An Impressive Prison, Not a Nation: The Failure of America’s Success

Prison

“America is not a nation– it is a prison of nations.” Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party

By one measure, the United States of America is the greatest country in the history of the world.  It has the greatest power and the greatest wealth.  The United States can brag about its many individual freedoms.  It can boast that it has made tremendous technological advancements and that its culture is the envy of everyone else on the globe.  And if you’re white, and middle-class (or rich), and cisgender, and “able-bodied” you can look out the window and things may appear to be relatively peaceful.  It may seem that people are– for the most part– enjoying a fairly “high standard of living” in this country.  And so you might think that anyone who wants to destroy the United States and replace all this wealth and all this freedom with something else must be a bad person, right?

However, by any other measure the United States of America has been a horrible failure.  Because the one measure that indicates America’s success is its capacity for violence, through which it has gained all the wealth, power, land, resources and culture that it possesses today.  That’s why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the American government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

The reason for the unprecedented failure of the United States is that its genocidal project of white supremacy has been too successful.  And perhaps the most significant thing about this “success” has been the ability of the entire capitalist and imperialist system to erase the devastating effects of its violence, hiding them from the view of people who have not been directly affected.  What this erasure has required is a philosophy that centers the individual– subjective idealism, patriotism, “American exceptionalism”– while isolating them in their class: so, if something hasn’t happened to you– not yet anyway– then it hasn’t happened at all.  And that’s one of the great failures to be found in the success of the United States: the material division of land, resources, culture, and history from colonized populations (Indigenous peoples, Africans) on an occupied territory, followed by the ideological division of the “American” consciousness from this material reality, where everything we say that matters is up here in our head: liberty, justice, equality, peace.  Never mind that the material evidence of colonial genocide, which indicates crimes against humanity on the greatest scale imaginable, is right here beneath our feet.

In order for this white supremacist, genocidal project called the “United States of America” to be a success it had to be complete— and were it not for the continuing resistance of colonized peoples it would have been complete.  Whites certainly possessed no humanity to stop it.  But if whites or Europeans had only colonized half of the North American continent, the other half would have remained as a perpetual reminder of the magnitude of our crimes against humanity.  And not only would the truly free half (or even less than half) of the remaining land have exposed the lie that is “American freedom,” the people on that side could have gathered strength– power– and perhaps even have overwhelmed the colonized side on account of its exposed contradictions.  It wouldn’t even have required a large land mass to accomplish this goal, because the entire globe would have seen how criminal and inhumane the United States is (just as it saw Hitler’s Germany, eventually), and would have supported the revolutionary struggle to free the entire land.

So the criminal scheme of European imperialist capitalism– as expressed in its white supremacist, genocidal project called the “USA”– was obligated from the beginning to steal the whole thing, from sea to shining sea.  Canada got part of it, and the “USA” stole the rest from Mexico (which has its own complicated story as part of Latin America– but we should remember that the white population in the “USA” is so racist that even Spanish-speaking peoples aren’t “white enough” for us).  The United States had to take over all the land, and murder all Indigenous peoples, erasing their culture, history and language, even if it sometimes meant appropriating these objectified things for the uses of whiteness (names of cities, states, rivers, sports franchises, products on the shelves of grocery stores).  This complete erasure of “non-white” identity was an absolute necessity for the success of the white supremacist, genocidal project of “America,” otherwise the victims might live, and would be able to tell the rest of the world: the whole system of capitalism is built on a lie!

And, in spite of the greatest violence imaginable committed by the United States, colonized peoples have survived— Africans, Indigenous peoples, Latinxs, “people of color”– through their ongoing resistance to white supremacy and capitalism.  And so the lie that is the “United States of America” has been and continues to be exposed.  Look at the statistics.  For example, the median net worth of white households is $141,900 and the median net worth of Black households is $11,000.  The average life expectancy of a transgender woman of color is only 35 years.  But beyond the numbers, just listen to the narratives, the experiences of individuals in colonized communities, and pay attention to their truths, which prove the lie that is “justice,” “liberty,” “peace,” and “equality” in this bourgeois, patriarchal society controlled by the European/white identity.

Huey P. Newton said, The United States, in order to correct its robbery of the world, will have to first return much of what it has stolen.”  The boundaries of the United States outline the illegitimate power of this settler colony of Europe– they have become the drawing of its lies, its genocide, its oppression.  It doesn’t matter how high Trump builds the wall across Mexico, the evidence of robbery is still there in the lives of colonized identities who have resisted the violence of “America.”  The white supremacist project that is the United States– a monument to the failure and inhumanity of European people– has been, at the same time, a story of success for its Trumps, Rockefellers, its Dow Jones Industrial Average, and all the wealth and power belonging to the few in the ruling class.  But they had to go all the way— and they didn’t, because the strength of the people was greater than the reactionary force of the capitalist machine.  So the “success story” of “America” remained incomplete.  And now the monster must be brought down and finished off.

Huey P. Newton also said, “The United States as an empire necessarily controls the whole world either directly or indirectly.”  And the U.S. is able to do this because, internally, its contradictions are relatively stable– the capitalist system crushed the rebellions of enslaved Africans, executing Gabriel Prosser and Denmark Vesey and Bunchy Carter and Fred Hampton, and shoved Indigenous peoples onto reservations (concentration camps), deporting Claudia Jones, murdering Marsha P. Johnson and Blake Brockington, thereby consolidating its power to venture abroad and dominate the globe.  But it wouldn’t have been possible without you— you and me, European colonizers (whites) in the United States, who continue to look the other way and support this monster whose “robbery of the world” primarily benefits us.

The failure of our humanity, along with our inability to form a revolutionary political consciousness, has been due in large part to capitalism’s own successful ability to impose its inhumane ideology on the masses of white colonizers.  While we’re busy removing our hats and placing our hands over our hearts during the “National Anthem,” capitalism is busy rounding up people to hide from our view in prisons and detention centers.  We may see them on the local news– the police keeping us safe (white people, that is) to enjoy our gentrification of Black and brown neighborhoods.  And then the evening news comes on and we see the smoking rubble of a town halfway around the world destroyed by our bombs.  But until we are hit by this violence, “America” will teach us how to avoid its terrifying reality, and it accomplishes this with a million coping mechanisms for capitalist oppression– provided we’re wealthy enough to buy them.  The United States uses the power of its media, and the popularity of bourgeois politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (and, yes, Donald Trump), and all the gadgets and games we can afford, in order to distract us from the material reality of its racist, imperialist violence, transforming us into automatons, machines within the machine, free from any revolutionary consciousness.

