Sunday, July 14, 2013

From somewhere in East Oakland, imagining a different community of communities

Arnoldo Garcia

Blinded by Color, Unbound by Place: Trayvon Martin

Dedicated to my children and our future together
To the youth, the boys and girls in my neighborhood struggling to live and to their present together.

We must defend ourselves, you and me, from whiteness, white supremacy.

George Zimmerman was Latino? Was Zimmerman a white Hispanic? No. Zimmerman is a Hispanic/Latino mask with a white soul. There are no such humans, Latino, white. (There are Hispanics, but he isn’t one.) Additionally, there are few if any Latino or Brown on Black killings. This is another subject we have to talk about, when our Mexican youth hurt and kill other Mexican youth, when our African American youth hurt and kill other African American youth. Where is the outrage, the breaking of windows, the marches, the call for responsibility and safety, the disarming of the violence when Norteño kills Sureño? Black on Black, Brown on Brown violence is also police violence. Where do the guns and ammo come from, who licenses the arms and weapons that flood our communities, who regulates and distributes the guns, rifles, the violence and coercion that make our neighborhoods unsafe?

The Zimmerman murder of Trayvon Martin was a racist murder, a white violence that is terrorizing us all, a white supremacy that has hundreds of years of violent practice in violent subjugation and genocide and prisons and schools and the mentalities that permit them. Whiteness is not an illusion; it is very real and yet it is a delusion.

We are all very specific, concrete people. If you consider yourself white and antiracist, you are still part of the racist problem. If you consider yourself Latino and are antiracist you are still part of the racist problem. I feel troubled when I hear partner activists, who are progressive and still say they are white. Whiteness must be berated and negated, not the people who claim that identity. We have to separate the whites from the whiteness and that will take some real work. Whiteness has caused and continues causing harm and trauma to our communities of colors. Whiteness is a bipolar world, i.e. insanity with state power and institutions that make us believe, coerces us, imprisons us in cages or classrooms, that whiteness is the ultimate form of humanness.

White is a color, not a culture, not a people. The same goes for black. Black is a color, not a culture, not a people. White, black, brown, these are the identities of racialization, homogenization, which are the function and power of colonization, empire and imperialism over our consciousness and communities, the destruction of our very being and powers.

I am not oblivious (or too ignorant either) of the historical nature of these identities. To destroy and dismantle whiteness, it is not enough for us to call ourselves people of color, Black, Brown. Whites have to stop calling themselves whites and take responsibility for the legacy they have lived and are living under, the privilege of racialized empire-building and the American dream.

Black is beautiful. So is white beautiful? Brown is beautiful. Are those the only colors of the rainbow and the natural world that are beautiful? Is beauty in the gaze of the beholder? Is beauty a racial justice struggle like demanding justice for Trayvon? If Zimmerman is Latino, does that change the nature of the murder he committed against Trayvon Martin? Or must he be white, as I am arguing, for the nature of the killing to change?

What the verdict does not change and can never change is that a white man killed a Black, African American teenager. This story will never change. This is the story that we must change.

So many questions; so much rage and so little time to answer all of them. And Trayvon Martin and hundreds of other African America and Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Honduran, Purepecha, Mixtec, Zapotec, et. al., are still dead from police violence or zombies in perpetual prison or endless criminalization.

We are not minorities either. Minority is a political project of colonialism and then U.S. imperial designs. A minority is a person, a place and a people who lack self-determination and vision – which are imposed by the so-called “majority.” The U.S. plans the future of all peoples and that future is for them to become minorities. (Note: if we count all whites the way whites count us in the Census, whites would be the minorities: 5% German there, 5% Irish there [I know, I know, Irish are not white, but who’s counting?], 5% Anglos here, 5% French, 3% Scottish, 15% Indio or Mexican – boom!)

We are not undocumented. We have enough documents to proof our history and existence that goes back at least 15,000 years. We just do not have the documents that prove we are a minority that knows its place in the uni-polarized world of the U.S. That is the purvey of immigration authority: you are not here and you do not exist until we say who you are and that you exist to serve us, disposable, deportable, guest worker, bracero, immigrant.

I am not a Latino. I am a Mexican. And even then I am a very specific type of Mexican, descended from Palestinian and Purepecha black and indio roots.

In the struggle for liberation and clarity in revolutionary transformations and reforms, civil rights and human rights and neo-liberalism, I have been dubbed Mexican, white, Mexican-American, Mexican American, Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Brown (another color of racialization, etc.). Now we have the choice of Hispanic. Oh, I am not nor ever will be from Hispania.

