Friday, July 31, 2009

WEIRD 09: Radical Feminists of Colour Hui

radical feminists of colour hui*

racism within activist and feminist spaces
working with white privileged feminists and activists
decolonisation in Aotearoa

WEIRD 09 womyn engaging in radical decolonisations

sat 5 sept – sun 6 sept
home of compassion
island bay
te whanganui a tara / wgtn

$20 waged/ $10 unwaged, or whatever you can afford

*hui for any self-identified wom*n of colour. female bodied and intersex people of colour also welcome

This hui seeks to open space for coloured women working in various spheres of social justice and peace work, to examine the working connections between racism, sexism, colonisation and class oppression.

This space is for activist women of colour to get together and discuss experiences of our social justice workings, solidarity and living on colonised land. To share and find holistic, multi-pronged ways to address the various forms of powers that can affect us.

The hui will be grounded around those three main themes. However, other dynamics such as race and desire, tokenism, invisibility, ancestral language loss, and anything else that wants to be discussed, will be placed in the agenda, which will be decided in the first bit of the hui.

Email us any further questions, rego by 15 August

(oh and please register even if you're not paying, so we know how much food to cook)

Weird 09 organisers: Meng Zhu Fu and hannah Ho wai ling

WEIRD 09 rego form

travel assistance wanted?:
(we have some money avail for gas, plane, train or bus)
food requirements?:
(morning tea, lunch and arvo tea provided)
childcare costs assistance wanted?:
(we have some money avail to pay childminders)
waged, unwaged, none/or whatever you can afford?:
Any topics you would really like discussed?

there is wheelchair access. there are many car parks. the number 1 bus heading towards island bay also runs regularly.

email rego to :
or post to:

14 cornford st
te whanganui a tara

hui cost details:

Account name: H W L Ho conference
Bank account number: 02 1242 0549383 032

or post chq to above address

We are not the same: resisting assimilation and imperialist feminisms

There is an assumption in western feminist thought that there is some kind of 'universal womanhood'; that we as women have the same experiences of sexism, misogyny and patriarchy. It is an ethno/eurocentric assumption that is hegemonic in my experience of feminist practice and theory, whether it is directly articulated or not. It seems to more or less operate on a subconscious level for many white feminists. But it is an idea that privileges sex/gender identities above others and makes other forms of oppression nearly invisible. Our experiences are always context-specific and related to our social positioning within systems of power/domination. It does make a difference if you are not of the dominant ethnicity/"race", class, sexuality, age, body/mental ability.

Even in radical anarcha-feminist discourse even, I feel like there is a silence around issues of racism and class in particular. When they're not talked about, they are de-prioritised and swept under the carpet. There is a real danger in only focusing on single forms of oppression ie. sexism. First of all, sex/gender is not the only aspect of identity that involves hierarchical relationships of power in western capitalist colonial state societies. There is a range of oppressions which are all interconnected and interlocking to make up experiences of being subjugated, dominated or oppressed. Because the sexism middle class Pakeha womyn experience is not the same, even within this category, there would be variation, but speaking for myself, my experiences of sexism has often been racist as well, and ageist. Racist sexism or sexist racism is when both oppression happens together and the shit flinging at you multiplies.

A silence on difference, ignoring it, or assuming sameness is oppressive in that it masks really important aspects of people's identities and experience of oppression. It doesn't integrate a holistic analysis of power and privileges some forms of oppression above others. Difference shouldn't be seen as divisive like unity shouldn't be based on sameness. Instead, it should be acknowledged and accepted. Not all womyn experience sexism in the same way as middle class white womyn. We have different life histories, different cultural backgrounds, different customs and ways of relating to each other. Being a feminist shouldn't have to mean assimilation into what white womyn think is 'feminist'. To impose one theory of feminism, or one strategy of feminist revolution to apply to all contexts based on eurocentric understandings of the world is inherently imperialist, paternalistic and fucked up. There may be similarities and common experiences, but to ignore difference and only emphasising sameness is homogenising and insulting. It's gives an underlying message that difference is not okay, "you're only okay if you're like us".

