Let’s suppose for a moment that we could have a peaceful revolution. Most European colonizers (or white people) in the United States would still be against this type of revolution. But we’re talking here about a socialist revolution: a mass struggle to replace capitalism with socialism. That is, we’re talking about a revolutionary movement to replace a system where only a few people control the wealth of society (capitalism) with a system where the workers who produce their wealth have power over the means of production (socialism). If we could have such a revolution, and not be required to inflict any violence, whites would be against it anyway.
Why is this so? Because whites don’t want to give up the unequal power that we have under the current system. We enjoy the advantages of capitalist exploitation. After all, we fought very hard, and spilled a lot of blood, in order to get those advantages. In fact, this war– the “American Revolution”– is still going on.
The greatest part of a revolution’s work starts after the war for a people’s independence is over. This is where a free nation begins to build up its institutions and to resolve the various contradictions of the society now under its control. Now the masses are constantly being organized by this new revolutionary system to defend its arrangement of power, and not just in the military. The people are educated by the ruling class to defend its laws, its morals, its “way of life.” And if this arrangement of power is democratic capitalism, and the nation that gained independence is the United States, then the masses under capitalist power will be engaged in a constant struggle to defend the institutions and structures of the United States, because we have been educated to do so. And this is the ongoing revolution of “We the People”– which is to say, European colonizers (or whites) on occupied Native land.
Therefore, whites don’t want another revolution. We have our hands full with this one. Even if we experience some exploitation and violence under the system of democratic capitalism in the United States, whites will still try to resolve these contradictions through its existing institutions and structures. We fear any “outside” threats to “our” institutions and structures: “our” government, family, workplaces, schools, churches. If we had been occupied by a foreign power, or if we had been violently removed from our lands in Africa, and were forced to build up the wealth of this “free nation,” then it might be a different story today. But, as things are, this isn’t a question of equal rights, or “liberty and justice for all”– it’s about power. Otherwise, we might ask ourselves: why didn’t we stay in England, or Germany, or Italy, or any other country in Europe and fight for a just and equal society in those countries, in our homelands? The answer should be quite obvious: we wanted to enjoy the benefits of the “American” occupation of Native land, even if this meant colonial genocide and capitalist exploitation. That is, even if this meant violence.
If you love “America,” then you love violence. There’s no nation in the history of the world that has committed violence on the same scale that the United States has. And this is the violent revolution you support if you identify as an “American”: the struggle to overthrow the power of the King of England in order to occupy a continent (plus Hawaii and Puerto Rico), and then enjoy most of the benefits of a system of global exploitation. If you don’t want violence, then get rid of “America” and destroy capitalism.
But, of course, that would require violence– and we’re against that. So whites try to figure out how to be progressive and nonviolent at the same time. We think we can have a revolution led by Bernie Sanders, a U.S. Senator. We want to be like Sweden or some other Scandinavian country and have all that free stuff– healthcare, schools, roads without potholes– which we then call “socialism,” because we’re sticking it to the rich. But where do these riches that are being distributed among whites come from? Africa, and Asia and Latin America. And how do we continue to get this wealth? Through violence. Imperialism. Capitalism. We can call it “socialism” all we want but it’s still just white supremacy, or the white minority capitalizing on the global advantage of power that was gained through imperialist violence by Europe: through the political power that comes out of the barrel of a gun.
So white people don’t want a peaceful revolution. Martin Luther King Jr., who was a religious leader and not a political leader, tried to show us the way toward a peaceful society. He talked about a “revolution of values.” And then we murdered him. You might argue that you didn’t murder Dr. King because you weren’t there in Memphis and you personally didn’t pull the trigger. But that’s not the point. The point is: Dr. King was leading a movement to redistribute “American” wealth– a Poor People’s Campaign that was going to march again on Washington– and the capitalist system of power in the United States would not allow that to happen. So it used violence against Dr. King. And, nearly fifty years later, white people still enjoy the benefits of that violence. But not just the violence against Dr. King. We’re talking about a world economic system that must violently protect its interests. And there isn’t a socialist movement anywhere on the globe (peaceful or otherwise) that capitalism hasn’t violently moved to destroy– backed by the power of the United States, and its Senate full of wealthy white cis men, supported by white voters.
However, whites confuse “peace” with “comfort.” The destruction of socialist movements around the globe has helped to make the white population of the United States more comfortable, not more peaceful. So our struggle isn’t about ending violence, or about promoting equality and justice. If this were the case, then we’d recognize that violence is always needed in order to stop violence. The U.S. government has shown over and over again that it will use extreme violence to get in the way of any movements to redistribute wealth and power. A greater threat of violence is required to stop this violence.
