How the Myth of Incremental Progress Under an Oligarchical System of Power Endangers the Most Marginalized

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Kwame Nkrumah wrote, “Idealism favours an oligarchy, materialism favours an egalitarianism.”

With this quote from Dr. Nkrumah in mind, my argument here will be: the myth of incremental progress— which is based on subjective idealism– is dangerous to individuals who belong to the most marginalized communities in society.

This isn’t an argument against the undeniable reality of quantitative changes to society.  We know that these changes have been beneficial, even when taken on their own, and that they are also necessary to bring about a qualitative change to society.  But, while these changes are a fact, it’s often difficult for us to recognize these changes until after the fact.  For instance, the usual narrative for “racial progress” in the United States is: during the 1960s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave some great speeches in the South (including Washington D.C.), and then Congress passed some legislation and President Johnson signed this into law.  We’re told that, while these incremental changes didn’t entirely fix the “race problem,” they improved the lives of “African-Americans,” who then built on this progress with even more progress in the 1970s up to the present.

This view of history is based on the same philosophical idealism which leads us to believe in “American exceptionalism.”  And the main beneficiaries of such a view are the rich white people in the oligarchy who want us to believe that we are slowly-but-surely making incremental progress toward some future point where everyone will be treated as equals.  But while we are promoting this mythology, the racist ruling class is enjoying greater profits, as it has always done.

What we are seeing with Donald Trump– and really long before him– is that incremental progress can be taken away from the people very quickly, because the people never had actual power.  If the people don’t have power, then any progressive changes to their condition can evaporate overnight.  And then we end up adopting the cynical view that history is like a pendulum swinging back and forth, perhaps forgetting that the most vulnerable identities in this society don’t even survive until the pendulum swings back in their direction again.  Furthermore, these changes may have never touched their lives in any positive way to begin with, whether swinging in one direction or the other.  If anything, progress for one segment of society– during periods that were supposed to be the favorable part of the cycle– was likely built on the additional erasure of the most marginalized (or the least valued) people in any given community.

The greatest beneficiaries of this idealistic belief in incremental progress are the members of the ruling class– the corporations– and the political parties that the corporations pay for.  Any mass energy that may have been devoted toward organizing for actual power is isolated and divided into two opposing columns- one marked “R” and the other “D”– and is then drained off during the hectic rush to elect so-and-so from either “R” or “D.”  The belief is that, if we can just elect a Democrat again (or a Republican), then we’ll get back on the path toward progress.  But bourgeois democracy is designed specifically to keep the people powerless, because, under this system, actual democracy is considered “mob rule.”  The property-owners don’t trust us to run the country– we might run it for our own benefit.  So the system sets up elections with candidates chosen from its oligarchical ruling class and– after much yelling at each other, and much worrying over those ballots that half the people don’t even fill out anyway– the wealthy few at the top end up getting the representatives that they wanted in the first place.

The quantitative changes that took place in the 1960s– as opposed to any mythological incremental progress– occurred because the people were starting to grab some power.  And this was happening in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (which was the first Black Panther Party).  These were quantitative changes because they were moving toward a qualitative change– revolution– or a material change in the overall power structure of society (“Black Power”).  And it was on account of these mass movements for power that the people started to make actual progress.  It didn’t come from the federal government in Washington, or from wealthy corporations.  Actual progress came from the people– in this case, from African people in the United States, as was the case with Africans in Africa and everywhere else in the world.  There was a global revolution– in Africa, Latin America, Asia and among colonized peoples in the U.S.– and the capitalist class was just reacting to this revolution when it passed legislation and made reforms to the system it controls.  President Johnson was just seeking to preserve the power of the wealthy white ruling class, so it could keep the people from taking over and having control of our own lives, with actual power.

Nevertheless, capitalism still wants us to believe that “we” are slowly-but-surely making progress– who this “we” might be is anyone’s guess.  Probably “we” as in “we white people.”

Take the Oscars as an example.  For decades, the Oscars have been terribly racist– year after year.  All of Hollywood has been racist, but white mediocrity needs to be handed gold statuettes to make it feel that it’s great.  Then “ReignOfApril” and Black people on social media (mostly Black women) started pushing back with the hashtag “#OscarsSoWhite.”  Now, we don’t know whether Moonlight winning Best Picture is going to lead to more winners from Black artists in the motion picture industry, or if this was yet another case of “one and done” in the racist United States of America.  It’s too soon to tell.  But we do see a pattern of this type of behavior, where the few rich white people in the ruling class (which rules in Hollywood too) decides to give some (delayed) recognition to the achievements of Black people, and then quickly goes back to its old ways.

On the other hand, in a “USA” that stands for the United States of Africa (as Kwame Nkrumah envisioned), Black people or Africans and their creations would win every year, far from the gaze of whites who constantly need to be reminded how “good” we are for promoting diversity, with all these “firsts” in “America.”  Of course, a win for Black people is better than no win, under any system (in either kind of USA– the good one or the current bad one), but whites shouldn’t confuse this type of win with progress.  Exceptions to the rule don’t indicate progress, when that rule remains oppressive and exclusionary– their infrequency mostly shows how little true progress there has been for us (particularly when that “us” is rarely if ever recognized and uplifted).

When it comes to actual power, and qualitative changes in society toward a system of egalitarian rule, we might ask ourselves: how many great civil rights leaders in the 1960s were Black trans women?  How many films created by Black trans women have been recognized at the Oscars?  How many Black trans women have won the Nobel Prize for Literature?

If we believe in the mythology of incremental change, we’ll say that their turn is coming next– first cisgender Black men, then maybe cisgender Black women or cisgender gay Black men, and eventually society will get around to uplifting and respecting the art and work of Black trans women.  But there are more Black trans women in this country than there are white cis men who have the amount of money that Donald Trump has– and he’s the President.  There are about 1800 billionaires in this country.  And they run pretty much everything.  It’s hard to say how many Black trans women there are, but there are certainly more than just Janet Mock and Laverne Cox who– wonderful as they are– still don’t receive the money and attention that less talented white women receive.

It should be fairly clear by now that the lack of recognition, respect and money that Black trans women receive for their art, organizing and overall well-being is due to– not how many Black trans women there are– but how violently they have been prevented from gaining access to these resources.

The fact is, there are Black trans women making art– writing poetry and novels, performing music, and making films– and, for the most part, they aren’t getting recognized or paid for their work.  And part of the problem is that too many liberals or left-wing individuals in this country (especially those of us who are white) have bought into the mythology of incremental change, and the belief that Black trans artists today will just have to wait until “we” have made sufficient progress before they get their paycheck, or their awards, or the kind of respect that other artists already get (especially those who are white).

