Neither Liberal Nor Reactionary: Throwing Down for Racial Justice
In engagement with the black power movement and the current spotlight on race relations in America, we call on white radicals to take direct action in the fight against white supremacy and police violence. The actions that have taken place since the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson have shown a strong anti-authoritarian tendency nationwide, and reflect the larger sense of a rupture in the traditional acceptance of police and state power. It’s important that anarchists and radicals engage strategically to widen the current window for militancy. Within these actions, it is important that white radicals, in particular, are intentional in their defiance of white supremacy and hierarchy within our own communities. We call on radicals and anarchists to respect a diversity of tactics, including--and especially--the inherent right of all communities to self-organize. With that in mind, we present the following proposed goals and intentions:
Build genuine relationships- Show solidarity with organizers and activists within the black power movement without stealing or over-shadowing their voice. Be active without trying to define the struggle or by tokenizing those involved. Black people are not a homogenous social, political, or economic body. The diversity of demands, intentions, and tactics expressed in black communities is reflective of that fact. The only possibility of providing meaningful resistance lies in our ability to discern and navigate those internal complexities. Find those who you share affinity with and build real relationships with revolutionary actors while respecting their autonomous organizing. Keep each other informed of your organizing strategies without compromising the security of one another. Work to have strategy check-ins develop into a reciprocal practice based on mutual respect and solidarity. This will be built through shared struggle, and it is the onus of white radicals to begin this process.
Do your own research- Develop and maintain knowledge of the current and past struggles to find meaningful ways to contribute. There are many historical and contemporary examples from black autonomy movements that have been successful in building revolutionary culture in the neighborhoods they organize, through self-defense, community projects, political education, networking, mutual aid, etc. Do not be persuaded by liberal ally politics which encourage you to be silent and stand back. Ally politics are born from the idea that white people cannot be active agents in the fight against white supremacy, but only passive observers. This is often coupled with respectability politics, portrayed as non-violence to pander to the whims of the media. Such politics seek only the inclusion of oppressed communities into capital, state and white supremacy, not the abolition of those structures. Submitting to silence and inaction is complicity with the dominant paradigm.
Take social risks- Call out other white radicals when they perpetuate the forms of oppression you are working to dismantle, and be receptive to criticisms levied towards yourself. Concede that white radicals are not the frontline or the center of the struggle, and acknowledge the long history of oppression in black communities, which continues today. We have a lot to learn from it, and it is white supremacy on both the left and right that has marginalized those struggles.
Actually contribute to the fight- Create networks of mutual aid; put in whatever effort or resources you can and only take back what is necessary. Maintain the principles of mutual aid through survival programs that enable autonomy, as opposed to charity. Engage in projects that have something concrete to contribute to the struggle as a whole, such as:
- Prisoner solidarity
- Meeting/living space,
- Print shops,
- Resource/skill sharing
- Self-defense collectives
Earn trust, don't expect it- Follow through with commitments and build trust through action, not words. Debrief after actions. Review wins and failures candidly so that new tactics can be developed, or working strategies can be reinforced. Keep in mind that even if an action goes well, there are always things that can be learned. White radicals should also remain conscious that their ability to selectively engage in race struggles is rooted in white supremacy, and inconsistently engaging is a perpetuation of it. Do not be offended if organizers from minority communities expect your contribution to be minimal and fleeting; that is the unfortunate legacy of white liberal engagement. Earn respect by staying in the fight and contributing meaningfully.
Build intentional community- Actively work on building a community of resistance. Open space for others to engage and radicalize at their own pace. Solidarity can be built without compromising an anti-authoritarian position. It can be useful to identify sympathizers within liberal institutions (ACLU, NGOs, unions, universities, etc.) as a non-reciprocal means of gathering resources for the movement. These should be used both to further our own organizing and that of our colonized comrades, who often do not have access to these covertly white supremacist institutions. It is important not to play gatekeeper with these contacts or resources, but to make them accessible to the struggle as a whole. Recognize when and where your resources can be applied and be pro-active.