What is often considered “freedom” in the United States is, in reality, a highly isolating imperialist view of the world, particularly among the white population of this occupied continent (plus Hawaii)– the “voter,” the “consumer,” the “hardworking American family” is the empty embodiment of white supremacist, genocidal, capitalist ideology.  It’s the near-total failure of humanity through the near-total success of empire, as expressed through the day-to-day life of the white “American.”  If our failure were not so nearly complete, we would recognize the horror of the situation, rather than going about in a state (or process) of unconscious consumption, committing “microaggressions” against people of color, engaging in the erasure of Black trans women, and parroting the language of bourgeois media, politicians, academics and preachers.

President Lincoln merely sought to preserve the union– to keep the empire intact.  If the South had been able to permanently split away, the empire of the United States would have been weakened.  It would have possessed less power to move westward– as a highly industrialized, modern capitalist state.  The white supremacist, genocidal project would have remained far from complete– and perhaps the West would have been made up of many independent nation-states, and a few (or more) would have challenged the racist “American” empire.  Of course, that never happened.

But today, Senator Bernie Sanders and other bourgeois politicians on the left-wing say nothing about breaking up the imperialist power of the United States.  In fact, they seem just as determined as President Trump– in their own way– to “make America great again.”  The aim of reformist “socialists” isn’t to overthrow this illegitimate empire, breaking it in half, weakening it– it’s to make it stronger, and therefore more capable of committing greater genocide against the world.  What does it mean to raise taxes on the rich?  It means the class at the top of this oppressive hierarchy remains rich– still raking in the profits gained from the capitalist oppression of the global proletariat.  What does it mean to provide “free healthcare” (which is to say, state-controlled healthcare) within the current hierarchy of power?  It means the wealthy class of the United States must continue to grow wealthier off the colonial subjugation of Africa, Latin America, Asia– the majority of people in the world, including “people of color” in this settler colony.

If we love people, and if we love peace, it seems we ought to be focused on how we are going to break up the power of this inhumane system.  It’s the duty of the oppressed peoples of the globe to rise up and overthrow their oppressor.  We have no right to tell them what to do and how to do it.  But as European colonizers (whites) in the United States, it seems we should be educating ourselves about what it means to live in a world where we are required to survive through our own labor, our own resources, on our own land. Right now, we have no idea.  As long as the “American” empire remains intact, whites won’t have a clue what it means to organize, create community, and struggle for our own survival– without robbing and stealing from Africa and the rest of the world.

The United States is just a great machine– an impressive prison of nations with giant gray walls, a block of soulless concrete sitting on top of stolen Indigenous lands.  We need to bust this thing up.  Hopefully Africa will seize control of its own labor, resources, and land, and cut us off.  But European colonizers must educate ourselves about what it means to abolish the police, and prisons– and the prison that contains all these smaller prisons within it, the United States.

What happens when imperialist State power has been abolished?  If we can just break up this oppressive weight of empire, this white supremacist, genocidal project, and knock down its walls, then our consciousness may begin to awaken, along with our humanity, and then we may be able to recognize people as people, not as objects.  And mentally perhaps we can even begin to make progress right now, by rethinking how we view this prison which we’ve constructed, and how we view all the people who serve its dehumanizing existence.

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An Impressive Prison, Not a Nation: The Failure of America’s Success

Drinking Water

SinatraWater_001

Water teaches.  Because without water both the student and the teacher wouldn’t survive: the water that each drinks gives them the power to exchange knowledge, or to do anything at all.

The mother lives in the revolution.  Because she is the one who carried the life of the people inside her for months and then labored to bring them into the world.  She is the first productive force.  And she must gain complete control of these means of production before any of the masses can be free.  A woman’s body, whether she is a mother or not, is the measurement of a society’s liberation: unless she has power over this territory– her being, her identity— then the larger boundaries of the land will remain illegitimate, imposed as they have been and still are by the violent patriarchy.

She scoops up the water from the pool, liquid life reflecting sun, and lifts the cooled skin of her fingers close to her lips to drink the beginning of knowledge.  And what is the end of knowledge but to bring water to our mouths?  And to bring the food that grows from the earth through the power of water and sun, to the mouths of the earth’s children, who are the precious fruit of cisgender women’s labor, so that they– each one of our children– may grow to their fullest potential?  And the branches reach to the warmth …

The Greek philosopher Thales argued that everything in the universe is derived from water.  Dr. Kwame Nkrumah wrote:

“Thales spearheaded two revolutions. The first revolution matured in his attempt to explain nature in terms of nature. The second revolution consisted in his belief that the unity of nature consisted not in its being, but in its materiality. …

“Not only is it significant that Thales should have chosen water as the fundamental substance, but the fact that he maintained at all that everything was derived from one and the same substance was of great importance. For, by maintaining this, he was implying the fundamental identity of man as well, man according to him being not half natural, half supernatural, but wholly natural. That is to say, on the social plane, his metaphysical principle amounted to an assertion of the fundamental equality and brotherhood of men. Nevertheless his philosophy only supported a revolution which was in a sense bourgeois. The assertion of the fundamental equality and brotherhood of man does not automatically issue in socialism, for it does not amount to the assertion of social equality. Indeed, Thales’ specification of a form of matter as basic naturally places a premium on water, and in the social plane, remains compatible with a class structure. His philosophy therefore only supported a sort of bourgeois democratic revolution, and not a socialist one.”

In a bourgeois (or capitalist) democracy, the people are taught to recognize the “rights of man” as well as the necessity for liberty in order to pursue the material wealth that will sustain man.  But equal access to water– and to food, clothing, housing, healthcare and education– is not guaranteed under the capitalist system of power, because the recognition that a certain amount of water must be consumed in order to sustain life is only a quantitative assertion, while life itself is measured qualitatively under capitalism according to one’s class and race.  Even the capitalists must agree that water is necessary for life.  They just don’t agree that everyone is on the same “social plane” and that their access to water must be enforced by the government.  The bourgeois view divorces the “metaphysical principle” of “equality and brotherhood” from its materiality.  Under capitalism, one is only free to pursue happiness– but whether this individual’s pursuit of happiness, wealth, and land, and profits, comes at the expense of their brothers, sisters and other siblings, or not, is of no material concern to the ruling class within this bourgeois hierarchy.  Social equality cannot be a concern, because the unequal pursuit of material wealth is the foundation of capitalist power: “buy low, sell high.”

