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.

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In Faux Color: Rachel Dolezal Is STILL a Parasite

“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

Whiteness Under the Microscope [Part 3]: Escaping the Imperialist Role of Exceptional Mediocrity

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

The basis for modern political economy is the system of international trade.  This global system– capitalism– was created when Europeans began to enter the “markets” of Africa, the Americas, and the rest of the globe, more than five hundred years ago.  European imperialism created not only capitalism but whiteness, a political identity that grew out of Europe’s ever-increasing material benefits gained from its trade relations with “non-Europeans.”  Since trade relations elevated the wealth and power of Europe and Europeans, it followed that the newly created white identity would reflect our elevated colonial or class status within this international context of the capitalist economy.

A global system of trade made capitalist power possible, which, in turn, led to the creation of the white identity.  So the white identity is essentially the [false] class consciousness that tells us we are superior, because we are part of a class whose riches and power came about mainly on account of a certain advantage gained on the stage of international trade.  Whiteness is a product of the global exchange of goods, and the exchange of humans who are objectified by the European capitalist power which controls this system of exchange.

Karl Marx wrote that “the characters who appear on the economic stage are but the personifications of the economic relations that exist between them.”  Africans became black to the white person on account of an economic system based on international trade, and due to the capitalist mode of production that grew out of this newly created global relationship.  And Europeans became white to the white person for the same reasons.  “Black” and “white” became “the personifications of the economic relations” existing between Africa and Europe, and, as a result, the inequality of the “races” became simply an expression of the unequal wealth and power in this relationship.

In order for the capitalist system to function in this continuous exchange of goods on an international scale, it became necessary for Europeans to objectify Africans and Indigenous peoples, as well as all identities outside Europe.  Marx also stated, “In order that these objects may enter into relation with each other as commodities, their guardians must place themselves in relation to one another, as persons whose will resides in those objects … .”  The commodification and exchange of Africans became absolutely necessary within this system of global trade for the continuing expansion of European wealth and power.  The will of Europe, whose goal was to create commodities for profitable exchange, was imposed on the objectified African identity.  However, Europeans could only enter this relationship by imposing whiteness on our identity, so that we could then play the role of the “guardians” of the “commodities.”  This role on the global stage– that of the “superior” white person– was necessary to congeal or solidify in the form of a white body the economic relations that existed between Europeans and the rest of the world, as part of this growing system of international trade, a system that launched Europeans out of the impoverished, diseased age of feudalism.

In 1965, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) said:

“[T]hat European, he’s got something going for him that other people don’t have going for them: he loves to kill—oh yes, he does. In Asia and in Africa, we kill for food. In Europe, they kill for sport. Have you not noticed that? Yes, they’re bloodthirsty, they love blood; they love to see the flow of other people’s blood, not their own. They’re bloodthirsty. But in all of your ancient Asian or African societies, the killing of game was done for food, not just for sport. You don’t get your kicks killing. They get their kicks killing. It gets good to them. Oh yes, you watch them sometime when they shoot a pheasant. I’ve watched them; when I was a little boy, I lived on a farm with white folks. When they shoot something, they just go crazy, you know, like they were really getting their kicks. And we have heard stories where they have lynched Black people, and right while they were lynching that Black man, you could see them getting their kicks, the thrill, while they do it. Whereas you and I, when we kill, we kill because we need to, either for food or to defend ourselves. That’s something to think about … once he got ahold of the gun, that suited his nature; and he used it, and took over the world, with that gunpowder and his lies—I don’t know which was the most effective. He lied and killed, to take over the world.”

In order to gain the upper hand or the advantage on the global stage of trade for profit, the Europeans not only used gunpowder– invented by the Chinese, as Malcolm X also stated– but Europeans also created ships that could travel great distances and carry large cargoes.  If Europeans had created ships that were only able to travel great distances, but couldn’t carry large cargoes, this technological advantage would have been of little use in the growing system of international trade.  On the other hand, if European ships had been able to carry large cargoes, but couldn’t travel very far, then they wouldn’t have been useful in establishing Europe’s domination of this emerging world economy.

Overall, European society was backward in comparison to the societies of Africa, the Americas and Asia.  Europe lagged behind the rest of the globe in the arts, the sciences, and the development of progressive ideas and government.  And perhaps it was this need or lack in European society which led to the creation of the tool or weapon– the ship– which would literally carry Europe out of the so-called Dark Ages and elevate it to the position it held on the world stage.  In any case, Europe used this one technological advantage– the ship– to create a system of regular and consistent trade in goods and lives, as well as the goods produced by these enslaved lives.  Without the slave ship, it’s unlikely that global capitalism would have given Europe the wealth and power it came to enjoy in this system of imperialist exploitation.

Dr. Walter Rodney wrote in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa:

“The first significant thing about the internationalisation of trade in the 15th century was that Europeans took the initiative and went to other parts of the world.  No Chinese boats reached Europe, and if any African canoes reached the Americas (as is sometimes maintained) they did not establish two-way links. What was called international trade was nothing but the extension overseas of European interests.  The strategy behind international trade and the production that supported it was firmly in European hands, and specifically, in the hands of the sea-going nations from the North Sea to the Mediterranean.  They owned and directed the great majority of the world’s sea-going vessels, and they controlled the financing of the trade between four continents.  … Europe had a monopoly of knowledge about the international exchange system seen as a whole, for Western Europe was the only sector capable of viewing the system as a whole.  Europeans used the superiority of their ships and cannon to gain control of all the world’s waterways, starting with the western Mediterranean and the Atlantic coast of North Africa.”

