On James Cone and “Racial Reconciliation”

In hearing about the passing of the good Dr James Cone, founder of Black Liberation Theology and an all-around important figure in latter 20th/early 21st Century Christianity, I ran across this older article from The Gospel Coalition (TGC), that bastion of White Conservative Evangelicalism. I in fact have several Black and POC friends and family adjacent to John Piper and TGC (and once was an adherent), largely because Piper puts out an aura of intellectualism that is attractive to young urban Christians who do not see much intellectual engagement in other church life, and because Piper and TGC also at least tend to talk about racial justice.

But whereas Cone talked about God siding with and identifying with the oppressed (ie, Black people) and thus allying against the very White Christianity that supports oppression (ie, White Supremacy, anti-blackness, reactionary politics), TGC and other White Evangelicals (including those who align with the White Theological/Political project) call for racial reconciliation. The author quotes from Black theologian J. Deotis Roberts:

Christians are called to be agents of reconciliation. We have been able to love and forgive . . . The assertion that all are ‘one in Christ Jesus’ must henceforth mean that all slave-master, servant-boss, inferior-superior frames of reference between blacks and whites have been abolished.

But the meaning in a spiritualized sense does not mean in an earthly sense, so to say. To declare that we are free is merely to say it; and while imagination and declaration are important steps in the realization,  they are not sufficient. To suggest that they are is to not just to say that a dream is reality, but to keep the dream from being worked out and actualized.

Racism is a device and creation of Whiteness, of which White people have primarily benefited–and that works itself out in class and sexual/gender approaches as well. The conditions of Blackness and Whiteness were created by Whites and those identified as White have been the benefactors of this distinction. So the idea that there is something to reconcile between the two without eradicating the White-created racism in all its material and psychological processes is both absurd and obscene.

And while it is the work of White people to eradicate material racism–as they currently control the means of materialism under White Supremacist Imperialist Monopoly–it is not the worth of White people to also devise the conditions upon which this reconciliation should be made right. How can you trust the people who benefit from Whiteness and who believe wholeheartedly in their innocence to purge their benefits, even if and when they mean well?

I do not trust capitalists to give us the means of production. We should not trust White people to eradicate racism on their terms.

That is why it is important that God is on the side of the oppressed. Because it assists in creating a space where it becomes psychologically and socially possible, which leads to material matters. Anything less is an immaterial, and thus hopeless, religion. And what good is religion if it does not offer hope?

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The Axioms of Evil

It’s been sixteen years since George W Bush and David Frum introduced to the neocon play action Axis of Evil speech¹ pointing out the three major powers that the US wanted to overthrow and colonize liberate from any semblance of self-rule: Iraq, Iran, and North Korea (DPRK). These were three nations that supposedly sponsored terrorism and were thus linked to the 9/11 attacks on US soil. An attack by a network not affiliated by any of these countries but instead by one of the US’s closest allies, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Since Iraq has already been dealt with, to put it crudely, and the Gears of War are turning on the other two due to either some protest or escalating nuclear tensions, it’s time for a some disjointed thoughts:

  • First, let’s dispel the false notion that there were millions of protesters in Iran calling for the overthrow of the government (and certainly that they want the United States to overthrow it). Several pictures of Brown-People-Protesting did go viral, but one of those was in Buenos Aires and another in Bahrain–two large-scale protests that Americans did not care about.
  • One of the main driving factors for the Iranian protests, as they are, has been economic. People protesting in the hundreds to thousands for a better standard of living, and against cuts to the social safety net, such as reductions in cash subsidies to the bottom 90%. How familiar does that sound to Americans? But in this case, we’re supposed to believe that Donald Trump and reactionary American elites are on the side of the protesters?
  • No one dared to raise the possibility of regime change during the millions-led Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration, a clear (but respectable) sign of dissatisfaction with the current regime by a significant percentage of the population.
  • No one dared suggest toppling DC after the #J20 protesters on the day of the Inauguration for protesting a little more loudly. In fact, the police kettled and arrested 200 such under false pretenses and have pressured most to either take a plea bargain (granting them a criminal record for either protesting or being adjacent to a protest) or face up to 80 years in prison. Some are still in jail or awaiting trial.
  • What country raised the possibility of invading the US during any of the Fight for $15 minimum wage demonstrations? These were longer, and involved tens of thousands of people, many literally leaving their work place during hours. And while several municipalities raised their minimum wages (after decades of stagnation), several states made it impossible for cities and counties to increase the minimum wage–despite the fact that cost-of-living substantially rise in urban areas and thus states should not be in charge of determining what is and is not livable. Missouri Republicans, for instance, forced St Louis to reduce the minimum wage by 20%! This was clearly a repressive state action. But again, silence.
  • Speaking of St Louis, where were the regime change callers when the Black Lives Matter protests kicked off? Thousands of oppressed people took to the streets demanding justice in the criminal justice system and its attendant policing. While the justice system started making minor accommodations to their demands, the current administration has worked overtime to turn back those concessions and several states have introduced bills that make it perfectly legal to run over protesters. Clearly, Black Lives do not matter to this regime.
  • But, if anything, the US is ignoring long-standing protests in South Korea against the US’s military presence and impending war.
  • Meanwhile, the US has given millions of dollars to support the right-wing government in Honduras, which killed dozens of protesters recently. When the Washington-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández was accused of rigging the elections in his favor, thousands took to the street. Dozens were killed, most directly by the narco military police units. In one scene, a group of unarmed protesters were shot down by the police who would tell the world that their victims were shooting back at them and thus they had no choice.

Relatives of the dead say they fear that there will be no justice over post-election violence: some say they have been threatened by troops; others point out that human rights prosecutions involving security forces are overseen by the same task force that helps coordinate [military police] operations.

