With legitimation and absorption of anti-racism by the social management system, race has assumed a more substantial and pervasive function than ever before in American life. Moreover, this function is often life-sustaining; controlling discrimination has become a career specialty — complete with “professional,” “paraprofessional,” and “sub-professional” gradations — in public and private bureaucracies. However, “racial discrimination” fails as a basis from which to interpret or address black oppression.
[“The movement 'failed' because it 'succeeded,' and its success can be measured by its impact on the administration of the social system.”]

Do you know how many of my students can’t even say the word white? You all will talk about African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans all day long but at soon as it comes time to say white peoples’ voices drop. You ain’t have seen that? Come on man, people come up with crazy terms you have never seen before, they would be like: “And that Caucasoid…” You can always tell, you could always tell where the supreme power rests in the society because of the reluctance people have in naming that power.

Part of what privilege requires, guys privilege cannot operate without silence. It cannot operate without silence, and this tremendous silence around whiteness, if you are foolish enough to post a blog on your Facebook that mentions whiteness the amount of attacks that you will get, because privilege defends itself viciously, to maintain the silence that is required for its operation.

So, given this I would argue that the other thing that we need to do is coming off of James Scott’s idea of “anarchist calisthenics,” we need to practice racial anarchist calisthenics. What he, what Scott meant by anarchist calisthenics is that this society has ton of little rules that we all practice without thinking. And he argues that we need to practice breaking little rules consistently because one day this society is going to ask you to prosecute a horrifying rule, that I think we will long live to regret, and the muscles of resistance needs to be exercised, they need to be prepared for the time we need to make that big, big, big, big stand.

And so racial anarchist calisthenics, I would say, begins with all of us getting that tongue muscle back in to place and saying Saurons name. I challenge people; I challenge people every time you say African-American, Asian-American, whatever the group count it and say white just as much. And say white just as much. We don’t do it you guys, we don’t do it, we don’t do it. And yet if we were ever going to confront in a real way white supremacy, which is not only linked to white folks you guys. White supremacy is the racial order in all of us, but if we are not able to discuss whiteness as a category, as a critical way of looking at the world and even simply as just the racial group, we are in some serious trouble. The reality is even if we took every white person on Earth and put them on a space ship and sent them to outer space white supremacy wouldn’t miss a beat.

Feeling this again.

(Source: msleahqueenhbic)

(Reblogged from soleilho)


Somali women protesting for the release of Angela Davis in 1972.

(Source: beautiesofafrique)

(Reblogged from pers-a)

"the law stems from a belief that all local residents should be able to walk their streets without fear, whether they come from an affluent white neighborhood or a working-class white neighborhood."

When opposition to segregation became political rebellion, black protest required a response from white ruling elites. That response reflected the congruence of the interests of blacks and of corporate elites in reconstructing southern society and helped define the logic of all subsequent black political activity. Both sets of interests shared an interest in rationalizing race relations in the South. The Civil Rights movement brought the two sets together.[29]

The alliance of corporate liberalism and black protest was evident in the aggressive endorsement of Civil Rights activity that was mobilized by the New Deal coalition. Major labor organizations and “enlightened” corporate sectors immediately climbed aboard the freedom train through the “progressive” wing of the Democratic party and private foundations. Moreover, it was through its coverage of black resistance in the South that television developed and refined its remarkable capabilities for creating public opinion by means of “objective” new reportage (a talent that reached its acme years later with the expulsion of Richard Nixon from the presidency). But television was not alone on the cultural front of the ideological struggle. Life, Look, Saturday Evening Post, major non-southern newspapers and other national publications featured an abundance of photo-essays that emphasized the degradation and brutalization of black life under Jim Crow.

Even popular cinema sought to thematize black life in line with civil rights consciousness in films such as The Defiant Ones (1958), All the Young Men (1960), Raisin in the Sun (1961), Band of Angels (1957), and the instructively titled Nothing but a Man (1964). Those and other films were marked by an effort to portray blacks with a measure of human depth and complexity previously absent from Hollywood productions. By 1957 even the great taboo of miscegenation could be portrayed on the screen in Island in the Sun, and a decade later the cultural campaign had been so successful that this theme could be explored in the parlor rather than in back streets and resolved with a happy ending in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. It is interesting that Dorothy Dandridge became the first black in a leading role to be nominated for an academy award for her role in Carmen in 1954 — the year of the Brown decision — and that the most productive periods of civil rights activism and Sidney Poitier’s film career coincided. Poitier’s lead performance in the maudlin Lilies of the Field won an Oscar for him in 1963, on the eve of the passage of the Public Accommodations Act! Thus endorsed by the culture industry (which affronted White Supremacy in the late 1950s by broadcasting a Perry Como show in which comedienne Molly Goldberg kissed black ballplayer Ernie Banks) the Civil Rights movement was virtually assured success.