The oligarchical class structure of capitalist society is essentially misogynistic, against both cisgender women and transgender women, and against nonbinary identities as well.  Capitalism is obviously a bad thing for moms.  As soon as a mother gives birth to a child, this person is automatically placed in a class hierarchy where their access to resources becomes a question of their isolated placement, as part of the overall unequal arrangement of society, which is based on exchanging commodities for profit.  They enter a society where water is a commodity.  Food is a commodity.  The material reality that makes food and water primary is recognized by the capitalist State– it must be recognized in order to treat these materials as commodities for exchange.  Yet an ideology of white supremacy and class privilege is simultaneously imposed on these materials, and on the child as well, because, while their material need for access to resources is recognized by the ruling class of the State, actual access is not guaranteed, nor is it enforced.  Every child must have certain things in order to live– everyone knows this.  There aren’t any arguments about this fact.  But under capitalist rule, all the sudden this basic fact of survival is disregarded in favor of some metaphysical belief in the “free market,” “healthy competition,” and the “entrepreneurial spirit”– a greedy ghost indeed.

Water taught you nothing.  You are an ungrateful, uneducated class– that is, you, me, the members of the class of European colonizers (whites) who live on the stolen land of Indigenous peoples.  Water taught us to live, but we forgot everything it taught, because the colonizers belonging to the white identity just turn our backs on people who don’t have water: clean, unpoisoned water.  We’re the exploiters.  We’re arrogant.  We receive water into our mouths, allowing us to speak, laugh, think, walk, talk, live, invent, love, believe in God, and even lie, and then we turn around and ignore the lesson we learned: before anything else, water.  It all comes from water, from land.

And we’re cruel to our mothers.   We force our mothers to bring children into a land where they are designated by a global economic system (capitalism) to be the exploiters or the exploited, the colonizers or the colonized, and where they are taught that this one deserves water, food, security, and wealth, while this other is allowed to go thirsty and then die.  The very first lesson we were taught was found in the material being of the water; but, drunk on “the American Dream,” and on selfish ambitions for greater riches, it is the very first thing which we forget.

We learned nothing.

Drinking Water

In Faux Color: Rachel Dolezal Is STILL a Parasite

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Portrait of a Con Artist as a Young White Girl (“Two for the Road”)

The last time that we checked in on Rachel Dolezal was back in November of 2015.  Apparently the wave of “White Genocide” rushing over stolen Indigenous lands hasn’t swept Dolezal into the Pacific Ocean with one less settler to worry about.  While actual Black girls go missing in Washington D.C.– where Dolezal attended Howard University, with litigation on her European colonizer mind– she won’t show the grace to leave the scene and let Black women who are Black women finally get some respect and attention (and money) in this racist, sexist country.  No, instead, Rachel Dolezal has a new name– reminiscent of Blackwater/XE Services/Academi– and a new book, In Full Color: Finding My Blah Blah Blah in Blah.

There are two types of people in this world who really test my patience and create feelings of the greatest loathing: the first type are Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) like Meghan Murphy, and the second type is Rachel Dolezal.  Astaghfirullah.  And these two types are actually quite similar: white– very white– women who use the platform that has been provided for them by a white supremacist, patriarchal system (capitalism) to place Black women (transgender and cisgender) in additional danger.  Of course, it’s not my job to speak for Black women (trans or cis) but, speaking for myself, it’s time to shut down this parasitic, violent behavior of white women (both cis white women, and trans white women like me).

We don’t get to take over a continent– in the United States and Canada– and spend years (decades, centuries) benefiting from ongoing genocide created by the European capitalist empire, and then decide who is a woman and who isn’t a woman, or pretend we can wear Blackness like it’s a costume– a mask we use to escape the historical and material realities of the systemic oppression represented by our white skin.  The only way to lose our whiteness is to lose the system that created it: capitalism.  If we oppose what whiteness stands for– bland food, colonization, death, destruction, the hurt feelings of Becky– then white women shouldn’t run to Black women and demand that they nurse us back to life, in order to fill our own empty souls– no!– instead, we need to destroy this system that exploits women, that dehumanizes women, and that leads white women to believe it’s acceptable for us to behave so violently as bloodsucking parasites.

But let’s take a closer look at this situation, shall we?  First we have a white feminist like Meghan Murphy telling us that trans women aren’t women, while Black trans women struggle to survive in a society that is racist, transphobic and sexist all at once, and then we have Rachel Dolezal over here getting a book deal– and probably a book tour, and multiple appearances on capitalist media.  Whatever anger is directed at us for allowing such behavior to go on will be entirely justified.  But where is our anger?  How much longer do we allow white women to engage in such violent, parasitic behavior?

And we are all complicit– all white women.  We live off the stolen resources, labor and land of colonized peoples– including, of course, women of color– and then turn around and use our elevated status as European colonizers to harm Black women.

It’s bad enough that Rachel Dolezal is pretending to be Black.  But she has been taking up space in Black institutions and organizations, using her power against Black women and women of color.  It’s beyond my comprehension anyway why white people need to be in positions of leadership in organizations that advocate for the rights of Black people, or why we need to teach in Black Studies departments (the few that are left) or take up faculty space in HBCUs.  In fact, if we’re in a position where we have power over Black people– in any nonprofit organization, and any job, especially in government, journalism and education– then it’s almost inevitable that whites will be a problem.  Because we’re not only taking up space, and taking advantage of a system of power built on colonial genocide, white women– as well as white men and white nonbinary people– are forcing so-called people of color to adjust their behavior to our elevated status, mostly in order to gain access to necessary resources.  And this is the case because it’s the class that controls the means of production in a society, and our access to resources, that has the power to impose its ideology on the rest of the society– so the white supremacist, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic ruling class empowers white women to perpetuate its colonial violence against Black women and “people of color” in order to create greater profits.

