Pushed by the Violence of Our Desires

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.

Check it!

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.

Love,
Some Queer Women of Color
Brooklyn, New York
bitches@riseup.net

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10 Responses to “Pushed by the Violence of Our Desires”


  1. […] Go to comments Some reflections on the March 4th parade of fools at Hunter College. See also Pushed by the Violence of Our Desires. beware those who would deliver you to a cheaper suicide on march 4th the vanguard of submission […]

  2. hunter student??? Says:

    “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.”

    Reread this passage and I dare you to tell me it’s not an upfront description, admission, and celebration of rape. And if it is most useful to think about it as a symbolic rich/staight/white/male/… penetration, colonization, then it should be thought of as such. However:

    “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.”

    Precisely: thus, your actions, you who threw a radio at the face of the woman trying to protect both the interests of the childcare center and the babies who were potentially endangered by fragments of glass, whether or not this woman was actually hit in the face and whether or not you threw the radio; you who knocked down the low-wage employee refilling the snack machine in order to grab a few free treats; you who threatened to fill someone’s cunt with herpes; whether you are a man or a woman, white or brown, rich or poor, inside or outside, part of or distinct from the “hunter community” (whatever the hell that is), independent and nebulous or part of a vast conspiracy of hijackery and other hijinks; your actions speak for themselves: YOU are the fucking rapist, and no amount of moral qualification is going to change that, no matter how big your dick is.

    “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.”

    Do you honestly think that “conversation” is going to happen? Is it really just a conversation about “tactical missteps?” It seems to me to point to a larger problem…?

    “something is always better than nothing”

    OMG SO TRUE, THANKS!!!

  3. Up-Turned Downtown Afro-Judaen Lover Says:

    We stand at a crossroads. One side waves the white flag, while the other side labors on under various banners of red, black, gold, and green, and yet a third corner in blue. What color is your team? I want to be on the Rainbow Team!

    On the subject of “Jew” equating to “white” I have the following to say:

    Whiteness is a social construct which I do not subscribe to, rather I make satire of it.

    On standardized tests I either choose A. Native American B. Other or C. None of the Above

    The divine comedy and the divine tragedy, are intertwined in this world of late night television and political satire.

    Race, class, and gender are fiery topics of conversation. Tactical media, like that of Ferlinghetti’s Populist Manifesto, is relevant study material in this “War of Words,” as they were calling it at a conference I attended at Columbia University late last year.

    I would like to raise the important point that the status of women’s rights worldwide is a dire concern of mine. As a boy, I marched in the million mom march. I was raised by my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother to love, honor, and respect women, and that’s a bond to which I hold true through thick and thin. I have known many brave women’s rights activists from domestic and foreign places far and wide, and am proud to call them my friends and fellow peace activists.

    I appreciate the thoughts and sentiments of the theorists of the women’s liberation front. Your chromosomes are our chromosomes. Our chromosomes are your chromosomes.

    Let’s find a way to support a power sharing coalition we can trust comprised of all races, nations, and creeds, fellow Progressive Obama Democrats, Green Party boosters, and Anarcho-pals. It need not be a tempestuous future. Look on the bright side, it’s always sunny in Philadelphia.

    What’s with the histrionics, you ask? I use the lessons of the past as a measure, as a slide rule, to determine from whence we have come, to determine where we stand, and to chart a course for a future without arbitrary boundaries. Call me a blind optimist, call me a hippie freaknik, call me a student peace activist, just please don’t call me a “rich white male” or a “straight white guy” because now you’re slinging a derogitory term my way, as if I am supposed to carry some kind of “white man’s burden.” I’m Jewish for Christ’s wisdom and tolerance sake! I’m no ‘great white hype.’ It’s the consciousness of the group-think, or the rumor mill, that stamps these stereotypes on people’s foreheard.
    Someone recently told me how ‘the media’ works in Haiti. I forge the word in creole, but essentially the news travels by word of mouth in Haiti. We’ve all played the telephone game before, and we see how the meanings of words, and the true ideas of their authors can be minced up, mixed and mingled with other ideas, paired with phony bologna conspiracy theories. In this world, there are those who seek to conspire, and there are those whose paranoia drives them to believe theoretically there are those conspiring. The real question to ask is not “what is this web of deceit and lies I have before me” but ‘what is truly transpiring in this world of truth and ugliness before me?”
    Everyone knows, history is written by the victors, so to be victorious in life, we must write our own critiques of history, quoting key snippets of past events here and there for the purpose of measuring the cultural-barometer. Surprise! There are still tons of racists and hate groups in the post-Obama era. The good news is, most of the hate groups I’ve met don’t want to fight it out, everyone is better off talking out their problems. That’s why we find ourselves in this so-called ‘word war.’ As a species, thank G-d Almighty, we’ve evolved to the point where we can use our ability to speak and our ability to communicate electronically to work out our differences communally, both in cyber-space, and also in the universities and other forums, where truly progressive Democratic political debate occurs.
    “Queer Women of Color” I share your heartfelt concern for women’s rights, and the appalling smear campaigns going around in this misogynistic climate swirling about us like El niño. The weather under ground has been cloudy with a chance of rain until the sun peeked out from behind the clouds.