In another country in the Americas, for example, you can buy your whiteness, literally, without changing your color. You have money, you buy a document that declares you white.

You can do the same thing in the U.S. You can get your whiteness in the U.S. in one of two ways: With money and with identity (or both). What we are called, what we call ourselves, is the struggle for a new type of self-determination and liberty.

First strategy: Get rich (or die trying?) – or at least become part of the stable working class, i.e. middle class. And you buy your way into the gated communities or at least afford to live in the gentrified neighborhoods or districts where at least 12-15% of the residents are white. Violá – you are not white but you have bought the trappings of safety and wellbeing that whites enjoy without even a second thought about how they got this way.

How do you know you live in a gentrified neighborhood or district? Call the police for assistance and see how long it takes them to arrive or if they even show up.

The second way to buy whiteness is through identity.

Call yourself Hispanic, Latino. Poof you are white. Hispanic, Latino means: “Hey, you can’t deport me! I pay taxes; I work legitimately. I am not ‘Black.’ I am hard working, tax-paying family man. I am not a criminal!”

Agree to forget your history and your past and delude yourself into thinking that you are not the color of your dark skin, that you are not from here, and no one else will notice because you say who you are and you live in the right neighborhood.

And both of these and other ways are delusional. You are not white, you are black. You are not Hispanic, you are Mexican.

You are not Mexican, you are an Indio, an Indian who has been here longer than anyone else who is NOT Indio.

Your are not middle class, you are not rich; you are hand-to-mouth, paycheck to paycheck working class bum, filled with anxiety and worry that you will become unemployed, unemployable, homeless and black or worse end up in the barrio or ghetto.

I am not a Hispanic. Note: There are Hispanics, people who are from Spain or descended from Spanish who settle her in colonies and made colonization a way of life; who spoke Castilian, the language of the castle-imperial kings/queens. There is a 350+year old Hispanic community that settled and continues living in a region straddled by New Mexico and Colorado in the U.S. southwest. The royal academy of the Spanish language has studied this Hispanic region for years because 15th or 16th century Spanish is still spoken there.

Hispanic is also a synonym for whiteness; Hispanics are from Europe, hence white. To erase Indios and Mexicans from the U.S., sometime in the 1960s and 1970s, the state power decided to count us Hispanic. Poof, you’re gone.

When dark-skinned Mexicans want to delude themselves, they say they are Hispanics, when they are indigenous and have been here longer than anyone else, free or slave, black or white, European, Asian, African.

Hispanic is a very recent creation, a tool of subordination, domination and soul crushing destruction of people. The Hispanics themselves, Spaniards, Spanish, created this identity to crush the indigenous peoples of what is now Spain: Basques, etc.

I am not an American in the U.S. “American” as an identity in the U.S. has been confiscated, expropriated, corroded and made unusable for everyone except whites. In my world, América is a continent not a country.

American is a synonym for whiteness and Americans barely tolerate anyone else using it. In their imperial, neocolonial kindness, whites are doing to us what they did to themselves. By changing their names, they gave themselves the authority to take whatever they wanted, all for short-term gain and long-term, continual disaster upon the world’s peoples and the natural world herself.

In the end, none of this is important if we do not stand up for Trayvon Martin and hundreds, maybe tens of thousands of other victims of racist violence. More critical, can we prevent this from happening again? Will you befriend, mentor all the Trayvon Martins of my neighborhood or are you afraid of Black and Brown Buffalo youth, boys and girls, men and women, hooded and unhooded, middle class or homeless?

I do not want to see another movie of our tragedies made. Why didn’t anyone make a movie of Oscar Grant when he was alive? Why didn’t we care nationally or even locally about Trayvon before he became Trayvon? What about Zimmerman? He is still the killer and will be for all time. Will he find redemption? How does he continue living with blood on his hands? How does the U.S. continue functioning with so much war, blood, injustices and suffering at home and abroad? Will we prevent another Zimmerman from appearing? Will I throw myself in front of the bullets meant for my Trayvon, will you?

P.S. we must talk, all of us of all the colors and pigments. We must talk to say who we are, where we are at and where we are going. We can exist without this world, we can thrive as communities in a different relationship. The U.S. formation is not the only world possible. Our language, our vocabularies, our self-determined beings, our relationships can change to make good our lives; we all want to be in a better relationship than the ones that permitted the emergence of Zimmermans and the criminalization of the Trayvons and the violence and coercion that codified it. We are the ones who can make this possible by being different and sometimes just by being who we are supposed to be.

Notes, Oakland, July 14, 2013.

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