The Call Is Coming from Within the House!: On Disruptions and White Progressive Egos

I’ll be addressing four general problems within the Mainstream (and particularly clickbait-y electoral-focused) Progressive Movement (aka White Progressivism), largely based on some fractures exposed at a Social Security rally last weekend where Bernie Sanders was interrupted by Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters. With a few exceptions, these comments are not directed at specific people. We all have areas we can’t quite navigate around without much assistance. But right now it seems white progressives are not willing or able to be assisted even as their stated goal is equality and justice – it seems they are under the impression that because they agree with and vote alongside progressive issues that they have arrived and are doing all they can for People of Color. Yet, the causes of equality and justice & black and brown lives are more important than any one single person’s feelings and certainly more important than White Fragility or Male Ego, both of which have been informing the Mainstream Progressive Movement (MPM/WProg) as the fallout from the Sanders confrontation displayed.

  • On Controlling the Narrative in White Progressivism

In spaces that are dominated by White men, you can be guaranteed that there is an unhealthy dose of masculinity and whiteness. In these spaces, people of color, LGBTQIA people and women (and certainly those who inhabit the intersections) may not feel welcome to question the prevailing White male wisdom. Whiteness and Hetero-CisPatriarchy create triple-binds:

  1. They create atmospheres where those privileged by them believe that they are natural born leaders and filled with wisdom and logic;
  2. The privileged are so ingrained to believe that their reality is default that they cannot imagine those not them face an alternate existence and way of thinking;
  3. Those outside of these modes of privilege are not allowed to question their reality unless they have won tacit approval from white, cis males

Under this triple-bind, it becomes apparent that to question the ways in which White Supremacy works is to threaten white people who fall under the scope of said criticism. To criticize the racism of the Tea Party is offensive to those affiliated with the GOP. To criticize anti-blackness or silence of progressives is to threaten the kindheartedness of white liberals and leftists.

A repeated mantra lectured at black people is Senator Bernie Sanders has been working for black rights since before most Black Lives Matter activists were even born – as if this makes him immune to critique, as if he actually does more for black people than black people do themselves. A lot of white racists claim some aspect of Martin Luther King’s legacy. Charlton Heston marched with King as well but Malcolm didn’t. To be honest, most of Sanders’ presidential run up to this point has been colorblind and most of his anti-racist actions took place, well, before most Black Lives Matter activists were born. But Janet asks, “What have you done for me lately?

  • On Violence Against Women of Color in Progressivism

“The statement Black Lives Matter is a racist one in itself.” – comment on an anti-BLM progressive thread.

While statements such as this are not violent in and of themselves, they point to a general attitude among White people that does not take seriously the violence directed at black people from white-run political, judicial, and economic systems. In fact, key points that the Black Lives Matter protesters addressed in Seattle had to do with white liberals ignoring or even perpetuating acts of violence against people of color in Seattle (the occupation of Seattle on stolen Native lands, the building of new prisons in the county, Mike Brown’s murder-versary). For addressing these issues of violence against people of color in front of would-be progressives, the Black Lives Matter protesters were themselves met with violence from many of these same White Progressives (grabbing, throwing objects at). When the protesters shone light on the White racism coming from the audience, then the attacks from White liberals became much more vicious. Nearly every white progressive I spoke to or heard from in the last week took the statement from BLM about “White Supremacists” personally at least initially even though it was not directed at them personally nor even generally.

No Moment of Silence for Mike Brown in Seattle

No Moment of Silence for Mike Brown in Seattle

For many black women in the world and especially in the United States, it is hard to exist and resist the ways your existence is reduced. For when you do resist, you are policed. Often even met with police violence or threats of police violence, as the black women BLM protesters found when audience members yelled for the cops to taze them.

The other day, the progressive stalwart Salon published an article titled, “Feminists, We Have to Stand with Megyn Kelly – Even if We Disagree with Everything She Stands for.” A title like this makes light of what Kelly and white conservative women with platforms such as she actually does, melting her ultra-racist statements with a hefty platform on an incredibly influential station down to mere disagreements of opinion. Kelly’s racism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism actually harms marginalized and oppressed people – particularly women of color and especially black women.

Additionally, it leaves me wondering where White Progressivism was when Suey Park was receiving death threats for calling out the anti-Asian racism of Stephen Colbert, one of our heroes? Busy shredding her, ordering her to apologize to a megastar for daring to suggest (as a joke) that his show should be canceled. Something that was not going to happen ever became a such a threat to White Progressivism that progressives forced other Asian-American activists to throw her under the bus. Criticism of WProg from the marginalized left is such a threat to White Progressivism that people who claim to fight for equality for all have no problem using sexist, racist, condescending, and threatening remarks against women of color – to such a point where it endangers their lives.