Our hearts may be in the right place, but our heads must be in the clouds– in a thick fog– if we think that Black trans women are going to be uplifted and recognized in this transphobic, racist, sexist society anytime soon … unless we do it.  While “allies” and kindhearted liberals are sitting around waiting for the next Democratic President to take power, not only are Black trans women being murdered, but they aren’t being given the recognition and resources they deserve right now.  We’ll pay money to Amazon and buy a book by a white cisgender woman who already has millions.  We’ll give money to organizations led by white cisgender women.  But we act as if Black trans women don’t deserve the resources that will allow them not only to survive, but to create the sort of art that we celebrate on awards shows and share on Facebook when somebody else (who looks like us?) is creating it.

Whether we’re liberal or revolutionary, if we want to live in a society of equals, then we must recognize that progress toward this type of society can only come from the masses of people.  This means that we need to be very intentional about bringing to the center the voices and lives of individuals in communities who are endangered and marginalized by the current society.  And we are not doing this just out of the kindness of our hearts, although kindness may be one incentive.  We must center the survival, art, organizing and work of Black trans women because this is a racist, transphobic, sexist system that is moving to destroy Black trans women.

It’s not enough to hold an idealistic hope that Black trans women will get recognition some day, once society is ready to progress to that point.  Society will never progress to that point unless we make it move forward– in measurable, material ways, the same as SNCC and all other mass movements have pushed society toward egalitarian principles.

And it’s not enough to wish Black trans women well, and have kind thoughts about their success– we will only challenge the power of a system built on transphobia, misogyny and white supremacy, as well as capitalist oppression, if we make material contributions toward a collective effort that can quantitatively change the situation of Black trans women in this society.  If we consider ourselves to be progressive, then it seems we should recognize the power that we hold in ourselves to create change, whenever we move together, each contributing even just a little to the collective effort.

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How the Myth of Incremental Progress Under an Oligarchical System of Power Endangers the Most Marginalized

A Very Quick Look at John Wayne and the Image of the Self-Made American Man

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He is John Wayne as McLintock, or (cheesier still) he’s John Wayne as Chisum, but he’s always just John Wayne– a solitary, self-made American hero standing on a ridge above the vast acres that are filled with his herds of cattle, his corrals, his horses, his hay, all on his ranch in Texas, while he says, “It’s mine.  I built it from the ground up, every inch of it, and I fought for everything I’ve got.  Nobody gave me a handout.”

McLintock-Chisum-Duke is eager to prove that he’s a big man now, a man with true grit: two eyes in a beefy face squinting at all that private property that somehow makes him bigger yet, a hand (free from handouts) on a hip slightly askew above a dusty boot … a big man with a big hat, a red shirt, a tan vest, and a big belt with a big pistol, and some big bullets, and no butt.

Yes, he’s a big man now– wealthy, powerful– but he wants us to know that he’s the same man who, a long time ago, owned just one cow and no land, until he fought that courageous Indian chief, after which– since he also wants us to know he’s a good shot, and is not a coward– he got himself a bit of property, simply by being the better man in the fight, entirely on his own (although perhaps a little credit goes to his good wife Emily, may she rest in peace).

Never mind that John Wayne had already starred in another long and boring movie directed by John Ford which proved beyond a doubt that the United States cavalry was there too, wearing blue uniforms and shooting “savages” between utterly humorless comic interludes featuring Ward Bond and Victor McLaglen exchanging verbal barbs.  The armed forces of the United States government had a whole lot to do with it as well– “it” being all this self-made wealth and success, and all these cattle.  It wasn’t just about one man’s courage, ingenuity, hard work, stubbornness, and humility.

But the legend of John Wayne is enough: the self-made, big, very big, yet still humble man, standing tall, alone on a hot windy ridge, hoarsely yelling at his ranch hands to go after that stray calf.

 

 

A Very Quick Look at John Wayne and the Image of the Self-Made American Man

Trans Liberation– More Than Individual Rights for White Trans Women Within a Violent, Colonial System

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Unidentified transgender mercenary of the capitalist, imperialist State 

Revolutionaries often talk about the “material basis” for things and argue in terms of their “objective reality.”  And when it comes to policies regarding transgender people and our use of bathrooms, the “material basis” for this so-called debate is the physical space of the bathroom itself– a door with a sign on the outside showing a “woman” wearing a triangular dress, and, inside, stalls, a sink or two, and all the objects that occupy this small area.  And the “material basis” for this debate is also expressed in the objectified bodies of the bathroom’s users (cisgender or transgender), who are reduced to their isolated parts, especially their genitalia.

However, the actual physical space of the bathroom is part of a much larger space, and the physical form of the bathroom’s user also occupies this same space, which is a nation-state with imperialist boundaries that are violently enforced by the state.  So it seems that we can’t really talk about what it means to use a bathroom, in this very small area of society, without examining the occupied and colonized territory whose system of power has determined that bathrooms of this type, or any type, are necessary.  After all, no matter who is using these bathrooms, these rooms haven’t been standing there since the beginning of time.  Furthermore, the person who needs to use the bathroom didn’t just appear out of nowhere two seconds ago, suddenly becoming a trans person or a cis person who is then judged accordingly by society as the “right” or “wrong” gender for the sign on its door.

In this context, we can recognize that trans liberation isn’t only about bathrooms, but– even more crucially– trans liberation also isn’t only about being trans.  Capitalism would like to make it so.  It’s much easier for capitalism to deal with its oppression of trans people, gay people, women, or any other marginalized group, if it isolates certain issues that involve these identities (who are also separated and isolated by capitalism) and then creates the illusion of progress for an entire group based on a few legislative reforms or even on the acceptance of the broader society.

What capitalism doesn’t want to deal with is a movement that will challenge the ruling class’s dominant ideology and how this ideology shapes all the institutions and structures of the society– right down to that small space called “the women’s bathroom.”  Whether we support transgender people being able to use the bathroom of their choice, or we don’t, we have allowed capitalism to set the terms of this debate; as a result, all our potential for revolutionary energy is expended around the issue of who gets to occupy this small room– not who controls the much larger space of a colonized continent that has been violently stolen from Indigenous peoples.  And Indigenous peoples are part of the many colonized classes who have also been judged (by the same system that is transphobic) to be the “wrong” identity.  Meanwhile, capitalism wants to boil down each issue to merely one aspect of our layered identities, where whiteness is always regarded as the default, and where the question of colonial violence is entirely ignored.

Trans liberation cannot only be about trans liberation.  We are a very small percentage of the population in this country.  And transgender and cisgender white people in the United States make up a very small percentage of the global population.  Yet the wealth and the resources of the world, which are produced by the labor of the global proletariat (most of whom are so-called people of color), continue to flow in the direction of the colonizing white identity– regardless of our gender– which is a minority on the planet.  And this material inequality that supports the white colonizing class is enforced by one thing: violence.

Revolutionaries also talk about “class antagonisms” or the “contradictions” in a society.  And capitalism is reluctantly willing to grant (or recognize) some individual rights to trans women in order to resolve potentially volatile contradictions within this relationship between the colonial white identity and the colonized masses of the world.  Capitalism is always looking to make a profit, and, at some point, it becomes more profitable for this system to include some of the people whom it had previously excluded– this is good for its brand, and it allows capitalism to perpetuate and expand its control over the productive forces of society.

