“It cannot be assumed that the conditions of domination alone were sufficient to create a sense of common values, trust, or collective identification. The commonality constituted in practice depends less on presence or sameness than upon desired change—the abolition of bondage. Thus, contrary to identity providing the ground of community, identity is figured as the desired negation of the very set of constraints that create commonality—that is the yearning to be liberated from the condition of enslavement facilitates the networks of affiliation and identification.”—
negrosunshine to unobject: im going to have to say no. while i do think the Hartman quotation can be used in “radical” organizing, and I have seen her insights used in much better ways than what you are attempting to link it with now, I think you may be missing some crucial points, as is the article you put forth.
Perhaps this is the issue of taking a snippet of analysis from a book that effectively shifts paradigms. My problem to be worked out.
When I posted this quotation from Saidiya Hartman’s book, I meant it to be specifically and unapologetically linked to Black bodies. Which is not to “privilege,” or “essentialize,” culture, but to highlight a structural position, that of Blackness, which is non-communicable to the liberal and radically trendy theorizing and organizing around the terms, people-of-color, queers, women, and qpoc. And I’m not saying those positions do not deserve legitimate and non-half assed work around them (a valid shift from discussing “terms” to discussing “positions”), but it is to keep in plain sight relations of power, or hold tight to a paradigmatic analysis that not only accounts but makes central the problem of anti-blackness structuring civil society; which would be to implicate all other positions in that essential antagonism.
I do not think Hartman, in this particular stroke, is questioning the way we use identity, but rather, I think she is reevaluating the way we understand identity, or what identity actually means in the shadow of slavery. How do we talk about culture, or community, in the face of a structural positioning? Or as she writes earlier on page 59:
The sense of black community expressed by “having a good time among our own color” depends upon acts of identification, restitution, and remembrance. Yet the networks of affiliation enacted in performance, sometimes referred to as the “community among ourselves,” are defined not by the centrality of racial identity or the self-sameness or the transparency of blackness nor merely by the condition of enslavement but by the connections forged in the context of disrupted affiliations, sociality amid the constant threat of separation, and shifting sets of identification particular to site, location, and action. In other words, the “community” or the networks of affiliation constructed in practice are not reducible to race—as if race a priori gave meaning to community of as if community was the expression of race—but are to understood in terms of the possibilities of resistance conditioned by relations of power and the very purposeful and self-conscious effort to build community. (emphasis mine. probably should have just bolded it all though.)
It was reported yesterday that Ms. Lauryn Hill has been charged with three counts of misdemeanor failure to file taxes. These charges were incurred for the years of 2005-2007, during a time in which Ms. Hill had removed herself and her family from society, in order to keep them safe, healthy,…
This story is not an isolated one, as I have met more Asian Americans who develop an affinity with Black politics and people but then jump ship when they get a chance to be with Asian Americans. Many of us, Asian American or not, have drunk from the fountain of knowledge we call Black politics only to spit the water back into the well when we are no longer thirsty.
See, Asian Americans don’t tend to jump ship for ethical reasons. It is certainly not an issue of feeling that they shouldn’t have more power compared to, or over Blacks, or because they shouldn’t have too much control in Black people’s affairs. If they felt this way, they wouldn’t adamantly defend Asian business owners who create business enclaves in Black neighborhoods or they wouldn’t be so quick to establish Asian hip hop or spoken word collectives that tell off Black people at the same time appropriating from them.
And so me, I jumped ship like the rest of them. I got involved in Asian American politics to the point where I saw myself as Asian American, read and wrote about Asian American affairs, and presented myself as Asian American at political events, college settings and social gatherings. The fucked up part of it though is that I was able to solidify my identity as both Asian American and POC by being anti-Black. My sense of myself politically was basically established by distancing myself from Blacks.
