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Raider Nation: Police Killing and the Politics of Race/Rape

Posted by Mike E on April 20, 2009

bashbackJose the red fox sent us the following piece saying that it might spark some discussion of its provocations. As always, posting this does not mean Kasama endorses the analysis. This originally appeared on Bash Back! News, April 14, 2009

Bash Back! News wrote they were posting this article “in response to the criticism we have faced, albeit by mostly straight white men, for publishing a communique in solidarity with Lovelle Mixon, a cop-killer and a police-described ‘Rapist.’ In short, there are those who are automatically guilty and those who are automatically innocent, those who are automatically heroes and, to use a term frequently applied to Lovelle Mixon in recent days, those who are automatically ‘monsters.'”

The Ambivalent Silences of the Left: Lovelle Mixon, Police, and the Politics of Race/Rape

by Raider Nation Collective, Oakland.

We began discussing this on a day dripping with hypocrisy. Local Fox affiliate KTVU is among many television channels broadcasting live and in its entirety the funeral for four Oakland Police officers who were killed in a pair of shooting incidents a week ago. News anchors speak at length, and with little regard to journalistic objectivity (a commodity which, dubious in general, disintegrates entirely in times such as these) about the lives of these “heroes,” these “angels,” and the families they leave behind. Trust funds for fatherless children are established, their existence trumpeted loudly at 6 and 11; one can only assume with such publicity that donations are rolling in. There is not a dry eye in the house, it would appear: the “community” has rallied around its fallen saviors.

Or so initial press coverage would have us believe. But while the press was on the streets pushing the message of unity in mourning, live shots from the scene found somber and serious reporters disrupted by words and gestures suggesting little sympathy for the police, and reports emerged (notably in the New York Times) that bystanders had been mocking and taunting police after the shooting. When the local Uhuru House hosted a vigil not for the fallen police, but for the other victims, Lovelle Mixon and his family, the press was forced to abandon its tune of unity, deploying instead outrage and shocked disbelief (especially by Bill O’Reilly), only to later realize that such sympathy was rather widespread and worthy of discussion.

Liberal Hypocrisy

The hypocrisy should be clear, but for some reason, it has gone largely unmentioned, with those suggesting anything of the sort booed and hissed into anguished silence. Any and all mentioning, however quietly, the name “Oscar Grant,” with reference to the young black man murdered in cold blood by BART police in the first hours of the New Year, have been made to regret it, but it is Grant above all others whose case shows this hypocrisy in all its clarity. After all, Grant was not deemed a “hero” or an “angel” by the mainstream press when he was gunned down by BART officer Johannes Mehserle, and despite all of the outrage at the shooting, liberal or otherwise, we have seen how the press and local officials were bending over backwards to justify or at least understand Mehserle’s actions. Oscar Grant’s funeral was not carried live on local television, and what meager trust fund was established for Grant’s daughter exists thanks to a small group of sympathizers, most in the local black religious community, and not thanks to the state, the media, or BART.

This hypocrisy began with Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, whose rapid reaction to the deaths of the four police speaks volumes in and of itself, since Dellums’ own week-long silence following Oscar Grant’s killing played a role in sparking the January 7th rebellion. In this case, however, Dellums was on television within a few hours preaching the inherent equality of all human life. But this was a magnificent display of liberal doublespeak, as Dellums’ declaration was meant to silence, not encourage, comparisons to Oscar Grant. But even this would not be enough to earn Dellums the support of the police union or the families, and the mayor was even refused permission to speak at the police funeral that had become the year’s must-attend political event, featuring such state political powerhouses as Governor Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Jerry Brown, and Senators Feinstein and Boxer. The reason remains unclear, but it is possible that even Dellums’ tepid sympathy for the life of Oscar Grant was too much for the families of the police, and it has even been suggested that Dellums’ equally tepid opposition to Blackwater-style privatizing policing in East Oakland is to blame. However, since no other black elected official was allowed to speak either, it seems that race was the deciding factor.

Kristian Williams, author of Our Enemies in Blue and American Methods, who was recently invited to give a public talk on the subject at the historic Continental Club in West Oakland, insisted that police funerals “have less to do with the grieving process of individual families, and everything to do with legitimizing past and future police violence.” According to Williams, policing is the only occupation which regularly exaggerates its own dangerousness (which statistically comes in just below garbage collectors). But constant reference to the danger and heroism of policing has the effect of stifling any and all criticism: police funerals as a public spectacle, according to Williams, “tell the public to shut up.” And shut up they have.

Farewell To the Spineless Left

Historically speaking, there is always a point at which the liberal and white left loses its nerve. As Ward Churchill demonstrates in his Pacifism as Pathology, it was a moment such as this one at which the white left abandoned the Black Panthers,

“When [Black Panther] party cadres responded (as promised) by meeting the violence of repression with armed resistance, the bulk of their “principled” white support evaporated. This horrifying retreat… left its members nakedly exposed to “surgical termination” by special police units.”

Under the cover of pacifism, the spineless left paradoxically cleared the way for the violent extermination campaign that the Panthers would face. Certainly, the case of Lovelle Mixon and OPD is not the same as that of the Panthers, but the response on much of the left has been the same: silence. And this at a time when speaking and acting and questioning are more necessary than ever, when the police have been granted a political carte blanche to step-up attacks on the black and brown community in Oakland. Fearing association with a “cop killer” (a phrase which itself betrays the unequal value placed on different lives) or a “rapist” (an allegation the OPD’s PR machine was quick to deploy), fearing being inevitably painted as supporting Mixon’s actions, much of the local left has refused to even ask the most basic of questions. In what follows, we will address the most pressing of these.

A “Routine Stop”?

We recently had the opportunity to see some of OPD’s so-called “routine stops” alongside members of Oakland’s nascent Copwatch organization. We spoke with two young, black men on the 98 block of Macarthur Boulevard who had been cuffed and detained for “matching the description” of subjects suspected to be in possession of a firearm. That is to say, they were young and black, and wearing black hoodies and jeans, just like everyone else around that night. Five minutes after Copwatchers arrived to document the stop, they were released.

We also observed more “routine stops,” in the guise of illegal DUI checkpoints by California Highway Patrol running the full length of International Boulevard and targeting largely Latino men. Several tow trucks were lined up to line their pockets with another’s misfortune, as CHP officers would stop vehicles, run their licenses and registration, perform on-the-spot DUI tests, and impound vehicles. We spoke with a young woman who was abandoned on the street at 2am after officers arrested her sister-in-law, towed their car (with the keys to her apartment inside) and sped off after telling her they would get her a ride home.

Such are the status of “routine stops,” and in a country where racial profiling is all but accepted practice among police, we should be wary of any claim to “routine-ness.” The only thing “routine” about such stops is the harassment that the black and brown community suffer at the hands of the police every day.

What Happened? Who Was Mixon?

What little we know is this: it was at a “routine stop” that Mixon allegedly shot officers Mark Dunakin and John Hege, before taking refuge in his sister’s nearby apartment. We also know that it was when the OPD SWAT team stormed into said apartment that Mixon, now allegedly armed with an AK-47, killed Daniel Sakai and Ervin Romans, wounding as well Patrick Gonzalez. We also know, thanks to interviews with Mixon’s family, the circumstances he was facing at the time: released from prison after serving time for a felony and previous parole violation, unemployed and unable to find work as a felon, and increasingly frustrated with his slim prospects for the future. According to his grandmother, equally frustrating was the shabby treatment Mixon received from his probation officer, who she claims had missed several appointments. Mixon, she says, had even volunteered to return briefly to prison if it would mean he could change probation officers.

In the face of such frustration, according to his grandmother, Mixon had himself missed a probation appointment, and so was facing a no-bail warrant and some jail time. Also, if it is true that he was carrying a gun, he would have been facing even more. These are the circumstances that Mixon faced when stopped, circumstances common to all too many under the regime of “Three Strikes” and the structure of policing in general. As Prisoners of Conscience Committee Minister of Information JR puts it: “To all the Three Strikes supporters, police sympathizers and prison industry businessmen, how does it feel when the rabbit has the gun? Welcome to East Oakland.”

Fast forward to his sister’s Enjoli’s apartment, where there is an additional question that needs to be asked: what was the SWAT team thinking when they stormed in, tossing stun grenades which injured 16 year old Reynete Mixon in the process? What seems to have clearly been a bad decision in retrospect brings us back to where we started: their fury at the news of dead police led them to risk the lives of many others rather than attempting to de-escalate. In all likelihood, the SWAT team expected to meet Mixon with the same handgun that had been used against Dunakin and Hege; in all likelihood, they expected to be at a tactical advantage in firepower terms, and to have an excuse to kill Mixon in response.

An Occupying Army?

Despite the efforts by the mainstream media, in close alliance with OPD, to paint a picture of a community unified in mourning four cops and equally unified in its hatred for Lovelle Mixon, this image of unity has been inevitably cracked, forcing a discussion of the very real divisions that exist in Oakland and the central position of the police as an instrument of that division. This position is best summarized in two words, drawn from the logic of colonialism: “occupying army.”

This certainly is the perception of many who were at the scene, telling police to “get the fuck out of East Oakland.” What is most striking is the fact that such spontaneous reactions by young black men in East Oakland are, in point of fact, quite true, because here is something else the press isn’t saying: not one of the officers killed lived in Oakland; all were residents of the suburbs. It’s difficult to find out exactly what percentage of OPD actually live in the city (the Uhuru House puts the number at only 18%), but with salaries beginning at $87,000 and often exceeding $200,000 with overtime, we could assume that the percentage is very low. It’s difficult to argue with the claim that OPD functions as an occupying army, since even the younger members of the black and brown community know full well that they are, as Fanon defined the colonizer, “from elsewhere.”

If this recognition of the role played by OPD was clear in the “taunting” at the scene, it has also played out in the more generalized racial breakdown of responses to the deaths of the four officers. A friend who works in the Eastmont area, but a block or two from the shootings, recently told us that:

“I have seen that white co-workers are speaking about it as if they were heroes, even ones who were pissed and annoyed by cops were suddenly sympathetic. Social workers of color, on the other hand, were talking about the 40-ish black youth killed in the last few years, and how suddenly, a few cops die (none of whom live here), and people act like their grandpa got shot.”

Rape and Race?

As the press discourse of community outrage began to disintegrate, it now appears as though OPD found it necessary to reinforce its waning sympathy. To do so, the police turned to the most traditional of means: accusing a black man of rape. These rape accusations have provided liberals and even so-called radicals a convenient excuse to distance themselves from the case of Lovelle Mixon, and the irony of the “discovery” of a “probable” (read: inconclusive) DNA link the day before the shootings provides a fulfilling belief that the shooting was tragically unnecessary as, supposedly, Mixon would have soon been arrested and taken off the streets. But it is here that we find the most disturbing of maneuvers by the police and the most infuriating silences on the left.

This is because few have felt the need to wonder aloud about this alleged “DNA evidence” which has miraculously circumvented indictments and jury trials. This begs a clear question: was Lovelle Mixon guilty until proven innocent? Even if there was “DNA evidence,” most in our society at least pretend to believe that the job of evaluating evidence belongs to the district attorney, judge, and jury, and not to the police and media. And it begs a further question: if OPD was so devoted to the safety of women in East Oakland, why were neighbors never notified that a serial rapist was possibly on the loose? Quite simply because OPD does not protect poor and marginalized women: the record speaks for itself.