Capitalism will always find a place for white women like Rachel Dolezal, Meghan Murphy and Tomi Lauren … and me too.  Meanwhile, white women can’t seem to find the time or spare cash to pay Black trans women for their organizing, art and survival (all of which is work).  Capitalism erases Black women– particularly Black trans women– while elevating and carving out spaces for white women.  And that’s just how the white supremacist, misogynistic ideology of capitalism works.  As long as this system is intact, capitalism will work to benefit Rachel Dolezal, and will promote the transphobic feminism of Meghan Murphy, while harming Black women.  If we are feminists or revolutionaries, or (better yet) both, white women must fight back against the reactionary force of capitalism, and work in the opposite direction to dismantle this system, then redistribute resources and land to Indigenous peoples and Africans and establish a socialist system which does not depend on the stolen wealth and labor of the majority of people– meaning, women— in the world.

Until we make that happen, all white women will still be parasites like Rachel Dolezal.  We must put an end to the misogynistic, transphobic, exploitative and racist forces of this capitalist society which move against Black women (transgender and cisgender), and organize a mass movement to destroy capitalism.

In Faux Color: Rachel Dolezal Is STILL a Parasite

The Experiences of White Transgender Women: “Male Privilege” or Colonial Status?

PinkBox

She used to walk alone late at night on the streets of Salem, a town in Oregon.  She wouldn’t have gone out by herself if she had been able to present her true identity.  Instead, her presentation of her gender was ambiguous: white canvas Skechers, flare bottomed jeans (with Smackers lip gloss in a front pocket), a cap sleeved tee (plain black), and a Yankees baseball cap (the label on the inside said “Women’s”).  And underneath, of course, panties from Victoria’s Secret.  She didn’t own any men’s clothing.  She got rid of all her men’s clothing a long time ago, but she didn’t feel that she was ready to present as the woman she believed she had always been. And so, instead, she walked alone … walking nowhere in particular, hurting, walking, hurting, trying to walk off the hurt.

[content warning: su*c*dal thoughts]

She used to imagine ways that she would kill herself.  She thought about walking to the bridge.  Almost every day it was the same thing: how to keep from committing suicide.  This went on for years– a decade and a half, at least.

So mostly she just hid behind the locked door of her apartment– five floors up– and lost herself in her favorite music, movies and books.  On weekends she drank Jack Daniel’s and Coke and stared out the window into the dark, rainy night, listening to Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Dean Martin, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, James Brown, Parliament, Public Enemy, the Ronettes, the Marvelettes, Mozart– all her favorite music.  She watched old movies and lost herself in the beauty of Pam Grier and Joan Crawford.  She didn’t have a computer at home or the internet.  She didn’t have friends.  Her “friends” were CDs of Thelonious Monk, and books by Gore Vidal, and movies starring Humphrey Bogart or Fred Astaire.  And that was her life, her world.  The world outside the window was scary.  People didn’t see her.  They misgendered her and called her “Mister” and “sir.”  So she escaped into the beautiful Technicolor images on the screen, and the sound of Tony Williams’ drums at The Plugged Nickel in Chicago (1965) accompanied by the sound of melting ice tinkling in a glass of Johnnie Walker scotch.

And then in April of 2013, she finally found a way to make it work– and she didn’t so much transition as blossom, a flower in a world that wasn’t so frightening after all.  But she also didn’t walk alone at night anymore.  And when she became a Muslim in 2016, she definitely didn’t walk alone at night– wearing her hijab, she was careful in broad daylight, as a white guy on a bicycle rode past her shouting, “Donald J. Trump!  Donald J. Trump!” over and over again.

Did this European (white) transgender woman experience “male privilege” from 1974 to 2013, and possibly beyond?  What we know is that her experiences were not the same as a cisgender white woman’s experiences– just as a cis white woman’s experiences are not those of a cis Black woman’s experiences.  In fact, her experiences as a white trans woman were not the same as those of a Black trans woman, or a trans Latina, or any woman of color.  But perhaps the most important thing to recognize in these differences in experiences is that they all belong to women.  Only in the patriarchal, bourgeois, colonial imagination of the European colonizer is there a universal experience of womanhood– transgender or cisgender.

Presenting as a male– because she had no other choice– certainly helped this European trans woman get a college education, and gain full employment, and walk the streets alone at night with less fear of being attacked.  But these benefits had less to do with her forced presentation of maleness– which made her feel like she was imprisoned in her own skin– and more to do with an empire violently carved out of North America by the white supremacist, patriarchal power of capitalism.

This white trans woman didn’t experience “male privilege” so much as she experienced the class status of the white colonizer on stolen Indigenous land in a country whose wealth and power were created by stolen African lives, labor and resources.  That’s the material and historical basis for her ability to walk through the streets of a town in Oregon without feeling greatly threatened by other colonizers like herself.

When she went to college, President Clinton was signing a crime bill that would send millions of Black, Latinx and Indigenous kids her own age to prison– and some of these kids were transgender girls.  White cisgender girls were going to the same college she attended, while the incarceration rate of Black girls was skyrocketing.  And when this white trans woman got her first job, she stayed there hoping that her insurance would someday cover the surgeries that she so desperately needed.  The college refused to cover any of these surgeries for years.  She knew that she could never afford them without insurance coverage.  But where were many– far, far too many– Black trans women and trans women of color during her own crisis?  She didn’t know.  They were erased by society– a white supremacist colonial system that still benefited her because she is white.  That’s the material reality.

[content warning: su*c*dal thoughts]

It’s no “privilege” to spend most of your life feeling that the only way out is suicide.  But if you’re a European colonizer, the “privilege” is that you can walk on stolen Indigenous land– alone or in a crowd of whiteness.  And this isn’t so much a privilege as a class status– the colonial status of all white people— which allows us to confront even our most hopeless hours with greater ease than people in colonized communities: Africans, Indigenous peoples, the majority of humanity.

Her books, her CDs, her DVDs, her little sanctuary five floors up in a white neighborhood, the job she walked to (dejected, desperate) a few blocks away, a store one block away (no “food deserts” here)– these are the benefits of colonial genocide, of capitalist oppression.  This white neighborhood that she hated so much– boring houses lined up along a dead end street, pickups and minivans parked outside by blue recycling bins, dogs barking, cracked sidewalks with weeds growing through, and nothing ever going on, nothing– was violently taken from the original inhabitants, Indigenous families, while Black people were forced to leave the state, and Chinese businesses and homes were burned down.  Those aren’t weeds growing through the cracks of the grayish white sidewalk– it’s blood, the blood of colonized peoples, the cries of silenced voices, and some of those voices belong to transgender women … to women, we’re all women, we’re women, but some women have been murdered by a system built on exploitation, racism, patriarchy and imperialist genocide: capitalism.

