through this memorable illustration, Kwame Ture showed that “you can smash quickly all of these nonsensical ideas of individuality.”  Again, “The individual is dependent upon the masses of the people for everything.  Consequently, the individual must subsume themselves to the desires, the struggles and the aspirations of the masses of the people.”

But what does capitalism cause us to do instead?  How does the white identity educate (or mis-educate) Europeans to behave the way we do as we occupy a continent (plus Hawaii)?  What is it that the “American” identity accomplishes?  Together, these systemic forces of power achieve the purpose of isolating the European person from the struggles of the masses of the people.  We no longer identify with humanity.  We identify with “America.”  And this identification of the self with “America”– its flag, its military, and all its capitalist institutions and structures– cuts us off not only from the exploited, terrorized masses of the world, who suffer on account of this violent system of power, but also from ourselves.  And that’s the whole point!

Once you are isolated from your essential humanity, which is entirely dependent on the masses of the people, then you become politically unconscious of the violence– the inhumane, genocidal violence– which brings to you all these material benefits that you enjoy as a white person, as an “American,” a European who is part of the colonizing, exploiting class.  Through capitalism’s process of alienation of the person from their personhood, they become an object, which can then fulfill the purpose of objectifying people.

Only a very backward person– what Kwame Ture would call a “stupid” person– would give their loyalty to such a backward system of power.  If we were conscious of the contributions of Africans to humanity– when Africa gave civilization to the world– we would never identify with such an inhumane, uncivilized empire as the United States of “America.”  We would wish to destroy this empire!  No matter how much wealth we accumulated as individuals, we couldn’t be happy, we would feel dead inside– we wouldn’t even feel human.  We’d feel worse off than a monkey, a dog, a cat.  At least they are true to their nature.  In this country– this empire– we are required to reject our nature, because (unlike a cat or a dog), a human being can only make progress when they struggle as part of a community.

And white people do not have a community.  We have a system of power: capitalism.  Since capitalism is an inhumane system of power, and our humanity is dependent upon the community– which is to say, on the masses of the people– it follows that, in order to be loyal to this system, and to “America,” we must be disloyal to ourselves, to our family, our friends, all our loved ones, as well as the larger community of humankind.  If we aren’t obeying the laws of capitalism, we won’t survive.  And, for Europeans in the United States, we not only will lose all our wealth and all our power, as soon as we have turned against capitalism, we will lose the only identity we have– because we gave up all earlier identities and cultures in order to be “white” and to be “American.”  So we allow capitalism to exploit, rob and kill Africans, and Indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity (“people of color”) so that we can enjoy the “American” identity— the “American Dream”– and so we can fulfill our desires and aspirations at the individual level.  Thus, we become complicit in genocide.  Our lives become parasitic.  We sacrifice our own humanity so that, as objects, we can then become the objectifiers of Black and Brown people, and thus bring greater wealth and profits to the ruling class within this global system of capitalism.

“Whites” don’t love ourselves, or anybody else, because we’ve already made a deal with the devil– with the system that leads to the politically unconscious, anti-spiritual, arrogant, and reckless path toward greater wealth and power for ourselves as individuals … until we reach the point where we believe we are self-sufficient as individuals, and that goodness can only be found inside our isolated self.  We gave our loyalty to “America” and to the capitalist system of power and thus lost the essence of our created human self– our nafs— until one day we may visit the graveyards and we may look down and know then that all our riches won’t save us from death.  Dogs are true to their nature (they bark); cats are true to their nature (they meow); yet whites perversely argue that the “liberty” of the individual, and all its “success,” will be able to fulfill us, and can also absolve us from humanity’s responsibility to struggle.

 

Unlike the Puppy or the Kitten, the Human “Individual Is Dependent Upon the Masses of the People for Everything”

Defining the FBI, the U.S., and Other “White Identity Extremists (WIE),” As Well As Their Friends

SPLCEssay

Once you have identified the enemy, and you have defined them on your terms (not theirs), then you can expect them to act like the enemy at all times.  Well, not all times– because, once in a while, the enemy may begin to act friendly, but this will only cause you to move with greater caution than you did when the enemy was showing their true nature, as the enemy.  For this “friendliness” simply means they are working even harder to deceive you.  So they are still acting like the enemy at all times, whether their actions are openly hostile or they are more subtle and deceptive (and liberal).