  • North Korea at least is acting in a defensive position. Who does the US have to prove itself to? Who is threatening to destroy our entire country? What nation in the world has ever wiped off one-fifth of our people? (Not counting the original inhabitants because then the answer would be the United States.)
  • Who knew our president would use classic Orientalist tropes about Asian male sexuality IN A FUCKING TWEET?
  • South Korea (the Republic of Korea) began negotiating talks with the DPRK without US input. This angered Trump and Nikki Haley because it’s important for US interests (including Abe’s Japan) to make it look like Kim and the DPRK are unhinged and would never compromise; as if North Korea were the one making threats, despite all evidence to the contrary.
  • When the negotiations between North and South Korea to start talks began leaking, all of the US media focused on how divisive this would be, how it will end badly (for who?), and how Trump is taking credit (despite the fact that Nikki Haley just yesterday distanced the administration from the talks).
  • The United States’ two biggest allies in the Middle East do not allow for protests. It is illegal in Israel to display the Palestinian flag, and a group of more than five protesters is also violently prohibited. And we all know about the extensive human rights abuses in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Israel prevents movement in Gaza and shoots Palestinians trying to get away on boats. But you never hear of politicians condemning Israel or the KSA the way they do the DPRK and Iran.
  • If, however (and hear me out, please), Iran had a nuclear arsenal, the Trump administration would be much more likely to heed caution as they’re doing irt: North Korea.
  • There are some times when I truly wish that Trump actually was a stooge for Putin and Russia.
  • Meanwhile, in a country we’ve already conquered (my ancestral homeland): So far, at least one thousand Puerto Ricans have died and millions more at still at high-risk, without regular clean water or electricity as a result of Hurricane Maria and the US’s abysmal response. Clearly, we do not have a good track record of supporting our colonies², so why should we have a right to talk to or about Iran or Korea?

¹ In what the Washington Post dubbed the Fourth Best State of the Union Address ever.

² Yes, that is the point of colonialism, after all….

Thanksgiving, the National Myth-Making

Thanksgiving is a collective remembering of a national myth. National myths are ahistorical stories that we retell over and over to and about ourselves as a people.

While they may be ahistorical, as though they didn’t happen in a specific time and date and place, national myths are important. They help preserve culture, connections, and kinship and help guard against those things that tear us apart. They can be a bulwark against oppression and suppression, ways of remembering the best of ourselves when the world and empire strike against us. The Torah, for example, is a national myth about Hebrew and Jewish people and their identity that often sets them apart and unique, even as many of the stories are adapted from local myths and legends and then reframed for a different context, a people who imagined themselves differently. Indigenous people throughout the world celebrate and remember national myths. The Iroquois had myths that the Puritans considered dangerous in their encounters. Schools were established to “Kill the Indian and save the Man” by driving out Hopi, Sioux, and other indigenous languages, customs and myths. So recalling those myths are important resistance to white settler colonialism.

We’re very familiar with the dangerous side of national myths, however, such as Hitler’s regurgitation the National Myth of Germany through Wagner, Nietzsche, and antisemitic and racist tropes. And the National Myth of the United States being founded as a paragon of freedom and liberty is especially pernicious in the face that its Founding Fathers denied women the right to vote and held black people as literal pieces of property.

Image result for charlie brown thanksgiving table

But it is more important what we do with our national myths and whether we are willing to interrogate them, especially if, like in the States, it is one of genocide and chattel slavery disguised as kindness and civilization.

Thanksgiving as a whole has its moments. It is a time to spend with family–whether biological or chosen or a mix of both–and a time to practice gratitude, which can be revolutionary in an atmosphere of consumption. But then it’s followed by a day expressly for the purpose of hyper-consumptive capitalism. It’s no mistake then that the main mythos narrative of Thanksgiving is of settler colonialism.

The narrative of a friendly dinner with the natives is a ritualized hand-off of the land and its bounties from the original occupants to the settlers, who now rightfully belong. How fitting that dinner is situated around a land-occupying sport like American football with one of the teams named the Cowboys–another powerful settler-colonial myth about the rugged Anglo individual who tames the Wild West and vanquishes the savage American Indian. It’s also telling that next week, the Cowboys will be playing the Redsk*ns, a specifically genocidal slur against American Indians.

I would argue it is time to confront, rather than run from, what this national remembrance means. To interrogate it as Jewish people do the Torah. To recognize the role it has played in our society and how we use it to erase and murder Native peoples here. And then to set about to make corrections.

Whattaboutism & Chicago

“What About Chicago” is a widely-used bait/distraction from rightwingers and racists whenever the topics of systemic, codified racism and legalized murder of Black people is brought up. It’s also brought up when we talk about gun control, but we’ll get to that issue later. While the Whataboutism is a derailment meant to throw off the stinging critique of racist state and corporate violence, I see the two issues as intricately connected. Those who ask what Black Lives Matter activists and those of us concerned about systemic violence are doing about Chicago interpersonal violence don’t really care, but I’ll answer anyway: We’re tackling systemic, state-sponsored and economic violence as a means of tackling interpersonal violence. For me, that includes mass political education about socialism—and its localized counterpart, reparations—which is a means to achieve justice in my and other communities on Chicago’s West and South Sides.

Socialism is the owning of the means of production of labor by the workers. Capitalism, what we live under now, is the owning of the means of production by the investors and industrialists (aka, the non-workers) and managed by the managerial class, including bosses, politicians, and police. Since White Supremacy was invented to stabilize, further, and enforce capitalism, the system is by nature racist[1] and sexist. Socialism is, thus, a fundamentally democratic economic and political system that leaves more room to antagonize and confront racism and sexism.

Interpersonal violence is often a manifestation of a lack of holistic actualization and purpose[2] and thus seeks purpose through domestic and street violence, through acts of hyper-masculinity, and through escalation of conflicts. It is severely impacted by living with untreated trauma, such as that of experiencing and witnessing violence up-close and not having the tools to deal with it. This helps create a perpetual cycle of internalized violence and the dealing of it necessitates a strategic restructuring of resources, education, and organization of society. To trust the police and jails to carry the heavy load is counterproductive as they are the first to teach the lesson that violence is a solution to conflict. I suggest that this reorganizing is best done through a socialist prism.

Socialism is broad but pliable and must be applied differently in different contexts through time. It would, by necessity, look different in the context of African Americans within Northern cities than it would for those in rural communities, and both would operate distinct than it would for white people in most of the world. Each region would have to both apply it to its location—its social, economic, and political realities and where the oppressed operate there—to the oppressed and marginalized, and connect it to wider, not just national but international struggles.

