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EXDYSTOPIA

anti authoritarian visions in resistance

The Fetishization of Radical Womn

In “movement spaces” I remain frustrated by the still looming threats of sexism and rape culture, within and without activism, radicalism and society and the way that culture shows up differently depending.

As with everything within a racialized rigid gendered hierarchy that still favors cis white womnn, the fetishization of radical womn can disproportionately become weaponized against women of color, particularly black and indigenous womn. It shows up in so many ways, first and foremost in the interpersonal, but also the structural way in which our movements are organized. There are so many amazing critical articles sharing perspective on sexism, misogynoir (specific racialized sexism against black womn, yes also by non-black womn), transmisogyny, over sexualization, fetishization of womn of color, all working together to categorize, amplify, restrict and attack how we express femininity.

 

I want to talk about how these sexisms and misogyny changes forms in self declared radical spaces, with participants who learn the language of anti sexism and “feminism”, who stand beside us and call us radical womn and say they mean it as a compliment, recognition, but it ends up being another category to be exploited. Even while we have done extensive work on how patri-hierarchy oppresses and frames masculinity, men and all children, or how assigned/enforced gender and the contingent development of masculinity limits the development and recognition of duality, fluidity and femininity in gender identity.

They are afraid we are angry. Under patriarchy our resistance, which is not the same (amongst each other) serves as yet another barrier to the men around us. Sure, they benefit from it.  But a lot of the times they just don’t know how to “deal with us”. Womn, femmes and marginalized genders break barriers every day all day long, smashing silence, interrupting power, spreading resilience. But checking MANpower tends to not be enough, structurally. So in spaces where men and masc of center folks know they can’t be mainstream sexist, how does it show up?

Hyper Visibility

Have you noticed that being branded a radical while embracing and expressing femininity means you will be watched more closely, not just for your perspective, but to catch you when you slip? While at the same time men or masc. of center people named radical seems to enjoy a type of buffer that shields them from the same hyper-critical visibility, it actually buys them space.  If femininity isn’t taken as invitation enough to be constantly evaluated for our worth, being considered a radical, seems to be a special kind of license for hyper vigilance and pressure. This visibility comes with our own hyper awareness of the ways in which others respond, verbally, emotionally, visually to us. We attract attention, the sizing up of womn in rad spaces like we are either opponents, which results in our actions and ideas being constantly measured, or as objects to be watched or tokenized. And with attention comes increased demands on our time, energy, labor, and our bodies. In liberal spaces this brings with it expectations- our “radical” participation is demanded, not respected, but used and wielded as leverage to win gains for more “reasonable” goals. Meanwhile, we take the risk, sometimes made targets based on the wholeness and multiplicity of our experiences. This includes how attraction manifests in our spaces, the hierarchy of desirability (inclusion and space), the ways in which we are approached. For trans and non binary folks this attraction or attention can be dangerous or turn to violence.

women drwn.png

Fetishization

We learn to navigate oppression and develop tactics and discussion to combat and confront misogyny in resistance for our fucking survival. This shit is not cute, even if we feel it. It is not meant to be sexualized, or an invitation for your attention or MACtivism or machismo.  If you are at attention, you can be listening and learning while recognizing the unpaid, devalued labor we are doing for ourselves that you are piecing apart and benefiting from for yourself. So many of us become “go to” people to validate or explain analysis and provide information, even though half the time it results in needling and provocation with people who just wanted to argue in the first place. Online this results in harassment, trolling, death threats and if we speak out against it usually we have to deal not just with one abuser, but a network of apologists for the abuse.

Oftentimes resistance ends up attracting observers in a way that further objectifies us and divorces us, in their eyes, from the real struggle of our survival.  The worst form of this is people who think that our resistance is attractive and while they are fascinated, they really want to tame us. They want to tell us we are overreacting, demanding too much, capture our attention just to show us that #NotAllMen.  They invite us out or to an event, but don’t really want us to show up in all our fullness.  They position themselves next to us for social credibility, but stay out of the kitchen when it gets too hot.

(NonConsentual) Mentorship

This is a reflection on informal hierarchies that develop in our relationships and mentorship relationships including with elders / re: intergenerational ageism in our communities.

As womn, femmes, of marginalized gender, and particular to youth, together there are so many barriers to participating in social movements and critical spaces that one of the “solutions” to this seems to be informal or formal mentorship. In my opinion, consent is the most important part of all our relations, including mentorship relationships. The issue with these relationships is they tend to look like- people who carry more social capital determining how younger feminine folks can get access to enough social power to be able to participate authentically. Some spaces (less so these days) are dominated by men, and by fitting in under someone’s “wing” you can avoid the seemingly expected ritual of navigating a new space or movement without social capital. It should be noted that I’ve been in enough situations where older (white) womn have put me in positions where I am supporting them, but if i don’t follow predetermined expectations, they will withdraw emotional social material support. We all need a support structure, but how that support is structured is key.

