Thank You for the “All Gender Restroom” But …

“But” what?

First i ought to let you know that i’m a trans woman.

And i’m a trans woman because i belong to the trans community.

For it is my community who gives shape to my trans identity.

And it is only my community that gives meaning to my identity.

I didn’t even know what to call myself until i started listening to Janet Mock, who taught me to embrace my transgender identity.

Prior to reading Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, i knew that i was transgender, but i simply saw myself as a woman “trapped in a man’s body.”  To me, “passing” as a “real” woman seemed to be the only way to express my true identity.  But Janet Mock taught me that gender exists on a spectrum, and that trans women (like cis women) are real women.  This was a liberating moment in my life.  And so it’s only on account of Janet Mock, and all the teachers, poets, prophets and revolutionaries in my trans community, that i have any trans identity at all.

My community of trans people includes gender nonconforming persons, genderfluid persons as well as individuals who identify as agender (and all queer and femme identities in this community).  This may seem confusing to some (or most), but that’s ok.  There’s a simple rule we can go by: just call a person whatever they wish to be called, and ask them their preferred pronouns if we aren’t sure (and we shouldn’t be too sure).  The words are different, but the identities have been around as long as humanity has been around.

Personally, my identity as a transgender woman is binary.  I’m perfectly happy to live just as a woman.  So when i use the restroom, i only want to go into the one that has the sign with the little triangular dress.  I’m a woman.  So i use the women’s restroom.  However, i am also a trans woman, and nonbinary gender persons are part of the community which gives my identity shape and meaning.  Therefore, i’m absolutely thrilled that my workplace not only made gender-neutral restrooms available, but that they put up a sign outside each that says “All Gender Restroom.”

I’m saying thank you for the “All Gender Restroom” because i’m happy my workplace recognizes that there are more than two genders, that gender exists on a spectrum, and that some trans people who go into bathrooms will not conform to cisnormative standards of appearance (and should not feel that they are being forced to do this).  So i don’t see the “All Gender Restroom” as something for me as one person, but, instead, as something for me, a trans woman who is part of a community.  I’m thrilled for people in my community who are gender nonconforming, as well as femmes, queer people and anyone else who might feel more comfortable using this restroom.

So thank you for the “All Gender Restroom”!

However …

(Here’s the “but”)

Let’s look at this whole “bathroom debate,” which– quite honestly– i find to be equal parts enraging, boring, and tiresome.  I’m enraged because it does put trans people and gender nonconforming people in greater danger.  I’m bored because i’m just a woman who wants to go to the bathroom.  And it’s tiresome because cis people can be that way.  Particularly pasty-faced southern governors who, even with their trendy eyeglasses, look like plantation owners and genocidal colonizers.  Actually, all white people sorta got that look (quite honestly), because we are colonizers. And south dakota (which passed an anti-trans bill that wasn’t signed) isn’t exactly in the south like north carolina is.  South of the canadian border, yes– but it’s the same system and the same white nationalist, patriarchal plantation-owner mentality wherever we go in the united states (and probably most parts of canada too).

Sometimes i’m told (by cis folks) that i’m fortunate to live in oregon.  Apparently people aren’t as transphobic here– at least in this part (if we go to roseburg, where i was born, or to eastern oregon, where i grew up, it might be a different story).  I hear the same thing about racism: oregon is so much better than the south.  Maybe we say this– that is, white people say this– because there are so few Black people here, which is not surprising considering they were banned from oregon in the original constitution.  But we’re told that oregon is not only less transphobic and less racist, it’s also nicer to gays, and to, well, all sorts of people.  We’re just nice.

I’m a rather inadequate student of intersectional feminism, but even i can spot the lack of intersectional analysis when it is so obvious.  And a lack of intersectionality is painfully obvious when we talk about the “bathroom debate.”  This is particularly true in oregon where whites like to say we’re so much more progressive than north carolina or texas or most other states.  And this lack of intersectionality is even more apparent on a college campus in oregon, such as the private university which just created single-use “All Gender” restrooms.  Yay for us.

Or not so fast with that “Yay.”  First of all, this is a very white campus in a very white state.  So the material basis for this benefit– the one that i’m enjoying as a white transgender woman– can be seen in the fact that the resources of this campus, and the employment opportunities available to whites like me, are far less available to oppressed communities (people of color).  This isn’t to say i’m a horrible person for working here, or for taking a job from a more deserving person of color; neither is it to say that the college is evil for doing business this way.  It’s not a moral judgment.  It’s the objective, material reality that the “All Gender Restroom” represents progress mainly for upwardly mobile whites in the very white state of oregon– a state that is very white, not be accident, but by design.  The employment opportunities open to whites like me– including white transgender people– are available because of the colonization of stolen indigenous land, and gentrifying policies and economic practices which drive exploited Black and brown people from this area.  So the entire system– white supremacist colonial capitalism– is set up to benefit white people like me.

The “All Gender Restroom” is the resolution of a contradiction within the white nation or identity, which consists mainly of middle class people.  That is, my workplace, which consistently benefits white people, was faced with a contradiction because trans white people were oppressed within this system.  My employer faced the possibility of lawsuits or negative publicity.  This progressive step by a wealthy private university was a fairly painless way to avoid the outcome that bourgeois institutions always seek to avoid: a loss of wealth.

Of course, this bathroom doesn’t have a sign on it that says “Whites Only” next to the “All Gender Restroom” sign.  Imagine how outrageous and inhumane that would be.  Yet there might as well be such a sign, because the policies and the practices of a system controlled by white supremacist colonial capitalism lead to the same outcome, blatantly racist sign or no sign.  We see the same thing going on in portland.  The days of redlining, and explicitly pushing Black and brown people out of the city, or confining them to one area, may be over.  Then again, explicitly stated colonization of Black spaces may not be over in portland oregon.  But Michelle Alexander (and Mumia Abu-Jamal before her) taught us that policies and practices don’t need to be explicitly anti-Black to achieve the same outcome as if they were.  And a system that is built on the exploitation and colonization of African people, indigenous peoples, and the majority of humanity outside Europe, will always act to consolidate and expand its power for the material enjoyment of white people, including white trans people.

So the “All Gender Restroom” is physically as well as socially situated in such a manner that it serves the needs of white people.  These are white people who already have health insurance, who most likely do not live in food deserts, and who are not targeted by the police.  Entire structures are already in place for white people who use this restroom, including white trans women like me.  The support system for white trans people, while it is transphobic in some aspects, is the same system that exists for all white people, particularly whites in the middle class.  While it’s true that the health insurance plan excluded necessary transgender surgeries until last year, and still makes it very difficult for struggling white trans people to afford it, this plan has covered many other medical necessities.  A transgender person is more than just a trans person, and in order to live we have the same material needs as all people– the need for access to food, clothing, housing, and other healthcare needs, as well as education.

While i was going to college (on this same campus) the Clintons– as part of the entire system of white supremacist colonial capitalism– were locking up Black and brown kids my own age.  I think i was the only kid in my class in high school who didn’t smoke pot.  But the cops weren’t targeting these white kids for minor pot offenses, with three strikes laws and militarized police forces going in and breaking up families and destroying lives.  No– my ability to go to college, and enjoy a good education, was based on the colonial policies and practices of targeting Black and brown people, because their effect was to limit the number of applications for college, and (once i graduated) also the number of applications for jobs.  This all happened during a time of “peace and prosperity.”  That’s the idealist view: the Clinton Era was “peace and prosperity” (just like there’s an “American Dream”).  Here’s the materialist view: i went to college, which allowed me to get a job with this employer, on account of white power’s colonial exploitation of Africans/Black people and all other oppressed peoples.

So this provides some materialist context for the “All Gender Restroom.”  It’s a wonderful step forward– if you have a job at this university, if you haven’t been forced out of the state by gentrification and further colonization and genocide.   One-third of all Black children in oregon live below the poverty line, compared to 16% of white children (it should be zero per cent for all children).  Two-thirds of the white households in oregon own their home, compared to one-third of Black households.  These statistics (from Walidah Imarisha’s selection of the Urban League of Portland’s State of Black Oregon 2015 report) objectively demonstrate that access to the material necessities of life is limited for Black people in this state.

