Tag Archives: Capitalism

Post the Ninety-Ninth or On White Atheists and Knowledge Production

I recently reactivated my OkCupid account because my partner is out of town and I get lonely. So far, however, I’ve gotten mostly douchebags messaging me. One in particular bothered me. I messaged this guy because I thought we had a lot in common and might get along well. He replies by saying, “I’m not interested in people who believe in pseudoscience.” I was confused, what did he mean by “pseudoscience.” So I asked him and he replied, “Astrology and tarot cards.” Mind you, this person only knows what I wrote in my profile and so I’m a little bewildered why he would write me off so quickly.

I look at his profile again and written in big bold letters is, “I am an Atheist.”

Of course.

I reply, “Wow. Ok. Well, enjoy your patriarchally assigned designation of what is and isn’t valid.”

He then accuses me of being ignorant and that I should go take an upper level physics course.

That’s the problem I have with atheists, and white atheists in particular. They think that their way of viewing the world is superior to all other ways and that if you do believe differently, you are somehow unintelligent and inferior. Only simpletons would believe in such superstitious nonsense! But the thing is, science and knowledge that is produced by the West has just as much dogma as anything else. It is subject to biases, prejudices and injustices. But white/western atheists would have us believe that they are the only ones who are truly “objective”.

Atheist are quick to dismiss any world view that does not agree with their own and yet

The other reason why it bothers me is because white folks/the West is positioned as the arbiters of knowledge. Knowledge is only considered valid if white folks produced it. From academia to medicine to law, the only knowledge that matters is the kind sanctioned by the white establishment. How many times have we seen studies that say, “Hey! Racism is still a thing!” published by white folks? And of course the the only people who are shocked are other white people.  People of color have been talking about that shit forever, but only until it is approved/stolen by white people does it have any “credibility”.

So when white atheists look down their narrow noses on “superstitious” brown people like myself, I know that a lot of that is couched in the white supremacist ideology that knowledge produced by white people is the only objective and valid kind of knowledge.

Further, the kind of knowledge that black and brown folks have access to is considered inferior. PoC, and particularly WoC, are underrepresented in the sciences and the academy. Either because we don’t have the social capital to be visible or we just can’t afford it, a lot of PoC cannot afford to go to school. But that doesn’t make them less intelligent. They just need to learn from different sources, whether that be from the streets or at the knee of their abuela. The knowledge and knowings of survival and hustle that is produced by poor and working class people of color is undervalued and under appreciated.

The production of knowledge by white institutions have constantly invalidated and erased people of color, women of color, queers of color, etc. And many times, the white establishment has stolen wholesale from communities of color and patented knowledge produced by people of color as their knowledge. This is one of the ways that white supremacy, capitalism and heteropatriarchy hold on to their power. Because the people who produce the knowledge, that says what truths are valid, control the way we think and what we believe.

If we want to create a world that is free from marginalization, than we need to take the production of knowledge into our own hands. We need to realize that there is more than one way to view the world and that just because they are different doesn’t make one inferior over the other. We need to theorizing about our own lives and speaking truths that make sense to us. Most of all, we need to throw away the idea that if you are educated in certain things that you are more objective, more intelligent and more worthy of being listened too. We need to realize that we are all intelligent and creative people.

Post the Eighty-Ninth or Why Most Non-Profits are Wack

So, I’ve been trolling Craigslist and other online listings for work since I recently moved back to Austin. And I absolutely hate being unemployed and looking for work. Its a type of stress that is not fun to deal with. Anyway, I found this ad for this organization called The Texas Campaign for the Environment that said they were looking for community organizers for an environmental justice campaign. My interest piqued, I applied.

A week later someone called me for an informational interview. The person I interviewed with was this very energetic white guy who talked about empowering communities through grassroots activism. I thought that this was something I could get down with so I agreed to go on an observation day.

I’m paired with this white woman who has been at this organization for 8 months (I noticed that none of the folks who I went out with had been there for longer than a year). I followed her around as she knocked door to door and gave the rap.

“My name is blah blah blah and I’m here with blah blah blah and we are here doing a fundraiser and letter writing for such-and-such campaign. The daily house hold contribution for a year is 60 and strong supporters give 120. Giving money is how you get involved.” Insert small talk throughout.

I noticed that the letter writing was often secondary to securing the donation. Giving the money is what allowed these folks voices to be “heard”. Half way through I knew that I had been lead here under false pretenses. This was not community organizing and none of these folks were being empowered by emptying their checkbooks. We were not organizing communities or getting them involved in activism or showing them how they can create systemic change. We were not mobilizing collective action.

