Sunday, October 31, 2010

Paul Pena from the movie Genghis Blues,Good Horses


Food Matters (documentary)


FLOW (For the Love of Water)


Favela Rising (documentary)




the persuaders (documentary)


SLINGSHOT HIP HOP (documentary)

Trouble the Water (2008)




Friday, October 29, 2010

Storm from the mountain (2000)

Storm from the mountain (2000)
Zapatista uprising in Mexico

BigNoiseFilms, 2000, 55 min.

(en) Storm is a beautiful and empowering video documenting the historic three weeks in Mexico from Feb 24 to March 11. Originally satellitecast nationally on Free Speech TV March 14, the video follows the Zapatista caravan as it journeyed through 12 Mexican states visiting indigenous communities, eventually arriving in Mexico City to be greeted by over 300,000 people. 


Links are interchangeable / Linky môžete kombinovať!


Transcript - English - incomplete

Storm from the mountain (2000)

Storm from the mountain (2000)
Zapatista uprising in Mexico

BigNoiseFilms, 2000, 55 min.

(en) Storm is a beautiful and empowering video documenting the historic three weeks in Mexico from Feb 24 to March 11. Originally satellitecast nationally on Free Speech TV March 14, the video follows the Zapatista caravan as it journeyed through 12 Mexican states visiting indigenous communities, eventually arriving in Mexico City to be greeted by over 300,000 people. 


Links are interchangeable / Linky môžete kombinovať!


Transcript - English - incomplete

"Hir" poem by Alysia Harris & Aysha El Shamayleh

"Hir" poem @transgendered Alysia Harris & Aysha El Shamayleh
Uploaded by TheSilentNumber. - More video blogs and vloggers.

redlight the movie (documentary)

REDLIGHT Trailer from jillian selsky on Vimeo.


COVER GIRL CULTURE | Women Make Movies


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why Hip Hop Won’t Tangle With the Tea Party: Call for a Militant Mind Militia

