this lil blogger is going on hiatus. i dont know when or if i will begin this blog again. i want to say that doing this blog for the past couple of years has been beautiful. i have met so many wonderful people. and found my voice and a community of people. to look at some of the stuff i am up to:
so i have been thinking alot about how white folks control the discourse. and there is alot that i could say on the topic. but what it comes down to is that white folks need to have a ‘positive white identity’. you see this constantly. not only does it have to be a ‘positive white identity’ but it has to be their version of a ‘positive white identity’.
okay but why do white folks have to feel positive about being white? part of me thinks that well everyone wants to feel positive about all parts of their identity. but is that realistic? i mean, i dont feel positive about being a citizen of the united states. i know that i am incredibly privileged, but that isnt a good thing. im not trying to be that ‘good’ us citizen. there is no possibility for that. i dont really feel guilty about it either. i feel responsible. its not a burden. but it is my responsibility to confront and dismantle the us empire following the leadership of third world communities. which is why i do not want to live in this country. and why i am going to university in the west bank palestine. i know that some people think that i should ‘work in the belly of the beast’ but there is something (alot!) about using your privilege to dismantle your privilege. it is bad logic. it is ineffective. and it reinforces the power of the us and my us citizenship. whatever good work i do in this world will not be because of my privilege. that much i know.
anyways, i know ive said all that before…but a new insight came to me recently that i wanted to share:
when i look at my privilege as a us citizen, one of the things that strikes me is that most us citizens grow up believing that we have it the best. thank god, we were born here, and not in one of those inferior countries in asia or africa or south american or hell, even europe. we have the best living conditions. the best indoor plumbing. the best toys. the best guns. the best nukes. the most money. the best culture. the best government. the best freedom. we are better than any other country. that is why we are proud of our citizenship. because in the hierachy of life…we sit on the top of the ant hill. everything is better here. our standard of living is the best.
and now. that it is slowly dawning on us, or cyclically whenever it dawns on us, that there may be other folks in other countries who enjoy a better standard of living than us, we become shaky. what do we have to proud of if we are not the best anymore?
well, i think the same thing happens to white folks. it is no longer acceptable to say directly: the white race is the best race. but most white folks really do believe that being white is better. thank god they were not born black or brown or red or yellow. reminds me of a chris rock joke: there is a bus boy right now who wouldnt trade positions with me. he’s like ‘naw, im going to ride this white thing out…’ and i’m rich!
white identity is founded on what white is not. not ‘them’. not black. whites have the best leaders. the best culture. the most money. the best manners. the best beauty. the most civilized. the best languages. the best history. the best science. the best literature. the best heritage. the best logic. the best. the most. the winners.
i used to be an antiracism trainer/consultant. and there is a part in the workshop where white folks are supposed to say what it means to them to be white. and usually the response is dead silence. dead. empty. blank. silence. and as i was facilitating these dumbass workshops i always wanted to scream: it means being the best race. you cant say that. because you would sound like you are trying to sign up for the kkk. you cant say that because you know that that is the one thing a liberal white guy cant say. but that is what it means. you know it. and i know it. and that is all it means. the only thing it means to you is that you are a part of the best race. and you are grateful to god that you are. white. pure. and empty.
and you have the best discourse. whatever are the cultural norms of whiteness automatically must be better. not just what you are used to. or what you grew up with. or how you were encultured. but the best discourse. and how do you know it is the best discourse? because the best leaders and the best historians and the best culture and the best writers and the best teachers and the best people say it is the best discourse. and how do you know that you have the best writers? well, do i have to go through the logic again?
so whenever i was facilitating those workshops, and i wasnt allowed to scream the answer. and i would listen to white folks struggling with their identity. and i would just start counting the stains on the carpet or doodle fairies in my notebook, and then take a bathroom break. and then someone would cry or start attacking someone else cuz they needed attention. and i would think to myself i wish i could just tell them that: you have been brought up and you still believe that you are the best race. you do not prefer your ways just because you are used to them but because you believe your ways are the best. that is all it means to be white. that is all. that is all it will ever mean. that is all white was ever meant to mean. racial categories were created by white folks in order to say: whites are the best. for the rest of the races, whites inscribed a series of stereotypes, lies, demonic characteristics that had nothing to do with the peoples and communities that were being annihilated. but all you needed to know was that you were the best.
that is all you need to know now.
that is all you need to believe about being white. that your ways are the best ways.
and because whiteness is best. the most. you insist on controlling the discourse. its not like you want to control it all the time. you only want to control it whenever someone says or implies that you do not belong to the best race.
you dont need a positive white identity. there is no such thing.
you dont need to assert the good things that white culture has done.
you dont need to assert the good things that the us has done.
you dont need to find pride in being an american…
you need a reality check.
and let go of the discourse.