One woman who attended the Uhuru vigil and rally last week describes her outrage and disgust at how white reporters treated the many women present at the march, essentially insinuating they were there in support of a rapist:

“The fact that many people were at the vigil to show support for Mixon’s family and community–who are largely women–did not cross any of the reporter’s minds… The serious issue of rape does not nullify the issue of a failed prison system. If we think historically, protection against sexual violence is a key reason often given to escalate the most racist and oppressive policing practices, yet violence against women continues unabated. We need to stand against violence against women and a racist police system equally, and not let one get used as an excuse to justify the other. The Mixon hysteria is going to be used to put East Oakland, women and men, on police lockdown and justice for the most vulnerable women who live there is NOT going to be a priority.”

As Angela Davis reminds us, “In the history of the United States, the fraudulent rape charge stands out as one of the most formidable artifices invented by racism. The myth of the Black rapist has been methodically conjured up whenever recurrent waves of violence and terror against the Black community have required convincing justifications…[Black women] have also understood that they could not adequately resist the sexual abuses they suffered without simultaneously attacking the fraudulent rape charge as a pretext for lynching… In a society where male supremacy was all pervasive, men who were motivated by their duty to defend their women could be excused of any excesses they might commit.” Painting black men as inevitable rapists represents a historical response to the sublimated guilt of white society, a society which for more than a century participated in the systematic rape of enslaved women. This much was recognized in a chant at the Uhuru rally:

Thomas Jefferson was a rapist! George Washington was a rapist! Let’s get that shit straight!

Who Were the Officers?

This question certainly feels taboo in a context in which the press refers openly to the “angels” that protect the community, who were in the words of a San Francisco Chronicle cover story (words cited verbatim from acting OPD Chief Howard Jordan) “Men of Peace.” But here again hypocrisy is palpable: we are told it is disrespectful to wonder aloud who the involved officers were, and yet racist slander directed at a dead man is somehow acceptable and expected. And while a couple of weeks ago, anyone would have told you that the OPD was a corrupt, inefficient force that routinely broke the law and brutalized city residents, such sentiment has faded into the background.

As (very limited) records from Oakland’s Citizen’s Police Review Board and the grassroots organization PUEBLO indicate, the officers involved are not the “angels” and “men of peace” that many have been suggesting. Officer Hege, for example, was listed in a 1995 CRPB complaint that involved breaking down a door less than 10 blocks from where Mixon was killed, and assaulting a resident who was kneeling on the ground, leaving him with a detached retina, broken ribs, a concussion, and missing teeth. Officer Romans is among those named in a pending lawsuit (docket #C 00-004197 MJJ) for assault and battery, civil rights violations, and conspiracy. Further, as JR puts it, Dunakin “long patrolled North Oakland, wreaking hell on young Black males,” and records indicate that he was implicated in a 1999 false arrest lawsuit which the city settled, and was more recently involved in the shady practice of towing cars under the city’s “sideshow ordinance.”

But perhaps even more interesting than the records of those officers who died is the record of the one who survived, and who has been only communicating with the press through his lawyer (with good reason): Patrick Gonzalez. Those paying attention will recognize the name instantly, since his rap sheet is far longer than was Lovelle Mixon’s: it was Gonzalez who murdered Gary King in 2007, shooting him in the back as he fled after being assaulted and repeatedly tased (King was suspected of being a “person of interest” in a case, nothing more, and his father suspects that the tasing would have killed him if the bullets didn’t). It was Gonzalez as well who shot another young black man dead, and left another paralyzed and in a wheelchair (all of these victims being under the age of 20).

But as a local community activist told me, “everyone focuses on the shootings, but he did some messed up shit with his gun holstered, too.” Specifically, Gonzalez has had a long list of complaints against him, and in one notable incident he was accused of assaulting 18 year old Andre Piazza in 2001. As the San Francisco Bay Guardian described the incident at the time:

“Piazza said that Officer Gonzales next turned to the front of Piazza’s body and “lifted and was looking under my sacks and stuff.” Piazza confirmed that what he meant was that the officer lifted and felt around under his testicles… During the search, Piazza asked the officer if he was “fruity.” Shortly thereafter, Gonzales reportedly smacked him in the face, dislocating his jaw. Docs in Highland Hospital had to put it back in place. The photos of Piazza taken in the ER aren’t pretty. Despite the photographic proof, charges against the cop were eventually dropped because of a lack of corroborating witnesses – it was Piazza’s word versus that of the cops.”

These are the men paraded as “angels” in times such as these.

***

In short, there are those who are automatically guilty and those who are automatically innocent, those who are automatically heroes and, to use a term frequently applied to Lovelle Mixon in recent days, those who are automatically “monsters.” If the mainstream press was unwilling to make Oscar Grant a monster, it certainly did its part in digging up his police record and cultivating sympathy for Mehserle. The rest is left to the public, and as a recent commenter on the San Francisco Chronicle website puts it: “Mixon and Grant could interchange lives and there would be no difference. The only difference in their end is that Grant was taken out (however accidental) before he got a chance to murder someone.” And this comment, which has since been removed, was more than the ranting of an individual: by the time I saw it, it had received 250 votes from readers, more than any other response to the article.

As Crea Gomez has shown, even the Columbine shooters, who engaged in a premeditated massacre of fellow students, garnered more sympathy than has Lovelle Mixon, with a host of commentators struggling to grapple with what went wrong with these poor boys and to blame prescription drugs and bullying, while the very simple desire of someone like Lovelle Mixon to not spend one’s life in prison makes someone a “monster.” Interestingly, a similar effort to explain the inexplicable is currently being deployed to explain the massacre of immigrants in Binghamton, whose deaths have not led to their killer being labeled a “monster.”

To the inevitable accusation of disrespecting the dead, we must respond with a simple question: Where were you when Oscar Grant was murdered? There are some who are automatically respected in their death; there are others who are automatically disrespected and, in the case of Lovelle Mixon, demonized by a racist police department and press complicity. While some see moral equivalence, there was a difference between Grant and Mixon: the latter was able to foresee his impending death and fight back, so as to not meet Grant’s fate of catching a bullet in the back.

* * * * * * *

Raider Nation is a collective located in Oakland, California and the Bay Area more generally. We can be reached at raidernationcollective [at] gmail.com.

52 Responses to “Raider Nation: Police Killing and the Politics of Race/Rape”

  1. Mike,

    Thanks again for posting this. Like I said, I don’t agree with everything in it but I thought we might get something out of this…specially for comrades outside of the Bay Area who haven’t been up on this story.

    cheers, jose

  2. nando said

    there is much to respond to here. One point of historical fact:

    The piece quotes Ward Churchill:

    ““When [Black Panther] party cadres responded (as promised) by meeting the violence of repression with armed resistance, the bulk of their “principled” white support evaporated. This horrifying retreat… left its members nakedly exposed to “surgical termination” by special police units.”

    This is quite simply untrue. In fact as the Panthers appeared, armed and confronting the police, there was a wave of support (among both Black and white radicals, and other nationalities) who sought to support and even emulate. Among white radicals there were major efforts to arm and join in. There were networks of white radicals who organized themselves to mobilize (at a moments notice) to be at the Panther headquarters in case of police attack — literally planning to put their bodies on the line.

    I remember one scene from the New Haven rally for Bobby Seale (on May Day 1970 where white radicals and revolutionaries came from all over the east coast, and where ironically the local Black Panthers backed down from participation). One young brother, a student from the midwest, had came prepared for street fighting, and when I saw his gear bags he had packed “shotgun kits” — huge wads of cotton designed for military first aid to use in case of being shot. He (and his affinity group) had literally come expecting that they might be shot, and literally planning to bandage up and keep fighting.

    Literally days later, the killings at Kent and jackson state happened — and the defense of Black revolutionaries from these killings went over to a new situation where the system was also now (deliberately) killing radical white youth. (followed by the killing of James Rector by police shotgun in the streetfighting around peoples park in Berkeley 1969).

    I can tell many stories of young white radicals preparing to fight and die for the Panthers, just from personal experience, involving large numbers of radicals in several parts of the country. I worked with the Panthers myself in several cities, and worked for two years on projects aimed at defending the Panthers — including organizing projects that brought dozens of working class white youth to confront police in major streetfights in defense of the Panther political prisoners (like Huey and Bobby).

    And the fact that this happened — that white radicals and revolutionaries responded and acted in this way is an important historical fact. Not just (or mainly) so that their story gets told fairly — but because it speaks to the possibility of internationalist, and multiracial revolutionary organization. It is a chapter of our history that repudiates all the cynical (and defeatist) assumptions about “white skin privilege” and the inherent betrayal by white leftists.

    We have (as a revolutionaries) spent time recently defending Ward Churchill, for good reasons. His firing at the University of Colorado was a vicious witch hunt, and we (on very principled grounds) need to defend him.

    But, lets also not forget that he has been a shameless liar, and has written highly slanted accounts of the left history to serve his own (often mean-spirited) political purposes.

  3. Nando:

    Thanks for the heads-up on Churchill…as if we didn’t know that many folks ‘from that era’ (including you) put forth a different historiography with respect white privilege and white leftists (btw, positionality is important here).

    Any ways, that’s not the point of this piece here.

    The story here is about what is happening in Oakland/Bay Area amongst many white “leftists”. My point here is that–while I agree with most of your analysis of Churchill’s a-historicism–this does not get at the heart of the piece: the silence/acquiescence of many white leftist individuals/groups in the context of the portrayal of Lovelle Mixon, a black man who killed four cops, as a “monster rapist” (read: ‘young black thug’ who needs to get it just like Oscar Grant).

    peace to the villages, war to the palaces, j.

  4. saoirse said

    the problem here isnt Nando’s, it with in the method of the authors. And its not just a case of Churchill having a “different historiography,” its deeper than that. Its Churchill’s well known history of lying. RNC blog throws everything and the kitchen sink into this argument about cops, the left (?) but doesn’t really tease out what the point is. The most obvious example, what left are they referring to? RNC and Churchill also share an apprication for hyperbole and moralism. Not a great place to start a discussion.

  5. celticfire said

    I was really intrigued by this and was drawn in to keep reading by the writing style which appeared both principled and informative. It had a community feel to it which made it feel genuine. It’s certainly a good model. It demonstrated well the hypocrisy of this system and its murderous actions. I laughed my ass off at this part “Thomas Jefferson was a rapist! George Washington was a rapist! Let’s get that shit straight!”

    A minor point (like the comments above about Churchill’s Panther comment) is the issue of the prison industrial complex. Though certainly I unite with many of the prison issues and the committed people in campaigns like Critical Resistance, I find the approach both liberal and anarchistic as represented by social democrat types like Angela Davis. My problem isn’t so much the call for abolition of prisons under capitalism, but rather the assumption that a post-capitalist society will not have prisons.

    I want prisons after capitalism. I want them to hold every capitalist-imperialist oppressor, white-supremacist, counterrevolutionary that stands in our way.

    Is that so bad?

