The obvious white supremacists– or the blatant racists– tend to be more honest about the true nature of “American” society than most of the white people on the left-wing of the colonizing class. This is the case because, while the blatantly racist reactionaries hold the belief that they are good (and that “America” is good), they are also unambiguous about their belief that this “good” excludes colonized Africans/Black people and so-called people of color, particularly if they are Black women (transgender or cisgender).
On the other hand, white leftists of the colonizing class are faced with a contradiction (a unity of opposites) that cannot be resolved according to the terms of the white identity itself: first, we believe that this society currently is not— but can and (therefore) should be– inclusive of Black people and so-called people of color; but (second) we believe that we (the white progressives) are good. We want to be good– just like the blatant white supremacists believe they are good– but our definition of goodness runs against our white identity (which was created by colonial genocide). In contrast, the blatant white supremacists equate goodness with whiteness (or the “American” identity).
Whites who are obviously racist have no problem equating “America” with “whiteness.” Whites whose racism is more subtle quite often still want to “make America great again”– particularly if they are liberal whites– because they believe in the U.S. Constitution (not to mention the ACLU), and Lincoln, FDR, Jack and Bobby Kennedy, the Clintons, and some mythological tradition of that good (even great) “America” which is currently being threatened by Trump and the conservatives.
This is a mythological view of “America” because all the wealth and all the power of the United States, and even its very existence, has always depended on the genocidal and capitalist colonization of Africans, Indigenous peoples and the majority of the global population. In that sense, “America” cannot be good– it never has been and never will be– and neither can “whiteness.” This contradiction in the mindset of progressive whites is far more difficult for us to deal with than the mindset of the right-wing reactionaries who believe that saying “Black Lives Matter” and condemning genocide against Indigenous peoples (and Africans) is just “white guilt,” or “reverse racism” (as well as “white genocide”).
This isn’t an argument that blatant racists are honest on purpose. Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael) used to say: “Capitalism doesn’t lie some of the time; it lies all of the time. Even if it tells the truth, it’s only the result of a double lie.” Because a blatantly racist person– one doesn’t even need to add “white” to “person” because Black people can’t be racist– probably will insist that they are the least racist person on earth and that they “don’t have a racist bone in their body.” Their brain may be incredibly racist, and their heart is rotten to the core– but at least their bones are free from racism. In fact, the blatant racist often thinks the real racists are Black people.
The blatant racist’s hateful ignorance can be infuriating, but it’s important to remember that the higher up you go in the patriarchal, white supremacist and bourgeois society of the United States, the less humane and the less smart you have to be. It takes real intelligence to survive this system and its inhumane exploitation and commodification of people and planet. It’s not so hard just to sit at the top of a skyscraper hiring and firing people. It’s easy to enjoy the protection of the security guards in blue uniforms while you hide behind your high gates, getting high and counting your cash. It doesn’t take brains, guts or a heart for you to stand in the U.S. Senate giving dull speeches on how “great” this country is– or used to be– while you send off those troops you support so much for them to kill and be killed. Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it … if you don’t try. Just be white, rich and cisgender.
Every blatant white supremacist thinks they are John Wayne out on the range, and that they built their fortune from the ground up with their own two hands. But they wouldn’t last one day in a factory in Bangladesh or a mine in Africa. So the racist bourgeoisie constantly lies about who they are. Nevertheless, they are unintentionally honest about what “America” is. The white liberal says, “No, no, no– that’s not us.” But that’s because nearly all whites want to enjoy the benefits of the brutal exploitation of Black and Brown people that is being carried out by the wealthy class at the top– some of us just want to do so without the burden on our conscience that this is blood money, and that the whole thing is built on stolen labor, land, resources, culture and lives. Because where else is there for us to go? Blatant racists tell Black people to “go back to Africa”– as if that is so awful– but whites in the U.S. can’t even go back to Europe, because it couldn’t contain all of us at this point, particularly if it were discontinue its imperialist invasion and exploitation of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
So nearly all white people need “America” to be good. In fact, let’s just say all white people need this– if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be white. We’d probably be in some impoverished eastern European country. However, as white people— and especially as “American” whites— our entire conception of who we are and what we believe would disintegrate, and would fall apart into a million pieces, if whites in the U.S. didn’t feel there must be some good to be salvaged in this violently racist arrangement of society. We must be good— we must!