by TRUTH Minista Paul Scott
 Whatcha do get your head ready. Instead of gettin’ physically sweaty”
                         Welcome to the Terror-dome-Public Enemy
In breaking news, two of Hip Hop’s most popular artists died today. In what was the culmination of a year long beef, an altercation in the middle of 52nd street has left both men dead. No, they didn’t shoot each other. As they stood arguing in the middle of the street, they were run over by a Tea Party Express bus that was running late for a rally…
Beef. That is one word with which the Hip Hop community has become very familiar over the last decade and a half. The term has resulted in many tragedies in the black community ranging from neighborhood feuds to deaths on street corners. Black people taking it to other Black people is an everyday occurrence in ‘hoods across the country. This is what makes the Hip Hop community’s (and the black community, in general) lack of response to the current climate of hate fueled by the Tea Party, Birthers and other agents of White Supremacy especially disturbing.
For the last year, anti-Afrikan behavior has escalated from anti -Black propaganda being promoted on radio stations to black Congressmen being called racial slurs and spat upon. All over the country Right Wing racists are rallying thousands of people, while black folks are pretending not to notice.
Since Hip Hop has always prided itself as being the true voice of the black community, you would think that rap artists would be on the front line fighting against these disses to black folks.
Not so.
So far, there have been, relatively, few Hip Hoppers calling out the Right Wingers. This is not to say that “no” rap artists are speaking out on issues, as there are Hip Hop Freedom Fighters in communities across the country but most have heard about the attacks that came upon such political artists such as Professor Griff and Sister Souljah in the 80′s/90′s and don’t want the same thing to happen to them. Many of them feel that even if they did take a stand, an unorganized, apathetic black community would just leave them hanging.
I don’t know if you noticed it or not but radio stations have even stopped playing “violent” music over the last few months. Instead, radio has dumped violence for misogyny. While we must not condone black on black violence in any form, the rationale for the sudden change in radio rotation must be examined.
The industry knows that one of the by products of Hip Hop has been black male rebelliousness. This is why those in power were quick to blame incidents of racial unrest such as the Virginia Beach and  LA rebellions (riots) of the late 80′s/early 90′s on the music of groups like Public Enemy. Immediately, they went to work to replace revolutionary Hip Hop with gangsta tales of black on black homicide and chemical genocide (crack sales). During the following decade, since  “racism” became less overt, the black male displaced aggression generated by Hip Hop was used on other black males.
However, with racism/White Supremacy becoming more “in your face” over the last year, the “powers that be” don’t want to risk the fratricidal message of gangsta rap to be misinterpreted as a call to “fight the power.” They know that with a change of a couple of words a 50 Cent song becomes a Dead Prez-like call to “bang on the system.” So now, all you hear on the radio is “stripper music” dealing with girls instead of guns.
The agents of white supremacy have studied our history well. They know the success that Bunchy Carter, Fred Hampton and others had in transforming gang bangers into revolutionaries during the Black Power Era. They know that a Blood or Crip esposed to a  strong dose of political education has the potential to become Black Panther or Deacon for Defense.
They also know that even the most hardcore thug will become outraged if while flippin’ the channel between Hip Hop stations, he hears a Right Wing radio host call him a “no good bum who will never amount to anything” and his mother a “lazy welfare queen.”
And with the escalation of anti-black rhetoric from Right Wing radio hosts this scenario is possible if not probable.
In every city the Right Wingers are organizing their troops via Conservative radio stations, as media giants such as Clear Channel have begun converting their country music stations into virtual 100,000 watt Ku Klux Klan headquarters. In, North Carolina they recently turned 106.1 FM into “Rush Radio, named after their star player, the infamous Rush Limbaugh. Clear Channel realizes that all politics is local so ,although they broadcast the likes of Sean Hannity, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, throughout the day , during the morning drive time, their programming becomes early morning strategy sessions. So while the nationally syndicated bigots like Limbaugh lay out the national strategy, the local hosts and their listeners politic on  how to implement it locally. All the while black folks are busy lip syncing, “How Low Can You Go” on their way to work, totally oblivious to the plans being devised on the talk radio station at the end of the dial.
In NC, the WRDU “Morning Show” insults black folks every morning with the same Right Wing racist garbage without being challenged. They have even set up a chat room where their racist listeners hold strategy sessions every morning from 5:30AM to 9AM EST because they know that most black folks are too busy laughing at J. Anthony Brown jokes on the Tom Joyner Morning Show to pay them any attention.
Twenty years ago, we would have never stood still for this disrespect without challenging it. However, nowadays we are too busy getting into Internet “beefs” on YouTube with other Afrikans that we don’t seem to have time to challenge those who espouse the tenets of white global domination and the oppression of Afrikan people.
That is why it is important that we form “Militant Mind Militias” in  ‘hoods across the country to counter the lies and attacks on black culture from the Right wing. We have to start calling in to these Right Wing racist talk shows and challenging their racist rhetoric.
Don’t get it twisted, this has nothing to do with whether one agrees with the politics of Barack Obama. This is about the anti-Afrikan white supremacist ideology being spewed by the Tea Party and the rest of their crew.
It is time that we dust off our Neely Fuller and Amos Wilson books and put the principals into action.  Some of us have read hundreds of books on African History but only use the information to prove that we are intellectually superior to our black brothers and sisters; never once challenging the Ph.D carrying members of white supremacist think tanks.
It is time that we start using Youtube, Facebook and Twitter for something more than booty calls and coonery.
It is time that we start using our Afrikan minds to challenge white supremacy ideology.
Militant Mind Militias must be started immediately using our strong Afrikan intellect as weapons.
We have nothing to lose but our mental chains.
I know that some of you are going to cop out and give 100 reasons why we should  not get into ideological debates with white folks. You really only need one reason to do so; our people need to see black intelligence in action. Isn’t that what inspired us to follow the teachings of Malcolm X, Dr. Khallid Muhammad and Dr. John Henrik Clark, that they were not afraid to challenge the best white scholars in open debate?
The ancestors are crying out for us to engage the oppressor in a battle of the minds.
Unfortunately, so far, Hip Hop and most black folks have been missing in action.
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots He can be reached at (919) 451-8283
For examples of the racism being spewed every morning by 106.1 FM in North Carolina visit
No Warning Shots
(Hardcore News and Views with a Gangsta Attitude)
(919) 451-8283