As James Baldwin once said: If a White person knows they don’t wanna be Black, they know everything there is to know about you.
this is why we fight. we put ourselves on the line. mexican immigrant beaten to death in pennsylvania. by 6-7 white boys. and the ‘authorities’ are doing nothing. nothing. nothing….
‘get out of here. mexican. come back to where you came from.’
i am heartbroken.
‘what is that in your belly i am going to have to pay for. another mexican. another person i am going to have pay for?’
‘i feel like that wasnt his time to die.’
i humbly recommend the white anti-racist site. it is a brilliant analysis on the role of white anti-racism in the world today.
The language of “An Open Letter” was chosen more carefully than many of you may realize. Deliberately provocative comments were stated to reflect what people of color, who may be angry over a situation, may say. People of color in local political scenes who raise criticisms of racism experience the same white hatred of which I was the target. though they are mostly unknown or dismissed.
Picking fierce language, in my experience, always demonstrates the contradictions in radical movements. A few whites, in this case, will grasp the spirit of the concerns. The rest show their true colors as reactionaries. I wanted “An Open Letter” to educate people of color about tactics whites use to defend racism, white supremacy and their society when white emotions are at their most honest. As the old maxim goes, you find what people are made of in a crisis.
Not everyone who disagrees is a reactionary. Although such never happened this time around, I have had discussions with those who were able to articulate a political disagreement. Most respondents to “An Open Letter” weren’t nearly as smart. The reactionaries, as I predicted in the original letter, used the language, examples and anecdotes as license to mimic stuff most of us would never dream coming out of a conservative Republican’s mouth, let alone a radical or progressive. Then the behavior was justified by saying the language of “An Open Letter” was coarse or without nuance or unconstructive. They did not understand the deliberate use of such language as a test of sorts.
there’s a summary effect that happens to people of color in political movements. When a person of color raises a concern, even if it sounds unconstructive or emotional, it’s generally done because that person cares about a problem and believe in a political movement, or else they’d be in Toastmasters. White people, who some claim also care, show that care by minimizing the concern through deflection, mocking and other forms of intimidation. A person of color who had the courage to say something becomes frustrated with the lack of concern and willingness to defend a way of life rather than act against it, and that consternation is used as another weapon against him/her. Pretty soon, the original speaker is marginalized and disempowered — effectively politically killed off and disappeared.
First, I will argue for a replacement view of American history that rejects the inevitability of a white majority population, the sanctity of the presently configured borders of the U.S.A., and reject any notion of a white working class whose interests are special or distinctive for being white.
Second, I shall vigorously critique the emphasis given to “white-skin privilege” as the dominant characteristic in the conceptualizing of the oppression of so-called “peoples of color” in the U.S., and for its odious contribution to reinforcing white chauvinism within the U.S. left and working-class by delimiting the struggle of “oppressed nationalities” (what I prefer to call so-called “peoples of color”) to the goal of integration (with the white oppressor nation).
Third, I reject the dominance, centering, emphasis or assumed leadership of any struggles for revolutionary change in the U.S.A. to be based upon whites or white workers.
Thus the white integrationist-white chauvinist plagued Left has disregarded the importance of building and leading “nationality-in-form” formations, such as oppressed nationality student unions, militant community forces, independent cultural institutions, and the creative labor formations that elevate the role and leadership of oppressed nationality workers. The U.S. left has given scant emphasis upon the struggle to force the U.S. government to honor all treaties made with the Native nations, fighting for national rights, self-government, return of stolen lands and resources, reparations and the dismantling and eradication of all vestiges of white settler-colonialism, including the hegemony of classical music orchestras, white mythologies in education and scholarship, and even the notion of a white identity.
