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Are ya'll ready to have a serious conversation about anti-Blackness & civil society?

–2 votes
I've been lurking on this site for a while, and though I've seen posts on "anti-racism" and even one on "Furgison," the ensuing discussions, whenever confronted with the singular continental decimation that is anti-Blackness, seem at best to descend inevitably into the critical unintelligibility that Fanon first theorized via Aime Cesaire in Black Skin, White Masks; at worst into cryptofascist excoriations of 'identity politics' and naive calls to 'rid' ourselves of race and gender as one might take a shower. Like, even the one or two posts I saw that half heartedly cited Ashanti Alston as anarchist cred or wrote off what they identified as the "Black Panthers" or the "Black Liberation Army" being a "nationalist" group and therefore not anarchist in any way seemed to be focused exclusively on the spectacle of Black resistance vs. the objective conditions framing the very structures of 'New World' racial caste that constitute our world.

Granted, I'm not expecting what appears to be an overwhelmingly white postership to be citing Afro-Pessimist precepts like fungibility or natal alienation on their (our) digital devices reliant on tantalum mined by Black slaves in the Congo, manufactured by Yellow/Brown slaves throughout Southeast Asia, but I have been more than a little disappointed by consistent failure to identify the mega-generational gratuitous violence constituent to the Middle Passage (and variant mutant formes a la jim crow, ghetto, 'hyperghetto' [prison industrial complex] etc) as not some unfortunate tendency of civil (white) society but rather its complete ontological and - this is key - cultural-commercial underpinning, especially following the response to this year's massive wave of publicized police executions. Not just here on this website, but I guess in the vast majority of anarchist, and for that matter, leftist, marxist/leninist, socialist, etc spaces I have encountered.

What's interesting, however, is that Black philosophers have been more than ready to enter this dialogue. Be it generations of martial-scholars like the aforementioned Ashanti Alston, Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, Safiya Bukhari, and even Assata Shakur, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman or Chris Dorner, engaging in the most direct of actions against the most equipped police state on the planet while elaborating them in complex autobiographies and political treatises; to Afro-pessimist academic 'inside agents' like Frank Wilderson, Joy James, Saidiya Hartman, Achilles Mbembe, Jared Sexton, and Jackie Wang, some who for decades have been writing exhaustive critiques of authoritarian civilization on their corporate-state universities' dime, it seems like if there is any political framework that the tendency leans towards, it is anarchism. Wilderson in particular may be of interest to this post's readers, as he has written a number of works spanning topics from Black insurgence, the failure of Gramsci, Marx, and other Left thinkers in the face of the 'Black subject,' to Black anarchism as a political framework, one of which is literally titled "We Are Trying to Destroy the World." (I have limited access to these materials and could possibly provide some.) Yet for the most part, it seems like white anarchists seem largely unaware if not dismissive of or outright antagonistic to this centuries long body of insurrectionary and scholarly work.

So, what say you? Is it just lack of exposure, or has the anti-Blackness that is civil society pervaded even the desires of those who desire an end to it? [I will note, from my experience living and organizing among young Black people in the hood (most of whom who already reject mainstream political formations like the democrats and NAACP as reformists and collaborators), that it is those among you that unironically shitsling pejorative terms and phrases like "SJW" "identity politics" "it's NOT about race you n-" -all things I have seen from self proclaimed and very white anarchists online and heard from at actions this past winter-  that cause anarchism to be associated with agent provocateurs hurling improperly made molotovs at Black owned businesses by those who otherwise share many of your ostensible (surface-stated) beliefs and hopes for the future.]
asked Apr 5, 2015 by gao (100 points)
Man. That's a whole ton of name dropping. I'm not the best person to answer your question since I don't really know or care about the history of white anarchists any more than the black or other ones, but I do have to say that I find the academic diarrhea you're splattering here pretty much a turn off, so that might be at least a partial explanation of the pattern to which you refer.
before I attempt to answer this, what is "SJW"? and did you see that or people calling folks "n-" here? If so, that is hella fucked.

In short I do think white north american anarchists don't do the best job grappling with issues around racism for the same reasons most white folx in north america don't do the best job of grappling with racism.