In the case of these communities in Chicago, the need for both socialism and a distinct version of socialism are necessitated by a context where the people have relied on underground economies due to racist blocking of conventional economics, have and continue to lose wealth and security through the ravages of anti-black racist subjugation and wage theft, and have been under severe police occupation. African American, Latinx and Indigenous communities are all due a hefty amount of reparations for the heavy monetary, physical, and psychological toll that racialized police enforcement, caging, and generational wage-theft have left. And it is the work of those on-the-ground opposed to interpersonal gun violence to point out these injustices as a means of repairing them.

There are other things that we do, of course. In several neighborhoods, mothers occupy heavy corners so that the police and gangs do not. We have regular walks for peace in the hard-hit areas. And we grieve and we plead. We grieve heavily and we plead hard. The care, the concern, the comforting are never reported on mass media, but poor people and people of color come together in ways that the hyper-individualized WASP culture can never comprehend. But we can only do so much alleviating the symptoms when the disease is all-consuming. We need justice, not band aids. And we certainly don’t need to make it worse by further disrupting communities through more and tougher incarcerations and deportations.

One of the biggest ironies is, however, this notion that policing has nothing to do with interpersonal violence, but when the law breaks down or just doesn’t work for you, you go outside of the law to deal with glitches. Sometimes you have the tools to deal with conflict in reasonable ways, but sometimes you don’t. Developmentally speaking, young people are less likely to have those tools, so it is up to society to ingrain them, to teach them, and to nurture and protect them. Restorative justice is a means of dealing with these conflicts maturely and without throwing away lives for foolish mistakes. So, we must work towards having a restorative justice framework throughout the school and community experience to give students tools and to work away from the prison industrial complex that begins for black and brown children at a very young age, often through the school system.

What we need now, what a locational socialism can give us are full employment and a guaranteed income; fully-invested schools and community hubs; the collectivization of private property into public and personal property as the community and individuals within the community need; free and full access and control of medical care; an end to food disparities and hunger; the decriminalization of people of color which includes the abolition of violent policing, the release of prisoners, and a complete restructuring of the justice and immigration system; the end of colonial and settler colonial wars and a complete destruction of the military industrial complex, out of which the seeds can be utilized for rebuilding areas ravaged by the dogs of war; the fruits of our labor; and a labor system that invests in rather than robs from the material, social, economic, bodily and psychological needs of our communities. If these points sound familiar, it’s because the Black Panther Party outlined these 51 years ago in its Ten Point Platform.

May we give it the time and attention it–and we–so radically deserve.

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[1] This is not to say that socialism is an automatic solution to racism, but that it contains tools and has space to institute anti-racist measurements more effectively and fully than capitalism. This post will try to give a brief run-down of some of the ways that socialism intersects with anti-racism, largely through the imagination of anti-racist socialists, leftists, and radicals.

[2] Often those involved in state or privatized violent policing of private property (police, security guards, military, paramilitary, and gang enforcers, for instance) find their purpose in personalized violence and are thus employed by those with private property interests to protect their property first and foremost, at the cost of lives.

Note: This post originally appeared on my Patreon page one month ago. If you support my work through there you can receive tons of exclusive and bonus content, as well as early previews such as this piece and chapters for upcoming books.

Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Double-Edged Sword of Racist Environmental Catastrophe

Global warming and its resultant ecological disasters are merely collateral damage to the environmental disaster that is global capitalism. It’s interesting that for decades the mass messaging has been worried about so-called ecoterrorism. But terrorism is a political name of a distinct violence that functionally distracts from the heightened and broad violence that imperialist and capitalist destruction wrought to communities of color. And when it comes to the ecology, this violence is double-edged.

Because, first, the repercussions of ecological damage hit communities of color first, most, and the hardest. We see that in the warming of the Atlantic Ocean and the hurricanes that have devastated the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, rocking hardest the communities of color that have little protection and infrastructure as they are put in harms’ way. We see that in neighborhoods where garbage dumps and smoke stacks are piled and children of color face enhanced lung disease, such as Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods, or Gary, IN, just across the border. In the placement of people of color near toxic dumps or vice versa. In the state of Michigan’s treatment of the water in Flint. People of color are sacrificed to the gods of efficiency because White Supremacy will not allow otherwise.

The second wave that eco-terrorism is wrought in communities of color is that they are then victimized for their survival even as their recovery is dramatically slowed. They are blamed for not leaving beforehand when they have fewer resources to do so. They are qualified as “looters” while white looting is overlooked or sympathized with. Recently, a White news reporter riding atop Houston in a helicopter bragged about calling the police on people of color requisitioning emergency supplies from a shuttered grocery store. We saw this in how Haitians were treated as children by aid agencies and yet, for all their hand-wringing and fund-raising after the earthquake, left to rot by multinational corporations and their NGO wings. Communities of color are given less sympathy and thus less resources with which to alleviate their immediate needs after disasters.

Puerto Rico perfectly encapsulates both ends of this manufactured dilemma. Long before Hurricane Maria came along, the island colony of the US was put in the line of debt and neoliberal privatization to such an effect that it was facing the largest bankruptcy in the history of the US public bond market at $123 billion[1] already back in May of this year, eight times larger than Detroit’s. As a result of this mounting debt and the pressure to pay it off, not only are its beaches being privatized (and thus denied to citizens) and its schools being closed (along with drastic cuts to teacher pay and shutting of other essential services), its infrastructure is sabotaged. The fact that the electrical grid collapsed under the weight of the storm is not due to the negligence of the Puerto Rican people, but to how debt is structured among people of color and the colonized. Haiti had no infrastructure to deal with natural disasters due to its economy being routed towards paying for debts as a two hundred-year punishment for its own Black rebellion against White empire.