And these difficulties that the Black community in oregon faces in its efforts to gain access to necessary resources obviously also impacts Black transgender children.  Single-use, gender-neutral bathrooms on the campus of a wealthy university may be the least of a Black trans woman’s concerns, as recently voiced by a Black trans woman on facebook.  What were the obstacles put in the way of Black trans people and other trans people of color which prevented their employment on this campus in the first place, or at any other middle class institution?  What were the factors that led to the “All Gender Restroom” being available primarily to white faculty, students, and staff, rather than people of color, who may be forced to work in less trans-friendly environments, if they are able to find work at all?

Is this a safe space even for the trans people of color who do work and study here?  Contrary to what the capitalist-controlled news may lead us to believe, there’s more to the life of a trans person than using the bathroom– and, of course, the same is true for trans people of color.  Trans people of color face other intersecting forms of oppression.  Does an “All Gender Restroom” reflect the priorities of the most vulnerable and endangered identities on campus, or simply the most visible and easily fixed?

The campus requires that we take the corporate-produced online course on harassment, and is doing what it can to avoid lawsuits (which we are reminded are very costly).  But a system built on the colonial exploitation of Black and brown people will not address their needs, because it’s not in the interests of the system to do so.  The bourgeois system is focused on consolidating its wealth and power.  Even when contradictions within this system are exposed, the system simply acts to reform (re-form) the structures and institutions which are threatening to weaken the ruling class and split the system apart.  It’s not in the interests of capitalism to institute policies and practices which would assure safe spaces for trans women of color, or any other oppressed peoples.

The “All Gender Restroom” is a wonderful step forward.  But we need to place this progress in the context of structures and institutions that are controlled by a white supremacist, patriarchal, colonial system of capitalism.

When we place the discussion in this context (which capitalism does not want us to do, because it cuts into its profits) the conclusions of this material fact become inescapable: more than anything, trans people of color– as part of my trans community, and as part of communities who are colonized by capitalism– need resources.  This progress occurred on a mostly white campus in mostly white oregon, because the resources were there to make it happen.  The same will be true if i can get access to the procedures i need to live a healthy, happy life as a trans woman.  And the same is true when i go to the store and buy groceries.  All these things that are related to my survival– my ability to live– have the same material basis: control of resources.

And how do we gain control of resources?  Power.  It’s about power.  The system of power made the “All Gender Restroom” happen for me, not for Latinxs and Black people and indigenous people who have been erased from this happy story of liberal progress.  And capitalism will continue to prevent colonized, exploited peoples from gaining access to the resources necessary for life.  So it becomes necessary to organize against capitalism, and to move against the system in order to gain power.  For white people– including white trans people like me– this means aligning ourselves with mass movements of oppressed and exploited peoples who are struggling to gain power and self-determination.  And we must center the voices of queer and trans people in these movements, otherwise they become a revolution of the straight and cis.  At the same time, perhaps we also need to recognize that these voices and identities are the most vulnerable, so when we center them, this shouldn’t mean that “allies” are making Q/TPoC (Queer and Trans People of Color) even bigger targets for systemic violence.  We highlight the voices and stories of queer, trans, and gender nonconforming people of color, but we do so because they have been erased, and we constantly keep in mind that the main material concern is resources.  Center Black trans people by providing them more resources.

Perhaps those people who value peace, justice, freedom and equality– for the transgender community and for all of humanity, as well as other animals and the planet– ought to focus our energy and resources on creating a dual and contending system of power.  Revolution is about serving the people (as the free breakfast programs of the Black Panther Party did, and the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party is still doing in Portland today).  Oppressed peoples are vulnerable.  Marxist theories and the gun won’t resonate with oppressed people who are already facing long odds at survival in a hostile land.  So the community of revolutionaries– who are all people who oppose capitalism and wish to see it destroyed– may wish to come together and organize to provide resources and services that benefit the working class, and all intersectional identities within it– mostly people of color who, for five hundred or more years, have only been brutalized and exploited by the system of colonial white power.

Or we could just keep talking about those damn bathrooms!

 

 

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Thank You for the “All Gender Restroom” But …

“Documentation Does Not Help One Perceive”: When White Women Ask in Black Women Spaces

SisterOutsider

During a 1979 interview between Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich (reprinted in Sister Outsider) the two were reflecting on a telephone conversation they had shared in which Adrienne Rich wanted a “chapter and verse” explanation to something that Audre Lorde had experienced.  Rich said:

“… if I ask for documentation, it’s because I take seriously the spaces between us that difference has created, that racism has created.  There are times when I simply cannot assume that I know what you know, unless you show me what you mean.”

Audre Lorde responded:

“But I’m used to associating a request for documentation as a questioning of my perceptions, an attempt to devalue what I’m in the process of discovering.”

Adrienne Rich said:

“It’s not.  Help me to perceive what you perceive.  That’s what I’m trying to say to you.”

And Audre Lorde answered:

“But documentation does not help one perceive.  At best it only analyzes the perception.  At worst, it provides a screen by which to avoid concentrating on the core revelation, following it down to how it feels.”

I believe this part of the interview between Adrienne Rich (a white woman) and Audre Lorde (a Black woman) can teach white women like me a lot about what it means whenever we ask questions in the spaces of Black women.

Audre and Adrienne were friends, so their interaction does not express the exact dichotomy of white women and Black women that can be seen in spaces like college campuses, social justice organizations, and especially the internet (Facebook and Twitter).  However, I believe we can still learn some greater truth to what Audre Lorde said in her response to Adrienne Rich, a truth that goes beyond the specific context of these words.

“Documentation does not help one perceive.”  Perception occurs at the subjective level of the individual identity.  Black women, both individually and collectively, experience the world, and therefore perceive the world and its reality, differently than white women.  Adrienne Rich spoke of the “spaces between us difference has created, that racism has created.”  In the terminology of intersectional feminism, this subjective perception of reality is based on “intersecting oppressions of race, class, gender and sexuality” (Patricia Hill Collins).  For decades, Black feminist writers, scholars and poets have been exploring the many aspects of this reality.

Patricia Hill Collins wrote in Black Feminist Thought:

“U.S. Black women intellectuals have long explored this private, hidden space of Black women’s consciousness, the ‘inside’ ideas that allow Black women to cope with and, in many cases, transcend the confines of intersecting oppressions of race, class, gender, and sexuality.  How have African-American women as a group found the strength to oppose our objectification as ‘de mule uh de world’ [Zore Neale Hurston]? … Their ideas and actions suggest that not only does a self-defined, group-derived Black women’s standpoint exist, but that its presence has been essential to U.S. Black women’s survival.”

The “private, hidden space of Black women’s consciousness” is the perceived truth of Black women, as they define it.  It is the subjective reality, or the sphere of being, among Black women which gives shape and energy to who they are, and how they view the world, and how they change the world.  This truth simply is.  Black women know this truth by being Black women, and only Black women who experience this truth can know the “‘inside’ ideas” of this collective consciousness.

White women may wish to know what Black women mean by this collective consciousness– this “private, hidden space”— and may wish to perceive the reality of this space.  We may ask Black women to help us perceive their truth by explaining it to us.  As a community of women, we may wish to overcome the “spaces between” Black women and ourselves.

Yet it seems important for white women like me to recognize that such questions about the experienced truth of Black women, while well-intentioned, have the effect of treating Black women as “mules” for our education.  When white women ask Black women to give us “documentation” of their subjective experiences, of the ways in which they find “strength as a group” to transcend intersecting oppressions, we, in effect, are objectifying Black women, using them for our own educational growth, and attempting to negate their hidden source of power.

The truth is, white women cannot know the truth of Black women’s experiences because we do not know how it feels to live their truth.  The truth is in the feeling: “How It Feels to Be a Black Girl.”  This is not a monolithic or homogeneous feeling of reality.  Far from it.  But it’s a space where all the complex and varied truths of Black women, the “core revelation” for each Black woman, can come together, and– through “Black Girl Magic”— create a source of power.

