“On July 3rd, 1863 Mdewakanton Dakota Sioux Little Crow and his son Wowinapa were foraging for berries on their traditional lands in Minnesota, when they were spotted by Nathan Lamson and his son. Minnesota had recently enacted a law that paid a bounty of $25 for every Sioux scalp. Little Crow was killed while his son escaped; Little Crow’s scalp was put on public display in St. Paul, Minnesota while his body was transported back to Hutchinson where it was again mutilated by the citizens. His body was dragged down the town’s Main Street while firecrackers were placed in his ears and dogs picked at his head. After their celebration, the town disposed of the body in an alley, where ordinary garbage was regularly thrown.”
‘ […] The fate of the white working class has always been bound with the condition of Black workers. Going as far back as the American colonial period when Black labour was first imported into America, Black slaves and indentured servants have been oppressed right along with whites of the lower classes. But when European indentured servants joined with Blacks to rebel against their lot in the late 1600s, the propertied class decided to “free” them by giving them a special status as “whites” and thus a stake in the system of oppression.
Material incentives, as well as the newly elevated social status were used to ensure these lower classes’ allegiance. This invention of the “white race” and racial slavery of the Africans went hand-in-glove, and is how the upper classes maintained order during the period of slavery. Even poor whites had aspirations of doing better, since their social mobility was ensured by the new system. This social mobility, however, was on the backs of the African slaves, who were super-exploited.
But the die had been cast for the dual-tier form of labour, which exploited the African, but also trapped white labour. When they sought to organise unions or for higher wages in the North or South, white labourers were slapped down by the rich, who used enslaved Black labour as their primary mode of production. The so-called “free” labour of the white worker did not stand a chance.
Although the Capitalists used the system of white skin privilege to great effect to divide the working class, the truth is that the Capitalists only favoured white workers to use them against their own interests, not because there was true “white” class unity. The Capitalists didn’t want white labour united with Blacks against their rule and the system of exploitation of labour. The invention of the “white race” was a scam to facilitate this exploitation. White workers were bought off to allow their own wage slavery and the African’s super-exploitation; they struck a deal with the devil, which has hampered all efforts at class unity for the last four centuries.
The continual subjugation of the masses depends on competition and internal disunity. As long as discrimination exists, and racial or ethnic minorities are oppressed, the entire working class is oppressed and weakened. This is so because the Capitalist class is able to use racism to drive down the wages of individual segments of the working class by inciting racial antagonism and forcing a fight for jobs and services. This division is a development that ultimately undercuts the living standards of all workers. Moreover, by pitting whites against Blacks and other oppressed nationalities, the Capitalist class is able to prevent workers from uniting against their common class enemy. As long as workers are fighting each other, Capitalist class rule is secure.
If an effective resistance is to be mounted against the current racist offensive of the Capitalist class, the utmost solidarity between workers of all races is essential The way to defeat the Capitalist strategy is for white workers to defend the democratic rights won by Blacks and other oppressed peoples after decades of hard struggle, and to fight to dismantle the system of white skin privilege. White workers should support and adopt the concrete demands of the Black movement, and should work to abolish the white identity entirely. These white workers should strive for multicultural unity, and should work with Black activists to build an anti-racist movement to challenge white supremacy. However, it is also very important to recognise the right of the Black movement to take an independent road in its own interests. That is what self-determination means. […] ‘
Excerpt from “How the Capitalists Use Racism”, from the book “Anarchism and the Black Revolution” by Lorenzo Komboa Ervin
(by Ajamu Baraka at Black Agenda Report)
Anti-Black racism, always just beneath the surface of polite racial discourse in the U.S., has exploded in reaction to the resistance of black youth to another brutal murder by the agents of this racist, settler-colonialist state. With the resistance, the focus shifted from the brutal murder of Freddie Gray and the systematic state violence that historically has been deployed to control and contain the black population in the colonized urban zones of North America, to the forms of resistance by African Americans to the trauma of ongoing state violence.
The narrative being advanced by corporate media spokespeople gives the impression that the resistance has no rational basis. The impression being established is that this is just another manifestation of the irrationality of non-European people – in particular, Black people – and how they are prone to violence. This is the classic colonial projection employed by all white supremacist settler states, from the U.S., to South Africa and Israel.