Legitimate critiques of identity politics can sometimes obscure both the reality of racism, and thus,  the legitimacy or the critiques themselves.

As to the many, many names you refer to. Many of them I am unfamiliar with. I am personally interested in not-explicitly-anarchist critiques of civilization, and will check out Wilderson. I do however have to echo Sweater Fish's wariness (much as I sorta hate to agree with them) in regards to name dropping. Most folks who roll in here and drop a lot of names aren't asking questions because they are interested in answers, but because they are setting out to prove their point.

I have more to say, and am curious your response.
I want to understand what you're saying and be able to respond but I'm having a hard time with it. I read your post twice and still don't quite get at what you're saying. I've read Fanon and Wilderson, but still am having trouble. You seem to be writing as if you're trying to impress someone.

One thing I want to point out is this: ..."cause anarchism to be associated with agent provocateurs hurling improperly made molotovs at Black owned businesses by those who otherwise share many of your ostensible (surface-stated) beliefs and hopes for the future.]"

What causes anarchism to be associated in that way is the strategy of  divide and conquer, the same thing powerful institutions and people try to do with every radical and revolutionary force that threatens it. With all your academic references I'm surprised you don't pick up on that.
Is this really a question? It seems more like you're saying that people on this board ought to be making reference to certain range of thinkers and ideas that we haven't been paying any attention to (on this website) so far.  I kind of think that it would be a weird call for anarchists to be constantly quoting Frantz Fanon without explaining his relevance for their thinking, and that most of the allusions that gao is making in this post suggest a much different type of politics than the kinds that are common on this website....

I personally would be quite interested in talking about some of the issues that this seems to implicitly raise, like:

-A lot of the people who use this site have critiques of nationalism, Third Worldism, etc. Is there something unfounded about these critiques, or are you sensing that they're being misapplied, or what?

-Why do you characterize the critiques of identity politics on this site as crypto-fascist? This seems to me like it would require some explanation, since the people who diss on identity politics here are generally drawing on thinkers like Stirner or Nietzsche, who are anything but fascists.

-A question I'd be especially interested in is, what might be the relevance of Afro-pessimism for anarchist politics and vice-versa? I've started reading a little about Afro-pessimism but haven't had the opportunity to discuss this relationship with other people because, of people I know, those who are interested in one are not interested in the other...

But, as dot is pointing out, it's hard to tell if gao wants to have a conversation or not.
^if I could upvote a comment, I would.
gao: "digital devices reliant on tantalum mined by Black slaves in the Congo, manufactured by Yellow/Brown slaves throughout Southeast Asia,"

one of the reasons i hate tourism. not only digital devices, but also the hard devices of mediation used for 'recreation,' like mtn. bikes, etc. tourism is big business where i live and the silence regarding where all this shit comes from is astounding sometimes.

2 Answers

+6 votes
to answer your question, i am quite interested in discussions about race, identity, and power (among other things), but not necessarily willing to abide by your constraints on such a conversation (as you may be unwilling to abide by mine).
and your provocative question "has the anti-Blackness that is civil society pervaded even the desires of those who desire an end to it?" doesn't seem consistent with wilderson's concept (the only of your list of academics who i have read any of), which is that there is no escaping anti-blackness for anyone, including black people.

i am encouraged by wilderson's nihilism; discouraged that he seems opportunistic (says one thing to one group and a very different thing to another group), in speaking will pander to activists whose actions do not seem (as far as i can tell) to reflect his ideas in any way (in which case it would be far more interesting and honest to have the conflict, rather than act like it doesn't exist); and quite turned off that he posits blackness as the foundational oppression, as i am turned off by anyone claiming any kind of foundational oppression -- especially when it happens to be the one (or the most obvious one?) that they suffer from individually.

all that aside, i would modify ingrate's comment for myself to say: Most folks who roll in here and drop a lot of names (and/or abstract concepts) aren't interested in a conversation, but are setting out to prove their point.
but perhaps not all?
answered Apr 6, 2015 by dot (50,780 points)
–5 votes
I think that we can short circuit your question best by stating that anarchism is about ending the rule by force paradigm that all other philosophies bring with them.

Under anarchism oppression such as is seen today would not be possible as the tools, ie, police, judges, duped populations, would not exist.

