Friday, November 24, 2017

Stack of Three Books

On November 7, 2010, almost six years to the day before america was made "great again," I wrote this down. In future posts, I will return to these authors:

A stack of three books by Saidiya Hartman (Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in 19th-Century America), Ronald Judy [(Dis)forming the American Canon: African-Arabic Slave Narratives and the Vernacular], and Hortense J. Spillers (Black, White, and In Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture) sit next to the computer on which I type this missive. Three towering giants of my past three years of thought stack perilously on the edge of my nightstand/footlocker. This computer is where I write their thoughts and my thoughts out as I understand them. They each write in different ways such inscrutable, horrible thoughts. And yet, they are thoughts that everyone knows. Everyone black knows them intimately, because not to know them is to think oneself human (white), and to set oneself up for lifelong frustration when one tries to have that irresolvable conversation with one's colleagues, bosses, teachers, lovers, family members, children, and leaders. They explain why this conversation doesn't go anywhere, and, by implication, why we will have to look beyond mere conversation. Blacks and nonblacks must read these difficult thoughts (if not these specific texts) because we need new conversations about what it means to be ethical. One can no longer be a well-intentioned liberal about race once one knows these things. Paying taxes, marking the ballot, and working the 8-5 all become different modes of pulling the trigger in an incomplete genocide. We can't be post-race until Modernity is dead and buried. And nobody wants to be that kind of free because they literally can’t imagine how the present could be any different from what it is.

The three perch on the edge of the table, ready to jump because they contain such unthinkable thoughts that they are themselves mad. To oversimplify what these writers say risks mistaking the map for the journey or the messenger for the message, but risk it I must. 

Judy basically says that from the founding moments of the academy, what we mean by "academic integrity" has been defined as anything that is NOT the perceived opposite of "academic integrity"--Africa and "the negro." Black studies (by whatever name) inherently "disforms" the western canon. The meaning of this assertion ripples into every other institution where blackness or black bodies might show up.

Hartman says that the Enlightenment-era concepts we use to understand ourselves as human--freedom, individual rights, community, etc.-- extend only conditionally to black Americans. For example, the term "slave rape," Hartman points out, is an oxymoron. There was no such thing. Instead, it was a legitimate ”use of property" and it was totally legit. To summarize Hartman, I picture Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration in his parlor with his slaves working just outside the window. That's the defining moment of America. That is America now. This book, Hartman says, is a “history of the present.”

Hortense Spillers’ essay “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” reads the concepts that give meaning to the notion of "gender" in documents of the transatlantic slave trade of the 15th through 19th century and the 1965 The Negro Family: The Case for National Action by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. For the captive African female, she writes, "slavery outrages motherhood." In other words, in the course of the violence that it took to convert various ethnic groups of Africans into "blacks," "we lose at least gender,” the capacity to make meaning of our own bodies, the capacity to pass meaning on to other bodies. The ongoing violence of the Middle Passage makes it so we can’t make meaning of the most basic things we think we are so sure of: our bodies are not bodies but rather “flesh” augmented with “sexual stuff” for the master’s uses, and our families are not affirmed as families but rather as “pathologies.” We can’t even name ourselves and have those names stick.

These three authors are special because they point out blackness is not fundamentally defined as an oppressed status. Blackness is fungibility. Why is this important to think or write about? Well, what do we rely on now to construct arguments about why this or that politics is ethical or unethical? We use philosophical frameworks derived from early Modernity, the moment when the west was understanding itself as all the things we now associate with the west. Humans can't comprehend things based on some vague notion of inherent qualities. They can only understand things in opposition to something else. (Yellow is not green, not blue, not purple, etc.) 

Commodity-ness. Cargo-ness. Blackness. Against that, and all that it signifies, is the only way whiteness/humanness can understand itself AS white, as "human"-- as Free. It IS the only way. (Not simply it WAS the only way way back when.)

Why are these by my bedside? They are by my bedside because they comfort me by reminding me that I am indeed seeing the things I think I'm seeing just before I call myself crazy. They remind me that, indeed, I should not be comfortable with the world because the world (as humans experience it) was never meant to contain blacks. Blacks were always to remain "outside our world." But I am black. And I am human. And I am in the world but not of it. So these three also make me uncomfortable. In a moment I will take them and tuck them away on my bookshelf. But they always seem to find their way back. Why? Because it's not as though this stuff is their fault. They're writing about something that hurts them, that hurts all of us.