Now that the rights of more transgender people are being recognized by capitalism, we will become more loyal to this system, and (in the case of trans people in the military and the police) will even kill for capitalism.  Meanwhile, the primary contradiction within the global economic system– that of the colonizer and the colonized— remains largely unchanged; if anything, the grip that the white ruling class has over the masses of Africans, Indigenous peoples and all colonized communities becomes even tighter, as white trans people now contribute to this violent and reactionary force moving against humanity.

Trans liberation isn’t just a distraction, nor is it a low priority that gets too much attention compared to the “bigger” problems created by Trump and the Republicans (and Democrats).  At the same time, we should be conscious of the ways that capitalism seeks to resolve contradictions in the society that it controls:

With whiteness forever as the default, capitalism is trying to manufacture a crisis– limited in scope– among those who already have greater wealth and power (the white colonial class), so that we will take our attention off the primary contradiction, which is the murder and theft of all colonized classes by this transphobic system.  And this ongoing genocide against colonized peoples includes the violent marginalization of Black transgender women and queer and trans people of color (QTPOC).  The violent occupation of the larger overall space– North America and the world– by the white colonial class is part of the same downward force (a force that is simultaneously racist, sexist, transphobic, and capitalist) that threatens the lives of Black trans women, and all trans women who belong to colonized classes.

It seems that even white trans women should be able to recognize the material reality of one’s physical form– our body– and how this body takes up space in an occupied territory ruled by a transphobic system of power.  We should be able to relate to the image of how our lives have been turned into a struggle to overcome the boundaries that society has imposed on us from the moment we were misgendered at birth.  Many of us want surgeries that physically change our form so that it will match our true identity.  Transgender women are constantly reminded of the material reality of who we are, and how body matches mind (or doesn’t), and how both come into conflict with a transphobic society and its institutions and structures.  Transgender women are engaged in a constant struggle, a sort of dialectical battle between A) the expression of our authentic identity through changes to our bodies, and changes to how we perform our gender, and how we view ourselves and B) a society that doesn’t accept our truth no matter how many physical changes we make or how successfully we “pass.”  For many of us, this struggle begins the moment we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep again at night, sometimes after much tossing and turning– as we mentally work through the methods for resolving A) and B) through C), which is the total freedom of mind and body in a totally liberated society.

And so it seems that white trans women should know that our liberation is bigger than our trans identity, even as we recognize that our fight is primarily against the transphobia of the current system.  It seems that we would be aware that our bodies occupy spaces that are unwelcoming, and even violent, and that we feel out of place in this capitalist society, and maladjusted to its oppressive rule.

But, at the end of the day, capitalism wants us to fit in– and to fight its battles for it, killing Black trans people, killing Muslims (trans and cis), and killing any colonized identities who challenge its racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, homophobic and transphobic imperialist rule.

Right now, capitalism itself is struggling to deal with all the volatility in these antagonisms which exist inside the white colonial class.  Capitalism wonders if it ought to recognize some of our rights on an individual level, and thereby win the loyalty of more white people.  Or perhaps it would be more profitable for capitalism to destroy white trans women in the same violent process of white supremacist rule that never even pauses to consider the value of Black lives– particularly Black trans lives.

Capitalism is a monster, a heartless machine– with monstrous cops, ICE agents, and soldiers– and so it lurches all over the map, unable to make this choice between preserving us or destroying us (just look at the GOP right now).  As a result, white transgender women, especially if we are middle-class, are required to make this choice for capitalism, and, in our protest, decide if we will co-opt the struggles of colonized peoples, using their language and their strategies of liberation, so we can then gain access to the stolen wealth and power of this machine … and forget everyone else.

European colonizers (whites) who are trans should feel on a very personal level the sense of one’s body being occupied by an outside power, as we interact with all other bodies on these uneven planes of existence that interlock and press down on an occupied continent.  For some of us, our bodies feel that they are under constant invasion.  So we need resources in order to have surgeries, to take estrogen, and to present ourselves in physical expressions that can resist this reactionary force that is moving against us.

But whiteness– as it has been said many times– is a very powerful drug.  White supremacy– inseparable from capitalism and from whiteness itself– isolates our identity inside our class and creates the illusion of freedom within the European colonizers’ views from above as we are walking over the skulls of America’s victims.  Capitalism obscures within the white perspective the material reality of these uneven, intersecting planes that sit on top of occupied peoples and lands in the United States.  Capitalism reduces our liberation to a single issue– or handful of issues at any rate– that it can resolve on its terms through its ongoing oppression of colonized peoples.

The transgender European colonizer ought to recognize the trick that capitalism is trying to play on our mind: if we tie our liberation to whiteness, then we may gain access to resources and acceptance, according to terms already established by the wealthy, white, cisgender ruling class.  But if we tap into the potentially revolutionary energy that our bodies contain in this hostile, occupied territory that is the United States of America, then transgender women may change not only the outward physical form of the individual body, but the actual shape and boundaries of this larger space, as expressed in that hopeful phrase we may have heard on C-SPAN2: “Navajo nationhood in fifty years.”

The boundaries or borders of the trans identity are unwelcomed in the bathrooms of this capitalist society, a society that is not only transphobic but is racist, misogynistic, and (in general terms) violently inhumane.  The trans body itself is occupied by the toxic ideology of the bourgeois, colonial ruling class.  The liberation of this misgendered body which is surrounded by the illegitimate borders of the racist, capitalist United States, can be connected to the ideology of this occupying power, or it can be connected to the larger anti-colonial struggles against white power.  Either way, we’re going to die.  This body isn’t a permanent address, at least in terms of the material reality that is the visible universe.  But if we connect transgender liberation to the larger, revolutionary struggle to transform society, then our freedom will mean more than the easier movement of a white individual’s parts inside a machine that grinds up humanity on a daily basis– trans liberation will mean freedom from the machine, where the trans body (and soul) has become an integral part of liberated humanity and the socialist then communist future.

Trans Liberation– More Than Individual Rights for White Trans Women Within a Violent, Colonial System

It’s True, Nicholas Kristof, “Trump Voters Are Not the Enemy”– Capitalism and All Whites Who Support It Are

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This country doesn’t have a Trump voter problem.  It has a white people problem.

But a very concerned Nicholas Kristof still scolds liberals in his latest article “Trump Voters Are Not the Enemy” by saying:

“Trump tries to ‘otherize’ Muslims, refugees, unauthorized immigrants and other large groups. It sometimes works when people don’t actually know a Muslim or a refugee, and liberals likewise seem more willing to otherize Trump voters when they don’t know any.”

Using the language of activists, revolutionaries and feminists who are trying to dismantle the master’s house with a new set of tools or terminology for liberation, Nicholas Kristof co-opts the term “otherize” in order to defend the “profoundly wrong” yet rather nice Trump voters who are his friends in Yamhill, Oregon.