Mentorship gone bad can have consequences. When (if, but when) issues that need to be addressed arise in the space, whether bullying or physical and sexual abuse, it tends to be a trend that men will call forward their comrades to confront folks on their behalf. I hate writing about this, because womn and marginalized genders mediating patriarchy or abuse is common both as exhaustion and solution. If someone is also under the authorship of a mentor, and the person being called in is their mentor, there is that much more pressure on the feminine to act as apologist OR mediator or both for their mentor.  This is partially a reflection on the dynamics and exchanges of social capital, a type of currency present in all our interactions but magnified within social movements. It’s that much harder to call to account a person who is highly regarded in the community, who has social capital, or provides particular skills or labor to the community, especially if they are positioned with privilege.

Masc of center peoples will shield themselves in the relationships they build with others. Abusers will shield themselves in the relationships they build with others. This is because it is that much easier to isolate and alienate womn and marginalized genders, or targets of abuse generally, from movement spaces than it is to have constructive accountability processes with abusers about their behavior and its consequences.

Non-binary & Transfemme Erasure

We can’t exclude examining the specific ways in which trans femmes and nonbinary folks have their existence, labor and resistance both erased and fetishized at the same time.  Gender policing and fetishization of gender itself creates barriers in movement spaces, especially spaces that lack facilitators who are themselves non binary or trans. This often results in non binary or trans femmes being ignored or not warmly approached or appreciated for their brilliance or contributions.

Trans womn of color particularly have spent much of their lives fighting for their survival only to have that struggle slurped up by the mainstream LGBTQ movement, distorted and whitewashed. With hyper visibility (including resistance) comes increased violence for trans womn of color.  Still now, our transfemme comrades seem to be appreciated for their disruption only when it doesn’t effect the agenda setters and gate keepers of mainstream movement organizing.  Fetishization disproportionately affects trans women of color and non binary or gnc femme of center peoples. Probably in all the ways previously outlined, but also in more ways that I myself can define, and with an increased threat of violence.

Even more, trans womn face violence, harm and exclusion from cis womn who gatekeep femininity as a category of power they want to wield even as it has been wielded against them. This has to stop.

Labor Everywhere

To some degree, despite the variability of our skills and struggles, womn are positioned outside the labor models that wage us (unpaid labor), but still within hierarchical relationships that exploit us (home care, house work, domestic violence). For womn of color there is not just one career, a trade, a routine that fits neatly into capitalism, both because of adaptability but also because of lack of stability or access in the economy (particularly affecting trans womn of color).  Our intuition cannot be neatly categorized within the economy. Similarly, neither can our resistance, and womn have been burned for this (literally).  We are givers- this is often both burden and strength which seems to characterize most of our resisting life, and we are still resented for it. And because we already do a lot of “voluntary” situational labor, we fit right into the self organizing labor that comes with practicing/coordinating/sharing in collective resistance and movement spaces.

I recently saw a meme that reminded me about how we treat femininity without transformation of social racial political economic proportions. The meme reads: lover, sister, healer, housekeeper, cook, coach, doctor, therapist, storyteller, taxi driver, nanny, mother, teacher, organizer, friend… none of which can be reduced just to an individual job, but an entire care economy that demands womn and fem of center folx to do all of the above at any time, at the same time, upon request, or even without request, to fill in, pull the slack, even read minds.  How exhausting! Resistance does not mean less labor for womn, and really it might mean more for everyone. Still, we can create towards a restructuring of how we approach our relationships and the spaces we inhabit with accessibility in mind- going beyond the idea of ‘equal’ mandatory labor and toward a vision of ‘shared’ labor. Understanding that mutual aid must consider ableism and reparations. Really challenging the usability of each other, going beyond the value systems of worth we’ve internalized via hierarchist misogynist models of power.

Care work seems to be multiplied almost exponentially in spaces where worth is measured in radical vulnerability.  The care we share is for our survival, within and in spite of capitalist white supremacist hetero-patriarchy. And often we want to do this care work because we desire it to be mutual, interwoven into our collective struggle, as a model of liberation. We might even want it to cease to be work- but that’s just not the case now. The challenge is that because care work is so feminized, it has been undervalued and unrecognized and others have yet to recognize it and adopt it themselves.

All people benefit from care work, including the emotional labor required to process our environment and conditions. Deconstruction is a practice that can be just as much internal as it is communal. But sometimes people transpose that responsibility into labor required of others in movement spaces.  Especially since men are being demanded to decenter masculinity in movement spaces and to center the voices and perspectives of womn, particularly queer and trans womnn of color, there is a significant amount of effort needed to process and apply these constantly repeated principles into practice. This labor time and time again gets displaced onto feminine people.

For masculine folx who are committed to this practice, I have found that even if they are good at it, if they go through some shit, or a multiplicity of challenges come up in their life that shake them, this commitment will falter and the power to float by on misogyny (resistance is supplemental, misogyny is default) will slip through.

mountains

It isn’t just the state responding to our resistance that makes targets of us, but the way established power dynamics and hierarchies reproduced keep femme of center movers, shakers and agitators on the outs, tokenized, or our resistance harvested for relevance and social capital while we stay fetishized ourselves.

Many thanks to the compa who read over this and has both gone through some of this stuff with me and talked with me about it repeatedly. Also please listen to the audio discussion via On Resistance Radio Podcast on the Fetishization of Radical Womn at http://www.soundcloud.com/on-resistance/patriarchy.