In fact, this can become political power.  When Black women come together in safe spaces — that is, in spaces created by and for Black women– then their freedom to “oppose [their] objectification” and to “cope” with and transcend intersecting oppressions, this collective feeling of truth, and each self-defined perception, can become a force to change the world.  Rather than remaining isolated from each other in a world that is hostile to Black women, this process of sharing Black women’s experiences, this “process of discovering” the truth of their perceptions in a safe space, can lead to a strengthening of the overall revolutionary mass movement for freedom.

Audre Lorde said, “I feel, therefore I can be free.”  White women cannot know, simply by asking for, then analyzing and objectively studying the “documentation” of Black women’s perceptions, what it means to perceive and feel on their level.  When we ask for explanations of Black women’s experiences, white women are objectifying Black women, placing them under a microscope, and hoping to study their truth, when the truth is in the feeling.

There is power in this feeling, so women who are white may desire to possess this power.  We may wish to share in this collective strength that Black women define as their truth, and even shape it through our own truth and definitions.

Patricia Hill Collins wrote:

“Self-definition speaks to the power dynamics involved in rejecting externally defined, controlling images of Black womanhood.”

The respect that white women have for Black women’s spaces can be shown in our recognition that “Black womanhood” is in the process of being discovered and defined by Black women, and in our recognition of the negative reality that this process is constantly being interrupted by external “power dynamics” within a society which is hostile toward Black women.

Historically, as well as in the present, bourgeois, white supremacist, patriarchal society has sought to control Black women, to define “Black womanhood” for Black women, and maintain power over them.  Therefore, it becomes crucial that Black women have safe spaces for “self-definition” where they can feel, perceive and share their experiences without white women exercising our colonial power by seeking to be part of this process, and seeking to share in the secret truths which are the source of power.

Because white women (transgender and cisgender) are oppressed within the white oppressor nation, we may wish to resolve the contradictions of our own oppression by using our privileged position (which is that of the colonizer) to draw on the knowledge and shared perceptions of Black women, who are seeking to transcend intersecting oppressions within the colonized nation, thereby creating an identity which (joined with Black men) can become a revolutionary force against the exploiting, colonial system.

When we are excluded, or met with resistance, or even anger (since we too are part of the oppressor nation), white women may claim that this is a “divide and conquer” strategy of the patriarchal power structure, and that all women should stick together, and just focus on working as one group to overcome our differences.  Yet this complaint mirrors that of the overall system of power (European imperialist capitalism), which demands that oppressed communities never should separate themselves from the rest of society, even as this hierarchical society refuses to treat the individuals of oppressed communities with dignity as equals.

Perhaps it is the oppression of white women (trans and cis) within the oppressor nation which drives us to seek a source of power outside our group, and to go to Black women (trans and cis), hoping they can add strength to our numbers.  By doing this, white women show that we do not understand why Black women (trans and cis) need their own spaces, and need to speak their truth, apart from constant questions of what it means to be Black and woman, and possibly trans as well.  Our need for “documentation”— our need to ask in order to “analyze”— points to the reality that white women feel our truth, and give voice to our truth, differently than Black women.

Patricia Hill Collins wrote:

“African-American women are increasingly asked why we want to ‘separate’ ourselves from Black men and why feminism cannot speak for all women, including us.  In essence, these queries challenge the need for distinctive Black women’s communities as political entities.”

It seems important for white women who stand in solidarity with Black women to recognize that, if Black women are to create “distinctive … communities as political entities,” they may need to form their own groups and create their own spaces.  If we support Black women, and all women, then we will feel the necessity for such safe spaces.  Safe spaces for Black women, liberated from the gaze and queries of white women, are necessary for Black women to give shape and force to their own political identity that can then reshape and reinforce, and (re)create in its image, the revolutionary mass movement for justice and freedom.

White women cannot know or perceive– cannot feel– the reality of this inner force, this reservoir of subjective will to power within Black women, simply by asking.  Black women’s experienced truth can’t be documented for white women: fulfilling our request for “documentation” of their experience does not prove the validity, or power, or even the meaning of it, but, rather “provides a screen by which to avoid concentrating on the core revelation, following it down to how it feels.”  To voice this perception of truth by Black women does not mean simply providing an outlet for analysis, because this truth (it seems) is found only in being a Black woman, and feeling what it means to be a Black woman.  The question only can be answered by being the one who was asked in the first place: and so the question in itself is an attempt to intrude on the safe spaces which are necessary for the free exploration of one’s identity.

In conclusion, I will share one last quotation (and perhaps the most instructive one) from Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins:

“Historically, safe spaces were ‘safe’ because they represented places where Black women could freely examine issues that concerned us.  By definition, such spaces become less ‘safe’ if shared with those who were not Black and female.  Black women’s safe spaces were never meant to be a way of life.  Instead, they constitute one mechanism among many designed to foster Black women’s empowerment and enhance our ability to participate in social justice projects.  As strategies, safe spaces rely on exclusionary practices, but their overall purpose most certainly aims for a more inclusionary, just society.  As the work of Black women writers suggests, many of the ideas generated in such spaces found a welcome reception outside Black women’s communities.  But how could Black women generate these understandings of Black women’s realities without first talking to one another?”

 

 

 

“Documentation Does Not Help One Perceive”: When White Women Ask in Black Women Spaces

George Jackson Taught Us the True Meaning of “Crime”

BloodInMyEye

George Jackson wrote in Blood in My Eye:

“Most people realize that crime is simply the result of a grossly disproportionate distribution of wealth and privilege, a reflection of the present state of property relations.”

We come to this realization of the meaning of “crime” when we consider the meaning of the “state” as defined by Lenin, who wrote: “The state is a special organization of force: it is an organization of violence for the suppression of some class.”

Lenin taught us: “The state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms.  The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonisms objectively cannot be reconciled.  And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable.”

So when we consider that the state is “an organization of violence,” we can then recognize that crime, as it is defined by the state, is only the difference between “legitimate” violence and “illegitimate” violence, and it’s the ruling class of this state that gets to determine or define which acts are legitimate .  By definition, state violence is legal, whereas the violence that is the result of the “suppression of some class” by the state is illegal.

What the state fears is that the suppressed class will rise up and seize the power of the ruling class.  The ruling class of any state controls the means of production within this particular society, meaning that all classes within this society depend on the ruling class for the material necessities of life (food, water, clothing, housing, education, and healthcare).

In a bourgeois society, the ruling class exploits the many for the material enjoyment of the few.  Therefore, it is through the very structure of the capitalist state that the material conditions of crime are created.  By suppressing the masses, the system creates the basis for crime.

George Jackson wrote, “The very first impulse is to eat!”  Before people will starve, they will commit crime, and they will do whatever is necessary to get food.  Of course, they also will commit crime out of greed, but then again, impoverished people learn this greedy, reactionary behavior from the ruling class.

Oppressed people are weaponized by their condition, because nobody chooses to be poor.  As soon as a class of people is pushed down and exploited, and forced into its powerless condition, this pressure from above creates the potential for a violent recoil, and the class that’s pushing them down knows this.  So oppression automatically weaponizes the people who are oppressed– it creates a hostile, potentially violent class whom the oppressor fears (even as they are more violent).

Some individuals within an oppressed community use these weapons against other people in their community, but this horizontal criminal violence is created by the ruling class as well, because it gains more wealth through the criminalization of behavior at this level.  However, the ruling class realizes this violence may be directed upward, toward them, and may destroy the vertical relationship of oppressor to oppressed, and so the ruling class fears an uprising from the people whom it exploits to create profits for itself.

In a world economy controlled by Europe (including its settler colony, the United States) the dialectical relationship between the oppressive ruling class and the oppressed working class is more clearly defined as the relationship of the colonizer to the colonized.  This is the primary class contradiction in the world economy today.  European capitalist power colonizes every nation outside Europe, as it has done since capitalism and the white identity grew out of Europe’s imperialist invasion of Africa and the Americas more than five hundred years ago.