For example, the FBI is the enemy of all people who want peace, justice, equality, and freedom, and the one thing that is necessary to enforce these humane principles: power.  That is, the FBI is the enemy of all oppressed communities who want power for themselves.  But the FBI isn’t the enemy because Donald Trump is President of the United States, or because they have become incompetent, and corrupt, and can no longer function smoothly.  When the institutions of capitalism and the United States are functioning smoothly, that’s the time to be concerned.  If we have identified them as the enemy, we want them to stop functioning, we want them to break down, because we don’t want them to remain stronger, so they can then use their strength for the purpose of keeping the people who have been weakened by this power in a continually powerless condition.

We know the FBI is the enemy of progressives– as well as the enemy of humanity– because of their history.  We only need to go by the historical facts.  These are (for the most part) the same facts that are available to the people who support the FBI.  Except they look at these facts from a different perspective– the perspective of the enemy.  And we can expect them to do that.  But if we study history– either as supporters of capitalist institutions or as their enemy– then we won’t be surprised when the FBI cites a “new U.S. terrorist threat” of “Black Identity Extremists.”

The FBI is just doing what the FBI does: acting like the enemy.  The United States– as a white supremacist, patriarchal, imperialist power– is just doing what it always does: it is acting like the enemy.  And, if you support human rights— which is to say, you oppose capitalism– then it’s not difficult to recognize that capitalism is simply doing what it has been designed to do: keep the oppressed, the powerless, the colonized (specifically, Africans/Black people) from gaining power for themselves.  As soon as they move to gain any power, they become “Black Identity Extremists (BIE”).  That is, according to the enemy, the FBI.

We don’t need to go into the long historical record of the FBI targeting African and Black people in the United States, particularly African revolutionary organizers.  You will know this history already if you feel that you need to know it, because the facts are easy to look up and you could learn it in a very short time.

Even capitalism and the United States government won’t make it very difficult to study their history, because, at this point, their advantage of power is so great, the enemy has more to lose, and far less to gain, by attempting to hide the FBI’s history of deception and brutal violence against Black and Brown people.  If they tried to hide it, people might begin to ask, “Why are they keeping this knowledge from us anyway?”  And after we have moved to answer that question, we might start asking a lot of other questions, and looking for a lot of other answers, and pretty soon our revolutionary consciousness would be on the rise.

One of the purposes of capitalism is to destroy all revolutionary consciousness.  Because any rising consciousness can become a threat to this world economic system’s main purpose: increasing profits through increasing oppression.  Since “Americans” (especially white colonizers in “America”) have so little revolutionary consciousness at this point, capitalism doesn’t need to keep these facts from us.  Capitalism knows we are too focused on watching sports or buying a new car or gossiping about a coworker to look up the facts– so why bother to hide them?

However, if we do know the history of the FBI then we can expect not only the FBI, and not only the U.S. government, but every other institution controlled by the capitalist system of power to try to convince us that there is the rising threat of “Black Identity Extremists.”  And, while they lie, they are also correct (by accident): after all, anyone who puts humanity ahead of profits should be considered a threat to capitalism, because they want the very opposite thing that the enemy wants: peace, freedom, and self-determination for every community in the world.

If we have studied history, we know that “America” has always treated the Black body as a threat, simply for breathing, for existing.  “America” has always criminalized the very existence of Africans, because the violent oppression of Africa and African people everywhere is the basis for capitalism’s power.  If you oppress– or repress– a people, and if you keep pushing down on them, they will push back; they will resist.  So capitalism and the United States, as long as they are allowed to exist, will always regard Black people– and particularly Black people who are resisting capitalism the most– as the enemy.  We should expect it.

Of course, we don’t use the language of the enemy.  We don’t say “Black Identity Extremists.”  It’s a ridiculously racist term, befitting the ignorance of the enemy.  But if we’ve been paying attention to African revolutionaries like Kwame Ture we know that whatever the enemy is for, we must be against.  So if the enemy uses the term “Black Identity Extremists” to describe Africans in “America” who are struggling to get free from its oppressive power, then we will describe capitalism and the United States as “White Identity Extremists.”

That’s all “America” is: white identity extremism, white nationalism.  It’s extreme to commit genocide against the Indigenous populations of an entire continent plus Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, and much of the globe beyond these occupied territories.  If we’ve studied history, we know that the United States and capitalism are the most violent terrorists of all time.  And we know that the FBI– especially through its “illegal” Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO)– is one of the greatest threats to humanity in the entire history of the globe.