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wanderer

i can’t write poetry
without writing about power
I can’t write poetry
Without writing about “politics”
and i don’t want to write about “politics”
because then it feels like i’m preaching
and no one can really recruit you or convert you to resist
nor can you learn it theoretically
nor are you really that far from it
should that already be part of your social condition
and to be honest if someone’s preaching
then they might be telling you you will be saved
they are making themselves
a city upon a hill
and i wonder

Isn’t it okay to be here
in the valleys and ravines
shouldn’t we learn again
how to cross rivers
isn’t it okay to search in the dark to find what we’ve forgotten
what has been stolen
to want to stop the theft of culture
of land of nature named resource and restricted
And people made fugitives
the reliable death toll that calls itself order

The trail looks so appealing when it’s brightly lit
but just off the path you may find the waterfall
they told you the drought ate
and behind the waterfall you just might find yourself
not the highly individualized compete in this social economy
do or die you
though that is sometimes the most familiar part of ourselves

But the you that can walk between worlds
that can survive this hierarchy
and carve out its demise
that can be both the fire that burns
and the seed that germinates in its embers
that can witness the potential of a world undone
and prefigure it into existence

How Do We Relate/ Multiplicity In Relationships

Intuitive relationships may develop based upon creating space for emotion, connection, boundaries and evolving communications. This means taking into account how we build our relationships and networks, how this replicates value according to sexual, romantic and platonic lines, which are not linear and are informed by hierarchies we’ve learned and internalized.  I think this goes into more than simplifying monogamous and non monogamous relationship practices. We want to redefine how and what values are recreated, how intimacy is guarded and explored, what defines our connections to each other. I think throughout our relations, this really comes down to what principles we want to practice and why.

Most people have many relationships they value within a continuuum of emotional capacity and care for others. This care shows up in different ways, based on consent and mutual desire or preference, and also based on cultivated denial or reliance on certain care models that might exploit labor. These relationships have different communication practices, frequencies, ways in which we articulate need and fulfillment.  Dominating practices and structures tend to reproduce value based upon social hierarchies, such as race, gender, ableism all contributing to how we form connections.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to make room for our desires and attractions in a continuum of emotional capacity, without imposing a stagnant relationship model. Without creating hierarchies out of sexual or romantic relationships, and taking into account how hierarchies are reproduced through our social relations. Regardless of how many relationships I do or do not have, it comes down to how i experience connection and attraction and how I want to go through life navigating meaningful connections.  I tend to prefer a relationship practice that indicates multiplicity, many relations, based within a continuum of emotional capacity that can take many forms because I feel like this is closer to reality once we remove sexual romantic partnerships as the pinnacle of connection between consenting adults.

How many relationships I can cultivate seems to be related to how many relationships I am navigating at any given time, and my emotional capacity.  I do not use Emotional Capacity to mean a limit that can be reached for principled relations, but as a check-in on my own internal process and relationship with myself and how this affects my presence with and contribution to relationships with others.   I think my ability to forge meaningful connections has everything to do with how vulnerable I can really be with myself and others at any given time. Even if there are some less strings attached relations, or more specific relationship agreements, it is still my responsibility to know who I am and what I  am going through and what energy I’m bringing to these connections at any given time. This is #goals though.

I have so many questions about how to create meaningful principled relationships. I think about how navigating attraction and negating possession is one of the main things that draws me to non monogamy or relationship multiplicity.  How attraction can mean many things, many types of desire, and doesn’t immediately have to be sexualized or romanticized. Couldn’t intense attraction be wanting to get to know someone, collaborate on a project, something drawing people together that doesn’t have to be typified or translated into hetero-patriarchy-romance? I desire to cultivate that and so that makes me want to pursue healthier communication and relation patterns that do not repress or shame attraction. Relationships that highlight consent, and redefine commitment based on consent and agreements and not entitlement or ownership.

Communicating about these feelings is hard in a stigma and power laden world. We live under patriarchy, government, body policing, gender violence, transphobia, desirability, competition, white supremacy and ownership models that have been ingrained into our social experience. The question is how to draw ourselves out of these repressive practices, restoring consent, recognizing established patterns and refusing to reproduce usability of each other.

 

Left Treatment of “AntiFa”

This is not just about Anti-Fa, which is shorthand for Anti-fascist which covers a broad grouping of multiple formations of people that gather to counter organize against fascists with a diversity of tactics. While this grouping is gaining political attention, distinguishing itself from basic protest movements and bringing confrontation and black bloc tactics more into the public’s consideration, it still needs to be noted that it is one of many examples of self organization against fascism. It is important not to elevate such formations and counter organizing over the daily resistance and survival under white supremacy and US fascism by non white people.  It is important for us each and every time to decentralize anti fascist struggle, and not specialize it, while also not erasing it’s many roots and forms.

For example the self defense of Cece McDonald who was attacked by a transphobic neo-nazi and defended herself yet was still incarcerated for murder. Black and Indigenous people specifically, for various reasons, have been on the most urgent receiving end of oppression by white supremacy fascism and in resistance to it. Black and Indigenous resistance might not call itself “anti fa” but has been anti fascist as long as fascism rooted itself and built its capital and power through genocide of indigenous peoples, systematic racism and anti blackness. Fascism is the pursuit of white supremacy through organized and deadly means, including instruments of capital and the centralized state or government. Oppressed non white people do not have to go to a protest to face off with white supremacy, white supremacy comes for them in bathrooms, in bars, walking home, at home, in the form of reactionaries, police, government officials and agencies etc.  This is not news.

