BAI Note: We would like to suggest that people watch the following video from October 7, 2012 –the 11th anniversary of the US/NATO occupation of aggression against the peoples of Afghanistan– in order to have a better context for this article’s analysis of the past year. BAI would also like to extend an offer of prayer to all who have died from the aggression (whether or not they are dying in battle, or crossing borders, or at the hands of fascists in Europe and North America) :
~”Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un انا لله وانا اليه راجعون
Surely we come from Allah; And to him shall we return”~
From Tom Vee : Video from last year’s rally and march:
“The Next Day Was Revenge” : Rivalry or Cooperation
Since October 7 of 2012, the 11th anniversary of the US/ NATO occupation of aggression against the Afghan people (and the 520th year of genocidal occupation of Turtle Island), Oakland, California has seen a major shift in its political make up, as seen manifested in the politics in the streets: Self-Determination and militancy, a revolutionary unity amongst non white-identified peoples, a respect for 3rd Worldism and Islamic values…elements social movements in the US have not seen in decades.
The past year’s successes and failures from voluntary separatism can not be determined just yet. But one major challenge is clear: black and brown people do not have as much money or access to resources as whites. That’s just a fact.
The generic term “POC” or “people of color” is highly problematic, as it easily mis-implies hegemony. In reality, this is a sign of weakness and of declining power among black and brown folks (and of course, others of color) in the US.
This needs to be understood in order for our day-to-day organizing to reflect this truism as well as for us to fully understand what necessitated a voluntary (and for some, temporary) separatism from white radicalism and the politics of academia. We see two tasks in front of us that will not progress at the hand of white people. The first task is the destruction of white hegemony and white supremacy inside and outside “the Movement.” Secondly, and intertwined with the first, we need to strategize, organize, and articulate our collective actions as various tentacles of the same dangerous revolutionary beast connected to a centuries-old struggle for liberation, rather than to act as self-important cliques in a college scene (or a dropped-out-of-life scene). Currently, we don’t have a movement at all: we have a “scene.” This is one of the largest problems and biggest distractions of our time. In fact, it’s an argument in favor of separatism (whether temporary or prolonged)–of checking white supremacy to ensure that more of us are compelled to take action with the confidence that we will struggle against a common enemy, rather than merely struggling to have our perspectives included in the narrative of what goes down–a struggle we’ve been bound to for fucking ever.
Among the difficulties and debates brought up this past year, one question was whether or not it makes sense to continue and fight tooth-and-nail to carve out a space in an “anarchist scene” at all. Two things come to mind here: many of us use the term “anarchist” (just like “POC”) as a generic term because it’s easier to explain where we’re coming from rather than having to debate and defend ourselves from the usual backlash we often endure: for example, when simply stating that there is nothing in anarchism I don’t already get from Islam or when positing that these concepts people consider to originate with a white, Euro-centric, “anarchist” philosophy have been practiced by our peoples for thousands of years–but without a name. For some, the question of engaging the “scene” has already been made and the (A) Team has already lost some critical and strong people. That’s not to say that the people who have left made the wrong decision: we should be proud of them and the amazing work that is sure to come… but it is a loss for the anarchist “scene.”
Nobody was prepared for the raw emotions and difficulties of taking on restructuring projects with people we had no connection to, other than our need to destroy white power structures in order to survive. If it wasn’t apparent then, it certainly is now: although there is love and affinity that developed among us, or perhaps affinity inherent within solidarity built upon race or faith, it can still only go so far. The mutual respect will never fade and anyone who tries to back-bite will catch a thrashing, but it’s more than clear that race alone–especially under the “POC” banner, which is played as a “catch all” for too wide an array of lived experiences–can not be the only characteristic holding together a political struggle. This does not mean we should disengage in separatism, however. The need for people of color to organize themselves separately in many political and social instances has never been more crucial.
Many of those who have, are and will be engaged in decolonial praxis and some level of social and political separatism were astounded by the shock, confusion and silence that came from our white counterparts in the radical left (for lack of better terms) after POCs broke ranks and broke the silence over white supremacy within the “scene.” For many, this was just a daily reality and social norm, a reflection of broader social conditions. It was completely unacceptable, yet has been going on for years in silence and still does to this day. However, many continued on, through the discomfort and humiliation of working inside a white hegemonic body in order to “get shit done.” For some it was even worse: colonization was so deeply engrained that people didn’t (and in some instances don’t) realize that maybe our end goals are not the same as others’ in the “scene;” maybe we were a part of strengthening white hegemony in the Bay Area by falling in line and filtering the very real criticism that has been dodged since before the Oscar Grant rebellions about race and how that relates to a political struggle.
