Merely hating the oppressor will never seize back the power that the oppressed has had taken from them, any more than loving the oppressed ever gives this stolen power back again. Of course, power can’t be given; it can only be taken. If you can give power to a person– or to a group– you can also take it away, without notice.
And the oppressor doesn’t seize power– nor does the oppressed reclaim it– just on account of their feelings, or their judgments about “right” and “wrong.” Once you have power, then you can define your own terms of “right” and “wrong.” For instance, you can make it immoral (as well as illegal) for the powerless to move against you in order to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. You can tell them to be nonviolent, and to be law-abiding and forgiving people, and, if they happen to disagree, you can throw them in prison. Or you can convince them to love you– and, after a while, they may even start to show something that resembles love, but only if you equate a totally defeated attitude with deep feelings of love.
Chances are, if you take power from a person or from a group, they will hate you– and that’s perfectly understandable. The only question is: does this hate help them get back the power that has been stolen from them? It might help a little, if it is accompanied with a truly deep love for themselves and (more importantly) for their community.
But quite often people end up hating you because you first made them hate themselves and their community. If they hate you now solely out of love for their people, this might be a good thing. But if it’s because you’ve hurt them, and have caused them to move against their own identity and interests, their hate might be a mere secondary reaction to their first reaction: first you made them hate themselves and their community, so now they hate you. And this sort of hate tends to go nowhere; it just kind of boils in its own toxic juices. At some point hate has to be transcended– typically through action. Revolutionary, organized action. Armed struggle. But the oppressor can make the oppressed destroy themselves by the simple act of creating in them feelings of hate and frustration and rage that don’t go anywhere, that can’t move– they just sit and stew, occasionally bubbling over. And that doesn’t do anything as far as power is concerned.
But why bring this up? Especially if we’re talking to white people, all of whom belong to the racist, oppressor class (or the colonizing nation) in this global economic system called capitalism? It seems important to bring it up because white people are opportunists by– well, not by nature. By nature, we eat, we sleep, we get cold, we get hot, we learn, we refuse to learn (until conditions force us to), we grow, we regress, we die. But through our conditioning– and through our capitalist education– white people start to behave in ways which seem to indicate that it is in our very nature to be opportunistic. We are constantly seizing on anything that might bring us a nice profit or give us a boost, as far as our class status is concerned. Any group that can turn people into a commodity (that is, slaves) is capable of turning anything (and anyone) into another business opportunity, into something that can be converted into financial capital– or at least social capital. For example, we do this all the time when it comes to love (or “love”). Hallmark makes a fortune. Christian megachurches rake in a lot of lettuce too, profiting off that commodity called “love.”
However, white people also try to convert hate into capital– if not into actual riches, then into greater status in society. And the hate we’re talking about here is that which is felt by the oppressed against the oppressor. It seems white people would want to leave that alone. It might be too hot to handle. But we feel it alright– some of it gets through, penetrating all that white privilege, and all those coddled white feelings in “safer” (that is, “whiter”) gentrified neighborhoods guarded by the police. And the first thing we do is react by also expressing feelings of hate– and anger. Because we find it outrageous to think that anybody– anywhere in the whole world– wouldn’t like us, white people. That’s just wrong— that’s divisive. Disliking good, decent, hardworking, loving American white people? They must be awfully hateful to feel that way about us. So then we say, “Wow, I hate them!”
But next, those capitalist wheels start to turn in our colonizer brains. We may not see huge throbbing hearts like in the old cartoons (or new emojis), but our eyes do become giant dollar signs. And these flashing dollar signs for eyes don’t necessarily connect to the part of our brain that is rational– the part that is conscious of our actions. Opportunism and individualism typically attach to the reactionary part of our collective class unconsciousness.
Capitalist behavior requires an agent, a person or a subject to carry it out, one whose behavior is illogical and isolated; for capitalism must always objectify people. That’s where it gets its power: from the unequal relationship between the user and the used, the objectifier and the objectified, the haves and the have-nots, or the colonizers and the colonized. Thus it becomes a relationship between the powerful and the powerless (who have been robbed of their power). On one level, we recognize that exploiting people, and using them for the purpose of gaining something for ourselves (while also destroying the planet) isn’t rational or good– it isn’t right. However, as long as we have the power to behave this way– a power based on a capitalist system which is supported by the masses of racist whites– we will proceed to behave in an opportunistic and individualistic fashion. Then, using this same power, we will talk about our ideals of liberty, justice, equality and peace. On account of our power within a white supremacist system, we are never forced to answer the question why our oppressive behavior doesn’t match our lofty ideals.
And what does this have to do with hate? Specifically, the hate that the white oppressor feels from oppressed communities– Black/African, Indigenous, Arab, Latinx, and the majority of the world’s population? What it means is that white people (because we are empowered by white supremacist capitalism) will even attempt to convert hate into a commodity. And even if we can’t profit economically at this point off the exploitation of hate, we can benefit socially, and– on an individual level– climb higher up in the class hierarchy of capitalist society.
