March 11, 2010
Greetings, they varmints. In case you were beginning to think that NYC women couldn’t throw down like our comrades in Cali, here are some friends’ response to the recent shit-storm that’s erupted around the events of March 4th. They call out the way that the language of race and gender has been used to mask reactionary politics and erase active participants from militant struggle, while making clear that there is no excuse for the use of misogynistic language by friend or by foe.
Pushed by the Violence of Our Desires: A Statement Regarding March 4
Over the past few days, dozens of communiqués, letters, and statements have been circulating regarding issues of race, gender, and disrespect on M4. We have no intentions of addressing or disputing particular accusations or narratives regarding M4 in this statement; these things will inevitably be argued about elsewhere. Here, we attempt to discuss the language and politics that have been used in framing these issues.
As queer women of color, we feel as if we are trapped in the middle of all of this talk about identities. We have had, for some time, our own frustrations with and critiques of a number of white men with whom we have worked. At the same time, we are uncomfortable with the way in which the identities of “people of color” and “women” are being used to critique and condemn the events of M4, because we – as queer women of color – don’t agree with how these critiques and condemnations are being framed. In fact, we’re not just uncomfortable; we’re actually really angry about the way a small group of people, purporting to speak for the entire population of CUNY, has hijacked this rhetoric of talking about privilege and identity and deployed it in a fashion entirely too simplistic, generalized, and essentialist. Issues of privilege and identity are incredibly important to us and we wholeheartedly agree that they should be talked about. But as it stands now, identities like “person of color” and “woman” are being invoked in order to mask reactionary politics, and furthermore, are being employed in ways that contribute to the erasure of our identities as active participants in militant struggle.
Our political position is not one that comes from a platform. It is not even really a position so much as complete contempt for the system that forces us into the positions of “queer” “women” “of color” and everything that these socio-structural locations imply. White supremacy and patriarchy do not simply function by awarding some (white males) with privilege while denying it to others (women of color). Rather, the same mechanisms that create and maintain the identities of “women,” “queer,” and “people of color” also inflict their damage upon straight white men. And furthermore, we are all fucked over by capital and the commodity form indiscriminately. Liberal feminisms and anti-racisms taught us that we just want what rich white men have – but we have since come to realize that we do not want that either. Our socio-structural positions mean we are even more fucked over under capitalism than any rich straight white dude, and because of this, our need to destroy this world is infinitely more urgent.
One of the major lines of discourse over the past few days has been about how a group of “outside agitators” attempted to get wild without the consent of the Hunter student body. We do not need the “consent of the people” – and when you sound like the fucking Constitution, it’s difficult to believe you really understand the material conditions of being a queer woman of color under capitalism. We cannot sit on our hands until “the masses” decide to act.
Of course, increasing capacity is crucial to building a critical mass of individuals who have the ability to shut down the system: a clandestine vanguard is not the answer. In a situation like M4, people are becoming aware of their collective anger and their collective desire to do something more than stand around and chant. This anger can be facilitated by working to stoke the fire or, alternatively, can be slowed when radicals prematurely throw logs onto the flames before people are in the moment. This is not to suggest that folks are not already angry or that they need to talk about their feelings to come to the realization that they’re against the system; rather, it’s to point out that there are better and worse ways to increase our revolutionary capacity. This is a conversation about tactics, one with important ramifications for “oppressed identities” most affected by capitalism and ineffective action against it – but it has been framed as though the privileged want action, while the oppressed want peace. We oppose this dichotomy wholesale: we assert that it is in fact the most privileged who have the luxury not to contemplate these issues in terms of effectiveness and totality.
The Hunter walk-out was called in response to a national statement from California demanding a general strike. The group who organized at Hunter in the weeks leading up to M4 included many of those denounced as “outside agitators” – individuals who were from the beginning interested in a day of direct action. A vote for having an indoor demo was passed by a coalition of (mostly) Hunter students. There was a framework in place for militant action to occur – if anyone hijacked anything, it was the people who colluded with campus security, the Hunter administration, and the police (these are all synonymous) by herding folks outside. This effectively crushed the radical potential of the indoor demo, and reduced the action to a PR event for the Left.
