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Study Group 7 - White Supremacy and Black Liberation

Study Group 7 - White Supremacy and Black Liberation

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Published by: IsaacSilver on Jan 03, 2011
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White Supremacy and Black Liberation
1.Andrea Smith, “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of WhiteSupremacy”2.Adolph Reed, “Tokens of the White Left”3.Glen Ford, “Race and National Liberation Under Obama”4.Robert L Allen, “The Social Context of Black Power”
Andrea Smith, “Heteropatriarchy and the ThreePillars of White Supremacy: Rethinking Womenof Color Organizing”
Scenario #1
A group of women of color come together to organize. Anargument ensues about whether or not Arab women should beincluded. Some argue that Arab women are "white" since theyhave been classified as such in the US census. Another argumenterupts over whether or not Latinas qualify as “women of color”since some may be classified as “white” in their Latin Americancountries of origin and/or “pass” as white in the United States.
Scenario #2
In a discussion on racism, some people argue that Nativepeoples suffer from less racism than other people of colorbecause they generally do not reside in segregated-neighborhoods within the United States. In addition, some arguethat since tribes now have gaming, Native peoples are no longer“oppressed.”
Scenario #3
A multiracial campaign develops involving diverse communitiesof color in which some participants charge that we must stop theblack/white binary, and end Black hegemony over people of colorpolitics to develop a more “multicultural” framework. Howeverthis campaign continues to rely on strategies and cultural motifsdeveloped by the Black Civil Rights struggle in the United States. These incidents, which happen quite frequently in “women of color” or“people of color" political organizing struggles, are often explained as aconsequence of "oppression olympics." That is to say, one problem wehave is that we are too busy fighting over who is more oppressed. Inthis essay, I want to argue that these incidents are not so much the
result of “oppression olympics,” but are more a bout how we haveinadequately framed “women of color” or “people of color” politics. That is, the premise behind “women of color” organizing is that womenfrom communities victimized by white supremacy should unitetogether around their shared oppression. This framework might berepresented by a diagram of five overlapping circles, each markedNative women, Black women, Arab/Muslim women, Latinas, and AsianAmerican women, overlapping like a Venn diagram. This framework has proved to be limited for women of color and peopleof color organizing. First, it tends to presume that our communitieshave been impacted by white supremacy in the same way.Consequently, we often assume that all of our communities will sharesimilar strategies of liberation. In fact, however, our strategies oftenrun into conflict, for example, one strategy that many people in US-born communities of color adopt, in order to advance economically outof impoverished communities, is to join the military. We then becomecomplicit in oppressing and colonizing communities from othercountries. Meanwhile, people from other countries often adopt thestrategy of moving to the United States to advance economically,without considering their complicity in settling on the lands of indigenous peoples that are being colonized by the United States.Consequently, it may be more helpful to adopt an alternativeframework for women of color and people of color organizing. I call onesuch framework the “Three Pillars of White Supremacy.” Thisframework does not assume that racism and white supremacy isenacted in a singular fashion; rather, white supremacy is constitutedby separate and distinct, but still interrelated, logics. Envision threepillars, one labeled Slavery/Capitalism, another labeledGenocide/Capitalism, and the last one labeled Orientalism/War, as wellas arrows connecting each of the pillars together.
One pillar of white supremacy is the logic of slavery. As Sora Han, JaredSexton, and Angela P. Harris note, this logic renders Black people asinherently slaveable – as nothing more than property. That is, in thislogic of white supremacy, Blackness becomes equated withslaveability. The forms of slavery may change – whether it is throughthe formal system of slavery, sharecropping, or through the currentprison-industrial complex – but the logic itself has remainedinconsistent. This logic is the anchor of capitalism. That is, the capitalist systemultimately commodifies all workers – ones’ own person becomes a
commodity that one must sell in the labor market while the profits of one’s work are taken by someone else. To keep this capitalist systemin place – which ultimately commodifies most people – the logic of slavery applies a racial hierarchy to this system. This racial hierarchytells people that as long as you are not Black, you have the opportunityto escape the commodification of capitalism. This helps people who arenot Black to accept their lot in life, because they can feel that at leastthey are not at the very bottom of the racial hierarchy – at least theyare not property; at least they are not slaveable. The logic of slavery can be seen clearly in the current prison industrialcomplex (PIC). While the PIC generally incarcerates communities of color, it seems to be structured primarily on anti-Black racism. That is,prior to the Civil War, most people in prison were white. However, afterthe thirteenth amendment was passed—which banned slavery, exceptfor those in prison—Black people previously enslaved through theslavery system were re-enslaved through the prison system. Blackpeople who had been the property of slave owners became stateproperty, through the convict leasing system. Thus, we can actuallylook at the criminalization of Blackness as a logical extension of Blackness as property.
A second pillar of white supremacy is the logic of genocide. This logicholds that indigenous peoples must disappear. In fact, they must
be disappearing, in order to allow non-indigenous peoplesrightful claim over this land. Through this logic of genocide, non-Nativepeoples then become the rightful inheritors of all that was indigenous—land, resources, indigenous spirituality, or culture. As Kate Shanleynotes, Native peoples are a permanent “present absence” in the UScolonial imagination, an “absence” that reinforces, at every turn, theconviction that Native peoples are indeed vanishing and that theconquest of Native lands is justified. Ella Shoat and Robert Stamdescribe this absence as “an ambivalently repressive mechanism[which] dispels the anxiety in the face of the Indian, whose verypresence is a reminder of the initially precarious grounding of theAmerican nation-state itself… in a temporal paradox, living Indianswere induced to ‘play dead,’ as it were, in order to perform a narrativeof manifest destiny in which their role, ultimately, was to disappear.Rayna Green further elaborates that the current Indian “wannabe”phenomenon is based on a logic of genocide: non-Native peoplesimagine themselves as the rightful inheritors of all that previouslybelonged to “vanished” Indians, thus entitling them to ownership of 

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