  6. sepia tone said

    At the risk of getting a little off topic, I was curious about the claims that Ward Churchill has been a shameless liar who has writen slanted accounts of left history.

    Could someone please refer me to where I might find out more about these claims, or what specifically is being referred to here with these claims?

    I am not very familiar with Ward Churchill’s body of writing. I have read some essays by him including one critiquing “Marxism”, which I felt was dependent on his ignoring the existance of different “Marxisms” and setting up a strawman through and through (to the point of seeming a little disingenuous, though I suppose it’s possible he just had no idea what he was talking about).

  7. the irony of some of the comments here:

    the critiques of prof. churchill here sound like the racist/eurocentric discourses that the RCP made against indigenous peoples in the book Marxism and Native Americans (1983) that churchill edited (i.e., what would an indian know, he’s a liar, “scientific” marxism vs. indigenous epistemology).

    what does this all have to do with the original posting, i.e., the article above?!

    the other irony is not so much what is said (in the above comments) but what is not said: the silence of the white left in the context of the criminalization/killing of young black men.

    in the spirit of all anti-colonial fighters, wherever they might (from the left to the right), palante, jose.

  8. saoirse said

    Jose, I am not on the ground in Oakland, CA. I don’t know what debates are going on amongst the Cali left about the murder of Lovelle Mixon. I take responsibility for this and perhaps I shot my mouth off before understanding all the facts of the situation. There is a plain speak to the RNC piece and its lack of formal polemic has alot of positives to it. Still I have been paying attention to the case and the lack of form, tangential style of the above piece made it hard for me to fully grapple with. White chauvanism is a real ugly problem amongst the white left. But I would suggest that if we are to fully discuss RNC argument we can make sharp points about say Ward Churchills crid. Or the use of moral outrage to shut down debate with those who disagree with you.

  9. Tell No Lies said

    Jose,

    I read the piece and found it intriguing and provocative. I also found it sloppy in its categorical statements and moralistic and like Saoirse I distrust discussions that start on such a basis. The question of Ward Churchill may seem like a side question, but there is a similarity in method here and it creeps into your response as well when you write:

    “the critiques of prof. churchill here sound like the racist/eurocentric discourses that the RCP made against indigenous peoples in the book Marxism and Native Americans (1983) that churchill edited (i.e., what would an indian know, he’s a liar, “scientific” marxism vs. indigenous epistemology).”

    This is really an outrageous smear on Nando’s carefully presented refutation of a point of Churchill’s used to bolster the RNC’s argument re: the response of a vaguely defined “white left.” There is nothing racist or eurocentric about saying Churchill is a liar if he actually is one, and unfortunately the record is not limited to the point Nando addresses. I supported Churchill against the witchhunt because the political motivations of the atatcks on him were clear to me, but doing so was made difficult by my own knowledge of his demagogic and dishonest methods.

    If you are interested in the basis for these characterizations I would recommend: http://www.plagiary.org/smallpox-blankets.pdf

    Its a detailed analysis of Churchill’s clearly intentional and systematic dishonesty in making a claim that the US Army used smallpox blankets against Mandan Indians in 1837.

    This sort of casual disregard for the truth combined with indignant denunciations of the supposed racism of anybody who dares to doubt the fabricated story does incredible damage to the credibility of radicals and revolutionaries generally. When Churchill does such things he does damage to the larger movement in order to promote himself. When folks like the RNC, who may very well have a good argument to make about how some or most white leftists have responded to the Lovell Mixon case, follow in Churchill’s footsteps, citing his spurious claims and imitating his use of moral indignation to bludgeon people into agreement, it is perfectly legitimate to take that apart and examine what is wrong with those methods. The fault for the resulting distraction from their analysis of the Lovell Mixon case is theirs.

  10. Rosa L. said

    I think that there is a confusion in this discussion.

    “White left” in this RNC text is not defined as equivalent to a “White” person who happens to be in the left. It is more a question of epistemology rather than just skin color. If there were white people siding with the Panthers and taking risks such as Nando describes above, these white left activists has taken a radical stand beyond the “white left”.

    By “white left” I always understood groups that: 1) either ignore racism in their political work, collapse race into class (reductionism) or instrumentalize racism in opportunistic ways for the growth of their own political organization without a serious commitment with anti-racist struggles and 2) in addition they do not take seriously questions of epistemic decolonization. Point 1 and 2 in my view has to go together to define the “white left”.

    What do I mean by a White left activist who is not part of the “White left” or a Black left activist who belongs to the “white left”? Let’s take a few examples. Obama is a black person but he is the President of a White supremacist patriarchal/capitalist imperialist structure. He is part of the white establishment in the USA despite the color of his skin. Condoleeza Rice is a black woman but her politics are part of the White supremacist patriarchal/capitalist state structures. She is part of the “White Right” even if she is Black.

    The same with a Black person who promotes the position that what matters is class and that questions of race are secondary or non-real. He/she is a Black left activists but belongs to the “White Left”. A White person who commits in practice with the Black liberation struggles is not part of the “white left”.

    When Avakian says that a White person can lead a revolution in the USA and that anyone who questions this is just falling into identity politics, this is an example of “white left”. Why? Because he is just concealing the fundamental question: that for a White person to lead a revolution in the United States he/she would need to take seriously questions of epistemic decolonization.

    Avakian has never raised this question, has never taken seriously questions of epistemic decolonization and act as if he has overcome epistemic racism. Avakian embraced a Western-centric scientificist view that just keep the superiority of Western epistemology intact. The sub-Comandante Marcos is a “White Mexican” who does not belong to the Mexican “white left”. He is one of the leaders of an indigenous uprising. But to be able to be one of the leaders of this indigenous movement, as a “White Mexican” he was forced to go through a serious process of epistemic decolonization that he describes in the book interview with Yvon Le Bot entitled « Le rêve zapatiste » (Seuil), also published in Spanish as El sueño zapatista (Anagrama).

    There is a tendency in the Western left to dismiss this kind of epistemic questions as if it was part of “identity politics”. “Identity politics” is one thing, “decolonization of knowledge” is another. One is not equivalent to the other. You can be White and gone through a process of decolonization of eurocentric prejudices or you can be Black and be as eurocentric as Bob Avakian or George W. Bush….

  11. Tell No Lies said

    Rosa,

    I agree with your analysis and I’ve used the term “white left” in precisely this way. But in an article that purports to analyze the actions of the “white left” I think its important to spell it out, not only to help readers understand the distinction, but also to avoid falling into a sort of circular reasoning that says “the white left is anybody who says or does X, so when I accuse the white left of saying or doing X I don’t have to specify who I am talking about.” The RNC are making a charge against SOMEONE, but they don’t name any actual groups or individuals, thus giving free rein to readers to imagine whoever they want as guilty of thinking about this case the way they say the “white left” supposedly does. Rather than encouraging people to make the distinction you are making it encourages a blurring of that distinction of precisely the sort that Churchill engages in. What we get then is actually identity politics masquerading as the decolonization of knowledge. Similarly when Churchill fabricates historical events to advance a larger truth about the genocide of American Indians and justifies this in terms of decolonizing academic discourses he is playing the identity politics game at the expense of genuine decolonization.

    BTW, my partner and I translated sections of “El Sueño Zapatista,” including the part you describe, for Love and Rage when it came out in 1997. Its a great book. Unfortunately the online Love and Rage archive is presently down.

  12. ff said

    a lot to say, but a few points for now:

    on Churchill, smallpox, lies, and the Thomas Brown pdf… As with many things historical, this is a highly contested debate that has been far from definitively proven one way or another. An important question is what is at stake beyond WC in proving or disproving the blanket issue. Thomas Brown nonetheless is a very problematic person who has been after Churchill for years prior to the recent witchhunt due to other battles. To draw on him as the basis of showing WC’s “lies” is misinformed at best.

    While the Churchill discussion has been a bit distracting to the discussion of the article, it is interesting to see that WC generated so much discussion as an element of the argument in the RNC piece. While I concur with the Rosa L. distinction and read the RNC piece as working from such understanding, Nando makes a good point about making the distinction more explicit. However, being in the Bay Area, I can attest to the fact that in this case the “white left” is being used to refer to those who have been unable to deal with how race intersects with gender, sexuality and class (epistemically and materially speaking) as hardly NO ONE from say the Oscar Grant demos were present at the Mixon vigil or taken positions on Mixon, except for the Uhuru folks (problematic in their own right) and few assorted others. Ironically, all the Churchill critics and “sympathizers” who jumped ship when the witch hunt began, as opposed to critics who still recognized the need to defend him (like Nando), provide yet another example of what i see the RNC piece arguing.

    that said, i do not read the article as one of moral outrage, but rather one that is being quite clear in illustrating the political reality in oakland. that is, that most folks involved with the Oscar Grant demos, or even your usual ‘left’ in its many folds (rcp, iso, spartacus, social democrats, and of course liberals) simply bailed out when it came to the Mixon shootings and particularly the rape allegation. in other words, the “white left” made clear yet again that it has not figured out how to deal with sexuality. race and class maybe, but add gender or sexuality and it becomes too difficult for many. this last point must be taken seriously if we are to advance any discussion. To that end, a necessary clarification to the RNC piece is that it was a group of Black women in particular that were repeatedly chanting “Thomas Jefferson was a rapist!” This of course is not to justify any rape, but to point out how rape works with race and power to determine which bodies matter. And also, the piece first appeared on indybay:
    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/04/13/18588525.php

  13. FF said

    One more point on Marcos: he is more of a “mestizo” Mexican and that distinction matters (relatively speaking) in a Mexico context

  14. Tell No Lies said

    FF,

    Can you direct me to an actual refutation of Brown’s arguments? Because as far as I’ve been able to determine there isn’t one and even Churchill doesn’t really defend his scholarship on this matter (though he insists his conclusions are still correct anyway). The fact that Brown was a critic of Churchill’s scholarship before the witchhunt actually speaks in his favor in my eyes, insofar as it indicates that he wasn’t whipped up into a frenzy by Bill O’Reilly. I’d be interested in any reasons you might have to suspect Brown’s motives, but I think it is still important answer the substance of his arguments which seem to pretty effectively demonstrate Churchill’s dishonesty. Characterizing the question of whether the US Army distributed smallpox blankets to the Mandan as “a highly contested debate” does not appear to me supported by the facts. Is there a single other scholar you can name who upholds Churchill’s position here? It is striking to me that most of the serious academics who defended him against the witchhunt either fudge the question of the actual charges against his scholarship or evade the issue altogether, focusing (correctly in my view) on the original political motivations of the investigations into his scholarship.

    As for the rest of the article, I don’t doubt that it describes an important aspect of political reality not just in the Bay Area but across the length and breadth of the US. That most of the left in the US is not very good at untangling and understanding the interesection of race, sexuality, gender and class, and that this proved an obstruction to rallying people to the case of a man who killed several cops and was then accused of rape is not really that profound an observation. The real question as I see it is one of giving people the analytical tools to really understand those intersections, and here I think the self-righteous tone that pervades this piece ensures that it will only reach the already convinced. It is hardly unique in this respect of course. But I think that precisely because grasping the workings of these intersections is the theoretical key to developing a coherent strategy for revolution in the US that we can’t afford to indulge these moralistic impulses. The proper analysis of these intersections isn’t “just there for the taking.” Rather it involves genuinely complicated questions on which sincere people (and not just liberals and the white left) do and will have real doubts and differences of opinion. I am in basic agreement with this article’s analysis of why so many people who came out for Grant didn’t come out around Mixon, what I don’t agree with is the attitude of withering contempt for those people which strikes me as having more to do with feeding the authors sense of moral superiority than it does with actually winning those people over to a better analysis. This is a sin I have hardly been immune from, and I’m sure the former RCPers here are more than familiar with it as well. Which is precisely why it is important to unpack.