Me and other Asians would solidify our bonds with one another politically in forums, private organizational meetings or just quick conversation by talking about how selfish Black people were or how there is more than just Black and white and how people need to recognize Asian Americans in the mix. I would cheer loudly for racist Asian American spoken word performances where Asian American artists would loudly sound off about “Don’t exotify my culture!” to some implied Black and white audience, at the same time using hip hop slang and Black colloquialisms or signifying Blackness through their gestures and cadences.
the simple things that make me smile when im wasting my time watching tv
there was this report back in 1965 that said Black families are dysfunctional, particularly because of strong Black matriarchs and emasculated Black men. This was called, The Negro Family: A Case for National Action, written by, then Assistant Secretary of Labor, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. We commonly refer to his report as The Moynihan Report. He was a liberal and this report was largely influential in Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” Folks also elected him a U.S. senator in 1982, 1988, and 1994. He sided with the Republicans in ‘94 for Welform Reform… surprise, surprise.
Anywho, his report made official long/still standing sentiment that there is something dysfunctional about Black families. It banks on: the demonization of Black motherhood; the prevailing notions of degenerate Black men; and the fears of hopelessly criminal Black children.
Meanwhile here in this present, where Black families are still deemed dysfunctional, the modern LGBT movement has made Gay Marriage the cause du jour. The image of the (white) married family has become (or still holds as) the sign of citizenship, prosperity, and normative culture. Gay Marriage is the civil right to be achieved, to be fought for, to be valued.
I wonder what will happen when “us” gays are allowed to be married?
I’m off topic.
What I smile at when I watch TV (with full knowledge of the Moynihan Report and its lasting affects, on top of the nauseating need for mainstream queer people to cling to this issue of marriage) is the show, "Monster-in-Laws," on A&E. A whole bunch of white folk with some serious dysfunction going on in their households. I love that show. I watch and laugh.
I remember them. Neka was always with James, and they were always with Kuwasi. The three of them occupied the brownstone where Lorde Street meets Langston Drive. It had a great big front yard, with a black iron gate racing around the perimeter. The yard and Lorde Street could be seen from the front porch. Langston Drive had to be monitored from a room window on the right side of the building. They turned that place into our headquarters. Those three were romantics, but having that space, a space of their own dedicated to their ideas, which became our ideas, made it all the real. The Beat Center is what we called it, and within a few weeks of them “owning” it, it became known as the place of Black radicals. Queer radicals depending on whom you asked, but nevertheless radicals. Kuwasi led political workshops, while James did the recruiting, and Neka trained us. The pigs patrolled the Beat, and we sat outside with Neka to let them know, let the world know, we would defend it.
For two years that space inspired the generations, my generation and the older ones. We operated quietly, but there was always something brewing. Black folks, and only Black folks were allowed in and we would come out feeling pissed off and rejuvenated. That had the pigs scared. They would knock on the door every now and again, despite Neka’s cold demeanor and pickaxe on the stoop. James would do the talking as Neka and Kuwasi stood around looking as Black and menacing as they could. No effort necessary on their part. James spoke since he was pretty that way and soft spoken enough to make masculinity rethink its orientation. I came to the Beat that way, he smiled and I felt compelled to follow. Kuwasi was too angry and smart to speak with any pigs. And despite Michelle in the big house, who was really going to hear a Black woman? So Neka carried her axe.
We blacked the windows out on the lower front of the house and painted a Black fist on the big red front door. The second floor windows had painting on them too. One had a picture of Malcolm, who everyone knew. And the other had a picture of a different Kuwasi, who everyone should have known, but didn’t. Our Kuwasi named himself after him, but always reminded us he lived in a different time, and he wasn’t trying to be that Kuwasi, just pay his respects. James would give the recruits a copy of Kuwasi Ballagoon’s book and have them read it and report back. It took me two weeks and two interviews to get “accepted.” The first time around Kuwasi told me I searched for the queer too much and lost track of its insights. James sat with me a few nights before my second interview and coached me up. The second time around Kuwasi and Neka smiled and welcomed me with a hug. That’s how Black folk gained admission to the house during “peace” time, by showing your dedication to the cause and to learning. Most of us never made it through on the first interview. It was a process; unless of course you were running from the pigs, or needed emergency shelter from some other type of state violence. Entrance was granted on a provisional basis, until the three of them could make sense of the circumstances.
