Letters, Spring 2000
Race Traitor welcomes your comments and will be publishing selected excerpts of correspondence in these pages. Editorial responses are posted in red.
This is some of the most critical writing of our time. It is absolutely necessary. Few people are willing to recognize and renounce their whiteness with its concomitant privileges. To be white, and to therefore be considered part of the white club, while simultaneously reacting to white discriminatory remarks and actions against nonwhites as if one were not white is demanding, and at times dangerous, work, but essential in the struggle to help create a world in which we all can truly be a part of. I, myself, have been deficient in disturbing the laws of whiteness on occasion: sometimes due to power relationships, and other times remaining quiet, partly to explore the biased minds and partly because I feel unable to affect any change in their thinking. I wonder how we, as New Abolitionists, can succeed without a real profound change of thinking on the part of many whites, i.e., before all people can be looked at as equals, or as James Baldwin says, "before white people learn to love themselves."
David Hollander, Verona, New Jersey
Hi to all of you at Race Traitor. You are doing a Great Job. Keep it up. I'm here at the Colony working in seclusion but people are sending me good stuff and keeping me plugged into some great essays.
I hope you will be so kind as to forward this letter to James Murray whose article appeared in Race Traitor last winter. I have many people trying to track him down through various articles he has written.
Carolyn Chute, Parsonsfield, Maine
Responses to RACE TRAITOR 9 (Surrealist Issue)
Hunger for More
I came across the Surrealist Issue on the New Abolitionists/Race Traitor website. . . Having grown up in one of the most conservative right-wing areas of South Africa during apartheid and being of European descent, it took me a long time to overcome many of my prejudices, and I still have many to work on.
I have been and am very active working on prison issues in the Bay Area of California, as well as "anti-racism" causes, but in my heart I felt that this was just not enough - there was and is a hunger for more, which I realize I had found when I came across Race Traitor.
Lara Johnson, Oakland, California
In reading Surrealism: Revolution Against Whiteness I was impressed by the analysis. . . . Needless to say, my curiosity has grown regarding the Surrealist Movement, not only for its political stance, but because many of the surrealists are either poets, writers, painters, or musicians. And I am a musician. In fact I am a jazz drummer with over 30 years experience playing with known and unknown bands and groups. Also I am (good or bad) a writer and dabble in poetry. So I find this to be something of communality.
"Notes on Surrealism as a Revolution Against Whiteness" contains some interesting points. For example: "None of the surrealists in the 1920s seem to have made a special study of race." They had "no plan," they were "improvising, making their own way on uncertain terrain." True jazz is improvisation. It is from the heart and from the soul. It is something that has no written rules of structure yet is pure and open and honest to the listener. This is what I felt when I read this passage, and this is what I am feeling as I read more and more about Surrealism.
Needless to say, I am sharing this material with other comrades here and turning them on to it. Most of the reactions I have gotten thus far are very favorable. I have even found some whites here to find it interesting and, after reading something, in deep thought. Hopefully they are re-evaluating what they have been programmed (like machines from birth) to artificially believe as true.
In the trenches, Ali Khalid Abdullah #148130, Saginaw Correctional Facility, 9625 Pierce Road, Freeland, Michigan 48623
Editors' note: For a packet of writings by Ali Khalid Abdullah, and information on the organization he has founded (Political Prisoners of War Coalition), send $3.00 to Cynthia Ritsher, P.O. Box 554, Lincoln, MA 01773.
What an exhilarating, liberating issue of Race Traitor! I didn't even know there was and is such a surrealist presence in the U.S. Now I want to know more.
Harris Sussman, Boston, Massachusetts
Replete with Potential
The Surrealist Issue of Race Traitor excites me no end, leaves me tossing and turning at night, and provokes much thought, confusion and tension. It makes me feel how deplorable the ruling cultural-economic-technological system really is, even more than I ordinarily feel its deplorableness. Interestingly, the angle of surrealism has worked long enough on me that when I read of the ills of our time from the perspective of "storm the walls and free everything" surrealist tracticians, I am empowered. . . . On the whole, the world still appears as replete with potential as it does with oppressive cultures. So I guess I still feel hopeful! Thank you, surrealists.
