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(en) US, November 2004 issue of Wildfire - On Donovan Jackson and White Race Traitors Who Claim They`re Down - by Heather Ajani and Ernesto Aguilar

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 23 Nov 2004 18:53:40 +0100 (CET)


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Can the white-left really end whiteness and to the benefit of whom?
This question is crucial to consider as anti-authoritarians and other
revolutionaries forge a path to freedom. Even with the "new” race
consciousness being infused into the anarchist/radical left, the
color of these politics is still white. Banners, slogans, political
statements, articles, etc. all continue to claim that struggle is
maintained against all forms of domination, but for whose freedom?
Such perspectives color the ways many white people see the world.
From the composition of movements to heinous instances, like the police
abuse of Donovan Jackson, white radicalism leaves much to be desired.

The case of white 'race traitor' politics, and derivatives like Bring
the Ruckus, is an adequate example of this. In brief, 'race traitor'
advocates seek to popularize “defection” of whites from
privilege. BTR takes the 'race traitor' philosophy up in making to
“break up this unholy alliance between the ruling class and
the white working class by attacking the system of white privilege
and the subordination of people of color” its organizational
priority. Unfortunately, for all the radical pretensions, such
formations maintain aspirations that are liberal at their core. Focus
on singular 'treason to whiteness' hint to the individualism of such
concepts, and implicitly fail to accept white mass unity around
race. Even BTR’s "death star" theory, (meaning that if
strategic focus is placed on race, which it believes is the weakest
point of the American project, the whole system will crumble)
puts whites in the center of the struggle, rather than focusing on
those who are oppressed by whiteness, and grasping that the key
ruptures in American society have (and will) come as a result of
communities' of color uprisings.

White 'race traitor' theory is wholly based on the participation of
white folks, and refuses to consider the reality people of color
worldwide already understand: masses of whites won't give up
their privileges, and will fight to defend the empire to the bitter
end. Sadly, white 'race traitor' politics are one of a few theories
explored by the white left because of its seeming militancy and
often catchy rhetoric that theory huggers tend to embrace. This is
not to say that it isn't in some context a valuable resource, but to
base one's politics on one view that whites have somehow been
thwarted from participation in revolutionary struggles because of a
deal made between bosses and workers is a cop-out symbolic of
the very privileges that the theory seeks to critique.

The following quote can be found in a piece by Roy San Filippo on
the police beating of Donovan Jackson. While some of the
sentiments are fair, such perspectives should remind people of
color of the inherent flaws in white 'race traitor' politics.

"When Donovan Jackson, a Black youth, was brutally beaten by a
white police officer in Inglewood, California last summer, the
incident was caught on videotape by Mitchell Crooks, who is
white. A revealing twist to this incident lies in the fact that the first
two people arrested in connection with this incident were Jackson,
the Black victim, and Crooks, the white man whose videotape
exposed the police brutality. In this moment we see enforcement
of the color line by the state twice: first in the all too common
form of police abuse in the Black community and secondly in the
form of the harsh retribution against the person who exposed one
instance of that abuse. Crooks’s act was an instance of race
treason—when a white person violated an unspoken rule of
whiteness by actively opposing the state’s attempt to enforce
the color line, a transgression of the norms of whiteness that the
state took so seriously that Crooks was promptly incarcerated.
Why are such acts of race treason so threatening? Because the
enforcement of the color line is predicated on the belief that the
state can determine who is a friend and who is an enemy by the
color of their skin. By attacking the institutions of white
supremacy and flagrantly violating the norms of whiteness, the
state would no longer be able use white skin as reliable determiner
of who is a friend and who is a foe to the existing society,
undermining the separate deal that the white working class struck
with capital."

Audacious? Certainly, but when followed by the bulk of an article
on strategy and choices, it borders on appropriation.

The assumption a white man is videotaping cops to stick it to his
white sisters and brothers is a leap of faith; more likely, like
numerous recent police tapings, aimed at another motive. It is
highly unlikely Mitchell Crooks, the white guy with the camera
was patrolling his neighborhood because of swelling numbers of
police brutality cases among black youth. In fact, he filmed the
incident from his hotel balcony on his vacation.

Crooks didn't give up his privilege. He used the safety of his skin
privilege as well as his distance from the incident to film it. He
didn't go to the gas station where Donovan Jackson and his father
were and risk his physical being in any way. It is true that he was
arrested because of the tape and this deserves to be explored, but
exploiting the situation to develop a politic that is nearly
impossible to put into practice because of its ramifications to those
with privilege, is abhorrent.

Herein, we return to the core questions at hand: can the white left
end whiteness, and to the benefit of whom? Historically, the bulk
of participation by whites in revolutionary struggle has been based
on either religious or moral reasoning rather than revolutionary
politic, and that participation has also been contingent on
furthering the strength of this empire with the infusion of values
like justice and equality, rather than seeking to destroy it. It's true
that we need to build a strategy against systems that are
oppressive, that perpetuate hegemony and domination, but the
San Filippo piece, and the approach of groups like BTR, make the
discussion of race too dependent on the participation of whites.

Discussions on racial oppression should be led by those who
suffer as a reality of those oppressions. This means the
responsibility lies with people of color to step up to the theory
plate, as well as for white people to stop co-opting the struggles of
internalized colonies for their opportunistic benefit. People of
color need to build our own critiques, strategies and visions for
our communities, for our lives; whites need to step back and
realize when they're asserting their own control over our lives and
visions. If people of color rely on traditional models of the
white-led academy and the “politically enlightened” and
white-led left to create more white acculturated rhetoric around
race, we will never overcome the ramifications of how it is
structured.

Imperialist expansion has fostered growth of the radical left and,
to a lesser extent, race consciousness. Yet the white avoidance of
culpability, which people of color have long criticized, remains the
same. Seemingly contradictory arguments can't cloud the picture.
Even a potentially doomed focus on race by white-led groups for
white masses (and the ensuing debates on strategy and focus that
such positions inevitably ignite among the bookstore set) fail to
obscure, for people of color at least, that someone's avoiding who
needs to be the focus of and leading the discussion on race
politics.

Bring the Ruckus' mythology of the Donovan Jackson case --
where the white male rises up against the empire from the
comfort of his hotel balcony, a few hundred feet from where the
Black youth gets from white folks what many Black youth before
him have -- is the kind of petty romanticism that pervades white
'race traitor' politics. Such chauvinism can no longer be
acceptable, not that it ever was.

Both Heather Ajani (a founding member and co-author of the
original Bring the Ruckus statement) and Ernesto Aguilar are
former members of Bring the Ruckus and are currently involved
in Anarchist People of Color organizing.
======================================
About the zine
Wildfire: A Chronicle of Oppressed
People's Organizing is a monthly
publication in support of and solidarity
with the anarchist/autonomous people of
color movement. Your writings, feedback,
art and participation are welcome and
appreciated. Send email to
apoc@illegalvoices.org.
APOC Website:
www.illegalvoices.org


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