I'll say this: If anyone else has these three books by their bedsides, they think often about unspeakable things-- day in, day out. I can't even remember why I pulled them from the shelf and why they are here instead of on the shelf. I guess I wanted them close by. The Indigo Girls said that Virginia Woolf's Diary and A Room of One's Own let them know "I'm alright." The slim pages of the three authors who loom at my bedside remind me that I'm not alright, that nothing is alright. Not now. Not until

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Donald Trump is the New Christopher Columbus

by Joe Pullen
First published on The Feminist Wire

Since before Donald Trump was Donald Trump, it's been a fairly simple proposition: Groom them aggressively, taking a little more each time, and you can take whatever you want from them. Money. Rights. Pussy. Anything.
trump Christopher_Columbus'_Soldiers_Chop_the_Hands_off_of_Arawak_Indians_who_Failed_to_Meet_the_Mining_Quota.jpg
This is the model of masculinity Trump performs expertly in word and deed. At this point, it's who he "is." It preceded him so he only had to step into it and not question it. It created him. He in turn re-creates it and re-broadcasts it. And it's based on everything he is free and empowered as a white male to do and be in a settler colony called amerikkka.

"They let you do it," he once bragged to Access Hollywood crew in a line that will forever more be the basis of many discussions of rape culture. "Grab 'em by the pussy." He learned that lesson in the "locker room banter" of his white male circles and probably tested it out on white females in the back seats of the kinds of cars that only a few people could even afford.

He takes liberties just because he can. We tend to focus on the fact that he does, but the fact that he can -- and the conditions that make it possible-- are what we need to be far more concerned about.

And so, looking at all that he's already done, why wouldn't he also have the gall to remove the law enforcement official who led the investigation into his corruption?
trump James_Comey.jpg
On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI director James Comey. The clearest motive Trump had for firing Comey is that Comey was the point person for a federal investigation into the influence from foreign governments, particularly that of Russia's Vladimir Putin, may have had on Trump’s election and policy. Apparently, Comey had recently requested more resources for carrying out this investigation. Two days later, Comey learned while watching a newscast that he was out of a job.

By firing Comey, Trump is brazenly covering up his suspicious activities the way any dictator would. Perhaps just as crucially, Trump positions himself to appoint an FBI director who will remake the agency into what Trump will need for future power and pussy grabs.

He has already kissed up to “his” military about as much as he can, appointing current and former generals to top positions, proposing a $54 billion increase in funding to the already bloated U.S. imperial military, unleashing them from rules of engagement intended to limit civilian casualties, and even donating his salary to maintain national battlegrounds, monuments to the violent white masculinity that made amerikkka “great.” Once he installs his people at the FBI, most of the U.S. empire's force apparatus--law enforcement and the military--will be headed by and beholden to people personally loyal to Trump.

Add to this the fact that white men, the overwhelming majority of Trump's electoral base and most extreme of his supporters, are armed to the teeth. They not only comprise the vast majority of those who are or have been police or military, but they also have already shown a penchant for using physical and cyber violence to silence dissent against Trump's policies and to police other performances of white masculinity into holding the line. You can see the beginnings of an organized neo-freikorps-type paramilitarism, with racist prosecutors, judges, and laws like "stand your ground" on their side. It's not just the neo- nazis. A strong and well- armed contingent of white males have an ideological commitment to Trump. They identify with him. In case elements of the force apparatus of the state should abandon him, this contingent must be contended with.
Trump speech.jpg
Who, then, will stop Trump from anything?

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters," he once famously said.

Make no mistake: everything we see him do is a function of his performance of masculinity, his prerogative as a white male in a heteropatriarchal global order. His power as the rapist- and murderer-in-chief only amplifies the capacities he has. His standpoint as a white man has the power to create rape culture, and we need to study that standpoint. No matter what he does, it seems it’s all gendered. It doesn't require a degree in psychoanalysis to find its connection to sexual violence.

“We're going to win so much," he said at a 2016 South Carolina campaign rally, "you're going to get tired of winning. You’re going to say, ‘Please Mr. President, I have a headache. Please, don't win so much. This is getting terrible.’ And I'm going to say, ‘No, we have to make America great again.’ You're gonna say, ‘Please.’ I said, ‘Nope, nope. We're gonna keep winning.’”

That's right. "We" are going to "win" because he wants to "win," no matter if we consent to his idea of "winning" or not, no matter if it hurts us or not, no matter if we plead with him or not. Trump elides raping with winning. Just groom your victims to think raping them is “winning.” They let you do it.

If he admitted that he had sexually assaulted women, that prepared us to bear witness to his assaults on women's vaginas in ever more ways, “resonating through various centers of human and social meaning.” These include restrictive and punitive laws, policies, and court appointments and wars. The Republican American Health Care Act, narrowly passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on May 4, 2017, could make victims of sexual assault and domestic violence ineligible for certain health care coverage under the "pre-existing condition" loopholes in insurance law. If passed by the Senate, this policy will surely be signed by Trump because it would effectively depress the number of women filing the very claims that have been made against him by several women, including his first wife, Ivana Trump.

Through massive bombing campaigns that leave toxic chemical residues, like depleted uranium, and possibly radioactive fallout, Trump (like all his previous commanders-in-chief and like Hillary Clinton would have done) and "his" generals (veterans of U.S. imperial quagmires from Iraq and Afghanistan) will cause everything in, on, and coming out of the vaginas of women and girls to be subject to contamination and pain and suffering.