As to the introductory article on the 1920s Paris surrealists and other bits and pieces on early surrealist activities related to race treason: I am amazed at their "forward thinking." I understand the surrealists of Paris, being European in upbringing, needed to look far and wide across the continents to find "humanity" or "convulsive emotion" to repair what was done wrong to them by the misfortune of their having been born and raised in 19th century France. They were marvelous in their power to heal themselves of the socially-inflicted self-hatreds of white supremacy and Eurocentrism as well as capitalism, fascism, miserabilism, etc.
The Madrid Surrealist Group's essay, "Beyond Racism: The Role of Poetic Thought in the Eradication of White Supremacy," came into my heart rapidly and directly. I am convinced the poetic/ political agenda of the surrealists could restore western peoples.
Florence Blake, North Conway, New Hampshire
I am writing with two purposes in mind. The first is to congratulate you on your very timely "Abolitionism and the White Studies Racket" (No. 10, Winter 1999). I share your unease with the mounting volume of "research" that reads like materials recycled from the much more readable and original Journal of Popular Culture with the burdens of poststructuralist and postmodernist jargon added and the label "whiteness" slapped on it. You are right that much of this stuff just oozes with contempt for the poor and working class people whose cause these scholars claim to be championing.
My second purpose is to add a footnote to an overly modest segment of "Surrealists on Whiteness - from 1925 to the Present" in the splendid special issue on Surrealism (No. 9, Summer 1998). My old friend and comrade Franklin Rosemont writes that the Surrealist Group in Chicago was organized in 1966, and then recounts some of its anti-racist activities after that date. While this may be true in the formal sense, what Rosemont's account omits is what I remember of the actions of members of the Surrealist community dating from a few years earlier. For those of us who were students at Roosevelt University there was the formation of the unselfconsciously multiracial and multicultural Anti-Poetry Club. In addition to its interventions into the cultural and political life of the campus, it earned the honor of being banned by the president of the university as one consequence of a multiple flag-burning that was part of a presentation by Joffrey, an African American poet, anarcho-pacifist and Roosevelt alum.
Even more significant was the support of members of the Surrealist community for the more militant wing of the civil rights movement in Chicago. On at least two notable occasions in 1963, comrades from Roosevelt put their bodies on the line when direct action was called for. The first was the demonstration led by a group of younger Black activists against the participation of Mayor Richard Daley in a meeting of the national convention of the NAACP in Grant Park in early July. Bob Green, active in the Anti-Poetry Club, and I found ourselves at the head of a crowd of hundreds of angry citizens who joined in expressing our disapproval of statements made earlier by the Mayor to the effect that "there were no ghettos in Chicago" and that the NAACP was welcome to visit the city, but was not needed. Bob Green also provided the portable hand-operated mimeo machine that enabled us to produce leaflets on the spot outlining the reasons for our protest. Later in that summer several members of the Surrealist community joined in the picketing of Reverend Wilbur Daniel, president of the Chicago chapter of the NAACP. This action which took place outside of his church prodded him into taking a much stronger stance against the racist policies of the city government.
It was actions such as those coupled with their genuine love of and respect for the history and culture of African Americans, and their understanding of the necessity of African Americans setting the terms of their struggle, that placed Franklin and Penelope Rosemont, Bob Green and the others whose names are lost to me in time, firmly in the camp of what you now call the New Abolitionists. The valuable issue on Surrealism tells us some of the contributions of Surrealists to the struggle against racial oppression. For those of us who know them and their work, there is much more yet to be told.
John Bracey, W.E.B. Du Bois Dept. of Afro-American Studies, Amherst, Massachusetts