If we expect the FBI, and the United States, and capitalism, to be decent and friendly, then it’s understandable that their use of the label “Black Identity Extremists” will alarm us and throw our whole value system out of whack.  It may seem everything is falling apart or “going off the rails.”  But if we recognize that the FBI is part of a vile, backward system of capitalist oppression, then we know that they are going to come up with these ridiculous labels.  At the same time, if “America” decided that it was going to put Assata Shakur on a postage stamp, we’d know that it was just trying to deceive oppressed people once again.  We don’t want or expect the enemy to act like a friend.

So, by identifying the FBI as the enemy of all oppressed peoples, then we can recognize when it is acting like the enemy, even when it is being friendly.  However, it may be more difficult to identify the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as yet another pro-U.S. institution of capitalist power.  The SPLC has a history of acting friendly to oppressed peoples, and it probably has done some good, maybe a lot of good.  But it’s doubtful that the SPLC has ever identified the FBI or the CIA as “hate groups,” even as these two groups have done more damage to the world than even the KKK has.  In fact, the KKK is on the same team as law enforcement and the FBI.  This isn’t a conspiracy theory– it’s part of history.  Anyone can look it up in a history book or find the information on YouTube.

But here’s one example of how the KKK and ameriKKKan law enforcement are on the same team: when the KKK was attacking Africans/Black people in Monroe, North Carolina back in the late 1950s and early 1960s (and long before then, of course), the local chapter of the NAACP– led by Robert F. Williams– began to arm themselves with guns in order to protect themselves from the Klan’s violence.  But this Monroe chapter of the NAACP also went to the local police and tried to get their protection.  Since the local police– like all police– were White Identity Extremists, the same back then as they are today, it can only be expected that they were already working with members of the Klan to move against colonized African people in Monroe, North Carolina.  Then the FBI got involved and– before much time had passed– Robert F. Williams, and Mabel Williams and their family were on the run and were forced to leave this occupied territory (the United States); and then Fidel Castro welcomed them into Cuba and offered them the protection of the socialist Cuban government.  So Robert F. Williams and Mabel Williams lived in Cuba for a number of years, and then traveled to China and Vietnam where they met more friends of African liberation among Chinese and Vietnamese socialist revolutionaries (enemies of the United States).  And it was during his exile, when the U.S. government regarded him as an enemy, that Robert F. Williams was named the President of the Republic of New Afrika.

Fast forward to 2017, and now the SPLC (not the FBI) has published an article called “Return of the Violent Black Nationalist.”  This sounds a lot like the FBI’s “Black Identity Extremist.”  And it sounds equally ridiculous and meaningless.  In fact, if you look at the SPLC’s map of “hate groups” in the United States, you might be led to believe that the greatest number of threats to humanity doesn’t come from white supremacists but from Black people– from the Nation of Islam and “Black Nationalist” groups.  That particular way of labeling who is “hateful”– the one used by the SPLC– would be laughable, if it weren’t so enraging and dangerous.

We ought to consider: if you hate white people after hundreds of years of violence against you, coming from whites, then that does not make you a “hate group”– it actually makes sense as a natural reaction.  What’s unnatural is white people hating Africans/Black people, or calling them hateful, when their labor, resources, land, culture and lives have been the basis for our existence in the United States.  What has the Nation of Islam done to you lately, in terms of its violence and “hate”?

Of course, the Nation of Islam has its own contradictions to work out, and it is entirely up to Black people to work these out.  Once they have worked out these contradictions, then they will have more unity among Africans to move and to get themselves power.  So if we say, “Well, the Nation of Islam hates women and gays,” and if we’re saying this as white liberals or white socialists, then we’re probably talking about the way they view white women and white gays, not members of their own community.  Because, if we truly cared about Black women and queer Black people, we would be doing a lot more than just opposing the Nation of Islam– we would be moving against the entire unequal arrangement of power that is the United States and global capitalism.  After all, who is oppressing African people the most and who has the most power– the Nation of Islam or the imperialist nation-state called the United States?  The answer should be clear.  So, while the SPLC may seek to deceive us about these objective conditions which we all are part of (as the colonizers and the colonized), we don’t need to deceive ourselves: the Nation of Islam is not the number one threat to women and the “LGBT” community.  The United States is.  Global capitalism is the enemy.  And if the SPLC can’t recognize this, then they are the enemy too.