So the slave ship became both a symbol and a concrete example– the congealed or physical form– of the dialectical relationship that would exist between Europeans and Africans in this world economic system.  Objectified Africans were below in the hold: valuable as commodities and as the labor necessary to produce the commodities in this system of international trade.  Africans were both the capital and the labor necessary for world capitalism to flourish.  But first Africans had to be objectified and subjugated by an outside force whose lack of humanity failed to recognize their humanity.  And the objectifying Europeans were above on the deck: invading Africa, enslaving Africans, and violently suppressing the rebellion of Africans, and their revolutionary force rising from below.

Without Africa and Africans, the slave ship and its crew lacked any purpose, and any destination point, any jobs for the sweating, red-faced crew on their dangerous journeys abroad.  Without African wealth and power, the triangular trade on the Atlantic Ocean would have lacked an entire side, and would have collapsed.  Africa, and its workers, its gold, its great wealth, were absolutely necessary for the further colonization and exploitation of Indigenous peoples and lands in the so-called New World.

African life became the basis for European wealth and power.  Capitalism only could function as a global system of trade if subjugated Africans performed a certain role in this exchange, which then created the role for the Europeans, and the primary dialectic of capitalist oppression: oppressed and oppressor, colonized and colonizer, enslaved and slaveholder, cargo and crew, proletariat and bourgeoisie.  In the context of imperialist capitalist rule, it became absolutely necessary (in the words of Fanon) for “the black man [to] be black”— and (furthermore) to “be black in relation to the white man.”

In the struggle to be liberated from this dehumanizing relationship which arose from a system of international trade, the African, as subject of their own struggle, throws the white person’s identity into complete disorder– chaos,  confusion– as soon as the African sees themselves outside this unequal relationship of power.  Once Africans have recognized that the standard of humanity, as it has been defined by the white man, is hardly the highest goal for what it means to be a person (man, woman, nonbinary, agender– any person, generally speaking), and, in fact, is a mediocre level of personhood– or even lower than mediocre, is a backward object of exchange in human relations– then this freedom from the European’s definitions of humanity tends to ENRAGE white people.

As part of a system of international trade, of which white people are the guardians whose collective will resides in the objects to be exchanged, our entire existence as persons in this relationship depends on the subjugation of the Other: the human cargo in the hold.  Indigenous lands support the white American identity: above, below.  African lives and labor and resources enriched the white colonies of Europe, allowing us to break free from British monarchy.  White American freedom became the exchange value in the commodification of African lives, whose labor also produced the exchange value of cotton, sugar and gold which created the wealth of the settler colony called the United States of America.

White settlers were freed from England through the genocidal subjugation of Indigenous peoples and Africans.  The value of their lives was reflected in the value of our lives: “We the People”: independent, equal, prosperous, on top of the necessary dialectical counterparts, who must be dependent, inferior, poor.  If colonized Africans threaten to overthrow this relationship, the basis of the white identity is also toppled, and we grow angry, we feel all at sea, aimless, our system of “law and order” transformed to lawlessness and chaos.

The white woman in the Victorian novel sits sipping tea in a tidy garden, sunlight reflected in the silver teaspoon which she uses to stir sugar in the fragile porcelain teacup held by dainty fingers, as her white cotton dress ripples agreeably in the cool June breeze.  Although a slightly acrid odor is carried by the wind from this slender blotchy body, to be reinforced by the unpleasant odor of breath expelled through rotting teeth, this white woman, nevertheless, fancies herself to be superior to the invisible dark productive forces of Asia, Africa and the Americas which made this elegant English scene possible for her in the first place.  Her position in this exchange– tea, sugar, cotton, femininity etc.– exists in relation to the rough, rude men who brought these commodities over perilous seas to her little round table by a rosebush.  She becomes the Woman– generally so– and Superior– in relation to the “black” workers– only on account of a system of international trade, one in which the value created in this exchange flows primarily in the direction of whiteness, and (more importantly) toward this one, unique, special white woman.  Her self-image is shaped by the role which she plays on this stage of commodity relations– mainly as the fragile, precious default of Womanhood who is prized by the default of Man, both of whom are White.  Her value is calculated by the exchange of all the labor that went into creating White Womanhood.

The international system of trade– a complex net that supports the weight of infinite exchanges for profit– reinforces the hierarchies of European society by bringing resources from Africa and the world to the wealthiest and most powerful class of this society: white cisgender heterosexual able-bodied men with money.  This web of exchanges stretches around the globe, so all its crisscrossing lines– created by ships carrying their cargo, or by planes, or drones, or long-range missiles, or Super Bowl broadcasts– are not directionless, random, unpredictable.  Capitalism never could function on a global scale without the predictability of its ships– and their precious cargo of commodities/lives– arriving right on schedule.