The accompanying narrative is that any kind of resistance that does not fit the narrow definition of “non-violent” resistance is illegitimate violence and, therefore, counter-productive because – “violence doesn’t accomplish anything.” Not only does this position falsely equates resistance to oppression as being morally equivalent to the violence of the oppressor, it also attempts to erase the role of violence as being fundamental to the U.S. colonial project.
The history of colonial conquest saw the U.S. settler state shoot and murdered its’ way across the land mass of what became the U.S. in the process of stealing indigenous land to expand the racist White republic from “sea to shining sea.” And the marginalization of the role of violence certainly does not reflect the values of the Obama administration that dutifully implements the bi-partisan dictates of the U.S. strategy of full spectrum dominance that privileges military power and oppressive violence to protect and advance U.S. global supremacy. The destruction of Libya; the reinvasion of Iraq; the civil war in Syria; Obama’s continued war in Afghanistan; the pathological assault by Israel on Palestinians in Gaza and the U.S. supported attack on Yemen by the Saudi dictatorship, are just a few of the horrific consequences of this criminal doctrine.
Race and oppressive violence has always been at the center of the racist colonial project that is the U.S. It is only when the oppressed resist — when we decide, like Malcolm X said, that we must fight for our human rights — that we are counseled to be like Dr. King, including by war mongers like Barack Obama. However, resistance to oppression is a right that the oppressed claim for themselves. It does not matter if it is sanctioned by the oppressor state, because that state has no legitimacy.
No rational person exalts violence and the loss of life. But violence is structured into the everyday institutional practices of all oppressive societies. It is the deliberate de-humanization of the person in order to turn them into a ‘thing’ — a process Dr. King called “thing-afication.” It is a necessary process for the oppressor in order to more effectively control and exploit. Resistance, informed by the conscious understanding of the equal humanity of all people, reverses this process of de-humanization. Struggle and resistance are the highest expressions of the collective demand for people-centered human rights – human rights defined and in the service of the people and not governments and middle-class lawyers.
That resistance may look chaotic at this point – spontaneous resistance almost always looks like that. But since the internal logic of neoliberal capital is incapable of resolving the contradiction that it created, expect more repression and more resistance that will eventually take a higher form of organization and permanence. In the meantime, we are watching to see who aligns with us or the racist state.
The contradictions of the colonial/capitalist system in its current expression of neoliberalism have obstructed the creation of decent, humane societies in which all people are valued and have democratic and human rights. What we are witnessing in the U.S. is a confirmation that neoliberal capitalism has created what Chris Hedges called “sacrificial zones” in which large numbers of black and Latino people have been confined and written off as disposable by the system. It is in those zones that we find the escalation of repressive violence by the militarized police forces. And it is in those zones where the people are deciding to fight back and take control of their communities and lives.
These are defining times for all those who give verbal support to anti-racist struggles and transformative politics. For many of our young white comrades, people of color and even some black ones who were too young to have lived through the last period of intensified struggle in the 1960s and ‘70s and have not understood the centrality of African American resistance to the historical social struggles in the U.S., it may be a little disconcerting to see the emergence of resistance that is not dependent on and validated by white folks or anyone else.”
The repression will continue, and so will the resistance. The fact that the resistance emerged in a so-called black city provides some complications, but those are rich and welcoming because they provide an opportunity to highlight one of the defining elements that will serve as a line of demarcation in the African American community – the issue of class. We are going to see a vicious ideological assault by the black middle class, probably led by their champion – Barack Obama – over the next few days. Yet the events over the last year are making it more difficult for these middle-class forces to distort and confuse the issue of their class collaboration with the white supremacist capitalist/colonialist patriarchy. The battle lines are being drawn; the only question that people must ask themselves is which side they’ll be on.
I’ve been reading a lot in recent months about Murray Bookchin’s influence on Kurdish revolutionaries. So the other day, I picked up a copy of his book The Limits of the City to begin exploring some of his writings. (I chose this, out of his many books, because I’m currently interested in agrarianism and urbanization, and was curious to see his take on these topics.)
Bookchin is totally on point regarding the harmful social/environmental impacts of the modern city. I appreciate his discussion of how geographic/material arrangements (specifically the modern, industrial-capitalist urban environment) shape our social structures, and how radical restructuring of our built environment must be a core part of our efforts for revolutionary social change.
However, many of his views are horribly ethnocentric — reinforcing the standard colonial “civilized/savage” dichotomy, and devaluing non-urbanized cultures.