And that’s your “male privilege.”  It’s European colonial genocide, that benefits all white people, all white women– transgender and cisgender.

I’m a woman alright.  You can’t take that away from me.  I’ve always been a woman– a European woman in the United States of AmeriKKKa benefiting from the genocidal domination of colonized Africans and the majority of people on the planet. That’s the divide, the dialectic.  And either white women fight alongside the women of the world (trans and cis) or we deserve to meet the same fate as the men who oppress us too, who are empowered by a system created by cis-het white men with wealth … the same system that empowers all whites.  Do we want more of his power, or do we want to share power and resources — redistributing what doesn’t belong to us, paying reparations to Black people– living in peace with the colonized peoples of the world?

Trans exclusionary feminists are focused on who gets to be in their [white] women’s club of “true womanhood”– but being a woman isn’t enough.  What kind of women are we?  Women who are content to look the other way while capitalism oppresses the majority of women in the world?  Instead of fighting me and trying to erase my womanhood, perhaps cisgender feminists– the same as trans feminists– might wish to focus on the real enemy of humanity: capitalism.  Now there is an experience we could share: women fighting together against racist, patriarchal capitalist power, and dismantling this system of colonialism!

The Experiences of White Transgender Women: “Male Privilege” or Colonial Status?

“Our House Is Burning Down”– Disregarding Transphobic Arguments, While Setting Fire to the System That Empowers Them

FireHouse

If you were to toss a rock up in the air then you could expect that– with or without your permission, or regardless of any ideas about this rock that you have in your head– it would come back down.  And if it happened to be a very large rock, and it hit you on your head, it just might harm you.  This is called objective reality.

Questions of gender identity, on the other hand, are not about objective reality– they are about the subjective experience of an individual who is part of a class.  If you say you are a woman, there isn’t any necessity for harm to befall you (or fall on you) on account of your gender identity.  It’s not like tossing a rock up in the air and believing it won’t come back down.  The only damage that can be done to you is by people who, first of all, don’t like that you identify as a woman, and– most importantly– have the power to hurt you for your choice.  In other words, we can’t attribute to natural causes or biological factors (or the will of the Higher Power) any sort of advantages of power that one class has over other classes on account of a political, economic and social system.

Trans exclusionary cisgender women hold a certain power within patriarchal capitalism even as they are also oppressed by this very system.  Their power is an objective reality, just as the reality that they are oppressed is objective.  In fact, white feminists and other transphobic women may feel threatened by trans women because they are already experiencing oppression under capitalism and perhaps believe that the gains they have made in addressing their oppression will be harmed by the recognition that trans women are women too.  White feminists– and white cisgender women, like Europeans (white people) in general– have a long history of kicking down at the identities beneath us on the ladder of oppressive patriarchy, using whatever advantage that we may have to climb higher up on this ladder by stepping on their backs, particularly in our relationships with Black women (trans and cis).

Transphobic white feminists assert whatever advantage that they may have under patriarchy by actually using the game and the rules that white cisgender men originally set up.  And one of the plays in this game set up by European imperialist capitalism is to use science– or “science”– and claims of “universal” truths and experiences to justify its need to dominate.

It is the European capitalist patriarchy which chose to objectify and control women based on certain body parts– a vagina, a uterus, and so forth.  These objects of oppression, having been weaponized against women by capitalism and patriarchy, are then used as weapons by transphobic feminists to claim a monopoly on womanhood on account of some material or biological reality that they assert.  But the only objective reality that transphobic feminists are proving in their claims to exclusive ownership of all womanhood is the power that they have, within the capitalist hierarchy, to harm transgender women– particularly trans women of color.

Trans women don’t have to play by the rules that transphobic feminists are using, just as all women– transgender and cisgender– don’t need to play the white man’s game.  However, most white women choose to do so because we believe there is an advantage to be gained by playing this game.  White women– transgender and cisgender– don’t care about Black trans women and women in colonized communities– African/Black women, Indigenous women, the majority of women in the world (trans and cis).  White women will use whatever advantage that we have under European imperialist capitalism to overcome our own oppression, regardless of the harm we impose on anyone else.  We’re not interested in disrupting the game and destroying the system that set it up: white women, and white people, just want to enjoy more of the benefits of the imperialist game whose rules have been set up by the white man.

At some point it may be more beneficial for trans women if we simply disengage from trans exclusionary cisgender feminists (“radical” or not) and let them run into the master’s house while we set fire to it.  Because transphobic feminists will never prove that we are not women, just as we won’t prove to them that we are.  The objective reality of the situation is that cisgender white women have more power to harm, even as they are experiencing harm in the white man’s house.  White women have always had the choice to side with oppressed peoples against our common oppressor and move to destroy the capitalist patriarchy.  But we have rarely done so.  And in this age of rising anti-Blackness, transphobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and increasing violence against sex workers in the global proletariat, if white feminists wish to take the side of President Trump and his supporters (which is basically what they are doing by engaging in transmisogynoir), then the objective reality that they are playing games with may be expressed by the old adage: “If you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned.”

Switching to another image: the wall that transphobic feminists are constructing around the colonized boundaries of white cisgender womanhood won’t reverse the global trend of revolution as oppressed people rise up against the oppressor and take back what has always belonged to them.  The arguments that trans exclusionary cisgender feminists use to keep trans women, trans men and nonbinary people “in our place” are less important than the power that they have to make these arguments.  If white feminists want to continue playing the role of shock troops in democratic fascism’s expansion of imperialist control, it’s not our duty to change their minds– it’s our duty (cisgender, transgender, however we may identify) to dismantle the system of power that created this role for them at the outset.

