Still White, Still Racist: The Blatant Racists and the Subtle Racists in the Colonizing Population of the United States

 

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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.

 

Still White, Still Racist: The Blatant Racists and the Subtle Racists in the Colonizing Population of the United States

The White Colonizer’s Power– Used to “Thingify” People and Objectify Identities– Now Used to “Develop a Kind of Dangerous Unselfishness”

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Capitalism has convinced us that whatever we want, we can buy (as long as we have the money– small detail).  And whatever we want to be, we can buy that too (again, cash or credit).  This attitude inevitably leads to a great deal of unhappiness because, the fact is, we can’t have everything we want, and we can’t be anything we want to be, even if we have lots of money.  So we end up feeling that we are miserable failures– or at least miserable– and then we sit alone in our apartment wondering why.  “I was told that I could grow up to be an astronaut, or a millionaire, or a rock star, and instead I work in a cubicle all day typing in data– what happened?  Where did I go wrong?”

This situation would be bad enough on its own, but then we add to this fact yet another fact: in the capitalist system, white people tend to have the most money.  The median net worth of white households in the United States (in 2015, according to a report by the Urban League of Portland) is $141,900.  The median net worth of Black households is $11,000.  That’s an objective reality.  You can came up with your own reasons why that’s a fact– and why many other statistics back up that fact– but the numbers speak for themselves, regardless of what our opinion of them might be, or whatever we want to believe.  And it’s also an historical fact that capitalism– the global economic system– was created by Europeans through the resources, labor, lives and land of Africans and Indigenous peoples.  And, historically, whites have been the greatest benefactors of this political, economic and social arrangement.  So, in short, whites tend to have more money.

The result is: if you tell a white person (specifically a white person in the United States) that we can have anything we want, provided we have the money for it, and we have this money on account of the oppression of Black people and so-called people of color, then we end up engaging in all sorts of destructive behavior.  If you tell a person that they can have anything they want, as long as they have the money for it, and they have power over a whole group of people (a whole class) on account of their own class status, then they will end up using people as objects.  What happens, in this capitalist arrangement of the United States, is that white people use or exploit Black people, and all oppressed classes, as a means toward some other end, so that their very person becomes an object toward this material benefit that we hope to enjoy.

In 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said:

“A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will ‘thingify’ them—make them things. Therefore they will exploit them, and poor people generally, economically.”

Dr. King also said that, during the period of slavery in the United States, a Black person was “considered a thing to be used, not a person to be respected.”

This belief that anything in the world is ours as long as we can pay for it (or take out a loan for it) is already a source of spiritual violence.  Dhoruba Bin Wahad said that the delusions of the material world gratify us and yet leave an aching emptiness in our soul.”  We keep buying more things– all the things advertised on TV and the internet– yet we’re not happy.  So we buy even more things.  And we keep going and going, accumulating as much as we can, until one day we look in the graves, and then we know: all these things weren’t what we hoped they would be.  We still grow older, and we still die.  But the commercials during the evening news keep telling us that we (white people) can hold off that inevitable reality, staying youthful, and having fun.  When this doesn’t happen, we feel that we did something wrong.

So this is an unhealthy arrangement of society to begin with– based on “delusions” that our accumulated wealth will “gratify us.”  But then, if such a society is also based on the “thingification” of people– as part of the capitalist arrangement of society where classes are stratified, one on top of the other– the effect of this systemic oppression is not only spiritually destructive, it additionally wreaks havoc on the lives of the less powerful, and those who are (therefore) more vulnerable.  Such a system becomes downright genocidal.

When the white settler on the North American continent sees the open range, and all that property, and all those resources, and those many dreams of freedom and fulfillment awaiting us– everything right there for the taking– we end up using people and the planet as physical objects upon which to build our fantasies.  And even if we don’t grow rich at the expense of populations objectified by colonial violence, we are still contributing to the schemes of the rich and the powerful to use certain identities as commodities– as things.   We use whatever power we have– based on our own class category of whiteness– to escape economic insecurity, even if this means climbing over the objectified lives of Africans and Indigenous peoples in the United States.  Their despair becomes the ticket to our own prosperity, whether it’s a little or a lot.  And, throughout this process of “thingification” (or colonization), the racist wealthy class grows even wealthier.  That’s the “America” we want to “make great again.”

Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael) once said that capitalism will commodify anything– it will put his mother on a slave block and make her a slave.  Capitalism is a world economic system whose material wealth has been built on the dehumanization of Africans/Black people and Indigenous peoples.  Of course, Africans/Black people and Indigenous peoples are human, just like Europeans.  Yet we believe we’re not only human– we’re superhuman.  Whites believe that, after we have used a system of violent dehumanization, and have commodified the lives of oppressed people over many years,  one day we can just wake up and not hold white supremacist views … merely because slavery doesn’t exist today.  That would require an extraordinary person, a superhuman person, for us to leave behind (for good) the ideologies and attitudes that grew out of such a long period of violent, racist colonial objectification– a period that is still going on today through modified forms of the same basic structures of power.

If we aren’t actively resisting or challenging the systemic power that imposes these ideologies and attitudes on the entire society that it controls, then we are likely absorbing the very same urge to “thingify” people in much the same manner as the slave-owners did before us.  The main basis for personal interactions between whites and Black people– and between whites and people of color– is the objectification of the oppressed identity by the oppressor.  If we aren’t conscious of this ideological foundation to our political, economic and social relationships– or what are sometimes called “race relations””– then whites will continue to behave as the unconscious tools for further oppression, as little machines within the machine, who (in turn) “thingify” those whom we have power over, on account of the power of the larger machine which controls the world economy: capitalism.

