From Anarchy In The Burbs (USA)
Negotation does not work. This is based on simple, accessible histories. Look at the endless efforts made by non-profits, “leaders,” activists, and other organizations to negotiate with the oppressive system and its agents. There have been endless city council meetings attended, petitions signed, calls made, and emails sent to try to get those in power to listen to the needs of the people. Few material gains have been made for such large efforts. Negotiation will probably only work when we can leverage material power that originates from our own terms, instead of engaging on the terms of their own playing field.
Shaming officials goes nowhere. Politicians, mayors, and other officials obey the logics of capitalism and white power; they have no other mandate than making sure these systems operate efficiently. Yelling “Shame!” at cops or guilt-tripping politicians does nothing because they have no conscience: they only go through the motions set in place by capital and white supremacy. Feelings belong to humans, not to agents of the state; they don’t care about us, the state only cares about itself. Systems of oppression are not dismantled by appeals to emotion, logic or ethics; they’re dismantled by material action.
Visibility is a trap. Many times, we think that “shedding light on this community” or “finally getting the representation that this group lacked” are forms of liberation. In fact, becoming palatable or assimilating into the power structure (and its forms of representation) is counter-productive. We end up becoming shunned, fetishized, and ostracized in the spaces where we see “Black and brown faces in high places.” In fact, the same people who “represent” us typically end up reproducing the same violent white supremacist structures that they vowed to undo. Visibility is a trap because it is all about appearances: the surface of the power structure changes, but underneath, it runs just the same way it always has.
Existence is not resistance. We have all heard this cliche before: to take up space and proclaim your position, usually in an environment where your presence is not welcomed. However, this falls into the same issue of visibility and appearances: your presence in a white, upper-class or prestigious space is not a sign of radical change, but rather the recuperation and re-legitimization of the space itself. Instead of questioning the validity of such spaces in the first place, this position assumes that the presence of marginalized people in these spaces signifies freedom for all marginalized folks. This is not true, because the space co-opts your unique existence, continues to take on a material life (i.e. individualism, capitalism, etc.), and does not care about our collective existence.
You cannot speak truth to power. Similarly, your actions are not a “voice” for the “voiceless.” A lot of the time, we may think that well-thought-out and convincing arguments will cause a shift in power relations. But power operates mechanically and logistically, outside of the will of bureaucrats. Discourse works to help communities themselves create meaning for each other and communicate needs. But attempting to use discourse to disrupt power is like screaming into an empty void. In fact, those in power like to parrot the same words and discourses that people in social movements create, such as Sanders or AOC who shout “Abolish the Police” only to vote in favor of its funding. To power, we must speak in the only language it will ever understand: the language of action, of disruption and destruction.
My struggle isn’t your struggle. (Or, mi lucha es tu lucha.) We all have very different experiences, and even if we share the same identities with others, this does not translate into the same kinds of politics or desires. Black experience in the US is a struggle of its own, and non-Black people should not try to make it seem like their experiences are entirely relatable, even if you are a POC. This also extends to the lived experiences that vary across gender, skin color, ability, class, etc. We can find common ground not by homogenizing communities, but rather by identifying the common enemy and attacking it simultaneously. The different experiences that we live all share the same, material source; let’s start there.
We do not need white allies. White accomplices are preferred, however. But white people should not be at the forefront of our movements or at actions. We are the only ones who can and should be liberating ourselves from white supremacy, fascism and capitalism. When we learn the methods of fighting back against oppression, we do not need to rely on benevolent white people to stand up for us. In fact, we should never rely on them; instead, we should learn to have each other’s backs as non-white communities.
Peaceful protest will not be effective. Peaceful actions DO NOT grant us any moral leverage or mainstream acceptability by power. In fact, many people still think that the Civil Rights Movement was peaceful, but it was not peaceful. It only made partial gains because of the threat of Black militancy and self-defensive violence. For example, explore the histories detailed in the following books: This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible by Charles E. Cobb Jr. and also We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement by Akinyele Omowale Umoja.