Such a system requires managers who will direct these lines that crisscross the globe, assuring they do not become tangled, directing the materials that move along these paths toward Europe and whiteness.  The white man becomes the technical-minded manager, the professional “thinker” and “motivator”– the entrepreneur, the executive, the born leader who is the visionary of global “progress.”  Without the cargo, he is nothing.  He isn’t even white.  He’s just a diseased, impoverished serf who lacks the skill to produce the resources necessary for the advancement of his community.  Without capitalism, and the international system of trade that gave birth to capitalism, and to whiteness, the white person loses all sense of self– we no longer have any Marxian role to play “on the economic stage,” and our self-image crumbles along with our (false) consciousness of its relation to the larger world.

“London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down”

The white person is a worldly person; they are a creation of the world economy.  This sense of worldliness leads us to believe that we are advanced, independent, and exceptional in our progressive ideals (“the American way of life”).  Yet the white person lives off the resources of the world.  Our clothes are produced by the skilled hands of woman workers in Bangladesh.  The oppression of migrant workers on the occupied lands of the U.S. settler colony allows us to bring our unchapped but agreeably tanned unskilled fingers holding a piece of delicious fruit up to our eager mouths.

The white person is not only a worldly person, we are a consumer at heart.  We eat the world.  Whites consume the labor and resources of Africa– congealed in the form of the cellphone in the other hand– as we walk over the bones of Indigenous lives on land we just assume is ours.  It never enters our mind that the “locally grown” organic orange from Whole Foods is the product of [very much differentiated] labor by the skilled hands of the global proletariat whom we call “people of color” (when we aren’t entirely ignoring them, or when we’re not calling them “illegal aliens,” “thugs,” “rapists” and a hundred Other names required to prove our “superiority”).

To be a white person who plays the role of the bourgeois owner and manager, or the role of the petit bourgeois office worker (that irritable, bored professional who sits and types at their computer in a cubicle), or the rancher who brands cows and drives tractors on occupied Indigenous soil, is to exist on a plane that divides us– body and mind– from the global proletariat within an imperialist system of exploitation and exchange which is controlled by Europe.  Our existence on top of this plane unifies and shapes the white identity.  White people must be white in relation to “the black man,” an inverse (and perverse) image that is necessary for the ongoing subjugation of all colonized identities.  Whiteness is the reflection in the cracked mirror of colonialism as described by Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks: not only must the white man be white; he must be white in relation to the black man.

Five centuries ago, European humanity was broken, shattered– it lay in fragments.  The system of international trade that created capitalism gave the European a role on the global economic stage, as he became the personification of the objectifying force of slavery, colonization and exploitation.  In exchange for this role– created only on account of the relations among the commodities which entered into this exchange, making whiteness both possible and necessary— the liberated white man could feel superior … but superior to whom?  To the enslaved African, to the African and Indigenous victims of colonial genocide.  But this image of the European self– who saw his personification through the role he played in the exchange of commodities on the international economic stage– did not repair the broken, shattered humanity of Europe.  Quite the opposite: the shards of our humanity were fixed in place, only magnified beyond proportion, all gigantic sharp edges and monstrous distortions.

As capitalism gained more and more power, Middle Age European mediocrity was elevated– it must be elevated in relation to Blackness– and was then regarded as exceptional: “American exceptionalism.”  To be middle-class and white, and cisgender, was to be exceptional: the highest form of humanity that anyone in the world would ever wish to achieve.  And the requirement of capitalist power is that anyone who belongs to the working class and is Black and transgender must believe that they are far from the wondrous, unattainable level of not just the white man, but his counterpart, the white cisgender woman– the woman who sees herself in the negative of the white man, and sees the world outside her identity as the reverse image of the default identity of universal Womanhood.

Five centuries ago, European humanity was broken.  Today, it is still in fragments– “A heap of broken images, where the sun beats”— but, our white skin reflects something other than the light.  “Looking into the heart of light,” we may recognize that whiteness reflects the power gained in a system of global exchange, the wealth of the world and its productive forces stirred in a cup of tea.  We aren’t well.  White people fell down and can’t be put back together again– not without blackness, not without the connected oppressions of capitalist patriarchy.

Just as whiteness must be elevated in order for this system of exchanges on the world economic stage to function, so must the cisgender identity.  Cisgender womanhood as the default for all womanhood– an international system of trade requires such an arrangement.

To be transphobic is to be a white supremacist.  Why?  Because there are Black transgender women; there are transgender people of color.  It is highly unlikely that a desired transaction of identities on the global stage will be completed if the cisgender person recognizes that the commodified life, while inferior as trans, is nevertheless an acceptable level of humanity as Black: whiteness and capitalism have taught the cisgender Black man to murder the transgender Black woman.  The body that plays all these roles (gender, race, sexuality, and so forth) within the global system of exchanged commodities/lives is but one form all at once, and cannot exist separately from the various roles that are required by capitalism to be inferior: transgender, Black, woman.  For this reason, to be misogynistic is also to be racist.  Black women– and Latinas, and Afro-Latinas and Indigenous and Asian women– perform all these roles simultaneously on the international economic stage.  Their values cannot be separated within this global context, a context in which Europe plays the role of defining rates of exchange where all lives matter as objects designated to fill out its hierarchy of wealth and power.  But if the objectified person begins to define themselves– and furthermore, if they begin to recognize that the European is hardly the “measure of man,” of civilized, progressive humanity– then the elevated status of white cisgender personhood comes crumbling to the ground.  “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

The fear of the cisgender, white, middle-class (or wealthy) identity– elevated to the status of greatness within a system of international trade– is that their dialectical counterparts will no longer view their lives as the inferior, or even as the equal, of these roles, but as liberated beings who strive to reach a higher level of human development.  To be outside this trap, is to be human in a way that Europe has never attained– certainly not since capitalism solidified the roles of the colonizer and the colonized in a system of global exchange where the value of personhood was measured by its profitability as an object among Other objects.