This time last year the majority of left (particularly socialist and communist) organizing had disdain for anti-fa tactics, and before that black bloc tactics, considering them too confrontational, too autonomous (that’s a safety/repression issue by the way) and not mass oriented enough. Yet now that confrontational resistance is being considered more heavily by the coopted, whitewashed and liberalwashed mass, folks who still don’t fuck with anti-fa want to ride the wave as these formations get them mainstream visibility and consideration. Specifically leftists who critique autonomous and anti-authoritarian tactics when they are not palatable to the mainstream, and then when the mainstream perception shifts, start to claim those tactics as leftist and use it to grow their base and organization. The practice of folks leaning authoritarian left to immediately decry tactics (and people) out of their control not central to their organizatonal strategy as “ultra left” “fringe” or “vanguardist” but when liberals start to consider those tactics, shift and now call it something else.

Some of these orgs have experienced increased recruitment due to (mass)ive confusion on the differences between liberalism and leftism, the different strains of leftism, and a lack of understanding of autonomy put forward by self organized groups (as opposed to organizations).  This is curious given that many leftists *up until recently* did not really recognize the multiple forms of fascism let alone white supremacy at root in the named United States.

smash the state

There is much disagreement about fascism on the left, which is not to be confused with liberalism but as a diverse group of anti capitalist ideologies. Mainstream people think of fascism as nazism if they think of it at all.  Some anti capitalists might embrace the Panthers and George Jackson’s definition of fascism. Or look beyond the popular use of the term and trace its development to the genocidal white supremacist project of Amerika, instead of just focusing on the European formation of it. People are miseducated to believe American fascism spun off of nazism, when in reality German Nazism spun off of and was inspired by American white supremacy.

Yet now there are these orgs recruiting confused liberals for anti fascism bulking up organizations with no clear or intended affinity beyond policy goals, filling quickly with radlibs (a special hybrid of liberal that is attracted to radical ideas without the depth or practice) calling for “anti fascist” actions and rallies. Okay, I’m talking about the DSA.

I waited until last weekend passed to continue with this article, because I was hoping the “antifa” laguna niguel rally would be more than counter rally and nonviolence trainings and DSA entry point. I was also worried these recently disillusioned berners and anti trump protesters riding this wave were going to show up not realizing that an alt-right neofascist rally is not just a “rally” but a space for white supremacists with knives to show up armed. While fascism is not to be debated, if you are going to smash you need to prepare and have some tactical awareness.

For example: don’t sign up online as “attending” for an event in which there will be confrontation (because of police and also neofascist surveillance), don’t take your ID, lock your phone, arrive and leave in groups, have contingency plans with your people, don’t show up just to watch, consider masking up etc. These are basic defensive tactics that most people involved in more passive incremental social change ideology may not consider.

Most liberals AND leftists do not have this tactical awareness because protests are stuck on being expression spaces and not practice spaces, or conflict spaces, and because resistance is being watered down at an exponential rate.  Liberal and leftist organizations continuously intervene in and contain uprisings (to grow their base?) instead of supporting them strategically to bloom out of control.  Instead of developing preparedness, we are constantly told that we cannot take confrontational tactics because we are not prepared. It’s a cyclical nightmare.

The uncomfortable reality is we’ve spent the last years debating permits, whether this is fascism or not, self defense, going back and forth on police reform v. abolition, battling over basic shit like taking streets and getting peace policed at these symbolic actions. The majority of the left is still split on whether to hinge their strategy on radicalizing liberals, or playing direct response to the policies bleeding out of this administration, and the next and the next. Please don’t pretend the ‘left’ is something it’s not to posture and recruit without amping up actual preparedness for actual conflict. For all of the disdain about confrontation as being too divorced from the masses (since when are the masses nonviolent?) the reality is we are still stuck in a cycle of revealing the conflict and its escalation, not in organizing effectively with preparedness to destroy it. At least confrontational tactics bring the discussion of tactics to the front in a practical rather than strictly theoretical way.

While I know people do not want to cede space uncontested to openly organized white supremacists, showing up to show up unprepared might not help (don’t get me started on nonviolence trainings without direct action or self defense trainings). Get prepared and spread the word on how to prepare for conflict situations, and practice. This is not just for counter organizing but because these white supremacist reactionaries are disrupting our spaces and we have to prepare for 1) when they show up and disrupt and 2) when they escalate with weapons.

This is a critique of the left, at a time when no one wants to hear it.  While you grow your ranks, deepen the analysis. Stop depreciating and outright demonizing messier autonomous anti authoritarian tactics while you ultimately will make them benefit you. Stop taking purposefully decentralized tactics and using them to centralize influence for your org. As folks push the edge of what is considered necessary, tactical, or even reasonable, don’t forget that oppressed people act autonomously all the time outside of activist organizations.