The point here isn’t to continue the back-and-forth ridicule and cheap shots, but to give a personal and individual account of what has happened over this course of time–an account that hasn’t been written yet. Nor should anyone try to complete the narrative, because it isn’t gone by damn near, and to those who simply walked away from a social center thinking that was a way to avoid facing their own participation in white supremacy are sadly mistaken. That social center is only a reflection of a scene-wide issue and that’s where the real problem lies. This process has already started and we can not go back in time.
This is what was symbolized by demos during last October 7– Columbus Day weekend, the 11th anniversary of the colonial occupation and aggression against Afghanistan and the 520th year of a genocidal occupation of Turtle Island. It was undeniable by the corporate targets that people chose to attack: financial institutions, war profiteers, the city and the state. More important than the property destruction were points made by rally speakers. There were speakers from Afghanistan and those who prescribe to a “New Afrikan” philosophy. Efforts were made to draw connections and parallels between struggles of the third world and all those who have and are suffering because of colonialism.
A month later, this spirit was seen in the streets of San Francisco with the first incarnation of Bay Area Intifada as a militant force engaged in street actions against colonialism, militarism and displacement by focusing our “smash” on that white supremacist movement called ZIONISM–something our white counterparts have failed to confront many times over. AIPAC aka “The Israel Lobby” and others seem to organize freely and without caution in Bay Area cities. It boggles the mind that this could happen in a region where people claim to be radical, militant and anti-fascist. Between then and now, Bay Area Intifada has obviously morphed and evolved from taking street actions to becoming a clearinghouse for action alerts, radical news and analysis from those on the front lines of struggle–and hopefully, we’ll continue to evolve.
This new energy was also seen again on New Years’ Eve and into 2013, when we stood together at Oscar Grant Plaza to hear pissed- off people of color speak about their experiences with the Prison Industrial Complex and other forms of state repression. A militant unification amongst tendencies was born that night and still remains one of the stronger bonds and successes made. On the flip-side, it was also an evening that exemplified the disconnect between “communities of color” and others, as seen by how clearly inattentive white people were at that gathering.
Regardless, that unification, that joy and love for one another was seen again on May Day when Anarchists/Autonomists of color decided that instead of joining another merely anti-capitalist-oriented event in downtown, we would join our people in the streets of East Oakland to celebrate and connect our struggles. It was a day where Muslim radicals and anarchists came together with queers and trans people of color to blur and break lines–as the beautiful “Burqa Bloc” did. This same multi-tendency formation took the tactic of copwatching to another level– not just by confronting and shaming undercover, intelligence-gathering cops, but by putting these Harami pigs on blast, calling out their names and badge numbers and making a video for all to see that this can be done…
Shortly after that, anarchists/autonomists of color heard exactly what the state was saying when they put Assata Shakur as #1 on the terrorist Most Wanted list and reached out to the ONYX organizing committee, homies in the Bay View and the Black Riders (all of whom participated in some way on NYE) to collectively raise a middle finger to the feds and the state, but also to connect the Assata-targeting to the repression in our own city by welcoming GP or Ghetto Prophet back home from lockdown. This is another bond that will not easily be broken.
We’ve seen many manifestations of this renewed unification: direct actions that went further than window smashings, but rather sought to attack the very functioning of gentrification (neo-colonialism) by making sure that the interior of the gentrifying “KONO” office was fucked up.
(Watch a video of KONO being fucked up here, as posted by “NOT WHITE.”)
We’ve seen what can only be called a straight up take-over of a social center that was entirely too comfortable existing as a disproportionately white environment in an almost entirely black neighborhood [BAI Note: The social center being referred to here was known as “The Holdout”. It is now know as “Qilombo” and run is run as an Arfikan & Indigenous space]. We’ve seen things get very real during the Trayvon Martin uprisings in Oakland when this energy turned on the white bourgeoisie in the gentrified Uptown district for many nights in a row. People got theirs in those nights. Credit cards of the gentry were handed out like playing cards. The drunk gentry with severe white-men complex who tried to intervene were also taken to task, beaten, robbed and tossed to the side. Those who wouldn’t put their cameras away– media included–received similar treatment.
In every single instance, there was collaboration in some degree with white counterparts. What we’ve seen over the past year was never entirely separatist. It certainly made conscious decisions on when and how political and social separatism should be employed and kinks that still needed to be hashed out. But the point remains the same here: white people were a part of the struggle for self-determination this past year and they were a part and did struggle by knowing their place. This is not a mere “white alliance” that sidelines white people as observers who share resources. But these people knew what support meant and why it is so important. They knew that we needed (and continue to need) to determine our own path towards liberation and that they, as white people, should not to try to speak for other people’s struggles, especially when standing right next to a person from those communities. They knew that their support would not be known and they got behind the push for self determination anyway.