Even more recently, Jennicet Gutierrez and Marissa Janae Johnson have experienced this violence from the very same White Progressives who claim to be helping them. At the Bernie Sanders rally, Johnson and her Black Lives Matter co-horts were met not just with heckling and boos, but with hands, with projectile, weaponized fruit, and with calls for the police to detain, arrest and taze the protesters. White Progressives were calling for state-sanctioned violence against the very activists who protest state-sanctioned violence while they cry that they already affirm the cause of those same activists.

It begs the question: does the MPM actually respects those it claims to champion because it sure hasn’t listened to them nor does it know what they demand in their own liberation? How many white progressives were calling for the arrest and deportation of Gutierrez for her interruptive statements on the health and well-being of (and violence against) detained, undocumented transpeople?

A fatal error of mainstream Progressivism is a lack of any sort of internal dialog and accepted critique. White progressives cannot believe that anyone from the Left would point out hidden (to them) racism. They argue that conservatives are the “true racists” and that any Liberal/Leftist is truly on “your side”. “We’re on your side” is a lie if the people saying that are ignoring you until you interrupt them and then want you jailed and hurt for interrupting them.

“Bernie marched with Dr. King before you were born!” is a common retort to the risk-taking action that Marissa Janae Johnson performed. If so, he should know that disruption is necessary and no politician is above criticism.

“You’re turning off potential allies!” Hey, we all have different points where we enter into solidarity, but if being criticized lightly (and not personally) hurts too much, maybe you’re not invested in black life to begin with. Black Lives Matter activists are turned on and called opportunists* for exposing lingering racism among liberals whose reception of BLM has been milquetoast to say the least.

But these same WProgs who claim that we should support racist white women for (rightly) calling out conservative misogyny will have no problem performing misogynoir (misogyny directed at Black women), threatening women of color who question the lingering White Supremacy within the Progressive movement.

Is the Mainstream Progressive Movement tuned toward liberating movements against violence directed at women of color, or is it another avenue of this violence?

  • On Respectability Politics in Progressivism

Actions that disrupt are considered rude. Disruptive actions, however, are supposed to upset us and make us consider why we are upset. It’s a pain rising in the nerve center of the privileged and the oppressors.

White Progressives love to claim the victory, words, and work of the Civil Rights Movement. Or at least Respectable Martin Luther King, Jr. “What made MLK so great,” they say, “is that he was a responsible person who…” It’s funny because these dudes never read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail“. But moreso, they imagine a movement that never had need to disrupt people, businesses, and order; that never broke the law. That the whole movement was grounded in civil disobedience. And that disobedience was unruly, hurt businesses, was unlawful. Because the law was recognized by the CRM participants as being inhumane and immoral. As being specifically violent towards the lives of black people.

The law is recognized by Black Lives Matter participants and accomplices as being inhumane and immoral. In fact, it is the law and the practice of the law that is being targeted by the BLM movement. Legality and the exercise of it was used to keep black people from political, economic, educational, healthcare and housing power – elements that led to black death in absurd measures; under this rubric, not much has changed, even as the degree of violence has been reduced.

Respectability Politics is a tactic of White Supremacy, determining that people of color and women will never truly be able to confront White Supremacy until they have every last duck in row. If they disrupt the status quo, they need to go back in line. That violence committed to immigrant transwomen of color by cis men is not so bad when you consider that the TWOC acted outside of modicum (this according to a pro-gay magazine). This civility is the silence in which people of color are choking.

It was this civility and respectability that Marissa Jenae Johnson sought to confront with the power of the cross behind her. I Corinthians 1:18-25 says that the cross – a brutal state-sanctioned means of mass execution that James Cone likened to lynching of black folks and that we can compare to police and carceral violence against black and brown people in the United States – is foolishness to the powers that be in the world, to the established, to the empire, to the worldly. The cross is not respectable – it is solidarity with the oppressed, the suppressed, the marginalized, the lynched. To take our crosses upon us is not a light duty. This is what King recognized as he faced down the KKK, presidents, and the Chicago segregationalists; what Bree Newsome drew on and recited from while taking down the Confederate Flag in South Carolina; how Jeremiah Wright was speaking from when he condemned the United States of America for its empire-building.

Ms Johnson put it this way:

I am only as respectable as the cross.
I am only as apologetic as the cross.
I am only as concerned with worldy powers as the cross.
I am only as concerned about upward mobility as the cross.
I am only as neutral, as polite, and as comforting as the cross.
I am only as rational as the cross.
This is my offering. The Spirit convicts, directs, and affirms me.
But this shit is scandalous. That is the call of discipleship.
I live like the resurrection is coming and Christ is sovereign. It is utter foolishness. It is life.
I do not worship Caesar. I cannot partake in Babylon. I cannot serve two masters.
Believe, I have made my choice.
‪#‎narrowistheroad
‪#‎blacklivesmatter

Fuck your respectability. It is a matter of silencing. And silencing is death.