Who Taught You To Hate Yourself

Stokely Carmichael: The Civil Rights Movement Remembered

GASLAND (2010)


The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

DIRT! The Movie


Leila Khaled : Hijacker



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Environmental Racism: Old Wine in a New Bottle By Dr Deborah M. Robinson

This short article reviews the history of the environmental justice movement in the United States, provides examples of environmental racism in the US as well as globally, and concludes with a discussion of the World Conference Against Racism and the opportunity it provides to place firmly this newer manifestation of racism on the international agenda.

Environmental racism can be defined as:
Racial discrimination in environmental policy making and the enforcement of regulations and laws; the deliberatetargeting of people of Colour communities for toxic and hazardous waste facilities; the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in ourcommunities; and the history of excluding people of colour from the leadership of the environmental movement.1
Others have added to that definition by saying environmental racism refers to "any government, institutional, or industry action, or failure to act, that has a negative environmental impact which disproportionately harms - whether intentionally or unintentionally - individuals, groups, or communities based on race or colour."2
It is important though, to understand environmental racism in an historical context. "The exploitation of people of colour has taken the form of genocide, chattel slavery, indentured servitude and racial discrimination - in employment, housing and practically all aspects of life. Today we suffer from the remnants of this sordid history, as well as from new and institutionalised forms of racism, facilitated by the massive post-World War II expansion of the petrochemical industry."3
In the United States, the victims of environmental racism are African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders, who are more likely than Whites to live in environmentally hazardous conditions. Three out of five African Americans live in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites. Native American lands and sacred places are home to extensive mining operations and radioactive waste sites. Three of the five largest commercial hazardous waste landfills are located in predominantly African American and Latino communities. As a consequence, the residents of these communities suffer shorter life spans, higher infant and adult mortality, poor health, poverty, diminished economic opportunities, substandard housing, and an overall degraded quality of life.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Charlie Hill on the Richard Pryor Show, 1977

Tamara K. Nopper: To White Anti-Racists (re-posted from "why am i not surprised?" blog)

Tamara K. Nopper: To White Anti-Racists

As you know, I rarely print a whole essay or post by somebody else and would not, frankly, have done it here except that I couldn't establish a permanent link straight to the essay where it originally appears in Race Traitor so I could post it at the top of my blogroll. The only alternative I could come up with was to transfer and re-post it here and then permanently postthat link.

Some of you will blanch at this essay, but those of you who have become regular readers will recognize many ideas as having already appeared in this space over the past four years. This pleases me, of course. But I'm not going to claim that this piece didn't give me some things to consider even more deeply than I have previously. And in any case, it is elegant, insightful and, I think, right on the money.

The piece is clearly not intended for those who haven't a clue about race relations in this country. It is, rather, written for those of us who have been wrestling with the demons of institutionalized oppression in the name of race for some time and have tried to -- and in some cases, may have succeeded in -- making some degree of headway. I, for one, will use it to keep me honest and on-task in the same way I always receive input from people of color in terms of teaching me what I need to know to be of use in this or any struggle for human agency.

I am grateful the author took the time and dedicated the intelligence and energy to craft this work and I present it here with great respect and appreciation.

The White Anti-Racist Is an Oxymoron:
An Open Letter to “White Anti-Racists”

by Tamara K. Nopper

I received an annoying e-mail about white people and their struggle to do anti-racist work. I keep reading and hearing white people talk about their struggle to do anti-racist organizing, and frankly it gets on my nerves. So I am writing this open letter to white people who engage in any activist work that involves or affects non-whites. Given that the US social structure is founded on white supremacy, and that there is a global order in which white supremacy and European domination are at large, I would challenge any white person to figure out what movement or action they can get involved in that will not involve or affect non-white people.