The SPLC states:

“According to their propaganda, Black Nationalists would like a portion of the Southeast United States reserved for a black [sic] nation. Further, they are known for their antigovernment and anti-police sentiments due to their long-held views on government corruption and police brutality.  Like most extremist movements in the United States, Black Nationalism’s worldview is shaped by conspiracy theories. In their case, these conspiracies relate to perceived white oppression. They believe that whites — oftentimes conspiring with Jews — control the financial system, government and the media.”

How is this hate?  It’s pretty hard to boil down a long history of slavery, genocide, colonization, and capitalist exploitation (facts available for most students to read in textbooks that haven’t been banned or replaced by the hate group that is “Texas”) as a “worldview shaped by conspiracy theories.”  Where’s the conspiracy in the observation that the U.S. government oppresses Black people?

And where’s the conspiracy that the police behave brutally against Black people?  Perhaps we need to do some homework at the end of this article.  Let’s check the SPLC website and see if the LAPD and the Chicago Police Department are on its list of “hate groups.”  If not, then the SPLC is itself a “hate group.”  If you call Black Nationalists “hate groups” but you don’t call the LAPD a “hate group”– or the U.S. government a “hate group”– then you must hate African people, and this makes you the enemy as well.

The SPLC writes:

“They believe they are mistreated as a result of their race and ethnicity. For these reasons, they refer to incarcerated Black Nationalist inmates as ‘political prisoners.'”

It’s common knowledge– to everyone but the SPLC and their friends– that the Angola Three were political prisoners, that members of the MOVE Organization (bombed by the city of Philadelphia) are political prisoners (along with Mumia Abu-Jamal), that Leonard Peltier is political prisoner, and Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Jalil Muntaqim and Sundiata Acoli, and that the former Black Panther Dhoruba Bin-Wahad was a political prisoner of the United States government.  It’s not a conspiracy– the FBI and the city of New York had to pay Dhoruba Bin-Wahad close to $1 million dollars for their “illegal” treatment of him … as a political prisoner.

And Dhoruba Bin-Wahad has talked about how COINTELPRO (who made him one of its targets) used to give false information to the capitalist media in order to make the Black Panther Party look anti-Semitic.  Today, the SPLC is performing the same function as COINTELPRO by saying that Black Nationalists [sic] “believe that whites — oftentimes conspiring with Jews — control the financial system, government and the media.”  Because, once you raise the red flag that an organization is anti-Semitic, then you can totally discredit them– on account of the Holocaust against Jews (their focus being on white Jews).  This way of labeling “hate groups” according to their attitudes toward the victims of historical genocide– which is used by the SPLC to confuse us about the difference between Judaism and Zionism– apparently doesn’t apply to the white genocidal forces against Africans in Congo and Namibia and against hundreds of millions of Indigenous peoples in North America.  It doesn’t apply to Churchill, Roosevelt, Lincoln and all the leaders of the global economic system of capitalism, past and present.  It doesn’t apply to Israel.  But anyone who calls your knowledge about six hundred years of European imperialism, colonialism and neocolonialism just a “conspiracy” has declared themselves to be your enemy.

So the SPLC is part of the enemy system of power.  But they don’t have a lot of power on their own– if you expect the SPLC to stop the next white supremacist attack in the U.S. or the next drone attack in Africa, then you aren’t a friend to yourself.  So it seems our focus should not be on the SPLC as the primary enemy.  Whatever power they get comes from the same source of power that sustains the existence of all whites on this occupied territory: that is, the power of the U.S. government and the global capitalist power structure.

It just may be helpful for us to recognize right now that the SPLC (like the ACLU) is no friend of oppressed peoples.  Anyone who gets in the way of oppressed people gaining power for themselves is not their friend.  This is particularly true when the same arrangement of power that commits violence against the powerless also benefits us– which is to say, Europeans (white people) in the colonizing class, whether we are wealthy, poor or in-between.  This is Indigenous land.  And if Indigenous people were able to unify and move to kill everyone single one of the colonizers until we got off their land, they would be historically justified.  At the same time, the SPLC would probably be calling them a “hate group.”  We could expect that reaction coming from all of capitalism’s institutions.