By Eric Pancer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 

Racism is not only the reason communities of color like Puerto Rico are more susceptible to environmental disasters, but also the reason their recovery from these catastrophes is trashed. Unlike when the Wall St. banks and lenders were insured by the United States after they destroyed the housing market and countless lives, Puerto Rico, a protectorate of the US, is expected to pay debts it could not before the hurricanes. Its debt racked up under a Democratic president and it’s likely that a Democratic president wouldn’t have fundamentally altered or alleviate it. It just so happens that this openly White Supremacist and tactless president let the cat out of the bag by tweeting—while the island was under water and facing months without electrical power—that its first responsibility is to pay back Wall St.  Trump would not only blame the country for its own debt, but then, while failing to give the country the resources it needs for the people’s survival, called them lazy.

Haiti faced similar critiques and was criticized as too poor to prevent or treat the damage left by the earthquake in 2010, yet their blackness and abject poverty were tokenized for fundraising. Thus, even sympathetic aid organizations like Red Cross and the Clinton Foundation neglected or overthrew Haitian input while collecting hundreds of millions of dollars only to leave Haitians little better than before the quake. A Clinton donor, for instance, spent six billion dollars of raised money on building a handful of ‘hurricane-proof’ trailers that left homeless occupants sick from formaldehyde. Nine hundred Haitians died after Hurricane Matthew hit last year. Hillary Clinton, who claimed to be leading the response to the crisis, would as Secretary of State take the side of industrialists seeking to further exploit Haitian workers by working to deny pay increase demands and intervening in their elections. This after George W Bush assisted in a coup of democratically-elected President Aristide, following in his father’s coup of the same in the early 90’s.

We’ve yet to see how NGO’s will react in PR, but we know that banks were offering aid by merely compounding and prioritizing more debt to further consume the country and its public spaces. As a 100 year-old colony of the United States, however, Puerto Rico has very little agency in its own governance and largely relies on the US body politic, an engagement that they have no control over as the island has no representative vote.

To contrast, the neighboring socialist island nation of Cuba—undoubtedly also very poor—takes absolute, comprehensive precautions against these same tropical storms, thus facing significantly fewer lives lost than mainland US even as it takes the brunt end of these hurricanes. The country prioritizes prevention and protecting its most vulnerable people , whereas the capitalist nation state of the US undoubtedly prioritizes debt and economic growth, both at the expense of people of color. Cuba protects personal property, bodies, and affects while it’s clear that the corporations that run the US care only about their private property.

It’s about priorities, and global capitalism is perpetual war against communities of color.

 

[1] Nine times the size of Detroit, which then became another colony for the White ruling class to do with as they pleased.

Back in the DPRK; You Don’t Know How Lucky You Be

North Korea, or as it’s officially known, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has been living as a war zone for the last 60+ years. It has undergone a genocidal project begun when the US bombed and wiped away a fifth of the population and continuing under increasing efforts to sanction it to oblivion by the UN Security Council and the US. The country, its peoples, and its leaders have been the constant butt of racist demagoguery within the United States media (you can see that clearly in comedies such as Team America: World Police and The Interview). And the mass media — the same people who gave us Trump and then lamented when he turned on them — has been fever-pitch promoting all-out war with the country for basically trying to defend itself with a handful of nuclear bombs (with limited range). Now Kim Jong Un has threatened to bomb Guam, a colony of the United States with a large military presence (large as in it accounts for  1/3 of the island, 10% of the population but leaves no revenue for the island country) if the US continues to press it.

The United States can destroy the world several times over with its range of bombs and has actually detonated a couple on top of large civilian centers. Who has or is holding us accountable? We are literally the World’s Police. American Exceptionalism in foreign policy also means we cannot try Trump for the war crimes he’s already committed and is now brazenly threatening. Thanks Obama!

Robert Jeffres, the tyrant of First Baptist Church of Dallas and pastor to the tyrants, suggested that God has ordained Trump to take out Kim Jung Un. But what if–and hear me out here–what if it’s the other way around? What if God has ordained Kim to take out Trump?

While we’re infused in propaganda on every side (and without a doubt, the DPRK engages in some nasty propfiction as well) genocidal propaganda is the worst and needs to be countered the most. The idea that Kim Jong Un is hell-bent on unilaterally striking the US or our allies is one such piece of blatant agitprop that must be shut down in any and all directions. As long as it is allowed to pulse through mass media, in bedrooms and boardrooms, and especially in both houses of horrors,  then we are responsible for the deaths of upwards of 25,370,000 human beings and every animal within the realm of the DPRK–not to mention other regional casualties such as in South Korea (Republic of Korea – ROK) or those who suffer due to promised retaliation. This after being largely responsible for the deaths of 20% of the North Korean population after our desire to wipe communism from the entire peninsula.

Retaliation isn’t the key word, as it makes it sound as if Kim and the leadership of the DPRK are merely pissy and violent by nature, but it hints at the uneven power dynamics here. The United States is the only country in the world that operates on a Strike First platform. It regularly performs -either directly through its military or indirectly through its intelligence and backdoor negotiations- coups and regime changes throughout the world. It also has a thousand times the nuclear weapons that the DPRK has.

Speaking of CIA agitprop, regime changes, wars of aggression in Asia, and Dick pics…

However, the US has historically and currently talked about its nuclear arsenal in terms of protection and last-option alternative, as a measure of prevention. And for whatever reason, the world rarely questions it. Yet, here is Kim saying the same exact thing, but without the rampaging, world-conquering history that the United States has, and it’s reported in Western media as if he’s crazy and ready to blow up your grandma and her doggy if they look at him funny.

But it’s not Kim who ordered a Tomahawk missile strike on Syria, killing hundreds of civilians, under completely false pretenses. It’s not Kim who was unquestionably praised and “finally became our president” when he killed those families by the same press telling us Kim is unhinged and dangerous. And it’s not the DPRK that sold weapons and gives complicit support to Saudi Arabia in its decimation of Yemen, killing tens of thousands. So why in tf’ing world would anybody trust the US, let alone Donald J Trump on this, but not the DPRK and Kim Jong Un?

If nepotism is your answer, pfft. Like the US isn’t run by the nepotist class? At this point, the entire discussion by US pundits and politicians is nothing more than an unsolicited d*ck pick, but with far more dangerous ramifications. Get on the phone and tell your senators to put that thing away.