In this racist society, the social capital of whiteness can always be converted into financial capital, but the former already gives protection from state violence (police, immigration agents, military, schools, political campaigns) and this whiteness also creates educational and job opportunities. Whiteness itself is money in the bank. This is why it’s no mystery that poor whites voted for Donald Trump, although Trump is taking their programs away from them. And this is why it’s no mystery that middle-class white women voted for Trump, even as he moves to take away affirmative action (when white women are its greatest beneficiaries). When you are identified as white, this whiteness is capital: it has greater value than government programs or your income. Capitalism tells you: first, eliminate (or at least exert more control over) Black and Brown people, and then poor whites and middle-class white women can take this expanded power (the power of whiteness) and cash it in … and maybe buy a condo near Lloyd Center in Portland, Oregon.
So, when whites feel the hate or anger of the people whom we oppress, our initial impulse is to hate them back. And reactionary whites on the right-wing of the colonial population– the conservatives who have a piece of sirloin steak where their brain ought to be– do react this way. They love to hate Black people, especially Black women. It’s like a national pastime. And they can exploit this series of reactions– hate followed by hate– as an excuse to increase police brutality, build more prisons, eliminate funding for schools and food stamps (and other luxuries), tip off an immigration agent, burn down a mosque, and other assorted white behavior that the colonial population has always engaged in anyway. We don’t need an excuse. Whiteness is reactionary violence.
Yet the decent liberal or the socialist democrat on the left-wing of the white colonial population needs to be more subtle in our violence. We enjoy the same power as the reactionary colonizers on the right-wing, for the same reasons: the brutal exploitation and subjugation of so-called people of color by this racist global economic system (capitalism) and through our occupation of Indigenous lands in the U.S. settler colony. However, liberal and leftist whites who occupy this continent are preoccupied with ideas of justice, freedom, peace and equality. We aren’t willing to give up our power, or our wealth (not much), but we can go along and pretend to hate the same things that the powerless hate: namely, ourselves.
“Hate” is a pretty strong word. Maybe it’s more like a kind of anger, a negative emotion (which is also positive, in dialectical terms). It is the natural reaction of the hated to a hateful system– but not a system whose actions are based on hate. This systemic behavior is based on power and on control of resources– namely, control by white people (colonizers), at the expense of Black and Brown people (the colonized). If you don’t hate that system– which is moving to exploit and destroy your community– then you don’t love yourself. But the capitalist system isn’t committing these crimes against humanity on account of hate (“hate crimes”) like the “hate groups” mapped out by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Again, it’s for power. And the racist ruling class that controls the whole map of the United States couldn’t care less if you hate (or love) them, as long as they continue to have this power over you and your resources.
However, it’s a natural reaction for the oppressed to hate– or to feel some negative emotion– when it comes to the oppressor who is so violently moving against them. It would be unnatural if the oppressed didn’t feel this way. That’s not the problem. The problem is: how does the oppressed seize back power from the oppressor? And that’s mainly a question for the oppressed to answer– specifically, Black people or Africans. At the same time, white people in the U.S. shouldn’t exploit this hate (or rage or suffering) and use it to expand the unequal amount of power that we already enjoy. Yet that’s exactly what many whites on the left-wing of the colonial population attempt to do, even as we remain unconscious of this opportunistic behavior.
It might be annoying to call this the “hate-industrial complex” or “Wypipo, Inc.”– so we won’t concern ourselves (right now) with catchy labels for this phenomenon. Hopefully we can just understand what this behavior is. And we won’t concern ourselves with opportunistic Black individuals, or the emphasis on cultural and biological Blackness, or Black capitalism, because– lane-wise– such “concerns” would put us on the other side of the freeway going in the opposite direction. Furthermore, Black feminists and African revolutionary organizers have that area of concern covered. What we’re talking about here is how white individuals try to take these negative feelings toward, well, white people, and convert them into social capital (which, in terms of whiteness, can always be converted into financial gains at a later date).
So, white leftists (“allies,” “accomplices,” “race traitors” and other assorted mild flavors), see an article on Huffington Post, or somewhere else on the internet, that’s about how this Black person doesn’t like white people, doesn’t trust white women, thinks white people are trash … and other views that are perfectly valid and understandable. But you may have noticed my own reaction in the previous sentence: describing whites as “mild.” It’s an attempt to get in on the joke that white people like flavorless food– and are flavorless ourselves. Yet it’s easy to poke fun at yourself when you enjoy more power.