That is not to say that racism would end, just that it would not have the power of the state behind it.

I don't think you would disagree that folks are entitled to their opinions and to act in accordance with them.

That being said, the apparent path of society is that all forms of discrimination are becoming negatives in the population.

One only has to look to Indiana's religious freedom law and the backlash that ensued.  How long ago would the masses have celebrated the discrimination against gays?  I say less than 20 years ago.

So, in some communities whites will not be welcome and the whites will come to know to avoid travel there.
And as those areas became known to the wider world the wider world will stop trading with people from those areas.

If the discriminatory community can support themselves, then there is not much that can be done, but if they want to join in trade with the wider community then the discrimination would have to end.

So, to sum up, first end rule by force, then end crapitalism, then discrimination can be eliminated.
Keep either and discrimination will remain.

I think that too many folks now accept that might makes right to ever have any hope that discrimination of whatever kind won't continue.

As for the folks you mentioned wanting to join in a dialogue with white society's thinkers, that it is only natural that they have been ignored because while the issue is important to the people you name it has no impact on the larger society.
Why would white society have any interest in what the openly oppressed population has to say?

I mean who cares what a pot dealer has to say?
Do you really believe that the vast majority of people are going to recognize them as the freedom fighters that they are?
It will happen, but not this week.
answered Apr 6, 2015 by FreeBorn Angel (320 points)
Recently, I have been an observer of Black people's responses to life around them. What gao presented as anti- blackness is consistent w discussion I have followed online.

One key point I would make w/in the context of this reply is that there is a difference between anti- blackness and discrimination. Freedomborn writes that discrimination will end when rule by force and capitalism end.

The problem is the end of structural discrimination will not end anti-blackness.

Because anti- blackness exists every and anywhere is why not acknowledging it won't make it go away. A key way we don't acknowledge is by avoiding the use of labels.

I agree that the best way to end a  pattern is to not use it or otherwise encourage it. The lack of use of white or black might seem to do that. The  issue of color, at present, may not be able to fit into that approach.

The epitome of erasing the labels is "all lives matter." No one called for all lives to matter until Black people reminded us their lives matter.

Black people have to remind us white people and all parts of our US population that their lives matter. Their abuse by cops, the schools and the injustice system all seem to suggest that Black Lives don't matter. If they did, we white people would be outraged by how cops beat up, especially, Black people. Or outraged by the number of Black people incarcerated or denied opportunities etc. Changing the state is a great idea but do Black people have to put up with the majority of the consequences of the state until then?

They do suffer the most under the rule by force and capitalism. To deny they are more impacted than other oppressed groups is to deny their reality.

Black people were the original dividing line that the state created. Once they divided Black and White people the other groups were easy to separate. Since they were the first, the division created is the strongest.

Bottomline: There is a difference between discrimination and anti-blackness. Because there is, anti-blackness must be addressed in addition to discrimination. We can do more about anti-blackness w/in the present system while working to end rule of force and capitalism.

They do suffer the most under the rule by force and capitalism. To deny they are more impacted than other oppressed groups is to deny their reality.

how does one compare sufferings? how can you quantify such a thing? what is the purpose of doing so? and what does it mean to "deny their reality"?
how does it help anyone to set up this kind of competition?

this kind of blanket generalization ignores the problems of different peoples, simplifies an extremely complex issue, promotes a literally black and white understanding of racism (regardless of the new term--which i understand is more nuanced, but still rests on existing assumptions of what race means, how it affects people, etc)...

interestingly there is an audio version of a collection of articles that might be good to either listen to or read. here is the audio:

here is the text:

yes to what dot said.

that sort of statement also denies that any individual (depending on many factors) could experience more or less pain (via the state/capital, etc.) than their "groups" generally do. and that's what i want to hear and share with others....our personal stories and difficulties that come from hierarchy/institutional power and how we might creatively work together to fight, elude, transcend that power, dropping our regard for "identities" as the primary way of doing that.
Yout are right in theory. We all suffer. If one person has stage I cancer and another has stage IV, they both "suffer" from cancer. Do both people require the same thing, health care. Yes. Emotional support? Yes. Does one suffer more than the other. I would say yes.