  • On the Need to Dismantle Outrage Politics in White Progressivism

The White Progressive Internet* accepts and even tolerates this overt racism and misogyny because veiled racism and misogyny is an integral component of the clickbait and outrage politics they need to fuel the consumer capitalism of advertising-run blogging. Consider how clickbait titles work, and how easier it is to engage an audience that already despises Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin and especially Ann Coulter by using incredibly unflattering pictures to show them at very unfeminine views. Clickbait elicits and even welcomes any type of engagement – and that engagement easily, often and regularly turns misogynistic and transmisogynistic.

Capitalism – and particularly consumer capitalism – exists and thrives through exploitation. The easiest and fastest ways to make money is to exploit the most vulnerable, the least listened to, the most disrespected because they do not have as much power to call out the veiled attacks on them. In the progressive blogging world, any marginalized group who does not succumb to conventional progressive thought (in light of the triple-bind outlined above) is ripe to be called “crazy”, “stupid”, “blind” and any manner of ableist terms. But these insults are ok because they generate offense and offense generates hits and hits generate ad revenue from sponsors who are likely to exploit the poor and dark-skinned anyway.

Clickbait Progressive Blogging opens a vicious cycle that rewards mostly white men for being awful even as they claim to be superior (another factor of White Supremacy and Patriarchy) because they believe in equality and justice – even while they are practicing racial, sexual and gendered oppression in the name of their beliefs.

—————————————

*Among those who’ve tried it and end up in the “That’s pretty damn racist club” are progressive blogs such as RingofFireRadio, Progressive Secular Humanist (who apparently decided to attack her twice. Good form, White bros), Forward ProgressivesReverb Press, Fifth Column News

**Where is this money coming from? Who is paying activists?

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5 thoughts on “The Call Is Coming from Within the House!: On Disruptions and White Progressive Egos

  1. I read this post and then Michael Stone’s covering the same event on the Progressive Secular Humanist blog. I must say your 4 bullet points perfectly predict the flow of his piece (except for dismissing and ridicule of Ms. Johnson because she is Christian, which is his particular bias) and it is no surprise that it lapses into overt racism in the comments. Your point about ‘ it seems they are under the impression that because they agree with and vote alongside progressive issues that they have arrived and are doing all they can for People of Color’ really resonated with me. I have been having trouble with thinking of the ‘progressive movement’ as a single thing – since it seems to be united mostly around what it is opposed to. This, it seems to me, makes its influence and future tenuous at best, especially for people of color and other oppressed groups who don’t have the option of retreating back to their sanctuary of privilege. Speaking for myself, I need to be disrupted. Even if I ultimately don’t agree with what was said (hypothetically, I am not expressing disagreement), the disruption is necessary. I, as a white, cisgender, male have the constant temptation of complacency. This kind of disruption reminds me that everyone doesn’t have the choice.

  2. Oh my gosh! This piece was partly birthed out of a response to that Progressive Secular post – which was the second shitpiece I saw on the action. It was so unbelievably awful. But it did introduce me to Marissa Johnson’s Liberationist Christianity, and I wrote a significant portion based on what I saw in her actions and the faith she claimed informed her of it.

  3. It’s funny how much time you put into this, and how desperate you are to look intelligent. People like you are the problem. Obsessed with race. “Race doesn’t exist” “race is a social construct” “white people are this” “black people are that” “white people need to do this for black people” “this happens because of white people”

    Do you realize how idiotic it looks to make statements like that in the same piece? You are a complete hypocrite, a fraud, POC writer, and the lack of comments relative to your effort to look like a good writer speaks volumes. You’re disgusting.

    • I’m really hurt by your Click-Bait comments, sir. You really OBLITERATED and DECIMATED my HYPOCRISY! Thank the Gods of White Progresivism, I have seen the White.

      Oh, and “POC writer” isn’t an insult outside of Stormfront.

      On Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 12:21 AM, Leftcheek deuce wrote:

      >

  4. I reject all racism, even the paternalistic kind of “white liberals” who cannot evaluate the individual actions of individual people of color on their own merit. I was in Seattle that day and I know most of the people involved. First of all allow me to paint the scene. A rally to celebrate the 80th birthday of Social Security, outdoor at Seattle’s customary gathering place for protests and rallies. Bernie’s semi surprise visit was no doubt the biggest draw of the day but he was far from the only speaker. The event was hosted by a diverse group of organizations, retirement associations, labor unions many of which have very racially diverse membership and staff, and the Seattle NAACP, which invited Bernie Sanders and encouraged him to come out. The speakers were very diverse and spoke on a broad range of subjects including Black Lives Matter. And also of course the history of Social Security and the labor movement, boring right economic justice who cares about that, clearly the enemy of identity politics and social justice warriors everywhere, who knew. This rally went on for three hours. I believe Senator Sanders was a bit late getting there, also people like to talk and in the name of diversity everyone must be included and represented. I’m not particularly new agey but the vibe of this whole thing wasn’t exclusively white by any means and definitely not male, macho or anything of the sort. It was not a monster truck rally.

