Jackie Wang: Color-blind racism and “crime”

The liberal color blind paradigm of racism submerges race beneath the “commonsense” logic of crime and punishment. This effectively conceals racism, because it is not considered racist to be against crime. Cases like the execution of Troy Davis, where the courts come under scrutiny for racial bias, also legitimize state violence by treating such cases as exceptional. The political response to the murder of Troy Davis does not challenge the assumption that communities need to clean up their streets by rounding up criminals, for it relies on the claim that Davis is not one of those feared criminals, but an innocent Black man. Innocence, however, is just code for nonthreatening to white civil society. Troy Davis is differentiated from other Black men — the bad ones — and the legal system is diagnosed as being infected with racism, masking the fact that the legal system is the constituent mechanism through which racial violence is carried out (wishful last-minute appeals to the right to a fair trial reveal this — as if trials were ever intended to be fair!). The State is imagined to be deviating from its intended role as protector of the people, rather than being the primary perpetrator. […] The insistence on innocence results in a refusal to hear those labeled guilty or defined by the State as “criminals.” When we rely on appeals to innocence, we foreclose a form of resistance that is outside the limits of law, and instead ally ourselves with the State.

–Jackie Wang, “Against Innocence”

Identity, politics, and anti-politics: a critical perspective

“Identity politics [has become] a central part of the contemporary United States political order. This is especially true in the liberal reformist movement, where organizations such as the NAACP, HRC, and NOW are prominent. With their successes in political reform, they (and many other identity-politics organizations) have become embedded in the dominant political discourse. It is here that we encounter one of the main problems of identity politics: the groups which sought to challenge identity-based oppression have instead merely entered into a partnership with those who benefit from oppression. This partnership concerns the ability to define the political agenda for a certain identity. This is clearly demonstrated in the queer community by the HRC, with their push for hate crime laws, marriage, and military service. These demands show that the HRC has accepted the logic of and requested partnership in the government and the marketplace. Essentially, the HRC is fight­ing for assimilation into, rather than the destruc­tion of, a system that creates and enforces the very oppression they are allegedly struggling against.”

–‘Phil’ in Pink and Black Attack #4

Phil Ochs: Shady liberals …

“In every American community there are varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects, ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally. Here, then, is a lesson in safe logic.”

–Phil Ochs

What Nelson Mandela Can Teach Us About Violence

Nelson Mandela ... graffiti ... violenceWhen journalist and commentator Chris Hedges decried “violent” anarchists as a “cancer” in the Occupy movement, the violence he had in mind amounted to little more than a few smashed commercial windows.

Ample digital ink has been spilled in the last day by smart observers urging against the whitewashing of Nelson Mandela’s past. In the eyes of his fervid opponents, and many of his fervent supporters, Madiba was a radical, and a violent one. Compared to the militant actions Mandela would countenance and support from his African National Congress, what gets deemed “violent” or “militant” in the U.S. today is both laughable and problematic. On the occasion of the death of a great and violent man, it seems worthwhile to discuss what does and does not get deemed “violent” — and by who, where and when.

It’s beyond the purview of these paragraphs — and to be honest, I’m tired of the hackneyed polemic — to address whether violence, especially politically motivated violence, is ever justifiable or commendable. Instead, I’ll simply posit that violence is itself a moving goalpost. In the contested terrain of political struggles, however, it’s safe to say that any acts posing a threat (existential, ideological and wherever the twain meet) to a ruling status quo will be deemed violent. Even an act as minimal as a smashed Starbucks window can pass muster here — spidering cracked glass serves as reminder to those who might notice: “We do not consent to a gleaming patina; shit’s fucked up and bullshit.”

But I’m not going to weigh in on the ethics of revolutionary violence. To do so would miss how the concept of violence operates in our society: We erroneously isolate certain acts to deem “violent” or “nonviolent” — then “justifiably violent” or not, and so on — and in so doing we miss that there’s never a singular “violence”: there’s an ongoing dialectic of violent and counter-violent acts.

It’s within such a dialectic that we understand Mandela’s support of violence. His relationship to armed and violent struggle is nuanced and certainly not unique to him. He knew counter-violence was necessary in his violent context. He has also expressed that he and his ANC comrades prioritized the reduction of harm to human bodies. For Mandela, violence was a tactic. As Christopher Dickey noted, “when it came to the use of violence, as with so much else in his life, Mandela opted for pragmatism over ideology.” […]

The deifying and sanitizing of Mandela reflects an all-too prevalent “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) mentality, often adopted by the white liberal commentariat. (The ass-backwards, explicitly racist opinions of the right-wing are not my focus here. Take it as read: they suck.) My friend Garrett Ramirez has written about what he calls the “Nonviolent In My Backyard” tract of NIMBY — a position occupied by Chris Hedges and Rebecca Solnit, among others. As Ramirez noted of this sort of NIMBY liberal, “Yes, of course, they celebrate militant, spontaneous, non-bureaucratic grassroots uprisings outside of U.S. borders, even if they’re as physically close as Oaxaca or politically close as London. But as soon as the insurrection gets to their neck of the woods, suddenly we must have everything in triplicate, blessed by the elders, and executed quietly and even ‘neatly.’”

The parameters, by NIMBY reasoning, of acceptable or justified radical violence expand as the struggles in question are grow farther from U.S. soil, and when the event is separated by years and decades. We imprison today’s whistle-blowers and canonize yesterday’s insurrectionists. But (and here’s the trick) the ability to do so is premised on the belief (even a tacit one) that our current context is not so bad, but dissent, militancy and violence is fine there and then — just Not In My Backyard.

NIMBY liberalism rejects the background violence of its own context — the structural racism, the inequality, the totalized surveillance, the engorged prisons, the brutal police, the patriarchy, the poverty, the pain. A smashed window, a looted store, a dented cop car can be read as “violent” now only because a certain NIMBYism fails to see such (small) acts as counter-violent responses to ubiquitous violence. Heroic and necessary violence is reserved for distant lands and completed revolutions.”


By Natasha Leonard (Salon)

Read full article at: http://www.salon.com/2013/12/08/what_nelson_mandela_can_teach_us_all_about_violence/

See also: Mandela Sanitized by Mumia Abu-Jamal