And the threat of violence is violence itself. This is why there isn’t a cop on every street corner. More importantly, this is why so-called people of color put up with white individuals and our toxic behavior on a daily basis. The threat of greater systemic violence is backing up our individual white behavior. In fact, if you don’t like all the “divisiveness” and bad “race relations” in this society, then get rid of the unequal advantage of power held by whites– by getting rid of the white supremacist system.
But we won’t do that, because– when push comes to shove– white people want this unequal advantage of power. It means comfort, security, the “American” lifestyle. When whites talk about freedom of speech, individual rights, and all those good things in a colonial and capitalist society, we’re talking about white supremacy. What’s freedom anyway unless it applies to everyone, and is a ruling principle that is enforced– through violence when necessary?
If whites truly wanted freedom, peace, equality and human rights– which means these would apply to everyone in the world– then we would be required to create a greater threat of violence than the violence of the system that is getting in the way of this progress. Yet the contradiction is this: by showing a far greater threat of violence, we may not need to use it. Because, in order to escape our violence, or survive under its power, the ruling class (racist, sexist, transphobic, capitalist) may simply give up its control. After all, that’s why the oppressed peoples of the world gave up their control in Africa, Asia, the “Americas”– on account of the greater threat of violence by Europe and its system of power, capitalism. It’s not because capitalism has promoted human rights or any other progressive values. It’s because whites have held the advantage of power. And, as European colonizers, we don’t wield this power out of the goodness in our hearts, because we’re “decent, kind hardworking Americans.” We just want to describe (at times) our violence with nice, gentle words in order soften the language of colonial genocide, and the harsh reality of our crimes against humanity. At other times, we vote for Trump.
So, let’s say we could have a peaceful revolution. First, it would have to be a very uncomfortable revolution for white colonizers, otherwise we don’t really want peace. Second, we’d have to show the threat of extreme violence against the ruling class: Wall Street, the government at all its levels, every institution of capitalism. Yes, we could talk about a peaceful solution … as long as there was the alternative of extreme violence.
But whites in the U.S. do not have a Malcolm X among us as a counterweight to a Martin Luther King, because we don’t have a Dr. King among us either. Whites lack any conscience, or any religious or spiritual weight of morality, that hasn’t been taught to us by a white supremacist system. Whites have the conscience of the white colonizer, because that’s our training, that’s how conditions under a white supremacist system have shaped us to think. And no white colonizer is going to lead a “revolution of values.” Certainly no wealthy, cisgender white man in the U.S. Senate. So we can forget Bernie Sanders and his fake revolution.
In fact, the only socialist revolution for white colonizers in the United States is the African and Indigenous revolution– the organized struggles of Black and Brown people for power. If colonized peoples don’t get power, on their terms, it isn’t really socialism. It’s just capitalism with another name. Why? Because anything white workers produce is still due to a global system of theft. There’s no such thing as a “locally grown” product on stolen land, when the wealth of an entire society is based on the violent subjugation of African and Indigenous peoples. And even the whites in Europe– on their own land– could not survive, or at least enjoy their lifestyle in the “developed” nations of Europe, if this development hadn’t come at the expense of violently exploited Africa and the so-called Third World.
This means, the question for progressive whites ought to be: are we for a system that promotes equality, justice and human rights, or are we against it? If we’re for it, then we need to show a greater force of violence than what the current system is showing. Maybe we won’t have to use this violence. But why should “America” stop being violent only because “progressives” don’t like its behavior? Why would heterosexual cisgender men stop their misogynistic violence while they still have the advantage of power, while a system built on patriarchy (as well as white supremacy) is empowering their dangerous behavior? And most of the work of undoing racist, patriarchal violence can’t even begin until oppressed people win power for themselves, and gain control over their own institutions. We haven’t even started to deal with patriarchy and white supremacy because anti-patriarchal and anti-racist institutions are still under the control of capitalism, which is dominated by the white population in general, and particularly by wealthy, white cisgender men (whom white women, cis and trans, allow to remain in power).
If we want a peaceful revolution then we will have to work extra hard for it because it will take millions of more people to create this extra threat of violence, at such a level that violent action won’t become necessary. And this means rejecting the “American” identity and all the transphobic, misogynistic and white supremacist ideologies that “America” represents, so that we can build something new.
In fact, if we start to build something of our own, something that is apart from transphobia, misogyny and white supremacy, we won’t have to worry about being violent against the capitalists. Because, as soon as they see we have any power separate from the existing system, they will attack us– then we will be forced to defend this new thing that we’ve worked so hard to build.
But my guess is that the white masses won’t start to build and organize for a kind of power which is separate from the “American” identity, and is compatible with Black Power– power for the African masses of the world. Whites don’t want peace. We’ve been thoroughly trained to hold this mediocre and politically unconscious acceptance of white supremacy, and only to believe in progressive movements which can be no threat to white supremacy (or “America”) and the violent system of global capitalism.