What we’re talking about here is a spiritual problem with material consequences.  We’re asking the question: who are we, or what have we become?  But we’re also attempting to answer: what, exactly, have we done?  We’re talking about the soul of the subject who, as an agent of “whiteness” and “capitalism,” must thingify itself– and, in effect, must negate its own humanity– in order to thingify the people of the globe: their labor, their culture, and their land, resources and lives.

From the perspective of the colonized African– well, pay attention to what they are talking about, and how they (as subjects of their own struggle) are resisting our thingification of their identity, in much the same way that Indigenous peoples are resisting, and Palestinians, and Puerto Ricans, and Filipinos.  What the colonized subjects are saying is a question of their own narrative; but, as far as how it relates to the colonizer, and to where we’re situated in society, their thingification is an objective reality– oppression is experienced subjectively, but understood objectively.  There are material consequences– objective outcomes– to this crisis of the soul, this sickness in the heart, of the white colonizer.

It is not the task of the colonized subject to heal the soul of the colonizer, who already benefits from their objectification, and who has gained wealth and power by “thingifying” their lives.  Whites oppress Black people, then we ask them to teach us the meaning of this oppression.  Then we “thingify” that knowledge, commodify the language of resistance, and incorporate it into the machine (at the level of the individual, and the class, and the larger society) in order to mask our negated humanity, which we have exchanged for riches and power and the “American” identity.

Everything a person does is objectively related to power: the power of the individual within their class (or community) and the power of their class within the larger society, which is controlled by capitalism.  And, so it follows, that everything a white person does– the very act of breathing on Indigenous land– is connected to the greater power that we enjoy, whether it’s the power of a wealthy cisgender white man or the power of an impoverished transgender white woman.  Such a relationship of power, under capitalism, is unavoidable, just as long as this system is allowed to remain in power.  Objectively, within capitalist society, this is our function, our role– it is how we have been “thingified” by capitalism so that it may reach its own objectives of greater wealth and power.  Capitalism is a negation of the human spirit, or the very essence of who we are: our soul, our nafs.  We have been “thingified” in order to “thingify.”  Whites are granted power– by the exploitative, capitalist class– over the lives of those whose work, land, resources, culture and very existence have become the basis for whatever level of power and wealth that we enjoy.

Is it any wonder, then, that whites grow defensive, and frightened, and angry, whenever our power is challenged by Black people and so-called people of color?  As objectifiers, this power is who we are.  Superior power is our identity.  What else is there to whiteness but power?  Less power, less ability to objectify, means a small part of us no longer exists– a piece of the white subject has eroded in the face of African and Indigenous resistance, as they struggle against the destructive forces which have created and shaped us, and have given us our identity.  Is it any wonder that white leftists reject “identity politics,” while the alt-right (the blatant white supremacists) embrace “identity politics”?  We don’t have anything else but this thing called “whiteness”– or the “American” identity– which is a byproduct of capitalism’s global domination (or “thingification”) of humanity, an imperialist thrust for greater and greater profit requiring the dialectic of white objectifiers and objectified Africans.

Every European or white subject in this settler colony called the United States has a certain level of power that we will proudly defend, and that will cause us to become outraged at the slightest sign of resistance from objectified (or colonized) Africans/Black people.  In this respect, the white liberal and the white leftist differ very little when placed beside the white conservative and the blatant white supremacist.  The basic quality that is in question is that of colonial power, which is integrated into our identity, into every movement of the muscle, every impulse of the brain– unless actively resisted, and checked by some stronger power within the contradictory forces holding the white identity together.  Whether the quantity is a lot or is a little, the quality of colonial power remains, and the basic reaction of the European colonizer is to defend our wealth and to defend our power, because this is the reaction for anyone (objectifier or objectified), only our white identity requires resistance to the resister.  And the power which we gain to resist is given to us by a racist system– by capitalism– on account of our whiteness.

Since we will always resist any challenge to our objective power of whiteness– a power that has effectively whitewashed or blanked out our own humanity– it seems the European colonizer in the U.S. must seek methods by which to manipulate our own internal contradictions (the unity of opposites within the self) by developing what Dr. King called “a kind of dangerous unselfishness.”  If, at one time, we could exchange the well-being of our soul for the wealth and power of the world, it seems we could exchange the wealth and power of global capitalism in order to regain our soul.  We can do this all on our own power— as subjects of a “dangerous unselfishness”— by using our material power to destroy our material power, out of which a renewed humanity can emerge, reuniting us with all humanity, whom we currently exploit and control for the sole (or soulless) purpose of greater profit.  The white identity has been designed to “thingify” all other (or Other-ed) identities.  Let’s remodel this identity, and make this thing move against itself– like taking up the gun in order to get rid of the gun.  Again, the dialectic.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged this violent, racist society to engage in a peaceful revolution– a “revolution of values”— but the day after he spoke of developing a “kind of dangerous unselfishness,” whites took up the gun and murdered him.  How many more chances will white people get to develop a conscience, and to nurture our soul, so that we may move against our material interests in the greater interests of our very humanity?  If there is any hope left to create a peaceful revolution (and that hope was probably shot down many centuries ago, and not just in 1968), then the white colonizer must willingly, actively, and eagerly move to change our material relationship to the lives of those whom we have objectified, or “thingified.”