In short, Nicholas Kristof is attempting to center whiteness: “white middle-aged Americans”  and middle-class and “working class” white people.  So Kristof reminds us, “It’s hard to win over voters whom you’re insulting.”

Yet it’s very easy to center whiteness in pursuit of that magic number of votes which Democrats need in order to regain control of the government.  If a writer’s ideological focus is merely on how to get the majority of votes– electoral votes at any rate– then the platitudes will start to roll down the page with ease:  “Tolerance is a liberal value; name-calling isn’t.”“stereotyping a huge slice of America as misogynist bigots is unfair and impairs understanding.”“Yes, a majority of Trump voters are probably unattainable for Democrats, but millions may be winnable.”“We’re all complicated, and stereotypes are not helpful — including when they’re of Trump supporters.”

This kind of fortune cookie-wisdom (from a flavorless, stale cookie at that) seems to place all its great effort– so much concern!– on not offending anyone, no one at all, instead of engaging in the far more difficult task of challenging the foundation for Trump’s “bigotry and lies”— or the bigotry and lies of the people who voted for him.  In fact, we can’t blame any of Trump’s racist supporters if they laugh in the face of Nicholas Kristof as a response to his pale platitudes.  Because Kristof’s smug condescension toward them–coupled with his violent erasure of individuals in communities who are further marginalized by Trump and his supporters– is quite obvious.

Basically, Kristof writes like a man whose own identity has never been the reason for violence toward it– or him– in a society where liberal tolerance toward the people who commit this violence is a luxury for whites– particularly for white, cis men.  Kristof’s basic assumption is that there is nothing seriously wrong with his class status, and he’s already in the good guy category, so there is no further need for him to reflect on where in the tiered class structure he has been situated politically, economically and socially.  He’s OK– a lot of Trump’s supporters are OK.  Everybody’s OK– so let’s just be happy and make sure Democrats will get more votes the next time, while we scold “liberals” (real or imagined) who are too mean, and who are pretty much the same as the bigots for not wanting to be killed by the bigots.  Kristof writes like he has nothing at stake except a) another tired column for The New York Times and b) a few similarly tired suggestions about how Democrats can win again– by not “otherizing” white Trump supporters in Yamhill, Oregon.

It’s understandable why Democrats would be focused on the easiest approach to 51 percent of the votes (give or take), because they are only worried about gaining, or regaining, power.  And when the focus of a party that represents the interests of the wealthy ruling class is just concerned with getting the majority of votes, then organizing around this goal becomes fairly easy.  They simply go to where the most votes are and where most of the money is: white people in Yamhill, Oregon and whites all across this colonized continent which has been stolen from Indigenous peoples through ongoing genocide.

Of course Democrats don’t want to offend anyone– anyone who is white, that is– because they quite naturally want to benefit from the fruits of this genocidal colonization of Indigenous peoples and Africans/Black people whose labor, land, resources and lives built the empire that they– the Democrats– are trying to rule.  Being nice to supporters of Trump is easy when the fundamental arrangement of colonial rule remains unchallenged by the white colonizing class, whether Trump is President or a Democrat is President.

“America” itself is an expression of white colonial power based on the violent othering of multiple, overlapping identities: Indigenous peoples, Africans, Muslims, transgender women.  Kristof’s lazy analysis doesn’t take into account the ways that trans women of color are marginalized by Trump and his supporters, and have been marginalized by “America” itself long before Trump.

It’s not a matter of life-and-death to Nicholas Kristof– any more than it is to Trump or his supporters or most of Hillary’s supporters or, in fact, all white people– whether a Black trans woman lives or dies.  The concern for Kristof and for white people– Republicans, Democrats, and white socialists as well– is access to the benefits of a wealthy system of power that is built on the colonial subjugation of so-called people of color, who are the majority of people on the globe.  Whites want access to the current arrangement of power, even when this means the further erasure of Black transgender women within their community of colonized Africans.  It’s easy to play nice and act fake toward Trump’s supporters when “America” doesn’t threaten our very existence based on our identity– it’s not a matter of vital concern whether we are “liberal” or “conservative” or any other political expression of middle-class whiteness.

But if our concern is going to be about something more vital (from the Latin word for “life”) than helping Democrats regain power, then our self-reflection and analysis of conditions in the world today will have to become a great deal more difficult.  Trump’s supporters will be just fine, no matter how mean we are to them– even a punch in their face is a kinder, gentler approach compared to the conditions that most of humanity is forced to live in, on account of the wealth and power that white people enjoy through the imperialist exploitation of the masses.

It’s true– Trump’s supporters aren’t the enemy.  But they are aligned with the enemy: capitalism.  And the same can be said for European colonizers (or whites) in general, on the right and on the left, and in-between as well: we aren’t the enemy, but we are aligned with a system that otherizes the majority of humanity through murder and theft.  We are the enemy as long as whites remain aligned with the enemy: capitalism.

As long as European colonizers support a system that values profits instead of people, “America” will have more than a Trump problem, or an “alt-right” problem, or a “Nazi” problem (all basically the same thing)– it will have a white people problem.  Whites need to begin the difficult work of no longer supporting the enemy of human progress: capitalism.

Once we have identified the enemy– capitalism– the next task for white people becomes even more difficult.  Nicholas Kristof wants to scold us by telling us to reach out to “white working-class districts in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere.”  He wants to center whiteness.  Anything else is “race-baiting.”  But the difficult task for white people today is organizing against a system, not just to gain the majority of votes within this system, but to challenge its power and then overturn a system that violently prioritizes the white identity as a class.

This means that white people– whether we supported Trump or Hillary or anybody else, or nobody else– will need to grapple with our own discomfort, and work through our anger and injured feelings, and begin to de-center our own sense of entitlement that is so dangerous to people of color (Africans, Indigenous peoples, the masses of the world).  We will need to transform the way we see ourselves and our place in the world.

If white people– including whites on the left– continue to give the tired voices of men like Nicholas Kristof a platform to let out their long sighs of mediocrity, we will continue to be frightened and bewildered by the great changes that are taking place in the world, as the colonial status of Europeans (in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and wherever we live) is challenged by the oppressed masses.

The hurt feelings of Donald Trump’s supporters, and of whites in general, are nothing compared to the pain that whiteness, capitalism and imperialism have inflicted on the people of the world: Indigenous peoples fighting to protect their water, land and identity, Africans who are resisting further gentrification, police brutality and the devastating effects of global anti-Blackness, the people of Yemen who are attempting to survive the bombs of imperialism, trans Latinas who are brutalized in detention centers within the illegitimate borders of the United States.  If white people in Yamhill, Oregon feel alienated by all this resistance– that’s tough.  It’s time that whites get a taste of the sort of violence that we’ve been dishing out, as we destroy people and planet.

