Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Interesting stuff of the day


Who Is Oakland: Anti-Oppression Activism, the Politics of Safety, and State Co-optation

"Nonprofits exist to maintain society as we know it. Nonprofits often provide vital social services in the spaces left by the state’s retreat from postwar welfare provisions, services which keep women, queers, and trans people, particularly those who are poor and of color, alive. Post-WWII welfare provisions themselves were provided primarily to white families – through redlining or the racially exclusive postwar GI Bill for example. Social justice nonprofits in particular exist to co-opt and quell anger, preempt racial conflict, and validate a racist, patriarchal state. These organizations are often funded by business monopolies which have profited from and campaigned for the privatization of public social services. This has been argued extensively by many who have experienced the limits of nonprofit work firsthand, most recently by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence."

But more pertinent for our argument is the phenomenon of anti-oppression activists – who do advance a structural analysis of oppression and yet consistently align themselves with a praxis that reduces the history of violent and radically unsafe antislavery, anticolonial, antipatriarchal, antihomophobic, and anticiscentric freedom struggles to struggles over individual privilege and state recognition of cultural difference. Even when these activists invoke a history of militant resistance and sacrifice, they consistently fall back upon strategies of petitioning the powerful to renounce their privilege or “allow” marginalized populations to lead resistance struggles.
For too long there has been no alternative to this politics of privilege and cultural recognition, and so rejecting this liberal political framework has become synonymous with a refusal to seriously address racism, sexism, and homophobia in general. Even and especially when people of color, women, and queers imagine and execute alternatives to this liberal politics of cultural inclusion, they are persistently attacked as white, male, and privileged by the cohort that maintains and perpetuates the dominant praxis"

"The dominant praxis of contemporary anti-oppression politics relinquishes power to political representatives and reinforces stereotypes of individually “deserving” and “undeserving” victims of racism, sexism, and homophobia. A vast nonprofit industrial complex, and a class of professional “community spokespeople,” has arisen over the last several decades to define the parameters of acceptable political action and debate. This politics of safety must continually project an image of powerlessness and keep communities of color, women, and queers “protected” and confined to speeches and mass rallies rather than active disruption. For this politics of cultural affirmation, suffering is legitimate and recognizable only when it conforms to white middle-class codes of behavior, with each gender in its proper place, and only if it speaks a language of productivity, patriotism, and self-policing victimhood"

"And yet the vast majority of us are not “safe” simply going through our daily lives in Oakland, or elsewhere. When activists claim that poor black and brown communities must not defend themselves against racist attacks or confront the state, including using illegal or “violent” means, they typically advocate instead the performance of an image of legitimate victimhood for white middle class consumption. The activities of marginalized groups are barely recognized unless they perform the role of peaceful and quaint ethnics who by nature cannot confront power on their own. Contemporary anti-oppression politics constantly reproduces stereotypes about the passivity and powerlessness of these populations, when in fact it is precisely people from these groups – poor women of color defending their right to land and housing, trans* street workers fighting back against murder and violence, black, brown, and Asian American militant struggles against white supremacist attacks – who have waged the most powerful and successfully militant uprisings in American history. We refuse a politics which infantilizes us and people who look like us, and which continually paints nonwhite and/or nonmale demographics as helpless, vulnerable, and incapable of fighting for our own liberation."

"We reject race and gender blind economic struggles and analysis, but we do not reject struggles against what is, under capitalism, naturalized as the “economy.” While the majority of Occupy general assemblies have adopted a neo-populist rhetoric of economic improvement or reform, we see the abolition of the system of capital as not peripheral but fundamental to any material project of ending oppression"

Not sure how much I agree with this

"White supremacy and racist institutions will not be eliminated through sympathetic white activists spending several thousand dollars for nonprofit diversity trainings which can assist them in recognizing their own racial privilege and certifying their decision to do so. The absurdity of privilege politics recenters antiracist practice on whites and white behavior, and assumes that racism (and often by implicit or explicit association, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia) manifest primarily as individual privileges which can be “checked,” given up, or absolved through individual resolutions. Privilege politics is ultimately completely dependent upon precisely that which it condemns: white benevolence."

"We do not believe that a politics rooted in privilege theory and calling for more racial diversity in fundamentally racist and patriarchal institutions like the Oakland Police Department, can challenge Oakland’s existing hierarchies of power. This form of representational anti-oppression activism is no longer even remotely anticapitalist in its analysis and aims"
" recent communique critiquing the Occupy movement states, “The participation of people of color [in Occupy Oakland] does not change the fact that this occupation of public space upholds white supremacy…. Some of our own sisters and brothers have silenced our critiques in order to hold on to their positions of power as token people of color in the movement.” [3] The communique argues that people of color can suddenly “uphold” white supremacy because they do not share the political analysis of the document’s authors. People of color who do not agree with the politics advanced by this group are labeled white, informants, members of Cointelpro, or tokens. Often many of us are simply erased. This is a powerful and deeply manipulative rhetorical tactic which simply fails to engage substantively with any of the reasons why people of color did participate in Occupy Oakland and equates critical participation with support for rape, racism, sexism, homophobia, and gentrification. Needless to say, the authors of the above-quoted passage do not speak for us."

"People of color, women and trans* people of color, and white women and trans* people who participated heavily in Occupy Oakland have regularly become both white and (cis) male if they hold to a politics which favors confrontation over consciousness raising. And within white communities, similar political disagreements are routinely represented as differences between individuals with “white privilege” and those who are “white allies.”"

"Anticolonial struggles were violent, disruptive, and radically unsafe for individuals who fought and died for self-determination. One cannot be a pacifist and believe in decolonization. One cannot be horrified at the burning of an American flag and claim to support decolonization. And one cannot guarantee the safety of anyone who is committed to the substantive decolonization of white supremacist institutions. The fact that decolonial struggle has been reduced to state-sanctioned rituals of cultural affirmation, and appeals to white radicals to stop putting the “vulnerable” in harm’s way, reveals the extent to which contemporary privilege politics has appropriated the radical movements of the past and remade them in its own image"

"We are told that the victims of oppression must lead political struggles against material structures of domination by those who oppose every means by which the “victims” could actually overthrow these structures. We are told that resistance lies in “speaking truth to power” rather than attacking power materially. We are told by an array of  highly trained “white allies” that the very things we need to do in order to free ourselves from domination cannot be done by us because we’re simply too vulnerable to state repression. At mass rallies, we’re replayed endless empty calls for revolution and militancy from a bygone era while in practice being forced to fetishize our spiritual powerlessness"

"Those who said that the Egyptian revolution was peaceful did not see the horrors that police visited upon us, nor did they see the resistance and even force that revolutionaries used against the police to defend their tentative occupations and spaces: by the government’s own admission, 99 police stations were put to the torch, thousands of police cars were destroyed and all of the ruling party’s offices around Egypt were burned down. Barricades were erected, officers were beaten back and pelted with rocks even as they fired tear gas and live ammunition on us. But at the end of the day on 28 January they retreated, and we had won our cities."

"It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose. Do not confuse the tactics that we used when we shouted ‘peaceful’ with fetishising nonviolence; if the state had given up immediately we would have been overjoyed, but as they sought to abuse us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight back. Had we laid down and allowed ourselves to be arrested, tortured and martyred to ‘make a point,’ we would be no less bloodied, beaten and dead. Be prepared to defend these things you have occupied, that you are building, because, after everything else has been taken from us, these reclaimed spaces are so very precious"


No comments:

Post a Comment