Category Archives: Racism

ALL LIVES MATTER: White Reaction in Austin, Texas

This guest piece focuses on the resurgence of white reactionary forces in Austin, Tx leading up to the Police Lives Matter rally taking place Saturday, Sept. 18, 2015. While U&S members may not agree with every point made below, we post it in hopes of sparking discussion.

policelives
#PoliceLivesMatter march in Houston, Texas, September 12th 2015

ALL LIVES MATTER
White Reaction in Austin, Texas

By Scott Hoft

This was inevitable. Movements of Black people in this country have always been accompanied by an intense backlash of those who benefit from black oppression. Beginning in late spring 2015 we have seen the rise of a number of diverse right-wing formations: Alex Jones rallying his acolytes, renewed Ku Klux Klan activity, a nazi punk stabbing at a metal show, neo-confederates rallying against the removal of monuments of “southern heritage”, and a mass pro-police pushback called, of all things, “Police Lives Matter”.

The cycle of the post-Ferguson movement in Austin has been relatively tame. We never blocked a highway, no window has been broken, nor any store looted or burned. Those in the leadership of several post-Ferguson organizations have tended more and more to encourage cooperation with politicians and police.

The highest profile act of vandalism was the word “CHUMP” written in chalk on the base of a statue of Jefferson Davis. This, happening at the University of Texas, sparked a campus wide movement to “BUMP THE CHUMP”. The axiom alone propelled a satirical Student Government Campaign to the highest offices. Continue reading ALL LIVES MATTER: White Reaction in Austin, Texas

Fanon and the Theory of Race

Fanon 1It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others
– W.E.B Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks

He who is reluctant to recognize me is against me
– Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary
— Malcolm X, Speech at the Founding of the OAAU

Frantz Fanon is one of the most important 20th century thinkers on race, and any serious theory and strategy dealing with the reality of race has to grapple with his work.[1] At the same time, Fanon remains one of the most misunderstood revolutionary thinkers. Part of the reason lies in the hybrid nature of his work, which draws from, among other fields of knowledge, philosophy, psychiatry, literature, anthropology and marxism. Another reason for the conflicting interpretation of his work may be the conditions under which his writings were produced, often addressing the immediate theoretical issues of the day, whether in France, Algeria, the Caribbean, or the anti-colonial struggles in Africa. Further, dying of leukemia at the young age of 36, Fanon was robbed of the opportunity to more fully develop and synthesize his diverse and fragmented work.

During his lifetime, Fanon was first and foremost known as an associate of the FLN, the leading party of the Algerian Revolution, a proponent of the Algerian Revolution as a model of anti-colonial revolution, and a critic of the emerging national bourgeoisie. In addition, Fanon fostered relationships with French intellectuals, most famously Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. However, Fanon’s work was never widely known in his lifetime in France, or, more broadly, in the metropoles.

It was not until Les Damnés del la terre was translated into English in 1965 as The Wretched of the Earth that Fanon reached a wider audience. The emergence of nationalist and Third Worldist movements, both globally and in the “Western” countries, meant new life for Fanon’s work, as these movements drew on his work in various ways. Wretched of the Earth was at the center of this Fanon revival, while other important works, such as Black Skin, White Masks, were relatively ignored. Later, after these movements subsided, Fanon was the subject of intense appropriation and critique within American universities. The different moments and places in the reception and interpretation of his work meant that Fanon has been interpreted in widely different, and contradictory ways.

The purpose of this essay is to briefly examine some of the core tenets of Fanon’s understanding of race, and it by no means provides an exhaustive account of his work.[2] Important areas of his writing are left untouched, as is most of the historical context. Instead, this essay explores some of the key categories and methodology Fanon uses in his analysis of race, with the aim of drawing out some of the lines in his thought. A particular emphasis is placed on his concept of racial alienation. The hope is to encourage others to take up Fanon, or engage with those who have already done so, as one step in the necessary reconstruction of a revolutionary theory of race and white supremacy for today.