We were knocking on doors in a mostly white, affluent neighborhood. We were knocking on a neighborhood that does not need empowering because most of the folks there are already in power. But the demeanor of the white lady that I was tailing changed whenever a person of color answered the door. One particularly striking example of this is when the door was opened by a tired looking Black man (the only Black man we talked to). She gave her usual spiel but instead of saying that the standard contribution was 60, which she has said for every white person, she said that the standard contribution was 52, with stronger supporters giving 102. He gave $25.

An icy rage seeped through my body.

As coolly as I could I asked, “Why did you tell him 52 when you’ve been telling everyone else 60?”

“Oh, I just had this feeling that he wouldn’t give anything if I said 60.”

“I see.”

Here was this white woman, who considered herself an activist, thinking that she was empowering communities and organizing folks for collective action when all she was doing was getting donations to support a non-profit. Here is a white woman who thinks that she is progressive and working towards justice when she is, in fact, perpetuating the very systems that she is supposedly fighting. You can’t empower communities and be racist to the folks who need the most empowerment.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not surprised. But what frustrates me is that this is what passes for activism. This is what the mainstream thinks will bring change. This type of non-profit, and the non-profit industrial complex in general, does nothing to challenge and interrupt systems of power because its existence is predicated on the subsistence and support of the system. Non-profits such as this are selling a product just as much as any business. But what they are selling is not tangible, it is not a consumer good in the usual sense of the term. What they are selling is the assuaging of guilt and the luxury of not being accountable to the continued degradation of the planet. Give us your money and you too can be safe in the knowledge that you are not responsible for destroying the environment.

Non-profits like this create activism into a consumer product. It co-opts the language and discourse of community organizing so that folks are duped into thinking that they are creating systemic change. They “organize” such-and-such amount of money. We win campaigns by getting folks “involved” at the small price of hundreds of dollars. They “empower” communities by making sure you get at least $150 a night. Non-profits like this are the Wal-Mart of activism.

Non-profits like TCE take the fire out of our movements. They away our radical vision for a just and equitable society. They take our struggle, butcher it and wrap it in hypnotic wrapping paper and sell it to mainstream,”liberal” consumers.

The work that they are doing is important but the method that they use will do nothing to fix the root of the problem. Because, ultimately, the revolution will not be funded.

Post the Sixth or On how Poor People aren’t Lazy

This is the status that I’m seeing posted around Facebook these days.

Thank you Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri, which are the first states that will require drug testing when applying for welfare. Some people are crying and calling this unconstitutional. How is this unconstitutional? It’s OK to drug test people who work for their money but not those who don’t?… Re-post this if you’d like to see this done in all 50 states.

And it pisses me off! What pisses me off about it is the underlying classist assumption that poor people are lazy. The underlying classist assumption that all you have to do to be successful is work hard. That if you are poor or struggling that all you have to do is pull yourself up from your bootstraps and give it the ole’ college try.

This is an incorrect assumption!

Its incorrect not only because poor people are the most hard-working people but also because all their hard work amounts to little. People who are poor NEED to work hard because otherwise they go hungry. People who are poor have to do the shittiest jobs because they don’t have any other choice. They need to work their shitty jobs to get by to pay rent, food etc.

Some might cry at this point, “But Morgan why don’t they just go get and education! That’s the way to get ahead!” To which I would reply that going to school is all well and good and education is the quickest path to liberation. However, people who are poor often can’t afford to go to school. Either because the high school they were educated at was unable to educate them properly due to lack of resources or because they have a family to support and literally can’t afford to go school because if they do they aren’t able to work the hours they need to pay rent, food etc.

The capitalist system that we live in keeps these people trapped in a vicious cycle where it’s all they can do to survive. And in this state of desperation we wonder why they do drugs. Why does anyone do drugs? For amusement, for escape. For people who are poor, drugs are often the only way to escape the despair that so often surrounds their lives.

And while I recognize the importance of taking responsibility for ones own actions and the fact that it’s a lot easier to deal with life and escape poverty if one isn’t addicted to drugs, I still think that legislation like this hurts poor people more than it helps. I would argue that we should be funding schools and MEANINGFUL job opportunities. I would argue that we should be organizing a grass-roots campaign showing people that drugs and alcohol are tools that those with privilege use to keep us oppressed. We need to foster a culture that show compassion for the downtrodden not by telling them to work harder but by working with them to liberate all of us.

And most of all we need to BUST the apocryphal nature of the American Dream. We need to educate those around us and show them that the American Dream is unattainable for most people for reasons that involve privilege and different forms of oppression. That it is the exception and not the rule. We have to liberate people from the delusion that the American Dream is real and show them instead how to organize and fight for their own liberation.

Liberation won’t come if we fuck other people over. Liberation won’t come for anyone if we continue to oppress each other in these small little ways. The bottom line is only this.

We all need to work together for liberation.