Sunday Hot Takes, April 4th, 2021

Allyship and otherwise, the persistent disappointment of liberals, phony racist crime stats, and the future of the far-far-left.

Don’t overstep being an ally Taylor-Raye Council, Old Dominion University

Oftentimes people get confused by overstepping their boundaries when being allies. Being an ally means supporting and standing behind people for certain things, or in this case, activism. As a black person, it is very hard to speak for yourself when there are white liberals speaking over you, trying to “educate” you, or telling you how you should feel about certain situations. This is not allyship or activism at all, it’s actually quite racist. 

There is no amount of research white liberals can read that will equate to a black person’s experience of racism. Therefore, when a black person tells you you are overstepping your boundaries about our culture or race, listen to them and evaluate your actions, activism, and allyship. 

Malcolm X expressed his frustration towards white liberals and their ability to pose as innocent people showing sympathy towards black people when he stated that “[t]hey infiltrate all your organizations, and in this manner, by joining you, they strangle your militant efforts towards freedom, towards justice, and toward equality.” This does not just apply to white liberals. This also pertains to other non-black people, because black people are separate from them. Many of us do not use “black” and “people of color” interchangeably because the solidarity is not there. Therefore, the allyship for black people that white and people of color partake in needs to be from a supportive perspective and not in a pretentious manner.

 Malcolm X then makes the analogy of the white liberal and a black person to “the white oppressor and the oppressed, the white exploiter and the exploited, and the white slave master and his 20 million ex-slaves,” asking, when will all of this end? Malcolm is saying that no matter how “left” a white liberal or person may sound, they are still white. Most actions they do to show their allyship with black people will likely be the bare minimum.Malcolm brings up ex-slaves because even though slave masters don’t own them anymore, the white liberal might deem the former slave master a savior for not being the “typical” slave master and no longer owning people as property.

In Beloved by the late Toni Morrison, for example, Mr. and Mrs. Garner were seen as kind slaveowners because they treated their slaves “better” than other characters. But a “nice” slaveowner is a paradox — treating others as inferior and owning human beings is morally abhorrent. 

The privilege and power white people hold is undoubtedly noticeable in all spaces, including black spaces. So when we need allyship and activism, we do not need white and non-Black people to take control of situations they have no experiences with. This diminishes progress and demeans black people. White and non-black liberals feel the need to overstep and take control of Black spaces and situations we go through without letting us speak for ourselves or take initiative. Sometimes sitting back, listening, and minding your business can help further the process of dismantling the racist system white people have created. 

Liberals… Am I right? — Michael Orpen, Illinois State University

Two weeks ago, I was standing on the Illinois State University quad supporting our graduate workers union (GWU), who are in the middle of negotiations for a fair and just contract. However, as I was standing there, I took note of something very upsetting. Several “progressives” would walk by and just… stare at us. Many of these people post about social issues and progressive causes, but when it comes time to actually stand in solidarity they take a back seat. It is important to note that while the quad is now void of student life (due to the ongoing pandemic). On this day it was bustling as if there was no pandemic due to classes being cancelled. The next day I noticed many of the same people more than happy to engage with a local landlord-funded, right-wing mayoral candidate. This is exactly what is wrong with liberals. 

This goes beyond #activism to what I would call a “crisis of performance.” Many liberals will show up to large rallies and protests just to get  their photo op, so they can post on social media to say that “they were there” — much like a baby boomer will say they were at Woodstock or Disco Demolition Night. They are effectively admitting where they were not. I know many people who, instead of going to my hometown’s Black Lives Matter rally, drove to downtown Chicago,one and a half hours away, to take a few photos for Instagram and then leave before it was even time for lunch. 

I am certain we have all experienced this. Worse yet are those who posted a black square and then never brought up racial justice again (or worse yet, deleted it because it did not match with their precious account’s aesthetic). While MLK expressed concerns about the “white moderate” we must also be aware of the “white apathetic,” that is to say, someone who couldn’t care less about the grueling yet rewarding work that goes into organizing. While a small picket line may not be as “sexy” as a large city-wide rally, we must crush this liberal fetishization of activism. Instead of signalling solidarity, they signal virtue. They drown out the very marginalized voices they seek to “lift up.” Working class solidarity, not a solidarity of one’s own ego. Instead of standing up for the 58 out of every 1000 Native Americans without running water, they stand up for their own social clout which, in turn, squashes the voices of the oppressed. We must challenge these so-called “progressives” in order to maintain and expand true working class solidarity.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics — Elias Khoury, University of Michigan

The great writer and humorist Mark Twain famously said that there are three kinds of lies: “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Statistics are pesky things. As students, we correctly recognize their importance as a way to make sense of the world around us. But statistics can also be used for deceptive and malicious purposes. Case in point: Heather Mac Donald.