And so, it follows, that the struggle to liberate humanity from this dehumanizing system of imperialist exploitation, is the globally connected revolutionary movement to destroy capitalism.  And this is a movement defined by the “unexceptional,” the “inferior,” the sex workers, and prisoners [of war], triggered disabled nonbinary unapologetic fat femmes, “oppressed” Muslim women, trans women who aren’t “real women.”  Only outside the capitalist, patriarchal definitions of exchange can we escape the trap which this international system of trade has created, and begin to share the planet as people, on humane terms of cultural exchange, rather than as mere representatives in the exchange of commodities whose sole aim is the creation of greater wealth and profits for the few.

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”

Whiteness Under the Microscope [Part 3]: Escaping the Imperialist Role of Exceptional Mediocrity

Whiteness Under the Microscope [Part 2]: Envy and Cynicism

microscope

The population of England in 1348 was 4.8 million.  By 1450 (a century later) England’s population had fallen to 1.9 million.  This large drop in the population of England was mostly due to the so-called Black Death, or the plague that reduced Europe’s total population by as much as sixty percent.  Then, beginning around 1490, England’s population rose steadily, surpassing the 4 million mark again in 1600, reaching 5.3 million in 1650, and 7.7 million in 1801.  By the end of the 19th century, England’s population had exploded to 30 million, and at the start of the 21st century it was 49 million.

So there you have it: from under 2 million people in 1450 to over 53 million people today– and that’s just in England.  Because there are also the English-speaking white people in England’s former colonies: the United States, Canada, and Australia, and in other parts of the globe.  Of course, many of the current inhabitants of these English-speaking countries didn’t originate in England, and England’s own population isn’t entirely white.  But, in any case, the tremendous growth of England’s population has reflected a similar growth in England’s access to resources, the production of which is necessary for the creation of life itself.  And England– like the rest of Europe– was also very poor in the fifteenth century, whereas it would become very rich and very powerful.

This tremendous increase in the wealth, power and population of England coincided with Europe’s imperialist contact with Africa and the Americas.  In fact, one may argue that the enslavement and colonization of Africans and Indigenous peoples was the primary cause for this huge growth in the wealth and power of England, and for the growth of the productive forces necessary to the creation of more English lives.  One could argue that Africa and its people were primarily responsible for this increase in the wealth and power of England and English-speaking white people, an increase that was so great, the lives created and sustained by this newfound (or newly stolen) labor, and by the resources they produced, couldn’t be contained in England, but had to spill over and spread all across the conquered lands of North America, as part of the “United States of America.”

Yet our focus here is not so much on the cause for this increase in the population of English-speaking white people (now spread all over the world, and, specifically, in North America), but rather the effects of this massive increase on what can be called the “class consciousness” of the white American identity.  Because it would take an even more massive dose of ignorance or pride to believe this great increase in the population of white lives (due to our increased access to resources necessary for creating life) wouldn’t have a profound impact on the way we view ourselves and also view everyone else in the world, and the world itself.  In other words, the class consciousness of white people– specifically that of white Americans– has been shaped by our evolving conditions over the course of history.  Each of us may be unique as one human being, but whites in the U.S. aren’t superhuman– we aren’t superior.  We aren’t that special.  We aren’t above the conditions that have shaped our ability to survive, and therefore have shaped our view of ourselves, and of everyone else.  And these conditions have formed what is called the “class consciousness” of white people: the shared ideas, aspirations, and material pursuits of the white identity (specifically in the United States).  We don’t necessarily share the same values, but even our ideological conflicts rest upon the same line or plane of consciousness.  This experience– or “worldview”– is sometimes considered universal, but we are only empowered to believe in a generalized (or whitewashed) truth and reality for all humanity on account of our class status as white people.  There may appear to be an entire spectrum of humanity within the white imagination, and we may think we possess the ability to take in and understand some universal experience shared by the entire world, yet even this belief has been shaped by centuries of greater access to wealth and power within the global economic system of capitalism.

As the white population spilled out of Europe and spread over North America, this ability to take up more physical space on the planet formed an essential aspect of the white American consciousness.  While the capitalist system was seizing land from Indigenous peoples, and was building its economic prowess off the forced labor of Africans, the white identity was creating a liberal ideology upon a kind of plane– a line, but more like a great weight– that was pressing down on all these colonized identities.