While the Civil Rights coalition was made possible by the compatibility of the allies’ interests in reorganizing the South, its success was facilitated by the ideals and ideologies generated in the protest. Even though there had been ties between black southern elites and corporate-liberal elements for a long time, if the civil rights program had raised fundamental questions regarding social structure, the corporate-elite response may have been suppression rather than support — especially given the Cold War context. Instead, from the very beginning the American establishment outside of Dixie supported the abolition of segregation.[30] At any rate, it is clear that the civil rights ideology fit very well with the goals of monopoly capitalism. The Civil Rights movement appealed to egalitarianism and social rationality. On both counts segregation was found wanting while leaving non-racial features of the social order unquestioned.

29. Concepts such as duplicity and cooptation are inadequate to shed light on why corporate and liberal interests actively supported the Civil Rights movement. Interpretations so derived cannot fully explain programs and strategies which originated in the black community. They suggest that naive and trusting blacks, committed to an ideal of global emancipation, allowed themselves to be led away from this ideal by bourgeois wolves in sheep’s clothing. This kind of “false consciousness” thesis is theoretically unacceptable. Consciousness is false not when it is a lie forced from outside but when it does not comprehend its historical one-sidedness.

30. Of course, suppression was the reaction of certain elements, most notably within the state apparatus whose bureaucratized priorities urged suppression of any disruptive presence in the society. Howard Zinn, SNCC: The New Abolitionists (Boston, 1965), as well as Forman and Sellers, shows that the federal apparatus, which later developed a reputation at the “grass roots” as the patron saint of equality, was at best lukewarm in response to black demands for enforcement of constitutional rights and often set out to suppress tendencies and distinct personalities in the movement. Nevertheless, the movement was not suppressed, and not because it “forced” its will upon history. That bit of romantic back-slapping has as little credence as the one that contends that the anti-war movement ended the Vietnam War. The state hardly was mobilized against the Civil Rights activism; the Supreme Court had authorized its legitimacy before it even began.


dissensus and contradiction in intersectionality

Even materialist understandings take place in liberal institutions.  I, for example, started reading bell hooks and Marx in a elite private university; I started teaching Stuart Hall and Silvia Federici to undergraduates in an elite public one.  You can write on Chican@ radicalisms, and get tenure and promotion.  A whole liberal institutional matrix exists to support and profit off of materialist understandings.  The point is that, at least in practice, if not also in theory, the distinction between liberalism and materialism at the heart of ardhra’s analysis may not be as tenable as ardhra would have it: materialist understandings can be, and are, both normed and regulated by liberal contexts.

There is perhaps no better example of this contradiction than intersectionality, ardhra’s main example of a materialist system of analysis that thinks of race, class, and gender historically, rather than “ahistorically” (which, the implication is, my account of racism and sexism, at least partly tends toward).   Yet if the understanding of racism and sexism as discrimination is as straightforwardly liberal as ardhra would claim it is, then so too is intersectionality: “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex,” Kimberlé Crenshaw’s flagship article that did so much to popularize the language of intersectionality, was both a critique of and a major contribution to critical legal theory’s attempts to use the liberal state as a mechanism of redress.  Crenshaw’s theorization of intersectionality is nothing if not a critique, and a theory, of discrimination.  The relationship between intersectionality and liberalism goes deeper: much of the work in U.S. based black and women of color feminisms was supported by grants from the Ford Foundation and other corporate philanthropic enterprises, as well as by grants from the U.S. governmental agencies. 

From this angle of vision, it’s a mischaracterization of intersectionality to say that it was “a framework developed by working class Black women in the USA.”  Law professors like Crenshaw aren’t working class.  (Full-time law professors at public schools in the U.S. generally make in the area of $200,000 US/year.  At private schools, especially Ivies, such as Columbia, where Crenshaw works, they tend to make a great deal more.)  It’s not just Crenshaw.  Some of the cohort of black feminists who tend to be associated with intersectionality (hooks. A.Y. Davis, Barbara Smith, Deborah King, to name just a few) may have come from working class backgrounds (Davis was raised in a solidly middle class family), but to note without also noting that they belonged also to a college educated, upwardly mobile collective, is to obscure an important class reality that delivered us some of our most important theories of race, class, and gender.  This point is not to undermine the work these folks have done at all.  But I do want to complicate the way they get invoked.

Moreover, to say, as ardhra does, that “intersectionality has always been about class" is to ignore the extent theorists of intersectionality have not always fully agreed with each other.  There are reasons why one finds, for example certain black feminists in the 1982 All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies, but not others, that have much to do with significant political and ideological differences between black feminists.The members of the Combahee River Collective, in spite of the complex unity implied by their statement, were not all on the same page when it came to questions of sexuality, class, or privilege, to say nothing about Marxism.  A lot of black American feminists actively disagreed with Audre Lorde’s politics, even though the need to keep up appearances of a unified front meant that many of those disagreements never saw publication. It may create a neat account to invoke intersectionality or black feminism as a monolithic enterprise that always agrees with itself, but that neatness comes at the cost of a recognizing a complexity that, like most political and theoretical projects worth speaking of, has always been a something of a convoluted mess.