Letters, May 2000
The New Abolitionist welcomes your comments and will be publishing selected excerpts of correspondence in these pages. Editorial responses are posted in red.
Destroying white roots
You present your case very well concerning the risks of teaching whiteness as ethnic identity, but you failed to inform in your newsletter what actually transpired in the class ("Inventing White Roots," Jan./Feb. 2000). Would you endorse, for example, a curriculum centered on the writings of David Roediger, author of The Wages of Whiteness?
The facts of whiteness are so comfortably internalized among white citizens, in general, that we find ourselves unable to believe that we benefit in materially tangible ways from a white-supremacist social system. I say we, because my own skin tone falls among the very lightest shades of the spectrum.
You entered the dialogue wonderfully with public appeals in the press, but now that the course his been killed, or derailed, where will the dialogue go? The very nature of responses, from white students and liberal intellectuals, which you describe as a groping for something good in whiteness, is strongly indicative that we still need to have whiteness unmasked for us.
New Abolitionist responds: We would happily endorse any class that teaches about white supremacy, and any such class should include Roediger's excellent Wages of Whiteness. The problem with the class was that it was not teaching white supremacy, but "white roots." The former has a very real and very tragic existence in this nation, but the latter is as much a fraud as the notion of a biological white race itself.
As far as where the dialogue goes from here, we hope it will lead to further resistance to these sorts of classes.
David Duke recently announced the formation of the National Organization for European American Rights. Sam Francis, the guy who took over Pat Buchanan's column and serves on the board of the Council of Conservative Citizens, recently said, "We as whites ... need to reassert our identity and our solidarity, and we need to do so in explicitly racial terms, through the articulation of a racial consciousness as whites." We ask those people who wish to preserve "white culture" what is the substantive difference between their position and Duke and Francis's?
Whiteness is a pit of snakes: if you jump in to find a pretty one you'll soon find the whole mess crawling up your leg.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of listening to Noel Ignatiev speak, then after the talk, I picked up a copy of the New Abolitionist.
Your article on Euro-American Roots class is right in many respects, but I think there's something more a Euro-American class can offer than just the history of American culture as a whole or white supremacy. One thing we do know is that race is a fabrication. Just as the Mexicans are really Native Americans, Spaniards, and those of mixed descent, so are Europeans.
Europeans come from two very separate nodes of the Indo-European family tree, the Indocelts and the Nordoslavs. The gene frequency of the Celts as a whole, at one time, was probably closer to the Indians, Italic, and Greeks than it was to the Nords or Slavs. Linguistically, they are separate. I'm sure the mish mash between to separate populations merging goes back to the dawn of humankind, but I do think understanding Celtic, Nordic, Italic, and Slavic heritage is useful.
The Celts and Nords, the two major reputed ancestors of the white race, both have legends of their gods not only marrying those of other ethnicities, but of actually being the product of mixed unions. By modern "white purist" standards Odin would be a half-breed, as well as most of the other Nordic gods. Ethnic endogamy was not an important issue to the early Celts and Nords. Interestingly enough, the Nordic prophets predicted the end of their own people, and claimed it was necessary to move forward, and I think this is useful knowledge. I think all Americans should be interested in our Nordic heritage. Even most African Americans have this heritage, so they too are part of the Nordic tradition which believed ethnic mixing was perfectly acceptable.
Besides white supremacy being an issue worthy of study, so is white oppression. The Roman Empire and Arabs, at one time, use to buy Angles and Slavs as slaves. This history of whites being oppressed goes all the way up to America's indentured servitude. When those who label themselves white realize not only what American culture is, but the true history of Europe and their oppression, they may be able to better relate themselves to the sick oppressive system we live in.
NA responds: What you write about Euro-American roots is interesting, but we challenge the basic premise of your point: You assume that Nordics, Slavs, "Indocelts," and "Italics" are white. This is not true. They didn't become white until they came to America. The origins of the white race lie not in Europe but in colonial America in the mid-17th century. It was created as a way to control both enslaved and "free" workers in the colonies. (See Theodore Allen, The Invention of the White Race Vol. II for more.)
The notion of "white oppression" doesn't make any sense. Britons and Slavs were enslaved by Romans and Arabs, as you say, but they weren't white because no white race existed in ancient times. An ancient Briton would not have seen a Slav as a fellow "white." She may have seen a fellow slave - and felt empathy and solidarity based on that shared identification - but she wouldn't have seen a fellow white.
Whiteness is nothing more than a category of oppression, like aristocrat or bourgeois or slaveowner. The fact that most whites also suffer from exploitation doesn't change that. Digging up the actual histories of exploited whites in this country can be useful, but trying to say that the oppressed of the ancient world were white, too, only confuses matters.
I really appreciated the article by Joel Olson on "Inventing White Roots" in the Jan./Feb. issue. White supremacy has permeated almost every amerikan institution in existence, so there will be programs emerging throughout this country to promote its lifespan. Their groups are building in vast numbers due to a wide variety of psychoses and a need to belong. They don't have a clue that they themselves are victims of this government just as New Afrikan people are in this racist country.
