Remarks on Tactics for White People Joining the Protests Against White Supremacy

This post requires a few remarks to frame it and in some sense to disempower it. First, while I have been involved with different coalitions and have participated in protests every year during my adult life, I do not claim to be anything more than just another body on the street standing with other people. I am not an organizer, I am not a leader, and though I think about things a great deal, I don’t know that my theoretical work has ever been of much use to anyone who is organizing and leading these coalitions. I know where my strengths lie (teaching, academia) and I do my best to affect the community I am a part of (the department and university I teach in and the discipline I work within). All of this means that I invite people, especially Black theorists, Black activists, and other theorists/activists of color to push back against what I say, to share wisdom, and, if they feel it worth their time, to add their voice to the conversation (if one starts).

Secondly, while this is a post directed at a certain white reaction to protests, I do not think these protests should be about the white reaction to them. I have written this post simply because it would seem strange to write about the Black community or what the appropriate Black response should be, when I am not embedded within that community nor a major dialogue partner there. It seems to me that, while I would hope for a future in which ideas can be shared without some unconscious or unintended white centering, today is not that day. So, it is not my intention in writing this that it be about white people as such. If I could summarize what I write below it would simply be: “white people who want to show solidarity, stop worrying about purity and just show up, keep quiet, and listen.” It’s a message not to the tone deaf white folk of the intelligentsia or the brocialists itching for another photo op where they look badass screaming at a cop, while making other folks who aren’t ready for that confrontation unsafe. It’s a message instead for those who feel a bit paralyzed by the recognition of their privilege and an attempt to help them see that such paralysis is still caught up in that structure, still a form of narcissism.

So, with that said, here are some thoughts that strike me as sound for white folks who are engaged in a certain amount of handwringing about how to participate in protests and other actions regarding the recent reaffirmation of America’s structural racism. Some may feel that their presence is not wanted at these protests. That may be true to some extent, but there is a kind of way of being absent even in your presence and some of the tactics outlined here may be a form of becoming-imperceptible in terms of one’s whiteness and the effects it may have on the coalition of protesters. For one thing seems very clear: coalitions are needed in these protests and these coalitions should be led by Black people. And lucky for you, whatever city you are in it is likely that leaders and activists from the Black community have stood up. So you should go. You should do what they ask. And when you do go and you do what they ask, simply don’t make it about you. Don’t be concerned about your feelings. Whether those are feelings that get hurt if you hear “mean things” being said about white people or it is your own anger which drives you to try and confront the cops if and when the Black leaders have called for non-confrontation. If such confrontation happens, it gets messy, and if you can put yourself between activists of color and the police, you should do that. And if Black activists tell you not to do something, then don’t do it.

Simply put, our individual white guilt doesn’t help shit. But, maybe your body being there can. So put your body there, but mostly stay quiet. Recognize that this is not an exact science and that you might screw up. It also strikes me for white people who are committed to listening that you are going to find there are a lot of views on the ground that don’t match exactly what is said on your Facebook or Twitter. For example, some Black participants at the recent Philly protests said that we were bothering the folks in the neighborhood and so they weren’t going to march. Others started chanting “all lives matter”. In each case it was a very small group, but regardless in each instance it was not my place to challenge their ideological correctness. Whereas I would have and you should if that happens with white participants. Don’t put that responsibility on the Black activists to do all the work, but do your best to educate these white participants and encourage certain practices foremost amongst them to just shut the fuck up and listen while they’re on this march.

At bottom, to get past this handwringing, you need to trust. Just trust your Black comrades. It’s the whitey in your head that makes you worried. Whether it’s worry over if you should be there or worry that someone isn’t going to say or do the thing you think they should. Know that there is a lot of noise right now. A lot of click bait, a lot of rhetoric, a lot of people working out their power best they can through the mediums available to them. But to know what to do, talk to the activists who organized. Ask what they want. And then follow. That’s the tactic for now. If you don’t like the overarching strategy you have to form a relationship, and go to meetings, and be open to disagreement while inhabiting a disempowered place that will make you feel uncomfortable. But taking up that space at meetings is going to be far fraught. More fraught with the haunting spectre of  reinscribing white supremacy and white centeredness than going to a protest. And the only way to deal with that, to disempower that whiteness, is make yourself available.

Getting Educated About America

This is going to be a bit of a confession. Up front I have to declare to you my naivety, because it helps explain why I’ve been anxious for weeks, on the verge of tears all day, and currently unsure if the food I ate today is going to stay down. So, a confession, though like all confessions it obscures a kind of cunning even I may be the target of.