Take for example, the situation of apartheid in South Africa when the All Blacks were touring there. The Springbok Tour seems to be such a cliche example for many things these days, but I want to use the example of how the South African government first denied Maori rugby players the right to play, then adopted a policy deeming them "honorary whites", so they could play 'legitimately'. So they were only allowed to play against the Springboks when they were given White status. They couldn't just be accepted as Maori players, couldn't be accepted as different or Other. This is exactly how some white feminists treat some of us non-white womyn. By informally/subtly ignoring difference, being 'colourblind', by assuming sameness, by not challenging white privilege (collectively), white feminists render central aspects of our identity meaningless and invisible.

In many situations when I am the only non-white/Asian person in a feminist/activist meeting, it is really hard to challenge and resist homogenising attitudes on your own. Racism in radical groups and scenes is slightly different to racism in wider society, where it is much more blatant and noticeable, you can name it really easily as being racist. When racism works on a level that is taken-for-granted, it is harder to demonstrate how behaviours, comments or attitudes can be racist, especially when it often isn't based on hatred, but ethnocentric cultural ignorance and colourblindness which means you are treated as an 'honorary white'. When you are on your own, there is nobody else who have attest and validate your feelings of alienation and social isolation. So I think it is really important to have these conversations with other non-white feminists and activists and draw inspiration from grassroots writings and media created by non-white womyn that speak to us and are relevant to our specific experiences and reclaim visibility. We have to support each other, to decolonise and rethink all the colonial white supremacist patriarchal capitalist ideologies forced down our throats and ears growing up in their system. I'd also love to see these discussions going on outside of activist ghettos and ivory towers and reconnect with our sisters, mothers and aunts bearing the brunt of multiple oppressions at the lowest of the low and organise collectively to destroy this silence.

Note: I say "non-white" as a political category to encompass all who do not have white privilege, but I want to acknowledge that within this category, the experiences are also not the same, there are similarities in the way we are marginalised by white supremacy, but the experiences are unique to our layers of identities, historical and cultural backgrounds and our responses to oppressive conditions. And that difference, I think, deserves respect and visibility.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Six Reasons Why People of Color Need Anarchism


Anarchy isn’t just for skater kids and grad students any more.

All over the world, oppressed people are talking about grassroots solutions. They are talking about depending on the community instead of governments, corporations and cops. They are in rebellion against the powers that be, their version of history, and their institutions. Sometimes that rebellion is active and outspoken. Other times, resistance to the system’s order is done subtly. But one thing is clear: people of color — those of African, Indigenous, Asian and Third World descent — have had it with the white supremacist system and its global and domestic power plays.

For hundreds of years, colonized people have gone to war and waged insurgencies against those who try to steal land and resources for their own wealth. We have marched under dozens upon dozens of banners. But whether you are a Che-shirt-wearing conscious sister or brother or just someone fed up with poverty, cop racism and a government more dedicated to war than the people, one thing has to be clear: only a world of equals, one where everyone has a say, is going to get us the justice we are owed.

Anarchism is a political strategy in which there are no bosses or government to maintain the racist power relationships as they exist. Anarchism is a concept rooted in the idea that our communities can and should have the power to determine their own directions.

Why is do people of color need an anarchist revolution?

1. Declarations People of Color Today Have “Made It” are False

Do politicians of color make you feel freer? Do police officers, lawyers and judges of color make you believe the criminal justice system acts in fairness? Of course not!

Though people of color fought many important struggles to gain access to basic services and consideration, the white supremacist system flipped the game. Today, racism is not so much white hoods and Jim Crow as it is about command and control. The government got around “separate but equal” schooling years back by defunding schools in communities of color. The system’s response? “You have schools and plenty of opportunities.” People of color can become cops, attorneys and judges, yet the nature of this white supremacist system remains the same. The regime’s supporters say people of color now have mayors, senators and “leaders” to look up to, yet the way this power dynamic works has changed little in 100 years.

No amount of access, politicians, class ascension or celebrities will ever mean this government will work in the interests of people of color or contrary to the system’s largest constituency. Nevertheless, this white supremacist system demands our loyalty, and questions our “patriotism” and heritage for bucking the company line. An anarchist world will ensure such racist machinations will end.

2. Under this System, We Have to Fight for Rights and Respect

At every turn, people of color’s demands for basic dignity are met with hate and defensiveness, like we have no right to want justice. To this government, we are owed nothing. Racist political pundits think people of color should be grateful this white supremacist system didn’t just keep us in chains.