Some have claimed that the speakers at the rally were composed of women and people of color, and that interrupting them was misogynist and racist. We disagree with this employment of critiques of privilege. We are not against “straight white boys”; rather, we are against the processes that create and maintain these identities of “women of color” and “straight white boys.” Whether or not the speaker at a rally is a woman or a person of color or queer is irrelevant in this moment: when she is speaking AT the crowd, when she is colluding with the State to crush militant potential, when she is maintaining the systems that oppress us, she is a politician. She is our enemy. To assume that a woman of color has our interests at heart, simply because she is a woman of color, is essentialist: fuck Condoleezza Rice.
We realize that some are put at risk by introducing arrestability to situations. We cannot dispute this. Some of us have been relegated to solitary confinement when arrested with a group of white people for no other reason than being brown, we have been sexually harassed in jail, we get slapped with more charges than our white friends. We are fully cognizant of the fact that some people are exponentially more susceptible to arrest, brutality, and sexual assault for no reason other than their skin color and/or gender. That said, these are also vulnerabilities we face walking down the street. Being arrested in a political situation means we are more likely to be protected to a certain extent from these possibilities. Our politics demand solidarity: we do jail support to keep tabs on those in custody, we know how to sweet-talk the bailiff to speed up the process, and we know how to get hooked up with lawyers – all of which mitigate the dangers that follow being arrested. Blaming the escalation of tactics for our vulnerability completely denies the fact that it is the cops who are doing the arresting, the state that presses charges, and white supremacy that puts us more at risk for arrest.
Finally, it bears mention that the reactionary use of politics based on race and gender obscures much more important conversations about racism and misogyny. It is crucial that we address the sexism of a dude using the word “cunt” as an insult, and more importantly, of furthering shame and stigma around STIs – which is problematic in and of itself, but also hampers the disclosure of STI status that is necessary for informed consent. More generally, “playing the race/gender card” to talk about strategic and political disagreements – for example, using the term “anarcho-imperialist” to create a narrative about “white downtown anarchists” rolling into the “POC” CUNY campus uninvited with intentions to colonize – makes it even more difficult to call out legitimate instances of racism and misogyny.
Perhaps some tactical missteps were made in the course of the events on M4. This is another conversation, one that should – and will – be had. Nevertheless, we are of the opinion that something is always better than nothing: everyone is already complacent, already alienated. California said March Fo(u)rth – not stand around.
Some Queer Women of Color
Brooklyn, New York
February 24, 2010
UCI is NOT a state of anarchy!” – UCI Political Science Department Chair Mark Petracca, to Muslim students disrupting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s talk 2 weeks ago.
Well, Mr. Petracca, we’ve tried it your way, it’s time for ours!
A curious thing happened yesterday at the University of California Irvine: for several hours, the campus descended into a state of anarchy.
At 9:30am, 14 students and 3 AFSCME 3299 representatives began a sit-in outside Chancellor Michael Drake’s office. The police were caught completely flat-footed, and it was only because a police officer saw the crowd and rushed to the 5th floor to lock Drake’s door that the students didn’t get inside. A list of demands was issued, and while there has already been much debate and discussion about the demands, we have no interest in dissecting the demands–the fact that these issues are even being talked about is sufficient. Police seemed unprepared to deal with the sit-in; really, nothing like this has happened in years on our quiet Stepford-esque campus. After nearly an hour, police finally made the move to arrest the protesters. Read the rest of this entry »
December 9, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO – a business building at SFSU has been occupied ~6am Wednesday morning
SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — An early morning protest on the San Francisco State campus over budget cuts and fee increases has university officials scrambling this morning, as student organizers say they have taken over the school’s business building.
KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports
It’s the week before finals at SFSU, and protestors say they didn’t want to let the semester go by without making some kind of statement on the recent fee increases brought on by California’s budget problems.
The 20 or so protestors inside the building donned masks and blocked the entrances to the building with desks and chairs, while another 30 protestors gathered outside.
Students tell KCBS that paying $2,300 to $2,400 in tuition next semester prices many working-class students out of a college education.
May 7, 2009
New School Economics Review – President Bob Kerrey, against whom the New School students have been protesting for a long time now (as mentioned earlier) will leave the New School in 2011 once his current contract expires. He confirmed that he will not try to extend his tenure at the University’s Board of Trustees Meeting yesterday, and re-affirmed it with the New York Times this morning.