Transphobic cisgender feminists are just reacting– as reactionaries– to increasing volatility in the contradictions of global capitalism, and their reactionary behavior gives us a clearer picture of which side they are on.  Back when they felt that trans women were less of a threat, the ideologies of white cisgender feminists may have seemed “less divisive” and “less controversial”– but for them to see Black trans women like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox succeeding is enough to expose just how reactionary transphobic “radical” white feminists are.  So imagine how reactionary their behavior will be when the people strongly demand political, economic and social equality for all Black trans women, all trans people of color, and all oppressed identities– they will reach for any weapon they can use against us, just as they are using biological essentialism right now to build a wall around their heavily guarded, elevated white cisgender identity

If someone throws a rock at you, or builds a wall, or drops a bomb, or deports your family, or gentrifies your neighborhood, or harms you in any other way, and then claims their actions are based on facts, objective reality and science, there is no need to believe them or make arguments against them.  Because the objective reality is: an individual doesn’t have the power to commit this type of violence on their own.  They get it from a system: a system built on colonial exploitation.  And so the main goal is to destroy the systemic basis for their individual acts of violence.  Transgender women should just keep pushing back against the system (or cis-stem) that empowers cisgender white feminists to claim we aren’t “real women”– and then it will be their choice whether they change their minds or go ahead and use the very same weapons that the capitalist system is using against them.

It seems our concern shouldn’t be so much about the opinions of people who choose to take the side of the oppressor; our question may be instead: how are we going to organize to burn this thing down, all of it, all the way to the ground?

“Our House Is Burning Down”– Disregarding Transphobic Arguments, While Setting Fire to the System That Empowers Them

Unplugging From the Transphobic Machine of Global Capitalism

Plug

When we examine the connections between racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, slut-shaming, violence against sex workers, Islamophobia, fat-shaming and xenophobia, this examination of systemic oppression means, to some extent, recognizing how all these forms of oppression are plugged into one system of power: capitalism.  And capitalism is a global system of power.

Kwame Ture said, “There are only two economic systems in the world: capitalism and socialism.”  Capitalists want to confuse us about this objective reality and say there are hundreds of different systems, hybrids, mixed economies, all jumbled up.  We may have learned this from the “Comparative Economics” course we took in the university that, twenty years later, we’re still paying back our school loans to; the professor didn’t teach us about dialectical and historical materialism, Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, or Nkrumahism-Toureism, but we sure learned about how many departments and offices there are in this government or that government.  And so we get confused– which is exactly what capitalism wants.

But since there are two economic systems in the world, there are two forces moving against each other: the reactionary force, which seeks to make capitalism stronger and richer and more powerful, and the revolutionary force, which seeks to overthrow capitalism and create socialist systems of power and then, eventually, global communism.  These opposing forces are already taking shape on a global scale because– as Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the African People’s Socialist Party has demonstrated– capitalism was born out of the imperialist attack by Europe on Africa and the Americas and the majority of humanity.

This imperialist attack on Africa and the globe more than five centuries ago gave birth not only to capitalism but to the ideology of white supremacy.  Capitalism became inherently racist.  That’s why Malcolm X said, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”  And it was only on account of the unequal power that Europe possessed in this new global arrangement that it was able to promote its white supremacist ideology, which (of course) it continues to do today (in Europe, the United States, and wherever the white ruling class dominates).

The European ruling class– dominated by cisgender men– has been able to impose its racist, sexist, transphobic ideology on the world (for its own benefit and for the benefit of whites in general) because it has controlled the productive forces in this world economy called “capitalism.”  Without control of the means of production in the world economy, the white identity (particularly white cisgender men who sit at the top of capitalism’s unequal, oppressive class structure) would lose its stolen advantages of wealth and power, and, as a consequence, its racist, sexist, transphobic ideologies would lose their power to oppress as well.

So all these forms of oppression are plugged into the same source of power: global capitalism, which is dominated by rich white cisgender men, but which exists to benefit all white people (cis and trans, man and woman, nonbinary, agender, rich and poor, middle-class, gay, straight, bi).  And, since racism and transphobia both gain their power from the same source, it follows that the material basis for these forms of oppression is also the same: the dialectical relationship that exists between the European/white colonizer and the colonized peoples of the globe.  This material basis for capitalist power has developed according to dialectical forces in history, or evolving class antagonisms within the global economy, which hold society together but also threaten to pull it apart.  Reactionary forces from above (oppressive bourgeois white power) and revolutionary forces below (oppressed African proletarian power) are constantly moving society closer to or farther away from socialism.

Transphobic ideology reinforces the oppressive power of racist capitalism.  As transphobic oppression is moving to increase its marginalization of Black transgender women (and all queer, trans and nonbinary femmes in colonized communities), this erasure or suppression of their upward revolutionary energy– their will to survive– allows the white supremacist bourgeois ruling class to channel more and more resources in the direction of maintaining power over all oppressed peoples.  This is why Audre Lorde spoke such powerful truth when she said:

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is any one of you.”

The power that European imperialist capitalism has to oppress any one identity is connected to the power that it has to oppress all identities, although they “are very different from” your own.  Any resistance from an oppressed identity who is part of a colonized community threatens the overall power of capitalism, putting additional strain on its ability to control the wealth and resources which have been stolen from communities of color through genocidal violence.  At the same time it’s just as true that any reactionary force— on an individual level, but particularly at the level of an organization or a movement, such as the feminist movement– which reinforces the transphobia and sexism of capitalist power will simultaneously reinforce its power to oppress all groups who experience racism, sexism and class exploitation.

The ruling class can only enjoy its unequal amount of wealth and power by suppressing the revolutionary energy of each individual in each community who doesn’t belong to its identity– the white, cis, wealthy identity.  And the racist, misogynistic capitalists would prefer not to expend their energy suppressing Black trans women and trans people of color– they will gladly allow transphobic feminists to use whatever power they may possess to move violently against Black trans women and further erase them.  And as long as Black trans women are “unfree”— you will also remain in “shackles.”  You– the white cis woman.  Me– the white trans woman.  No woman on the globe will be free until Black trans women are respected, uplifted, paid, loved and recognized as women and people.

Connecting these various forms of systemic oppression may help us to recognize that, whenever we move against a marginalized group in one oppressive form of behavior, we move against them in another oppressive form.  Black trans women are Black, are transgender and are women.  So, if our ideology is transphobic, it is also white supremacist, because it harms people who are Black: it harms trans women who are Black.  And, because Black trans women are also women, this ideology is misogynistic as well.