While the left continues debating whether to appeal to centrists, liberals and the waves of disillusioned and disappointed please consider that your audience is not everyones. Oppressed people mask up and take action, risking arrest outside of civil disobedience spaces because they navigate an economy that has criminalized their existence. Distancing yourself from that which is perceived as too confrontational or violent or criminal misses an opportunity to deepen perceptions, add context and push back on the inevitable criminalization of resistance.

no government

 

On Liberal Authoritarianism

So liberals are definitely overcompensating for the fact that Orange Head was elected. They think that because they voted and all that, and landed on the ‘right’ side of that ballot they have some moral superiority to posture from.  Now that they’ve donated to the ACLU and gone to the Women’s March and decided to make a post about “police brutality” they feel like they’re on the path to “resistance” and curving the authoritarian right. By now most liberals have conceded and determined themselves to at least be opposed to the authoritarian right and rising fascism. Who knows about that “anti fa” though, right?

Now take the time to look to your left and check your liberalism. Re-branding civic participation that supports US nationalism and pro government politics as “resistance” is shallow at best and does real harm to oppressed people advocating and agitating for their survival and liberation. We need support networks and alternatives instead of dependence on the state* and this constant recruit-people-to-save-the-government mentality so central to liberalism actively prevents and sabotages that kind of self organization and preparation from forming.

*Note: For the purposes of this article, the “state” refers to the combined force of centralized authority (+ violence) in many and all forms of enforcement institutions (begot by colonization, shaped into institutionalized white supremacist gender violent hetero-patriarchy, anti-blackeness and ableist capitalism). Think the government, military, courts, law and border enforcement, prisons, state agencies, and related industries that shape and supply that authority.

Each time there is renewed energy and agitation for resistance, for the people and not for the government, there are a series of actions and actors that come in to recuperate and direct that energy back into state* and institution approved avenues.  This at a time when we need more than another movement star, another well marketed reform, another decade of policy games, or even another political party to enter the back and forth governing fray that sees political representatives in unity and authority facilitating capitalism, racism and US conquest.

The constant seduction of peoples goals and ideas into policy after policy promises to continue as endlessly as policing, repression and government.  Resistance is the urgency to break that cycle, to confront that shit, to do it ourselves and in opposition using different methods than what is used to control us. To stop that sizzling out process that results in more control for institutional power than autonomy and fucking breathing room for uprising people.

Just because you can mobilize thousands of people and dollars for another bill championed by a representative, crafted on the backs of suffering people, to be carved up and spit back in a form nearly unrecognizable, depending on a small body at the top of the hierarchy (the supreme court) to validate it years after the fact, does not mean you have accomplished change. Not while you, me and a lot of us continue benefiting from harmful social, political and economic competitive hierarchies.

Not when that same law can be unwritten by another law, in another cycle, by another representative, in another few years. This must be what is meant when liberals beg for tolerance and patience and say “change is slow”. Change is slow for poor and oppressed people, but it is not slow for the government which expanded rapidly post 9/11 creating the Department of Homeland Security, militarizing police departments, escalating drone strikes and building predatory mass surveillance. Not for a government that can start a new war tomorrow and we wouldn’t be able to stop it. Or for one that will market us mass surveillance (police body cameras and drones) as a reform.

Maybe you are thinking #NotMyLiberalism, like your social justice is a little bit deeper. So here’s a couple questions for you to *deeply* consider:

  • Do you support or challenge US Nationalism and Imperialism?
  • Do you recognize that US Nationalism is built on white supremacy?
  • Do you support/ignore or challenge the racialized hierarchy produced by US settler white supremacy and capitalism?
  • Do you support or question/challenge the “law” and the criminalization of poverty?
  • Have you considered changing/destroying the structure that exists, or do you just seek to replace individuals with other individuals/representatives leaving the structure intact?
  • Do you trust the violent state* to mediate the issues of the people?
  • Do you believe that state* violence keeps “order”? Do you support this “order” even if it is proven to be anti indigenous and anti black?
  • Do you support the autonomy of oppressed people to break from systems of authority for their own self organization and survival?
  • And so many other questions.

Just think about it.

Liberalism is about controlling dissent and following a pre established authoritarian process that limits and prevents everyday people from having input and impact in their own lives. It keeps us subjects of an authoritarian state, more engaged in reform (fixing the system) than resistance (creating opposition, survival and alternatives).

Liberalism teaches tolerance of both our differences and of oppression and trust of the governing process.  Herstory has shown that the only time the government sides with oppressed people is when they are in fear of losing control or legitimacy.

Liberalism is supporting the hierarchy of violence, the violence of the military and police, in the name of “order” while fearing and prosecuting the violence of poor and oppressed people.

Liberalism is supporting the hierarchy and competition of capitalism, celebrating profit made from useless products built through exploited labor, enjoying your own position as a success story under capitalism, but fearing and prosecuting underground or criminalized capitalism such as theft, trading, selling drugs and weapons. Never mind who builds those weapons and ships those drugs, because the US government has always been more supplier and facilitator than regulator.

Liberalism is supporting the inclusion/absorption of historically oppressed people into dominant and violent modes of organization/hierarchy that continue to perpetuate oppression, and calling it progress.

Liberalism is supporting representatives and advocates and organizations in the name of supporting oppressed people. Yet supporting oppressed people will never look like supporting these liberal institutions.

While you are super busy making sure you’re more left than right, check your top-down. Wherever you land on the political spectrum it is likely you are still operating from a learned framework of authoritarianism, most of us do. You don’t necessarily have to do anything extra to support authoritarianism. You just have to stay rooted in Amerikan ideology, supporting government based solutions, ignoring that the structurally violent hierarchy and authority that exists is a source of harm, not the solution to it.