As the first to drop "the mother of all bombs"--a bomb with a one-mile blast radius--on an area that is home to 180,000 people, he did not concern himself about the fates of the present and future mothers under that "mother." Happy Mother’s Day.

If we want to understand why he gets away with it, why he not only gets a pass but is encouraged, why he won white men’s votes and even won the majority of white women's votes over a highly qualified white woman candidate, we have to study how he came to be positioned within the racist structure to enjoy the prerogatives and entitlements of a conqueror.

Trump's grabbing ways are essentially a byproduct of a paradigm shift as old as amerikkka itself. They come from a certain kind of power that goes very far back and very deep into the marrow of amerikkka (Central, Caribbean, South, North) and the shape that the modern world, and the people comprising it, began to take more than 500 years ago and continue to take today.

What I mean, in the first place, is how in the hell did this blonde aryan master race motherfucker (literally) even get to be in the land of the People of the Sun, talkin bout he was going to "make America great again" by banishing those same people from it and building a wall to keep them out of it?
trump Portrait_of_a_Man,_Said_to_be_Christopher_Columbus.jpg
It all began when Christopher Columbus said, in so many words, the same damn thing Trump said in the Access Hollywood video: they let you do it.
With fifty men I could subjugate them all and make them do everything that is required of them. (Christopher Columbus October 14, 1492)

...your Highnesses may believe that this island (Hispaniola), and all the others, are as much yours as Castile. Here there is only wanting a settlement and the order to the people to do what is required. For I, with the force I have under me, which is not large, could march over all these islands without opposition. I have seen only three sailors land, without wishing to do harm, and a multitude of Indians fled before them. They have no arms, and are without warlike instincts; they all go naked, and are so timid that a thousand would not stand before three of our men. So that they are good to be ordered about, to work and sow, and do all that may be necessary, and to build towns, and they should be taught to go about clothed and to adopt our customs. (December 16, 1492)
The Boisterous Sea of Liberty: A Documentary History of America from Discovery through the Civil War, edited by David Brion Davis, Steven Mintz (2000, Oxford University Press)
Not to put too fine a point on it: they won't resist, and even when they do resist, your military and technological power advantage renders their resistance so futile that it's laughable, even enjoyable, to crush them and proceed to do even more.

They let you do it. You can do whatever you want. All is permitted. Might makes right.

This has been the motto of white masculinity since whiteness was founded over 500 years ago. It was founded on the deck of the slave ship, raping Black girls and women, while Blackness was founded in the cargo hold, being raped, enchained, beaten, and killed. It was founded on the trigger side of the conquistador's gun, when Hernan Cortez raped the Nahua princess called Malinche, and when Columbus (known as the Admiral) gave his associate, Michele de Cuneo, a “girl” (age unknown) to rape:
When I was in the boat, I took a beautiful Cannibal girl and the admiral gave her to me. Having her in my room and she being naked as is their custom, I began to want to amuse myself with her. Since I wanted to have my way with her and she was not willing, she worked me over so badly with her nails that I wished I had never begun. To get to the end of the story, seeing how things were going, I got a rope and tied her up so tightly that she made unheard of cries which you wouldn't have believed. At the end, we got along so well that, let me tell you, it seemed she had studied at a school for whores.
As we are seeing, everything Trump does is a plant growing from the same soil from which Columbus and his cronies grew. You could substitute one plant for another, but the soil is the same soil and the pot is the same pot. Even a conservative apologist for Columbus Day said, "If there was no Columbus to rape and pillage the New World, then surely there would have been someone else to take his place." In other words, Columbus occupied a structural position of settler in relation to those who already occupied the so-called "new world." A genocider by any other name would smell as foul.

Another way of saying all of this: Trump occupies a position--like point guard or middle linebacker. That position is settler/slavemaster. It has the same demands and freedoms, like raping and killing with impunity, whether Trump, Christopher Columbus, Brock Turner,  Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes, John R.K. Howard, David Becker, Austin Wilkerson, future National Football League Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning (Note: one NFL team recently retired his jersey and built a statue in his honor), or some (white) other person holds it. That position--the pot that stays the same, even when the plant is different--is what many students of struggle call a subject position.

A subject position is, first and foremost, a creation of power, a violence of such concentrated extremity that it can destroy and (re)create whole worlds. Those men (and still more to come) all committed rape, sexual assault, and/or sexual harassment; they acted with virtual impunity and no doubt felt a deep sense of entitlement. Their subject position, indeed, was created by raping, enslaving, and murdering Black and Indigenous peoples with impunity.