Reject reactionary behavior- Consciously reject hyper-militancy that fronts as being "hard" or that is intended to build social capital. Do so by not adopting more incendiary and militant language than fits each situation or action. Calls for violence against people will result in disproportionate police response to minority communities. Militant call outs that are clearly unable to result in more militant actions will lead to increased police repression, as well as unnecessary arrests. Radical and militant actions can (and do) take place without hyper-aggressive posturing. Do not glorify hyper-masculinity or conflate it with militancy. This mindset frequently comes from white cis males, and furthers the oppressive dynamics of patriarchy and heteronormativity within the radical milieu. Finally, resist being drawn into the liberal notion of deferring our own autonomous organizing to reactionary/authoritarian forces simply because they may be led by people of color.
Prepare for repression- Learn security culture and tactics to be cautious, but not paranoid. When using black bloc, remember that it is a tactic and not a costume. Know when and where it is appropriate to use. Avoid arrest whenever possible. Arrests feed money to the state, deplete the number of people able to engage, and drain resources from the community. If a comrade is arrested, share their jail support information and be there when they get out. The prison system is traumatizing and violent; build community around comrades who have experienced it to protect them.
Do not disengage- Be prepared for continuous confrontation with the state and white supremacy, and not just short actions in the street. The ritualism of only engaging in symbolic protests is a hangover from liberal/middle class activism, and there is nothing inherently strategic or revolutionary about it. Revolutions occur when the bonds between people are greater than the fear of the state. Build intentional community. Think beyond street actions; strategize for a long-term fight against the state, capitalist interests, and the right wing elements in your community. Self-defense takes many forms and should be pro-active. In the end, the way we engage in self-defense will define the difference between speaking to power and speaking through power.
Know your enemy- Make strategic decisions about how to confront police and other state power, but resist blaming comrades for violent reactions of the state. Do not contribute to police violence against others by informing, defending, or collaborating with law enforcement. There are no safe interactions with the police. Take responsibility for persistently educating newer radicals about the dangers of interacting with law enforcement. Fuck with the cops through evolving tactics, creativity and close-knit communities. Build real connections within your community by making those relationships both socially and materially based. It is impossible for us to fully know our enemy without first knowing who our friends are. Do not let paranoia or suspicion lead you to build intentionally exclusive communities; these become echo chambers. Rather, let your contribution be the building of confidence, the deepening of connections and the cultivation of trust, all of which is what makes genuine militancy and action possible.
Liberation will not come overnight or within a few months; it will come after years of intentional community building, education and enormous changes in the way that radicals engage with the struggles that they don’t implicitly share. We must understand that full anarchism is not on the horizon unless we can undergo the same maturing process that other revolutionary movements around the world have had to go through. The current window of opportunity must be kept open, as it allows the rare chance to break down some of the racial barriers that divide us. There has already been a shift in the mainstream discourse about what struggle looks like, as riots and freeway blockades are even being defended by liberals, and Rolling Stone is promoting police abolition. People are becoming more aware of the stark reality of institutionalized white supremacy that is taught by the schools, reinforced through American pop culture, and maintained through the armed violence of the state. The very concept of “America” has always been based on colonial genocide and slavery, sustained continuously through class war and white supremacy. The forms of oppression change over generations to support the myth of the “long march to social justice.” Slavery and Jim Crow era lynchings have given way to the commodification of prison labor, and the death of a black man every 28 hours at the hands of police and racist vigilantes. Colonization continues as indigenous folks fight for cultural recovery amidst ongoing genocide and governmental land grabs. In so-called “America,” we are not living only with the scars of slavery, but with the open wounds of white supremacy.
Anarchist organizing is often about creating space where our efforts, failed or otherwise, create revolutionary camaraderie and hope. With material support, strong communication and accountability, not all of our goals are impossible. Our most direct responsibility in the current struggle is to combat white supremacy within our own communities. There will be missteps on both sides as movements and the people involved mature. Be prepared to develop an articulate strategy and tactics to identify and dismantle local power structures. This also means that we have to recognize our own limits and act deliberately to conserve energy and resources. Encourage new actors to engage strategically, communicate honestly, and reject any compromise that fails to confront white supremacy, capitalism and the state. It is an enormous responsibility to continuously resist oppression and apply pressure as the system continues to fracture. There are no shortcuts or “right” answers. White radicals must demonstrate solidarity through long-term, consistent, and sustainable engagement. There won’t be a thousand people in the street every time, but the building that is done in between actions will make the most impact. Mistakes are inevitable, but good preparation, honest self-criticism, and an open mind will reinforce the strength of our resistance. Dismantle white supremacy in your own understanding of the world first, then in your community, and then help others to do the same.
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