I want to live and participate in a just country. And, as my physical symptoms evidence, I apparently believe that the United States of America can be a just country. It is embarrassing, because I am an educated person. Politically I was made aware of the kind of country I live in by radical Christians and secular anarchists and socialists during my teenage years. And that early consciousness raising by punk rock was felt in my bones only to be confirmed intellectually as a student reading history and critical theory. But, yet, I must still believe something about America.  Read the rest of this entry »

Video of the “Breaking the Manichean Chains” Panel

This past Friday I was on a panel that Mark William Westmoreland organized for the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs conference on Revolutions: Past, Present, and Future. Mark, Melanie Kampen, and myself all delivered papers which were recorded. The video is available to watch and please feel free to use this page for any comments or discussion. I thought Melanie’s and Mark’s papers were truly excellent and was very honored to be included. Some of what I presented comes out of discussions with Daniel Colucielleo Barber towards a paper I’m hoping we write together when we can carve out the time. The research is very much in early stages and very preliminary here.

Another Laruelle related event post

At some point soon I hope to return back to blogging. I have been working very diligently over the past few months on a number of projects that have taken up most of my time. While you don’t come here for my whinging (that’s what my locked twitter account is for) I haven’t had a day since August that I didn’t work for at least eight hours. It’s getting a bit much! But should end soon and you’ll have some Laruelle related goodies to show for it, like the translation of Introduction to Non-Marxism (final proofing is going on right now) and my introduction and guide to Principles of Non-Philosophy, which will be out in May with EUP. I should have my synthetic introduction to his work finished in January (coming out with Polity) and then I will be finished with my duties to the secondary literature, translations, and editing. I really am thankful for the method and insights that Laruelle has given me, but it’s important that his work is, for me, a method for doing work not “Laruelle-oriented” and so I am looking forward to finishing these projects and focusing on the on-going generic secular project with some others (more details about that as they develop).

Until these projects are finished, edited, and dusted, I am here to give you two more Laruelle related announcements. First, the Laruelle in Translation series hosted by Michael O’Rourke, took place in July. The videos of the lectures by Joshua Ramey, Alex Dubilet, Alice Rekab, and myself are now online at the media page of the Global Art & Ideas Nexus. Also you will find there a short film by Alice Rekab. Unfortunately we don’t have video of the discussion that took place after she showed her video, but it was a genuinely interesting and exciting use of non-philosophy. I am very excited to see it come to fruition. The film was created in collaboration with an artist in Sierre Leone, People Pikeen, and was a genuine work of generic translation. Alice will soon be helping to raise awareness about the Ebola crisis hitting that community and I will be posting a link to that when it is up. You can see another collaboration between the two to help raise awareness about precautions against Ebola on her Vimeo page.

Secondly, for those in the New York area, next weekend (Oct 10-11th) there will be a symposium at Parsons The New School for Design. The symposium will feature a number of friends of the blog, like Alex Dubilet and Dave Mesing, and will represent the diversity of uses to which Laruelle’s project has been put in the Anglophone world. The poster below contains all the pertinent information. Superpositions_Laruelle_Symposium

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“A City of Heretics: François Laruelle’s Non-Philosophy and Its Variants” Published

Angelaki has just published a special issue on François Laurelle’s non-philosophy and variants thereof (click here for the cover, the black cow being a reference to Harman’s review that I use as a trope in my introduction). I edited this collection and was very humbled and honored to try and bring together a number of thinkers whose pick up on Laruelle’s own. The topics covered move from animal ethics to religion to epistemology to art to media to politics and others. I see this as a testament to the plasticity and freedom that non-philosophy allows, something that was on display this last week in Cerisy where a a similar themed colloquium was held. I have listed the table of contents for the journal below with links to free downloads. These are limited to fifty and so I ask if you are interested but have institutional access to Angelaki to please not use the links below. I have invited the other authors in the journal to include their links here, but many will have their own ways of disseminating the link and will want to use their avenues instead. If you are interested in the journal and cannot gain access let me know.