For people of color, the elite would just prefer you get in line, keep your mouth shut and be a good German until it’s time to send you overseas to take a bullet in one of their wars against other Third World people. Meanwhile, when people of color talk about inequality here at home, you’re told “get over it,” “that was years ago,” or “my parents didn’t own slaves.”

Under this regime, justice has been denied since its founding. People of color need an anarchist solution to break the grip on power the rich few have over our communities.

3. Under this System, the Media is for Government Propaganda Against People of Color

Black people are being portrayed as animals. Brown-skinned people are looked at as “illegal Mexicans,” terrorists, gang members and criminals. Asian people are shown as subservient drones to their white masters. The mainstream media is filled with garbage that is intended to tell people of color that they are worthless. How did it get this way? The media works this way by design.

Mainstream media has always been propaganda for the white supremacist system. From back in the day all the way to now, the media has never taken an interest in talking root causes or justice. They say we’re uneducated, but don’t talk about colonialism, racism and the whitewashed versions of history. They call us violent for questioning a cop, but never investigate the fascist history of policing. And whenever people of color fight back, the media treats our indignation as something we deserve to get a beatdown and jail cell for.

Under any power system, media becomes a tool of the people in power to spread their world view to the slaves. In an anarchist world, media is decentralized and centered on affected people and communities. The fashion-model anchors and other lackeys for the ruling class won’t crank out trash intended to mislead people of color and glorify the white supremacist system. In an anarchist world, we are the media, and can tell our own stories, free of the racism that dominates mainstream media now.

4. Capitalism Has Failed People of Color

Don’t be fooled by the musical artists on television shucking and jiving for 30 pieces of silver into believing the shell game of capitalism benefits the barrio or ‘hood. Plenty of studies demonstrate people of color are not paid what whites are paid. The government wants us to salute their flag and pledge allegiance, while community centers in the ghetto and other poor communities of color don’t adequately prepare youth for career advancement, beyond a trade, to get work that pays living wages. Under capitalism, we are set up to fail, and then we are incarcerated for daring to struggle for something to care for our families. We can do better than this.

Some people of color, misled by this white supremacist system, decide it’s better to get theirs and play the capitalist shell game. Most don’t understand how few of us have a legitimate chance at success, and the biases we face getting there. Under an anarchist set of politics, this dog-eat-dog economic system will be no more.

5. Socialism and Communism Have Failed People of Color

Among many in the Third World left, there is a love affair with socialism and Communism. Though anarchy shares some ideals with both, such as community control and justice for the oppressed, it rejects notions such as “dictatorship of the proletariat” and party vanguards as power grabs meant to control our communities from the outside in.

Supporters and opponents of many socialist and Communist regimes, for years, have boiled one of the central problems of such politics leading our struggles. They say: when a faction in power maintains its political line is the “correct” one, political discussion, dissent and community dialog is extinguished. Politics, economics and social needs become about who is following the faction in power, not the best solutions. Intimidation rules the day, and every socialist and Communist regime has inevitably fallen into such traps because of its political orientation.

Some say, “that’s fine with me, so long as we have the power.” Yet, the tricky part is maintaining power, what lengths you go to keep it (many Third World socialist countries have oppressed their own people, for example) and the internal corruption that results from those staying in or getting in the good graces of the powerful. In all but a few cases, it’s not much different than this white supremacist system, and people of color globally have rejected such dictatorships for good reasons.

6. Anarchism is Focused on People, Communities and Compassion, Not Corporations, Profit and Police

Anarchist models have been successfully implemented around the world. With anarchism, resources are placed in the hands of the people, not the politicians and lobbyists who profess to act in “our” interests. In an anarchist world, the victims of this white supremacist system are not treated like criminals. Anarchist communities put their faith in the people themselves, not the people who deem their leadership to be more important than what the community needs. This government only cares about corporations, good old boys and money. It has only made concessions to people of color when it felt the hot flames of revolution scalding its back. Its time is over.

Not everyone may be ready to be fully invested in an anarchist world, in which we all share responsibility for each other and ourselves. The white supremacist system has had many hundred years to miseducate, terrorize and abuse people of color — some of us to the point where we act against our own interests and reject hope for anything more. But a better world for us, our children and their children is possible, and it’s time to agitate among people of color for a better solution than this parasitic society. Educate yourself, your friends and loved ones. Share this text. Know that the road to liberation is a long one. Unite oppressed people. Fight for a better world today.