By paying reparations to Black people– and by supporting the being of Black women and femmes— we may (at last) become revolutionary beings, and conscious subjects for positive change.  Reparations may be one effective method for developing “a kind of dangerous unselfishness,” as the European colonizer uses the material wealth and power of whiteness to move against whiteness, for the sake of our humanity.

 

 

The White Colonizer’s Power– Used to “Thingify” People and Objectify Identities– Now Used to “Develop a Kind of Dangerous Unselfishness”

Love and Hate Between the Powerless and the Powerful: No Laughing Matter

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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 much 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.

 

Love and Hate Between the Powerless and the Powerful: No Laughing Matter

Why It’s Helpful for White People to Feel Bad About the Death of Justine Damond

MLKEssay

I don’t feel the same way as the white people on the left who say they aren’t sad or angry about the death of Justine Damond.  I keep forgetting her name (to be perfectly honest) but this fact is as little credit to my humanity as it is to my memory.

August 9th will mark the third anniversary of the murder of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.  Constant rage and hurt have kept Michael Brown’s name alive in my memory, as well as the date, the place and the name of his murderer.  But again, this is not a significant indicator of my ability to remember or my capacity for feelings of deep love and hate (which, as Huey P. Newton once said, are on the same pole, and, together, are the opposite of indifference).  After all, Black people– Michael Brown’s community, or the colonized African community in the United States– have continued to speak his name.  If anything, my own expressions of rage and hurt are but faint echoes of a far more profound experience of authentic humanity in the collective heart and mind of the Black community.

Therefore, it’s no sign of political consciousness or righteous anger when white people are indifferent to the suffering of any person, particularly at the hands of the capitalist state, whether that person is Michael Brown in Ferguson or Justine Damond in Minneapolis, and whether the victim is an Black/African person or a European colonizer from Australia.

White people being indifferent to human suffering is nothing new.  That is the basis of capitalist power.  This disregard for humanity is “how the West was won.”  Of course, in the processing of gaining power and conquering the West (and the world), whites have had even less regard for the lives of Indigenous peoples and Africans and the majority of people outside Europe.  But callousness about the death of another white woman isn’t going to lead us out of this inhumane system called capitalism, any more than the “American Revolution,” the Civil War, two World Wars and countless other examples of white-on-white crime were successful at overthrowing this system and restoring our humanity.  White people not loving other whites is as old as the first time we clubbed our neighbor over the head in his cave and stole his wife and his piece of half-cooked meat.

White people who say they don’t care about the death of Justine Damond are engaging in behavior that sounds a lot like the phrase “showing out.”  Big deal.  It’s playing to a Black audience in much the same way as our signs proclaiming “Black Lives Matter.”  It’s another instance of what’s called “performative allyship,” not to mention the “white gaze”– except in reverse.  That is, we hope Black people are gazing at us, taking note of our “wokeness.”  “Look at me– I don’t care about the police killing an Australian woman!”  Wow, you sound lovely.

White indifference to the death of Justine Damond is also a cynical use of class divisions within the settler colony of the United States.  It seems to argue: if those white people over there— disgusting Trump supporters?– are all outraged about the death of a white woman, and are attacking the Somali cop who killed Justine Damond, then these white people over here— socialists, leftists, or whatever– must need to be against anything they are for.  Granted, it’s likely that many white leftists are currently engaged in a great deal of “All Lives Matter”-ing when it comes to Justine Damond’s death, even if the white right abandoned their “Blue Lives Matter”-ing as soon as they saw, next to all that blue uniform, Mohamed Noor’s melanin (and name).

Nevertheless, this use of class divisions– within the white settler class, or the oppressor nation on this occupied continent– is one of the reasons why the “majority” has never been able to organize an effective revolutionary struggle against the capitalist system whose violence primarily targets Africans, Indigenous peoples, Latinxs (so-called people of color) but also harms Europeans (whites) from time to time.  An entire global system built on violent oppression is bound to get some of its violence on whites.  That’s just the nature of the beast.  And until we recognize that capitalism is inherently dangerous to all of humanity– and nature, of which we are a part– then we won’t move against the actual basis of police violence, and racism, and misogyny, and economic exploitation, which is capitalism itself.  Instead, we’ll be focused on how awful Trump is, or how Senator Kamala Harris shouldn’t be the next boss of this system because of her ties to … whatever.  As if that’s the point– the point is to bring this monster down, not to put our favorite person in charge of the system as we “Feel the Bern.”  If you’re a white person who thinks “a good U.S. President” really matters in the struggle to dismantle global forces of oppression, maybe your progressive politics aren’t so hot after all.

At the same time, it’s inhumane and, well, monstrous to expect Black people to feel bad about Justine Damond’s death, or to have feelings of love and concern about white people in general.  We’re so busy telling them to forgive little white murderers who go into churches and slaughter Black people, we may have overlooked the whole history of slavery, genocide, colonization, mass incarceration and every other form of white supremacist violence we’ve committed against Black people.  Why should they care when one of us dies or is killed?  Telling the oppressed to love their oppressor is like saying they should sleep with a sharp knife next to their face.