The notes below approach the question primarily through a close reading of the important chapter in Black Skin, White Masks, “The Lived Experience of the Black Man,” although other parts of his work are touched on. This chapter is important because it lays out his core concepts of racial alienation and its self-abolition.
Continue reading Fanon and the Theory of Race

Perspectives on Occupy Atlanta from Revolutionary Voices

This piece was written by one of our members and her comrades in Atlanta, who have been taking part of Occupy Atlanta since day one.

A public, revolutionary perspective of the ongoing occupations across the nation has been lacking. There is much talk within radical communities, organizations, and blogs about the occupations, but few written declarations have been made from those within the occupations themselves. This is our small attempt to address this problem.

We do not represent the voices of every occupier, but we also recognize that our own voices must be heard. We followed the Occupy Wall Street movement when it was just several hundred people in New York City, and we watched, thrilled, as it spread across the nation. We were ecstatic to find out that folks, here, in Atlanta were starting to organize our very own Occupy. But we were also cautious—cautious because we knew there were very serious critiques of the racial, class, gendered, and political makeup of the occupations that we largely agreed with and didn’t want to see replicated in our own city.

Last Friday was the first night of Occupy Atlanta. At six pm, the scheduled time for the first General Assembly, over 500 people gathered in Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta. It was exciting to see so many people come out to something that had been planned so quickly. It was a testament to the excitement and rage in the air. At the same time, there were lots of problems from the start. White men moderated the entire three hour discussion, spoke almost the whole time, and made it very difficult for anyone else to speak because of the “process” of the meeting. Many of us had to wait almost twenty minutes, several times, to say one word even though no one else was on stack. The meeting was at times boring, tedious, and incredibly frustrating. Yet, it was also an exercise in democracy, and the biggest collective decision making body most of us had ever witnessed.

During the GA, Congressman John Lewis, the celebrated civil rights leader, showed up in expectation of addressing the crowd. We were informed that he wanted to address the crowd at that very moment, and were not told until far later that he had a prior engagement and thus could not wait until later to speak. Hundreds of people were in the midst of a critical meeting and knew that there was a place at the end of the agenda for people to address the crowd. Furthermore, recognizing that one of the central values of the Occupy movement is the belief that no individual or group of individuals is more valuable than any other person—particularly those already over-valued and over-represented in the very governmental institution we are opposing—many folks in the crowd felt that the meeting should not be interrupted for an “important” figure. The folks asking Lewis to wait until the scheduled speaking time were not only white folks, as has been suggested by some, but a diverse group of people, and ultimately made up the majority. Those asking Lewis to wait wanted Lewis to speak—they recognized his legacy, his importance, and his value for many of us, especially to the black community—but they also wanted him and every other individual to respect the process of a democratic meeting.

Yet, this collective ask prompted a handful of black folks to leave the crowd, telling some individuals they felt alienated and upset by what had happened. One woman of color was in tears on the phone, speaking to a friend, saying that those who claimed to speak for her were unaware of what she needed—John Lewis was a radical man whom empowered his community, and here was a mostly white crowd shooing him away. This was so upsetting to witness for many of the radicals in the crowd, as we were already concerned about the racial dynamics and did not want the decision to ask Lewis to wait to be construed as a rejection of such a prominent black leader, and therefore, as a major affront to POC and the black community. In the days that have followed, the John Lewis story has not died down, but rather gained steam and turned into something it absolutely was not. So let us be clear, as witnesses—John Lewis was asked to wait until the specified time for speakers to address the crowd. He did not stay; he had to leave for an appointment. He expressed absolutely no ill will towards us, publicly.

