It is one thing to hold a sign that says “abolish the police;” it is another to burn the 3rd Precinct down.
As a non-Black arrivant Muslim, I was inserted into a field of politics I had no preparation for. Neither settler nor slave to make sense of what I was. No Malcolm to shape my Islam. To be a person with no understanding of race in this country is truly to be lost. To have no language to express one’s condition is to be voiceless.
But 9/11 made me. What was destruction for many Americans was a profound act of creation for me. I could see what this land was and what my destiny was. As the Twin Towers fell, the seeds of radicalism grew within days for me. It was upon the ashes of 9/11 that my tree of liberation grows from. It set me on a journey which I have yet to complete. Everything became clear. War was coming. Death would rain upon Muslims.
That’s around the time I discovered the writings of Frantz Fanon. The encounter with Fanon was an ethical commitment that my liberation was inseparable from the liberation of others. It was a complete commitment to destroy racialism. Fanon is a monument to human excellence. How did such a person even exist? I have found myself falling short of such a figure all the time, but that is OK. Sometimes to live a life of permanent failure is the only way to live under racial capitalism.
New categories and ways of seeing emerged. Fanon seemed determined not to let the rules of this anti-Black society determine his being. He was an alien, a man from the future, and ever since his death most have tried to turn him into something I firmly believe he was not. Fanon has been converted into safe texts, when in fact his life demanded the most consistent action taken upon our enemies. In other words, we can only understand Fanon by what happened at the 3rd Precinct.
Another encounter, with the Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) left, created a civil war that I have to fight everyday. Perhap some whites and BIPOCs still harbor illusions about the radicalism of this milieu. There was a time when to be BIPOC meant to put your body on the line; today that militancy is long gone. Instead, identities are worshiped, frozen, textual, and skin deep, and acts of performative politics. The white man is the perfect monster, providing easy targets, easy thinking, and almost zero combat against the state, capital, or racialism. It’s partly a reflection of who many BIPOC are. These BIPOC are firmly middle-class people, who would not risk their lives for anything. While we may share similar skin tones, we hardly share much else. I am well aware that I too have become part of the intellectual class at a university. I simply know that I must destroy this world and myself with it. Only from there can a new world arise.
The George Floyd Rebellion liberated me from the shackles of BIPOCism. BIPOCs like to counter their world against the white man’s world. Fair enough, but hardly a radical horizon or alternative. A Fanonian commitment to radicalism means something else entirely: risks, courage, and the most resolute actions.
In the aftermath of the George Floyd Rebellion, I have never been healthier in my disposition towards race. Whereas BIPOCs in the left are obsessed with the white man, many of them mostly jealous and secretly desiring the powers of the white man, I am more free of those desires than I have ever been. Unable and unwilling to actually fight the police, the boss, or the politician, all that they can do is fight the abstraction of the white man, or the skinny and often nebbish white men who end up in the left spaces. The white man is not my destiny. I have a new measure to judge comrades that I have not had in a deep way after two decades of struggle. I can see who is ‘bout it and who just talks a big game. Whether I can maintain this measure, depends on the uprising continuing. As it recedes, I will inevitably falter.
In the over-intellectualized world of the left, where every word is parsed out for meaning and contradiction, what stands out is the clarity of the 3rd Precinct burning. That was the truest event to have occurred on this soil in my lifetime. The people who burned the station down had all kinds of ideas. I do not romanticize them, but I know what their actions mean and say to me. If they had listened to the left, God knows what would have happened, but certainly not the beautiful fires we all watched.
A new species is attempting to be born which I have awkwardly started calling the George Floyd Left. Its basis for solidarity is a commitment to struggle, shared risk, and radical desires of liberation. This can include anyone. This doesn’t mean that race disappears, goes away, and comrades are just race-less. This would be a caricature of Fanon and my experiences. It is a bond of suffering and struggle when fighting a common enemy. Black proletarians are still handed out the most severe punishment, but not being Black will not protect you either; after all, Michael Reinoehl was assassinated by the state.
The tragedy is that, in the end, the condition of being racialized hardly gives me a way out of this world. Many have turned being racialized into a virtue, when in fact, it is more akin to a disease. The task is to cure it. All of this is true for whites and non-whites. None of us can fully relate to one another as complete beings. Can I trust my own judgement, my eyes, my touch, or my ear? Can anyone? If being racialized has any virtue it is to be able to see our condition outside of racialism and capitalism. I have met a few BIPOCs who see the world in this manner. For most, the best they can do is to see their condition in comparison to the white man. Hardly an emancipatory or high standard of liberation.