    Finally, re: Marcos. The ideology of mestizaje in Mexico is complex. In eastern Chiapas, where racial categories follow the Guatemalan template, however, Marcos is a ladino or as the indigenous say, a caxlan, and refers to himself as such. While most Mexicans are of mixed heritage and therefore properly called mestizos, the category also often serves to ideologically obscure racial oppression in Mexico (when, for example, it drags in as it commonly does poor campesinos of unarguably indigenous origins who speak Spanish, even if their grandparents didn’t AND the countries very light skinned elite). One of the most important ways that the Zapatistas have promoted a decolonization of knowledge has been precisley by popularing a problematization of the official ideology of a mestizo (rather than a multi-ethnic) Mexico. A very good book on this whole question is Bonfil-Batalla’s “Mexico Profundo” which may be available in English translation.

  15. nando said

    I have myself gone back at various times (and for various reasons) to investigate the history of smallpox blankets. And investigating the question many times, I was never able to find any documented evidence of conscious biological warfare using small pox other than a notorious action by Captain Ecuyer at Fort Pitt — before the American revolution when this was carried out by the British army. There were also letters by General Amherst and Colonel Bouquet that mentioned spreading smallpox — without any specific discussion of incidents.

    This is not that complex a matter: there is very limited evidence of the conscious use of small pox blankets. there is some, but very little.

    Now, two things need to be said:

    First, Native people died in huge numbers from epidemics of smallpox (and other diseases.) These raged up and down the Americas in waves, wiping out huge swathes of the population, leaving the peoples greatly weakened, and in some cases wiping out whole peoples. this was the result of an isolated people suddenly coming into contact with humans from Eurasia where the neolithic revolution has caused a great number of infectious diseases to cross over from animals to humans. they had no resistance, and the germs came all at once. It was devastating, and profoundly tragic. (Smallpox played a key role in the collapse of the Aztecs before Cortez.)

    Second, the fact that we don’t have documented evidence of conscious biological warfare by Europeans doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a practice that happened a number of times. It just means we don’t have documentation of it. Who conducts such genocidal attacks on the frontier and then writes it all down? German Nazis were scrupulous in recording and justifying their genocide…..Deutsche Grundlichkeit…. but American frontiersmen were a different breed, not given to journaling about their “injun killing.”

    But there has been a non-scientific conflating of the two phenomena. The epidemics of the Native people were not in the main a conscious act by the Europeans. Native people died BOTH from conscious genocide and also from the unintentional contagion of European diseases. And there is no reason to fix the data — to pretend we have data that we don’t have, to pretend that conscious genocide was the main form of mass death among native people (after 1492).

    And as we know, there is a rather well-known tendency (around these days) to turn everything into an act of conscious conspiracy. AIDS devastates oppressed people and Africans more acutely for reasons entwined with racism, imperialism and the legacies of colonialism. But that doesn’t mean that the AIDS epidemic was a genocidal plot. And as we all know with the 911 conspiracy types, such theories require “cooking the data.”

    And for a revolutionary movement, there is value in separating out the conscious acts of oppressors from the also-horrific unintentional results of their system. (Permanent unemployment or underemployment of sections of the workers is a consequence of capitalism that drives down wages, but it is not in-its-essence a plot by capitalists to impoverish the workers.)

    There has been a widespread assumption that the death by disease was the result of conscious action. I have had people tell me that the “trail of tears” was where the small pox blankets were used. Or the disappearance of the Mandan (after being visited by Lewis and Clark). These things have reached the level of “commonly assumed truth” in some places — and people are a bit frustrated to hear someone say, “there is no evidence of this.”

    But there is a deeper truth involved that is worth understanding: Many of capitalism’s most brutal results are not intentional — many are the result of individual decisions by the (anarchically fragmented and competitively divided) capitalist class, that in aggregate produce terrible things. It is part of the reason that the problem we face is not just “evil capitalists” but an outmoded social system rooted in oppression.

    All my life i have heard oppressed people assume that those who rule literally have the freedom to do what they want. As if they simply *choose* to do what they do out with free will… and therefore malevolent outcomes require malevolent intent. This is a natural and understandable view — but it doesn’t understand the tremendous necessity faced by anyone who rules a society (or a corporation). these people are “capital personified” not “the free-flying horse of Cholima” — they act on necessity, and often the outcomes of their (aggregated) decisions are something unintended (even undesired). that’s one of the problems of private appropriation of social product — it is one of the reasons capitalism is so awful (because of the incredible UNINTENDED horrors, in addition to the obviously-intended ones.)

    This complexity and dialectics is not acceptable to some. In their view, oppression is rooted in evil intent (and in the corruption of privilege). And in their view, the assignment of a role to the UN-conscious operations of a SYSTEM is a suspicious cop-out that lets the conscious racists, bigots, haters and greedy grubbers off the hook.

    And histories are written that tend to disappear (or downplay) the system, and accentuate the role of conscious policy and ideological hatreds. It is (need I add) tied to a view of what the current situation is, a view of how to view backward sections of the people, a view of “who are our friends and who are our enemies.”

    The problem is not capitalism, it is “the rich.” The problem is not a capitalist system of white supremacy (with institutions, complex dynamics, deep roots in the operations of capitalism, promotion of ideology, customs rooted in class relations etc.) — it is an army of white supremacists blinded by a socially universal white privilege and white racist chauvinism (that is assumed to be equally universal).

    When history is written from that perspective, reality and the facts suffer. Or, to put it more carefully, the facts are often marshalled with a particular filter. Churchill’s portrayal of “the left” in the sixties is not simple an invention (there where sections of “the left” who recoiled from the militant Black power movement) — but it is an invention in the sense that it rests on a “disappearing” of the significant sections that didn’t recoil, but who rushed forward to embrace these developments.

    Similarly, the books by Sakai on American history are a remarkable and fascinating history of the betrayal of Black hopes by sections of white people. these things happened and need to be known. And his works are a fascinating refutation of many left mythologies (especially the liberal “black and white unite and fight” parables that CP writers like Phil Foner try to pass off as “history”).

    However, Sakai writes his book by filtering out any episodes and facts that don’t fit his nationalist theses. Because in this complex country and in its complex history there are currents and countercurrents, there are vicious pogrom oppression by “white people” (as a group), but also the breaking out of such frameworks by white people in important ways. (the fact of the civil war is just one example — but hardly a minor one!)

    Churchill’s writings are precisely of this kind. His book on cointelpro is fascinating, i have read it over and over. The stories he tells are important and well told. But because he leaves out other stories, the overall picture is a distorted one.

    The same with his book on Marxism and Native People — the disturbing language used by the RCP in its “SEcond Harvest” polemic is an important object lesson. But the fact that Churchill deliberately refused to discuss or include the RCP’s own self-criticism of that “Second harvest” article…. well, his book therefore creates a half-truth that is not a truth. And the way he uses the language of one article to paint Marxism and Marxists (as such) as racist — is the conclusion that defined the method.

    Marxism in the U.S. emerged as a quite white chauvinist movement — that needs to be said. The Marxist immigration workers from the late 1800s to the 1920s had shockingly little “appreciation” or sympathy for the oppression, the revolutionary potential or the justice that was bound up in the struggle of African American people — this didn’t change until Stalin forced the Communist Party to discard this white chauvinism and adopt a Soviet-style analysis of the “national question.” That is a story that needs to be told. As does the struggle over how to view the oppression of black people that has continued among radicals. The shock that went through the liberal “left” when Black power emerged was deep and visceral — and laid the basis for the real anti-liberal radicalization that followed among both Black and white activists.

    In other words, Churchill’s casual departures from truth are tied to a desire to prove views that aren’t rooted in reality.

    * * * * * *

    Rosa L writes:

    ” If there were white people siding with the Panthers and taking risks such as Nando describes above, these white left activists has taken a radical stand beyond the “white left”. By “white left” I always understood groups that: 1) either ignore racism in their political work, collapse race into class (reductionism) or instrumentalize racism in opportunistic ways for the growth of their own political organization without a serious commitment with anti-racist struggles and 2) in addition they do not take seriously questions of epistemic decolonization…. A White person who commits in practice with the Black liberation struggles is not part of the “white left”. When Avakian says that a White person can lead a revolution in the USA and that anyone who questions this is just falling into identity politics, this is an example of “white left”.

    The problem with this analysis is the fact that Bob Avakian emerged as one of the radical leaders most closely with defending the Black Panther party by any means necessary. The RU was formed (precisely) out of the networks most militantly determined to defend the panthers. When I first heard of the RU and Avakian, that’s what i heard (in 1969) — that these were the people organizing the most militant, direct defense of the Panthers under attack.

    I don’t question the statement that there are folks who have some nuanced meaning when they use “white left.” but let’s not be coy about this….. every time I have ever heard it used it simply means an group of leftists who are white. It is even often used (revealingly) to describe any MULTINATIONAL grouping (that contains both black and white revolutioanries) — based on the nationalist assumption that if Black revolutionaries are organizing themsleves into a multinational movement they can’t be really Black — and so the organizaiton can still be seen as “white left.” It’s not that nuanced — in many exchanges with people holding this line, all white people who are leftist are called “white left” and are assumed to be defined by their whiteness (and their resultant chauvinism.

    rosa L in fact says this explicitly:

    “The same with a Black person who promotes the position that what matters is class and that questions of race are secondary or non-real. He/she is a Black left activists but belongs to the “White Left”.

    Look at the logic: If a black revolutionary believes that the struggle around national oppression is “secondary” then they don’t count when their organizations are evaluated. The presense of Black people in organizatoins is irrelevent — they are still “white.” And the assumption here is that either Black revolutionaries put national oppression at the center of their analysis or they don’t really count. The verdict precedes the discussion — in fact rules it out.

    I have seen this in action. i have seen this applied to Carl Dix, for example. here is a Black revolutionary who went to prison for opposing the War in Vietnam. He didn’t go to prison around matters tied to Black national oppression. He went to prison for upholding the revolutionary struggle of people other than his own nationality. Though his life and politics are deeply shaped by his opposition to Black oppression — his prison sentence might suggest that (at that moment) he thought that Black national oppression was not simply primary.

    It is an analysis that is wrong in its essence, and incredibly arrogant and insulting in its application. And it works right here too — if you look at Jose’s response to my own rather detailed and highly factual response:

    “the critiques of prof. churchill here sound like the racist/eurocentric discourses that the RCP made against indigenous peoples in the book Marxism and Native Americans (1983)… i.e., what would an indian know, he’s a liar, “scientific” marxism vs. indigenous epistemology).”

    It is circular: once it becomes inherently chauvinist to point out that Churchill lies (or to point out any number of other historical fact), then there is no way to refute arguments that aren’t based on reality.