Europe (or white power) fears Africa and the “Third World” (Black Power), because European wealth, and the very existence of white people, depends on the violent suppression of Africans and of the majority of humanity outside Europe (including Indigenous peoples and Africans colonized in the United States).  White people have weaponized Black people– weaponized Blackness– through the brutal, genocidal subjugation of Africans, who obviously will not suffer such treatment without the constant violent control of the state.  We fear the reaction we created through our violent control.  Or perhaps white people are actually scared of ourselves, that we would support such a dehumanizing system, which threatens to dehumanize us.

In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon captured the mindset of the colonizer toward the colonized, when he described the colonizer saying: “They want to take our place.”  The colonial state power forever seeks to maintain absolute control over the colonized class in order to prevent any uprising, or even the slightest suggestion of resistance to rule (although, quite often, this violence is only imagined by the colonizer).   Fanon wrote, “The first thing the colonial subject learns is to remain in his place and not overstep its limits.”  He added, “Confronted with a world configured by the colonizer, the colonized subject is always presumed guilty.”  The state criminalizes colonized people for the purposes of control.

The violent suppression of colonized communities within the United States, including Black people, Latinxs, and Indigenous peoples, creates a deepening fear within the bourgeoisie, as well as the petty bourgeoisie, or the white middle-class who depends on the capitalist system for all of our material benefits.

The Black identity (which is political and not biological) was weaponized by European imperialist capitalism from the very moment the first African was brought in chains across the Middle Passage to build an empire for white people.  An oppressive force from above creates an equal and opposite force of resistance from below, and this resistance is regarded as dangerous by the people who benefit from the subjugation of the one below– the “other.”  The “other” is the Black body, weaponized by the economic, political and social arrangement from which Europeans gain every material advantage that sustains our lives.  Under such a colonial arrangement, the African is automatically considered guilty of the crime of being an African– of being Black.

George Jackson, through his experience in the concentration camps of California known as prisons, and through his extensive self-education, understood this reality perhaps better than anyone.  George Jackson wrote, “Imprisonment is an aspect of class struggle from the outset.”

Originally, during the centuries following Europe’s initial attack on Africa, the punishment for being guilty of the crime of Blackness, according to the judgment of the European colonial oppressor, was enslavement.  Then in 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, and it states:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

One form of slavery was abolished by the democratic capitalist state, and was replaced with another form: slavery “as a punishment for crime.”  Who defines the crime?  The state.  Who benefits?  The white ruling class, and all white people who depend on its rule for our material benefits.

George Jackson wrote:

“All crime can be traced to objective socio-economic conditions– socially productive or counterproductive activity.  In all cases, it is determined by the economic system, the method of economic organization.”

The system of colonial capitalism depended on the violently forced labor of enslaved Africans to build an empire for white people.  After the abolition of official slavery, the economic system of the United States had less need for Africans, although they had lived on this continent for as long as Europeans, or longer.  White people were fleeing Europe, and were attempting to resolve the class antagonisms– that are the inevitable result of capitalist growth– by flooding North America, leading to further genocide against Indigenous peoples.  The capitalist system of power in the United States used its definitions of crime to keep Black people from competing for the limited jobs and resources of its ever expanding empire, an expansion that capitalism requires (like the oppression of Black people) in order to stay alive.

As European imperialist capitalism (including the U.S.) murdered, robbed and exploited the oppressed peoples of the globe, its internal struggles over the control of this stolen loot threatened to destroy these white nations from within, resulting in two “World Wars” during the last century.  The imperialist wars among white people (white-on-white crime) led to greater demand for labor.  Colonized Africans migrated to the urban industrial centers of the white capitalist state to take advantage of these wartime jobs.  But as soon as the wars had ended, colonized Africans in the large cities of the North and West were once again regarded as criminals by white power, and judged to be another threat to the interests of the U.S. (just as Germany or Japan had been to the U.S. from the outside).  Why was the presence of colonized Africans in big cities considered to be criminal by the white-controlled government and the white populations of these cities, and therefore a threat to America?  Because they were Black.

Africans were brutally attacked by whites in East St. Louis in 1917 after they had migrated to that city in response to the increased demand for labor during the First Imperialist War (World War I), one of many such instances of government-supported white violence against Africans.

Following the Second Imperialist War (World War II), many Africans who worked in Portland, Oregon were forced to move to the makeshift community of Vanport (which was the second biggest city in the state at the time, and one of the few places in the state that white power allowed Africans to live).  The homes of Africans were wiped out in 1948 after a dyke broke and Vanport was flooded.

“Redlining” in many of the large cities of the United States locked Africans into impoverished sections, cutting off access to jobs and resources.  The Black colonies within each large city of the U.S. are still controlled by the protectors of bourgeois property, those enforcers of colonial rule: the police.

White flight, encouraged by the same government assistance as the Homestead Acts (which had excluded colonized peoples like Africans), further impoverished the so-called ghettos of the United States.  Yet middle-class manufacturing jobs were still a possibility for colonized Africans until the 1970s, when (once again, through the assistance of the imperialist government) corporations moved these jobs overseas during the ongoing trend of globalization.  George Jackson wrote, “Without the support of government, capitalism simply could not prevail.”  The impoverishment of colonized Africans, like the further enrichment of white-controlled corporations, was– and always is– by the design of government policy: oligarchical rule.

During the period of globalization, the oppression of Africans in the U.S. (as in Africa) has increased: greater poverty, followed by more state violence to control this poverty, as the white colonial power treats this economic crisis (no jobs, bad schools, inferior housing) as a criminal justice issue.

Wherever there is an African criminal (either real, or perceived by white fear), the system has created the criminal, for it has created the conditions for economic activity outside the law, the law which the system has defined.  Capitalism created the “War on Drugs”– after it had brought these drugs into the African community, for the same reason capitalism does anything: it is profitable.  Prisons are profitable.  The militarization of the police is profitable.  As for the bourgeois white media: “if it bleeds, it leads.”  Crime pays– for the system that profits off of criminalization of oppressed, impoverished people.

George Jackson wrote, “The law and everything interlocked with it was constructed for poor, desperate people like me.”  Crime is the colonial system’s method for dealing with the perpetual contradiction that, while this system (and all whites who benefit from this system) depend parasitically on the exploitation of African workers, at the same time, it is not within the material interests of the system (or whites) to value the lives, labor and resources produced by Africans.  America has always needed Black people more than Black people need America.  Kwame Ture said of Africans: “There is nothing in America for us except exploitation and oppression.”  

“Law and order” has always meant “exploitation and oppression” to colonized Africans, because the system of capitalism requires this parasitic relationship between whites and Africans (and the majority of humanity), so that whites may enjoy the stolen fruits of their labor and resources.

Whoever controls the production of material benefits in a society gets to define which behavior is legal or illegal.  Capitalist, oligarchical white power (with the support of white people who exist off the material advantages gained by this power) defines crime in order to protect this economic, political and social arrangement, and in order to keep the oppressed masses of the proletariat from seizing control of the resources and establishing egalitarian rule (socialism).  The definition of “crime” and its violent enforcement by the fascist oligarchical rulers of the United States is a barrier to the progress of humanity and the masses of Africans and other working class in oppressed nations who are struggling to get free.

George Jackson wrote, “Bourgeois law protects property relations and not social relationships.”  He continued:

“Official definitions of crime are simply attempts by the establishment to suppress the forces of progress.”

We might boldly conclude that the real criminal in this bourgeois society is the one who defines the crime: the white-controlled ruling class and all whites who defend its rule.  By criminalizing Africans and colonized peoples, the system of white power has become the criminal, for it not only robs, terrorizes and murders Africans, it then criminalizes them for seeking to survive these conditions of genocidal oppression.

The criminal justice system of the United States exists to keep impoverished people from gaining access to the resources which the overall system of capitalism stole from them in the first place.  Capitalism further weaponizes Black bodies, profiting off the fear possessed by whites that a people who are so oppressed, and so desperate, will rob and kill us.  This fear is commodified in the profitable forms of prisons, television ratings, and the justification for clearing Black and brown bodies from neighborhoods so that upwardly mobile white homeowners and business owners can gentrify areas that the system once made profitable for us to flee.