If anything, it is particular identities which battled the police last summer. If my project is to push identities to the limit point, it is a strategic decision, based on how movements are expressing themselves. There is no desire to maintain identities. Black liberation can be mistakenly understood as only the liberation of those who are Black, but is in fact, the destruction of the very system which creates race. If this is the logic, then that means racial assignments will be meaningless in the future. The future of humans is Frantz Fanon in this sense.
Accordingly, it is the BIPOC proletariat which has provided more clarity than any BIPOC meeting I have been to. Besides, once whitey leaves those meetings, there is nothing that happens in those spaces other than complaining about white people. After that is done, we learn that we do not get along. The unity is mostly skin deep at this point, hardly enough for a new world. Identity still exists, Black proletarians torching cop cars, white proletarians jumping into the fray, and so on. It’s the relationship that identities have with one another that are different. When you know you are in a united battle against a common enemy how identity is positioned is different.
For me the biggest division has been over reform and revolution. Contrary to the idea of inherently radical BIPOCs, I have been in countless spaces of the BIPOC left where radicalism is mostly performative; the language of revolution and Black liberation just a thin covering for social democracy and liberalism. The performative aspects of identity have exhausted themselves and largely play a reactionary role these days. That is why what I largely concern myself with is, what have you done, what are you willing to do, and when will you do it. Because that is the only ‘text’ that matters. Words and performance do not stop bullets or abolish the police.
Many BIPOC who want to cling to their self conceptions and their worldview will call me an apologist for the white man. I will keep Fanon close to me in those moments because in a world so racialized those accusations can still sting. Regardless, I will hold a devastating analysis of racial capitalism, empire, and settler colonialism but also build relationships with anyone who actually throws down. To see humans in this light is refreshing and certainly challenging.
Truth be told, this is all fragile. I am certainly not as strong as Fanon whose clarity on this question guided his life to a dazzling brilliance. Everytime I meet another non-participant BIPOC of the uprising, all the old ways come flooding back. I am a tiny island in the middle of the ocean. A sea of race fetishism laps my feet all the time. Perform this, say that about whitey, say radical cliche statement, etc. It never stops.
But I know I can’t rely on my identity to protect my claims, as is so popular in BIPOC circles. For many this will be jarring, treasonous and so on. In a world of white supremacy, identity has become a piece of private property that even radicals want to hold onto as if it is their personal brand in a larger capitalist enterprise. It seems we have forgotten that in the destruction of racial capitalism, we will be destroyed ourselves. I do not trust anyone who isn’t invested in destroying themselves.
When I think about civil war and the violence of revolution, it is about the intellectual and social destruction which must occur, although this will require the material destruction of racial capitalism itself. Only my actions now speak for the type of person I am, and what signals I am sending to others. Instead of identity and text or identity and performance geared towards nothing other than seeking applause from mostly white audiences, the identities under conditions of combat seek no applause, but a common goal of defeating the oppressor.
Its not like I don’t notice I am often one of the few non-white people in a room. That is obvious to me for many reasons. At times I certainly see the world differently from my white comrades and that is inseparable from my own experiences. But that is not a subtraction or addition, but an exponential relationship based on calculus and less on arithmetic. It is a relationship of bonding our bizarre identities for the most unimaginable and daring goal humanity has ever conceived.
Nor is it some great insight to point out that racism can still be a part of many white and non-white radical circles. It is not pleasant to say the least, but truth be told, this entire world is a rather large hell hole. Undoubtedly BIPOC revolutionaries will have to live in a world constituted by racism and continue to fight that same racism. Many BIPOC’s refusing to fight the state or capitalism choose the target immediately in front of them. It’s understandable, but hardly a way of life.
Has the BIPOC left ever thought what all of this means under the fires of the 3rd Precinct? It seems not. It seems they are comfortable in their own safe world, where no one can get hurt, where nothing is at stake, except some fragile egos. Unfortunately the world outside of these left-BIPOC spaces are dangerous spaces. Liberation’s journey is the most dangerous and unsafe passage imaginable. The obsession with safe spaces cannot guide us out of racialism and capitalism. It is in these dangerous spaces where my mind was transformed along with my senses.
I have left the world of the BIPOC sign holders. They have nothing to offer me but despair and death. I must find the BIPOC who fought in the uprising. We have scores to settle with our common foes. We know who they are.
I thought about structuring this essay through Fanon’s text, but that would only continue to mistake texts for actions and life. It is the latter that matters. Fanon did not write texts for pontification, but as a compass to guide our life in action. While his texts soaked through my soul, it is what we do with his words that count. And the hour has come. The world is dying: choose your poison of the pandemic, climate crisis, or the economy.
I don’t want to forget because the George Floyd Uprising was not a dream. I can still breathe the air of liberation from last summer.