    The fact is that I know Churchill’s description of these things is essentially a lie because I was there. He simply disappears thousands of people and their internationalist actions because they don’t fit into his schema. And when you point that out…. well, that must be racism because after all Churchill is an Indian (right?)

    The fact is: you can’t tell the truth of an argument by examining the supposedly authenticity of its author. You can only tell the truth of an argument by comparing it to reality. (It is line, not author, that matters.)

    On Rosa L’s point:

    “Obama is a black person but he is the President of a White supremacist patriarchal/capitalist imperialist structure. He is part of the white establishment in the USA despite the color of his skin. Condoleeza Rice is a black woman but her politics are part of the White supremacist patriarchal/capitalist state structures. She is part of the “White Right” even if she is Black.”

    This is a view that gets all balled up in its own contradictions. the establisment of a white supremacist social formation must be a white establishment — and so it is a white establishment even if it now includes (and is led by) people who are Black. (Why should we believe our lying eyes?)

    The “establishment” of the U.S. is a monopoly capitalist ruling class. It has historically been WASP (i.e. not just white, but anglo-and-german and protestant). In the twentieth century it opened up to include Jews and Catholics… and then some (not many, but some) African American people (including as commanders of its military, prominent figures of its government and not its presidency.) In other words the “estabishment” is not simply “white” — even if the society it rules is still marked by profound forms of white supremacy (systemic, institutionalized oppression of Black and other non-white peoples).

    Multinational organizations are declared part of a “white left.” Promient black people in the ruling class are part of the “white right.” Are the women in the ruling class part of a “male establishment” — because they help administer a male supremacist system?

    And the dividing line in it all is whether people embrace your own particular ideology of “epistemic decolonization.” If not, are they not really black, or revolutionary, or women. Are their views automatically not valid (i.e. they may, in your eyes, sometimes treat the inherently-primary as sometimes secondary.)

    hmmmm.

    “White Right”? Well there is a “white right” (i.e. aryan identity groups, etc.) But the Religious Right has never been just white — there is a significant component of Black preachers very active (for example) in the anti-gay actions. Black people within the ruling class are not simply “black masks” on a white structure. They are now part of the ruling class — which itself is a sign of changes and adjustments in the way white supremacy operates. And it reflects a change (over half a century) in how the upper class sections of Black people are viewed and treated (degree of assimilation) and how the lower sections of the Black and Latino people are demonized.

    Condoleezza Rice is not simply a Black token within a “white right” — she served as a first rank figure of the ruling class, with power, and influence on its direction. The Right she (and Clarence Thomas and Colin Powell) are part of has powerful racist currents. In some ways its main appeal is rooted in white racisms (i.e. Nixon’s piano). But the fact is that this is part of a complexity on the Right — and there are also components in that right that oppose (and are now demanding distance from) that overt racism. (Jack Kemp was always a prominent example of that, but now there are more speaking.)

    * * * * * *

    Jose: don’t worry, we can and will get back to oakland. But sometimes, things take off in another direction (that in this case is hardly tangential to the argument of this piece, if not its focus.)

  16. “Until lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will always glorify the hunter”
    –African proverb

  17. nando said

    Are you saying that my recollections of the sixties are the writings of an oppressor?

  18. Jaroslav O. said

    ‘Marcos is a ladino or as the indigenous say, a caxlan’

    OK so I don’t know much about southern Mexico but ‘Ladinos’ are Jewish people who live in Spain, are you sure you don’t mean ‘Latinos’ with a t? And on that point, I just want to say that that word is used differently in various countries, sometimes with the racial connotation you described & sometimes just meaning ‘somebody from Latin America’. ‘Caxlan’ — I wonder is that derived from ‘castellano’?

    * * *

    Somebody asked about an example of Churchill’s lies. Nando discusses very well the difficulties in getting evidence about this kind of stuff, & that some horrors are not a conscious conspiracy. However the Thomas Brown paper (which, I admit I skimmed only) does disturb me in that he is critical of Churchill for even using the word ‘genocide’. Maybe Brown is right about facts regarding the Mandans, but the description of ‘genocide’ is very much warranted overall. The only way it would not be is if the definition was construed to have a time constraint (e.g. Jews in WWII, Armenians after WWI, which crimes occurred in less than a decade).

    But in his book A Little Matter Of Genocide, which is mainly about North America, he also starts discussing other genocides. One of them, he claims, is that the Ukraine nation was completely wiped out under Stalin. Of course the Ukraine population today is 45 million, 77% of which is ethnic Ukrainians. So how they would have come back from the supposed complete wipe-out in the 1930s is beyond me.

    * * *

    I agree that ‘white left’ is much too vague, & likely involves some incorrect historical assumptions. But if we take it to mean ‘mainstream left’, is it not true what is said in the RNC article? I doubt that many grassroots Democratic Party groupings are having what we’d consider a correct line on police, their violence & role in society. The RNC article also includes an anecdote about views amongst social workers. That in itself is interesting to look at. For many people on the bottom of society, ‘social worker’ means people who take people’s kids away, it’s definitely not the image of ‘progressive’ to them. However subjectively most people become social workers because they are at least mildly progressive & want to help people. (And in some cases they do, I’m not trying to categorically demonise them.)

    * * *

    Anyway the article was very informative to me since I hadn’t been following it & I don’t live in the area. Their description of the events & dynamics certainly rang true to me. Does anybody have any specific things to challenge the article’s version of events? And does anybody have any updates?

  19. nando:

    nope. actually, i have learned much from you, from TLN, from Rosa, etc.

    i was referring to thomas brown. he is a hunter and i am surprised to see his work be recommended (as good scholarship) on this site.

    to be honest, i think we can all learn something from going on tangents and getting into things like the Churchill debate, but i feel like this happens so much on this site (which is why i don’t contribute much even though i have been engaging with it since it began). [btw, i was a “supporter” of the Party for close to 10 years and extremely happy to see that Kasama was born, to see this real attempt at a real synthesis.]

    i guess i need to step out of my “urgency” mode here in Oakland and try and see the bigger picture.

    right now though, in Oakland, as in Palestine, they are killing black and brown bodies while we discuss “the sixties” and historiography.

    jose

  20. Adrienne said

    TNL wrote:

    That most of the left in the US is not very good at untangling and understanding the interesection of race, sexuality, gender and class, and that this proved an obstruction to rallying people to the case of a man who killed several cops and was then accused of rape is not really that profound an observation. The real question as I see it is one of giving people the analytical tools to really understand those intersections, and here I think the self-righteous tone that pervades this piece ensures that it will only reach the already convinced. It is hardly unique in this respect of course. But I think that precisely because grasping the workings of these intersections is the theoretical key to developing a coherent strategy for revolution in the US that we can’t afford to indulge these moralistic impulses. The proper analysis of these intersections isn’t “just there for the taking.” Rather it involves genuinely complicated questions on which sincere people (and not just liberals and the white left) do and will have real doubts and differences of opinion. I am in basic agreement with this article’s analysis of why so many people who came out for Grant didn’t come out around Mixon, what I don’t agree with is the attitude of withering contempt for those people which strikes me as having more to do with feeding the authors sense of moral superiority than it does with actually winning those people over to a better analysis.

    I can only speak for myself here.

    I have to admit that I won’t be one of those leftists living in the Bay Area who wants to attend rallies for Lovell Mixon As Hero. For me, this really has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that he shot and killed a bunch of Oakland cops — cops who are notorious for racial profiling, brutality, corruption, and of treating so many citizens of Oakland like complete shit in general.

    No, the reason I have no interest in enshrining Lovell Mixon as a hero is because contrary to the RNC’s claim in the above article, the 12 year old girl who was a rape and sodomy victim had a semen sample extracted from her ass which was in fact a match to Mixon’s DNA. (They had his DNA on file since 2002 when Mixon was convicted for the attempted car-jacking and pistol whipping of man named Francisco Cardenas in San Francisco’s Mission District.)

    I also notice the RNC article neglected to mention that this child rape victim was in fact able to give a description to the rape victim unit which produced a composite that has been described by the female rape victims officer as a “dead on” likeness to Mixon. Incidentally, the attack on this child has been linked to as many as five other rapes (all have been young black female victims) that occurred in the exact same East Oakland neighborhood. It is suspected that only one person perpetrated these attacks due to their similarity and close location. DNA tests from another woman who was similarly attacked from behind, dragged off the street between two buildings before being raped and sodomized in that neighborhood are still pending. If that DNA sample also turns out to be a match with Mixon’s perhaps the women and girls in that neighborhood will be able to breathe a little easier knowing that Mixon is no longer around to drag them off for rape and sodomy.

    As a Marxist Feminist, I must admit that I have zero interest in making a heroes out of rapists for any reason whatsoever. No matter what color their skin happens to be, or what their politics are. Moreover, I honestly don’t give a rats ass if for this reason I will now be labeled or sneered at as being somehow typical of the “white left”, or dismissed for not being adequately “revolutionary.”

    jose wrote:

    right now though, in Oakland, as in Palestine, they are killing black and brown bodies while we discuss “the sixties” and historiography.

    You’re absolutely right, they are. Still, this doesn’t mean that everyone standing on the left is going to feel an obligation to make an automatic hero out of Lovell Mixon the way the RNC has.

  21. Tell No Lies said

    Jaroslav,

    In Guatemala and Chiapas (and probably elsewhere in Central America), “Ladino” is the commonly used term for the non-Indigenous, European-descended population. It is problematic in different ways than the term “Mestizo” in that it is often wrapped up in a denial of actual mestizaje. So where the official racial ideology of Mexico pretends that everybody is (or will soon be) of mixed heritage, the Guatemalan/Chiapas pattern pretends that there are two neatly distinct groups. Chiapas, BTW, used to be part of Guatemala and only became part of Mexico in the 1820s after Independence. And “Caxlan” is indeed derived from “castellano” though its current meaning is anybody who isn’t indigenous.

  22. RNC said

    Adrienne,

    1.) The article never sought to glorify or celebrate Velle Mixon as a hero, and attending a vigil for someone killed by police, a vigil for a family in mourning, is not the same as celebrating someone as a hero.
    2.) Where is your information regarding the rape from? Because as far as anyone knows, the only flows of information are a direct line from OPD to the press (problematic enough as it is). And even the OPD only spoke of a “probable” DNA match. Are black rapists guilty until proven innocent? Should we judge them even before racist pigs would? Even before a racist DA believes there’s enough evidence to convict?

  23. Adrienne said

    RNC,

    Here’s what I’ve read regarding Mixon and the rape of the 12 year old:

    Oakland killer had just been linked to rape

    Cop-killer suspected of raping 12-year-old

    If all of this info is based on lies by the police, then clearly the family of the victim should be interviewed so that they can set the record straight on what happened regarding the DNA match and the “dead on” likeness claimed by the composite sketch. I’d also like to see what the outcome will be regarding the DNA sample taken from the other victim.