    Want to hear about a favorite landmark of mine in Philly, miles from Constitution Hall? The home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton is on Old York Road, just north of the City-County Line where Philadelphia ends. That’s where old Lizzy took her stand, right on the border, just outside city lines, where the municipal laws of the City of Philadelphia and its patriarchy did not apply to her.

    My number one queer homeboy, who represents for the Pennsylvania Stonewall Democrats, sent me these words in support, written in our shared native tongue, Hip-Hop (a global language, that comes correct, to put all you haters in check!):

    You must be honest and true to the next
    Don’t be phony and expect one not to flex
    Especially if you rhyme, you have to live by the pen
    Your man is your man, then treat him like your friend
    -TCQ

    I hope that these thoughts and feelings expressed on this blog have been thoroughly educational and spurred greater support for diversity, and that the radical statements brought forth on people’s blogs has brought both supporters and detractors of the causes of peace and freedom and equality to the fore.

    In search of his “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”

    In Support of a Renewed Call to Action for the Rainbow Coalition to Unite with the Worldwide Rainbow Family, to Spread Love and Kindness in the Universe in All Directions!

    Stop the War! Bring the Troops Home!

    The Non-Violent Peace Movement Marches On! M4 was just the start! We’ve got the power, now let’s work on protecting our clean water, feeding starving people, providing shelter to the homeless, and access to quality medical care for every human being.

    The Spirit of ’85, “Keep Hope Alive”
    Alex G, an international man of mystery
    Chief Eclectic Officer at the Academy of Usury

    RESPECT & HONOUR TO THE FOREFATHERS & FOREMOTHERS

  4. andyfolk Says:

    wow… hunterstudent your comment is so fucked! even if it weren’t full of lies you REALLY need to reconsider how you treat the issue of rape.

  5. Daniel Tasripin Says:

    Great. We have now issuing apologies for “furthering shame and stigma around STIs” to cover up for a total non-apology for the sheer vileness of threatening a woman with the infamous “I’ll put herpes on your cunt” comment.

    Please let this sink in: you here have fallen to the level of *apologizing to a virus*.

    Gee, if only the assailant had threatened said woman’s face rather than her sex organs, maybe he’d be held up as an example of feminist practice by dickly comrades.

    What is sad here is that “some queer women of color” are doing this almost entirely to save face for a man who knows damn well what he did and said was vile.

    All this, to give the broadcast to the folks on Infoshop, Anarchist News, etc. that you’re the most hardcore feminists out there, even as you do nothing about the people in your midst.

    There may need to be a beam removed from your eye before you’re able to flick the specks of sawdust from your comrade’s.

  6. hunter student Says:

    Hi andyfolk: when I use the word rape I’m responding to the most literal reading of the text quoted; thus, “going wild” on/in a space “without consent.” This is what was said by these “queer women of color,” literally, without inflection, without distortion. Going wild without consent is, I think, by definition, rape. If you have another interpretation of what was said here, please argue with me more substantially. Thanks.

    Here’s another big issue: to claim that “the same mechanisms that create and maintain the identities of ‘women,’ ‘queer,’ and ‘people of color’ also inflict their damage upon straight white men” is an incredibly weighty and, frankly, upsetting assertion, especially when the statement stands a propos of nothing in this text. It is completely unsubtantiated, which is particularly problematic given that the text is written in the hyper-hyper-privileged language of the theoretically inclined academic.