Instead of centering the white feelings of Trump’s supporters (or anyone else), it’s time for whites who truly believe in justice, peace and equality to make a choice about which side we are on: the side of humanity or the side of racist, colonial capitalism.  Right now, we may not want to join the side of humanity, against the systemic oppression that harms them, because it’s a lot easier for us to stop “slurring vast groups as hopeless bigots.”  And this is no challenge at all to our own elevated status as colonizers who owe reparations.  But if we continue to center the feelings of white people , while attempting to erase the lives, and the work, and art and survival of Black trans women, the day may arrive when Europeans (whites) won’t know why this whole comfortable thing came crashing down on us.  “What happened?!  Nicholas Kristof told us we’d be fine if we only started being nicer to Trump supporters!”

It’s True, Nicholas Kristof, “Trump Voters Are Not the Enemy”– Capitalism and All Whites Who Support It Are

Disingenuous Opposition to Trump and the “Political ‘Football Game’ That Is Constantly Raging Between the White Liberals and White Conservatives.”

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“And when I speak, I don’t speak as a Democrat. Or a Republican. Nor an American. I speak as a victim of America’s so-called democracy. You and I have never seen democracy– all we’ve seen is hypocrisy. When we open our eyes today and look around America, we see America not through the eyes of someone who has enjoyed the fruits of Americanism. We see America through the eyes of someone who has been the victim of Americanism. We don’t see any American dream. We’ve experienced only the American nightmare.” — Malcolm X

There’s something about much of the white liberal opposition to Trump that feels disingenuous to me.  My general feeling is: whites are going to be just fine.

We’ve always been just fine.  If we’re white and trans, or gay, or women, or disabled, or impoverished– or all the above– maybe we will be less fine than the cis-het able-bodied wealthy white guys, for that too has always been the case.  But it seems to me that we are mainly anxious about losing access to the benefits of a system of power that has always benefited those guys– the same guys who make fun of Trump on late night TV, and smugly criticize him in the comfortable studios of MSNBC and CNN.  For the most part– if Trump doesn’t get us all killed– those guys will be totally fine.  And white people who keep trying to become members of their club, with many of the same benefits, will probably be just fine too.

Malcolm X, or El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (may Allah be pleased with him), was murdered on this day fifty-two years ago on February 21, 1965, because he fought against the “hypocrisy” that is “American democracy.”  Malcolm X argued:

“The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political ‘football game’ that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.”

And it seems a lot of the same deceitful behavior by white liberals is going on today.  There is an arrogance in the tone of voice of each liberal commentator who comes on MSNBC or CNN and mocks Trump, and points out his “insanity” (in ableist language), and engages in a kind of one-upmanship, like it’s a game, like they enjoy it.  They don’t sound too worried at all.

The shopping malls are still full of white people and so are the supermarkets.  The Grammy’s still go on centering whiteness and the Oscars will probably do the same.  The commercials on TV haven’t changed, and neither has most of the programming.  It’s just a new season in “America.”  White supremacist capitalism seems to be churning along, grinding up lives, like the heartless machine that it has always been.  White people act as grumpy in our offices as we did during any other week in the past twenty years.  We make vacation plans, laugh, gossip and do all the usual things.  But somehow Trump’s presidency is supposed to mean the end of the world.  So why does this prospect feel like business-as-usual for white people in “the USA”?

Perhaps the problem for white people (or with white people) is that we already normalized an end-of-the-world mentality a long time ago, and learned the not-so-admirable talent of mechanically, cynically living our lives each day in spite of the fact that the ruling class might blow the whole thing up at any moment.  The way the oppression of capitalism becomes real to us is when we see a Latina mom being deported, or Muslim refugees being denied entry to the U.S., or (less frequently, on account of the dehumanizing effects of anti-Blackness) a young Black/African cisgender man being murdered by the police.  And after a brief interlude of pity or anger, it’s back to the regularly-scheduled programming.  The suffering of the masses of brown people in the world becomes a kind of escape for the increasingly humdrum, meaningless lives of white individuals in this bourgeois society.  We feed off their humanity– their suffering– the same way we feed off the resources, labor and land of so-called people of color: Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples, and the majority of people on the planet.  We need to be reminded of our own humanity, and the European/white leftist in particular (liberal or socialist) uses the pain of oppressed communities, and the images of their damaged humanity, to remind us that we could be worse off, and that at least we still have the capacity to pity the homogenized, nebulous brown masses who are, in fact, worse off.

If we are truly terrified of what may happen to us during the Trump years, then two things seem to be at play in the political consciousness of white people: first, our fear is based on what may happen (but what is already happening to the majority of humanity, and has been for centuries); second, we’re terrified it will happen to us, where whiteness is forever centered.

While our fears may be genuine, we indulge them on an individual level and put up walls to block out the even more fearful situations of the most marginalized identities in this society: Black trans women, undocumented trans women, women who need resources right now in order to survive.  We allow capitalism to calculate the value of their lives and our lives, and then we take advantage of the greater value that the current system places on our lives, even as we worry that we may gain less access to its wealth and resources than we did before.  Our fears may be genuine, in terms of the depth of our feelings, but the scope of these fears is disingenuous if we are claiming that they are about anyone other than our own white selves– which is white supremacy.

Out of our own self-centered fears of what Trump may do to us, European colonizers (or white people) use Black people, Muslim refugees, and undocumented immigrants in “this political ‘football game’ that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.”  If we were that frightened, we’d be fighting for ourselves– engaging in armed resistance when necessary– and showing that our political interests, while they are our own, are aligned with the interests of colonized peoples.  The National Guard would be coming for us.  ICE would be coming for us.  But it’s hard to fight the enemy, or even call them “the enemy,” when (in many ways) we are the enemy– white people are– and Trump’s policies are aimed at making things easier for us in the United States, through capitalism’s continuing and intensified violence against everyone else in this country and around the globe.

We may say, “First they came for the …” but first we came— not they, we— for the land and resources and labor of Indigenous peoples and Africans, and then we kept coming for the land and resources and labor of Indigenous peoples and Africans, and then … over and over, for many centuries.  If we suddenly got religion and finally decided to be empathetic now, that’s great, but it’s highly doubtful that white people are willing to give up all this wealth and power that capitalism has stolen for us during the past five centuries.  So it’s disingenuous.  If we truly felt the urge to feed the poor (that is, the impoverished), or to help the needy, we’d probably recognize that we must become a whole lot more uncomfortable and more insecure with our situation, so that we could then move to overturn this entire unjust and violent system.

So, what is the basis for our anxiety in the Trump era?  Is it that we want a better system– that treats everyone as equals, and returns land to Indigenous peoples, and pays reparations to Black people– or do we just want to go back to how things were during the decades when white people experienced more upward mobility, more comfort, and more security, at the expense of oppressed peoples everywhere in the world?