Table of Contents:

1. Laruelle Does Not Exist: Editor’s Introduction

2. Principles for a Generic Ethics by François Laruelle (translated by APS)

3. A Science of Christ? by François Laruelle (translated by Aaron Riches)

4. Sexed Identity by François Laruelle and Anne-Françoise Schmid (translated by Nicola Rubczak)

5. Theorems on the Good News by François Laruelle (translated by Alexander R. Galloway)

6. The Theoretical Pragmatics of Non-Philosophy: Explicating Laruelle’s Suspension of the Principle of Sufficient Philosophy with Brandom’s Meaning-Use Diagrams by Rocco Gangle

7. With One’s Eyes Half-Closed, a Particle of Laruelle by Drew S. Burk

8. The Autism of Reason by Alexander R. Galloway

9. Notes on the Axiomatic of the Desert by Eugene Thacker

10. Proletarian Gnosis by Gilles Grelet (translated by APS)

11. Violence: The Indispensible Condition of the Law (and the Political) by Katerina Kolozova

12. The Animal Line: On the Possibility of a ‘Laruellean’ Non-Human Philosophy by John Mullarkey

13. On Generic Epistemology by Anne-Françoise Schmid and Armand Hatchuel (translated by Robin Mackay)

14. Against Tradition to Liberate Tradition: Weaponized Apophaticism and Gnostic Refusal by Anthony Paul Smith

15. Mediation, Religion, and Non-Consistency in-One by Daniel Colucciello Barber

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Contra Dad Rock Pedagogy

I woke up this morning to a retweet of JKAS’ Wall Street Journal “Has Anyone Seen Last Year’s Promising Freshman?” It was, umm, “interesting” to read a pedagogical perspective dripping with utter contempt for his students especially as I had gone bed late last night reading bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress. hooks encourages her readers to foster an openness in the classroom driven in part by student desire but also that recognizes that every pedagogical decision is a political decision, that when one teaches only the canon that one has advocated something. Teaching is never simply teaching and if you think it is you’re either not thinking or being willfully ignorant. Now, if we take JKAS at his word at being “invited into this exclusive club” of “liberal enlightenment”, would should, I suppose, trust that he is smart enough to know how insulting his article will be taken as an insult. After all, in it he lambasts professors, his very colleagues (I suppose tenure makes rascals of folks), for not simply  extolling the virtues of the Western and instead “confuse teaching with advocacy”. But setting aside the veracity of such a claim (it seems to me to lack merit) we may assume that while JKAS is aware enough to know it will cause offense we may also assume, since he wrote the article, that he enjoys the fact that it will be offensive. He may even feel that he’s struck a blow against the complex of PC college professors whose only taste for intolerance is against the intolerant. In other words, JKAS is a contrarian and so shares less in common with the lover of wisdom than he does with the sophist who likes the way the words feel in his mouth. Ironically this means he shares more in common with the common right-wing caricature of “social justice warriors” who get off on their outrage as he clearly is enjoying his own smug denigration. Read the rest of this entry »

These Young Men Are Heroes: Kill the Whitey in Your Head

heroes

It is quite possible that tomorrow we will wake up this photo on the covers of major newspapers. Reportedly the photo was taken in Ferguson, MO where the militarized police force murdered a young man named Michael Brown in cold blood for the crime of being Black in america. The anger at this injustice is not the anger at just this iteration of the open season on Black people in america. No, this anger runs deep, it runs down to the very foundations of anti-Blackness the wealth of the West was built upon. In the morning, today for those reading it, you may have woken up to the media using this photo to spread anti-Blackness. The body of the young Black man as a violent body, as a threatening body. That’s what they want you to see. But they want you to see that because the media is a wing of american white supremacy, it enshrines the cultural values of white supremacy through the way it directs your vision. Resisting that, refusing it, is a small part of the resistance that is required.

The militarized cops in Ferguson and the rest of the structures of the state want you to look at these photos and see scary “black boys” whose violence may be committed against you (and especially the “you” who is white or middle class or can pass as such). But that is not what is happening in this photo. These young men are heroes. These young men are braver than the shock troops of capital showing up with the powers of air, land, and sea to fight individuals with barely any weapons. These young men are braver than the cops in Ferguson, MO who take off their badges and ID tags. Who hide behind machine guns, tear gas, body army, urban tanks, and other accoutrements of the modern cowardly police officer. When you see these young men refuse to pathologize their blackness like the media wants you to do. Did they kill an unarmed teenager? Did they respond to their crime against humanity by refusing to face up to it? And when their community rose up to demand justice did these young men shot teargas, wooden and plastic bullets at people standing on their own lawns? Did they declare a no-fly zone and kick out the reporters, suspending the 1st amendment? No, they did not do that. White supremacy did. A popular piece of graffiti in the 60s read “kill the cop in your head”. Well, today the imperative for you today is to kill the whitey in your head. When I see these young men I see an ultimatum and an imperative. Something that I would hope I could live up to, even while I fear I would not. These young men inspire me. The cops and their actions are ugly, but these young men, well, they are beautiful.

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