  24. FF said

    One thing that is clear from the RNC article is that they are NOT at all making Mixon out to be a hero. While some in Oakland have attempted to do so, the RNC piece is instead complicating the perception of the Cops as heroes and angels, and that of Mixon as monster and non-human. No where do I read Mixon as hero, nor do I care for heroes myself. As for the comment:
    “As a Marxist Feminist, I must admit that I have zero interest in making a heroes out of rapists for any reason whatsoever.”
    A point the article mentions, and which has been ignored is that the rape allegation(s), is precisely that, allegation(s). If we play close attention to the Oakland PD public remarks about this, they say “probable” match, which is very different than saying “positive” match. Yet OPD knows full well that when the words “DNA” and “rape” are said in the same sentence, the public response will be to ignore whatever qualifiers they give (i.e. probable). To this end, the point of the allegation, which we must admit we have at this point no way of proving or disproving, is one used to make Mixon indefensible in a context in which the shooting of 4 OPD is likely to garner him hero status. Again, even so I personally don’t care for heroes, but it is reasonable to see why some people would. The allegation thus serves the purpose of foreclosing such possibility or even of having the necessary conversation about the 4 dead cops. To have that conversation would necessitate a discussion of the history of police violence, etc. and OPD knew this. The difference in probable and positive is somewhere in the range of 1 in 7000 to 1 in 3 million. In the bay area, population over 2 million, 1 in 7000 means a family member (with shared likeness) may have done it, but we and OPD don’t have the answer to this. By OPD’s own admission they would have to do additional tests but have conveniently chosen not to pursue this. A related point is that if we are to believe OPD that Mixon is the culprit, then that means 5-6 young black women were victims of a pattern, or a “serial rapist” in east Oakland in the span of a few months (Mixon was in jail till November) yet they failed to warn the public about a serial rapist on the loose, which may very well still be “on the loose”. Where was the concern for young black women on the part of OPD then. They seem more concern with folks not finding any point of identification with Mixon than anything else.
    An important warning that I see the RNC piece making is that even if Mixon was responsible for any rape, how might take a position and stance that is at once against sexual violence, rape, AND police brutality and antiblack racism. In this, I think the piece succeeds. I’m still not seeing the morality play that others are pointing to, I see a principled political position aimed not at reaching those who already agree, but at making those who hesitated or instantly assumed Mixon is in fact a rapist to rethinking their own assumptions and presuppositions in jumping to that conclusion. OPD can exhume the body and preform further tests, but don’t expect that soon. In the meantime, how will we move forward amidst such obfuscations.

  25. Tell No Lies said

    Without offering any supporting evidence, Jose characterizes Thomas Brown as “a hunter” and Jaroslav suggests that, based on an admittedly casual look at Brown’s article, that Brown objects generally to the use of the term “genocide” in regard to the treatment of American Indians. But if one bother to read only as far as the second page of Brown’s article one finds the following:

    “Given the politicization of this topic, it seems
    necessary to acknowledge at the outset that far
    too many instances of the U.S. Army committing
    outrages against various Indian tribes can be
    documented. A number of these were explicitly
    genocidal in intent. It is not the intention of this
    author to deny that simple fact. However, as the
    eminent Cherokee sociologist Russell Thornton
    has observed of Ward Churchill’s fabricated version
    of the 1837 smallpox epidemic: “The history
    is bad enough—there’s no need to embellish
    it” (Jaschik, 2005). That the U.S. Army is undoubtedly
    guilty of genocidal outrages against
    Indians in the past in no way justifies Ward
    Churchill’s fabrication of an outrage that never
    happened.”

    Brown confines himself in this article to a very straightforward question, namely whether there is evidence to support Churchill’s claims that the smallpox epidemic among the Mandan in 1837 was the result of the US Army distributing smallpox blankets with genocidal intent. This is, as Brown states quite clearly, a discrete question from the larger one of genocide against American Indians in general, a question on which Brown quite clearly comes down on the right side. Brown lays out a very strong case that Churchill deliberately and repeatedly falsified evidence to support a claim for which there is no actual supporting evidence. I don’t know anything else about Brown as a person, what his politics are, what other ulterior motives he might have had for writing this piece. While such things might or might not be interesting, the important question here is really whether the practices of Churchill’s that Brown very meticulously documents are as he describes them. I have seen no evidence either in this discussion or in a fair amount of digging around on this to suggest that they aren’t.

    This is not, as Jose flippantly suggests, just idle academic chatter, irrelevant to or even a distraction from the real struggles today in Palestine or Oakland. When Churchill fabricates events he brings discredit not just on himself but on all radical and revolutionary scholars whose work seeks to expose the nature of the systems that are killing black and brown bodies today in Palestine, Oakland and where I am, in Chiapas. Churchill’s intellectual misconduct WEAKENS THE MOVEMENT and that is why breaking it down is not a distraction from the issues this article raises, but is rather critically important. One of the most powerful weapons we as revolutionaries have is our ability to tell the truth about the crimes of this system. When someone repeatedly undermines our credibility in the way that Churchill has we have a responsibility to reject that. When people cite his fabrications or half-truths approvingly and imitate his demagogic method of calling anyone who dares to question his positions a racist for doing so, we need to reject that. The truth matters. History matters. To state things bluntly, he suggestion that discussing it is a diversion from stopping the killing of black and brown bodies is anti-intellectual horsehit that disarms the people.

    Adrienne has raised another criticism of the RNC’s article and my immediate response, based on the overall method employed by the RNC is to distrust their and believe her characterization of the evidence. We’ll see what the facts actually are, but its important to understand how the methods used by Churchill, and by extension RNC, neccesarily casts doubt on everything they say.

  26. FF said

    Adrienne,

    SFGate has been horrible on the Mixon and Oscar Grant cases. They pretty much repeat what OPD says, and I wouldn’t expect them to interview the family since doing so would constitute journalism and they abandoned that business a long time ago.

    An interview was done with the family my MOI JR, though I have yet to hear it myself and don’t know if the rape allegation is discussed at all.
    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/04/15/18589103.php

  27. celticfire said

    I agree for the most part Nando’s thought-out approach to handling to question of un-intenetional effects of oppressive systems like colonailism, capitalism, etc. The insistance on an honest approach both Nando and TNL are arguing for is something to be explored.

    Nando says, “But that doesn’t mean that the AIDS epidemic was a genocidal plot.”

    Well yes and no.

    My understanding – and I have not done any serious research – is that the Reagan administrations enforced silence on the issue can be held responsible for their silence and continuation of the ignorance around the desease, ie: that it was “gay cancer” and there by did not effect straight people.

    I think in the case of AIDS it would be appropriate, if the above scenerio is true, to hold concious responsiblity to the ruling class, it is something different than the point about unintentional spread of smallbox. AIDS may have been unintentional, but I think it is clear from what we know now that there was conscious decisions made not to at least explain the truth about AIDS.

    This is only a minor point Nando. I agree with your conclusions about how these events results in deeper consipracy theories and distrust from sections of the population.

    On another point – there is some truth from Churchill’s point about white activism. I feel this is what has led to the dropping of the Mumia case from the white activist radar. But how it relates to the larger issue of finding the truth, and how an incorrect understanding of this can lead to very problematic results.

    I have enjoyed reading “The Cost of Privledge” by Chip Smith that FRSO/OSCL put out a year or two ago. It’s a good systematic look at the intersections issues were are discussing here. I found it fascinating that the book upholds the so-called “Stalinist” line on the national question for Black people, even though it seems like that line was advocated by Lenin.

    At any rate thank you to nando, tnl,jose and rosa for the many questions and points raised from this. I learned a lot from it.

  28. WOCfeminist said

    Adrienne,
    I am deeply disturbed that you would post the two SF Gate articles as your “proof” especially with that newspaper’s history of covering black and brown issues. The RNC article specifically points to the specious nature of the rape narrative surrounding Mixon: the fact the allegation came directly from the police straight to the media and out to the public (the majority of whom, including you, has taken as sufficient evidence to judge and condemn Mixon). This is the precise problem the article tries to address. The history of the OPD and the P-I-C in poor black and brown neighborhoods–the complex dynamics between over-incarcerating young black men on the one hand and not pursuing rape investigations on the other (http://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/20/us/203-rape-cases-reopened-in-oakland-as-the-police-chief-admits-mistakes.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all)–needs a more complex response than what you are offering. The RNC article makes no mention of making Mixon a hero. I’m guessing you didn’t read the article, and instead just took his name in the title as an opportunity to voice a seriously problematic position on the politics of race and sexual violence. There is a quote by Angela Davis in the article that is quite striking, “[Black women] have understood that they could not adequately resist the sexual abuses they suffered without simultaneously attacking the fraudulent rape charge as a pretext for lynching…” …I think this article is inviting people to think though a political theory and practice that is complex enough to address this crucible.

  29. Adrienne said

    WOCfeminist said:

    I am deeply disturbed that you would post the two SF Gate articles as your “proof” especially with that newspaper’s history of covering black and brown issues.

    My “proof”? Look, all I have done is post a few articles which show that the RNC hasn’t necessarily given out, or perhaps even taken all of the info into account.
    Shall we all simply assume that the SF Gate has to be making up lies when they reported that the 12 year old rape victim had given a description that implicated Mixon in these rapes? Or should we want to discover if this is actually true?
    Wouldn’t you like to see that composite sketch they supposedly have? And wouldn’t you like to know if the victims family could actually corroborate that composite sketch and whether the cops really had believed they’d found a DNA match to her attacker as they claim happened just a day before Mixon was killed? Wouldn’t you like to know whether the DNA taken from the other victim will end up being a match as well?
    I happen to be deeply disturbed that so many of Mixon’s defenders seem so eager to assume without any proof at all that everyone has got to be lying here. If Mixon was nothing more than a violent and pathological type of criminal that was raping and sodomizing women, wouldn’t it be better to know ALL of the facts surrounding this case before dismissing news reports as nothing but lies?

  30. patient persuasion said

    “I happen to be deeply disturbed that so many of Mixon’s defenders seem so eager to assume without any proof at all that everyone has got to be lying here. If Mixon was nothing more than a violent and pathological type of criminal that was raping and sodomizing women, wouldn’t it be better to know ALL of the facts surrounding this case before dismissing news reports as nothing but lies?”

    I think the point people are rightfully making is that accusing a black male of rape fits into a larger context of the “myth of the black rapist” that folk like Angela Davis have written about. It seems that you are quick to accept the “facts” surrounding the accusation, and just as quick to label those who question the facts as being “eager” to “assume without any proof” that Mixon is innocent.

  31. WOCfeminist said

    Adrienne,
    The article never denies the possibility that Mixon was a rapist. This article raises the question of what is to be done in a context where the most marginalized women in Oakland are NOT protected by the OPD from rape. What are we going to do in a situation where there are women who the P-I-C does not see as worth being protected??

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/26/MN3516N0KN.DTL

    http://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/20/us/203-rape-cases-reopened-in-oakland-as-the-police-chief-admits-mistakes.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all)

    The RNC article addresses how the dynamics of anti-black racism and sexual violence have intertwined in the case of Mixon, where the allegation of rape became the avenue to openly dehumanize not only Mixon but Oscar Grant as well AND reposition the OPD as victim and savior. All the while, rape cases sit untouched on OPD desks.