If we are genuine in our anxiety about the well-being of all people, it seems we would prioritize the people who have always experienced the greatest marginalization, and then we would give or pay them the resources that they need to survive the Trump years.  We wouldn’t just use the blood-stained images and pain of oppressed identities to promote our own comfort, security and access to resources as part of the white middle-class lifestyle.  Because we’re probably going to be fine– white people are going to be fine.  And even if we aren’t– then anything that benefits the most endangered members of this society will benefit white people too, including Muslim transgender pansexual white women.

Pay, uplift, love and center Black trans women today!

Disingenuous Opposition to Trump and the “Political ‘Football Game’ That Is Constantly Raging Between the White Liberals and White Conservatives.”

“Freedom of Speech” Under Capitalism Is Always in Quotation Marks

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One of the many lies told by capitalism is that we can avoid making choices that are harmful as well as beneficial– the good guys in the white hats are always good and the bad guys in the black hats are always bad.  So this means the choice should be easy: anything that stands for “America” must be good.  It must!  And if you say otherwise, you must be a bad person.  It’s true that capitalism will make a cost-benefit analysis, but it won’t say there are benefits to the costs and there are costs to the benefits; so it simply creates the illusion of a black-and-white world.  If we choose “A” then it’s all good, and “B” wasn’t worth having in the first place.  Although, ideally, we would have it all– “A,” “B,” and “C” right on through “Z.”  That is, we can have “A” through “Z” as long as we can afford it– and capitalism would probably come up with new letters for us to want and then buy if this led to more profits.

But the point here is– the good that we pursue, according to capitalism, is absolute, even if it costs us a lot.  This causes us to argue that the government, or any other part of the system, should never get in the way of the individual’s life or liberty or pursuit of happiness, because these idealized goals (if we “work hard enough” and become wealthy enough to afford them) are always entirely beneficial, without any negative qualities.  And this idealistic view of society, under the capitalist system of power, actually takes us toward oligarchy.  This is essentially a liberal or libertarian view, which is the view conservatives also hold: the rights of the individual are regarded as the supreme good, and anything that stands in the way of individual progress is its opposite: it is entirely bad.  Of course, the material basis for this view– that individual rights and freedoms must be promoted at all costs– is revealed as hypocritical when we recognize that the government of the United States, and all its institutions and structures, are built on the foundation of genocidal violence against colonized Indigenous peoples, Africans and the majority of humanity outside Europe.  What was supposed to be entirely good, to the white colonizer at any rate– which is to say, all these wonderful freedoms that we are able to enjoy today, as we are able to afford them– has come about only through the colonial exploitation of Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples and so-called people of color by the racist capitalist power.

In reality, freedom always contains a tension between positive and negative qualities.  The choice that we are empowered to make as part of a class within a system becomes an exchange of something gained and something lost: we can’t have it all.  In this world (the universe that follows the objective laws of nature) there is no such thing as absolute freedom.  The individual is always subject to things that limit our freedom, even as these things give us our freedom.  If we choose path “A” then our choice will lead to a set of circumstances within “A” that are both good and bad, just as path “B” may have led to its own set of positives and negatives.  Yet the capitalist system of the United States is constantly telling us that if we only can get to point “A”– our “dream house,” our “dream job,” the “American Dream”– then we will enjoy nothing but benefits: eternally young, healthy, wealthy, popular, thin and pretty, with a life that is full of love and laughter.  It’s no wonder so many “Americans” are dreadfully discontent and unhappy, because that’s just not real life, that’s a dream world– a dream that costs the rest of humanity on an almost unimaginable scale.

We all die.  We’re probably going to be injured or get sick at some point.  Suffering is unavoidable.  Yet white people in the U.S. believe– on account of a system of power that is white supremacist– that our lives are worth more, and so our suffering should be less, and our death should occur much later than that of the people whose lives, labor and resources support our own.  Whites end up imposing a lot of suffering on the rest of the world because we are empowered to do this by capitalism– while this racist system is telling us that our freedoms are precious.  It’s hypocritical– these very same freedoms, experienced by the white colonial identity, contain enormous negatives for most of the people on the globe.

And such is the case with “freedom of speech.”  Basically, we have chosen the type of society that we want to live in– which is to say, the type of society wanted by white people.  We want a bourgeois democracy, not a monarchy where a king or dictator tells us what we can say and can’t say.  But this choice of bourgeois democracy by whites in the United States– a settler colony of Europe– contains positive and negative qualities.  If we only recognize the positives, it’s probably because we’re white colonizers: our class situation places us above colonized peoples, on top of their oppressed experience of “our freedoms.”  From up here, this “freedom of speech” (which is, under capitalism, always in quotation marks) does feel like an entirely wonderful thing.  But all people are subject to the political, economic and social forces that govern our lives.  If we don’t recognize the negatives of our class situation or identity, it’s likely due to the fact that we have been elevated at the expense of oppressed classes or identities (the majority of the world).  And, even within our class (or white identity), there are choices that we have made which unavoidably limit the freedoms that we experience.

Within the white identity, we may not recognize that the type of “freedom of speech” that we have been empowered by capitalism to choose is, in reality, a negation of a great deal of the potential human experience.  It feels like complete freedom (except when we’re forced to buy health insurance, or pay taxes, or get shots, or learn about the science of evolution) because the suppression of our bourgeois white view has been nearly complete.  In other words, we don’t know what we’re missing.  So we assume it doesn’t exist.  The “American way of life” (or the white bourgeois, patriarchal colonial lifestyle) must be entirely good, because there is no other way of living.  And how did we reach this conclusion?  Because the capitalist system– controlled by rich, white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied men– has told us so.  And this means we are subject to their ideology– the racist, capitalist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, ableist view of the ruling class of “America,” which controls our access to the resources needed to live and hold any view at all.  Our “freedom of speech,” in terms of its material (not metaphysical) basis, has already been determined for the white bourgeois identity by the few in the ruling class who have the power to suppress any views that don’t conform to its narrow ideology.  So, yes, it’s a big swimming pool (provided we could afford to get the membership card) but it’s not an entire ocean that we are swimming around in.

“Freedom of speech” is based on the type of society that we have chosen, which is, in turn, ruled by the type of political and economic system that we allow to remain in power.  So let’s not delude ourselves (with our typical white supremacy) by saying that “America” is the exception– that no other society in history, anywhere else in the world, experiences freedom on the same exalted level as the individual does in this society.  They may not experience the type of freedom that white people– especially middle-class or wealthy cisgender, heterosexual white people– experience in the United States, but this doesn’t mean that “American” freedom exists beyond the objective laws of nature.  If we believe that our freedom is superior–as in, you know, white supremacy– then it could be that the white “American” bourgeois identity actually has a very repressed or narrow view (by design), and that we don’t recognize the negatives of our limited freedom (or the positives of freedoms in the larger world) because we are not supposed to see these things.