That said, I want to begin with what has become a realization for me through the help of different politically conscious friends. There is NO SUCH THING AS A WHITE ANTI-RACIST. The term itself, "white anti- racist" is an oxymoron. In the following, I will explain why. Then, I will begin to detail how this impacts non-white people in organizing work specifically, along with how it affects non-white people generally.
First, one must realize that whiteness is a structure of domination. As such, there is nothing redeemable or reformable about whiteness. Intellectuals, scholars and activists, especially those who are non- white, have drawn our attention to this for years. For example, people such as Malcolm X, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and many, many others who are perhaps less famous, have articulated the relationship between whiteness and domination.

Further, people such as Douglass and DuBois began to outline how whiteness is a social and political construct that emphasizes the domination, authority, and perceived humanity of those who are racialized as white. They, along with many other non-white writers and orators, have pointed to the fact that it was the bodies who were able to be racialized as "white" that were able to be viewed as rational, authoritative, and deserving. Further, and believe me, this is no small thing, white people are viewed as human. What this means is that when white people suffer, as some who are poor/female/queer, they nevertheless are able to have some measure of sympathy for their plight simply because they are white and their marginalization is considered an emergency, crisis or an issue to be concerned about.

Furthermore, even when white people have been oppressed by various dimensions of classism, homophobia and heterosexism, they have been able to opt for what DuBois, in his monograph "Black Reconstruction" brilliantly called "the psychological wage of whiteness." That is, whites that are marginalized could find comfort, even if psychological, in the fact that they were not non-white. They could revel in the fact that they could be taken as white in opposition to non-white groups. The desire for this wage of whiteness was also what drove many white people, albeit marginalized, to engage in organized violence against non-whites.

Of course, legal cases such as the Dred Scott Decision along with many different naturalization cases involving Asian individuals, has helped to encode a state-sanctioned definition of whiteness. But there are other ways in which white people can be racialized as white by the state. They are not stopped while driving as much as non-white people. Their homes and businesses are not raided and searched as much by police officers, INS or License and Inspections (L&I). White people's bodies are not tracked and locked up in prisons, detention centers, juvenile systems, detention halls in classrooms, "special education" classes, etc. White people's bodies are not generally the site of fear, repulsion, violent desire, or hatred.

Now some might point out to me that white people are followed, tracked and harassed by individuals and state agents such as the police. This is true. Some white women get sexually harassed and experience state-sanctioned discrimination. Queer whites are the subject of homophobia, whether by individuals or by the state through laws and the police. Some queer whites are harassed by cops. Activist whites are stopped by police. White people who play rap music and wear gear are stopped by cops. Poor whites can be criminalized, especially by the state around welfare issues. What I want to point out is that, while I do not condone police violence and harassment, there is a way in which white people will not be viewed as inherently criminal or suspect unless they are perceived as doing something that breaks particular norms.

Conversely, other racial groups, particularly Blacks and Native Americans, are considered inherently criminal no matter what they do, what their sexual identity is or what they wear. Further, it has always struck me as interesting that there are white people who will attempt to wear what signifies "Blackness," whether it is dreadlocks (which, in my opinion, should be cut off from every white person's head), "gear," or Black masks at rallies. There is a sick way in which white people want to emulate that which is considered "badass" about a certain existential position of Blackness at the same time they do not want the burden of living as a non-white person. Further, it really strikes me as fucked up the way in which white people will go to rallies and taunt the police with Black masks in order to bring on police pressure. What does it mean when Blackness is strategically used by whites to bring on police violence? Now I know that somewhere there is a dreadlocked, smelly white anarchist who is reading this message and who is angry with me for not understanding the logic of the Black masks and its roots in anarchism. But I would challenge these people to consider how they are reproducing a violence towards Blackness in their attempts to taunt and challenge the police in their efforts.