To look deeper at cultivating resistance culture, seek out perspectives and resources about divesting and decruiting yourself from authoritarian ideology. This includes developing an analysis and practice of rooting out the way hierarchy is used to organize relationships and power. Instead of funding liberalism find ways to support grassroots preparedness and autonomous (non-state) oppositional (resistance) alternatives, preferably without centering yourself.

When we say “No More Presidents” we mean it. Authority is built on depriving people of autonomy. Autonomy is built on depriving people of Authority.  Stop whitewashing and watering down the content of struggle and resistance just because you want to capitalize on our resistance. Stop trying to make resistance sound nice by taking the threat of our autonomy and rebellion out of it. Our autonomy and rebellion is a threat, respect and support it or keep it out of your mouth.

How Liberalism Infects Movement Building

It never fails. Every time there is critical resistance, an uprising and continued unrest people get dragged back to compliance (with permits) under the rhetoric of being peaceful or nonviolent. The movement gets dragged out of the street to sit attentively at the feet of the oppressors with speakers that tell us change will come if we are calm (and peaceful).  Nevermind the normalized police escort, or the “security team”. We are just following the rules, nothing to see here.

Rhetoric about resistance and direct action becomes meaningless, lost in the symbolism of marching for civic change, not structure change. Movement managers try to make the movement mainstream-popular, inviting celebrities and business leaders to come forward, while at the same time pushing out radical elements that released pressure valves to begin with. If not directly, through terrible tactical choices that alienate people (like working with the police who are critically engaged in counter insurgency and developing profiles on agitators to undermine the movement).

Never mind that working with the city and police legitimizes them, while making it easier for the police to knowingly divide and attack groups that take nonpermitted action or respond to their conditions without the permission of the state. Is this what solidarity looks like?

Instead of hearing about what groups are doing to sustain themselves or strategies for community support or autonomy during these uprisings, we hear more and more about making demands and appealing to city representatives. For reforms that always come at a cost, like so-marketed police reforms with dangerous baggage like more technology and funding for the police. The movement becomes so pressured by popular media and civic leaders to clarify its goals, policy change becomes a priority before much needed tensions and discussions are addressed. Before policy change can be challenged not as the goal, but a short sighted tactic that gains concessions in the larger fight to abolish the infrastructure that makes racial oppression and hierarchy/abuse relations profitable.

But once the movement is focused on policy change, containment is practically complete. Uprisings get neutralized within 3-4 days on average (in LA), tactics are pacified and organizations absorb people and energy through that process. All the agitators who were able to explore what it means to act autonomously for liberation, who were harassed and attacked by the police, are cast aside as unreasonable. Ungovernable.

Unity becomes language to gather behind and solidarity is reserved for those who will declare their nonviolence or tolerance for police collaboration. Never mind that nonviolence never actually was not violent- it just tolerates violence in the hopes of receiving change. It accepts (the hierarchy of) violence as a means of determining justice- because if someone is constantly violated don’t they deserve to be saved?

The cops and US state are killing people, but pacifism will kill the movement every time. We say “first do no harm” but liberalism does harm to the movement every time. Debate turns to protest, but often doesn’t amount to more than symbolism and an outlet as most folks are quick to comply. People pull permits in the name of pacifism, but invite the police. People fund and support figure heads and institutions instead of building projects and efforts that provide direct support on our own terms.  How does this make sense? 

What is liberalism? There are many ways people might define or apply it. But for now i’ll start with, peace for the sake of appearing peaceful regardless of whether the conditions are peaceful or not. Appealing to and supporting state violence (the government) to restore “peace” whether the conditions are peaceful or not. Working with the enemy to minimize the affects of oppression, while never supporting those looking to prevent or abolish it.

Redirecting the outrage and energy of people away from their own communities and into organizations that work with and support the state (and it’s violence). Taking real anger and pain, and neutralizing it so that it does not actually threaten the economic and social conditions that produced it. Believing that the state is the only way we will be free. Controlling how other actors behave so that the state will make you free. And finally, using peace as a reason to dismiss and silence people seeking critical movement building dialogue to prevent the co-optation of the movement. Demanding peace without first acknowledging the conflict is dismissive and heartbreaking. Same with #notallcops rhetoric.

The popular media finds it much easier to latch onto movement building for reform, because the hierarchical political structure wants people to resign power over to representatives and allow those representatives to determine “clear” goals. And just like that the movement becomes less about supporting action, solidarity, creative resistance and more about appealing to the dominant white (and liberal) gaze for approval

But what if the goals aren’t clear? The imagining of otherways and oldways needs space to breathe and thrive.  What if supporting abolitionist struggle, autonomy, and insurrection means that all of it will have to fall? Especially the privileges and comforts gained by whites and non-black POC under the capitalist system built on genocide and enslavement. And can’t folks consider that their trust in the system that exists is misplaced and comes at too high a cost? 

Liberalism is reliance on the state to manage all social, political, economic relations. This includes the economy of wage exploitation and hierarchy that makes people poor, upholds racism and deprives folks of resources. The system of governance and gender violence that pits community against each other based on sexuality, gender and patriarchy power. The lack of empowerment and shared decision making attacking our autonomy.  The lack of access to resources for those who are disabled by society. 