According to this new and growing ideology belonging to the white population of North America (developed through the growth of the white population itself), Europe was regarded as conservative or regressive, with its monarchs, its feudalism, its religious “superstition,” and its many other old, worn, easily-discarded traditions.  Having acquired all this land on which to spread out, and all these riches of a rapidly expanding nation-state by which to sustain our existence, the white American identity needed a political ideology to match, one that is liberal, “progressive,” youthful in spirit, individualistic, and rigid enough to keep such a social arrangement intact, while flexible enough to recognize the “unalienable rights” of slave-owning, colonizing whites.

The massive increase in the white population (based on the land, resources and labor of Africans and Indigenous peoples) required a political ideology that would reflect this new material reality, and then a system of power to enforce these class interests of the newly-created white bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie.

The class consciousness of the white population in the United States was shaped by the actual contours of the occupied continent– “the lay of the land.”  The land itself was the “New World”– new to the European colonizer.  Consequently, the European colonizer began to view himself as a new man: young, adventurous, eager to take on risks and discover fresh ideas.  He became the entrepreneur, the innovator, the man with a vision.  And the land upon which he was spreading out was rugged– so the white American became rugged.  The riches of the land awaited the brave explorer, the rough and determined white man who was ready to work hard and beat the odds.  The white American saw himself as the free, unfettered individual who was always eager to face the great (but welcomed) difficulties and trials that loomed around the bend.  He was unburdened by old-fashioned customs and systems.  The many-centuries-long distrust of “Nature” that had been perpetuated by the imperialist version of Christianity in Europe was replaced in the white political consciousness with a renewed trust in “Nature” and the solitary “Man”– but a distrust in people.

The newly-formed political consciousness of the white settler in the United States was marked by his lack of trust in other white settlers, particularly the settler who lived on the other side of the hill, or the other side of the property-line (the fence, the river, the street).  The sense of spaciousness that nurtured the individualistic idealism of the white American also created in him the need for even more space.  No property was big enough to contain the massive individualism of the white American, who was (body and mind) a product of the massive growth in the population of English-speaking white people around the globe.  Every house needed to be bigger than the house before, with more bathrooms, more garages, more cars for these garages.  As the white settler spread out on lands that were inhabited by Indigenous peoples, both his body and imagination required more room for this expansion.

Yet the spaciousness of the “American Dream” was still confined to the greater requirements of the capitalist system, whose rigid class hierarchy and violent subjugation of colonized peoples not only allowed the white American to dream, but to live at all.  Without capitalist power, he was dead.  So the white American’s class consciousness, while remaining expansive in one sense (because it aligned with the necessary expansion of capitalist empire), also remained cramped in the small, tight space of liberal (or libertarian) individualism.  He lived freely, yet felt he still couldn’t breathe.

This sense of confinement, on top of so much land, necessarily led to two essential aspects in the white political consciousness:

First, the white person in America tends to feel perpetually discontent, and experiences constant envy of those with more wealth and power in the class above our own.  There is all this land, all this potential to be better off than we are, and we’re surrounded by so many opportunities, yet here we are stuck in the [white] working class.

But this envy is even more intense for white people in the middle-class.  We grow extremely envious of the rich.  In fact, this envy is so great that it either becomes confused with actual political differences within the white identity, or the opposite: instead, we see all humanity as part of the same chaotic struggle or battle to “get ahead.”  And if we don’t “get ahead” then it’s our own fault, and we simply didn’t work hard enough, or we had bad luck, or we needed to be stronger.  But this entire storm of envy and activity– which, as a concrete example, may take on the form of rush hour traffic in a large city– is just one big tangled mess of whiteness that sits on top of the colonized peoples of the globe.  This furious scramble for riches by white colonizers (like “The Scramble for Africa” at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85) may be fueled by discontent, envy and the need to “get ahead,” but it’s all scrambled up on this great weight that is supported by the labor and resources and land of the global proletariat.

The second aspect to our political consciousness created by this sense of confinement that the individual white American experiences– in spite of so much “available” land and wealth– is our feeling of cynicism.  Because our worldview is confined straight up and down in this cramped area of the individual (the unique self who is part of a white population mass which has occupied so much of the earth’s land mass and has therefore been able to spread out more and more) we end being isolated in the belief that the “I” of the individual is everything.  It grows lonely in this skyscraper towering in the clouds of our dreams.  Or it’s lonely out on the range, surrounded by nothing but … nothing, miles and miles of nothing.  Since this land had shaped Indigenous identities long before we “discovered” it, it’s only natural that white people– in a system whose liberal political ideology encourages individualism– feel mainly connected just to ourselves, as individuals, “nothing” else.  Perhaps this is why it’s so easy for white people to destroy and pollute this land.  We are not really connected to it.  It is not a part of our identity, except in the solipsistic sense of land being an extension of the white self in the form of private property.  “Private” is good.  Private: as in, it protects us from the masses whom we greatly distrust.  But things can become too private– privation.  So we grow incapable of enjoying the very things that have constructed our identity.  The European colonizer on occupied Indigenous lands becomes cynical as the promises of individual freedom and the endless consumption of resources give way to a sense of world-weariness, where the world is the self– and where else is there to go?