Now back to my point that white anti-racism is an oxymoron. Whiteness is a social and political construct rooted in white supremacy. White supremacy is a structure and system of beliefs rooted in European and US imperialism in which certain racialized bodies (non-white) are selected for premature negation whether through cultural, physical, psychological genocide, containment or other forms of social death. White supremacy is at the heart of the US social system and civil society. In short, white supremacy is not just a series of practices or privilege, but a larger social structure and system of domination that overly-values and rewards those who are racialized as white. The rest of us are constructed as undeserving to be considered human, although there is significant variation within non-white populations of how our bodies are encoded, treated and (de)valued.
Now, for one to claim whiteness, one also is invested in white supremacy. Whiteness itself is a political term that emerged among European white ethnics in the US. These European ethnics, many of them reviled, chose to cast their lot with whiteness rather than that with those who had been determined as non-white. In short, anyone who claims to be white, even a white anti-racist, is identifying with a history of European imperialism and racism transported and further developed into the US.

However, this does not mean that white people who go around saying dumb things such as "I am not white! I am a human being!" or, "I left whiteness and joined the human race," or my favorite, "I hate white people! They're stupid" are not structurally white. Remember, whiteness is a structure of domination embedded in our social relations, institutions, discourses, and practices. Don't tell me you're not white but then when we go out in the street and the police don't bother you or people don't ask you if you're a prostitute, or if people don't follow you and touch you at will, act like that does not make a difference in our lives. Basically, you can't talk, or merely "unlearn" whiteness, as all of these annoying trainings for white people to "unlearn" racism will have you think.

Rather, white people need to be willing to have their very social position, their very relationship of domination, their very authority, their very being...let go, perhaps even destroyed. I know this might sound scary, but that is really not my concern. I am not interested in making white people, even those so-called good-hearted anti-racist whites, comfortable about their position in struggles that shape my life in ways that it will never shape theirs. I recently finished the biography of John Brown by DuBois. The biography was less of a biography and more of an interpretation by DuBois about the now-legendary white abolitionist. Now while John Brown's practice was problematic in many ways--he still had to be in control and he had fucked-up views that Blacks were still enslaved because they were too "servile" (a white supremacist sentiment)--what I took from Brown's life was that he realized that moral persuasion alone would not solve racial problems. That is, whites cannot talk or just think through whiteness and structures of white supremacy. They must be committed to either picking up arms for other people (and only firing when the people tell them so), dying for other people, or just getting out of the way. In short, they must be willing to do what the people most affected and marginalized by a situation tell them to do.

Now I am sure that right now there are some white people saying that other people cannot understand what is going on, that they do not have the critical analysis to figure stuff out, or that non-white people have fucked up ideas. This is just white supremacist bullshit because it is rooted in the idea that non-white people have not interpreted their experiences and cannot run things themselves. It also assumes that there are not internal conversations within communities--which I do not think white people need to be privy to or participate in--in which people struggle out their own visions for society and how to go about achieving them. In short, this perspective by whites that non-white people cannot be in control of our own destinies is rooted in a paternally-racist approach to non-white people.

Further, it is also rooted in the idea that white people are not racist or do not benefit from racism. Rather, white people at meetings will often discuss how they feel "silenced" by non-whites, or that they are being "put in their place." Let me make one thing clear: it is impossible for a non-white person to put a white person in her place. This is not to say that non-white people cannot have a sexist or homophobic attitude towards a white person. But to say, or even hint at that as a "WHITE" person someone is being put in their place--whoever says this just needs to shut the fuck up because that is some bull. It is impossible for whiteness to be put in one's place, because that is a part of whiteness, the ability to take up space and feel a prerogative to do so.

Further, the idea that white people are being put into their place relies on the neo-conservative view of reverse racism that has characterized the backlash against non-whites, especially Blacks, in the post-civil rights era. So when you say these types of things you are actually helping to reproduce a neo-conservative racial rhetoric which relies on the myth of the "threatened" and "displaced" white person.

