one of the visions that came to me while i was reading andrea smith again this week was the ways that we can connect across communities. i know that as women of color we often connect through our shared oppression. but we also connect through our shared oppressing, the ways that we downpress other groups. we link together because of our middle socioeconomic class, or through our shared us citizenship, or our fluency in english, or our christian upbringing. and we need to learn from each other strategies to decenter our privilege or else our privilege will undermine our work of co-creating conscious community. we need to see others’ privileged behaviour as a mirror to our own. we need to ask ourselves how does our privilege make others in our community invisible to us, makes their essential contributions invisible to us? how can we support each other in seeing and living the truth (yes i still use words like truth and beauty and good) that we as sentient beings have value not because of where we are in the hierachy?
that an open table community is our safety net. the safety net is not all of the people who are below us on the hierachy. the safety net is not our privilege. and when we use our privilege as our safety net, then we are using all the people below us on the hierachy as our safety net. we stand on their shoulders and faces and dreams. we treat them as faceless slaves.
how many people have to be called colored in order for white skin to be seen as rare and precious and valuable? how many people have to be working poor in order for the rich to get richer? how many people have to be voiceless in order for one persons voice to sound so loud?
andrea smith–heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy
smith: ..our alliances would not be solely based on shared victimization, but where we are complicit in the victimization of owthers. these approaches might help us to develop resistance stratefies that do not inadertently keep the system in place for all of us, and keep all of us accountable. in all of these cases, we would check our aspirations against the aspirations of other communities to ensure that our model of liberation does not become the model of oppression for others.
this is such a constant tendency in our communities. to use our oppression as an excuse to oppress others. whether it is listening to black loved ones after 9/11 say that they refuse to have sympathy for arab americans who were being harrassed and threatened because before 9/11 these blacks felt that arab americans in their communities treated them as inferior. that the arab americans had economic privilege in the community, owning businesses and real estate.
or sitting in black radical congress 1988 and listening to malcolm x nation of islam chicks describe their vision for a black nation which would be located in the southeast us. after i raised a deep concern that we were imagining the black nation on the land that red nations had prior claim, i was told that it would be ‘worked out’. there were no mention of the relationship between the black nation and red nations in any of the malcolm x chicks lengthy presentations or extensive literature. i walked out of the plenary.
or black youth fighting in the military in iraq or vietnam or central america.
damu smith who passed on last year from colon cancer spent his last years organizing the black community to oppose the war in iraq and lobbying the us congress to redirect the funds from the war into social programs. he stated clearly that the war in iraq and afghanistan was part of the destruction of the black community. he founded an org called black voices for peace in wash, dc.
i have also noticed a pattern in antiracism training that latin@s arabs and asians often feel the need to point out ways that members of the black community have attacked threatened or harrassed them. often when this happens i am the only black person in the room and a trainer. i suspect that sitting in a room full of white people and a few non-whites, makes the non-whites insecure. and they want to take the pressure off white people (insecure white people are scary) and thus the other non-whites wont be attacked by the white majority. usually their comments on inter-racial strife is not put in the context of white supremacy but is shown as seperate from white racism.
back to white supremacy:
not only is white supremacy the context in which these conflicts take place, often white activists use these conflicts as an excuse for their own racism.
for instance when i have worked in predominantly white org’s, and we poc in side the org talk about the racism we have experienced, we are told that the important issues are in the communities of color under threat with whom the org works. for instance cpt (christian peacemaker teams) has a team in palestine, iraq, colombia accompanying a community under the threat of violence from many sides. when i critique the use of white privilege as a primary accompanying tactic of the team, the team members tell me that the community asked them to do this. and they say that the fact that their use of white privilege undermines my ability (as a poc) to work in the community, is a personal issue of mine.
so cpt accompaniment has become a tool to seperate and conflict two communities under threat (us based poc and palestinian west bank). and then cpt has these huge talks about ‘why dont poc join us?’.
well, when white people go to desperate communities of color and talk about how white power and privilege can save their lives, i am disgusted. as if racism can be a gift to poc.
and when white people say that they have to be racist toward me in order to be anti-racist toward others, then i just have to pull a daffy duck.
i just lost a whole post! i hate it when that happens. so i will rewrite the ending to three pillars later. ugh.
andrea smith writes a great article called : heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy:rethinking women of color organizing.
now i have noticed that often when i suggest articles which are geared toward women of color, anyone who does not take on that identity kind of shrugs it off. as if this kind of writing cannot be relevant to them. i disagree. and this article is one of the examples of why i disagree. andrea smith is one of the principal members of incite! and if you dont know incite! you should. google it.
what are the three pillars of white supremacy? slavery/capitalism, genocide/ colonialism, orientalism/ war.
it is the history of slavery in the us which sets the black/white dichotomy of racial analysis. and andrereminds us that the capitalist system ultimately commodifies all workers–ones own person becomes a commodity. and that part of racism is the hierachy of commodification–that some people have become more of a commodity, a thing, a product than others. blacks being on the bottom of the hierachy and whites on top. and other peoples are told to be grateful they are not like blacks, they are not on the bottom, they are not as much of a commodity as they could be.
so slavery–sharecropper–prison industrial complex. same thing. same community. different names.
but i have heard often in workshops that the black/white dichotomy disappears other racial groups. and this is true too. everything is not black and white.
genocide/colonialism: ‘this logic holds that indigenous peoples must disappear’ yeah, it is red too. i remember being in tuwani and a friend (white chick) says that in the states i am a settler. but i really resented her saying that. i resented it because my families native heritage is strong. and the reason that people do not consider us native is because it is in the white supremacy best interest to claim as many folk as black as possible (larger base of slave labor and thus larger capitalist base) but to claim as little folk as red as possible. this is because white supremacy want the land that the red folk have prior usage claim to. fewer red folk, fewer obstacles to the land.