So after all this happened in a matter of a year, and then to have comrades write that “nothing has happened in the streets this past year,” of course relationships will be strained and people will take offense. How could one not take offense to erasure when the people we fought alongside with for the prior 5+ years called last October 7–Columbus Day weekend, the 11-year anniversary of the occupation and aggression against the Afghan people and the 520th year of a genocidal occupation of Turtle Island — simply “revenge” for the day before…
Yes, our kidnapped comrades from the day before were in our hearts and there was a fear of looming conspiracy charges as people hit the streets that night–especially for those who didn’t have “citizenship.” But it was more than just that. It has always been about more than capitalism for us. Austerity is NOT new for us. That shit is a regular Tuesday morning. It’s a pancake and cup o’ coffee. And to be as blunt as possible, and to hopefully not offend too many people, when I hear about your homes being foreclosed on it hurts me, but the first thing that goes through my mind is, “Ya’ll had a fucking house?!”
We’re at a critical juncture here in the US. This individual perspective can only speak from experiences in the Bay Area, but if this decomposition continues and rifts and rivalries continue, it will be irreparable. This type of “split” has yet to be seen. And it’s going to be ugly. There is another path however–something that anyone who advocates for “communization” should see very clearly. People must get behind each others’ work and must do so selflessly. There are people who have been organizing here long before us that need and deserve support. There are amazing projects on the brink of collapse because of capacity. This should be unacceptable when the Bay Area is at peak in numbers of supposed “radicals” and “allies.” After all, can a white person from out of town, who comes to a place by choice, settles down in a black neighborhood (and brown neighborhoods, especially in the East: should be on alert- it’s coming) and then chooses to disengage from struggle when times got tough, be called anything more than a gentrifier? Can they be called anything more even if they commit wholeheartedly to the struggle? But at least with the latter, there would be some respect…
Whether our white counterparts realize this or not, many of those who are engaged in separatism were supporting them and their projects and initiatives for years. In fact, many still do because there aren’t many options out there and there is some pretty amazing work happening. But now, it’s time to give back.
If we are serious about what we say as radicals then we wouldn’t have just walked away the way we did from Occupy and we wouldn’t have just dismissed Decolonize Oakland’s critiques as “Identity Politics.” It was abundantly clear that some elements of Decolonize Oakland were way over the top on identity politics, but that can not negate the real shit and real criticism that came from them. In fact, this personalized perspective your reading comes from someone who first sought to engage in militant separatism to combat “identity politics” because our people were also in black bloc and have been for years. Erasure is erasure, whether it’s coming from whitey or our own people. It was only when separatism started to spread from inner circles and tight-knit crews into public discourse–after the organizers of the “East Bay” Anarchist Book fair failed to make race a part of the discussions and panels–that the conversation went from 5 to 10 to 20 to over 100 people describing the same exact experiences while trying to organize with “anarchists” (by which I mean “white anarchists”). From that point on, it couldn’t be ignored anymore.
If we’re serious–which I can not determine yet, but so far I would have to say unequivocally that we are NOT– we would be able to make it through the uncomfortable conversations, instead of letting a movement die (even though we all agreed that “Occupy” was ridiculous and the 99% was bullshit). We could get behind one another and set the stage of a new militant, disciplined and principled energy. We need to set the bar higher for using words like “solidarity.” Solidarity needs to be redefined to mean more than an arbitrary statement of support. People can just put those statements back in their pockets and bust out their wallets because solidarity means putting your literal and figurative money where your mouth is.
It might already be too late to create some sort of cohesion among those engaged in struggle in the Bay; but that should not be a deterrent from trying. The noose is tightening, the gentrification is expanding, the surveillance is more and more invasive, the police are more militarized and sophisticated and we are sitting here with the largest numbers of self-proclaimed radicals and anarchists that the majority of us have ever seen in a geographical region in the US.
For many, the luxury of walking away is not there. Our struggles are connected to other struggles globally and have been inherent in us for centuries. For some of our people, this legacy of colonization is entirely connected to what happens on the ground here in the US. If we are to truly be in solidarity with our peoples, actions are going to have to be taken– here. This is the critical juncture that I was referring to. Is the radical left going to get behind these struggles? Will we see a massive anarchist presence at the next anti-war demo? Will the radicals be in front of the Israeli Embassy next time Israel decides to bomb Gaza? Will they take signals and back up their Arab counterparts? Will the radicals in the US do something about the borders? Or colonialism? Will they hear the call of the resistance in Turkey and Egypt to do something about the shipments of tear gas heading towards their oppressive regimes? Will the people who identify as radicals–not the liberals and not just the average Joe’s–but the radicals of the US stand up on October 7– the 12-yr anniversary of the occupation of colonial aggression against the Afghan people– by acting in the street or by responding to the call from comrades in “Radical Beirut” to do something about the drones that are being operated by white kids playing video games in the desert? Is it going to be rivalry or cooperation?
The revolt is global and everything is connected. The decisions we make where we stand impacts what is happening elsewhere. It is either the reverberation of international struggle or the deafening silence of inaction. These decisions will never be forgotten.