The political system itself which carries on war after war here and abroad without our consent, and for profit. The way problems are handled, policed and result in mass imprisonment and violence for poor and particularly non-white communities. Yes, all of it must fall.

It’s not simple. But to build this movement we cannot oversimplify it. We cannot ignore that liberalism benefits from seeing movements silenced, neutralized and absorbed into dominant politics. And we can’t pretend that it doesn’t make white (and non white) liberals uncomfortable to think about revolution and liberation. This might be a large reason why people in the movement fall back on learned liberalism. Because people, and particularly people of color, have been taught that to assimilate in Amerikan culture means to behave, which has become synonymous with being “reasonable” or deferring to white models of power. 

But we don’t need to defer, we need to defect from these models of power which are not reasonable.  Co-optation will fail and hierarchical models of power must fall.

[Edited but originally published on nowaronthepoor.tumblr.com]

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Against the state- the national guard

There is a part of the conflict where the sparks turn to fire after a few days and the outrage cannot be contained. People retaliate, maybe property is destroyed and appeasement doesn’t work. The media heads and city reps are at a loss (for control) and the national guard gets called in. Propaganda about the national guard, a subset of the federal government and localized domestic military force, presents it as a favorable alternative when things get out of control on the ground in our cities. Nothing could be further than the truth.

In the pursuit of riots, or bursts of collective action both destructive and creative, we can recognize that the next step by the state when the police alone have been outmaneuvered or “lost control” is to bring in other layers in the hierarchy of state violence.

It should be noted that police purposefully provoke crowds of people compounding the effect of their already obscene, targeted racist police executions. It should also be noted that oppressed people repeatedly targeted by social and state violence have the autonomy  to defend themselves and create consequences to change this society as needed. This means we have to be willing to undo and defy the structures built by colonization and institutionalized anti-black racism, the state itself.

But we have been produced under this social order, many believing that order, rather than oppression, is kept through state violence. So many do support the national guard or ‘federal oversight’ because folks believe order, through state violence, needs to be restored. And yet the national guard has proven to be an added force of oppression and attack in situations when people were suffering.

In New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina the national guard killed black folks trying to survive the hurricane and floods. The orders came from the Governor, and the official reason given was “looting”. As an arm of authoritarian violence they  intervened in an “emergency” situation and increased the death toll while people were trying to survive. Because it was a natural disaster there was little to no questioning of their decisions or use of force. Like most government agencies, use of force is dismissed because of some mythical “protection” that is being provided selectively (based on hierarchy, not to people criminalized or targeted by the guard).

In 1961 Bull Connor, a racist police commissioner and Democrat in Birmingham, allowed mobs of KKK to assault Freedom Riders who were de-segregating Greyhound bus travel. At that time, it was seen as favorable for the national guard to intervene since police repeatedly allowed white racists to assault black people because police shared racist sentiment or were supporters of/KKK themselves. This was a political move on behalf of the federal government at the time, not because of the harm coming to Freedom Riders on the ground, but to restore authority  and faith in the state process, who at the time saw a benefit to distancing themselves from the actions of the police. The national guard intervening during unrest and uprisings nowadays is similar, they intervene not against police terror but against a breakdown in authority.

During the Ferguson Uprising in 2014 when the national guard was called in, even some movement folks were looking at it as if it was a good alternative to the police running the show. However even Highway Patrol’s field operations commander, Maj. Bret Johnson, admitted that had the Guard tried to stop the arson and looting on Nov. 24, “the only way to stop that, with the amount of people there, would have been with deadly force.”

When an “emergency” is declared by these state leaders it is not over the consistent execution of folks, particularly black folks, by the state (which is the white supremacist/ legal norm) but the assessed threat to white power and established capitalism.  They do not see police executions as an emergency, but collective resistance as a threat.

With the national guard, as any force or formation of government violence, oppression is order. The national guard being called in is an escalation in containment strategy by the state. It reminds the public that the government will continue to kill people to regain control, and signals to local groups they have to regain control and repress uprisings themselves or the state will increase force and do so more brutally.

There is no benevolent arm of this violent governing apparatus that will intervene in conflict without smashing resistance and autonomy to the ground.

What does it mean to account for the national guard? In my opinion, it means first knowing the difference when the state shifts repression tactics. When cooptation and containment aren’t enough, what role do these federal agencies play? In the eyes of others, in terms of flow of resources and chain of command, and how can we approach these situations strategically.

The truth is, riots are here to stay. As they increase in frequency and tactics change, the propaganda and strategy of the state will too. Bouts of collective rage and autonomy, attacks against the flow of capital (highways, windows, burning corporations), empower and release too many people best left purposefully individualized and in despair.  These are the throes of conflict, beyond time for resistance in all its forms and this “Order” which is really a racialized poverty based gender policed hierarchy deserves opposition.

There are many creative means of organizing and caring for ourselves in spite of this system, though resources, time, and energy is depressed. However, all of the most effective autonomous efforts- from food networks to direct action collectives are repeatedly surveilled, targeted and attacked. This is why building our capacity to strike (together) and often is important, it has the potential to bring us together without requiring any uniform theory or action. In the meantime, we practice.