Of course, it’s not really about being good or bad, nor is the basis for our ongoing genocidal violence against the people of the globe based on the ideas in our minds or our judgments of ourselves and the world. Are blatant racists hateful and evil? Yes. But that’s not what motivates them to act– or, rather, react. Blatant racists react for many of the same reasons that subtle racists react:
Whiteness is a reactionary identity. That is, whiteness– created out of a racist, bourgeois, imperialist revolution which created all our wealth and power– is reacting to any threat of revolution coming from colonized people. Whites are reacting to any proletarian force coming from below– from Africa, Latin America, Asia and so-called people of color in the United States– that would overturn this system and this country. Is our behavior hateful and evil? Yes, and yes. But that’s not why we act, or react. White people are reacting to perceived threats against our power. That goes for whites on the right-wing or the left-wing of the colonizing white identity– it doesn’t only mean Donald Trump and his supporters, because this reactionary behavior also includes Bernie Sanders and his white supporters (not to mention Lady Gaga).
In some ways, the blatant racists are far more ignorant and clueless about their racism than the subtle racists who are expressing shock, horror and anger at this blatant racism. After all, “America” must constantly revolve its contradictions on the terms of its existing power structure and in the interests of the ruling class whose ideologies permeate the entire “American” society. What does this mean? It means that the white supremacist ruling class– and the racist white majority in this country– would be just fine removing Confederate statues, if this meant preserving and expanding the power of the current system. In other words, don’t touch Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument– and (more importantly) don’t touch the U.S. Constitution, Wall Street, and Wall Street’s outpost in the District of Columbia called “the White House” (as well as the Senate, the Supreme Court, and, of course, the Pentagon). The side that wanted slavery as a dominant economic institution in the South lost. The side that wanted a more subtle form of slavery won (sort of). So the racist ruling class already moved to resolve that contradiction, and– having won– has been continuing its project of global domination by Europeans– that is, by white people, all white people. Except ignorant members of the KKK, alt-right, and Trump’s fan base can’t see beyond their pale, pointy noses, and don’t realize this whole thing called “the United States” exists for the benefit of white people, whereas the Confederacy is a useless relic of the past, a contradiction of racist, bourgeois society which has long since been resolved.
The subtle racists are more slick than that. We love to talk about “diversity”– which is a selective re-population of previously Black and Brown spaces that have been violently occupied by white people and whiteness– and we love to talk about being “non-racist” or “anti-racist.” If we ever hear “minorities” talking about freedom, justice, peace and equality, then we nod our heads in agreement, because we’re against racism (as well as injustice, violence and inequality, and “hate” and “ignorance”). But as soon as Black and Brown people– who are the global majority– start talking about power, then we get very quiet. Now, that sounds scary. That sounds like … Trump, and his supporters. This is especially true if they’re talking about moving to acquire power in much the same way as it was stolen from them– through violence. Then we insist that they remain nonviolent. Meanwhile, the entire white population of the United States— regardless of the ideas and beliefs in our minds– benefits from violence against Africans and Indigenous peoples on the most extreme scale imaginable. But we’re not worried about threats to our values and beliefs; subtle racists are worried about the same thing that frightens the blatant racists– which is a loss of wealth and power. It’s an irrational, selfish fear that our way of life might be overthrown by those whose lives this system of power has so completely disrupted.
This is why asking white people to dismantle white supremacy is like telling a gang of thieves to oppose theft. If you’re against theft, stop being a thief. But white people can’t stop being white– at least, not as long as the United States and capitalism (which are responsible for creating the political category of whiteness) are still in power. Now, this isn’t an argument that we should simply give up, because– oh well, one way or the other– we will still be white, and racist. We still need to talk to our racist uncle, mother, brother or gender non-conforming sibling, and monitor what sort of white supremacist violence they might be up to– so we can stop the next Dylann Roof, or Donald Trump. And, as far as engaging in some form of struggle, you can’t deny that white anarchists (whatever we may think of their political theory) are doing something to destroy capitalism, and are moving against the repressive state– while Marxist-Leninist theoreticians sit on a campus of a private university and argue about the finer points of dialectical materialism.
Even so, only Africans can liberate Africans. Only Black people can seize power for Black people. Whites can “gather our cousins” all we want, but it’s, well, racist, to believe that we are somehow going to free Black people from a system that benefits us– which is to say, gain power for Black people. That’s not how power works– it can’t be given, it can only be taken.