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Affirmative Gutting

Four initial thoughts on the efforts of the Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department to end collegiate Affirmative Action practices:

1) I know that liberals spent the last few weeks defending Sessions from getting fired by Donald J. Megalomaniac in order to defend both the ongoing Russian investigation and, probably more centrally, some sense of order and precedence in the White House cabinet. True, perhaps we’ll get further on the Russia investigation with Sessions protecting Mueller, et al, then we would if the AG post became a revolving door. And maybe, after a while, the trade off will be worth it just to see Trump packing his bags and the GOP panicking. But the way that Sessions acts while at the head of the single most powerful policing and legal agency in the world doesn’t give me any hope that any investigation into Trump will stand anyway, let alone that anything of value will come about from it. Furthermore, any chance for any procedural decorum is clearly out the window in Mar-A-Lago & McConnell’s stints. Democrats wasted opportunities to blow through filibusters when Obama was in office thinking they could use the procedure when they become the minority power, and to what end? Perhaps we’d be better off with no Attorney General than to stick with Jeff Klansmans.

2) Remember that Trump, like Bushie before him, is a legacy child. Affirmative Action doesn’t mean shit to people who’ve been born into wealth, into connections, into the racist family business. If Affirmative Action is truly a threat to the Myth of Meritocracy, then why are these legacies and inheritances not? Could it be that the Meritocratic Myth is simply a manifestation of and protectorate of White Supremacy and Capitalism? Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that property and trust funds should not be handed down to children of wealthy people; the kids didn’t earn that. They should go out into the world with a clean slate like the rest of us poor suckers and make their own way. Maybe, in fact, we should begin this process at birth. Since over one-fifth of all children live in poverty in the United States, it’s not fair that Barron Trump got to shit in gold lame diapers while 400,000 innocent children are placed in foster homes. Send him to the streets to earn his keep!

3) In the post Black Wall St era, the best hope for build-up for Black and Latinx wealth has been through AA programs–not just in college acceptance but in hiring. But then those programs began to be gutted under Reagan and both Bushes, particularly under their judges, and Black wealth subsided. The Republican administrations and legislators also worked to kill federal unions, where the Black middle class was rising. The demolition of welfare under Republican and neoliberal Democratic administrations then took the bottom out of poverty. In fact, this notion that somehow Trump is a different breed of Republican is fully repulsive. He and his are merely trying to finish what their heroes got primed. He’s following the business ethos that Reagan and Thatcher pushed to its logical conclusion: Always Be Closing.

4) If anything, this final swig at Affirmative Action demonstrates we need full-on socialism and reparations anyway. Universal preschools and daycare, guaranteed income, an infrastructure that reaches to the working and permanent underclass, abolition of debt and prisons… It’d also be nice if we can stop relying on prestigious college education to be the determiner of worth.

“Food Is a Weapon”

From theologian James Cone’s The Black Church and Marxism: What Do They Have to Say to Each Other? (paper delivered in 1980):

I have been convinced that the black church cannot remain silent regarding socialism, because such silence will be interpreted by our Third World brothers and sisters as support for the capitalistic system which exploits the poor all over this earth.

For example, between 25,000 and 50,000 people die each day from starvation, a cause that is directly related to the persistence of national and international economic orders that foster distorted development. The former secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, well known for his racial slurs, said it bluntly: “Food is a weapon. It is now one of the principal tools of our negotiating kit.”

From a Rolling Stone story covering the Republican National Convention in 76, while Earl Butz was still Secretary of Agriculture (content note for racist/sexist remarks):

Pat [Boone] posed a question: “John and I were just discussing the appeal of the Republican party. It seems to me that the party of Abraham Lincoln could and should attract more black people. Why can’t that be done?” This was a fair question for the secretary, who is also a very capable politician.

“I’ll tell you why you can’t attract coloreds,” the secretary proclaimed as his mischievous smile returned. “Because colored only wants three things. You know what they want?” he asked Pat.

Pat shook his head no; so did I.

“I’ll tell you what coloreds want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit. That’s all!”

Pat gulped twice.

Butz resigned a few days after calls were made for his head, but he claimed he did it on his own (that seems unlikely) and that he did nothing wrong.

A few thoughts on reading these:

  • Remember that Pat Boone was himself a nice racist, hired to whitewash the Race Music (as in, Rhythm & Blues and early Rock N Roll that sounded too black) for the innocent White Christian kids across America.
  • Butz clearly outlined his racial animosity, and did so to a reporter and a famous musician. In the open. At a national convention. In the post-Civil Rights era. Don’t think that it isn’t still happening. Paul Ryan may be more careful about his views now, but he’s still racially animositic; in large part because class warfare is his life.
  • Butz was in control of food and production as a kind of supermanager of agrarian companies. What does it mean to black and brown farmers and consumers to have a white racist in charge of food supply and farming justice in the Land of Plenty? Why did it take a directly racist comment to get him fired when he admitted elsewhere that he’d use food as a weapon?
  • Butz was hired by Nixon and stayed under Ford. Until this article spread, no one deemed it fit to question how he operated, only what he said when they were dirty jokes.
  • George W Bush, Reagan and Nixon had a lot of the same characteristics of the Illegitimate President of the United States, but with some charm and/or intelligence and, by degrees only, humility. Many of the safeguards that Trump has taken out or will take out were already proposed or committed by the earlier three. What now is different besides the degree and the speed to which he’s taking it? What sets “p*ssy grabber” apart from Reagan who defunded family planning globally and domestically? I’m convinced that language plays a big part of it. Language and bluster.
  • Like Butz, Trump has no shame. None. Don’t expect Trump to go willingly, either. And since he has no shame and is a blundering racist, sexist, classist idiot, he’s a perfect cover for Republicans who can always say that they were forced to follow Trump, even though they’re informing him and using his bluster as a cover. Expect Medicaid and Food Stamps to be cut, with or without Trump’s blessing. Because food is a weapon.

Radical Muslim Dudes!