“Freedom of speech” for white people is a lot like the phenomenon of “manspreading”– a white guy spreads his legs wide apart on a bus, feeling quite comfortable and, well, free; and this becomes his ideal of freedom, at least as far as bodily movements are concerned.  Never mind that a nearby woman has to be smashed up next to the seat with her face against the glass in order to accommodate his sense of spaciousness, his totally relaxed and oblivious (or not so oblivious) enjoyment of “freedom” (“Home … home on the range, where the deer …”).  People of color (specifically Black women)– who are forced to move out of the way, or be run over, as white people come their direction, carrying a wide load of entitlement with no warning lights– possibly experience “freedom” differently from us.  White people in the United States have spread out across an entire continent (and then some), consuming more resources, living in bigger houses, trying to get tans on colonized beaches, and yet we’re perpetually disappointed.  It’s no wonder we’re so discontent.  Why?  Because freedom isn’t absolute.  Freedom always means choosing a combination of positives and negatives, and this choice is based on our principles and what our community subjectively values the most.  If we value profits above all else, then that’s what we’ll enjoy– more profits, and less peace, less equality, less justice … and less freedom for anyone who doesn’t increase profits.

If we wish to have a society which values peace, equality, freedom, and justice, then we must recognize that we have to make a choice about the sort of tensions or antagonisms that we allow in this society.  We can’t end the exploitation of workers and, at the same time, allow the property-owning class to continue feeling free to exploit them.  In order to bring about freedom for the laboring masses, a dictatorship of the proletariat must be imposed on the bourgeoisie.

There’s no such thing as freedom without a system of power that enforces it through an ideology which the ruling class chooses for itself.  So if we want a society that benefits the many, rather than the few, and that places human lives ahead of profits and property, then we need a system that has sufficient power to enforce our will, even when this requires violence.  White liberals may not want to have this fact pointed out to them, because, you know, we have to remain nonviolent at all costs; but, then again, what else is “America”– with its Bill of Rights, its ACLU, its “bombs bursting in air”– other than an ongoing class war by the wealthy, white identity against the rest of the world?  The United States, from the beginning, was a choice made by the liberal wing of European society to impose white, patriarchal, colonial rule on the masses of laboring Africans and Indigenous communities who were denied freedom to live on their own land.  In exchange, white people get to enjoy what we call “freedom of speech.”

But if we want freedom of speech, and all other freedoms and access to resources, to be enforced for the benefit of the greatest majority of people on the globe (instead of just the white minority in the U.S.), a system of power will have to be imposed that assures these benefits.  And this means that white, cisgender men like Bill Maher and his white supremacist, transphobic guest will eventually have to sit down and take an elementary course in “How to Act Like a Human Being (101)” from South Tennessee-Fayetteville University (STFU).  In other words, they won’t get to say whatever they want to say, no matter who it harms– a “freedom” they possess only because it is enforced by a racist, transphobic system (capitalism).

Right now, under the current system in the United States, an educator like Amanda Irvin at the Center for Teaching and Learning at Columbia University, is empowered to write transphobic things that aren’t all that different from what Milo and Bill yak about on TV, because Columbia U, and HBO, and the entire white-controlled capitalist system is transphobic.

TERFs or MILOs (which both mean “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists”) may attempt to play the role of victim, the way Sean Hannity does on FOX News whenever his oh-so-very-worried eyebrows lift upward toward the middle of his forehead, like two helpless supplicating hands beneath an impenetrable helmet of hair.  But that’s not how it works: under this system, whites aren’t oppressed by Black people (or people of color in general), and cisgender whites aren’t oppressed by trans women.  But do you know who is marginalized and terribly endangered by the likes of Milo, Maher and Amanda Irvin?  Black transgender women.  So, before TERFs and white gays, and … whatever Bill Maher is (some sort of robotic rodent?) … whine about “the P.C. thought police” or … whatever … let’s consider the meaning of freedom for trans women of color in a capitalist system that is racist, sexist and transphobic.  Transphobic professors are getting paid by Columbia University while Black trans women can’t even get a respectable number of one-dollar-per-month patrons on Patreon.  There’s very little “freedom of speech” in that situation, when white people won’t even pay the reparations we owe Black people, and won’t pay one dollar per month to uplift and support the survival of Black trans women.

So “freedom of speech,” like all freedom, is a choice.  We choose which lives we are going to uplift (who gets to be a guest on a talk show, whose talk show gets cancelled), and which lives will be ignored. Under the system of capitalism, this choice (who’s centered, who’s erased) is based on one’s ability to create profits for the white-controlled ruling class, which is supported by the masses of white people who colonize this stolen continent.  “Freedom of speech” must be a very hollow speech indeed for Indigenous water protectors who are being attacked on their own land and shut down by the system that rules this “free country.”  If you’re not white, and especially if you’re not rich, then “freedom of speech” in the United States is based mostly on choices that have already been predetermined by the racist, capitalist system– and the ability to enjoy them is largely due to one’s class status as a white person.

People who are loyal to the white bourgeois colonial identity don’t really care about freedom of speech, or any other kind of freedom; what we care about is power– the power to gain access to a system that gives us the material benefits that it then labels “freedom.”  If we truly cared about freedom, European colonizers (whites) in the U.S. would organize against this oppressive system and would create a mass movement to replace capitalism with socialism, redistributing land and resources to Indigenous peoples, paying reparations to Africans/Black people, and supporting self-determination for all colonized communities.  This type of freedom– like any type– would contain positives and negatives, unresolved antagonisms due to the unavoidable historical and material conditions that exist in all class-based societies.  Yet our choice of a system that promotes egalitarian principles would mean freedom for the largest number of people in the world, even as voices that attempt to negate their freedoms– freedom from racism, sexism, transphobia and all other interlocking systems of oppression– would have to be suppressed.

For now, whites will choose to protect the voices of oppression– we literally can afford to make this choice.  When you already have an entire continent, plus most of the resources of the world flowing in your direction, at that point a little “politically incorrect” banter (aka KKK-talk) between two white dudes on a premium cable channel is chickenfeed.  White people will go ahead and center white speech (of any type), while ignoring the speech and the art, survival and organizing of Black trans women, until a system of power forces us to do otherwise.  But, yeah, keep calling it “freedom of speech” … you’re empowered to do so.

“Freedom of Speech” Under Capitalism Is Always in Quotation Marks

Bodies and Boundaries: Remapping the Identity of the Self as Defined by an Imperialist Power

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From the day we are born, the body is our first address.  However, we don’t have a choice at that point in our young life about what we will put inside this little home– our identity– and, in fact, we aren’t able to choose whether it will even be allowed to stand or exist at all.  This choice has been made for us already by the larger society and by the ruling class of this society who has the power to define the boundaries that surround our own body and all the other bodies within this occupied territory or nation.  Since the class that rules the larger society has the power to define how we gain access to the resources that we need in order to develop and grow as a person, they also get to define who we are.  The ruling class not only defines the boundaries of the larger nation but it also defines the bodies inside this nation’s boundaries, which it does through the various institutions and structures that it controls: family, school, business, media, churches and government (including the legal system, which legitimatizes its surrounding borders and the rule of the territory within them).