George Jackson was murdered by the system of colonial capitalism because he recognized and articulated the solution to the problem of the world’s greatest criminal– Amerika– when he wrote: “The government of the U.S.A., and all that it stands for, all that it represents, must be destroyed.”

Such violence is unavoidable if we wish to make progress as a society, and to destroy the colonial domination of all peoples oppressed by white power.  George Jackson wrote, “The power of the people lies in its greater potential violence.”  Once the bourgeoisie recognizes that the proletariat of the world (Africans everywhere and all colonized peoples), and those who align our interests with the African working class, possess a potential violence which cannot be limited or intimidated by their legalized violence, then we will seize control of the means of production, and reorder society according to the egalitarian principles of socialism.

The masses of the people who want justice, freedom and equality– and peace!– first must learn to disrespect and disregard the criminal bourgeoisie’s definitions of crime and what the white-controlled system considers to be illegal, or what it considers to be an offense against its false peace and its disruptive “law and order.”

George Jackson wrote:

“The people must learn that when one ‘offends’ the totalitarian state it is patently not an offense against the people of that state, but an assault upon the privilege of the privileged few.”

Long live George Jackson!  Long live the revolution!

 

 

George Jackson Taught Us the True Meaning of “Crime”

The White Left’s Fear of Trump: On the One Hand … and On the Other

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On the one hand …

The intense focus on Donald Trump is a distraction from the real enemy: white-controlled colonial capitalism.

This growing fear of a Trump presidency (by white liberals in particular) is based on the philosophical idealist view that the reality of “America” is somehow disconnected from the rest of the world, where fascist and imperialist aggression is not only feared by the masses of oppressed people, but is experienced on a daily basis.

Here in this European settler colony called the United States white liberals in particular fear the sort of systemic oppression and violence that colonized Africans and indigenous peoples already experience, and have been experiencing since capitalism was born out of Europe’s genocidal attack on Africa and the Americas more than five hundred years ago.

There isn’t anything evil that Trump could do as President that would surpass the genocide already committed by “America” against Africans and indigenous peoples, and the ongoing murder of Africans, and theft of their resources, labor and lives which is the basis of the white lifestyle.

If white people who oppose Trump– the white leftists who are holding up signs saying Trump is racist, Islamophobic, and every other bad thing on earth (or in hell)– were to channel this energy into organizations whose objective is to overturn the system of violence which empowers Trump to say these hateful things in the first place, then we would be getting to the root of the problem.  We would be going after radical change.

But white liberals in particular, as well as most whites on the left who identify as socialists, are more focused on the effect (hateful Trump and his hateful supporters) than on the cause (white-controlled imperialist capitalism).

White people at anti-Trump rallies are focused on the isolated effect, which is just what capitalism wants.  And whites at these rallies are acting spontaneously as individuals, not as an organized force unified under a revolutionary ideology, which is another thing capitalism wants.

Capitalism is a highly organized force.  The ruling class, while internally divided by greed and other contradictions, is unified by the singular purpose of creating more and more profits for itself, at the expense of humanity and the planet, and then distributing these material benefits primarily among white people.

I won’t criticize anyone who wants to hold up a sign calling Trump an asshole, and there is power to be found in the voice of people who are standing together against hatred, but we may want to ask ourselves, once the rally is over: what are we going to do to change the system, not just playing defense when showmen like Trump are propped up by the whole ugly system, but– long-term– how do the people seize power from the system?

The anti-Trump rallies pose the danger of dissipating the revolutionary energy of the people against a system that has made a Donald Trump possible.

The reactionary energy of the Trump candidacy that is on the rise, and the fervor of Trump supporters, is creating an opposite and equal reaction among the people who oppose Trump.  But the question becomes– how do we transform this dialectical relationship, this opposition of two forces, and create revolutionary, qualitative change?  How do we prevent this moment from turning into the raging storm or volatile upheaval of the last fifteen minutes (between commercials), when colonized Africans and indigenous peoples have been experiencing the genocidal terror of European imperialist capitalism for the past six hundred years?

Historically, each era or age only has so much revolutionary energy.  The contradictions within the destabilized material conditions of a colonized territory create only so much force for revolutionary change, and capitalism benefits each time it defeats a socialist movement that was too weak and had too many contradictions within it.

Each time the people do not “seize the time,” capitalism becomes even stronger, for it has resolved its own contradictions through its defeat of the opposing force moving against it.

An anti-Trump rally may only be a safety valve for capitalism, a way for the people to let off steam, so that the system of imperialism can continue its destructive course, exploiting the majority of humanity, destroying Black and brown people all around the world with its drones and bombs, and Black and brown people here on this continent with its police and prisons, as it controls material conditions which lead to a life expectancy of 35 years for transgender women of color.

An anti-Trump rally points to one individual, when individuals do not create history, the people do.

White America allows white power to stay in charge.

If we were experiencing the genocidal terror and exploitation that colonized Africans and indigenous peoples experience, rather than enjoying the material benefits of this parasitic system, white people would be moving against the system.

Our support for Hillary, Bernie, or Trump only shows that white people are subjectively situated in the material conditions of a world economy controlled by capitalist white-power which allows us to be complacent and indifferent– until a scary, despicable man like Donald Trump shows up.

Trump only has power because he is empowered by the system.  The system only has power because white people allow it to stay in power.  And white people created this system of power because, under feudalism, we were serfs, we were impoverished, and we only were able to revolutionize our society by overthrowing the nobility and the various monarchies– an ability based entirely on the great leap forward that Europeans experienced after our imperialist invasion of Africa and the Americas, and the enslavement of Africans, the theft of their resources, and land, during our ongoing genocide against them.

Progress for Europeans has meant disaster for the world.  And now we fear Trump.  White people have benefited every step of the way from the very system that Trump wants to be the “boss” of, but now that the ideas in the heads of whites have been exposed– ideas that originated from centuries of racist genocide– we want to focus on one hateful man, instead of the economic, political, and social structure which made him possible.  When we focus on Trump, with his loathsome face and demeanor, we don’t have to look at ourselves in the mirror.

On the other hand …

Trump is unifying the so-called “left” in the United States, which may be one of the weakest left-wings of a society in history, particularly the white left.  Any leftist movement that focuses on reforming the system for a $15 minimum wage, when that’s hardly a wage that anyone can survive on under capitalism, rather than a complete seizure of the means of production, is a class that has been thoroughly demoralized and misled.

What happens if or when Bernie Sanders loses?  The sometimes hypocritical accusations against Hillary Clinton (Bernie’s one-time colleague in that most reactionary of institutions– the U.S. Senate) have created a situation in which Bernie’s supporters will have nowhere else to go.  What then?

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with voting for Bernie Sanders.  But the question is: what is the ultimate goal?  Are we simply seeking to reform capitalism, or do we see a vote for Bernie as only one part of the long revolutionary process which eventually will lead to the people seizing complete control of power?

A victory by Trump may provide the answers to these questions, as the white left finally starts to feel the oppressive effects of an imperialist system that is wildly lashing out at humanity this way and that in order to preserve its power.

A victory by Trump may clarify the material reality of white-controlled capitalist oppression, which is: America is Trump.

This is not an apocalyptic vision or dystopian wish of a person who perversely seeks chaos.  It’s an analysis of history, and the material conditions of the present which are connected to history, that reveals the true nature of our bourgeois, white society: our “law and order” is based on the total disorder and destruction of humanity and the planet.  The comfort and security of white people’s carefully ordered bourgeois lifestyle are the direct result of the chaos that we impose on colonized Africans and all other oppressed peoples.

White people fear Trump because we fear ourselves.

Whites fear the contradiction within our bourgeois class.  We fear that the capitalist democracy which benefits us (the bourgeoisie) at the expense of Africa and the world (the proletariat), at the same time leaves us powerless to stop the machine that we have created.