Driven by this sense of world-weariness, and cynicism, and jaded individuality, the European colonizer (or white person) is constantly hoping to find something around the bend to satisfy this yearning for fulfillment: new lands, new dreams beyond that ridge, new worlds to discover.  Yet the world they keep finding is the same old self, secluded from history and humanity, and even from the land we occupy.

Having made, as it were, a deal with the devil, the European colonizer pushes forward through jungles, dangerous forests, and vast deserts, armed with a gun (from the barrel of which all political power grows), but, even more importantly, carrying a sense of superiority.  Isolated in a hostile region– surrounded by strange noises from animals or animal-like people who may need to be killed before they kill– the white colonizer indulges these feelings of distrust, and then becomes the uniquely gifted and courageous hero of their own story (somewhat embellished in the telling), who only pulled the trigger to escape harm to them, and who never intended ill will toward anyone else, but just wanted to satisfy their own curiosity, their own passion for discovering new things.

Perhaps, as the white population has expanded upon colonized lands, the humanity of this population hasn’t had the chance to catch up with its greater numbers, as well as its greater wealth and power.  What’s left?  Essentially empty people whose humanity consists mainly of wealth and power and little else, a void we attempt to fill through further consumption of the world’s finite resources, and through feelings of superiority that are indulged by the liberal ideology of the ruling class in a system whose only aim is to create greater profits through the violent exploitation and subjugation of the colonized world.

And perhaps, in the words of T.S. Eliot (a bit of a schmoe in his own right),

“We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion …”

Whiteness Under the Microscope [Part 2]: Envy and Cynicism

Whiteness Under the Microscope: Discouragement and Rage

malcolmximage

“He examines us all the time. He has the Black community throughout this land always under a microscope just like in a scientist’s laboratory, to find out how you’re thinking, to keep up to date on how you think, on the beat of your pulse—are you beating too hot, or is your temperature running too hot, or is it cool. He wants to know how you think and how you feel. If you seem to be working up a temperature that he’s not responsible for, it worries him. As long as your temperature rises when he puts the pressure, that’s okay. But if he sees you making some reactions that are motivated other than by something that he has done, then he begins to worry. He finds that something else is influencing you and controlling you beyond his control and influence. And he should worry when you begin to get like that.”El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), 1965

I’m sure there are white people like me who spend a lot of our time focused on Black literature, Black history, the Black liberation struggle, and Black culture.  And not just during Black History Month– we read Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Assata Shakur, Huey P. Newton, George Jackson, Angela Davis, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown), Elaine Brown, Kwame Nkrumah, Walter Rodney, Frantz Fanon, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Jalil Muntaqim and many other Black or African authors all year round.  And we follow Black organizers and artists on social media, and read their blogs, and (hopefully) subscribe to The Burning Spear newspaper.  So, through all this studying and discussing, it seems we would hope to have learned a great deal about what is sometimes called “the Black experience.”

In a world that is anti-Black, and in a global economic system (capitalism) that tends to ignore and erase the Black experience or identity, perhaps it’s a good thing for white people to have something similar to a “pro-Black” attitude.  Whether it’s actually pro-Black or not– since we’re white– is up for debate.  But we’re trying to pay attention.  And maybe that’s not a problem.  However, the problem with whites who are so focused on Black people– what they are saying, writing, doing, thinking, feeling– is that we aren’t putting our own identity under the microscope and examining who we are and then trying to develop our own humanity.

Obviously, whites have no difficulty focusing on ourselves and centering our own identity.  Whites have tremendous difficulty doing anything else but focus on ourselves– how we feel about this or that issue, what our opinions are, and also what everybody else should be feeling and saying about these issues (and how politely they should say it).  But what’s hard for us to do– as white people– is to struggle with our identity and with the historical basis of this identity in relation to everybody else on the globe, and even in relation to the world itself (or nature).  This is why white vegans may weep over a hamburger but won’t see the humanity of a Black child who has been murdered by the police– we haven’t struggled with all the connections that exist between people and planet, and where our behavior and identity as white people might fit into all of this.  Once we recognize that human society is part of nature, and that societies develop according to the objective laws of nature, then perhaps we can begin to understand– outside the small enclosure of our subjective imaginations– what it means to be “white” and how our “whiteness” affects people and planet.

So it’s a little creepy (or even more than a little disturbing) for whites to spend all this time focused on what Black people are doing, saying, thinking, feeling.  But the whole non-Black world tends to do this– we try to talk like Black people, dress like Black people, make music like Black people.  Our imitations are perhaps less than flattering because our uses of Blackness are confined to such a narrow area: music, sports, clothes, “slang.”  And white socialists who wish to appear revolutionary also use Blackness, borrowing the language and images of the Black Panther Party and other Black revolutionaries, such as Malcolm X (see above) and Assata Shakur, because we want to perform a certain kind of anti-establishment militancy.  Plus, it’s “cool.”  And so we study the movements of Black people– that is, the political movements, but in the other sense too– in somewhat the same (stiff) fashion that white kids with crew cuts in the 1950s studied Black musicians who were creating rock-and-roll.  It’s hard for us to think of a militant white people’s revolutionary movement which isn’t a carbon copy of the Black Power movement.  We look at what Black people are doing to get free from capitalist oppression and then try to imitate (or appropriate) their language and the images that they have created for their own benefit (such as the famous photograph of John Carlos and Tommie Smith raising their fists in the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics, which was co-opted by white gays to celebrate marriage equality– mostly for white gays).