For instance, on the very first page he states:
“Cities embody the most important traditions of civilization. Owing to the size of their marketplaces and the close living quarters they render possible, cities collect those energizing forces of social life that country life tends to dissipate over wide expanses of land and scattered populations. Seasonal renewals of nature that send hunters and food gatherers on migrations and reclothe the works of the peasant are replaced in cities by a more palpable heritage. From a cultural standpoint, the land, years ago, was regarded as fugitive, the city as permanent; the land as natural, the city as social. While this dichotomy may be greatly exaggerated, it is certainly true that the fulfillment of individuality and intellect was the historic privilege of the urban dweller or of individuals influenced by urban life. Indeed, some kind of urban community is not only the environment of humanity: it is its destiny. Only in a complete urban environment can there be complete people; only in a rational urban situation can the human spirit advance its most vital cultural and social traditions.” [emphasis added]
The “most vital cultural and social traditions”, we are told, are those of city dwellers. The people (savages) who live in the countryside are “scattered”, lack our “energizing forces of social life”, have not had the opportunity to fulfill their “individuality and intellect” and thus do not have as “palpable” of a heritage. They are in short, incomplete and undeveloped – they are not fully human. Land-based cultures have not been erased (and replaced by urbanized environments) because of imperialism and genocide — they have gone away because it is humanity’s “destiny”.
Bookchin later goes on to say (pp. 6-7):
“For all its collectivism and strong bonds of solidarity, tribal society was surprisingly parochial. Based on kinship, however fictitious its reality, the tribe rooted its affiliations in lineage ties or what I call the “blood oath” […] The city, by contrast, over a long period of development, created a more universal terrain — the realm of the citizen. Civic rights depended upon residence rather than a shared ethnic background […] In any case, it formed the arena for the emergence of a common “humanity” rather than a parochial “folk”. Here, the ‘stranger’ could first find a home and the protection of laws, and later, citizenship as one among equals, not the arbitrary treatment that characterizes the status of visitors to tribal communities. From a distance of millenia, it is hard for people to realize what a social and cultural revolution this step out of the lineage system proved to be. Aside from the sense of universiality it produced, the variety and openness to different cultural stimuli it created made the city the most powerful civilizing factor in human history. The origin of the word ‘civilization’ from ‘civitas’ is not accidental: it authentically reflects the emergence of a distinctly human culture – universal in its scope – from city life as such.”
Bookchin talks about “the tribe” as if there was only one way of living outside of the city/civilization. He speaks of a homogenous “tribal society”, rather than thousands of diverse cultures with wildly different ways of living. His mythical tribe was “parochial”, living by the so-called “blood oath” (a figment of Bookchin’s imagination). He dehumanizes those who live outside of urban areas, and negates their cultural achievements. “Civilized” city dwellers, he claims, are “distinctly human”, and the culture they have created has grown to be “universal in scope”. What he fails to mention, though, is the means through which it has attempted to make itself universal: i.e. the genocide and erasure of “uncivilized” land-based cultures; the theft/enclosure of common lands and resources; warfare and economic desperation driving people into the cities against their will.
In a bizarre reversal of reality, he paints city dwellers as peaceful, thoughtful, and just – speaking of how legal systems of “human rights” ensure that people are treated fairly and kept safe. This is in contrast to tribal folks who treat people (especially foreigners/strangers) in an “arbitrary” manner . Bookchin talks as if the political rhetoric of “equality” and “rights” are actually representative of lived reality.Without looking at historical/anthropological evidence, he blindly accepts as true the claim that people who live outside the city are a bunch of violent barbarians. However, if one looks at empirical evidence, they will find that the opposite is true: city dwellers are vastly more violent, experiencing much higher rates of inequality, rape, murder, torture, addiction than land-based, communal cultures. Xenophobia and racism are the product of the “civilized” colonizers, not of indigenous societies.
Clearly Bookchin is basing his analysis on “commonsense” beliefs held by many city-dwelling colonizers who have not taken the time to seriously research any indigenous, land-based cultures. Reading this kind of racist, ethnocentric writing makes me skeptical about the quality of the rest of his analysis …
—Luis Alberto Urrea, The Devil’s Highway
(by Rania Khalek via Electronic Intifada)
Following the release of the film American Sniper in theaters across the US, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has warned of a “significant rise in violent hate rhetoric targeting the Arab and Muslim-American communities.”