  32. FF said

    the “dead on” comment is from an OPD officer, so i will withhold judgement on that… has sf chronicle seen the image? when was it drawn? have they independently confirmed this with the 12 year old girl? again, all these questions point to the fact that we do not know, and relying on sf chronicle means relying on OPD’s statement of the facts, but in most if not all instances police refuse to comment further (giving sf chronicle benefit of the doubt that they are asking tough questions), leaving yet more things up in the air.

    one of the sf chronicle articles says:
    “Webber got the news shortly before leaving work at his scheduled time, Wiley said. Police could not have issued an arrest warrant immediately for Mixon because investigators first would have needed to gather another sample of his DNA for comparison purposes, the lieutenant said.”

    the need for “another sample of his DNA” is key. of course I would like to know the details of the investigation, if there is a positive match (rather than probable, which tells us nothing conclusively). but my point earlier (in #24) is that there is a reason we have yet to see all the facts, as OPD is invested in the current lack of clarity, and are themselves scared of what those results may be because there is a chance that they will remain inconclusive or exonerate Mixon. If this happens then we and OPD will be forced to have to talk about the 4 police, their own records that I had not seen until this article, and police brutality more broadly, not to mention account for why they were so quick to put the allegation out there in the first place.

    perhaps we should wait to have the conversation, but likewise, i would not hold my breath. And even if there are positive matches in DNA in future tests (assuming they will ever happen), how might we refocus on OPD’s lack of attention to rapes of black women (thank you, WOCfeminist for these points), alongside with police violence, even as we critique Mixon but only AFTER AND IF IT IS DEFINITELY PROVEN that he was involved in the rapes, and sexual violence more broadly. The point is that none of this is yet proven, period.

  33. Adrienne said

    WOCfeminist,

    I agree with you. It is glaringly obvious that the OPD often ignores rape cases, and doesn’t even try to protect women who live in the poor communities of Oakland. Unfortunately however, neither do a certain percentage of the men who actually live in those communities.
    I also agree that it’s total bullshit that the cold blooded murder of Oscar Grant seems likely to go without any justice being served.

    I was just having an IRC chat with several anarchist sisters I frequently talk to, and due to my putting down my thoughts here earlier today, I brought the topic of Mixon and the RNC’s recent statements up for discussion. One of these friends pointed me toward this article that contains another piece of info I had not heard about before now: Mixon’s cousin admitting that he had become a pimp.

    Such a fact is not something that is likely to paint Mixon as a sympathetic figure to very many feminists — no matter what their political persuasion happens to be.

  34. Adrienne said

    Also, another friend pointed me toward this blog:

    What About Our Daughters

    Something this woman wrote in that blog post really strikes a chord with me:

    You can’t condemn the perceived violent oppression of a community by “the system” and use a man who violently oppresses women and girls by torturing, raping, and sodomizing them. EPIC FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!

    You can’t call yourself a “civil rights” organization and promote the denial of basic human rights to half the population. VIOLENCE is a form of tyranny. Lovelle Mixon was a tyrannical predator he would been just as soon have pumped bullets into the 40 fools marching around calling him a hero if they stood in between him and something he wanted.

  35. Rosa L. said

    Nando said:

    “I don’t question the statement that there are folks who have some nuanced meaning when they use “white left.” but let’s not be coy about this….. every time I have ever heard it used it simply means an group of leftists who are white. It is even often used (revealingly) to describe any MULTINATIONAL grouping (that contains both black and white revolutioanries) — based on the nationalist assumption that if Black revolutionaries are organizing themsleves into a multinational movement they can’t be really Black — and so the organizaiton can still be seen as “white left.” It’s not that nuanced — in many exchanges with people holding this line, all white people who are leftist are called “white left” and are assumed to be defined by their whiteness (and their resultant chauvinism.”

    This is true. There are people who use the term “white left” in a lose way. I agree with your point here. I have provided in my intervention above a way to think about the concept of “white left” that is more nuanced and that avoids these lose statements that reproduces the worst forms of identity politics.

    Nando said:

    “The “establishment” of the U.S. is a monopoly capitalist ruling class.”

    Here is a different understanding of our political-economy. If you understand the system to be just this, then you have a very limited understanding of the historical structures constitutive of the global system we live in. In my view the global system is a “Western-centric (white supremacist) patriarchal/capitalist imperialist system.” Capitalist accumulation at a world-scale is constituted and organized around racial and gender lines. Race and gender hierarchies are not a superstructure of world capitalism but its organizing principles. The logic of capital accumulation operates within concrete historical conditions. Who does what and how much they get in this global system is conditioned by racial and patriarchal logics. It is not an accident that the majority of global capitalism’s cheap labor force or coerced labor force are non-western people and that in maquiladoras today all over the world 90 percent are women of color. This racial and patriarchal logics are not accidental or derivative of the global logic of capitalist accumulation but constitutive of its own operation and forms of domination and exploitation at a world-scale. You cannot separate artificially the two to make the logic of capitalist accumulation separate from the racial and patriarchal logic. The infrastructure and superstructure scheme is obsolete to account for these complex and integrated processes.

    Nando said about the US “establishment”:

    “It has historically been WASP (i.e. not just white, but anglo-and-german and protestant). In the twentieth century it opened up to include Jews and Catholics… and then some (not many, but some) African American people (including as commanders of its military, prominent figures of its government and not its presidency.) In other words the “estabishment” is not simply “white” — even if the society it rules is still marked by profound forms of white supremacy (systemic, institutionalized oppression of Black and other non-white peoples).”

    First, in the USA “whiteness” is the melting pot where all european ethnicities blended into a single identity. To oppose WASP to white or white to Catholics and Jews is really a weakness in your argument. The interesting thing about the USA is that anyone who jumped off the boat from European descent became blended into “whiteness” despite their ethnic and religious differences. “White” is the category that identified and gave privilege to many people of European descent despite their cultural differences. In a context of systemic crisis, post-civil rights era, and rapid decline of “white-American” demographics, it is perfectly understandable that the “white/capitalist/patriarchal supremacist elites” operate now with Black and Latino faces at the top level of the “White-supremacist capitalist/patriarchal imperialist state” in order to give a multicultural flavor to its forms of domination domestically and internationally. This is why Condoleeza Rice is part of the “White Right” and Obama is part of a “white supremacist capitalist/patriarchal imperialist structure”. A Black face can give more credibility and legitimacy to US empire in times of crisis. Second, their is no contradiction to have an establishment with multicultural faces and a society that operates with mechanisms of white supremacy (although your language seems to put these mechanisms in a secondary sphere). The establishment is representative of the dominant elites of the system. What I said is that a few Black faces can be part of white political parties and white state structures or part of the “White right wing”. Colin Power, Condoleeza Rice and Obama are examples of this. These are Black elites that form part of the white supremacist capitalist/patriarchal imperialist structures. Third, you seem to underestimate the question of patriarchy and race in your analysis. Since you consider that the US establishment as simply a “monopoly capitalist ruling class” and not a “white-supremacist capitalist/patriarchal structure” then you can afford saying that “the ‘estabishment’ is not simply ‘white’ —even if the society it rules is still marked by profound forms of white supremacy”. The “even” and the “still” here raised a red flag for me. Do you mean that white supremacy is something old that is in the way of disappearing but is “still” there? Do you mean that we have made “progress” but these structures are “still” there? Assuming you do not mean any of these two possible interpretations, which I am sure you done, then the words “even if” and “still” for you mark a discontinuity between the ruling “establishment” and (even if in a) society that operates with strong forms white supremacy. Since now the ruling class operates with a “multicultural make-up”, you seem to believe that the establishment is not anymore constituted along a “white supremacist” capitalist/patriarchal structuring logic “even if” the society is “still” organized along those lines. You seem to separate the ‘establishment’ (understood as a ruling class) and the society that “still” operates along white supremacist forms. How can you divide the two? Are we now post-racial in terms of the “establishment” as ruling class “even if” we are “still” under forms of white supremacy at the level of the society? Is this what you are saying? There no post to racial dynamics in the USA. I see the rise of Obama, Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell as a major strategy of US racial/capitalist/patriarchal empire to gain domestic and international legitimacy. We are in a “post-civil rights” era where white supremacy has re-articulated in the USA under new forms. The “establishment” understood as a ruling class is still predominantly “white”. Black capitalist have a very low level of access to imperialist world-profits and very small share of capitalist accumulation at a world scale as compared to the White capitalist/patriarchal ruling class of US imperialism. Black elites and Black capitalist can benefit from a white supremacist structure that have been forced to re-articulate in order to develop new forms of domination in the face of challenges in a post-civil right era that is not post-racial but highly racialized…

    Nando said:

    “If a black revolutionary believes that the struggle around national oppression is “secondary” then they don’t count when their organizations are evaluated. The presense of Black people in organizatoins is irrelevent — they are still “white.” And the assumption here is that either Black revolutionaries put national oppression at the center of their analysis or they don’t really count. The verdict precedes the discussion — in fact rules it out.”

    I am not supporting a form of nationalism. I was always talking racial oppression and not about national oppression. But here you take my argument about racial oppression to another level that I never assumed in my intervention above. The mistake you are making here is to collapse racial oppression with national oppresion the way the communist movement did in the 20th century. All I have to say is that after all the mistakes and problems of 20th century socialism where the eurocentric class reductionist line that prevailed in most of the international communist movement convinced a good portion of the world left to believe that solving class automatically solved race, gender and sexual oppression, it is a sign of not learning from past experience to repeat today similar theoretical mistakes. The political-economy that is reflected in Nando’s analysis assumes that capitalism is a system where race and gender operates at a secondary level. Any revolutionary today that treats sexual, gender and racial oppression as an epiphenomenon of class runs a fine line and risk being complicit with patriarchy and racism and, as a consequence, with historical capitalism itself. No, the verdict does not precedes the discussion because there has been lots of discussions of these questions in the communist movement and the trend has always been to fall back to economic reductionism promising oppressed groups that there problems would be solved as soon as class is solved. Well, what happened was that gender and racial oppression kept postponing and never solved.

    Nando said:

    “The problem with this analysis is the fact that Bob Avakian emerged as one of the radical leaders most closely with defending the Black Panther party by any means necessary. The RU was formed (precisely) out of the networks most militantly determined to defend the panthers. When I first heard of the RU and Avakian, that’s what i heard (in 1969) — that these were the people organizing the most militant, direct defense of the Panthers under attack.”

    The problem is that these expressions of solidarity never reached the level of questioning eurocentric epistemology. Avakian reproduces a positivistic, scientificist version of marxism that reifies Western Science as superior over non-Western forms of knowledge and epistemology. In this sense, epistemically speaking Bob Avakian is part of the “white left”. He never assumed the project of decolonization of knowledge the way many people did in the Black Power movement.

    Nando, I share you concern with identity politics but your statement is more than just a questioning of identity politics. You are questioning the validity of decolonizing political-economy and the validity of a complex understanding of the intersectionality of race, sexuality, gender and class in the “Western-centric capitalist/patriarchal global system.” A Black activist that keeps thinking that race is either irrelevant, epiphenomenon or secondary in relation to class is reproducing a eurocentric axiom of the “white left.” Even if he or she is Black or if the organization has many Black members, they all belong epistemically to the “White left.” The reverse is also true. A white activist who takes seriously the question of decolonization of knowledge and power is not part of the “white left” in my vocabulary. Yes, Nando, decolonization of knowledge and breaking away from eurocentric/patriarchal fundamentalism and epistemic patriarchal/racism is a dividing line. Without epistemic decolonization of racial and patriarchal structures and imaginaries there will be no renewal of the international communist movement in the 21st century. We are just going to repeat once again all of the eurocentric fallacies of the 20th century communist movement. Just look at the way RCP treats Nepalese Maoists or just think for one minute the paternalism and epistemic racism with which communist treated non-Western and indigenous epistemologies or imagine what kind of world we would have in a system with a “Eurocentric Christian-like cult of personality sect” in power like the RCP telling us all what is scientific and what is not scientific, what is valid knowledge and what is invalid knowledge….