From way up here, at the top, it’s easy to join in on the fun of mocking white people. A million (not so funny) television sitcoms have been based on a similar premise: the mom, the kids (matching cisgender boy and girl, Bobby and Jan), the milkman, the employees at the office, even the dog, all make fun of dear ol’ Dad, that patriarch with his pipe. It’s actually no threat to his power at all. Now, if “Mother,” and the kiddies, and the whole social structure were to move to overthrow Dad, that would be a different story (not televised). But, instead, they just exchange barbs about the cisgender heterosexual man’s Homer Simpson-like ineptitude, in between commercial breaks. It’s a little bit like the evening lineup on MSNBC when it spends three hours mocking Donald Trump and his “insane” [sic] and “stupid” [sic] antics. So what? He’s still in power. Remove him from office, and eliminate the entire murderous ruling class, then we can all laugh (at Christopher Columbus).
At any hate– I mean, at any rate— since the white colonial population has more power, and controls the media, we can use this negative feeling of colonized people (even as it is moving against us), and attach it to ourselves, and then show that we don’t like “wypipo” or the “yts” either. And of course we don’t like whites. The Roman Empire, the Church, the “American Revolution,” the Civil War, two World Wars, the Holocaust, Double Indemnity (1944) and every other film noir ever made prove that we’re not the biggest fans of white people either– unless those white people happen to be ourselves and our “loved” ones. After all, who loathes white people more than Trump does? He is trying to get rid of “Obamacare,” which benefits whites (especially white-controlled insurance companies) more than anyone. But that’s the nature of the beast: capitalism leads white people to be pro-white when it comes to me and mine, but anti-humanity (including Europeans or “whites”) when it comes to everyone else. We probably reserve our greatest hatred for Black people and Africans because the people who gave civilization, culture and humanity to the world remind us of our lack thereof– all on account of this inhumane, backward system of power called capitalism.
Instead of showing that we love Black people (and ourselves) by organizing to bring down this anti-Black, inhumane system, we believe that we can show our support by clicking “like” on all the tweets and statuses about how awful white people are. Sharing (or giving back) stolen resources– that’s a problem. Sharing a story about how annoying “Becky” is– that’s not such a problem. It’s not so difficult to agree with a story about the white girl in the office who keeps trying to touch a Black woman’s hair– we even laugh (and why do we laugh?). And it’s not only easier just to go along with all this “reverse racism” (rather than destroying the system of colonial genocide and exploitation that is anything but funny): it’s actually beneficial for whites to join the fun. For one thing, it allows us to contrast ourselves with racist whites who are calling this “reverse racism.” We can mock them too. So this becomes one more Black space for “wypipo” to occupy, as we back up our U-Haul of whiteness and move in with our own memes of Drake, Kermit the Frog and … other assorted “lit” and uncompensated Black creations.
OK, so we don’t like racist whites. And, in general, we think white people are ridiculous. But the question is: do we want to qualitatively change the relationship of power that makes us racist, and ridiculous? Do we passively accept (and celebrate) that we have become the objects of mockery by a terrorized world that is turning to humor as its last available (and least dangerous) weapon? Or do we actively move to transform this relationship, as subjects of revolutionary struggle? If we’re comfortable being the objects of hate, we’re probably just thinking it’s still a pretty good view up here, on top of a global economy. And even from this vantage point, we think we can sneak in there and join in on the fun (especially when it’s aimed at those whites, not me), because this brand of anti-whiteness can be capitalized on (socially if not economically) at any time we choose– after all, we still have the power. Whites would even sell (and purchase) tee shirts declaring “I Hate White People” … if this trend could make us rich (or at least “cool”). As long as capitalism is in power, we will commodify anything– even the hate we inspire in the masses who are robbed and murdered by capitalism, and by us (because we support this system).
So the question is: are we measurably changing this unequal arrangement of power, or are we merely telling jokes? Do we support Black and Brown people going after power, even if this means less power for us, or do we just want to show that we “like” them– by clicking “like”? Does the white colonial population in the U.S. recognize that the power of this nation-state (and of the entire global economic system) depends on the continuing subjugation of Africa and colonized African people everywhere– or do we just think it’s cool (right now anyway) to be vaguely “anti-white,” and “pro-Black”?
Obviously there are many questions, not only one, but they all go back to one answer: power. Either we want Black and Brown people to get back the power we’ve taken from them, or we don’t. It doesn’t matter (not much) whether we love Black people or hate them, or whether they love us or hate us; what matters is the material basis for our feelings, and for all the negative and positive emotions reflecting this objective relationship of power.
If we just say we love “people of color” and “other minorities,” and go along with all their jokes against us (until they hit a little too close to home), we’re not changing anything about the very relationship of power that creates these feelings– “good” or “bad.” And, in fact, if we do love Africans/Black people– and the majority of humanity, as well as the planet– we will move to overthrow capitalism, and not just laugh at our elevated selves. We also owe it to ourselves to replace this backward system– because it has turned us into criminals who are complicit in genocide, while making its victims hate themselves. No– we can laugh after we tear this capitalist system down. And then maybe there can be some love involved as well.