And, in fact, Black people feeling bad about the troubles of white people is not a great difficulty for them, or for most so-called people of color.  Their humanity isn’t the issue.  People of color didn’t create capitalism and proceed to terrorize the world.  They didn’t commit genocide against the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australia.  People of color weren’t leading the charge in the “Scramble for Africa” at the Berlin Conference in 1884-85.  People of color didn’t tell anyone to hate themselves based on the color of their skin.  So, while we’re telling Black people and people of color to forgive us for our crimes against humanity, and we’re telling them to hate themselves and love us, white people may have also overlooked that we’re the ones who have the whole “empathy” problem, who lack love, who lack culture, and humanity, and civilization, the works.

So it’s not that we should expect Black people to shed tears for Justine Damond.  But being a cold-as-ice low-life about her death won’t help matters either.  Maybe it would be nice if whites started to feel compassion, even for other whites– and not based merely on the fact that they aren’t Black.  That of course isn’t love– that’s just more hate.  Or it’s not even hate.  It’s emptiness: nothing.  It’s the sort of thing that causes whites to send those “troops” we support so much to a distant country in order to kill brown people, and then when the “troops” are killed, we pay them a tribute at a Mets game between bites of cheesy nachos, and then go back to the game– not the baseball game, but the game of hating and murdering brown people.  Whites seem to be incapable of forming any sort of community or identity that isn’t based on hating (and harming) someone else while trying to make a profit off our own feeling of superiority that we now call– “patriotism”?  It’s no wonder we think “Blue Uniforms Matter”– or camo uniforms– instead of loving actual lives.  We have nothing else.

The behavior of white people is despicable– that’s obvious.  But if we don’t begin to form some sort of community that isn’t based on the destruction of all other (or Other-ed) communities, we will truly be doomed.  Which may not be a bad thing for humanity, but it could be bad for us– that whole “no longer existing” thing, it could be a problem.  Instead, we’re dead set on promoting the “American” identity, which is a fake community based on the destruction of Indigenous and African lives, and people of color, in this settler colony of the United States.  And then our progressive struggles as “Americans” (on the right or the left) turn into a race to see who can get the largest share of the loot– so we can then invest it in infrastructure, either in new bridges and schools or in a new wall dividing one part of occupied Mexico from the other.  It’s all stolen.  You might be able to build a lousy wall, but you can’t build an authentic, humane identity or community on the foundation of stolen property, stolen lives, and unpaid reparations– in other words, on the national identity of the United States (or Australia, or Canada, or Israel, or South Africa).

Anyone who doesn’t fight for themselves and for their own interests cannot be trusted.  Solidarity doesn’t mean self-negation.  But the question isn’t “Are we going to start loving white people?”  Because whiteness itself is the problem– whiteness is inseparable from white supremacy, capitalism, “America,” and the ongoing attack by white people against Africa and the world.  The question is: “Are we going to find a positive identity that can become the basis for positive action?”

It would be better if white people, out of our love for Justine Damond, burned down the police station and marched on Washington, even if we continued to show how much we hate Black people.  Because nothing shows our anti-Blackness more than our willingness to allow capitalism and the United States to exist.  If we moved against the system, at least we would begin to dislodge its oppressive elements, and expose its contradictions, and exploit meaningful class divisions (rather than Republicans versus Democrats, or Trump versus Bernie), so that Africans and all colonized communities– strengthened by their own unity– could move against this system too, against our common exploiter, which is the capitalist ruling class.

Fred Hampton didn’t tell poor whites in Chicago that they shouldn’t care about themselves and neglect their own struggle for empowerment.  Fred Hampton recognized that these coalitions that the Black Panther Party was building– even with racist whites, as all whites are– could bring down the power structure more effectively than whites simply trying to show we care more about Black people than ourselves, as we rush to get close to them and their humanity in order to make up for our lack thereof.

So, whether it’s out of authentic feelings of deep love and hurt, or it’s a strategy for bringing down the capitalist system, it seems to me it’s a good thing for progressive white people to care about the death of Justine Damond.  After all, if we were Justine Damond, we would care about our own life … or would we?  Because whites seem to care more about preserving a system that is destructive to life– capitalism– than about loving and defending the people who are harmed by this system, even ourselves.

Why It’s Helpful for White People to Feel Bad About the Death of Justine Damond

What Are America’s Monuments For? : A Monumental Failure of White People’s Humanity and Understanding

WM

The United States of America represents the triumph of self-interest over reality.  “America” means your individualistic view or experience is all that exists.  So if you’ve never seen a political prisoner in the U.S., and probably haven’t even read about political prisoners in this country, then political prisoners must not exist.  And if you’re white, you very likely have not been compelled to take into account how your particular view of the world is empowered by a system, based on its interests.

Since it is not in the interests of capitalism, and it is consequently not in our interests– as white people– to question the validity of these master narratives, then we can just impose our subjective reality on the rest of the globe.  And if this imagined view proves to be incorrect, we can claim ignorance.  “Black people experience state oppression and extreme violence?  I had no idea!”  This willful ignorance on the part of white people is tremendously dangerous, but it’s also by design: our lack of political consciousness, and our narrow view of ourselves and the globe, are used as weapons of imperialism against the globe.

White people– especially whites in the U.S.– are agents of empire, as our individualism, patriotism and lack of objective knowledge are used by capitalism to impose our will– which is its will– on humanity.  So the United States becomes incredibly powerful and rich, and can boast about all these success stories.  Yet, at the same time, the United States also becomes a monument to ignorance and its triumph over material reality, as well as humanity.  As far as scientific understanding and human decency are concerned, or our shared morals and feelings of empathy are concerned, the United States of America is a monumental failure.