Preparation is continuously needed, but in the moment when people flood the streets, what is strategic changes. Food networks are great, but looting is more immediate in crisis. Blockades are effective, but looting attacks the power of capitalism to withhold resources and enforce that divide.  It makes sense that in a capitalist system that values property and profit over life that folks would attack property. Especially folks in poverty, which is a purposeful part of racialized capitalism. In a policed racial hierarchy people will retaliate against a system that relies on their incarceration or death, this has to be affirmed. As a comrade said, “We demand something other than this necropolitical death world. A world where Black, Brown, poor, sick, disabled, queer, femmes can live and love” (Trishia Andrea).

We will not attack uprisers for knowing what is immediate and strategic even if long term professional activists feel it harms the image of whatever movement they are trying to carve out of peoples rage. However we prepare for what is coming, uprising energy is different and can keep its own flavor based on its conditions and should not be co-opted to energize local organizations.

More resources:

Looting is a Political Tactic, Bobby London

Embrace the Riot, Bobby London

 

Police Execute Youth in Nickerson Gardens RIP

July 27, 2016

Just before midnight in Watts on July 25th, Southwest division sent an extra patrol into the Nickerson Gardens public housing project. This led to a deadly confrontation by police and the execution of an 18 yr old named Richard Risher by an officer. Following the murder, community and neighbors gathered and the police responded by mobilizing riot police and putting the area under lockdown amplifying their terror and repression.

The extra patrols that led to this execution are part of a recent escalation ordered by the head of police Charlie Beck who deployed more helicopters and 500 more police to reinforce regular patrols. This move is directly responsible for the policing that led to the murder of this Black youth, Richard Risher Jr. who was in the area visiting friends.

Beck sent a video to his officers about a week ago, saying he wanted to make sure that officers were “as safe as we can be.” “Watch your back,” he said. “Watch each other.” LAT

Does “Watch Your Back” and “Watch Each Other” refer to an extra patrol going into a predominantly black and brown community and dispersing a group, by chasing and killing one of the people? We don’t know who or what happened, who fired the first shot, but we do know a black youth is killed. The culture of militarized police occupying a neighborhood does not bring safety.

The LAPD used organized violence to disperse residents of Nickerson Gardens in defense of their shooting. They did this because they do not exist to protect the majority of black and brown folks generally, and in public housing particularly. The Chief of police has been talking about a “change of approach” toward “community” policing, but from policing and police executions, to the way they beef up patrols, violently disperse crowds and repress grieving family and neighbors after executing a youth, the police continue using escalation as a primary strategy.

police occupation

Despite hot air about “police reform” or “retraining”, police continue increasing their enforcement with deadly consequences. Use of force and use of police is not changing on their end. And so use of force/defense and enabling of the police must change on ours.

Initial reports were undetailed, yet focused on a minor police officer injury rather than the death of an 18 yr old son, cousin, nephew and loved one.  Police media relations did not provide information whether body cam footage exists or will be released. LAPD media relations indicated a press release would be issued and that the story continues changing. They said the press release would be issued around 7pm July 26th and one has not been issued yet.

  1. We do not trust the state to investigate it’s own acts of execution

There are narratives counter to the police, people in the neighborhood said he was running away when he was shot. Even the LA Times reported conflicting accounts between his mother and the police.There were over 30 shots with several shots in the back. And there are so many questions not being asked, left unanswered that I feel raised.

  1. Why did police escalate against a crowd of people intending them to “disperse”?
  2. Why did they then pursue anyone, escalating the situation further?
  3. The police chose to disperse a crowd by provoking a “gun battle”?
  4. Did the police roll up and decide to detain the group?
  5. Why are the police using deadly force to detain people?

To the people who justify police terrorism, why do you expect people to be attacked by the police without fighting back? Why is it that you only mourn unarmed victims, especially when one cannot trust the police for the truth (and the police are always armed)? The police have killed over 600 people so far in 2016 and the estimation is that they kill at least 1,000 people that we know of per year.  This is more than mass shootings combined. But when you think of gun violence, you aren’t always taught to think of the police, or the enforcement of mass incarceration, poverty and systematic racism.

LAPD Southwest division killed him. The organization of the police continues killing people routinely. And it needs to stop. Love to the family in mourning.

If anyone would like to add comments or expand on what happened here, please reach out artofexisting@gmail.com Support for the families who have lost their loved ones to state terror, to all those fighting state terror.

Fight the police for murdering people. Abolish the organization of the police, as an act against institutional racism. Alternatives for police and support to areas/ & communities now. Alternatives to prison now. Cops out of our unions, and out of our schools. Strike against police terror and for general autonomy and collective pwr to change this world. All love to those grieving, and to those with resistance in their hearts.

Oh, sister hearteache

The ones you love
Like sister and heartache
Only leave when wound
Is a deep ache
A sore spot where pulse beats
Never draw to a close
These thoughts
Are anchor
And daydream
A few thousand minutes pass
and you are left wondering
Always, never, whenever

The only shift
Is a window breaking in your room
The release still does not come
And you are left with the pieces
Each a thought
Together- a sadness
A vision of what to learn from

Tomorrow it will be too hot
Your dreams too narrow
This world
Too indifferent to your pain
But again with breath
And ache
And shaky laughter
We continue

 

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