This means, if we are for African and Indigenous liberation, and we love humanity, then we must be against the enemy of their (and our) progress: capitalism.  And we shouldn’t police how the African community or any oppressed community goes about getting power for themselves; such as calling them “hateful” and “racist” and other hateful, racist nonsense like that.

Either people are free or they are not free.  If they are not free then it means someone is preventing them from having freedom– with greater violence.  Because nobody chooses to be oppressed.  So whoever is moving against the freedom of humanity– and is depriving oppressed communities of power– is automatically going to be our enemy.  And why, at any rate, would we believe what the enemy is saying about our friends, or expect the enemy to say anything other than the worst things about them– the most disgusting lies?  We only pay attention to the enemy, and learn their labels, their definitions, so we can learn how to move against them in order take away their power.  And, as part of this process, we can apply our own labels to them, for our own purposes.

So, we know that the United States is a genocidal settler colony of Europe, controlled by a violently exploitative, capitalist class of White Identity Extremists (WIE), or White Nationalists: conspiracy theorists and Zionists who perpetrate violence against Jews, Muslims, women (transgender and cisgender), queer people, Africans, Indigenous communities, and all historically oppressed groups.  And we know “WIE” will continually invent lies in all the institutions under their (or our?) power, until this system of power is totally destroyed and replaced.

Defining the FBI, the U.S., and Other “White Identity Extremists (WIE),” As Well As Their Friends

David France, Bernie Sanders, Robert Jensen, Donald Trump– What’s the Deal with White Women Centering Cisgender White Men?

SandersConvention

After David France stole the work of Reina Gossett, a Black trans woman, while making his film about Marsha P. Johnson– who was a revolutionary and (of course) also a Black trans woman–  a lot of the criticism directed at France centered on the argument that transgender people ought to tell our own narratives.  And that’s true– trans people should be able to create and have control over our own stories.  Many articles described Reina Gossett as a “transgender filmmaker, writer and activist”— and (again) that’s true, she is.  But we might ask ourselves: how many of these articles focused on Reina Gossett– and Marsha P. Johnson– being women who are, at the same, Black and transgender?  Because even the “mainstream” criticisms of David France seemed to engage in the very erasure that was being criticized.  Not only are the narratives of Black trans women being stolen; the lives and identities of Black trans women are also being erased, under the vague, misleading and whitewashed language of “transgender people.”

And this takes us to the recent news that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is scheduled to deliver the opening-night speech at the Women’s Convention held in Detroit this month.  At the Women’s March in Washington D.C. earlier this year, Raquel Willis– a Black trans woman– was cut off during her speech.  Since the Women’s Convention is organized by the same group that organized the Women’s March– an event that was criticized for centering the voices and interests of white women– you might hope that they would invite Raquel Willis to give the opening-night speech at this event … and this time without interruption.  Of course, there’s a long list of women who could have been scheduled to speak instead of a rich cisgender white man who belongs to a capitalist institution which is responsible for so much violence against women (transgender and cisgender).  Never mind the usual list of alternatives would probably include cisgender white women in positions of power, like U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.  At least the choice would be a woman, right?

However, sexism sits very close to racism, which also sits next to transphobia and economic exploitation (not to mention Islamophobia, ableism and many other forms of systemic violence).  In other words, it’s fairly easy for white women (especially cisgender middle-class or wealthy white women) to engage in the erasure of Black women and women of color.  This starts by putting trans women– who are women– in the category of “transgender people.”  I guess “transgender people” can have our own convention; in which case, if it were not led by Black trans women or trans people of color we can almost guarantee it would turn into a space meant primarily for white trans people.  And then Black cisgender women can have their own thing– or join the cisgender white women in Detroit if they decide to emphasize being women over being Black.  As for Black trans women?  Well, maybe they’ll get five minutes at some convention, we’ll see– provided they don’t have to be paid and they don’t mind being interrupted two minutes into their carefully crafted speech.

My point?  It’s not all that surprising that a Women’s Convention not organized and not led by Black trans women would invite a white cis man to give the opening-night speech at their (one-time?) event.  But this selection of Bernie Sanders as a speaker doesn’t make the organizers of the Women’s Convention misogynistic, or racist, or transphobic– it simply reflects the misogyny, racism and transphobia that are already so closely linked together in the white identity.