Mac Donald is an amateur criminologist and a fellow of the far-right Manhattan Institute think tank. She is also an author, responsible for timeless classics like The Diversity Delusion and The War on Cops. As you can probably guess from the second title, Mac Donald is a fierce opponent of Black Lives Matter. She outrageously contends that the movement is based on a lie because systemic racial bias in policing does not actually exist.

Among the many outlandish claims Mac Donald makes is that black people are not disproportionate targets of police killings because “whites are about three times more likely to be fatally shot than blacks once their homicide rates are taken into account.”

While I admittedly have not asked Mac Donald how she arrived at this number, I nonetheless have a pretty good idea. She probably started with the rates at which white and black men are killed by cops. A study published by the National Academy of Sciences found those to be 39 and 96 per 100,000, respectively. In other words, black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men.

I assume that Mac Donald then divided those rates by each race’s homicide rate. When you do that, the “white” number ends up being around three times larger. So, according to Mac Donald, black America had it coming.

This is where most leftists flounder. It is tempting to search for an error in Mac Donald’s calculations. But that is exactly the wrong approach. Because, even if her statistic is accurate, it is irrelevant. Mac Donald’s methodology would make sense if the police only ever killed suspected murders. But this, of course, is a fantasy.

John Crawford was just shopping at Walmart. 12-year-old Tamir Rice was playing alone in a park. Philando Castile was undergoing a routine traffic stop. These victims had absolutely nothing to do with the black homicide rate. So why should their tragic deaths be benchmarked against it?

That question is for Heather Mac Donald. The ball is now in her court. I await her response, though I will not hold my breath.

Marxist Centrifuge — Griffin Mahon, University of Virginia

Partway through the recent convention of Marxist Center, an odd proposal was raised: end the category of at-large membership (possibly effectively expelling the current ones). Discussion led to the suggestion that there should first be a debate on the issue at Regeneration. Ironically, all of the editors are themselves at-large members, putting them in the awkward position of hosting arguments for and against their own expulsion.

Whenever an organization considers getting rid of a significant part of itself, there’s likely something else going on.

Marxist Center was founded in 2018 by over a dozen local groups coalescing. What united them was a vague “revolutionary socialism,” to the left of Jacobin and DSA in word if not deed. At the time this was an intriguing development not just because it was the national coming-together of self-described Marxists, but also because there seemed to be a genuine understanding of the problems of the bureaucratic sects (PSL, WWP, ISO, RCP, etc.) from previous periods. There was also a critique of protestism, most recently experienced in the form of the Women’s March.

The trend that MC represents has come to be called “base-building” (which also finds expression in DSA in Communist Caucus, LSC, and the defunct Build).  

As people were learning what it meant to be a socialist, there were useful contributions like “activist networking”: most left-of-center politics consists of showing up to demonstrations and press conferences and swapping contact information, instead of drawing new people into struggle. Base-building rejects electoral politics (or puts it off so far into the future as to be abstentionists), places special emphasis on organizing tenants, and has a conception of “dual power.” Build the community programs and neighborhood associations, the people will come, and together we will overthrow capitalism (or outlast its terminal crisis).

It’s a good name: who doesn’t want to build a base? Politics requires a social base of cadre, organizers, volunteers, supporters, voters. But the name suggests a sort of first-this-then-that politics that hasn’t worked as well as other approaches in the last few years. For example, first you build the base, then you engage in principled electoral politics. On the contrary, even slightly-less-than-ideal electoral participation can build independent political organization. Or, take “dual power,” according to which we can will American workers’ councils into existence. In fact, Russian society produced soviets; the socialists incorporated them into a strategy.

Sometimes autonomism is indistinguishable from anarchism. Hence the organizational crisis. The local groups do not want to subordinate themselves to the national group because there is actually no larger vision or broader agreement. Unfortunately, a practically-minded communist politics hasn’t further materialized. Who remembers Lenin’s admonishment to get one proper communist politician elected? 

It seems that Marxist Center still remains little more than a network. There is not much national infrastructure and there is not much more political unity. MC’s original points of unity include some correct negative points but not enough specific positive ones.

A new packet may move things forward, but for now the far-far-left is out of ideas.

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