As part of upholding national self-determination, the U.S. left, in engendering the multiplicity of national liberation struggles, would support the dismantling and reconfiguration of the U.S. national borders should the struggle of oppressed nations culminate in forms of independence, autonomy or new federation relations. Asian Americans, for example, in the oppressed nation of Hawaii must choose between siding with the Yankee oppressor nation/identity or with being part of the oppressed Hawaiian nation: electing to identify as “I’m kanaka maoli (Hawaiian) of Japanese descent,” (or whatever new appellation is created in which immigrants to the Hawaiian nation explicitly identify with the Hawaiian nation and not with the Yankee nation-state, for example). A white person must proclaim, “I am a new Afrikan of European descent” or a “Xicano of European descent”, should they reside in what is now Mississippi or Texas, respectively.
Whites must recognize that they owe no special allegiance to white anything, including even the privileged view that the primary role of white leftists or white anti-racists is to concentrate in white communities. Whites have no entitlement to monopolize anything, EVEN THE DRAGS OF ORGANIZING WORK! The best way to “unlearn” whiteness (and be a true race traitor!) is to for people of European descent in the U.S.A. to give their all in exactly the same way as oppressed nationality freedom fighters: liberate stolen and occupied lands, return of resources and wealth, reparations, and to build a new society that will certainly mean the destruction of the U.S.A. as it has historically been constructed and construed, and the coming-into-being of voluntarily-associated liberated peoples and societies.
Moreover, 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, and 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 through white supremacy, 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 challenging. This structure of white supremacy is not just in activist spaces, 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, or that you want to march in someone’s neighborhood does not mean that your whiteness doesn’t 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 Wilderson brilliantly asks, “squatters in somebody else’s project?”
So what does this mean for the future of white anti-racists? This might mean to 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? Second, 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 don’t 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 as a white person. Period. Fifth, stop calling me sister. I will tell you when you are family. 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.
im jus saying:
nothing says being in solidarity with the poor of the world, like, i want to make as much money as possible.
my father has always been an enigma to me. a man with many stories. and many demons.
he grew up in the new orleans. in a neighborhood that hurricane katrina swept away. and that no one really plans to rebuild. he was drafted by the govt for the vietnam war. when he returned he was involved in the black radical movements in southern california in the 70’s and a student at ucla.
he worked on the mcgovern campaign in washington, dc. and met my mom. they married. moved to northern va. and had two kids. the eldest one was yours truly.
in the 80’s (and probably before) he suffered from ptsd. he swore that the police and the government were after him for his past political activities. i remember him warning me to not answer the phone. him hiding in the bedroom drinking mylanta. he moved to california. my folks separated.
i remember nights without electricity, mornings without running water. no car. walking to the grocery store. instructed to hide whateva was happening inside our house from the outside world. barely seeing my mother, she was working so hard to keep everything stable.
my mother buying birthday gifts claiming my dad had sent them. but no phone call from him. my mother explaining that he was sick.
i kept my head in books. loved stories of ‘normal’ families. my father calling randomly telling me to be careful of the world, cuz the government was out to get us, because of his past, because of his present, because we, his children, were his future. i was 8, 9, 10, 11 years old. i was scared.
my father was a great story teller. i believed his stories. all of the contradictions. it wasnt till adulthood that i have accepted the contradictions of his personality. and thus, of mine. i am his daughter.
when i was a teenager i felt a strong kinship to tupac. i understood growing up with a parent whose politics could range from radical to regressive, whose soul could be broken and whole at the same time. both tupac and i grew up in the eighties, under reagan, with parents who had survived war. and had not had the privilege or the resources to heal from it quickly. so they found solace in truth and fantasy. in the cold reality of the streets and a desire to lose themselves inside their own dreams.
some have asked me was my father an activist. yes. no. not in that white sense, when you go to jail because it is a part of the theatre of self-righteousness. but in that dark sense of trying to save your soul.
i am grateful to my mother who strove through all of this to achieve middle class stability. and my father who tried to adjust the world to himself. and then tried to adjust himself to the world. i remember when i was 17 he said: i used to believe that love made the world go round, and now i believe that money makes the world go round.
every year he gave me a reading list of black radicals and intellectuals that i was supposed to read. malcolm x before i was 11. they came before colombus before i was 12 years old. and when i was 18 he told me that all those black intellectuals were bullshit.
but he was too late.
i couldnt keep riding his merry go round of radical black thought or capitalist black thought. so i keep my head in the books. and i walk the streets. and love what he gave me.
a world where i, with all my contradictions, am possible.