The ADC believes the threats “are directly linked to the negative media coverage and hateful propaganda launched against the Arab and Muslim communities following the attacks on the Charlie Hedbo offices in France” earlier this month. But the civil rights organization notes that racist threats have intensified in the wake of American Sniper, with moviegoers taking to social media to express their desire to murder Arabs and Muslims after leaving the theater.
Having both watched the movie and read the book on which it is based, I am not the least bit surprised by the incitement it has spawned. American Sniper is brilliant propaganda that valorizes American military aggression while delivering Hollywood’s most racist depiction of Arabs in recent memory, effectively legitimizing America’s ongoing bombing campaigns across the Middle East.
American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, is based on the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, reputedly the deadliest sniper in American history.
Replete with hatred, bigotry and unrepentant bloodlust, Kyle’s book boasts of killing 160 Iraqi “savages” during his four deployments in Iraq following the illegal US invasion and occupation in 2003.
“Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq,” Kyle writes in his book.
“I only wish I had killed more,” he writes, adding, “I loved what I did … It was fun. I had the time of my life.”
“They hated us because we weren’t Muslim. They wanted to kill us, even though we just booted out their dictator, because we practiced a different religion than they did,” adds Kyle, who goes on to confess, “I don’t shoot people with Korans – I’d like to, but I don’t.” In Kyle’s mind, all Iraqis who resisted the invading US soldiers were irrationally violent religious fanatics.
In stark contrast, Hollywood sanitizes Kyle, humanizing him as a complex, likable and anguished hero.
Following the movie’s debut in select theaters on Christmas Day, author and journalist Max Blumenthal and I were deluged with death and rape threats for tweeting our disgust with Hollywood’s glorification of a mass killer and exposing the racism and lies espoused by Kyle. Although Kyle’s most ardent supporters claim to hate ISIS and al-Qaeda, they often call on these terrorist groups to behead critics of US military aggression.
The movie has since broken box office records, grossing $105 million during its nationwide opening and garnered accolades from across the political spectrum (Vice President Joe Biden said he wept at the Washington, DC premier). In addition, the movie scored six Academy Award nominations.
Frustrated by the glorification and whitewash of a racist mass killer, I posted passages from Kyle’s book on Twitter, highlighting his hateful and homicidal statements and drew attention to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim threats the movie was inspiring, all of which I compiled into a Storify that went viral.
While the canonization of Kyle on the big screen is appalling, the movie’s whitewash of the US destruction of Iraq and its racist portrayal of Arabs has proven to be far more dangerous.
The US destruction of Iraq left an estimated one million Iraqis dead, 4.5 million displaced, five million orphaned, some two million widowed and birth defects and cancer rates significantly worse than those seen in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Japan at the end of the Second World War. The US war on Iraq also fueled the rise of ISIS. This immeasurable suffering is completely erased from the narrative presented in American Sniper.
In the opening scene of the film a conflicted Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) is perched on a rooftop with an Iraqi mother and child in the crosshairs of his sniper scope. He watches the mother give the child a grenade to throw at a US marine convoy. He reluctantly seeks permission to shoot.
Suddenly the screen cuts to Kyle as a child hunting with his father in Texas. Another scene shows him at church. Next he’s at the dinner table.
“There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs,” says Kyle’s father. “Now, some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world … those are the sheep. And then you got predators who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those who have been blessed with the gift of aggression, and the overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed that live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.”
For the rest of the movie Kyle is the sheepdog, the protector, the hero. And Iraqis are the evil wolves he must put down to protect the lives of his fellow “sheepdogs.”
Next we see Kyle as an adult. We watch him fall in love, get married and join the SEALs. Then the Twin Towers fall and he is deployed to Iraq, a narrative that leaves the poorly informed with the impression that Iraq was involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks, the very lie that the Iraq war was predicated on. This false narrative is reaffirmed when al-Qaeda appears in Iraq on Kyle’s first tour in 2003, a revisionist history that conflates indigenous armed resistance to a foreign occupier with a terrorist group that attacked the United States. In a country where 43 percent of Americans still believe that Iraq was connected to the 11 September 2001 attacks, perpetuating this falsehood, even if unintentional, is reckless.