April 22, 2009
By BARUCHA CALAMITY PELLER
Owing to pending legal issues, as well as continuing intimidation from school administration towards student organizers, all the New School students are quoted anonymously in this article, at their request. CB.
“We occupied a university building, workers in Chicago occupied their factory, people facing foreclosures have refused to leave their homes. Occupation is not merely a tactic to get some demands met; it is a practical strategy for taking our lives back into our own hands. Let’s occupy everything until everything is ours.” – a student at the New School for Social Research, NY
On Friday, April 10, in the first lights of a cool Manhattan dawn, banging could be heard up to a block away from the four-story New School building at 65 5th Ave, and the sound of chains scraping against metal permeated the silent morning.
April 14, 2009
We fully support the actions of the administration against the student occupiers and their supporters. Enlisting the police as a private security force is a tried-and-true tactic of those with pull against those who push. Private power lobs up resistance due to its deliciously alienating and hierarchical essence. The police swing for the fences. Batter up. We love this shit.
You know something else we love? Using students as laughable instruments of our strategy. A New School Free Press reporter gave video footage he shot of the protest outside to the police. That’s what we’re talking about. Only if all students knew that actively negating the unlife of their compartmentalized pseudo-reality by the total seizure of an education-edifice and subsequently abolishing the imposed identity of that physical structure is a self-defeating enterprise, then we could use every last one of them as naive pawns on our two-dimensional chessboard of domination. Heads cocked to the sky, we laugh maniacally at the prospect! HA!, friend, HA!
We would like to set the record straight about a few things.
In a series of messages to the New School community by President Bob Kerrey and others, the occupation of 65 5th Avenue on Friday, April 10th, is being painted as violent, and student protesters’ commitment to non-violent demonstration is being questioned. We can debate all day about rhetoric and what has been written by individual students ostensibly involved in the December occupation, or we can look at the actions themselves.
April 11, 2009
A timeline of events from the re-occupation of the New School building at 65 Fifth Ave
WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED FRIDAY MORNING?
That’s the question on just about every New School student’s mind right now. Too make a long story short what happened was a peaceful act of civil disobedience and reclaimation of space was violently evicted by the NYPD in cooperation with the New School administration. But here’s the full story:
April 10, 2009
Fuck Bob Kerrey, but fuck insular university politics more.
Let’s be clear: the man is scum. Here’s hoping he loses his job. But when it comes right down to it, this isn’t about him. It isn’t about Jim Murtha, it isn’t about new building input, it isn’t about non-voting
student representation on the Board of Trustees. Beyond the walls of a small, isolated, and largely privileged academic institution, these are non-issues.
An analysis and call for action
by New School Schwarz und Rot
“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency…” – Walter Benjamin
Recently there has been a lot of talk connecting the specific conditions at the New School with the general conditions of society-at-large. You may have heard the material and intellectual concerns of students couched in a radical critique of capitalism, injustice and hierarchical power. On the surface, this may seem abstract and out of touch with the everyday life of students at the university. It may appear as an attempt to shoehorn unrelated “activism” into an otherwise simple administrative matter. However, when we delve below the surface appearance of everyday life, it becomes clear that a generalized critique of society based on the twin logics of capitalist accumulation and hierarchical domination has everything to do with our struggle to redefine our school. The following is an attempt to communicate this relation between the general and particular and to reach out to those students who may feel distanced from last semester’s occupation.
April 10, 2009
Q: Wait, what’s going on?
A: 65 5th Avenue has been occupied. This time, the entire building has been taken and the doors locked shut. As of the last count, there are at least 60 students inside with many more planning to join.
Q: Whose idea was this? New School in Exile? RSU?
A: Neither. It was a collective decision by a group of students who may or may not be involved in either, but the planning was done outside the context of any group.
Q: Isn’t this dangerous!?
A: This is civil disobedience, the occupation is intended to be safe and non-violent. No one wishes any physical harm to any university employees or security. Inside there is a trained medic, and everyone’s health and safety is being provided for. Anyone who wishes to leave will be able to leave. The NYPD is, of course, a wild card. Its up to everyone outside the occupation to make sure the administration does not resort to violence as they did in December.