    The logistics of the action were planned, the whole thing perhaps encouraged by a white man who considers himself a socialist of a much more “hardcore”variety than Bernie Sander’s reformism or even of Seattle’s socialist city councilmember Kshama Sawant.

    Mara sort of just appears out of the blue before the thing, Marissa was involved in a very new group that called itself OutsideAgitators206. They were mostly young college students completely new to activism,they had potential but were plagued by internal drama and paranoia about whether people were FBI agents and whether the white people in the room, at least half of the membership, weren’t secret racists. The night before this bold Christian act of justice Mara and Marissa launched Black Lives Matter Seattle of which they were co-presidents. That organization had not existed before, there was an organization called Justice For Mike Brown Seattle, but no Black Lives Matter Seattle. I have been to most of the marches that happened in Seattle in the wake of Ferguson, I still don’t see great out of my left after all the pepper spray I took in the face, I have heard many of Marissa’s speeches, too many perhaps, she’s a bit of a microphone hog, someone who likes to hear herself talk. Is that somehow racist to acknowledge, there are plenty of other Black women and men with things to say as well.

    I have participated and even planned many direct actions. There are steps to how one goes about carrying about a direct action that is a disruption, that’s not “respectability politics” that’s just called theres rules to how these things work and do not work. You are supposed to have clear demands for your opponent, and you are only supposed to use the weapon of nonviolent direct action against an opponent who is not willing to negotiate in good faith. Bernie Sanders arrived with no visible security guards, I believe he had two undercovers with him, there were virtually no police officers in the area either, which is unusual but what do they care for the life of some lefty socialist. I interpret Bernie’s willingness to speak so directly with a crowd without walls of security guards as something of a radical statement of egalitarianism and against the very police state Black Lives Matter is up against. I can’t know with absolute certainty but my feeling is that they could have easily asked for time to speak before Sanders, maybe even dialogue with him but that just wouldn’t have been as fun as charging the stage pushing and intimidating an 80 year old speaker from Puget Sound Retirement Action and the small group of mostly women of color presiding over the event to prevent the United States Senator Sanders from reaching the microphone.

    “Badass”, I guess, necessary no, dignified no. The iconic image is of Mara triumphantly standing their with her fist in the air, if only the show had all been like that, alas it ends in them crying and shrieking at no one in particular. You can’t make any of this up. Upon taking the stage and taking the speech by a presidential candidate thousands of people had been waiting to hear for three and a half hours in the summer sun hostage, they began reading out their demands. First people need to chant Black Lives Matter with them, then everyone in this massive crowd of thousands of hot sweaty dehydrated confused agitated people was ordered to take a four and a half minute moment of silence…or else. At this point they began to experience some pushback from the crowd, things were said, after about 20 minutes the wiser course would have probably been to quit while your ahead but instead they decided to start screaming at the crowd calling them “White supremacist liberals” and coming within about a millimeter of physically pushing the United States Senator when he tried to make a play for the microphone. Bernie at this point decided to go and Mara and Marissa hugged the microphone stand crying and shrieking as people gradually started to leave.

    Then the white liberal media interviewed them and elevated them into heroes now many white liberals eager to prove how “down” they are turn them into some kind of folk heroes which allows them to indulge in all kinds of problematic stereotypes about Black women. I agree that the mentality of respectability politics can be an impediment to taking the kind of bold action that is often necessary, but what about dignity? Not to mention how this plays into the hands of the corporate “liberal” media’s preferred candidate, Clinton. That should be obvious. Can we ever take a break from all the personal is political high minded talk to recognize macropolitical and economic forces at work. Do you have to be a kooky conspiracy theorist to question whether the Hillary Campaign was involved? Keep in mind Seattle is home to Kshama Sawant, and while she’d probably hate me for putting it this way she’s an immigrant woman of color who lives under the constant ruthless assaults of the mostly white male Seattle power structure and her victory as an open socialist has helped pave the way for Bernie Sanders campaign and the resurgence of socialism and class politics in America. In addition to that white male power structure she has to fend off attacks from elements of the ol nonprofit industrial complex as well, naturally some of them see her as a bit of a threat to their role of public relations for capitalism.

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