SCience must focus on all aspects of cancer in order to cure it. In society, the same approach should be done. The problem is that the people who are in the majority or otherwise are dominant in our culture tend to not be aware of the needs of the people suffering at the stage IV level of social cancer. They/we see our stages of social cancer but many are unaware stage IV exists. How can we heal stage IV if we don't know the symptoms?

Is that setting up competition? It could be seen as that. I see it as being aware that there are people whose pains are different from mine, and yes, worse. I don't set aside my pains to take care of others. I see, to use a new analogy, my role is to stop my bleeding so I can turn around and help another person whose insides are exposed. Maybe they in turn at a later date can help me. If I don't help them when they are most vulnerable, they for sure won't be there for me at a later dater. They will be dead.
How can I quantify more suffering in a given population? Easily, actually.

Cops kill black and white a like. Cops kill Black people at a higher % than is consistent w their %of population. Same is true for % of people incarcerated.

Even Black children suffer more at the hands of security guards/law enforcement.

These facts impact the Black community broadly. Parents taken from their families (then blamed for being absent.) It all creates greater poverty.

White men w criminal records get hired before Black men w/o criminal records despite having equal education.

The list goes on and on.

Addressing oppression will not necessarily address these specifically. Any measures that would affect these obstacles in general are very far down  the road. But the people are suffering now. They can't wait. To go back to severity of injury analogy, they are bleeding out with their insides exposed. They can't wait for the perfect cure. They need any remedy, tho imperfect, that is available now.
IT can be seen as the problems of others being ignored. Or it can be seen as lifting an issue that has been ignored for centuries to the surface.

"Black Lives Matter" never meant other lives don't. It is saying, "yo, people over here. We are getting killed at extraordinary rates w/o cause over here. We are being encarcerated on trumped up charges over here."

IT also raises the awareness of the abuse by the state which will be helpful in the long run.

When people see suffering of stage IV cancer, we tend to be more aware of the impact of cancer. Black oppression at the hands of the state is stage IV oppression. If they/we see that, we are more likely able to see the oppression of others.
It does not need to deny the oppression of others. It can be seen as becoming more broadly aware of people's oppression. It does not need to deny that others w/in given groups suffer more or less than ppl of the same group.

THere are times to talk in generalities and there are time to talk specifics. One need not ever be at the exclusion of the others.

But some behaviors cross all boundaries but only w/in certain groups. LeBron James is a perfect example. I think we would agree he has less oppression because of his status but that did not stop someone from writing N* on his garage door.

OTher Black celebrities, seemingly averting the impact of oppression, get stopped for walking or driving in their own neighborhoods. Even arrested for going into their own homes.

So yes, I think the oppression of Black people is worthy to be highlighted.

Maybe most importantly, because  their voice is naturally silenced by the system.
[can't figure out how to reply to free born angel's reply so posting it here because I think it is important.]

FRee born angel hinted that Black people could create Black towns.

They did try that and were quite successful until white people burnt the towns down.


Edit of this comment.

"*we* white people"

I Like to be clear about that distinction.

Also, this likely goes w/o saying but I think it best to be overt.

I In know way claim that my thoughts are the in line with the majority of Black people or are an accurate reflection of anyone's opinion.

My comments are all based on what I have gleaned from following the Black resistance efforts that have erupted since Trayvon Martin was shot by GZ who was not taken into custody until Black people (few if any white voices initially) raised their voices.

Just to be clear.
I would say that the root of racism (as we speak in the current context) is an economic system and economic way of thinking that enslaves and subjugates people, because hatred of black people and "latinos" (i put it in quotes because it just sounds like a really stupid thing to say) ultimately serves to make their labor really cheap, and without cheap labor the economic system wouldn't function...but i guess we could discover as many "root causes" as we wanted to

and other than that, i think people in general can be really lame and just make judgements based off of appearances (you see 3 people with blue skin skateboard, and you say that all people with blue skin must skateboard..), which in certain situataions contributes to racism
zz, i don't know what you're looking for with all your responses here, but all the "we" (and "they") statements cause me to disengage with the discussion. i don't think of myself as a part of any "we" (unless in another person's presence and referring to something agreed upon together or as a suggestion to do something together, something previously shared/done together, etc.).
and fwiw, i don't agree with your cancer analogy.