It’s true that whites spend a lot of time looking at ourselves when it comes to “unpacking” our “privilege” as “allies” in our “anti-racist” or “racial justice” work.  And perhaps there is some benefit to this effort at self-examination.  However, it seems that our efforts to fight racism are based on the self-centered feeling that we want to show Black people and people of color that we aren’t racist, that we’re one of the “good” whites, and so we’re hoping, as a result, to get their approval (and an invitation to the cookout) … as if that’s what is at stake: Black approval of our white selves.

Social media has become a great method or means for white people to perform “wokeness” and to show Black people that we’re not one of the trolls who harass them all day (until they– Black people, that is, not the trolls– get banned on Facebook or Twitter).  Our performance is mainly for the perceived Black audience, or is an attempt to “out-woke” the next white person.  This sort of individualistic competitiveness is one of the main characteristics of the class mentality of white people in the capitalist society. Furthermore, we’re still focused on ourselves in relation to the other.  And this focus is based– historically and materially– on the colonial relationship that has existed, in dialectical terms, between the white identity (the colonizer) and the Black identity (the colonized).

The difficult task for whites is to place ourselves under the microscope and then observe and record the dialectics of the white identity and its behavior in an historical context.

Historically, whites have segregated ourselves from Africans and all so-called people of color.  But our segregated consciousness of the white self was dependent on the existence of the other, and how we relate to them.  Mostly we had to tell ourselves that we were superior to them.  Or we felt guilty about our previous claims to superiority, and so we had to tell ourselves that society was making progress– for everyone together, us and them.

Whites have always tried to learn about our well-being in this society by taking the temperature of colonized peoples– specifically, Africans or Black people.  If their temperature was running high, then we grew anxious, because it meant that something must be going wrong with the entire society.  Never mind that the entire society has been divided– violently and systematically divided– by the white colonial power, by capitalism.  But whites have been so busy taking the temperature of Black people– how do “the blacks” feel about police brutality? about prisons? about Trump’s latest move?– that we haven’t taken the time to check in on the health of the collective white body, which isn’t doing well at all, and which needs some serious help.

So let us look then, “you and I,” at this “patient etherized upon the table,” or (to further mix metaphors in reckless abandon) let us cause the white identity to be “formulated, sprawling on a pin … pinned and wriggling on the wall” and let’s put ourselves under the microscope.  Let’s fix our gaze on ourselves; observe the works and days of whiteness, and examine what it means to be white.

The white identity– like the American identity– is essentially a creation of imperialism.  We know this to be true because, before we were white, we were English, German, French, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, and (later on) Italian, Irish, and Greek and so forth.  It was only through imperialism that we became white.  And while European imperialism is essentially racist, Europeans didn’t invade the world on account of our white supremacy.  We invaded the world for its resources, its land and its labor.  And it was through these resources, and all this labor and land, that we gained the power to become “white” or “American.”  If we hadn’t colonized Indigenous lands and taken their resources, we’d still be English– in England.   And it was this colonial situation– as part of the larger imperialist design of capitalism– that created the relationship of “whites” to “blacks” (and anyone else who wasn’t empowered to identify as “white”).  Without the colonization of the Americas, and the wealth produced by African labor and lives, the white identity wouldn’t exist.  We’d still be whatever we were in Europe, in all these separate little countries and identities.  It was only after the colonial genocide that we began to commit against Indigenous peoples, and Africans and most of the world that Europeans became “white,” and– in the United States– “American.”

Once we begin to observe whiteness in action, we should grow very uncomfortable with ourselves– wriggling in pain on the wall, or on the slide under the glaring light.  And our first impulse might be to look away, and focus instead on Black death, Black suffering– the kind of stories from The New York Daily News that we share on Facebook, blood dripping down the screen.  Or we might wish to justify our violent behavior through more arrogant (but nervous) expressions of white supremacy, claiming that the genocide we are committing is only “law and order”– or is “for the greater good.”  Or we might want to tell ourselves that, OK fine, “America” got off to a rough start– all those Founding Fathers who owned enslaved Africans while they were writing about liberty and equality– but things are progressing.

However, for the most part, we don’t even have to examine ourselves under the microscope; whites aren’t forced to look at our own behavior because we are empowered by colonial capitalism to focus on everyone else: on the “problems” of the Middle East, and China, and “minorities” in this country.  Whites enjoy observing everybody else, analyzing their problems– welcoming or deporting refugees, after creating the conditions that they are fleeing.  This constant attention on everybody else takes the focus off ourselves, helping us to avoid the discomfort that comes from any self-awareness of the white identity and its behavior.  In fact, we don’t even like to be called “white”– we’re just “American” or we’re just a “person” (the default for all humanity).

European colonizers (whites) in the United States, and wherever we live in the world, aren’t forced to examine our own behavior– not yet.  But so-called people of color have had more than their fill of our behavior, and cracks are beginning to appear in our wall of indifference, in the bricks of feigned ignorance about the harm that the political identity of whiteness continues to inflict on the world.  White people– the objectifiers of humanity– are now being objectified by communities whose oppression has been the basis for our own elevated status– and for the white identity itself.