In light of the recent extreme acts of the Illegitimate President of the United States of America, I’m thinking of how awful the terms “radical Muslim” and the related term, “radicalized Muslim” are. As a linguist and writer, I’m concerned about words and how they’re handled and understood. Words are symbols and so they mean whatever (social and psychological) power we give them, but words then hold that power and dispense that power. The power of a term such as “radical Muslims” – highlighted by its use in Trump’s defense of his Executive Order banning immigrants from Muslim majority countries – is phenomenal and changes how people not only see, but think about and then act on a group of people.

The word radical generally means “getting to the roots of.” This is at least how many self-avowed Leftist Americans (such as myself) read it. Of course that is not the predominant reading, that largely being somewhat negative and dismissive of activists, due in no small party to American acquiescence to passivity in relation to the status quo. In all of these understandings is a kind of root: That a radical really believes and believes very strongly. Also note when it is used–rarely for something that is considered the norm. We never hear the phrase “radical capitalist” as America and Britain are very radical and devout in their relation to the economic theory. Rather we tend to hear the phrase attached to something that is outside the norm. “Radical communist”. “Radical integrationalist” during the height of Jim Crow and “radical segregationalist” afterward. “Radical pacifist” during war time.

The term is often worn as a badge of honor, the bravery of going against the norms of society. The fundamentalist branches of Christianity that I spent most of my life in loved to be called “radical Christians”. “X Church trains up radical, fanatical Christians” was the motto from one of my churches for a couple years. Radical for Jesus was a way to live, to celebrate an insular community. Christian, Fundamentalist, Born-Again, Bible-Believer, Jesus Freak. A very popular Christian music song from the rap-pop band DC Talk put it, “What would people say if they found out I’m a Jesus freak?” Fundamentalist Christians, radical Christians, should not be afraid or ashamed of proclaiming their beliefs despite a seemingly hostile word. In the US, they were never criminalized nor extradited for stating these beliefs, but that’s what it is..

DC Talk then used the popularity of the song to sell a hip version of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs for the teenage church. The radical Christian is the real, true Christian who is then persecuted by the world for following the real God. This is interpreted as a  positive thing. The problem then isn’t so much the word “radical” but what it is modifying.

As one of my Facebook friends reiterated this phrase “radical Muslim terrorists” on my wall, I can’t help but notice the spread of that specific phrase used by Trump. IPOTUS himself picked it up from its reiteration by the Islamophobic industry before him (which helped propel him to political prominence both through his Birther controversy and then through his Islamophobic comments throughout the campaign) and has spread it like wildfire.

The stigma of the term is now connected insolubly with all those who observe, practice, or are even near Islam, its language, its practices, its appearances.

The term “Islamic radical” assumes that there is something inherently wrong with Islam. Or, more to the point, something wrong with Muslims. Muslims thus are viewed as positive in White Western eyes only in as much as they don’t really believe in Islam (New Atheists have long called non-fundamentalist Muslims “fake Muslims”; believing as Wahhabis do that there is only one legitimate form of Islam. This view does injustice to historical and current Muslims and Islam). And as much as Muslims accrue to Western modes of activity. This view erases Muslim feminism, Muslim liberation, Muslim science and whitewashes Western societies savageries of genocide, hyper-masculinity, and capitalist war-mongering, for starters.*

Islam is seen to be inherently dangerous in itself, despite the fact that it is as large and as diverse as Christianity, that it has many different forms, that most of what we recognize as “radical Islam” such as Wahhabism and related sects are post-modern, illiterate takes on a pre-modern religion and thus stripping it of its historical roots and valid interpretationsto promote a much more violent, reactionary and hyper-masculine version of the religion–not unlike the Fundamentalist Christianity of Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham. The comparisons don’t end there, either. Wahhabism teaches that whoever does not follow its version of Islam is damned, whether or not they were Muslims. Much as the Bible churches I grew up in believed that only those who believed as they do were saved from hell.

True Islam is not represented by the so-called Islamic State any more than the Ku Klux Klan represents true Christianity. In fact, these are not the sole faces of their respective religions, but only relatively small variants therein. The rest of Islam and Christianity should not be refracted through them, but only inasmuch as they differ from their more violent messages.*

Realizing how powerful and dangerous this linguistic term is is important not just against the standard Islamophobe, but against the entrenched Islamophobia, or rather Muslimphobia that is mainstreamed in standard Euro-American discourse and policy. Because if we’re being honest, this ostracizing, expulsion, and detention of American citizens and workers merely due to the predominant religion of their national origins (regardless of their desire to be US citizens) is making militarized versions of Islam more palatable to those being ostracized.

Maybe what we’re talking about isn’t Radical Muslims but Militarized Muslims. After all, the US and its allies are pushing militancy upon Muslim communities with the hyper-surveillance, the drone warfare, the police raids, the anti-Muslim rhetoric, the nearly-universal suspicion. The turning away and detentions. This racist militancy by the United States, by European allies, and especially by the neo-fascists such as UK’s PM May, French pol Le Pen, and our own Illegitimate One work to create a reaction of entrapment that will be worth all the trouble of breaking international treaties because, LOOK MUSLIMS DOING BAD THINGS! never mind the fact that we forced them into that situation.

It’s the self-fulfilling prophecy of the Never-ending War on Terror. Muslims do bad things because we expect them to and then force their hands until a small segment of them breaks off to do bad things. If only we had ended this racist, fake war eight years ago when we had the chance to.

 


*I know that some reader somewhere is going to get the idea to tell me that The Muslims did and do all these horrific things, etc, etc. Yes, they are human. Yes, they were involved in wars and empire-building and slave trades of their own. This isn’t a zero-sum game.

**As a Christian, I’m well aware of portions of mainstream White Evangelicalism that readily connect to theologies that the Klan practiced. It does not delegitimize Christianity as a whole, but helps to pinpoint how theological practices can remain in pockets and cause violence.

Luke, Caged: The Joy of Black Love and the Agony of Police Reform

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Lemme start this spoiler-filled review/hotpiece with the following caveat: I love superhero shows in general. Marvel/Netflix’s Luke Cage was good in most respects. While some reviewers worry about the conservative nature of Cage, you have to take into account that Power Man was no more going after “black-on-black” crime than Daredevil goes after “white-on-white” crime. By nature, superhero stories are inherently conservative in that they focus on the power of a select group of people fighting evil people (who tend to be poor, at least on the street level), rather than fighting evil structures, and rather than focusing the liberation and radical empowerment of the many. In this vein, LC is not any more so conservative than Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man, and in many ways, much less so.