What happened is unfortunate. But those of us writing this document must be clear—if we have to rely on the presence of Lewis to attract and retain folks from the black community at a protest, something is fundamentally wrong. The situation should raise an altogether different question—why were only white men speaking and moderating? If a black woman had been on the bullhorn and had been the one to say Lewis needed to wait until the end, how would things have been interpreted differently? On the one hand, we need not to fetishize the democratic process. On the other hand, we need to recognize the influence of an individual like Lewis in the hearts of so many. However, the solution and discussion shouldn’t be limited to letting Lewis speak or making him wait. Again, if there were more women, more POC, more queer folks, up at the front of the crowd, and if they were the ones telling Lewis he needed to wait, what then would there action from the crowd have been? We ask this question because we are adamantly against the privilege baiting that has gone on in regards to the Lewis debacle. Far too often, these privilege politics (you are white and thus you have no right to ask Lewis to wait) are often masking political beliefs of individuals that are deeply imbedded within the non-profit industrial complex and black capitalist class which is nowhere more prominent than in Atlanta. Additionally, the privilege baiting attempts to erase the countless voices of women and people of color that also voted for Lewis to wait.

Again, the issue from the onset is not about Lewis being asked to wait; it is that people of color, queer folk, women—those upon whose backs capitalism was built and perpetuates its oppression—were not adequately reached out to in the preparatory stages of Occupy Atlanta, and were not actively included once it began. Using Facebook and word of mouth to spread information about an occupation, or any movement for that matter, is insufficient. These forms of communications rest on friendship ties, and friendship ties in this case were predominantly between those already existing in the progressive Atlanta community (which is very white). The Atlanta occupation, and those all across the country, have been planned, dominated, and frequented by mostly white, middle class, young men and women. This is the true issue at the forefront of these occupations, and many social movements. It is the sharp contrast between those speaking and those needing to speak that must be brought up, discussed, and publicly addressed by radicals, lest we fall into the same paradigms of non-profits, whom claim to speak for the disenfranchised, but in reality, rob and maim the voices of the oppressed classes.

Yet, we found ourselves questioning, why despite all of these problems, do we remain occupying? This is our answer: We remain occupying precisely because of these problems. We are revolutionaries, and the job of revolutionaries is not to ignore a mass movement of people breaking out just because it has problems, but to insert ourselves directly into the movement to raise, critique, and help fix the problems. We must stay here so we can bring up these non-coincidental issues of color, class, and gender-orientation representation and strive to change them. We must stay here so that we can raise the revolutionary character of these movements, challenge the participants to think and act differently, and incorporate the voices of those that have thus far been absent.

The authors of this document, along with countless others occupying cities across the nation, stand against capitalism, patriarchy, and racism. We recognize that capitalism would not be possible without the original, and ongoing, oppression of women, queer folk, and people of color. Capitalism was built upon our backs. This economic crisis has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years for queers, people of color, and women—it is nothing new. These communities have also been fighting back since the beginning of their oppression—resistance is also not new. We recognize that it is only when the homes of white, middle class Americans get taken away, when their jobs are lost, when they begin to suffer, when they begin to fight back, that the media and the politicians begin to pay attention.

But we also think there is a space to recognize and critique these factors from within the current occupation movement. We refuse to abstain from the largest mass activity that any of us have seen in our lifetimes, just because there are problems.

The authors of this document believe that the occupy movement reflects the biggest self-organization of the people that we have seen in decades. People are joining together to address the problems they face. But we also recognize that full realization of the demands that occupiers are making, such as putting people over profit, are impossible under the capitalist society in which we live. Full victory will never be possible as long as economic relations continue to be driven by the profit imperative. It is only through a revolution, created and led from the bottom up, by the people, for the people, by the 99% that are most affected, that we can move beyond the corruption and corporate rule we are witnessing today.

Yesterday, three women from this document moderated a 100 person general assembly. We are currently working on a workshop on white privilege and male privilege. There are more brown faces at the occupation each day, than the day previous. We renamed Woodruff Park, the park which we are occupying, Troy Davis Park. We are organizing a walk out at our school in which more than 30% of the students are black. There is a workshop on Saturday at Troy Davis Park about free, radical childcare. There is a march on Friday in support of a homeless shelter nearby that is in danger of being forced to close. We have fed hundreds of mouths, many which would have gone to bed hungry without our homemade peanut butter sandwiches and bean burritos.