One of these towering failures of the “American” imperialist ideology is the belief of whites who are women, or LGBT, or disabled, or poor that we must have it as bad as Black people and so-called people of color.  We can always measure our specific individual experience against some imagined, hypothetical Black person who is better off than we are.  Then we ignore the statistical evidence, and the narratives of oppressed people.  We just go by some imaginary Black person who is wealthier, happier, healthier– who went to college for free and then got “our” job and, meanwhile, we’re struggling to make ends meet, and we’re gay or transgender or chronically ill.  If some Black or Brown person at some time in history made fun of a gay person or a trans person, then, well, we’ve got it as bad (or worse) than that Black cishet man driving that nice car, because we are gay or trans and he’s not.  Or we saw a successful Black person on TV (for example, giving a nationally televised address from the White House) and we thought– that guy took my place, he has it so much better than me.  Of course, it never occurs to us to consider how racist it is to believe it was our place to begin with, or that the media that shows these images is controlled by wealthy, racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, Islamophobic whites who want us to take our frustrations out on Black people and so-called people of color.  No– we just go right along and impose our subjectively idealist view on the world, because we are empowered by a global economic system (capitalism) to do so.

The point isn’t who has it the worst overall– who feels the most oppressed, or who believes they are the most exploited.  We live under an inhumane, backward capitalist system: of course it’s bad for nearly everyone.  Even the rich get migraines from counting all that cash.  The wealthy executives lose their voice telling their lazy, worthless employees they’re fired.  If we go by subjective reality, everyone is oppressed.  But the point of recognizing systemic oppression is to ask: if you’re gay or trans, and white, how does your reality statistically compare with a Black person or African who is gay or trans (or both)?  Statistically, there is no doubt who is experiencing greater systemic oppression: Black people.

And, of course, having wealth and access to resources is going protect anyone from capitalist violence, at least to a certain extent.  However, if we look at the way capitalism treats middle-class white women versus the way it treats middle-class Black women, there is no question who is oppressed (especially if they are Black trans women).  It doesn’t matter if they’re middle-class or wealthy– in fact, it shows just how oppressive the capitalist system of power is when having money still isn’t enough to avoid racist violence.  But if we’re a poor, exploited white worker, we compare our situation to the richest, happiest Black person we can imagine– or see on TV.  We don’t consider that we’re acting out of jealousy, and also believing the white identity is entitled to certain privileges, and that maybe we just aren’t as smart, hardworking or determined as they are.  And this willful ignorance on our part is money in the bank for capitalism– it wins elections, it gentrifies neighborhoods, and it leads to the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people, including political prisoners who are criminalized and punished for their beliefs and for struggling against objective or material conditions of oppression, not on account of their hurt feelings and headaches.

Yet the white population in the United States, having been objectively empowered by our whiteness, can just go on believing that political prisoners don’t exist in this country– not like in Cuba and other “backward” countries where Black and Brown people live as the majority.  The whiter the country, or the whiter the neighborhood, the more that white people think it is free from political repression and terrorism– rather than considering that its greater whiteness is evidence of its greater violence.

Any population that ignores the ongoing repression of political prisoners– and even their very existence– is simply widening its own contradictions between what it believes to be good and decent and its actual behavior, which is evil and inhumane.  Our values and ideals are bound to come crashing down on our heads because of this volatility between what we believe and want and what the world actually is.   And capitalism itself– as expressed through the state power of the United States– is built on this unstable foundation, or, rather, this lie:  “America” is a society whose subjective reality is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the belief that people are created equal, with justice for all, while the material reality for its power and wealth has been slavery, colonization, and ongoing genocide against Africans, Indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity.

Nothing exposes this contradiction more than the existence of political prisoners in this “free country”; so, of course, capitalism empowers whites only to see rich Black people, successful Black people and Latinxs and Native people, happy Black and Brown people in a wonderfully diverse, progressive society.  Or, if they aren’t rich and happy, they must be criminals, thugs, terrorists– so we allow the state to lock them up and then hide their very existence from our view.  Then we just look at all the pictures of the pretty monuments to slave-holding “Founding Fathers,” and think about what a great country “America” is, wandering around in our dreams, in our white neighborhoods, until the oppressed people of the globe wake us up one day and make us recognize our crimes.

What Are America’s Monuments For? : A Monumental Failure of White People’s Humanity and Understanding

Patriarchy and Empire, and Then Power: How “The Last Shall Be First and the First Last”

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Patriarchal violence is connected to the violence of an imperialist system.  In order for capitalist empire to expand its wealth and power, it must resolve its internal contradictions.  Otherwise it will be too weak or too unstable to grow.  So first it moves against the most vulnerable populations within its borders.  The greatest in strength, the first in power, moves against the last in power (echoing Frantz Fanon).

Now, one would think that women and femmes– who historically, and in many parts of the world, have had the least power– would pose the least threat to the imperialist power structure.  Sadly, that’s not how systemic oppression works.  The less power you have, the more the system moves against you.  Because it can only prove it is stronger by testing its strength on your defenseless bodies.  It preys on the weak so it can test its stronger force, or its capacity for violence, and then move against an outside force.  If you have power, then its force can’t just move in.  It may be wiped out. Power only knows it has power by constantly testing itself against the weak– passing laws, making religious rules, saying you must do this, or you must not do that, squeezing more and more, getting stronger.  It’s like an exercise.  The objective of empire is to strengthen its internal contradictory elements, and to resolve its own weaknesses by increasing yours.  Imperialism is practising, on you, on me, on her, on all women here, so it can then go out and inflict this perfected violence on the rest of the globe.