One night, about a year into their operation, when the Beat Center was really gaining in its Black popularity and I had been a soldier for about four months, a Black woman came running into the yard screaming. The woman’s boyfriend had hit her in the face. A few kids jumped up and rushed to her side. She was known from around the neighborhood, but had not belonged to our group. Slowly Neka made her way through the group to examine the woman. She left her axe back on the porch, but I guess she didn’t want to scare the woman more than she already was. Kuwasi and James remained on the porch looking onto the scene. The boyfriend ran up and stood at the sidewalk, asking for his woman back. We all looked at him. He knew not to step foot on our yard. James raised his shotgun. I rested my bat on my shoulder. Neka turned to the woman, “what do you want to do?”
“I can’t go back. Can I stay here?”
“This isn’t a women’s shelter. What do you want to do about this?”
The man began yelling for his woman to come. By this time the neighborhood began forming a crowd. Neka singled for two men to step to the front of yard next to the screaming boyfriend. She motioned for the rest of us to step back away from the woman.
James trained his shotgun at the man. Kuwasi stood next to him and yelled, “Brotha, I suggest you stay right there, and let this woman think.”
Neka looked at the woman as she stood there crying and thinking.
One of the newer members and current watchman-on-duty, came out The Beat and yelled into the yard, “we got about eight minutes till the next patrol.” Kuwasi touched James’s shoulder signaling to him to lower his gun as the two began to walk down the porch. Neka waved her hand motioning for the two to stop where they were. Kuwasi yelled “seven minutes, Neka.” She nodded her head and turned her eyes back to the woman.
“Whatchu want to do? It’s up to you. This is about you right now, no one else.”
The man began to walk towards the group, James raised his shotgun again, but Neka locked eyes with him and shook her head no. Neka took two steps toward me, leaving a clear path for the man to walk toward the woman.
She took two steps back toward the porch as James cocked his shotgun. The man stopped, reached his arm out and lightly asked that his woman come with him. He pleaded and apologized, “I’m sorry, baby. Come on home.”
The woman turned back toward James, “Don’t kill him.”
Neka stuck her arm out toward me. I placed my bat in her hand, and with the swiftness she was training us to have, she struck the man in the back of the knee breaking his leg nearly in half. He fell to the floor knees first and she put her boot in his back knocking him all the way down.
“Whatcu want to do about this?” Neka asked. Kuwasi and James walked back toward the porch. Kuwasi motioned for everyone in the yard to go back in the The Beat. As we began walking up the porch he yelled out to the neighborhood, “Go on back home. Four minutes till the next patrol. Y’all ain’t seen nothing and don’t know nothing.”
The man was crying on the floor, Neka’s boot still in his back.
“Go on back home” Neka said to the woman, “You can either pack up your things and go on somewhere else, or stay put and live your life. He won’t hit you no more, that much I can guarantee” She poked her bat into the back of his neck as he wept more and more. By this time we had all gathered in the space, but I stayed by the door and looked on. I was curious and scared all at the same time.
The woman began to walk away, “what are y’all going to do with him?”
“Patch him up and send him back in the world. We’ll teach him a few things. But, like I said, he won’t be hitting you anymore. What you want to do with him from there is on you” Neka released the man from her stance and motioned to the house for some help. I came running out, two men followed me. “Get on out of here” she said to the woman. We carried the man into the Beat Center.
I think it was that day, that things got serious for me, and I knew we were doing some serious work. But it was also that day where things got serious for The Beat. The pigs showed up as we were dragging the crying man up the stairs.