Your newsletter is on point and I want to continue to see more well-written articles inside it.
Khalfani X. Khaldun 874304 / SN Leonard McQuay / 23-4D / Pendleton CF / PO Box 30 / Pendleton, IN 46064
A plea for information
Where can I find more information about the white people and what they have done to us?
On the WTO
Editors' note: We received a copy of the "final issue" of a free one-sheet newsletter, called Weapon, including an article "Dead Cops," "Pacifists Attack WTO Protests," "Under Surveillance," and other things. The following note came with it: "
Hey. Loved your WTO coverage and your bad attitude in recent New Abolitionist. I have no idea what you mean when you say "white" or "black." Every word has many meanings, often simultaneously. As best as I can tell I'm white, even though I think Nat Turner and old John Brown are heroes. Anyhow, careful with your new Weapon.
Joe, Eugene, Oregon
A few thoughts on your WTO article:
1. Yes, the anarchists and allies played an important role targeting the cops. The same or similar dynamics were played out in Seattle as were done at the Pentagon in '68, draft resistance centers, anti-War/pro-NLF marches. I think the debate is good after nearly twenty years of mind-numbing propaganda about violence and bad people. We must remember this context, especially as how it's played out to heighten white privilege and a genetic view of current U.S. society, i.e., white supremacist ideology. Overall, all the bodies in Seattle opposing WTO counted, even if some of those bodies were less than radical.
2. The Black community, along with the Latino and Native American communities - all the oppressed, colonized nations inside the U.S. - are targets of WTO-style globalization. Part of the marginalization strategy is to push them off the edge of the WTO planet. While one may ask why Black political forces did not relate [to the protests], perhaps the better question is why did not the anti-WTO forces that were there have this consciousness of the genocidal pressure on the colonized nations?
3. To say shout "anti-white" slogans is not particularly organizing. I think one needs to speak of anti-white supremacist ideology and take on white privilege, which as we know is a big leap for those who enjoy that privilege. It's not been a strong point of anarchists in U.S. for a very long time, if ever.
But it would be righteous for anarchists to resist this aspect of collaboration with the system. That can only be realized by supporting and acting in solidarity with Black Radical movement and groupings. How about asking what are the agendas of the Black political organizations and responding in solidarity to those?
Marilyn Buck 00482-285 / 5701 8th St. Camp Parks B / Dublin, CA 94568
As a long-time anarchist organizer and activist, I'd like to respond to the questions you asked in your article in the January/February issue of The New Abolitionist.
I know this is an obvious point to make, but it addresses a lot of the issues you brought up: there is no homogeneous group or community of black radicals or anarchists. I'll not belabor this point - I'm sure most New Abolitionists and anarchists are aware of the diversity which exists within American society.. Inevitably, some black radical groups work on issues that many anarchists are opposed to. For instance, most anarchists are just as opposed to black capitalism as they are to white capitalism. Or black nationalism.
Most anarcho-activists recognize the danger of entering different communities and evangelizing there. This is elitist and can also be interpreted as being racist, since so many anarchists are white.
I'm sure there were plenty of black and brown faces in the labor marches during the WTO protests in Seattle. Why were there so few black people involved in the street battles? I think the main reason is that if there had been a large, vocal, visible presence of black radicals occupying streets and fighting against the police, the SPD would have fired real bullets instead of the rubber, plastic, and wooden ones they used. As the white cop I'm in prison for assaulting is fond of pointing out, during the Rodney King riots in L.A. he "finally got a chance to shoot some of those motherfuckers." In addition, blacks arrested for the same crimes as whites during the Seattle riots would likely be facing serious jail time, whereas most of the charges against the white folks are being dismissed.
Yet even with the threat of this heightened level of repression hanging over them, letters and other accounts of the WTO protests I've read state there were many black and other non-whites involved in the fighting from the first day and on through the week. I find it quite indicative of the racist, elitist attitudes which need to be challenged and overcome by lefty activoids that white middle-class "pacifist" demonstrators beat back black youth who attempted to loot Niketown, and even grabbed one or two of them to hold until police arrived to arrest them. Luckily, the liberal assholes got what they deserved and the kids escaped.
From an anarchist perspective, the New Abolitionist movement suffers from tunnel vision. The main focus of your movement seems to be inclusion. The latest advancement in anarchist critique describes civilization as a global deathcamp. Would equal opportunities in hiring and promotion within a deathcamp make its continued existence acceptable? To some people it would.
The sad thing about most American radical groups is that they do not even attempt to address this argument. The result of inclusion into the mainstream of industrial civilization puts black radicals in the heinous position of being responsible for the obliteration of the few remaining village community societies left on the planet - mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Not only should these societies be preserved at all cost, they should be recognized as being the ultimate achievement of human existence.