Whiteness is so intertwined with the various oppressive forms of power within capitalist empire, even white women are conditioned to move against our own identities– although, not necessary, our own interests.  Because, within these objective conditions, or the unifying context of colonialism, the dialectic which is primary is the one that exists between the white colonizer and the masses of colonized peoples (Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples and the majority of the global population).  Colonizer/colonized: this is the fundamental contradiction in “America” and around the globe today, and it is the main basis for our power as white people (women, men, nonbinary, cis, trans, or whatever).

So, within this context of colonialism, we can understand why capitalism needs to call Reina Gossett and Marsha P. Johnson “transgender activists”– putting them in their own box– while the Women’s Convention is inviting a cisgender white man to deliver a speech on opening-night.

Capitalism is built on white supremacy.  And white supremacy is carried out by white people.  We– the colonizers– perpetuate whiteness, which benefits capitalism.  This whiteness of ours is inextricably linked to sexism and transphobia, as well as the exploitation of workers by the rich.  It’s all connected to power.  And now it becomes understandable why the Women’s Convention’s choice of speaker would be a cisgender white man who urged voters to move “beyond identity politics.”  Just as 53% of white women who voted in 2016 chose a racist, sexist, transphobic man to be President of the United States, the very identity of “woman”– to women in the colonizing population– will always be connected to whiteness; at least, until this nation-state and its system of power are destroyed.  As long as the current arrangement of power remains in place, white women (particularly middle-class and wealthy white cisgender women) will give priority to white interests, even if this means putting “transgender activists” in their own separate category while shining the spotlight (at a woman’s event) on a cisgender white man.

If we want to move against the source of systemic oppression, it seems we ought to take the spotlight off those identities who benefit the most from this oppression: white, cisgender, and middle-class or wealthy.  But this doesn’t appear to be the aim of many white feminists, such as the trans exclusionary radical feminist Meghan Murphy, who is quick to denounce any person with a penis as a “man” (and therefore horribly violent) but just as quickly will endorse the violence committed by Robert Jensen, a cisgender white man, apparently because he aims his violence at trans women (which, of course, includes Black trans women).

In other words, white feminists will choose a cisgender man to do the dirty work of reactionary violence– behavior which is misogynistic, racist, transphobic, elitist– if such violence can promote the interests of a backward system of oppression that benefits all whites.  White women know where our power comes from– and it’s not from colonized Africans/Black people, and it’s mostly certainly not from Black women, trans or cis.  So Robert Jensen gets to keep his job at the University of Texas at Austin, even as he attacks trans people, meaning trans women, or women— much like the white cisgender man who got the job called “President of the United States.”  Bernie Sanders, and not a Black trans woman, gets to speak at the Women’s Convention.  And Reina Gossett is described as a “transgender activist.”  The theft and erasure of her work by a gay cisgender man, David France, is described as bad because “transgender people” should be able to tell our own narratives.

And yet what is the deeper erasure that is going on here?  It is patriarchal, racist capitalism’s erasure– in the narratives it controls– of Black trans women from their larger Black/African community: the same community who Colin Kaepernick has risked his football career to protest on behalf of (not for white “Americans” or for “free speech”); and the same community that Maxine Waters has most inspired (not white people); and the same community as Marsha P. Johnson was (and is) part of, and Assata Shakur, and Harriet Tubman, and Malcolm X and all Black and African revolutionaries.

White transgender people and Black transgender people are not part of the same community, even as we share the trans identity.  White women and Black women (trans or cis) are not part of the same community.  That’s just the sad fact of the matter.  If we want to change this material reality (sad or otherwise), then we must dismantle the system of colonialism that divides us, which is part of a worldwide system of power (capitalism).  And the evidence of this division among transgender people– and among women, transgender or cisgender– is that Bernie Sanders would be chosen to speak over Raquel Willis, Janet Mock, or (for that matter) Assata Shakur … because Bernie Sanders voted to put a price on her head.

As long as white women– transgender or cisgender– continue to place white power (or global capitalism) before human rights, we will still be engaging in violence against women, which means Black women, and which also means Black transgender women.  Unless we move against the United States and against its system of racist, capitalist patriarchy, white women will continue to be complicit in misogyny, misogynoir and transmisogynoir, which are incompatible not only with human rights, but with the egalitarian principles of socialism and true feminism.

If Black women, and particularly Black trans women, aren’t leading it– it’s probably not revolutionary or feminist.

 

 

David France, Bernie Sanders, Robert Jensen, Donald Trump– What’s the Deal with White Women Centering Cisgender White Men?