Intersectional feminists (Black feminists) have taught us that the various parts of a person’s identity don’t exist in different boxes at different times.  If you harm a Black trans woman, and attempt to erase her womanhood, you are harming a woman, and you are harming a person in the Black or African community, and you are harming a trans person: transphobia, racism, sexism.  And perhaps she is disabled as well.  Quite likely she is working class.  She may be a Muslimah and an immigrant.  And all the ways we move against her are plugged into the same source of power.  The ideas that flow into our head– the idea to harm, the idea to erase, the idea to dehumanize, any oppressive idea that has entered our mind– was put there by the institutions and structures of a colonial bourgeois society.

All of us have reactionary and revolutionary forces within us– internal contradictions.  Our behavior reflects these contradictions, whether we intend harm or not.  We may be moving against patriarchy and capitalist oppression in one area of our lives but also reinforcing patriarchy and capitalist oppression in other areas.  In some ways this patriarchal, oppressive behavior is unavoidable because we all depend on capitalism to get the things we need to survive.  And this dependence that we have on capitalism instills its reactionary ideology in our political consciousness (creating false class consciousness), and reinforces the oppressive behavior which is typically related to our class (not just working class or rich, but Black or white– colonized or colonizer).  Racist, sexist, transphobic capitalism benefits whenever our internal contradiction are volatile, unstable, directionless.  Then our behavior moves in the direction of its choice, capitalism’s choice– against people of color, against women and against trans women (and, of course, all the above).

But we do have a choice about our behavior.  Individually, we can choose to organize our actions around ideologies and interests that move against the racist, sexist, transphobic ruling class.  This becomes a collective choice.  On our own we are mostly powerless.  Whatever power that we think we have has been gained mainly from our loyalty to the existing structures and institutions of capitalism.  If we benefit from our individual choices by aligning our interests with those of this system, and become wealthier and more powerful as a result, chances are we have done so only through the further oppression of marginalized identities in our own community or another community.  We may enjoy some of the benefits of capitalist oppression, but we can be sure that capitalism still has the power to take these benefits away at any time, and will do so through further exploitation and violence against Africans, Indigenous peoples and the majority of people on the globe– as well as the planet itself.

If we wish to dismantle patriarchy, and end class oppression, we must organize scientifically to move against the system of power that controls the entire political, economic and social arrangement of this hierarchical and global class structure.  Kwame Nkrumah famously said, Seek ye first the political kingdom and all things shall be added unto you.”  In other words– seize power, and once you have it, then use that power to smash patriarchy and all other forms of oppression.  But if you are transphobic, you’re just plugged into the existing system of power– capitalism– and you’re taking society further away from a world in which all people are treated as equals: an egalitarian society, where the people democratically share wealth and power.  If you are transphobic– regardless of your other progressive ideals– then you are harming people by engaging in reactionary behavior which is simultaneously racist, misogynistic, transphobic and economically oppressive.

Unplug from the transphobic machine of global capitalism … and connect to the power of the people!  Respect, pay, uplift and love Black trans women!

Unplugging From the Transphobic Machine of Global Capitalism

“Certain Uncertainty”: Questioning and Requiring Proof of Trans Women’s Womanhood

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[Content warning: transphobia/misogyny]

Professor Robert Jensen of the University of Texas at Austin writes in his article “How feminists can challenge liberal bathroom politics” (published on the Dallas News website and republished on Feminist Current):

“The core question: If someone is born unambiguously male as defined by chromosomes, genitalia, and secondary sex characteristics, but claims to be female (or vice versa), what does that actually mean? If sex categories are a product of the biological realities of human reproduction — that is, not about how a person feels but about physiology — what could it mean to be clearly in one category but assert a civil right to be in the other?

“This is a serious question about biology and reproductive-based sex categories, and the transgender movement has yet to offer a coherent answer. People’s internal subjective experiences may feel coherent to them, but the assertion of such an experience does not constitute an explanation, and public policy should be based on claims that everyone can understand.”

We won’t attempt to answer a question about the identities of transgender women that has been asked by a cisgender white man, because it’s unnecessary.  However, we will (rapidly) pivot off Professor Jenson’s misogynistic, transphobic remarks and ask another question:

Does personal identity require proof?

In short, no: one’s identity (as an individual who is part of a community) doesn’t require proof.

But perhaps we can consider what it means to question a person’s identity, particularly from the viewpoint of an historical and material advantage gained by the questioner’s own class or identity through exploiting and committing violence against the questioned person’s subjugated identity.  To question identity in this context is to use one’s power, violently acquired through the domination of one’s class over the class of the person who is being questioned (or violated).

There is one global economic system: capitalism.  And capitalism was born out of Europe’s imperialist attack on Africa and the Americas more than five hundred years ago.  Questions of “race,” gender, sexuality and all other political categories of identity are connected to the class structure of a world economy controlled by a system that was created by white people and for white people– particularly by and for white cisgender heterosexual able-bodied men with wealth.  No identity of any individual, anywhere in the world, exists outside this context of political, economic and social power.

In this context of imperialist capitalism, white people– possessing more wealth and more power at the expense of the world– have created ideologies which center our experiences, our identities, and our material interests.  These ideologies, while claiming to represent some universal and generally-applicable definition of humanity, are merely the cumulative expression of our class interests as Europeans who have been elevated on the global stage of capitalist power through the violent subjugation of the masses outside Europe.

Africans/Black people and so-called people of color have been forced by imperialist capitalism to enter into a relationship with Europeans/whites, as well as the rest of the world’s population, where the terms of this relationship have been defined by the class who controls the means of production in this global society: primarily cisgender white men with money (and cisgender white women who struggle to gain the same status of wealth and power as cis white men inside this patriarchal, white supremacist system).

Europeans (white people) have a history– a well-documented history– of believing we alone get to define the identity of each community, and of each individual within this community; and we are able to do this only on account of the violence of global capitalism that we both support and perpetuate.

Europeans (whites) have set ourselves up as the default of what it means to be “human” and to own personhood, including womanhood.  It’s not that anyone else has to believe our inhumane and backward definitions of humanity, where we’re placed, quite (un)naturally, on top.  But if they want “to play ball,” and gain access to resources that are necessary for life, and engage in international trade, and be financed by Wall Street, the people of the world are forced to react— on some level– to the inhumane, backward ideology of white supremacist, patriarchal capitalism.  Hopefully fewer and fewer “people of color” ignore the garbage that capitalism promotes– but as long as this system holds power on the global stage, the violent ideologies of whites will be an inescapable reactionary force moving against those who resist this force.