Our identity as an individual, from the day we are born (and even long before), has been defined by the ideology of the ruling class, and by where we have been situated within the tiered class structure of the larger society that the ruling class controls.  Our first address– this little body, our little home– is filled with ideas, values, goals, and aspirations which we have no choice to accept or reject during our earliest stages of development.  Depending on our situation within the class hierarchy, we have no choice about whether we go hungry or we gain the nourishment required to develop a healthy body whose brain is then allowed to reach its fullest potential of intellectual growth.  Our class situation determines whether the water that we drink is clean or poisoned.  In fact, the newborn infant has no choice about their ability to survive during the first hours and days after their birth.  Our address may eventually contain a sturdy home, brightly lit and full of laughter, or an abandoned body with empty windows, and each scenario is based on our situation within our class which has been defined by the class that controls the production and distribution of resources for the entire society.

The boundaries of our body, from the day we are born, are defined by the boundaries of the nation in which we are allowed to live or die.  As our consciousness of this nation, and of the world beyond it, develops according to the predetermined definitions of its ruling class, our individual identity takes on the contours of its dominant ideology and how it has shaped our class identity.

Our self-image is formed from the earliest age by a growing awareness of where we may fit into the larger society and its various levels, tier by tier.  This sense of self, while it is (by definition) subjective, guides the individual body toward the functions of the larger society that will have an objective effect on all the other countless bodies we come into contact with, both inside and outside our class.  So the control that the ruling class has over the materials that we need in order to grow and develop (or even survive at all) shapes our personal view of ourselves and of the universe, and then shapes how this consciousness of self and society interacts with everybody else and affects their growth and development.

In a sense, the body of the individual, from birth, never gained its definition from within but only became of aware of its own identity, and its relation to all other identities, through the control of a far greater outside force– that of the class which has defined the boundaries of the larger nation, and whose ideology is expressed through the institutions and structures contained within these violently imposed borders.

When we think of a big city we may tend to think that it is big on account of how many individuals live in that city.  But the social force that brings this large population together is based quite often, not on its humanity, or the mere accumulation of human bodies, but on an ideological determination of the uses of resources in the area of this city, including the uses of human bodies.  Bodies are brought together in a large urban center around the nucleus of an ideology– for instance, the capitalist ideology which seeks to enjoy greater and greater profits through more and more exploitation of human labor.

So the solitary person may find themselves– as it were, lost– in the presence of tall buildings meant for banking and other business, next to a river or an ocean meant for trade, and surrounded by thousands upon thousands of bodies who have been brought together for the ideological purpose of creating greater profits.

To take one example: a new football stadium is constructed in a big city, not merely to be filled with lots of people yelling, but to be used for the purpose of creating more revenue and profit.  The fans gather together, thousands of eyes focused on the twenty-two colorful figures on the rectangular green turf below; and the reason they are there, cheering, booing, drinking beer, is because the city is big enough to have its own professional franchise; and the city is big enough to do this because it has successfully compressed and directed a mass of productive forces toward the accumulation of profits.  But the city only has this power to accumulate profits– expressed in its tall skyscrapers, its shipyards, its factories, its malls, and its new football field (named after a corporation)– because it is connected to a vast system of capitalist power whose wealthy ruling class has defined the boundaries inside which this city does business.

An individual lives and dies inside the concrete, steel and glass of the great city, according to how much value their body has, based on the calculations of the larger system of power and its ideological aims.  The huge mass of humanity under the shadows of the city’s towers– by the calculations of bourgeois society– represents not so much the total value of all the individual lives who have been allowed to develop to their fullest potential, but rather the total worth (in dollars) of their contributions to the overall profitability of this social arrangement.

Within this current social arrangement, a person may redecorate or renovate their home– which is to say, their body and what it contains– based on their available cash or credit.  But we cannot remap and redefine our self-image, escaping the shadows of the giant skyscrapers above us, while the larger boundaries of this social arrangement remain unchanged.

Our efforts to discover– or rediscover– who we are, what we want, and where we’d like to go next, will continue to be shaped by the borders (legitimate or illegitimate) which have been created, enforced, and reinforced by the ruling class of this society.  The map of empire, spread across a great continent, is deeply ingrained in our own personal consciousness.

The choice of who we are, what we want and where we’d like to go next, has been determined for our body (and, consequently, the brain) by the boundaries of the imperialist design.  All we can do at this point is retrace the architect’s lines, or the boundaries of the capitalists’ empire, as these have been reproduced, on a smaller scale, in our own individual mind.  No matter how far we go, our body (like our mind) is defined and contained in the larger scheme of empire, sketched in miniature according to the shape of its own ideological aims: the creation of greater and greater profits.

Therefore, in order to escape the shadow of this giant gray machine, and leap over the chain link fence that is the capitalist definition of the self, we– each of us– may wish to remap in our mind the meaning of the larger boundaries of a bourgeois, racist, patriarchal and imperialist society.

And the meaning or shape to be found within these redrawn boundaries will be quite literal, as our answers to these questions become a physical embodiment of mass power.

How do we re-imagine the map of the United States of America in such a way that the new boundaries can reflect (or promote) actual human potentiality rather than the sum of exploitable value, calculated to the exact decimal point?

What does a map of this continent look like when each individual life that it contains is truly valued, on its own terms, and not as a thing to be developed or discarded according to its value as assessed by the property-owning class?

How does Indigenous life grow and develop alongside (or apart from) the life of the European settler, and how do we rethink and reshape boundaries to reflect the equal value of each life in this context of decolonization?

How does African life truly escape the condition imposed by colonization and slavery, in order to develop fully on an individual level according to a consciousness which is completely free of the colonizing slaveholder’s designs upon it?

It seems that each individual– body and soul– can only grow and reach their full potential as a person if they are empowered to live in a territory whose boundaries have been entirely re-imagined and redrawn, no longer predefined by the imperialist, capitalist ideology of racist Europe.

Imagine: Indigenous bodies within Indigenous boundaries, whose power for self-definition comes from the material development of Indigenous consciousness– nation by nation, a new map, a new view of that map and of the individual, whose own form takes shape only by the nourishment of this (their) land.  “Navajo nationhood in fifty years.”

Until the European colonizer escapes the trap of these illegitimate borders that are the United States of America, our nation, our map, and our view of self and society will be shaped and governed by the racist, imperialist, patriarchal, oligarchical design.

Our self-image begins and ends beyond the nourished (or malnourished) outline and content of the individual body, because the self is primarily expressed through its relation to the borders of a national consciousness that forms a community.  So it seems that the question for us today is whether we choose to value a community of equals who share some of the land (in Europe? here?  both here and there?) or we continue to define who we are according to the pattern of white supremacy, imperialism, patriarchy and capitalism.  That is: according to the map of inhumanity which is the United States of America.

Bodies and Boundaries: Remapping the Identity of the Self as Defined by an Imperialist Power