Here’s the thing: We’re sick of asking for change, and we’re not going to do it anymore. We’re sick of being told to lobby and to vote, and if we just supported Obama a little more, things would be different. We’re sick of being told to join a non-profit, however radical it perceives itself to be. We’re sick of being told that change can happen within the system if we only just participate more. We’re sick of being told we’re racist, or sexist, or classist, for participating in a movement that has problems. We’re sick of sitting on the sidelines and refusing to actually engage in a movement while writing on our blogs and Facebook about how screwed up things are. We’re sick of asking and we’re sick of waiting. The time to act is now, with every ounce of our brown, female, and queer bodies.

“There are so many more Troy Davis'”

There has been an enormous amount of attention paid to the execution of Troy Davis and the international outcry that developed in the days preceding his murder. As a native of Atlanta, I was long aware of the case and the campaign attempting to get Troy off of death row. However, the campaign was largely dominated by non-profits and from my understanding, lacked any formal or public critique of Troy’s imprisonment and murder as directly caused by a racist and capitalist social order. As a result, I decided to orient myself towards other political action that had a more explicit political critique and would allow me to meet and develop alongside radicals, not those forever tied to the non-profit industrial complex.

But as news came of Troy’s impending execution, everyone I knew, radical or not, felt the need to act. Not only did we recognize the importance of being able to temporarily suspend our own organizing when sudden and important moments occur, but we also saw how many people who had never acted before were outraged and pouring into the streets (or the sidewalks at this point, because we hadn’t yet learned to take the streets together).  In this piece, I will first attempt to reconstruct my own experiences in the week leading up to Troy’s murder specifically the protest outside the prison on the September 21st. I will then address some of the critiques that have been made about the movement in relation to my own analysis not only as a witness, but as a committed revolutionary. This is a long piece, but bear with me, as I strongly believe this was one of the most important political ruptures many of us have ever seen, especially here in the South.
Continue reading “There are so many more Troy Davis’”

A Queer Imperialism?

You only have to go back to the justification of the occupation of Afghanistan as a “war for women” to know that one way imperialism justifies itself is through its supposedly progressive credentials. But this could also be said for white supremacy. The new racism, whether by the ruling class or its populist variants, presents itself as anti-racist, anti-patriarchal. Even queer politics is not escaping this dynamic and it’s no accident that the Israeli apartheid regime recently kicked off a “gay friendly” public relations campaign.

Diamond Walid’s critique over at MRzine is timely.

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Beirut: City of Projected Fantasies

by Diamond Walid

Beirut has been labelled the Paris, sometimes the Switzerland, of the Middle East. According to one recent New York Times article, it is now the region’s Provincetown (the Cape Cod resort favoured by gay visitors). This ever-changing city seems to have become a mirror where people project their own fantasies.

Comparing Beirut with another city, whether Paris, Rome or Provincetown is a denial of its uniqueness. Beirut’s gay culture is also unique and specific. As a gay man who has lived in the city for more than 30 years, I know that notions such as “gay”, “straight”, “public displays of affection” and “homophobia” can take on completely different forms and meanings in this part of the world. Yet there was no mention of these nuances in the New York Times article, obviously built on a series of denials.
Continue reading A Queer Imperialism?

On the Origins of Anti-Asian Racism and How We Have Fought Back

by Jomo, Mamos, and Will

In the United States, racist views of Asian-Americans are promiscuous and self-contradictory. On the one hand, we are told that we are model minorities, hard working citizens living out the classic American story of immigration and upward mobility. On the other hand, we are painted as perpetual foreigners, never quite American even after multiple generations of citizenship. On the one hand, we are supposed to be passive, docile, and submissive, while on the other hand they fear we are the yellow peril, a rising, ruthless, and aggressive empire that will someday destroy the white race.

