I launch this piece from the challenge that Asam Ahmad offers in his piece: ‘We are NOT all Trayvon Martin.‘ It’s a useful phrase that breaks through the multicultural ‘people of color’ rhetoric quickly. Ahmad keeps us cognizant of the specificity of antiblack violence: ‘Trayvon was not murdered because he was a person of color. This verdict was not delivered because he was a person of color. Trayvon was murdered because he was Black. This verdict was delivered because he was Black.’ Ahmad concludes by asking non-Black POC to question and challenge the ways that antiblackness operate in our communities and social spheres.
I want to build on this analysis further, to a structural level. I want to work from the acknowledgement that we are absolutely not all Trayvon Martin, but the violence that different communities experience is entangled with andfulcrumed by the violence against him, and against each Black life executed in the US every 28 hours. Antiblackness is not only contained in the interpersonal (because racism never is), but instead manifests also as patterns of violence and exploitation by the state and its regimes, as history, as legacy. Antiblackness, and other patterns of racism, are not contained in single incidents or moments of time (like Trayvon Martin’s murder), but are situated in the accumulated violence against peoples. It is for this reason that I ask us to move from a situational/social analysis of antiblack violence and consider how it materially undergirds patterns of violence against other people of color. Because the erasure of antiblack violence is not only manifested as failure to talk about, acknowledge, and resist violence on Black bodies, but also the erasure of how violence against other POC (and the whole US imperialist project) operates in relation to antiblackness. I maintain that solidarity does not just look like calling out antiblack appropriation, comments, etc, but also pinpointing the material connections between struggles, especially at moments of extreme duress and mass racialized violence.
BGD is a 100% reader-funded, non-profit project. DONATE today and support marginalized voices.
In their piece ‘Figuring the Prison’ Jared Sexton and Elizabeth Lee ask us to situate the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison (in Baghdad, Iraq) in relation to Black incarceration, which in turn represents a continuous translation across generation from the Black-subject-as-Slave to the Black-subject-as-Prisoner. Torture at Abu Ghraib, according to mass media and public conversation, appeared to be a racist project carried out against the vague idea of ‘brownness’, a racialization separate from domestically incarcerated Black people. This is an era rife with ‘replacement Negros’, Sexton and Lee argue, with characters (‘the terrorist’, for example) who are uncritically inserted into 21st century conversations around racism without an interrogation of their linkages to antiblackness. Following Sexton and Lee, Abu Ghraib (or Guantanamo, for that matter), without an analysis of antiblackness, can be construed as a ‘space of exception’, rather than an experiment that fully follows from slavery and the US prison-industrial complex. Without understanding how Blackness and antiblackness are tied up in brutal and mass incarceration, the political reaction to Abu Ghraib has the danger of promoting ‘reform’ and ‘revision’ rather than the more radical vision: prison abolition.
This is an urgent structural analysis. I write this as President Obama is sending drones to Pakistan, which you can visualize here. I write this as the US sends $3 billion a year in military aid to Israel, materially supporting the maintenance of the gaza strip as an open air prison. I write this on the heels of the anniversary of the shooting at a Sikh Gurudwara in Wisconsin. Last year, Harsha Walia wrote a poignant response in commemoration of the Wisconsin tragedy, that did precisely the work of connecting this incident of violence against Sikhs and other, broader structures of White supremacy and empire. She calls for fellow Sikhs to build solidarity with other racialized communities: ‘with Muslim communities bearing the brunt of Islamophobia, with Blacks who disproportionately endure police violence and over- incarceration, with Indigenous people who are being dispossessed of their lands and resources, with non-status migrants who have been deemed illegal and are facing deportation.’
Walia’s piece does the critical, challenging work of maintaining the specificity of violence against her community, while also putting it in context with other struggles. Cornel West makes a similar move in his interview with Democracy Now!, where he calls out President Obama for talking about race in relation to Trayvon Martin’s murder without talking about other structures of domination, in which the President and the state are brutally complicit. West calls Obama a ‘global George Zimmerman’, meaning that the President, like Zimmerman, racially profiles and murders.
So when [Obama] comes to talk about the killing of an innocent person, you say, “Well, wait a minute. What kind of moral authority are you bringing? You’ve got $2 million bounty on Sister Assata Shakur. She’s innocent, but you are pressing that intentionally. Will you press for the justice of Trayvon Martin in the same way you press for the prosecution of Brother Bradley Manning and Brother Edward Snowden?” So you begin to see the hypocrisy.
In a way, Obama’s statements about Trayvon Martin and the viral refrain ‘I am Trayvon Martin’ are both failures of the same multiculturalism, of considering racism as something broad and incidental, rather than specific and material. West asks: ‘Will [Obama’s identification with Trayvon Martin] hide and conceal the fact there’s a criminal justice system in place that has nearly destroyed two generations of very precious, poor black and brown brothers?’.
A material consideration of antiblackness in relation to patterns of violence against other POC, and to US imperialism in particular, would hold space for both parallels and specificity. Abu-Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the US prison-industrial complex. Zimmerman and Obama. COINTELPRO and XKeyscore. These are patterns of policing and violence that inform each other, in psychology, and also in that the military/police strategies deployed domestically and abroad mirror each other. For example, Obama is a global George Zimmerman, but also: Zimmerman is a domestic drone. Solidarity can begin with challenging attitudes in our communities, but it must also include connecting those dots between the tactics of enslavement, incarceration, colonialism, and empire.
*I want to acknowledge Jakeya Caruthers and Santhosh Chandrashekar for inspiring and informing this piece.
All work published on BGD is the intellectual property of its writers. Please do not republish anything from this site without express written permission from BGD. For more info, go here.
This writer received an honorarium for this work. SUPPORT Black Girl Dangerous and the work of QTPOC writers!
Follow us on Twitter: @blackgirldanger
LIKE us on Facebook [/one_half_last]