Frantz Fanon said this violence deeply affected Black people's subject positions because:
Their metaphysics, or less pretentiously their customs and the agencies to which they refer, were abolished because they were in contradiction with a new civilization that imposed its own. [Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Richard Philcox (2008, New York, Grove Press) 90]
But it is Black feminist theorist Hortense J. Spillers who most explicitly says the effects of this violence cut to the very core of Africans' cosmology--our capacity to name ourselves and maintain the integrity of our own cultures, our own performances of masculinity and femininity and other genders, our own meanings--in other words, our capacities to make no mean no.
This profound intimacy of interlocking detail is disrupted, however, by externally imposed meanings and uses: 1) the captive body becomes the source of an irresistible, destructive sensuality; 2) at the same time-- in stunning contradiction-- the captive body reduces to a thing, becoming being for the captor; 3) in this absence from a subject position, the captured sexualities provide a physical and biological expression of "otherness"; 4) as a category of "otherness," the captive body translates into a potential for pornotroping and embodies sheer physical powerlessness that slides into a more general "powerlessness," resonating through various centers of human and social meaning. [Hortense J. Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” Diacritics 17, no. 2 (1987) 67]
trump The_Slave_Trade_by_Auguste_Francois_Biard.jpg
The violence of the middle passage doesn't just "destroy culture" in the sense of a performative event, like the burning of a library. We're talking about a destruction of the “various centers of human and social meaning”-- anything that sustained our capacity to make culture and have it count. Violence with no limit and for any reason or no reason at all.

And at the same time that this violence is pulverizing African and Indigenous subjectivities into the object status of "Black" and "Native," the ones committing this violence are molding and fortifying their own subject position: the Master/Settler, or "white" [Frank Wilderson, Red, White, and Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms (Durham, NC, Duke University Press), 25].

Trump does not have to be as boastful, deeply insecure, and full of vengeful bravado as he is. He could choose another performance of white masculinity. But even that performance would be rooted in the same pot, in the same subject position. Even "good" white men and boys know what they could be, what they could do--and get away with--even if they never or rarely do it.

Trump's will to autocracy is not just a function of his growing up rich and accustomed to getting what he wants in a material sense. It also stems from the very possibility of his German immigrant grandfather--an actual pimp--to immigrate to a land already cleared of its inhabitants and cultivated with the many uses of the African human property stolen from another land. And it always stays rooted in the continuation of those conditions.

What kind of person does such a "new world" condition create? When everything you have is rooted in theft-- of the land, of the flesh--what do you become? What kind of person is created when you can do absolutely anything to the people whose land you stole and the people you stole and they cannot do the same to you?

Even a "nice" one of such people--and Trump is not nice--is still shaped by the fact that he could rape and enslave and kill with absolute or relative impunity. And his subjectivity is founded in a desire to keep the power that goes with that position.

No, not all white people are mean. A subject position is not a set of personality traits or an identity. It gives rise to those things, even though many of those things are possible within the same subject position. No, not all white people are evil. But they invest in their whiteness and the power that goes with it, and that power grows from an unethical global order built violently around serving their material needs and psychic desires.

Trump is simply a vanguard model of a certain kind of subjectivity created out of the unique power relations of the last 500 years. He hasn't been around that long, of course. But the subject position from which he speaks and acts has been around at least that long. He's just one performance of it.

It was 500 years ago that Columbus landed on Turtle Island and changed everything from what it had been before for both those whom he would call Indians and those he would call Blacks. This violent invasion also created him and those who followed him into the subject position of whiteness, including white masculinity. “Indians” were the peoples displaced by him and the violent waves of settlers that followed him; “Blacks” were those who were destroyed as people so our deaths as subjects could give meaning to the lives these settlers sought to build. And he, Columbus, was the first white amerikkkan man, the prototype for all that Trump and his supporters would be free to become.

We need to dwell on this violent context in order to understand Trump and the fact that, as he so frequently says, "nobody cares" and "they let you do it."
trump Wilmington_vigilantes_B.jpg
We are indeed faced with an amerikkka that is consciously stepping into the autocratic persona that it has long shown to the world of dark-skinned people, from Flint, Michigan, to Standing Rock, South Dakota, to Madison County, Mississippi, to Wilmington, North Carolina (pictured above), to Sand Creek to Honduras to The Philippines to West Papua to Yemen to Pakistan. It appears to be stating the obvious now, but Black and Indigenous people articulated that this is what amerikkka is long before white liberals, progressives, and conservatives cared about amerikkkan autocracy.

The way to action that moves the struggle for liberation forward will have to come from a deeper engagement with Black thought, including understanding the ways that Trump occupies a subject position that itself must be ended so humankind of all colors, genders, and sexualities can be saved.

If anything, "They let you do it" is a statement that grows like a twisted vine out of soil in a pot. That pot has a long and violent history-- and present-- and will take concerted effort to smash.