A few other thoughts I had while watching the series.

One, in the Black Lives Matter Age, there is a lot of talk about Black Death, particularly among fellow non-Black folks, but there is not so much talk about Black Life and what that means. The Harlem of Luke Cage, however, is unapologetically Black. It is breathing in the blues, jazz, hip-hop, sports-talk, trash-talk, barbershops, and shared history of Black people in Harlem and throughout the US. The show breathes love of Black people, Black business, Black culture, Black minds, Black ingenuity, Black sex (despite the awful coffee jokes). Black love. These are not just bodies in the street, but lived lives.

Add to the mix that the blackness experience is not singular here. Early on, we have three different perspectives for what it means to love Black Harlem in a White Supremacist Capitalist world: Cottonmouth’s with money, his cousin Councilwoman Mariah’s with political power, and Pop the Barber’s with interpersonal relationships (later we also hear from good-but-suspicious cop Misty Knight about protecting from bullies using the law, but, well…). Unlike later villain Diamondback, none of these characters is cartoonish in their perspectives. They all have redeeming qualities not only with their personalities, but also with their perspectives. They’re all trying with what they know and how they exceed.

Two, after the police conduct a racialized stop-and-frisk brutalization of Harlem youth culminating in one of them being beaten in an interrogation room, I felt abjectly cheated. There was no justice for Lonnie Wilson – who we mutedly met in the first scenes – despite his face being torn up and bloodied by the police. And while that one cop – a bad seed – was put on leave pending an investigation, the commanders and supervisors who ran and sanctioned this operation and who left this child alone in the hands of this violent man in a tight room were free to run about their day, making justifications for their racism.

Three, under the direction of Councilwoman Mariah Dillard at a rally in her nightclub, the BLM protests are completely undone. No, contrary to White imagination, they do not turn violent – at least in the sense of destroying property. Instead, politician-cum-underworld master “Black Mariah” turns their rage against the police force into one of empowering the police with even more deadly weapons. She reminds her audience that the real threat is not the police but Cage, whom in a bit of J. Jonah Jameson-inspired blurb she calls a superpowered “menace.” Councilwoman/gun-runner Dillard appeases the conscience of racist police by reassuring listeners that the police were merely shook up themselves because they too were afraid of LC. If only they had better weapons, the reasoning explicitly goes, they would leave us good people alone.

But that’s not how the police referred to the “blacks and Hispanics” of Harlem. “The good people in Harlem have no problem with me. Just the assholes.” But the police weren’t even shaking down known troublemakers (which should have been questioned anyway). Apparently, being a young black or brown male in Harlem makes you an asshole, worthy of being hurt. Blackness means not only should you be feared, but that you should fear.

By nature, superhero stories suspend disbelief. But only so far. We can never trust the physics put before us, but we want to follow the psychics – the characters’ believability – of these stories. We need to believe that these are human beings – that they are us in a world where Einstein and Newton are tossed out the window. The fact that these protesters sided with Mariah in arming rather than disarming the police was not just poor writing – it was a punch to the gut. Are people really this dumb? Can we bend realism that far?

Can a group protesting police brutality against black people really go to demanding that the police be given more resources for their victimization? And then I remembered that’s how most politicians are spinning the Black Lives Matter movement now – whether they support Blue Lives Matter laws or they tell protesters that they need to vote, not boo. Hell, compare what the neoliberal wing of the wider BLM movement did with Campaign Zero with the much more roots-deep Movement for Black Lives.

What Is a Microaggression in the Era of Black Death?

A few days ago, I noticed one of the trending topics on Facebook was a story about a Black actress who tweeted something after getting a patronizing greeting while boarding her flight in first class. I recognized it as a microaggression on the part of the employee, but I thought it was not just petty for that employee to respond in such a way, but also petty for the actor to tweet about it, and petty for it to become a trending topic.

I’ve lately been caught up in the political measures and actions that disproportionately and devastatingly affect material realities for people and communities of color, particularly poor ones. The ways that Midwestern governors are stripping the social safety net on a daily basis. The Blue Lives Matter law when the practice of police lynchings of black people has become public. The recent gutting of the Fourth Amendment by five of eight Supreme Court Justices. Using capitalist-style competition (which is not how the Capitalist Class operates but merely how they have us operate) to dismantle and destroy public schools in Detroit and, frankly, everywhere else. Islamophobic police strip searchesPre-crime policing of black and brown youth in Chicago. The Puerto Rican debt crisis. The fact that gun control is being used to further police and surveil Muslim and Muslim-misidentified communities and people.

These stories were not trending on Facebook.

And this isn’t even hinting at the militarization of security at airports that targets people of color and people with disabilities.

And so I continued the trend of pettiness and surpassed the previous levels of petty pettiness by posting the story and pettily adding the petty lines “BFD” [“Big Fucking Deal”] and “*rolls eyes*”. A friend confronted me on it, and I’m grateful to her because it re-grounded me.

I had to confront what in me (outside of just a crappy mood for personal reasons) positioned me to such pettiness. Part of it was the material realities outlined above. But then there were three other takeaways as well:

  1. While microaggressions themselves may seem minor, a thousand papercuts are lethal, and dozens take their exhaustive toll on an already-exhausted public body.
  2. The metaphor is reality. I say this as an English teacher and as a student of society and racial realities. In this case, the metaphor denying and policing space for People of Color is intricately connected to the public and societal policies denying and policing space for People of Color. A black woman feels a patronizing slight against her having a seat in first class? Look into who tends to occupy those seats; they are rarely black people. While the employee may not have intended to send the message that  Danielle Brooks doesn’t belong in the luxury portion of the airplane*, that is still the message. A White Christian makes a joke about a Muslim woman being a suicide bomber, but it’s a joke get it – no harm done! Except that the harm is done and that is to publicly police private people whenever and wherever the State and corporations have yet to exclude, detain, or kill them. In point of fact, the whole Donald Trump campaign is wish-fulfillment to turn microaggressions into public, perpetual policies.
  3. This one is just a reminder for me and all the other white (and white-passing) people: I don’t experience racial microaggressions** so maybe I should be reverential around the issue?