One of the worst things you can do to a white person is make us look at who we are– at the crimes we have committed, the mediocrity we have tried to pass off as excellence, the culture we have stolen, and the brutal system of capitalism that we have created.  As soon as whites are forced to look at ourselves and at the history of our behavior, we call this “racism,” or “reverse racism” or “white genocide.”  But it isn’t just the “alt-right” and the “uneducated” supporters of Trump who cringe in discomfort whenever whites catch a glimpse of ourselves and begin to examine the facts about the white “American” identity.  White liberals and white socialists don’t like it either.  Because, up until now, we’ve been able to blame our violence and racism on those other whites— the racists in the South like George Wallace and Sheriff Jim Clark and Jeff Sessions– while we convinced ourselves that we’re the nice white people.  If a Black woman on Twitter points out that maybe we’re not so nice, and that our behavior is just as problematic as that of the conservatives, watch how quickly whites on the left will prove her point, and explode in a rage of tears and defensiveness.

Until whites can actually look at ourselves and examine the object of whiteness under the microscope, and believe for ourselves its objective reality, we won’t recognize or begin to understand the systemic oppression of humanity– or even what it means to be human.  So far, we’ve been empowered to perform a very different kind of work in our laboratories of whiteness– the concoction that is “America,” a monster let loose on the world, devouring people and planet, and that mix of arrogance and insecurity, aggression and fragility, which became the genocidal formula for “white supremacy.”

The project for whites today is not to save people of color from racism– it’s to save ourselves from whiteness.  It’s time for European colonizers to heal the wounds created by capitalism, and to recognize the disturbing reality of our own disfigured, mutilated humanity.  It’s not just about allyship.  It’s about answering this question for ourselves: What’s at stake for whites in the struggle against capitalist oppression?  If we can’t feel on a deep, subjective level– individually and as a class– that something is intolerably wrong with whiteness and with the white supremacist society that Europeans have created, then how can we be of any use to Black people in their struggle for liberation … and how can we even recognize their value as people?

Our aim shouldn’t be simply to “love ourselves” and “accept who we are.”  Capitalism will sell us anything based on its ability to make us think this purchase will cause us to love and accept ourselves: we could buy a can of Pepsi, or some laundry detergent, and our whole world is supposed to be magically lit up with sparkles, fireworks and eternally youthful laughter.  Then we become discouraged to find we are still … just us.  And in order to get out of this rut, we now think perhaps we need to change brands, or dig a little deeper into our own feelings of discontent and unhappiness so that each of us can find the “new me.”

We’re colonizers– the old me, the new me– “you and I” are European colonizers who benefit from ongoing genocide, colonizers whose identity is based on stolen land, labor and resources.  That’s the problem revealed under the microscope.  But don’t be discouraged, which is what capitalism wants us to be.  Then it can sell us the means to escape this discouragement, as our guilt and discomfort are converted into more profits.

Get angry!  The opposite of discouragement should be rage.  Rage is the cure for discouragement.  But don’t get mad at Black people, for being Black, or at Muslims (of color) for being Muslims– or at Black Muslims for being Black and Muslim.  In fact, we don’t even have to get mad at ourselves.  Get mad at the system we were born into, that we’ve been taught to defend and love: capitalism.  Get mad at “America.”  And let’s feel this rage for ourselves.  No– not for ourselves– which is like self-pity, and isn’t useful– but as ourselves.

I don’t know what your reason to fight is, but each one of us can reach down into ourselves and find something that isn’t based on white supremacy and capitalism, and the European colonial identity, and then we can use that.  Rage can be very useful.

Whatever that is– the basis for our rage– we can turn that into our humanity.  And that’s why capitalism doesn’t want us to be outraged, or “divisive,” or “violent,” and why it tells us that we shouldn’t focus on “identity politics”– and on the devastating meaning of our own white identity.  Blame Trump and his supporters.  Or don’t blame Trump– say he’s Presidential.  Elevate that white mediocrity.  Be nice to his supporters, to the Nazis and other whites who burn down mosques.  But whatever you do, don’t get angry and start “blaming society.”  Capitalism– the enemy of human progress– doesn’t want white people to recognize that our white identity is a creation of this capitalist system; because then we might become very angry that this system has turned us into parasitic colonizers who lack essential human qualities (such as empathy, authentic culture and spirituality). Then we might focus on the main enemy, and move to overthrow it.

If our sense of self– in relation to the larger society– doesn’t begin with rage, and with a deep and growing hatred for what the capitalist ruling class has done to this society, then perhaps we haven’t truly looked at ourselves under the microscope.  It’s understandable that European colonizers (white people) might want to look away from our identity.  But let’s look at it– the white self– because those feelings of tremendous anger that we experience when we examine our identity may be something we can use for the development of a better society.  This difficult process of self-examination may take root and begin to grow into something real, and beautiful– an identity worthy of inclusion within the global community, and not merely a fake expression of hoarded wealth and power.

Whiteness Under the Microscope: Discouragement and Rage