Monthly Archives: June 2013

Post the Ninth 2 or On the State and Activism

It has been a hard week.  Yesterday, the Supreme Court gutted the Voters Right Act. They basically said that the high voter registration of people of color and the fact that we elected a Black president means that we no longer need to ensure that people of color are not disenfranchised. Now, states do not need to submit their voting regulations to the federal government for approval. This means that states have the autonomy to change their procedures as they like, like instituting literacy tests and having a voter ID. It is the a huge blow against all of the work that the Civil Rights Movement built. It amazes me how so many decades of struggle can be undone in one day. It amazes me how many people died in Selma and other places in the South to try to vote and how easily the Supreme Court spit on their legacy. Our elders went through hell to pass that bill and in the blink of an eye it is gone.

Already, several states in the South have vowed to implement voter ID laws and early voting restrictions that were prohibited by the sections of the VRA that the court struck down. Because thats the thing; as much as the State and the Media would like to tell us, we are not post-racial. We do not live in a world that doesn’t see color. And anyone who tells you that is a fucking liar. The evidence that racism is still institutional is plain to see. From higher incarceration rates for Black and Brown folks, to Native families still being torn apart, to the higher rates of violence and murder to trans women of color, to the constant attack on reproductive rights, one can plainly see that racial justice has not been served. Almost 50 years since the start of the Civil Rights Movement, we are still not free. We are still struggling against colonialism and genocide.

But even though it is plain to us, it is not plain to white people. Because they don’t have to experience it like we do, they do not need to look at it. In fact, the system is set up so that white people can ignore it. This is called systemic white ignorance. In a nut shell, this means that white folks are choosing not to believe that these things still happen because to do so would admit being a guilty for the subjugation of others. On top of that, people of color are dehumanized at every turn and so white folks can more easily ignore the injustices made against us because we are not seen as fully human. They choose to ignore it because they can.

One of the goals of the Civil Rights Movement was to gain full access to State participation. They were struggling for recognition as full fledged citizens of the United States. They wanted to be fully protected and equal under the law. They were organizing to have full voting access, to be represented in legislative bodies. And I want to honor their struggle. I know that I am here because of them. I want to honor their legacy. However, if I’ve learned anything in these short years of my life, it is that the State will not protect me. The State, which is one of the biggest perpetrators of racial, gender and class violence will not fix the problems that it created. The State is predicated on colonial, patriarchal and genocidal logic. You cannot fix a system that was never broken. The system was designed this way. It was intentional.

The only reason why SB5 didn’t pass last night in the state legislature is because over 2000 people were holding the State accountable. Otherwise, they would have passed that shit, no problem.

So as I see the State continue to legislate against Black and Brown bodies, against women, against queer and trans people of color, I am continually reminded that the Masters tools will not dismantle the Masters house. I am recommitting myself to the revolutionary actions of my ancestors. I am recommitting myself to the collective liberation of all people. I am recommitting myself to dismantling the Masters house from the outside, using art and collective struggle across difference to bring down those systems that want to destroy me.

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Post the Eighth 2 or On Juneteenth and Modern Day Slavery

I want to start this by saying as a non-black Latin@ that I have less of a stake in this. While my people today are subject to increased targeting by the prison-industrial complex, my people were not subject to slavery in the North. As a mestiza from Colombia and Puerto Rico, I am unsure of what legacy I have with colonization and slavery. I write this for my non-black sisters and brothers, so that we can talk about the ways that slavery still effect us.

Today is Juneteenth. It is the day that commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas. While the Emancipation Proclamation made slavery illegal in all of the United States in 1863, it didn’t roll out to all of the states until 1865 when the Union army came to Texas to enforce it 2 years later. In fact, Texas down right ignored the Emancipation Proclamation and the Union army had to take over the Texas government to make it happen.

Today is a day of celebration. It is the marking of a great victory. The liberation of a people from bondage. It is a commemoration that change can happen. And that often the change only comes at the point of a gun. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Union army, or even Abraham Lincoln, freed the slaves because the believed in the liberation of the slaves. It was all about winning the war and having Texas conform to the federal law. Lincoln himself said that if he could have won the war without freeing slaves, he would have.

Which brings me to today. Yes, we should celebrate. Because something is better then nothing. However, our work as abolitionist is not done. We are not yet free. You see, when Lincoln wrote the 13th amendment, he outlawed slavery except when it was the punishment of a crime. Slavery is still legal. And the prison-industrial complex is the logical extension of chattel slavery. Black and brown people are still being targeted at an alarming rate for incarceration. The sentences that black and brown people face are much harsher then for their white counterparts. And all too often they are convicted of crimes that were necessary for their survival. The inheritance of slavery is still plain to see in the generational poverty that Black folks have and the generational wealth that white folks have access too.

Whats more, folks who are funneled into the prison system then become virtually free labor for multinational corporations. Companies like Victoria Secret, Microsoft, Forever 21, Boeing etc all use prison labor to make their products. And these prisoners make pennies a day. On top of that, private prisons are booming and the prison industry is now a many billion dollar industry. The government and corporations are still reaping profit from the bodies of black and brown people. And it starts young. Young people of color are being targeted at alarming rates by schools and are being funneled into the prison system. And once in, it is very difficult to escape.

The prison-industrial complex is the result of 400 hundred years of colonial, patriarchal and capitalist violence. It is the tool of the state to continue to commit genocide against black and brown communities. Instead of private ownership, bodies are now owned by the state and given to the profit of corporations.

The other thing that is interesting to me is how the movement against human trafficking has capitalized on the term “modern day slavery” to paint women who are trafficked as helpless victims. Don’t get me wrong, I think that human trafficking is a terrible thing that should be stopped. No one should be forced to do things against their will. However, the response that anti-human trafficking advocates have is to further criminalize sex work and to rely on state power and incarceration. This not only makes things harder for sex workers who aren’t trafficked but also doesn’t address the underlying reasons for human trafficking, namely colonial and state violence. All of the solutions that the mainstream anti-trafficking movements advocates for actually make the lives of trafficked women harder. All the while obscuring the very real ways bodies are being owned here in the US. Because the anti-human trafficking movement frames the problem as something that happens in other countries and not here in the US. And that the way to save all of those poor brown women is through imperial violence and conquest.

But the state will not protect you. You cannot solve a problem with the problem. And we are none of us free, until we are all free.

(Check out this post for more information on prison abolition and anarchist people of color.)