Joe Pullen is a worker and student of Black radical thought and praxis in all its feminist, queer, Muslim, diasporic complexity. They teach, write, and live with their family in California.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Great segment on I mix what I like about the movie get out

Great segment on one of the greatest films of all time, already a classic in its 3rd week. I hope brother Jordan Peele keeps doing this level of work on much-needed topics of conversation like how we break free of our 500- year- old "sunken place." The film tells a great story that also facilitates conversations and lesson plans and sermons and, hopefully, future music, art, writing and other forms of discourse, including other films. And it even has a little something about the antiblackness of poc too. Thank you, Dr Hate and Dr Ball for helping us unpack this tightly woven and well-executed parable for Black life in an antiblack world.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

wade in the water

Brad Brewer, 1971, published in Right On! Black Community News Service.
This is a good example of art that recognizes, identifies, and condemns the structure of antiblackness in u.s. empire.

"Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers' sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of white mothers' sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest..."
--Ella Baker
 "I'm not going to die, and even if I do die, I'm not going to die nobody's hypocrite."
--Assata Shakur

The Unforseen and the smoke
from aaaaaaaall that history
crowding out vision of the way

They wrote the rules so you couldn't
get here, or that if you did get
here you would be a coward
after all they put you through to get here.

But here you are. Ain't no coward.
Maybe some PTSD. No coward though.

Crouch at the edge
of the clearing called
of the vastness of play,
of war, of bliss, of gitmo,
of a wasteland beneath high-rise condos
starting at $750,000,
with nothing but the bag of tools
looted out of the katrinas,
broke out with the assatas of yestermoment,
heavy on hip.

And Imani, faith. Breathe in.
Hands held and ready.
We move together. Silent.
Ears tuned.

Whoever said don't look down
was a liar, that's where they
hide that shit, stepped in it,
and almost lost it all that time.

Fuck it.

Look everywhere.

But true forward is that way.

Yup. Think so.

Cuz if it were the other ways,
it would have worked by now.

No way to find pleasure
in the tearing
after what feels like
500 years of rape.

No idea how to make it through.

Maybe this time.
Image from video of the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton sponsored murder of Afrikan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi was considered a threat to white supremacist interests for many reasons, but the biggest one was his attempt to establish a currency based on Africa's gold resources. This move would have meant independence from western financiers for a continent of people that the west is presently starving.

Not yet. Patterollers take your balls they catch you.

Come on, Blackman, you and me.
Do it.

Never that. Not again.

The last one hurt so bad and cost so much.
I don't know that it's in me.
Feel hairs rise
at the creeping of history,
of normative time
just over shoulder,
of shame, got beat
that last cycle
and too much pride not to say
fuck it and risk stumbling
as long as it's that way,
think so, think that's forward.

No idea how it will go down.
Dug down. Broke down last time.

Let's pick the moment.
Then cut from cover.
Crush the fear into vapors
and push it out. Go off balance
headlong into the rush of time.

Imani is the wind at your back,
the collective last breath
of the beloved ancestors
as they dove into that
black black atlantic,
and we all do that some kinda way.

Faith all that is left
after you can't even
sweat no more,
after they've burned
everything else away.

Stay true.

Strap up.

Study up.

Rise up.

Break through.

Communicate. Yes.

That way.

That much we can agree on.

copyright 2014 by Omar Ricks

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Yes, White and POC Progressives Are Complicit in the Rise of Trump

White and People of Color progressives--

Y'all love to distance yourselves from the racism of Donald Trump and claim that defeating him at the polls will signal some kind of victory against racism, even though Black and Indigenous people have been telling you that y'all are racist as fuck for a minute. And y'all have been accusing us of being "racist" when we say that. 

You also accuse us of being "violent" when we claim that it's going to take more than nonviolent protest and electoral politics to address our ongoing genocide.

You say we're blaming the people who are "doing the work" when we address the racism you show us in our movement circles. You say that white/PoC liberal progressives are the very ones calling out and responding to racism. But if we're analyzing the racism we live among, callouts and critiques, important as they are, are only the second step. The first step we address should be the conditions giving rise to the thing that happened in the first place that made callout and critique necessary. Addressing that first thing-- the structure of antiblackness that is already there, the group psychology that leads to trigger pulls and crime bills and "anti-terrorism" policies-- in a permanent way should be occupying left discourses more than it is, even (especially) in a season of electoral politics.

Part of the problem is that, when push comes to shove, you go right along with the system you claim to radically oppose, whether by overlooking racism within your own communities, tolerating the ways that the politicians you vote for support u.s. empire, or policing Black articulations of the problem america itself causes for our very biological existence.

How long are you going to displace onto Donald Trump the responsibility for your inaction and unwillingness to put some skin in the game of radical Black and Indigenous antiracist struggle? 

Like y'all really had no idea there was enough racism in this country to raise a Trump to the Republican presidential nomination and possibly to having the nuclear launch codes?

Like, Really?