Additionally, white activism, especially white anti-racism, is predicated on an economy of gratitude. We are supposed to be grateful that a white person is willing to work with non-white people. We are supposed to be grateful that you actually want to work with us and that you give us your resources. I would like to know why you have those resources and others do not? And don't assume that just because I have to ask you for resources that it does not hurt me, pain me even. Don't assume that when you come into the space, that doesn't bother me. Don't assume that when you talk first, talk the most, and talk the most often, that this doesn't hurt me. Don't assume that when I see you get the attention and accolades and the book deals and the speaking engagements that this does not hurt me (because you profit off of pain). And don't assume that when I see how grateful non-white people are to you for being there, for being a "good white" person that this doesn't hurt me. And don't assume that when I get chastised by non-white people because I think your presence is unnecessary that it does not hurt me. Because all of these things remind me of how powerless non-white people are (albeit differently) in relation to white people. All of these gestures that you do reminds me of how grateful I am supposed to be towards you because you actually (or supposedly) care about what is happening to me. I am a bit resentful of economies of gratitude.

Further, this structure of white supremacy known as white anti-racism also impacts the larger social world because it still makes white people the most valued people. Non-white people are forced to feel dependent and grateful to white people who will actually interact with us. We are made to feel that we are inferior, incapable, that we really do need white people. And the sad thing is, that given all of the resources that whiteness has and that white people get and control, there is an element of material truth in all of this, I am afraid. But white people need to think of how their activism reproduces the actual structure of white supremacy some--not all whites activists--profess to be about. This structure of white supremacy is not just in an activist space, it actually touches upon and impinges on the lives of non-white people who may not be activists (in your sense) or who do not interact with you in activist worlds.

But consider what your presence means in a community that you decide to set up your community garden in, or your bookstore in, or your meeting space in, or have your march in. What does it mean when you decide that you want to be "with" the oppressed and you end up displacing them? Just because you walk around with your dreadlocks, or decide that you will not wear expensive clothes does not mean that your whiteness does not displace people in the spaces you decide to put yourself in. How do you help to bring more forms of authority and control in a neighborhood, whether through increased rent and housing costs, more policing, or just the ways in which your white bodies can make people feel, as a brilliant friend of mine once asked, "squatters in somebody else's project"?

So what does this mean for the future of white anti-racists? This might mean to first, figure out ways in which whiteness needs to die as a social structure and as an identity in which you organize your anti-racist work. What this looks like in practice may not be so clear but I will attempt to give some suggestions here. First, don't call us, we'll call you. If we need your resources, we will contact you. But don't show up, flaunt your power in our faces and then get angry when we resent the fact that you have so many resources we don't and that we are not grateful for this arrangement. And don't get mad because you can't make decisions in the process. Why do you need to? Secondly, stop speaking for us. We can talk for ourselves. Third, stop trying to point out internal contradictions in our communities, we know what they are, we are struggling around them, and I really do not know how white people can be helpful to non- whites to clear these up. Fourth, don't ever say some shit to me about how you feel silenced, marginalized, discriminated against, or put in your place. Period. Finally, start thinking of what it would mean, in terms of actual structured social arrangements, for whiteness and white identity--even the white antiracist kind (because there really is no redeemable or reformed white identity)--to be destroyed.