Furthermore, women and all oppressed people have the least to lose by fighting back.  Imperialism needs to have its own house in order before it can attack the neighbor’s house across the street, or border.  While it’s off roughing up the world, oppressed people may be getting ideas at home.  So the imperialist power goes after the people who have the least to lose if society is disrupted.  Break us, make sure we stay broke, then break them.

Why do men in colonized communities so often fear they are being emasculated, and that their manhood is being jeopardized by the oppressive system?  Because the system– when it is imperialistic– first violates women and femmes, then it goes after the cisgender men.  So they feel they are getting the same treatment as the women.  The men feel emasculated.  And who has the least power?  The women, who have already been brutalized.  But now the brutalized men attack the women too, because they feel this is the only way to get their power (or manhood) back.  Imperialism taught them that manhood is connected with violence, that manhood means power.  And that power means manhood.  So they actually side with forces that are moving against them and the two move together against women.

However, the cisgender women below them still have one group they can move against too: trans women.  They say: the men are against us, and “you used to be a man,” so you must be against us too.  Of course, this view is contradicted by the fact that the men are exercising their power over trans women too, and trans women have even less power than cis women.  But quite often this contradiction is overlooked because transphobic cis women require an excuse to move against a group with less power.  Ironically, if they just accepted that transgender women are women too, all women would become a unified force, and thus we would be somewhat empowered to defend ourselves.  But it’s the objective of imperialism to divide the people whom it oppresses.  Obviously, this makes it easier to control them, or us.

And one of the greatest divides in imperialist, capitalist society is that which exists between white women and Black women/women of color.  White women in the colonial class often make this division grow even wider because we go to the white man and say: we’ll help you rough up the colonized subjects– women, men, gender nonconforming people in oppressed communities– if you will just leave us alone, and give us the vote, or that executive position in your corporation.  Elect me to be President.  In this respect, we’re like cis women, who turn against trans women because they think they may be able to gain an advantage.  The real advantage goes to imperialism because it can now strengthen its control.  But powerless people become so traumatized, they don’t think these things through.  Imperialist capitalism limits their consciousness of all the options.  They just strike at the identity closest to them.  For most people, it’s very hard to get close to wealthy cisgender white men: they’re behind high gates with armed security guards (police) out front.  So you put on your invisible blue uniform and strike the person at home instead: the disabled person, the trans person, the one with least power.  Obviously, if we were thinking straight we wouldn’t do that.  But we’re traumatized.  Empire encourages mechanical acts, just automatic movements of fists, machines, fighter jets, patrol cars, fingers on triggers, movements of muscle, movements of closing prison bars.

And so the empire at home becomes a fine-tuned instrument of violence.  And it practices its violence on colonized communities, particularly the women and femmes in these communities.  The United States perfected its capacity for imperialist violence on enslaved African women and on Indigenous women– on women, girls and femmes of color.  The military-industrial complex you see today was tested and gradually improved to move against the world by first moving against African and Indigenous women– Puerto Rican women, Chinese women, as well as European women, transgender and cisgender.  Once the machine is tested at home then it can attack abroad.  And of course, to the European colonizer, North America already is abroad.  It’s hostile territory.  So control the women here, especially brown women, terrorize and tame them, then you can deal with hostile territories around the globe– which are also sources of wealth.  The women here– we’re sources of wealth to empire.  If you don’t have power you don’t get paid– or you get paid less.  So empire, whose only concern is growing stronger and richer, sees anything it doesn’t already totally control as both a potential threat and a potential source of wealth.  Both.

Without capitalist empire, patriarchy loses the systemic basis for its power and its ability to inflict violence.  Of course, if we eliminate empire, patriarchy remains– it has infiltrated our very beings.  Each man is a walking empire, if he can walk.  At least white men are self-contained, individual empires, each one.  And white women are too.  In order to be otherwise, the patriarchy inside us has to be rooted out by the authoritarian power of a socialist state, until such a state also becomes useless and is then discarded– like capitalist empire.

Capitalism (or imperialist oppression) has the potential to be useful because it can unify all oppressed people in the world– against capitalism.  Violence begets violence.  But as long as we’re moving against each other, as individuals, and especially against Black trans women and trans women of color, capitalism will have us divided, simply reacting to violence with more violence against the least powerful.  Once we recognize the authority of mass power and become conscious of our capacity for greater violence, women and femmes and colonized peoples can all move in our various organizations which represent our overlapping identities, and we can make the patriarchal, imperialist ruling class fear us.

But we’re not at that point yet.  You’ll see, when the United States wears itself out destroying women at home and abroad, its power won’t be so attractive to the traumatized and opportunistic individuals who are both its victims and its instruments of violence.  This evil gray machine is weaponizing the people who will eventually be its demise, bringing down its power from within– and African women, Black trans women, will likely be out in front: the last becoming the first, the most violated among us (and by us) becoming the main source of victory for the masses.  Our daily violence and indifference to their lives, to their safety and happiness, to the well-being of Black trans women, is making it so.

Patriarchy and Empire, and Then Power: How “The Last Shall Be First and the First Last”

The Dialectics of Anti-Colonialist Struggle: Against Capitalism, or For Africans?