First, there's all the racism y'all know white people practice-- from stop-and-frisk to gentrification and neighborhood segregation to job discrimination to miseducation. All the antiblack shit people are finally identifying among east Asian American, south Asian American, and Latinx American communities, and y'all don't know nothing, huh? Y'all-- white progressives with all your Fox News-watching uncles and prison guard brothers-in-law? What about the antiblack stuff many families from Latin America and Asia bring with them when they immigrate? And you really thought boycotts and occasional protest marches and votes and letters to the editor would keep these forces in check when they are right there at your family reunions? Don't play us. We been dealing with this shit too long. We see the hustle.

For instance, it's great that progressive Chinese Americans spoke out against their communities' support for NYPD officer Peter Liang, who murdered Akai Gurley in the stairway of his apartment building. But the critique came after thousands of Chinese Americans protested in support of Liang, saying essentially that it was unfair that white police officers get to kill Black people with impunity but Asian American police officers like Liang do not. The protests were steeped in discourses that were uncritical of the model minority myth of Asian Americans-- commenting on how Liang is an immigrant who wanted to serve his community and country. (Cuz, you know, the only way someone can call themselves the "model" minority is if there's some other kind of "minority" who ain't so "model"-like, who is considered a bad kind of "minority." And, of course, that is always Black people. The model minority myth isn't just stressful for Asian American students and workers; more importantly, it's antiblack and used to justify things like police murders of Black people.)

The fact that a protest saying Liang had committed no crime was the primary psychic response of a mass of Asian Americans-- after Liang was convicted of manslaughter-- gives real insight into the implicit-- or unconscious-- thought processes that lead people to do the racist shit they do. And, in the final analysis, the racist structure saw to it that Liang served no jail time. Again, it's great that you protest. But what are you protesting against? Are you just against the moment-to-moment practices of a racist society, without critiquing the fundamentally racist society itself? What you're protesting against is the larger problem we Black and Indigenous folks, and our truly down allies, have to address if we are going to be free.

Look To Your Houses.

Let's get real about where this is coming from so we can formulate an adequate response to it. Trump already knew what played in Peoria long before he ran for office. He just cranked up the already rabidly racist discourse that the tea party, birther, and alt-right blocs have been using to get people into office. These elements have been militarized by u.s. military training and deployment. These elements have been energized by the first Black president. These elements have been galvanized against a queer folks- and poor folks-led Black freedom struggle vanguard that emerged in places like Ferguson, Baltimore, Oakland, Minneapolis, Charlotte, and New York in response to mass incarceration and police murder of Black people.

Lest we forget, this mass incarceration and militarized policing as responses to poverty, drug use, mental illness, and Black and Indigenous freedom struggle were founded by Nixon and Reagan, supported by Hillary Clinton, perfected by Bill Clinton, and sustained under Bush I and II and Obama. Not only were these presidents complicit but most of the expansion of the prison state was happening at state and local levels, especially under the auspices of organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council and with both Democrats and Republicans at the helm.

The status quo was already so violent for Black people and Indigenous peoples-- in our neighborhoods, on borders, globally-- that the musicians that we chill to find it important to talk about it, from Tupac to Manu Chao, Bocafloja to Lauryn Hill.

Here's the root of the problem: The u.s., including its progressive elements, is a fundamentally racist imperial formation built on land stolen in several successive massive genocides and founded on the principle that "all [people] are created equal" except the people who were being raped and held in chains outside the window of the house where Jefferson wrote those very words. But, hey-- at least it produced rock-and-roll, composed Hamilton the musical, and elected Obama twice, so i guess it evens out, right?

u.s. liberal progressives been loving iPhones but not concerned enough about the slave children in Congo who dig up the coltan and the hyperexploited Chinese factory workers who build them to take down the corporations that devalue the lives of billions of people. u.s. liberal progressives been loving their Priuses but have not been concerned enough about the Muslim countries the u.s. and its proxies bomb for the oil or the Indigenous women getting raped in the man-camps of North Dakota's oil country. But hey-- you get 50 mpg and cry during documentaries about coltan, so you're doing your part, right?

The real problem for which progressive white/poc people are (halfway rightly) blaming Trump is something in which the Democrats have long been just as complicit: a resurgence of a white supremacist vanguard that has long been active anyway. It was there in the police officer grampa who locked up Black and Indigenous freedom fighters in the 1960s as part of cointelpro, the army father who massacred and raped whole villages of people in Viet Nam, the loan officer sister who redlined Black people out of whole geographic areas and out of whole ways of building intergenerational wealth, the school teacher daughter who instagrams about how her Black students are "assholes" or how if she had 10 days to live she would "kill all Black people." white people and their junior partners (Latinxs, Asians, and many Indigenous peoples-- who, in many cases, bring antiblack sentiments from other countries if they have immigrated) have been knowing that the antiblack sentiments in their families were articulating into elements of a racist vanguard among their families and friends and communities, and they have been helpless to check its development. Well, the chickens have now really come home to roost.

Because you have collectively failed to address the racists you are connected to, the racism you are a part of, and the racists you are to the Black people in your midst-- that's why now an antiblack, anti-Latinx, Islamophobic neo-nazi misogynist is driving the political discourse. 