We could stop Trump if we wanted to.  We could have socialism if we wanted it.  But our struggle against the machine– this monster which has been empowered by the defeat of each revolutionary struggle– would mean that white colonizers would be endangered by the violence of this machine on a level closer to that of colonized peoples.  Whites fear that we won’t be able to protect ourselves from the machine once Trump is elected, while colonized Africans and indigenous people already are endangered, and  already are murdered, and terrorized, day after day by the capitalist machine.

“Once Trump is elected”– this is bourgeois democracy.  The ruling class rolls out these different models from the same acidic smoke-spewing factory, these ten or so choices of poison in so many assorted colors, and we dutifully vote.

A victory by Trump means the American people want Trump.  So we fear ourselves.  The election game that the capitalist system plays every four years was not created by colonized Africans, or by indigenous peoples, it was created by European colonizers: it is our game and our rules.  White people.  And now that Trump might win– and win according to the rules set up by white people– we’re afraid.  So we’re afraid of ourselves.  Either we actually want Trump, or we are powerless to stop Trump.

But if Trump wins, maybe white people will wake up.  In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon wrote about the necessity of Europeans deciding to “to wake up, put on their thinking caps and stop playing the irresponsible game of Sleeping Beauty.”  But the material reality of colonial oppression has been shielded from European colonizers in our safer neighborhoods, safer schools, and better jobs, while white power robs the world at gunpoint.  It may take a leader like Trump to make white people want to move against this system of colonial exploitation.

We blame Trump for Islamophobia when the system of white power already is sending drones into Arab countries and killing masses of people– a level of violence we never would allow if we weren’t deluded by American exceptionalism.

Trans women in Brazil are being murdered at a tremendously alarming rate.  But we can’t make the connection between imperialist policies and the endangerment of oppressed communities within neocolonial regimes.

Latina trans women are locked up and raped in detention centers, dehumanized as “illegal aliens,” and are deported from the land that belongs to them and not the parasitic aggressor that is America.

Israel’s white nationalist regime endangers and destroys Palestinians on their land– in occupied Palestine– while America funds this zionist monster.

Enslaved people in Africa, living in European-controlled countries that are the most impoverished in the world, as far as the people, but are the richest in the world, as far as the resources, produce chocolate, diamonds, coltan, and bauxite, and other resources for the further enrichment of white people.

And all this is happening under President Obama, not President Trump.

Colonized Africans in the United States are the survivors of a war waged against them by Europe for over five hundred years.  Every time they fight back and resist total annihilation by a system built on the exploitation and destruction of Africans, African people in the U.S. settler colony are beaten, thrown in prison, shot by the police, targeted by the FBI, demonized by the white-controlled media, verbally abused by white conservatives and white liberals alike, and are threatened to be destroyed even more violently by a system that white people support.  Yet we fear Trump.

As George Jackson wrote, “The fascists already have power.”  How else did America become so wealthy?  We’re talking about Trump being the next Hitler, but Hitler didn’t wipe out 98% of the indigenous population of the Americas.  Hitler didn’t build an empire in North America based on the enslavement of Africans– who still haven’t been paid the back wages that all white people owe them, because all white people benefit from this empire.

How can Trump be the bad guy when white people won’t even support reparations for the worst crime against humanity in the history of the world– the enslavement, genocide and colonial domination of Africans?

Trump is only a symptom of the sickness.  The sickness is European imperialist capitalism.

And it may take the truly disgusting presence of a President Donald Trump to put enough white people in an uncomfortable position where we face the sort of terror that the rest of humanity has experienced for the past six centuries during Europe’s ongoing murder and theft of Africa and the world.

Hopefully I’m not advocating the cutting off of the nose to spite the face.  My argument is that we don’t need to wait until Trump is elected to move against the system.  If Bernie is elected then the people must move against the system anyway– provided we truly want an end to all forms of systemic oppression.

My challenge to myself, and to any European colonizer who wishes to show that we value humanity rather than profits, is that we begin to pay reparations to Africans in the U.S. for stolen resources, labor and lives.

Whites don’t need to wait and react to a Trump presidency.  We can act right now.  We can stand in material solidarity with Black Power right now.  This is revolutionary.  It means we aren’t waiting to react to the next quantitative change in these ever-changing material conditions.  By paying reparations to the movement for African liberation and self-determination, European colonizers are taking action beyond the reaction expected of us by the system: fear then complacency, first panic then that reassurance that comes from deepening, widening oppression of the “other.”

It’s time for Europeans to transform our relationship to white power, to move beyond the usual reaction in our own interests that is based on our parasitic dependence on Africa and the world for our very existence– the stolen resources and labor which hold up the white bourgeois lifestyle.

By paying reparations now, European colonizers show that we don’t need to wait for the Trump presidency that we dread– we are organizing against this violent, unjust, exploitative system right now.

The White Left’s Fear of Trump: On the One Hand … and On the Other

All People Are Equal– This Is Why Whiteness Is Only a Bad Thing

The political category of “whiteness” was created when Europe invaded Africa and the Americas more than five centuries ago.  Since then, “whiteness” has determined the flow of resources in a world economy controlled by Europe.  Through Europe’s ongoing imperialist invasion of Africa and the Americas, resources flow in the direction of white people.  For the past five centuries (or more), the ability of an individual to identify as “white” has meant the enjoyment of comfort and security through the colonial exploitation of Africans, indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity.

“Whiteness” is synonymous with “capitalism,” “colonialism” and (as a settler colony of Europe) “America.”  If we value people over profits, “white” only can be a bad thing.  If we value justice, freedom, peace and equality, rather than the colonial domination of the many for the material benefit of the few, our value judgment of “whiteness” will be that it is bad.  And we will see that once the system of capitalist exploitation that supports whiteness is destroyed, whiteness will be destroyed.

It was out of the creation of the “white” identity that the Black identity was created.  This became the dialectic.  “White” has meant oppressor, colonizer, parasite; “Black” has meant the oppressed, the colonized, the host.  “White” is the bourgeoisie; “Black” is the proletariat.

Class and race are fused in this political, economic, and social arrangement created by European imperialist capitalism.  If we think in materialist terms, we will recognize that class and race are linked together, because we live in a tiered or hierarchical system where the material benefits of economic exploitation are controlled by the white ruling class and distributed primarily to white people.  Since the system was created by white people, for white people, the political category of “Black” had to be created by whites as well in order to justify our enslavement, murder and theft of Africans.  According to the European view, which has dominated the world through imperialist violence, “white” had to be good and “Black” had to be bad.

White people robbed Africans not only of their lives and labor, but their culture, their very identity.  We took everything away from them.  They had nothing.  Actually, all that Africans had was a “Black” identity that white people associated with everything negative.  But Black people have taken this negative identity and have turned it into something good, and beautiful, and powerful.  Colonized Africans have formed a community out of necessity.  The Black community was created because Black people were shut out of the white world.  They were forced either to create a community, or to be wiped out.  Those were the only two choices: fight as a people, or die.  Since white power threatened to destroy colonized Africans if they did not adapt to the material conditions of North America, the Black identity became revolutionary.  To resist destruction is revolutionary.  Either one is destroyed, or one survives.  So a culture of radical resistance by colonized Africans was created out of necessity.

If “white” means something bad, this doesn’t mean “Black” means something bad too– because Black people (Africans) have turned it into something good.  While they once had been objectified by their oppressor, Africans have become the subject of their own struggle against capitalism, their struggle for freedom from this system of colonial domination.  But “whiteness”– which created “Blackness” for the purposes of murder and theft– cannot be anything but bad.  White people organize and consolidate our power strictly around an identity based on the parasitic oppression of Africa and the world.  This identity cannot be transformed.  It is a reactionary identity– the dialectical opposite of revolutionary Blackness.  To be white is to be a colonizer, a parasite, one who lives off the stolen labor and resources of the colonized.  There is no future for whiteness after the colonized people of the world are free.