The fact that these stereotypes are so contradictory show their ludicrousness. Racists project their own fears, anxieties, desires, and aspirations onto us in order to suppress our self-government and make us into who they want us to be, even if what they want us to be makes no sense. But racist fears, anxieties, desires and aspirations are not simply the product of individual ill will – they are shaped by powerful institutions. For example the U.S. military reproduces stereotypes of Asians as an aggressive, brainwashed Mongolian horde in order to raise support for their base expansion projects aimed at containing Chinese military power. Without U.S. military interests in Asia, this stereotype could have died out but instead it is growing.

That’s why liberal strategies of “anti-racism” will not liberate us. Liberals encourage white people to question their stereotypes as part of confronting their “privilege.” They do not attempt to abolish the institutions like military bases that produce and reproduce these stereotypes to keep us subordinated. This editorial will examine the historic political, economic, and social origins of anti-Asian racism. Our goal is not to enlighten anyone’s consciousness but rather to expose the institutions that oppress us so we know who our enemies are and what we need to smash.
Continue reading On the Origins of Anti-Asian Racism and How We Have Fought Back

Purging the University

There has been a long history of repression by the U.S. government, college administrations and faculty against the Palestinian struggle and Arab organizers. In the 1960s the Palestinian issue arrived on the radar of the state when it became a source of solidarity for internationally-minded people in the United States and around the world. The General Union of Palestinian Students has long been a target of FBI intimidation. Islamic activists and secular nationalists alike have been subject to state harassment, arrest and deportation for decades on college campuses and in the community. They were a threat to U.S. empire precisely because they attempted to educate American people about the realities of colonialism and racism abroad. What’s more, their activity showed the possibilities of an effective people-to-people foreign policy inevitably in opposition to the aims and interests of the ruling class.

In Detroit in 1967 the Palestinian struggle became a crisis for the Wayne State University administration when John Watson, one the founders of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and then-editor of the campus newspaper the South End, ran a series of editorials against Israeli colonialism and supportive of Palestinian armed self-defense. Watson’s work expressed a vibrant current in radical Black politics at that time. It put forward perspectives that challenged the racist view of governments and ruling classes worldwide that Palestinians and Black people cannot govern themselves. It drew comparisons between the struggles of Arab peoples in the Middle East (and Detroit) and Black people in America. Watson was eventually forced out by the university administration and city government as they worked to regain control of the newspaper. What scared them was that students on campus were breaking the illusion of the separation of the university and the community—especially the false separation between mental and manual labor—making it possible to discuss ideas and plan for self-government in political, economic, judicial, military, and cultural affairs.
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The Trouble with Irshad Manji

Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam, has taken official society by storm with her attacks on the culture and politics of the Muslim and Arab world. As a South Asian lesbian who grew up alienated attending a Muslim school in Canada, she represents a multicultural voice in solidarity with the great liberal values of the secular state. Her message and identity are marketed as the latest, best selling popular criticism of “Islamic fundamentalism.”

In promoting her book and ideas, she has spoken on cable news shows, in the official papers, at Washington think-tanks and Zionist audiences throughout North America. Manji claims to be taking up a project of self-criticism and innovative thinking in the Muslim community. The inspiration for her criticism is the “enlightened” states and societies of the West, in particular the U.S. and Israel. To her audience, she is the quintessential “Good Muslim.”

The Irshad Manji phenomenon can perhaps be understood in three ways. First, it is an extension of the logic of liberal multicultural racism. Second, is the attempt to refine a general liberal racist doctrine based on secular chauvinism, which has justified imperialism for more than a century, in the battle to consolidate Western control of the Middle East. Third, like the shallow white male conservatives who falsify the history of democratic traditions from Ancient Greece to Judeo-Christian ethics, Manji falsifies the history of the Arab world and Islamic traditions. She posits a “free” secular West where in fact worship of God is generally subordinated to mayors and police chiefs. This is contrasted to an imaginary Middle East where Allah mandates “tyranny” and where all independent thinking is crushed. Manji, like all good imperialists, tells us lies about the history of those we wish to be in solidarity with and about our own history.
Continue reading The Trouble with Irshad Manji