i put a decent sized gash in my thumb while chopping wood, and it hurt like hell for a while, then healed up with a scar that i'll probably always have. and if someone told me their whole thumb got chopped off, i'd have no problem empathizing with them and understanding their pain. if i heard their whole hand (or both hands) got chopped off, well, i certainly wouldn't say i couldn't see their pain just because i'd only experienced a less devastating situation.

for me, even a slight amount of pain enables me to imagine, commiserate, or empathize with someone who experienced a similar but more intense pain. and when that pain comes at the hand of the state/hierarchy/power, i tend to resonate even more strongly with the person, even if my suffering was less intense or frequent, and i would fight, evade, fool the state with them if they wanted to with me.

and to take this out of analogy mode....i've had cops hassle me, grab me and push me around a little....and i can imagine (and have feelings arise) with very little difficulty what getting shot by a cop in a similar situation might feel like, including anger, pain, sadness, hopelessness...

edited: additional thoughts

zz. again, no one is arguing that black people have it worse at the hands of the state than white people (although these huge generalizations suck also, but that's a conversation for a later time, apparently).

what you're doing completely implicitly, with no acknowledgement at all (and what some people do explicitly, with full engagement) is saying that black people have it worse than everyone, including other people of color. you've been paying attention to black people talking about their experience. that's great. do it. keep it up. but the fact that black people are the model (who made them the model? did they do it by themselves? didn't they get help from media? what do you think that means, if the media are mostly the tools of the upper class?) of racism in the u.s. means that we have to pay more attention, not less, to the folks left out of that model.

again, i'm not saying that one POC group has it worse than another, i'm rejecting it when other people say it.

and fwiw, yea, all those responses separated out like that are confusing.

BA@ - I do think there is a danger to white folks (I am maybe making assumptions about you right now, but speaking for myself) flattening the experiential trauma of people of color by saying "I can understand and empathize..." when we maybe don't have some of the generationally accrued experiences they do. In the USA it is true that black people have a particular experience of hatred and racism, but that shouldn't negate the experiences of other POC or white folks.

I've been pulled out of my car and had it illegally searched by cops because I was a white punk kid years ago. I had zero worries that I was about to be shot for talking back a little. Two nights ago I was walking to a baseball game and made eye contact with a cop and said, "fuck you, pig." I knew nothing was going to come of it. That is some shit that people of color move through the world not feeling.

While I can empathize with someones experiences and feelings, that doesn't mean that I actually know or fully grasp those experiences and feelings. I think that this is something it is important for everyone to keep in mind.
ingrate, i don't think i'm flattening the trauma of anyone else.

to me, speaking about a group (which includes millions of people) as having an "experience", of any kind, flattens the image. i'd rather hear a thousand personal stories than try to imagine a bunch of people (not even in each other's presence) experiencing a generalized trauma.

and that's my point, not that i can't make (an obvious) generalization about the likelihood of something happening based on race or gender (or tattoos).

and when i relate to another person, that understanding comes from the most basic of feelings - anger, fear, joy, and so on - not from the particular reasons or exact contexts from which they unfolded. and i have experienced those feelings at very deep levels too, even though many times not from the same source. and i definitely resonate strongly with anyone who feels anger/resentment/fear from any type of authority ....my intention not to flatten anything, but to relate on an individual level....because even if someone of the same sex, color, age, country as me experiences some sort of trauma, it still doesn't manifest exactly the same as anything i've experienced...i still must use my energy to relate to the emotional experience of that person to the best of my ability....it basically comes down to caring about the person, and i just have a hard time doing that when talking about "whites" or "POC" or any other label, because i can't care about a label (a representational word with not even an image behind it unless i choose one).....that distances me from the emotion.
I appreciate that clarification, because you are totally right that speaking of a mass of people as a whole also can serve to flatten individual experiences to fit the narrative of the collective "we". there is a middle path on this that I try to take, and I don't, right now have a good measure for how I find that path, but I think this discussion is actually helping clarify it.
ingrate, I would love to hear more if you get more clarified.

MY whole argument is that Black people have it worse than most. Nothing implicit at all about it. Totally conscious about and believe it to the nth degree.