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The dialectics of anti-colonialist struggle reflect the two following opposing realities:

The first reality of anti-colonialist struggle is that the people who are moving to free their land will be fighting enemies who look like them.  This is particularly true of an anti-neo-colonialist struggle, when members of the ruling class will belong to the same “race” or nationality as members of the oppressed classes in this territory.  So the fight will be between those who belong to (or side with) colonial forces and those who belong to (or side with) all the oppressed subjects of colonial rule (as well as neo-colonial and imperialist rule).

In this case, the masses of the people are fighting to establish a certain political system and its ideology, not just to free the land of some other “race.”  They move to overthrow the power of the oppressive class (no matter what they look like) in order to create their own system of power.  The Chinese fought the Chinese in order to create a socialist state in China.  The Russians fought other Russians in order to create a socialist state in Russia.  Even on this continent, the English fought against the English in order to establish a bourgeois democracy (on occupied Indigenous land).  So these contradictions are between classes, and their ideologies, and not just between “races.”  It wasn’t enough simply to be pro-Chinese, as far as the Chinese “race” is concerned.  Any anti-imperialist or anti-colonialist struggle anywhere on the globe means those who support the current order (because they typically enjoy the greatest benefits from it) will move to destroy the revolutionary movement for a new order: a new political, economic and social arrangement (typically representing the majority).  People move to protect interests, not merely identities.

However, the second part of this unity of opposites in anti-colonialist struggle is that the people aren’t organizing just to impose an ideology– they are moving to free the land and its people … all the people.  Therefore, such a goal would seem to require that organizers of this movement transcend the political differences among the masses of the people, while emphasizing their shared cultural or “racial” identity.  In this case, it is important to be pro-Chinese, or pro-Black– to be pro-African.  The revolution isn’t being waged just to free the people who may agree with your political views, but to free as many of your people as possible.

We can contrast this type of anti-colonialist struggle with bourgeois elections in the United States.  In the latter case, the Republicans are struggling to impose their conservative ideas while Democrats are struggling to impose their liberal ideas, and, no matter which side happens to win, the land mass of the United States will continue to be occupied by white people, and rich whites will continue to grow richer.  In other words, in the “American” bourgeois electoral process, the struggle of the voters (the majority of whom are white, on account of colonial genocide) is to gain power within the current political arrangement.  In capitalist elections, white people argue with other white people about who to elect– from the wealthy class– in order to keep the present system intact, as we hope to gain greater benefit from the rule of Democrats or Republicans.

Anti-colonialist struggle hardly resembles these cyclical (or cynical) struggles of voters to choose the next President, or some other representative of the ruling class, out of the hope that the few who hold power can be influenced to benefit all the classes below them.  In the case of Black liberation, or the global struggle for power by Africans, the goal is to free Black people (Africans).  The goal isn’t just to impose an existing ideology on the losing side– the side whose political views are the opposite of the winning side’s political views.  This isn’t the divide.  The divide is between an oppressive, racist system and those who are oppressed by this system, which is to say nearly all Black people (and so-called people of color).

If the fight were simply between African/Black socialist revolutionaries and African/Black liberals (and Black conservatives, libertarians and so forth), this would be a very lopsided fight indeed, especially in the U.S., where the ruling class has imposed its bourgeois ideology for hundreds of years.  In this colonial situation, it would seem necessary for “racial” or national unity to exist– that is, if the goal of the struggle is to free colonized people from the rule of the colonizer.

After all, Africans/Black people are oppressed on account of the fact that they are African and Black– not because they are liberal, conservative, socialist, libertarian, anarchist or anything else.  And, even if European/white socialists in the U.S. happen to agree with African/Black socialists, the aim of the Black liberation movement isn’t to gain power for Europeans or free our land (we already have power– too much– and our land is in Europe).  So the struggle for Black empowerment would seem to require a movement that transcends the many political differences among Black people, rather than pitting Black socialists against Black liberals.

As a European colonizer (white person), this sort of Black unity is not my business.  However, it seems to be the business of every white person who considers themselves to be progressive that we pay attention to the dialectics of anti-colonialist struggle, in order to avoid confusion about the meaning of a new socialist (then communist) global order.

All too often, it appears that white people exploit the political divisions within the Black community in order to promote our own aim of imposing a certain ideology (liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, anarchist).  Europeans colonizers behave as if only ideology matters, not identity.  But it should be obvious that if colonized Africans– Black people– are going to be free, they must be free as a people belonging to their identity (Black or African), regardless of their politics.  This is true even when their struggle to be free may require that they move against people who look like them, Black individuals from their own community, because such individuals (although they are Black) stand in the way of liberation– and power.  Freedom comes from power, not identity.  However, an identity must exist in order to be free and to have power.  That’s the dialectic.

White people– because we already have power under the capitalist system– have a different relationship with African people, and with capitalism, than Africans have to each other and to this system.  White people in the United States (or anywhere in the world) don’t need to show racial unity because we already have a system that enforces such unity– if not unified culture, then unified political, economic and social power.  While we may be oppressed by capitalism, whites are not oppressed by whites– quite the opposite, for we are the oppressors.  And even if we are impoverished by capitalism, white people are not poor on account of whiteness.  Again, quite the opposite.  Whites have gained all the wealth and power which we possess– within this oppressive capitalism system– on account of its violence against Indigenous peoples, Africans and the majority of humanity, and this is true whether we have a little or a lot.

To a large extent, white people cannot avoid being pro-white or showing racial unity because we cannot avoid participating in the pro-white system of the United States: capitalism.  Since we depend on this system for all our needs, we promote the aims of white supremacist, colonial capitalism.  And whenever we participate in elections (especially as Democrats or Republicans) we are promoting the pro-white ideology of bourgeois rule.