Despite the differences inherent in reaching out to and struggling alongside of people who have very different perspectives concerning their priorities in life, anarchists are coming into contact with people outside their own. Many anarchists are rejecting the privileges their middle-class backgrounds offer in order to pursue a much simpler way of life. This has put anarchists into places they've been missing from for too long - seasonal farm-labor camps, urban drug-war zones, impoverished rural communities, and jails, right alongside their new-found neighbors.
With resources and do-it-yourself- skills to share with the other downsized folks, anarchists are developing alliances with prisoner support groups, police monitoring organizations, people awakening to the concept of environmental racism, and are taking advantage of excess food production to feed hungry people. Slowly the barriers are being overcome and strong ties are bing made to communities who have previously seen anarchists as white kids "slumming."
One thing the New Abolitionists and anarchists have in common is their need to get away from campuses and put their ideas into action. We could also do well by avoiding making sweeping generalizations about people, whatever community they identify with. For instance, I am an anarchist, but I am neither young, nor white. I'm Mexican - not Spanish, Mexican.
Rob Los Ricos
aka Rob Thaxton #12112716 / OSP / 2605 State St. / Salem, OR 97310
The Black church
Your web site says "abolish the white race." Sounds murderous, but the way that is accomplished without violence and bloodshed is in the Bible: "One Flock, One Shepherd."
Translation? Easy. We need all "seek" and become One by social interaction, intermarriage, interfaith worship of God, and by circumvention of media bullshit about each other.
I say if you're white, get ye to a church of color, and see for yourself what being brought up since childhood to honor your ancestors, your spouse, to nurture your children, and worship your God is really all about. My Bible studies have proven to me that there are no more spiritually "truthful" folks than African Americans, no matter what the media says.
If you're black, no matter how lousy you've been treated by white society, make a point of finding someone white and learning their name, and somehow try to get "in their head" in a friendly way, which will show them that what they have been "programmed" to believe about folks of color by our "overseers" is bullshit. This can be done with help from the Son.
I cannot stress enough the importance of white folks at least once attending a Black service, any black church service. The power is there, if you care. Folks just need dare!
They love us...
I can't get enough of your publication. It's fresh, It's radical, It's right on time. However, in my opinion you need to expand your definition of whiteness. First, as a Black woman operating in a racist society I see more people aligning themselves with white group-think in order to promote their own racist socio-economic political agendas. In Denver, where I live, many "Hispanics," "Indians," Asians, and Stepin Fetchit "Negroes" are the worst harbingers of anti-Black racism. In addition, Black women are frequently targeted as vents for their racist hatred. Second, there are plenty of charlatans and dilettantes who have jumped on the Critical Race Theory and/or "cultural diversity" bandwagon. They need to be exposed!!!!
Hi! I've just previewed your web site and am very pleased to find you. I am an African American professor in the Human Development department of Pacific Oaks College (Pasadena, CA). We are a tiny bunch of folks who profess to act against social injustice. Many of us do, and then again, some don't! Our commitment to social justice issues includes the abolition of racial hatred, by any means necessary! One of those means is through a core course called Social & Political Contexts of Human Development, where we examine the cost of whiteness; the impact of white privilege on everyone; and the social construct of race (we also examine the impact of oppression manifested through sexism, homophobia, classism, ageism, ableism). By careful design, this course is team-taught by an interracial dyad. The intent is to have instructors with divergent perspectives and experiences; and who can address the impact of racism from both sides of the experience. I believe your journal will be a welcomed addition to our students' reading list, as it will be to mine. I look forward to continued access to your writings. Keep strong in the struggle!
ReGena M. Booze, Ph.D.
I am a 17 year-old high school student. I currently attend a private school of approximately 500 students. Twenty of those students are black. I have grown up comfortable in my white skin, as a part of the white race. It is only now that I am coming to the realization that as a part of the white race I am societally privileged because of my color. I was taught in elementary school that Martin Luther King wiped out all forms of racism and privilege. Nowadays my eyes become more adjusted to the situations currently facing the world, and I realize that while certainly things have changed thanks to King, the amount of work left to be done by others is still overwhelming. It is refreshing and quite informative to my young eyes to have access to such provocative and revolutionary ideals. As I work to free myself from the chains of white society, it is nice to find that I am not alone.
I just came on to your site!!! My soul just vibes with everything I'm reading. I grew up in NYC, a little "Black" girl bussed to school in a predominately Jewish and Italian neighborhoods. I am now living in North Carolina, actively involved in a group called "Building Bridges Against Racism." I will be sharing your web site with my group.
Thank you for having the courage to stand!!
...They hate us
As a high school educated woman and the daughter of a high school educated mom who raised three children on minimum wages out of which taxes were confiscated to support a full fifty percent of black Americans for the last forty welfare state years, I suggest you take your phrase "white privilege" and jam it up your racist asses.
NA responds: Thanks for writing. Your experience doesn't prove there's no such thing as white privilege. It just proves that it's not doing you much good, and that you may not be as white as you think you are.