  36. Adrienne:

    I would highly recommend you check out the work of INCITE!: Women of Color Against Violence (if you haven’t done so). http://www.incite-national.org/media/docs/5848_incite-cr-statement.pdf

    Specifically, you might want to check out the Critical Resistance/INCITE! Statement on “Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex”.

    Also, another group that I would recommend to folks is a group that I have worked with here in Oakland, they are Creative Interventions, a group that among many things, addresses interpersonal violence without relying on the state. http://www.creative-interventions.org/index.html

    I don’t where you get your information/ideas about the people who live “in the poor communities of Oakland” but I think they can be perceived, at best, as inaccurate, at worst, as racist. Seriously, please re-read what you wrote.

    Rosa L:

    Thanks again for making the points that need to be made…the old infrastructure and superstructure scheme cannot account for the realities of entanglement in the colonial matrix of power.

    palante, Jose.

  37. Adrienne said

    Thanks for linking to INCITE. They do great work and maybe those who have never heard of them will now go check it out.

    But I won’t thank anyone for trying to hang the bullshit racist label on me when what I am is extremely angry about the way women are treated in this society.

    I don’t where you get your information/ideas about the people who live “in the poor communities of Oakland”

    By living in the poor communities of Oakland and Berkeley ever since I moved to the Bay Area twenty five years ago.

  38. Tell No Lies said

    Rosa,

    I am in complete agreement with your correction of nando where you write:

    “In my view the global system is a “Western-centric (white supremacist) patriarchal/capitalist imperialist system.” Capitalist accumulation at a world-scale is constituted and organized around racial and gender lines. Race and gender hierarchies are not a superstructure of world capitalism but its organizing principles. The logic of capital accumulation operates within concrete historical conditions.”

    I would, however qualify this in three ways. The first and most obvious is that it is constituted and organized not only on racial and gender lines, but also along lines of class, nationality (which may or may not be racialized in particular contexts), sexuality. Second, it is also constituted by the capital/labor relationship which can not simply be reduced to class relations but rather permeates all of the above mentioned relations. Third, it is a highly dynamic and evolving system in which categories of class, race, nationality and gender, and their interesections are constantly being reconstituted in new and different ways, and that complex logics of capital accumulation are the primary source of this dynamism.

    The last point is particularly important in developing an analysis of the intersections of race, class, gender and sexuality. A lot of the radical analyses out there are, IMO, insufficiently attentive to the ways that these relations are being constantly reconstituted. So, while it is critically important to have an appreciation of the ways these categories have interesected historically, it is dangerous to treat the particular configuration of them as fixed or frozen. Thus, to bring the discussion back to the original article, while an appreciation of the historical role of charges of rape against black men is an important thing to bring to an analysis of the Lovelle Mixon case, we should be careful not to act like it is simply a replay of, say, the Scottsboro case. When we treat the OPD in 2009 as if they they are an Alabama sherrif’s department in the 1930s we profoundly underestimate the dynamism of the system we are up against and we end out talking in a way that simply does not ring true to most peoples experiences, including I would add, the many very real victims of the OPD’s very real racism and sexism.

    One very important transformation that has taken place is in fact the rise not just of individual figures like Obama, Rice and Powell, but of a whole layer of black professionals, business people, public officials and so on. This is not just a sinister “strategy of legitimation” on the part of an unchanged ruling class. It is also the direct consequence of conquests of liberation struggles that have produced a reconfiguration of the interesctions of race and class in the US. While there have certainly been elements of conscious ruling class strategy involved in this transformation, treating it simply in such terms disarms us ideologically in the face of a more complex reality in which a system still characterized deeply by historical white supremacy also includes significant counter-currents.

  39. Adrienne said

    TNL:

    When we treat the OPD in 2009 as if they they are an Alabama sherrif’s department in the 1930s we profoundly underestimate the dynamism of the system we are up against and we end out talking in a way that simply does not ring true to most peoples experiences, including I would add, the many very real victims of the OPD’s very real racism and sexism.

    I think you’re absolutely right about this. It also seems important to keep in mind that even as the left acknowledges such forms of institutionalized racism and sexism, people’s experiences and opinions aren’t going to be exactly monolithic, either. For example, check out that ‘What About Our Daughters’ blog I linked to earlier. It’s written by black women for black women, and the comments below the main article reflect a very wide range of opinions.

  40. Rosa L. said

    Tell No Lies, thanks for your qualifications! I agree!!!!

  41. Rosa L. said

    Josetheredfox, I liked your concept of “entanglement” and “colonial matrix of power” to talk about these things. Where did you get this from or what should I read? I might start using them….

  42. babylon_yen said

    i think some of the best writing i’ve encountered on the concept of entanglement and its resulting anxieties in colonial discourses can be found in ann laura stoler’s work. but there are a lot of people working with this concept to problematize ‘intersectionality’ within the context of contemporary struggles on the ground, including the folks in INCITE! (as jose suggested earlier), dean spade and ruthie gilmore (critical resistance).

  43. patient persuasion said

    “Thanks again for making the points that need to be made…the old infrastructure and superstructure scheme cannot account for the realities of entanglement in the colonial matrix of power.”

    How can the realities of the colonial matrix of power be divorced from questions of political economy? There is complex relation between class structures and the internal colonialism facing working class folk of color in the Bay (and beyond), but a relationship nonetheless.

    How does it help to construct a binary between the “realities of entanglement” from the “infrastructure and superstructure”?

    Is colonialism the most accurate term for understanding the complex webs of oppression (both structural and interpersonal) which exist today?

  44. Tell No Lies said

    Patient Persuasion’s last question is an important one here. I think the simple answer is “no,” that while there are, of course, important continuities between colonial and contemporary forms of domination that there are simply too many discontinuities and new developments for such terminology to be adequate. Such terminology has a seductive appeal because its moral starkness offers the comfort of taking what seems at first glance like the most radical stance. But I think behind it is actually a conservative impulse, a clinging to the moral certainities of old categories that, as I’ve indicated before, disarms us theoretically before the actual complexities of contemporary reality. There is a real element here of “fighting the last war.” We must reject the false choice between insisting that nothing important has changed in the racial organization of US society and the starry-eyed nonsense about a post-racial society.

    The question of political economy is not a minor one either. To talk of race and colonialism without seriously dealing with the logics of capital accumulation is to ensure precisely the reproduction of (middle-class) forms of identity politics that are uninterested in the overthrow of capitalism and therefore unable to defeat racism.

    Too much of the radical left is functionally illiterate when it comes to political economy and this reinforces and is reinforced by a politics that sweepingly dismisses Marx and Marxism as inherently eurocentric and therefore not worth seriously reading and engaging. Eurocentrism is a real problem in the historical development of Marxism and must be ruthlessly uprooted, but would-be revolutionaries (including many with college educations) who can’t be bothered to read Vol. 1 of “Capital,” will never be able to develop a coherent analysis of intersectionality or carry out serious epistemic decolonization.

    We are witnessing before our eyes the biggest financial meltdown since at least the Great Depression, a process that is likely going to kill more black and brown bodies than all the racist police forces of the US combined. If we are serious about developing a revolutionary politics fitted to the conditions we now face, we can not discard the most powerful tools we have for understanding this process.

  45. Rosa L:

    I got them from an old friend/comrade ;)

    Jose the young tiger

  46. WOCfeminist said

    Adrienne,
    Again, your whole argument (and the “what about our daughters” article you link to) rests on accepting a specious narrative regarding Mixon and rape that we have only heard from the police and have no way of substantiating. You seem to be implying that “due process” is irrelevant in the face of allegations of sexual violence. You then contradict yourself by invoking the criminal justice system as the appropriate means to address the rape that did happen, a position that INCITE! has several eloquent critiques of. Also, FF and Patient Persuasion have raised important points on why we need to tread carefully around this issue. Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, Angela Davis and INCITE! are a few well-known names that have long battled with this issue and articulate a much more complex analysis than you are offering. I’m guessing these people’s speeches and articles, as well as some of the other posts on this blog, have not been at the top of your reference list, because you seem to be back-pedaling to try to substantiate what was clearly a racist position on sexual violence by engaging in the same rhetorical strategies that the corporate media has engaged. That is claiming a political and moral high ground to foreclose any further discussion. This is the EXACT issue that Angela Davis has been writing against since the early 80’s and to which the Davis quote refers to. The deep complexity of “intersectionality” continues to be absent from your comments. To insinuate that WOC feminists who insist that sexuality, gender, race and class must be analyzed simultaneously and none be subordinated to the others is somehow “less feminist” is really a serious problem. I guess as a classic volume once stated, once again, all the women are white, all the men are black, but some of us are brave.

  47. Jaroslav O. said

    Yes, WOCfeminist (& the original RNC article!) make a key point about due process. People need to be proven guilty. Although there is suspicion on Mixon because of the accusations by police & their media, there is also suspicion on the accusers because their past & current actions. This means we can neither say he is guilty nor say he is innocent, without more information. Concern for the well-being of women & girls, so take rapists off the streets, surely everybody here agrees with that. But taking ‘maybe-‘rapists off the streets, what good does that do? I’ve seen probably at least a hundred movies & TV shows with this message, someone must pay for the crime, but it’s pretty dumb to make some random dude pay for it, leaving the real culprit out there untouched especially because everybody stops looking for him now that random black male is behind bars.

    However the point that this is not Alabama 1930s is true also. It’s not like we should permanently discount every evidence from OPD just because it’s from them. However I would definitely want non-police experts to examine the evidence & present their findings before sending someone to jail, or declaring guiltiness of a dead man. Not just for Mixon’s good name, but because if he is not guilty then the real rapist is still out there.

  48. Chandra Raj Gurung said

    Due to the notorious leadership & thinking the condition of Nepal has been becoming very bad. The Maoists’s nonsence thinking is the causes.
    I don’t like to comments about the Maoist activitious.

  49. Tell No Lies said

    Monarchist spam. Thats a new one.

  50. dracil said

    So the 12 year old girl is apparently not the only person he raped. He raped two women the day of the shooting, which would probably explain a lot.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/05/05/MN6917EDG8.DTL

  51. Nice. You have a couple of great points The problem with the legal system is that it sometimes doesn’t work effectively. It is a failed system and needs to be fixed.

  52. FF said

    Just noticed Dracil’s comment/link, and thought it should be noted AGAIN (as was done extensively above in the exchange that between Adrienne and WOCfeminist), that the SFGATE relies solely on spouting the OPD Police Line when Mixon was never conclusively determined to have been the culprit of the alleged rapes. Please read exchanges above to see the many problems with Dracil’s post and this line of argument.

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