Eventually, we return to the scene in the movie’s opening. Kyle shoots the child to save the Marine convoy. The mother runs towards the felled child, collects the grenade and prepares to launch it in the direction of the soldiers. Kyle shoots the woman dead at mid-launch. The grenade explodes before it reaches the soldiers.
“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls, his mother gives him a grenade and sends him out there to kill Marines,” says an agonized Kyle. “That was evil like I’d never seen before.”
This black and white, good versus evil theme continues throughout the movie’s entirety. US soldiers are humanized. They have names and families, fiancées and children. And they return home with deep physical and psychological wounds, whereas the local Arab population, including the women and children, are depicted as terrorists. The only time Arab women and children are innocent victims is when they are being brutalized by scary Arab men, but even they are nameless figures.
(Source: Rania Khalek, “‘American Sniper’ spawns death threats against Arabs and Muslims“. Electronic Intifada. 22 January 2015)
“I’m very much concerned with how the history of the southern freedom movement or civil rights movement is portrayed. And, I’m very conscious of the gaps in the history, and one important gap in the history, in the portrayal of the movement, is the role of guns in the movement. I worked in the South, I lived with families in the South. There was never a family I stayed with that didn’t have a gun. I know from personal experience and the experiences of others, that guns kept people alive, kept communities safe and all you have to do to understand this is simply think of black people as human beings and they’re gonna respond to terrorism the way anybody else would. …The southern freedom movement has become so defined, the narrative of the movement has become so defined by non-violence that anything presented outside that narrative framework really isn’t paid that much attention to. I like the quip that Julian Bond made…that really the way the public understands the civil rights movement can be boiled down to one sentence: Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, then the white folks saw the light and saved the day.”
–Charles E. Cobb Jr., “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible”
“Blue Lives Matter” was the caption displayed in large letters on MSNBC, yesterday, when discussing the assassination of two NYPD cops by a Black man, the day before. CNN and all the rest of Empire’s networks have been holding a vigil ever since those killings. They have interviewed just about every member of those officers’ families, as well as their friends, colleagues, relatives and current and former police commanders, commanding officers and police “unions”. They have read letters written by their children, saying goodbye to the killed officers. They have shown their spouses crying. They have displayed the vigil by the police, standing in military formation, saluting their fallen comrades, as if an enemy combatant in Afghanistan has killed two of the occupying army, which we, as Americans, are obliged to mourn and feel angry at the enemy who dared to kill two of our own “brave men”. To humanize an otherwise inhuman police force whose main job is the repression of the occupied poor, who beat and kill unarmed and innocent members of the working class, every single day, with total impunity, which at times seems to even surpass the impunity of US occupying armies overseas, the media of the occupiers and corporate thieves have been showing, nonstop, the supporters of the police mourning and lighting candles and saying how good and brave those cops were. The commentaries and the message they convey are unmistakable: blame the protesters who are demanding change and justice for victims of the racist police.
The networks and the politicians they interview have been referring to the killed officers as “brave men who put their lives on the front lines everyday, to protect and serve their community”. This is what the media that’s owned, controlled and in the service of the 1%, want people to believe: that the police are there to “protect and serve the people”, not protect the class of the super wealthy from the wrath of the oppressed, beating and brutalizing and killing them, everyday, on the streets, to keep them in line and in leashes, out of fear that they may rise up and demand justice.
Compare the incredible display of sympathy by the corporate media for those two cops with their treatment of innocent young Black men who are regularly killed by the police. Not only do they not show any such sympathy for them, they actually try to dehumanize them, by digging up and mentioning past “troubles with the law”, putting THEM on trial, instead of the viscous and racist police who killed them. Where was their reading of letters of the children of Eric Garner? Where was their interviews of his widowed wife and his aunt and friends and relatives and neighbors and people who do similar work to his, etc, as they did with the children and relatives and friends and colleagues of the dead cops?
These shameless double standards and hypocrisy are not accidental. What the Empire’s media and politicians are trying to do is to use the killings as an opportunity to push back against the protests and their legitimate demands for change that are taking place nationally. The goal is to blame, discredit and put in the defensive the protests for heightening “tensions”. They view this incident as an opportunity to gain the upper hand in the minds of the people, to increase the support for the cops, which is understandably at record low, to justify their brutality and to end the anti-police protests.
–Sako Sefiani, “On the Killing of Two NYPD Police Officers”