*Intentions are often a red herring that center the story back on white people and their presumed innocence rather than on the system of White Supremacy and how it daily affects people of color

**Being called “white ass” in grade school and having people stare me down in my own neighborhood because I don’t look like I belong doesn’t really count. While they happen, they’re far too infrequent to be at the level of irritant and they are not connected to, say, lynchings or redlining, respectively.

Land, Dispersal, and Culture without People

Gentrification is a social force with its own reasons, justifications, and rules. It is one of the last remaining engines of blatant racism left to prosper openly in Northern and liberal urban areas like Chicago, New York, LA, and Portland. A primary reason for its thriving despite the harm it causes Black and Brown people is that gentrification is an economic powerhouse. But another driving reason is the very fact it harms Black and Brown communities.

That is to say, especially since the 1960’s, we’ve not liked organized poor people. And the one resource that poor people have when the capitalists have stolen our labor power and landlords, taxes, service companies, and mercs have taken what’s left, is organized power. The management political class in our communities do not represent us – they serve other powers, higher powers: namely, organized money. So the greatest wheel-house we have left for political power is the ability to be and the manifestation of being organized. That is how we survive. When people have little else, we depend on each other. Institutions serve their own self-survival needs, so while the poor often have access to institutions, the institutions are not at their beck-and-call; they tend to follow and obey the money. Often, our connection with economic and social institutions is of exploitation. Being very poor is to be marginalized from and within economic and social institutions even when they are ostensibly for our service.

However, if we only asked the city to merely deliver meager social services and fix potholes, the engines and friends at city hall would not mind so much. But when we demand that things be taken care of, that the wheels of justice be churned in our direction, that we receive jobs and programs, that the cops stop harassing and killing our young ones, that our parks are maintained, that our schools are furnished, lit, full of trained, positive teachers, books, and toilet paper, then the city, being first and foremost an extension of the bourgeoisie, aim to destroy our mechanisms of power and protest. That is to say, our communities.

We can of course afford to resource the communities after People of Color leave it*, but to do so while they reside here is to use government coffers.That, to neoliberals, would be too much welfare. Apparently, investing in communities is only ok if done with private money backed by public funds when there is private money to be made. That way, money stays fluid and can be detached from communities. As liberal economist Paul Krugman put it while talking about Puerto Rico recently (emphasis mine):

The safety net is there to protect people, not places. If a regional economy is left stranded by the shifting tides of globalization, well, that’s going to happen now and then. What’s important is that workers be able to find opportunities somewhere, and that those unable for whatever reason to take advantage of these opportunities be protected from extreme hardship.

[h/t to Rod Thomas for the find]

Of course this understanding erases place and the reality of a people connected to that place. It removes land from community and community from land.

For Puerto Rico, this is troubling for many reasons. While Puerto Ricans from the mid-20th century until currently have tended to migrate continuously between the island (colony) and the mainland (colonizer) – with my neighborhood Humboldt Park being a mainstay in the ever-transition – Puerto Rico is rightly considered home to most BorinquenXs. Their current debt crisis is a divestment leading to an undoing of the collective, spiritual home while gentrification was a divestment that lead to an undoing of the communitative, material home.

So, land of poor communities can not be protected, thus poor communities cannot be either. Somehow we can protect the people without protecting their communities. This is White Neoliberal Thought in action.

But not only that, we’ve learned we can also keep the legacy of the cultures of people of color alive, while at the same time killing off the communities of people of color. We can in effect maintain Latin-American drinks at prices most LatinXs cannot afford in an area currently swiping itself clean of LatinXs.

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MUCH LATIN! via Chicago Eatery

According to hyper local site DNAinfo/Chicago, “Estereo Bringing Latin-American Drinks, Vibe To Logan Square.” This is a very nice gesture from the same restaurant group that brought us such authentically LatinX restaurants as “Sportsman’s Club, Lone Wolf, Bar DeVille and Pub Royale among others” as Logan Square (adjacent to Humboldt Park) is running out of Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and various other LatinXs/Latin-Americans. I mean, what kind of vibe do LatinXs produce in their own space anyway, rite?

What this story and location eventually reminded me of was the habit of Indian mascotry, where American sports corporations, capitalists and fans claim to “honor the legacy” of Native Americans while parading around as cartoon versions of Natives. Meanwhile, actual, human Natives live in abject poverty on ‘trust’ lands overseen by the US government. These topics are not in the least unrelated.

The Homestead Act gave collective Indian land to private, White citizens of the United States. The way they were able to maintain this control and keep this control for White Supremacist Capitalism is by erasing all other people from ownership of the land.

LatinXs and Black Americans have “culture” that White America can mine while stealing their work power, detaining them, and dispersing them like riot police. Effective redlining, mass incarceration, immigration raids and sending back refugee children to their imminent deaths are only a part of the tactic. What does it mean that Black and Brown Americans always have worked the land but rarely own the land? When they do own land, they are dispersed from it via gentrification.

American Empire continually steals Indian lands. Think of pipelines and water rights. Think of the lack of sovereignty of Indian spaces. Meanwhile its inhabitants and corporations steal Indian “culture” (How many folks say their great-grandmother is half-Cherokee and spout ridiculous “Indian” chants? The ‘sexy Indian’ costume) and turn a people into mythological cartoons and costumes.

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And it’s not just conservatives, sports fans, and Dan Snyder that do this racist mascotry.

Gentrification – retaining cultural elements while destroying or erasing the community that it is situated from – is consuming to destroy.  It is a win-win for racist capitalism: consuming of land and cultures of color and an assassination of communities of color.

Gentrification is cultural genocide.


  • A different argument should be made for white rural areas that were jutted after mining. It’s a different engine itself and looks and works differently, but some of the same factors are in play. In this case, public resources stripped for private profit and delivered to public consumption using wage slave labor. And, now what?