And that’s why the blatant racists must be terribly confused about– actually, about a lot of things. But, specifically, about the fact that the deportations, the police brutality, the mass incarceration, the drones, the assassinations of world leaders, the creation of ISIS, the “war on drugs,” gentrification, Whole Foods, Donald Trump, Bill Maher, CNNFOXNewsMSNBC– it’s all for us, for whites. Who do you think was able to go to college and get their first job while a young Black person was targeted by the blue-uniformed shock troops of democratic fascism, and was swept away into prison on a minor drug offense … erased, out of sight, out of mind? You, the white person. Me! This ugly, disgusting country exists for whites, and we won’t move against it because– whether we are blatant racists or subtle racists, and whether we are wealthy or poor, or in-between– we lack any material basis for revolutionary struggle.
Every institution of power, every structure, in the United States– and the United States itself, as an imperialist nation-state– exists for the benefit of whites. I’m not sure if the blatantly racist Uncle Bruce– who believes Black Lives Matter is a “terrorist organization”– will be able to grasp this material reality … not until the whole thing is brought down on his head, and on mine.
That’s how the thief becomes politically conscious, and says, “Wait a minute, it’s not in my interest anymore to go on behaving this way, because now Black people have power, and Brown people have power, and have control of their own resources, their wealth. And so we must adapt to this new situation, to these qualitatively changed conditions, or we will die, and just evaporate, along with all the wealth and power that defined the white identity.”
But what can we do right now– if we are subtle racists on the left-wing? At the very least, do what African and Black revolutionaries are asking us to do. We asked them to tell us what to do, and they told us. But the Black community is not a monolith (you may have read before). So it seems we shouldn’t go around saying, “This Black organization told me to do this thing, and that means it’s the only way— and all you other Black organizations are wrong, and all you ‘white allies’ are counterproductive– if not counterrevolutionary.” No. Ultimately, whatever we do, it has to be for ourselves because– in truth– it wouldn’t be for any other reason anyway. If it feels right, if our heart is directing us toward certain actions, then we are still the subjects of our own narratives, and (as such) we need to choose the path which fits who we are, and what we believe, and what we want.
Oppressed communities, for the most part, have figured this out already– who they are and where they want to go, based on their identity. As an example, you could ask a Black person (note: DON’T!!!) if they would prefer to be white for the rest of their life, and, chances are, they would hate the very thought of that, and maybe punch you in the face on account of the fact that you would even suggest it. And yet, here they are in a global economic system that is violently anti-Black, that moves against their very existence and attempts to dehumanize and erase them. But they have an identity: Blackness. And, based on this positive identity, which is being oppressed by a negative force (racist, imperialist capitalism), most Black people/Africans also have a strong idea about where they want to go: toward freedom, toward power, toward justice, and away from oppression. And then they struggle to achieve this goal.
Now, the blatant white supremacist jerks actually– in their own evil way– have a similar knowledge of who they are, and what they believe and what they want (although, perhaps “we” is the word, not “they”). They’re white and “American,” they believe in whiteness and “America” and they want whiteness and “America” to continue on the same path toward greater power and wealth– for white people. And the institutions and structures of the United States couldn’t agree more, from the U.S. Senate right down to the corner grocery store in that small town where a Chinese neighborhood was burned to the ground by whites not so long ago. That’s “America.” That’s why it’s ameriKKKa. There is no other “United States” but this white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist settler colony of Europe.
Subtle racists have a hard time confronting this material reality, because we want to believe “America” must have some good in it, and that whiteness also has some good in it (as a political category). And so, whenever we seek to resolve this contradiction, we end up having an identity crisis. We’re not the biggest fans of Christopher Columbus, or George Washington, and maybe not even Bill and Hillary Clinton– but we sure do go for the latest white progressive candidate for President, or for that white cisgender show host on MSNBC.
Whites on the left attempt to overlook the context– the colonial context of “American” genocidal violence– and just focus on that part of “America” which satisfies our conscience, even as all whites benefit from the colonization of Africans and Indigenous peoples and the majority of the global population. But, no, perhaps you do recognize this as a white person on the left– then, congratulations, you are one in a million, and truly useless in the process of organizing the masses. The exceptional white person will never overthrow capitalism and U.S. colonial power. This revolution will come about through the “unexceptional” masses of oppressed people, who are unified through their shared experience of colonial oppression, and whose own contradictions have been resolved out of the basic need to survive.
So, in short, it’s not about us. It’s not about whites. We’re in a dither because– after all– we can only experience our own narrative. But it’s subjective to believe that the rest of the world should share this experience just because white people– as blatant racists or as subtle racists– have more power and wealth, right now. Basically, we need to lose this wealth and power– a lot of it at any rate. Change our material relationship to the majority of people in the world, knock us down to the same level as everyone else, and force the thief to stop being a thief, and then whites will change our perspective, change our beliefs, and (perhaps) even stop being white.