So questions of personal identity, in this international context of capitalist power, become for white people (and specifically cisgender whites) an expression of the material advantage we (or they) have on account of our (or their) relationship to this imperialist power.  And this power that capitalism has gained on the global stage is materially and historically connected to Europe’s invasion of Africa and the Americas and to the genocidal project of white supremacy against Africans, Indigenous peoples and all colonized identities.

The subject in this question– white, cis, often middle-class or wealthy– sets themselves up as the default “person” and then objectifies the identity in question.  Often multiple identities are simultaneously objectified and questioned by the probing white colonizer: “race” (a political category created by imperialist capitalism), gender, sexuality, and other (or Othered) classifications that are intended either to be integrated and assimilated into the white default of complete personhood, or discarded.

The white objectifier treats someone as “black” only in relation to whiteness, and even “white” itself is erased in favor of “human” (“I’m just a person.”  “I’m just an American.”).

The Average Joe or Average Joan needs Black people to be “black” in relation to his or her binary whiteness: white man, white woman, as “man,” as “woman,” for all humanity, and for all time, biologically, scientifically and even religiously so.  In this relationship, “black” becomes less than human; it must be something Other than human.  To the white objectifier– the European colonizer– the use of “black” people and “blackness” is to elevate “white” people beyond mere “whiteness” all the way to universal personhood.  This need for us to feel superior is perhaps connected to the historical reality that whiteness and white people can only exist, enjoying our “freedoms” in a system of bourgeois democratic fascism, on account of genocidal exploitation and violence against the people of the globe.

But once the white colonizing identity objectifies colonized identities, and defines them as something Other than the default of “human,” we fail to recognize that there is nowhere else for them to go.  A person can only be a person.  The European colonizer, playing the role of whiteness, says, “No, you can only be a ‘black person.’  I’m a person.  You’re ‘black‘.”

Comfortably wrapped in the skin and the other biological characteristics of white, cisgender personhood, the European colonizer is fed, clothed, housed, educated, entertained, nurtured by the colonized peoples of the world, and– on account of imperialist power– is able to use and discard “non-white,” “non-cis” identities.  And during this violently unequal exchange of commodified use-values, the cisgender white is empowered to define the relationship of subject and object, and then question the dehumanized commodity: “What are you in relation to me?  Prove it!”

Frantz Fanon wrote, “For not only must the black man be black; he must be black in relation to the white man.”

Fanon then goes on to say, of the black man, “The image of one’s body is solely negating.  It’s an image in the third person.  All around the body reigns an atmosphere of certain uncertainty.”

If a transgender woman cannot be a woman– at least in the eyes of the objectifying cisgender identity– then she really has nowhere else to go: she is effectively negated as a person, and is thereafter forced to half-live in this patriarchal, racist society, existing as a sort of out-of-body experience, a ghost hidden behind her physical form.  And we should remember that the United States of America was founded on the constitutional principle that Africans are three-fifths human– and were more like animals or machines to be used for labor and capital value.  In this context, telling a Black transgender woman that she’s not a real woman is nothing short of genocide– the same genocide that has created the illegitimate borders of the United States itself, and the same genocide that sustains white life in the U.S., in Canada, in Europe, South Africa, Australia, Israel and all around the planet.

Black people are Black because they say they are.  The only difference between a Latinx and a Black person is the difference they define for themselves.  Whiteness wants us to be hung up on color, shapes of faces and Other biological differences.  But the African person and the Indigenous person were brought together by a dehumanizing historical force– European imperialist capitalism.  Within this context of history– the evolution of material conditions in a world economy controlled by white people– if Afro-Latinxs say they are Afro-Latinxs it’s because they say they are.

Transgender women are women because we say we are.  The proof of our identity is in the power we have to live our truth.  And even if we are murdered, erased, dehumanized by a transphobic, misogynistic global system of power– which is additionally violent against women who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Filipina and queer, and working class, and disabled, and undocumented– this attempt to make us live as someone less than a person doesn’t change the authenticity of our identity.  If anything, it reinforces– through our resistance– the power of our womanhood.

Dr. Amanda Irvin of Columbia University writes on the Feminist Current website:

“Why did they let me think anyone could ‘identify’ as a woman and then send me out into a world where lesbian feminists and trans activists are duking it out over whether a penis is male or female? (It’s male, btw, and if you have a penis it’s unreasonable to get mad when lesbians don’t want to sleep with you.)”

To transphobic “radical” white feminists like Dr. Irvin, womanhood is a biological category that must be defended (somewhat in the same manner as the illegitimate borders of the United States must be defended by fascist capitalism) … otherwise there will be chaos, and soon anyone will get to “‘identify’ as a woman.”  This seems to be a terrifying prospect to cisgender white feminists, who use the presence of the vagina as an identification card for citizenship (personhood) in the “[cis] woman-only space” within the capitalist State.

Transphobic “radical” white feminists like Dr. Irvin and Meghan Murphy insist that “sex”– not “gender”– must be defined and then defended in opposition to the illegal aliens of fake womanhood– trans “women” who are men, and who are therefore relegated to some subhuman status of “certain uncertainty.”  Meanwhile, trans Latinxs are beaten and raped in detention centers and transphobic reactionaries attempt to make it illegal for women (trans women) to use women’s bathrooms and men (trans men) to use men’s bathrooms.

Safety, comfort, smug assurance of material advantages– these are the benefits of racist, patriarchal imperialism in a global economy controlled by cisgender Europeans.

But definitions of identity aren’t random.  It is the “law and order” of cisgender white capitalism that is chaos for the world.  Transgender identity is an expression of overlapping communities who are challenging the power that the existing system wields.  The truth of our identity as women is to be found in our very lives, as defined by our choice to express our authentic selves, becoming subjects in the first person of womanhood, fully occupying our bodies, in much the same way as women have struggled to do in every part of the globe for ages: the positive image of the self moving against the void of uncertain existence.

You will believe who we say we are, on our terms.  If you don’t, that will be your identity– the objectifying, negating enabler of racist, patriarchal, imperialist capitalism.

“Certain Uncertainty”: Questioning and Requiring Proof of Trans Women’s Womanhood