In conclusion, I want to say to anyone who thinks that this is too academic or abstract, I write as a non-white person, meaning that from my body, my person, I experience white supremacy. I also draw my understanding of white supremacy from non-white people, many engaged in various struggles of activism, but most importantly just to speak out and stay alive. They did not get accolades from many for speaking out but instead experienced constant threats on their lives for just existing and doing the work that they did. Moreover, I want to know when a discussion of whiteness, white supremacy and domination became seen as abstract and not rooted in the everyday concrete reality that we experience?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Five Things White Activists Should Never Say

By freelark
If I’m to be a white ally, I figure I should take some of the burden off people of color to explain what’s wrong with some of the things white people say. With that in mind I’ve decided to compile a list of things that white people — specifically, white activists — should never say.
While reading this list, keep in mind that I’m drawing heavily from my own experience. There are plenty of fucked up things white people can say. However, with one exception I’ve decided to focus on blatantly racist comments that I’ve heard first hand. Also, I tend to mention anarchists a lot, because I used to be an anarchist, so I organized with other anarchists. This does not mean that white anarchists have a monopoly on racism. In many cases one could substitute the term social liberal or socialist for anarchist, and the point would still be applicable.
1. “They belong to that religion.”
I have yet to visit an activist group with religious homogeneity. That said, in my experience certain religious views are more acceptable among activists than others. If a disproportionate number of the people who hold a religious stance are European or of European descent, the stance is acceptable. So it’s okay to be an atheist, a pagan, or a Quaker. If a religious stance doesn’t meet this criterion, it tends to be viewed with suspicion.
In the U.S. white activists reserve scorn for the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) that they have for few other religious institutions. It would be outside the scope of this piece to argue that the RCC is good or bad. But I will point out that it’s folly to treat Catholics as a monolithic, univocal group that stands opposite of everything activists believe in. Individual Catholics have differences of opinion on pretty much everything, and often membership to the church (as is the case with so many other religious institutions) has more to do with wanting to preserve family or community ties than with adhering to a certain set of doctrines. If white people don’t want to alienate people of color from their organizing, they’re going to have to learn to show more tolerance for the religions they adhere to.
2. “All nationalism is bad.”
The idea that all nationalism, including ethnic nationalism, is bad is often rooted in anarchism, an ideology that was first propounded by European men in the nineteenth century and which since then has drawn more than its fair share of white thinkers. Even if we set this aside, white people who raise the “all nationalism is bad” objection often miss the point that the essence of ethnic nationalism has nothing to do with what anarchists mean by state and everything to do with racial or ethnic identity.
It’s important to keep in mind that some people link themselves to a nation in order to express racial or ethnic identity rather than allegiance to a state. If white people can avoid doing this, this doesn’t mean that they’re all awesome anti-statists; rather it means that they have the privilege of being part of the group that is seen as the default racial or ethnic group. When white activists forget this, it’s a disaster in the making. For example, I once saw an activist remove a poster from a wall, simply because it said (when translated), “I am as Puerto Rican as the coquí.” The message, which should be obvious to anyone who claims to be anti-racist, has nothing to do with a particular state; it is that one’s ethnic identity is something to be proud of.
3. “I know what it’s like to face racist oppression; I face oppression too.”
No, unless you’ve experienced racism you do not know what it’s like to experience racism.
I used to find this response somewhat confusing. Surely, racist oppression isn’t completely disanalogous to other kinds of oppression, right? After all, don’t we use much the same vocabulary — words like privilege, oppression, and intersectionality — while discussing all kinds of oppression? And can’t someone who faces one sort of opression gain insight into another by making a comparison? I think the answer to all these questions is a very cautious yes — cautious because there’s a danger lurking just around the corner. If comparing racist oppression to your oppression helps you realize that something you said or did was racist, then it’s probably a good thing that you made the comparison. Even so, before you share your insight with the world you should run it by someone who faces both kinds of oppression, because no matter how oppressed or well-intentioned you may be, you’re still coming from a perspective of white privilege and you may be wrong about something crucial. Better yet, start reading the works of people who face multiple kinds of oppression and let them guide you into appropriate analogies.