    The author of the text props up her/their claims with the numerous references to her/their status as queer women of color, while asserting that the categories to which she assigns herself are meaningless. Is there no contradiction here? Are we meant to believe that, at once, the categories of gender and race and erotic affinity are both dismantled, by their being utterly ignored, and all-important, by virtue of their being the focal point of the obviously identity-fixated writer(s)? Why the hell would you write something claiming to be an author identifying as a “queer woman of color” the text of which belittles these identifying categories? If these categories don’t matter, you might as well be a straight white man. Would it be OK for someone to call you that? Is your response a straight white man’s response? What is the difference between, on the one hand, longing for identity categories to be irrelevant/dismantled/destroyed and, on the other, seeing everyday their effects, the problems that they cause, and their realness, at the hands of literally everyone? I get that longing, but I don’t get the forgetting, the ignoring. There is, ultimately, a disconnect between theory and praxis, one which is ignored here.

    Ultimately I wholly fail to see how the attitude you represent here cannot be described as colonialist, how you can claim to know better, how your not needing consent from the huge mass of working class, suffering, and seriously pissed off kids at my school has any bearing on the issues at hand.

    Listen to me: I am as smart as you are, and I come from a place that you will never, ever understand. This is clear from your remarks. You just don’t get it. Your violence is sexual violence, and your victims hate you. Frankly, I agree that this world should be destroyed, needs to be destroyed. But your methods are twisted. By committing violence against us, you are just another fucking cop.

  7. andyfolk Says:

    “Hi andyfolk: when I use the word rape I’m responding to the most literal reading of the text quoted”

    no, you’re not… you’re using rape metaphorically in the midst of a longer process of transforming anarchist queer women of color into straight white male cops! how much substance is necessary to respond to such absurdity? and even if i attempted such an argument you “come from a place i will never understand…” and i “just don’t get it,” so obviously there is no substance with which to argue in the first place!

  8. hunter student Says:

    “metaphorically”

    How is threatening to put a virus in a woman’s genitals metaphorical? And how are we to read the violence that occurred, the crux of which is clearly this threat, if not from the perspective which acknowledges that the sexual is intimately, literally linked to the violence? There is no jump in figuration, no shift from the conceptual to the actual, required to read the text and the event the way I’m reading it. Further, I think that to read it another way not only reiterates but perpetuates the insidious nature of the violence.

    “in the midst of a longer process of transforming anarchist queer women of color into straight white male cops”

    On the contrary, the process we’re both describing has almost nothing to do with me: I’m merely pointing out the thesis of the author(s), who are clearly trying to dismantle identity categories by ignoring them while simultaneously asserting that their claims must be substantial by dint of their queer womanhood. You just can’t have it both ways. This statement would obviously be perceived radically differently if it were tagged as “a straight white dude’s response,” no? I first came across it as a facebook post someone wrote, accompanied by the simple message “Statement by queer women of color.” The effect is thus overwhelmingly to substantiate the truth of the essay’s content by pointing to its authors’ identities. Given this paradox, and the violence the authors apparently celebrate, substituting their purported identities for the ones they actually represent shouldn’t be such a stretch.

    Correct: you’re reading it wrong if you don’t see any substance here.

  9. OSTJ Says:

    These comments are nuts. I hearby vow to never again read comments on a posting of a political statement. I have my points of difference, but I found this to be one of the few remotely clear and helpful statements to come out of this entire melodramatic shitstorm. Really appreciated the part at the start about your own frustrations and critiques of your comrades, and the sexism of own guy’s words. It’s nice to see someone admit shortcomings on their “side” in all this bullshit. I think that open self-criticism is something that’s been SORELY lacking in the flood of self-righteous statements flying back and forth.

    PS Daniel, you seem to have misunderstood the part of the writing about sexism and the comments made at the rally, while being as presumptuous/aggro/obnoxious as any dude could be. I ask you, sincerely, please try to reflect on the un-helpfulness of your communication/political rhetoric.

    PPS Hunter Student, you actually make me want to throw away my computer. If you really mean half of what you wrote (and if that’s how you talk in real life), I really pity the people around you.


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