Some people see the N word as nothing worse than any other slur used against a person. I am not one of them. Like F* is the epitome of profanity, N*is the epitome of slurs. There is nothing that I know of that can be used against a group of people or an individual that is as denigrating that. I don't understand it. I just know it is true.

I Think that its horribleness is a reflection of the horror that Black people suffer at the hands of our culture. The is no lower slur. There is no lower tier (yes tier as in hierarchy) of bias.

I do not dismiss that any POC is mistreated. I am just saying if 2 people are in the room one seemingly Latino and another obviously Black, if the cops are involved, the cops will undoubtedly go after the Black guy before any one else.

Again, I do not say this to ignore any one else. I just think we need to be sure we are managing the stage IV level of cancer while treating all the other stages. I don't think we do that enough or well,if at all.
dot, I see what you are saying about the need to be sure that other POC get needs addressed. I think you are saying that the general population (there I go, generalizing again) think of Black people when they think racism, not realizing others suffer, too, under the umbrella of racism. Is that right?

How did Black people get to be the "model?" I think going back to the beginning of this country through to present day can tell us that. It is designed into the system.
I Wish everyone were as empathetic as you. I know I am not. Apparently doctors aren't either because they give less pain meds to Black people than to white. Not because they are afraid they will sell them, (that I thought of that shows my prejudice) but because they think Black people can take more pain than other people.

As for me, I don't think I can relate to what it would feel like to get shot/killed vs being harassed by the authorities. Haven't a clue. Haven't a clue about how that would affect my family, my community. Haven't a clue how it would feel to know that a cop was afraid of the 12 year old holding a toy gun. Or afraid because the person was walking towards them looking for help, or away from them, or reaching for a wallet or, walking up stairs, or buying a toy gun at Walm*rT or any other of the myriad of ways cops fear Black people, but other people even other POC walk away.

HAvent a clue.
zz, if you intended your last comment for me....

i had a 32 year old (white) unarmed cousin i loved, shot and killed by the police, so one of my clues comes from that experience. i know how it affected me and my family, my uncle and other cousins, how the cop who killed my cousin ended up the chief in another town not far from me....and it doesn't take much for me to imagine myself in that situation as my cousin with a few minor twists of circumstances at various points in my life. and fwiw, i don't describe anything i have as a "community".

i think my empathy (not that i always feel it or know how to show it, but i keep wanting to sense it) comes from seeing how this fucking hierarchy affects everyone i know, and most everyone i've met, including those supposedly benefiting from it. i see the pain of young people from their parents who feel like they own them, i see the long remaining pain from slavery, the devastation and pain of the creatures and plants and water and air around me from capitalism, i see "successful" people i know with broken backs, relationships, and spirits, i've known cops whose sensitivity ended up giving them heart attacks because they couldn't fully tow the authoritarian line. and i wish more than anything more people would start announcing that pain to one another and rallying more together to attack the beast...the beast of domination and authority in any and all forms.

ingrate, thanks....i'll add a little more later.
Thank you for telling your tale. Specifically, I don't think it was you that I was addressing. It was a general comment that I think is too convoluted to parse out. Also unnecessary.

As for the other parts, your are extraordinarily empathetic. It is hard to walk around like that, for sure. Me? I have a hard edge. I like to think I developed it as a form of shield but I think it just comes naturally. And so, I would think is the same for you. You are feeling what comes naturally to you. How you see others just highlights and reinforces it.

IT is not psycho babble for me to say this. In developing the skills required to build a community, large or small, each of us must know our strengths, limits and talents. Each has a role to play. We each need to know that role or the efforts are doomed.

Every one has more than one role. And sometimes we have to do whatever it takes,going beyond our natural talents but that just means we need to reach more people.

Recognizing people's talents will get and keep each involved. Someone who  has a talent for carpentry, say, would be ecstatic if someone noticed their talent outside of being a commodity. A writer the same, a cook, even a philosopher each wants their abilities acknowledged. Doing that will corral people in so easily.

I Do speak from some experience and observation. People shine when we use our skills for the benefit of others.

That took a turn in the conversation from the topic,didn't it?

The big picture? Create a community that involves individuals, good, bad or indifferent as they may be, and @ will thrive. (at least in small units.) I've seen it.