The danger of white people’s comparisons is that often the only “insight” gained from analogy is that because the white people making it are oppressed, they can never be racist. This denies one of the central components of anti-oppression work which is that the oppressed have unique insight into their oppression by virtue of having experienced the oppression, including the ways in which it is disanalogous to other kinds of oppression. This is important, because it may be that it was just these disanalogous elements were at play when you said what you did five minutes ago and that what you said is therefore racist for reasons you don’t understand. Not incidentally, the unique knowledge that an oppressed group has is known as the epistemic privilege of the oppressed. If your goal is to eliminate inequality, you don’t want to appropriate one of the few kinds of privilege that oppressed people have, do you?
Though many examples of analogies gone wrong could be listed, I’ll give only one here — one that’s limited to activist circles. Some activists are inclined to make statements like, “I know what it’s like to be black; I’m an anarchist.” I think what often happens is that white activists identify one sort of oppression, such as state oppression, as the Big Evil. They don’t see that other oppressive forces besides the Big Evil are at work and therefore they fail to see that some people face oppression that they don’t comprehend. If you’re white and have gone to jail for political reasons, that is unfortunate, but this does not mean you know what it’s like to be a person of color. As a white person, you have the privilege of choosing whether or not to engage in political activities that may land you in jail; people of color can abstain from such activities and still end up in jail simply for being people of color. As a white person, you will probably be treated better in jail than a person of color who is your counterpart. As a white person, you don’t know what it’s like to experience the racist oppression people of color experience outside of jail. As a white person, you don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color in white activists’ space, hearing white people say that they know exactly what it’s like to experience racist oppression. In short it is incredibly myopic to think that one point of (apparent) commonality gives white people insight into what it’s like to be people of color.
4. “If we focus on this other kind of oppression, racism will disappear.”
In the previous section I noted a tendency of white people to fail to see any oppression outside of the oppression they consider the Big Evil. In a related phenomenon white people will, while perhaps acknowledging that orther kinds oppression exist, argue that without the Big Evil other forms of oppression would not exist. Therefore anyone who confronts other kinds of oppression is only treating symptoms; the only cure for society’s ills is to fight the Big Evil. The Big Evil could be statism, sexism, or any number of other things, but I’d like to focus on classism, because in my experience it’s named as the Big Evil in activist circles more than anything else.
If this piece were about the oppressions I face, you’d see I have a lot to say against classism. However, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to focus on it here. All too often white activists derail conversations about racism by bringing up classism. The problem with white activists’ saying that racism reduces to classism is that it is an attempt to keep people of color from directly confronting their oppression so that they will instead confront an oppression that directly affects white people.
To support the claim that racism reduces to classism some white activists point out that in the US at least racist institutions were established as a part of divide-and-conquer scheme to keep the working class from rising up against the upper class. Setting aside the fact that this gives an account of only some racist institutions (the expansion that drove Native Americans west, for example, was already well underway), the argument presupposes that if working class white people had not bought into the view that they were superior to their black counterparts, they may have succeeded in revolting against the upper class. In other words white people’s racism prevented the demise of classism. I do not mean to say that we should make a reversal and say that generally speaking classism is reducible to racism. However, I do mean to say that racism is a problem in its own right.
5. “There are no people of color in our activist group; let’s go to a meeting of people of color and invite them to join our group.”
Many white activists have the impression that they have arrived. They think they no longer have any racist bullshit they need to work on. Therefore if people of a particular racial or ethnic group don’t want to work with them, it must be because they have yet to be informed the awesomeness that is their group of white activists.
There’s a reason I’m putting this remark last. I hope that after even a small sampling of racist comments white activists make — there are many others that aren’t included here — it’s apparent just how ridiculous it is to think that the only matter keeping people of various ethnic and racial minorities out of a given activist group is a lack of information. If an organization has disproportionately few people of color as members, it’s often because people of color don’t see how it benefits them, and that is often because the organization has racist tendencies that it has yet to address.
Perhaps the bigger problem with this remark is that it’s blatantly tokenizing. The people who make it aren’t primarily interested in forming a diverse coalition to confront the problems that people of color face; if they were, they’d visit the meeting of the people of color regularly and ask them how they could help without expecting glory for themselves or their organization. Instead they want to use people of color to make their activist group more diverse. They are making one more thing — segregation itself! — the responsibility of people of color.
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