There is no such thing as a white community.  Whites did not create a community, because there was no necessity to create one.  Instead, we’ve had a system.  We didn’t need a community, because we have a system.  This system brings us the material advantages that sustain our lifestyle, as we sit on stolen indigenous land, and hoard the resources of the world.  What sort of community could be created out of such destructive behavior?  This is why white people must appropriate culture.  We must borrow our humanity from those whom we oppress.  There can be no authentic humanity within an identity based on colonial genocide committed against Africans and indigenous peoples– only arrogance, excessive consumption, and self-pity that we are not loved.

If we know who we are– even on some obscure level– white people know how vile our treatment of humanity has been.  But instead we have chosen to be “white” rather than English, French, Polish, German, Italian, Irish, European Russian, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Greek, Czech or any other original identity of Europe.  In order to grab the benefits of stolen wealth and labor, people from Europe who have settled the land of indigenous peoples have frequently changed our names, and called ourselves “Americans”– and “American” is nothing but a bourgeois white identity based on colonial plunder and genocide.

The reason white people get together on this stolen continent as neighbors, as coworkers, as classmates, as churchgoers, and surround ourselves with individuals who also have pale skin is on account of our shared quest for imperialist loot.  Why else am I surrounded by so many white people in Oregon, thousands of miles away from our homes in Europe, on land stolen from indigenous peoples?  It’s because whiteness is a political category for this shared quest for imperialist wealth and power– only we do not share the loot, not equitably, but rather we fight among ourselves as competitors, which is what’s required by capitalism.  The white identity is based on genocide against the majority of humanity.  This means that whiteness cannot be a positive basis for a community, only a negative and reactionary force against humanity.

Of course, there is no escape from our pale skin.  Yet Europeans try.  We put on sunscreen and lie out in the sun on colonized beaches.  We go to tanning salons.  We also buy larger lips and larger butts, after years of mocking Africans who don’t need to pay the system in order to have these features.  But to the white mind everything can be commodified, even humanity.  Everything is intended to bring profits to the ruling class.  This is whiteness.

But Europeans are more than our whiteness.  All people are inherently equal.  There is nothing inherently bad about any person.  They are born into a bad system, in unequal conditions, and this shapes their behavior and views.  We don’t choose where we are born within a system: colonizer or colonized.

For centuries white people have been born into and shaped by the material conditions of a society controlled by European imperialist capitalism.  This system has shaped our behavior and our views, which have become the behavior and views of the colonizer, the oppressor, the parasite.

Yet Europeans are not inherently evil.  We may seem evil at times– we certainly do evil, and play the devil’s part.  Even so, it would be disrespectful and inhumane toward Africans to say that Europeans are simply evil by nature, because this would imply that Africans have no control of their ability to be good or bad.  It would attempt to take away their agency.  Colonized Africans have been shaped by material conditions too.  The system of colonial capitalism– which controls the entire society– shapes the views and behavior of Africans too.  The difference is that Africans have been forced to resist these oppressive conditions.  The system that controls the conditions has shaped the culture and political identity of Africans, just as European colonizers have been shaped by the system.

European colonizers in North America were once indigenous people too– if we only had stayed at home in Europe!  There is no going back now.  Africans also cannot return to a precolonial condition in Africa.  Europeans cannot return to the “Dark Ages” and feudalism– and certainly wouldn’t want to at any rate.  Capitalism lifted the European serf out of their degrading status to the level of the worker (or even higher), and this transformation of European society came at the expense of Africa and the world.  When Europeans emerged from the “Dark Ages” and created a new, bourgeois society, this system was built on the backs of Africans and all other colonized peoples.  This dialectical relationship has not yet been transformed, or qualitatively changed, at any point since Europe began its genocidal colonization and exploitation of Africans more than five centuries ago.  We are still locked in this dialectical struggle of the colonizer and colonized where the world economy is controlled by the white ruling class for the material benefit of people who can identify as “white.”

If white people wish to step down from this pedestal of stolen wealth and power, we must fight for a complete transformation of society.  Our whiteness is based not only on our skin tone (in which case some of us are darker than some “people of color”).  Our whiteness is based on the dialectic of this political, economic, and social arrangement, this relationship of the colonizer to the colonized, the bourgeois oppressor nation (Europe) and the proletariat oppressed nation (Africa).  Whiteness and colonialism are linked together: when one goes, the other must go.  When they both go, whites will be left with nothing.

And this may be a good thing.  There are other ways for individuals to form groups, and there are other means of identification than “race” (which is a political category created by imperialism).  When I see a white person standing across the street, I ask myself, “Why is it that we should become part of a community just because our skin is pale?”  So far, the basis of this association by “whites” is our quest for wealth and power– the power over others within a system of capitalism.  White people have flooded the land of indigenous people, committing genocide against them, and that’s why there are so many of us in Oregon.  The context for the current association of white people on stolen indigenous land is genocide and colonialism.  That is an objective, material reality.  It’s not a judgment.  But if we value humanity, we then can make the judgment that such an arrangement, such a context for our association, is evil.

So it will be good when whiteness is gone.  Whites will be left with nothing.  But this is what happened to Africans who were stolen from their homes in Africa.  They had nothing.  And then they made something beautiful, full of life, strength, and joy.  Since all people are inherently equal, Europeans can do the same thing.  We can join humanity at some point as well.  We can create our own culture, our own identity.  And we can create this new identity out of our revolutionary struggle against an oppressive force– not against the oppression aimed at us by liberated Africans (which is our fear), but against the oppressive forces within a broken European society.

First we must break this society.  If we love humanity, we need to break up the white world.  We must smash the European context that controls the planet.  This is the historical duty of African revolutionaries and all colonized peoples struggling for self-determination.  Yet European colonizers can choose to align our interests with the struggles of colonized peoples against capitalism.  If we love humanity, if we seek peace, we will hate the system that controls people through its oppressive order.  Once this system of white power is destroyed, and white people no longer can enjoy the fruits of the exploited labor of the world, European society will be in complete disorder.  It may even be burned to the ground.  But this happens to all empires.  It’s going to happen to the white world, as part of the evolutionary process of history.  The only question is how white people will react to this new disorder, when we no longer can live off the stolen resources and labor of the world.

European individuals may need to become somewhat conscious of this material reality right now.  In fact, we may need to use our imaginations.  A decolonized consciousness requires vision.  It means that some “white” people will need the courage to think of a world in which colonial domination is not the basis of our human relationships and our relationships to other animals and the planet itself.  We can begin to think of other ways that we will associate, and about how to form groups based on things other than whiteness.  Once capitalism is no longer the context of our daily lives– rush hour traffic, cramped cubicles, grumpy coworkers– then we can base our associations on artistic creation and the life-affirming work of uplifting those around us (rather than preying on their perceived weakness).

There are millions of good things that reorganized European individuals can do if we only can break this system.   Processes of nature are dialectical.  Five centuries of living off the stolen labor and resources of colonized peoples has created a basic contradiction within Europeans.  We must be loyal to the machine.  We must be consumers.  We must exploit people, bully them, do anything so the machine can make a profit.  And in this process of dehumanization, the essential goodness of Europeans has been pushed down.  Therefore, a force of humanity is pushing back against the machine-like worldview within the European ethos.   Either this humanity is there or we too are machines.  Either our humanity has been destroyed, or some small part of our individual selves– each one of us– is resisting, resisting, struggling to get free.

I want us to start thinking about ways we can set this revolutionary force free, this stored up energy.  Let’s think about how we can associate on terms other than whiteness.  I’m not talking about a racially colorblind society.  That already exists, or the white racist wish for a colorblind society exists.  I mean groups that are dedicated to the destruction of a destructive order (capitalism, “America”), in order to create a society that is based on our shared humanity (socialism, then communism).  This task is a huge challenge.  It means we need imagination.  I’m asking that we think in independent terms, as our unique selves, but also as masses of people unified by a revolutionary ideology: organized for liberation.

All People Are Equal– This Is Why Whiteness Is Only a Bad Thing

A Vote Means More Than a Vote: It Is Related to Power

“When any election is held it will fortify rather than destroy the credibility of the power brokers.  When we participate in this election to win, instead of disrupt, we’re lending to its credibility, and destroying our own.”George Jackson, Blood in My Eye

We often hear that if we don’t vote then we don’t have the right to complain.  This sounds ridiculous to me.  But I’ll have to do better than call it “ridiculous” if I want to refute this claim.