Whites don’t have to be explicitly proud of our identity in order to benefit from its power.  In fact, it’s considered tacky to do this and it tends to make the good white liberal very uncomfortable.  Blatant white supremacists– like the KKK, the alt-right and Trump supporters– proclaim their pro-white attitude, and their negative attitude toward Black people.  They think this obvious racism is beneficial.  But they are really just expressing their insecurity about themselves, in the same manner as old-fashioned racists like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond.  Because the capitalist system doesn’t have to be explicitly pro-white or anti-Black in order to function as pro-white and anti-Black– it only needs to continue to exist.  The same can be said of the United States.  The mere existence of the United States of America is an expression of white supremacy.

A white person doesn’t have to be blatantly proud of their white identity– they can simply say they are “proud to be an American.”  Because as soon as white people showed up on the shores of Indigenous lands, our very presence on stolen soil, and our eagerness to occupy more space and use up more resources, and enjoy the “American Dream,” indicated the level of our white supremacy– an attitude empowered entirely by the white supremacist capitalist system.

Everything about this capitalist system of power in the United States (and the world) is an expression of white supremacy.  However, if we start to feel insecure, and think our position atop the global economy is slipping a bit, we can always fall back on our white identity and declare that we are proud to be white.  For instance, white people (including white women) can elect Donald Trump.  Thus, we politically benefit from being pro-white.

At the same time, a Black person never directly gains power from being pro-Black.  If they are proud to be Black they probably increase the chances of the state coming down on them– although it often does so one way or the other.  There are, of course, indirect or subjective benefits to being pro-Black, or being what used to be called “a race man.”  A person has to be proud of who they are– or at least conscious of who they are, and be unashamed and unapologetic about this growing consciousness of their identity– before they can move against a system that has taken power from them.  And once they have gained this confidence in their identity, and this self-definition of their identity, then they may have the subjective wish (as all wishes are) to seize power– to seize the time and take back control of their lives, labor and resources.

That’s what “Black Lives Matter” is about, at least in part: “we are Black, and we matter” seems to be a large part of the message.  It’s certainly what the Garvey Movement was about.  Marcus Garvey helped to instill confidence in the masses of Africans in “America” and around the world, so that they would be proud of who they are and then move to gain power for themselves.

And, of course, whenever Black people grow proud of who they are, white people move to destroy them (like we destroyed Marcus Garvey and his movement, as well as Malcolm X, Dr. King, the Black Panther Party and so on).  Because we know that the power that we enjoy is based on our theft of power (and resources, labor and land) from Africans, as well as from Indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity.

It’s not only the conservatives and blatant racists who believe it’s “hateful” for Black people to love themselves and be proud of who they are– the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will put a dot representing a racist, pro-white group right next to a dot representing a non-racist, pro-Black group on its map of “hate groups” in the United States.  Never mind that the United States is a hate group– its entire existence is based on a hateful, backward system (capitalism) which continues to move against colonized Africans, whether they are pro-white or anti-white, and whether they are pro-Black or anti-Black.

However, (like Kwame Ture once said) capitalism will make a commodity out of anything.  And so the pro-white and anti-Black ruling class of this global economic system will even attempt to profit off pro-Blackness.  It’s their business (a Black capitalist business) if Black people want to go along with such an opportunistic scheme by the ruling class of the global economy.  But white socialist revolutionaries shouldn’t contribute to this exploitation of pro-Black culture and attitudes, any more than we should attempt to join Black socialist struggles just because we share the same politics.  Instead, we need to ask ourselves: how much do we promote the mythological view that just being pro-Black (or pro-“diversity”) will lead to the empowerment of Black people?  Do we support a Black candidate for political office, and say, “Well, they’re Black, so that means I’m against racism, because I want them to win”?  Do we buy or appropriate– that is, steal– Black culture and tell ourselves, “I’m into this Black music or this Black TV show, or this Black hairstyle, so that means I’m against racism, because I paid money for this commodity?”  If we’re actually against racism– or a racist system– we must be against capitalism, all the time, no matter who is running it or what they look like.  Because capitalism is robbing and killing Africans all the time.

White people contribute to the confusion surrounding pro-Blackness and the empowerment of Black people by parasitically attaching ourselves to the cultural expressions (the humanity) of the former, while benefiting from an inhumane system’s opposition to the latter: that is, capitalism further subjugates African people, draining their own power, by getting richer off pro-Black culture, thereby adding to the power of this system and the whites who depend on this system for our existence.  It’s not that we need to stop buying Black music and watching Black shows … although whites do need to stop making documentaries and other movies about Black people, and we do need to stop capitalizing on their pain in the New York Daily News and other bourgeois media.

But, more than anything, whites who are progressive or revolutionary should recognize the necessity of Black people sticking together, loving one another, and showing unity, even (or especially) if this means excluding us, regardless of our politics.  Let Black people be pro-Black.

At the same time, whites whose politics are revolutionary should recognize that the only pro-Black move on our part is to dismantle a system and a state that is inherently anti-Black, so that Africans all over the world (as subjects of their own struggle) will have the power to shape their own community in their own image.  And that sort of movement has as little to do with who the next “boss” of this system and this country might be– or who we should support for President, white, Black or otherwise– than capitalism itself has to do with being pro-Black.  In other words, less than zero.

The Dialectics of Anti-Colonialist Struggle: Against Capitalism, or For Africans?