So don't wonder why now the only choice liberal progressives have is someone among whose chief foreign policy "successes" have been the torture and murder of an African leader to prevent him from developing a currency based on African gold that would have relieved African nations' debt to european colonial powers and the assassination of an Indigenous Honduran human rights and environmental activist. Let's not forget Hillary Clinton's initial responses not only to questions about "superpredators," but also her initial response and that of her chief proxy to Black Lives Matter when confronted about her and her husband's role in the growth of the prison industrial complex and police aggression. Again, focus on the initial response, not just the rearguard move of apologies and self-critiques that politicians perform after their racism is showing for all the world to see.

And let's not forget all the liberal progressive POCs who continually try to police Black statements of what the problem is, statements that could actually lead to formations ready to fight (nonviolently if possible, violently if necessary) for an end to the racist social order in which we live. If only you weren't busy trying to manage our "anger" and would actually listen to Black and Indigenous articulations of the freedom drive we have had since before many of you even arrived in this genocidal slave colony-- our movements could articulate into a threat to the murderous structure we live in.

I don't care if you blame Trump for his own performances of racism. He deserves it. But acting like we have to vote for Hillary Clinton to defeat that racism is jejune, myopic, and ignorant as fuck.

The tone of Trump's violently racist discourse is as old as this country, as old as european colonization of the americas. And Hillary Clinton has been down with versions of it too. And she probably still is, although not publicly. It is always there as long as this thing called america is there. Ending Trump's candidacy, just like defeating tea party candidates, does not alter the fundamental wellspring of racism-- a structurally antiblack order of which the u.s. is the anchor tenant.

Seize the Time

It is time to think about the next stages of history in which we must abandon this mystical and ahistorical dedication to the u.s. empire with its propagandistic lie that the only legitimate ways of making change are by electoral politics and petitions and the creation of ever more nonprofit organizations and nongovernmental organizations that rely on rapacious capitalists for their resources. 

It is time to listen to what Black and Indigenous people have been saying about america writ-large for 500 years and counting-- that it is the leader of a racist global empire and an enemy to the freedom of Black and Indigenous peoples everywhere.

It is time to admit that Black and Indigenous revolutionaries like Leonard Peltier and Assata Shakur-- still fighting for their lives-- had the correct analysis of what the problem is. It is time to continue their great work, build on that analysis, and act to bring down this racist structure so that we can build anew.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Piers Morgan, No One Gives a Fuck What You Think about Beyonce's Music

by Zil Nabu

Piers Morgan has had me in my feelings for the better part of 24 hours. I wasn't going to post about this but I'm high on benzodiazepine and lawd knows what other sedatives that have depleted my supply of fucks to give. After reading his opinions on Beyonce's new visual album Lemonade and its preceding lead single "Formation" I'd like to tell this white British man who knows nothing of being a Black woman to "suck on my balls. Pause. I've had enough." First and foremost, this album was not written, created, choreographed, performed, filmed, edited, or released with any concern for YOUR consumption. You, and people like you, should have learned like I did as a child that not everything is about you boo boo.
So let's break down all of everything that you (and people like you) got wrong. 