The existing system of power– capitalism– does not want people to make connections.  George Jackson wrote, “It isn’t revolutionary or materialist to disconnect things.”  Conversely, in order to preserve itself, the reactionary system of capitalism wants us to see things in isolation, disconnected from each other.  And capitalism wants us to be philosophical idealists (rather than materialists) about these disconnected things.  Instead of observing the world according to the objective laws of nature, capitalism wants us to believe that things happen just because of luck, or religion, or the way we feel about them.

So it follows that the capitalist system of power wants the people to think about the vote in this disconnected, idealist way.  The vote becomes something “sacred.”  It’s a patriotic duty.  Good people vote, bad people don’t vote.  When we go to vote– and get that little sticker with the American flag on it– we feel satisfied with ourselves, even empowered.

It’s fascinating how often we are reminded that blood was spilled so that we would have the right to vote.  I’m not sure whose blood.  Our fellow British citizens?  The blood of enslaved Africans, who built up this empire so white people could vote for the administrators of colonial plunder?  The blood of slaughtered indigenous peoples who– like colonized Africans in the U.S.– are still surviving genocide today, with no indication that they can vote their way out of this colonial genocide?

Of course, there was blood spilled in the 1960s so that colonized Africans (specifically in the South) would have their right to vote recognized by white people and the white-controlled government (of the entire country, not just the North).  Africans always had this right– it just wasn’t recognized.  Rights are not given, they are only forcibly denied.  So to get white people to recognize this right, organizers in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) spilled their blood as they registered African voters in places like Mississippi and Alabama.  In the process, Africans were killed. Other colonized peoples were killed.  There were Europeans (whites) who were beaten and killed too.  So, yes, they spilled blood for the vote.  But this blood wasn’t spilled only to vote for the “lesser of two evils” in a system created by white people for white people.  We fail to honor brave warriors like Fannie Lou Hamer when we say that the struggle for the vote was for anything other than power.  People risk their lives and spill blood for power, not simply to influence a system that they do not control.

And under the current system of democratic capitalism, the people don’t have power.  Colonized peoples in particular– Africans and indigenous peoples– do not have power.  And white liberals aren’t in a position to change this colonial relationship– certainly not by voting– because they have the least influence on the system of power.  The system is controlled by the wealthy few.  They pay for the elections.  We all know this by now.  They may not pay as much for Bernie Sanders, but Bernie still has to raise money to spend on political ads in the for-profit media, just like Hillary, Trump, and all the rest.  It’s a bourgeois election controlled by the bourgeois system.  White liberals are merely the beneficiaries of this system, not the “power brokers” within it.  They are the petty bourgeoisie.  They depend on the power brokers for jobs, and for access to material necessities, and these come from the colonial exploitation of Africans and indigenous peoples.

All white people– including white radical socialists– enjoy the material advantages of the capitalist system.  So white radicals on the left fear that we will lose the advantages that the system brings us, even as we condemn the inequities within the system.  Our contradictions keep us powerless: we despise the system, yet, at the same time, we depend upon it.  And the white left doesn’t control anything in this country.  Huey P. Newton wrote, “White radicals did not give us access to the white community because they do not guide the white community.”  White radicals who vote for candidates in third parties like the Green Party, or candidates in the various socialist parties, are the least relevant participants in the power structure of the country.  So their vote is simply an expression of a subjectively idealist “civic duty” or a tepid protest against the status quo.

A vote is only meaningful if the process that created the vote is meaningful.  And in order for the process to be meaningful, the masses of voters must have power.  When we have power, we aren’t simply voting to influence the system: we control the system.  We are the ruling class, and the party we support represents our class interests.  Right now, the major parties represent the interests of the same class: the bourgeoisie.  The most that the workers can hope to do under the current system of power is to influence the candidates who represent the bourgeoisie.  And the only leverage we have– within the system– is the vote.

Therefore, when the people refuse to vote, they are taking advantage of the little power or leverage that they do have within the existing system, and are using it to disrupt the system.  If voters in the U.S. are participating in this election just to win, the question becomes: who wins?  The system wins.  It not only wins by electing a Democrat or Republican (either of whom will represent the interests of the ruling class), but also by gaining the approval and participation of the masses.  By voting simply to vote, we’re “lending credibility” to the system.  By voting simply to vote, we are empowering the few of the capitalist class, who can then further oppress the workers of the world.

A vote on its own has no more meaning than choosing this television show over that television show, or this brand of breakfast cereal over that brand.  The vote is meaningless when it is detached from power.  The candidates go about trying to get our vote in the same way the TV networks or breakfast cereal companies go about trying to take our money.  Donald Trump is the same showman today as he was on “The Apprentice.”  He is even on the same network a lot of the time, and he is popular for the same reasons: to sell things.  Only now, Trump is selling white nationalist hate– a hot commodity in America (no surprise).

The democratic bourgeois elections in the U.S. are just reality TV, because– no matter who wins– the class structure remains intact.  Regardless of the outcome, the bourgeoisie will still control the modes of production, enjoying the accumulation of profits from the exploitation of the proletariat.  The colonizing oppressor nation– Europe– will still dominate the colonized, oppressed nation– Africa.  This dialectic is unchanged by the vote, because the vote is cast within the framework of the oppressor nation’s rules.  It’s their game– everyone else is just playing it.  And when we go along with it– showing no resistance, no disruptive behavior, no mass movement against it– then the system remains unchallenged, gains even more power, and, as a result, is even more oppressive.

Does this mean you shouldn’t vote at all?  Of course, that’s up to you.  I’m not voting.  I’m using my non-vote as an expression of power.  However, a non-vote is also meaningless (and powerless) unless it has a revolutionary purpose.  When people don’t vote, it could be that they just overslept, or forgot to mail their ballot (in Oregon), or their dog ate it.  Whether we vote or don’t vote, what matters is that we recognize that the bourgeois system of power creates the process: it’s their game, and their rules.  And then, if we value freedom, justice, equality and peace (principles which are impossible under capitalism), we will seek to disrupt.  We can disrupt while voting for Bernie, or Hillary, or Jill Stein, or Willie Wilson.

It doesn’t matter who we vote for– or if we vote at all– the same bourgeois system will be in power at the end of the process.  A complete transformation of society is not on the ballot: that’s not one of the choices.  If we recognize this fact, that a system of colonial exploitation will win no matter who wins the election, then we can move against the system in other ways, while still voting for the “lesser of two evils” (or that irrelevant third party candidate).

As long as we aren’t looking at the system itself to be the source of social transformation, but instead are part of a unified revolutionary force that is moving against this reactionary system of power, then our vote can be cast with a revolutionary purpose.

Capitalism wants us to believe that our vote matters so much that candidates will spend millions of dollars just to get this vote.  But the candidates aren’t taking that money to spend it on convincing us.  They’re taking it to spend on the white-controlled capitalist media and to consolidate the relationship of government to business.  Elections are big business.  Many of us know this already.  I don’t need to tell you.  Yet people go right on shaming individuals who don’t vote, as if elections aren’t big business.  Super Tuesday is as relevant to the lives of working class people in the world as the Super Bowl– probably less relevant.

White people need to stop telling Black people who to vote for, or to vote at all.  Why?  To answer this all we have to do is look at a long history of whites telling Africans what to do– and forcing them to do it through violence.  Telling Black people who to vote for, or criticizing them for not voting, is a form of colonial violence and control.

So, white readers: vote for who you want to vote for.  But I hope you will cast your vote with the aim of disrupting the system of oppression, not “lending it credibility.”  And support reparations to Black people.  Stop telling telling colonized communities who to vote for.  People didn’t die so CNN could have a big bright board with red and blue flashing lights on it, and a boring white guy trying to get the thing to work.  People spilled blood for power.  And that’s still true.

 

A Vote Means More Than a Vote: It Is Related to Power