"But just lately, Beyonce’s been adding a far more serious, deeply political and race-fuelled tone to her work." - Piers Morgan
And? So what? Yes, her visual work has become markedly more political. While her lyrical content has grown more sophisticated in terms of word play it actually isn't overtly political. But even if it was, why shouldn't it be? Did not Marvin Gaye move from "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" to "What's Going On" and "Mercy Me"? Do our entertainers not live in the same world that all of us inhabit? Does entertaining for income mean that one cannot have opinions about what goes on in the world and wouldn't those opinions and their values be expressed through their art? Beyonce is no longer the 20 year old writing that "I don't think you're ready for this jelly." She's a 34 year old mother who now has autonomy over her creations. What makes you uncomfortable about that? Is it because you've literally watched her grow up? Maybe it's difficult not to see her as a teenager who shouldn't have political leanings. Now, if you think her newer work has a race-fueled tone to it, then you must not have really been listening to her earlier recordings. She's been celebrating and proclaiming her Blackness for over a decade. Maybe it wasn't as overt as liking her Negro's nose with Jackson 5 nostrils, but proclaiming that you weren't "ready for this jelly" was hardly race neutral if you know anything about beauty standards within Black communities. 
"In February of this year, she dropped the song 'Formation' which contained references to the activist movement Black Lives Matter. 
"A video accompanying it included Beyoncé strewn across a sinking police car in a withering throwback to police mistreatment of the black community in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. 
"Other scenes showed a wall bearing the graffiti “Stop Shooting Us” and a young black boy dancing in a hoodie in front of a line of policemen. 
"It was seen, understandably, as an attack on U.S. police." - Piers Morgan
Actually, it's not understandable to me why that was seen as an attack on police. Was there not police mistreatment and government neglect and mishandling, especially affecting Black citizens in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Have unarmed Black men and women lost their lives in state sanctioned violence for petty crimes for simply existing? Yes. How is pointing out FACT anti-police? If the people who are supposed to be being served are not being served well then should they not speak out? The actual song "Formation" contained no references to BLM, but the video's imagery implicitly did. If you listened to the song without the visuals you would see it as a danceable song with specific lyrics celebrating Black southern culture ("hot sauce in my bag swag") but nothing political. That is unless you see the mentioning of one's Blackness as a political statement. Let me ask you this, when Eric Clapton sang, "She'll put on her makeup and brushes her long blonde hair," was that also a political statement? I highly doubt that you saw it as such. That lyric is innocuous to you, yet verses from Black artists that affirm the beauty of specifically Black features are political in your eyes.
"Her back-up dancers had Panthers-style afro hairstyles and black berets, formed an X on the pitch and punched the air in the style of the famous black power salute." - Piers Morgan
Sigh...."Panthers-style afro hairstyles"? Aww, poor tink tink. You thought the Black Panthers invented the afro. No boo boo, this is how Black people's hair has been growing out of our heads since we got on this earth. There is NOTHING political about the natural naps that I allow to grow unaltered from my scalp. You see, that's just us existing as we are and not only accepting ourselves but embracing the beauty in our glorious coils that grow out toward the heavens. As for the black berets and dancing in an X formation and the Black power can stay mad.
"The Black Panthers, set up as a group who would protect black Americans from police brutality, became infamous for their own brutality, especially against police, and widespread criminal and murderous membership within their ranks." - Piers Morgan
You know the Panthers also became famous for establishing free breakfast programs for children, which were the precursor for today's free lunch and WIC programs, but you neglected to mention that. Also, look up Co-Intelpro before you talk about "widespread criminal and murderous membership within their ranks." If you're going to tell the story, tell the WHOLE damn thing.
"My mind went back to my CNN interview with Beyoncé and the moment when we discussed her live performance at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration ball in 2008. "‘Did you experience racism as you grew up?’ I asked."
"‘A bit, but I feel like with my career I’ve now broken barriers. I don’t think people think about my race. I think they look at me as an entertainer and a musician and I’m very happy about that because that’s how I look at people. It’s not about color and race, and I’m happy that’s changing.’" - Piers Morgan
Piers, Piers, Piers, nowhere in this statement was Beyonce saying that she has transcended Blackness. She is making a factual statement that if you make good music and entertain people then her race is not a factor in whether or not they can enjoy it. This quote does not justify the next bit of your fuckery...
"Beyoncé then was unrecognisable from the militant activist we see now. Then, she was at pains to be seen as an entertainer and musician and not as a black woman who sings. Now, it seems to be the complete opposite.
"The new Beyoncé wants to be seen as a black woman political activist first and foremost, entertainer and musician second." - Piers Morgan
What in the entire fuck?? Beyonce has always been a Black woman. I saw her as a Black woman the first time I saw the Destiny's Child video for "No, No, No, No." Blackness isn't a garment one puts on and takes off at will. Her Blackness is not a costume. The fact you (and other fans) chose to ignore it in order to make her more palatable to you does not mean that it wasn't there. Is she more of an activist now? Yeah, I'd agree with you on that. But she is no more Black today than she was on the day she was born.
"But I have to be honest, I preferred the old Beyoncé. The less inflammatory, agitating one. The one who didn’t use grieving mothers to shift records and further fill her already massively enriched purse.
"The one who didn’t play the race card so deliberately and to my mind, unnecessarily. The one who wanted to be judged on her stupendous talent not her skin color, and wanted us all to do the same." - Piers Morgan
You see, what you did there? You done fucked up now. No one gives a fuck who or what you prefer. Let me ask you something? What about Blackness do you find inflammatory or agitating? And don't you dare go dragging Martin Luther the King into this with your weak paraphrase of his words. When he said that people should "be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" he did not say that the color of one's skin is irrelevant. Judgement is not the same as recognition. You (and your ilk) took those great words of that great man and twisted them to suit your own agenda. Because you could not tolerate Blackness you chose to simply ignore its existence and then had the audacity to try to require Blacks to help you with that by muting who we are to make you more comfortable. Newsflash! Beyonce never asked to be JUDGED by her skin color. She is asking to be judged by the content of her artistic work, which if it's fueled by WHO she is (a BLACK WOMAN), will exemplify, promote, celebrate and speak to Black womanhood. And what is this race card that you speak of? This is not a game of spades and being Black is not the Big Joker. She is existing. And if in the first 33 years of her existence you chose to ignore what every Black person saw, well that's on you. She will, and we will, continue to exist and thrive in all our wide nose, afro haired, bat wielding glory.

And if anyone has a problem with anything I've said...It's yours, not mine. ‪#‎unapologeticallyBLACK‬