How White Privilege Teaches Us to Value Certain Lives Over Others
I’m not going to pretend to understand, or have lived the struggle that people of color, especially Blacks and Latinos, go through in this country, as I am myself, a white American. However, we have some real issues of racism within our movement that must be confronted in our everyday lives and in our organizing that many have witnessed this past weekend.
This past Friday, October 27, 2006, at least five unarmed people were killed on the streets of Oaxaca City, Oaxaca. One of them happened to be a young, white, male, American anarchist, working for the radical media outlet “indymedia.org” named Brad Will. Now it is no surprise that the Corporate American media would jump on a story where any American is shot dead in the streets of a third world country, but that same mentality has trickled down across leftist/independent news resources like those of infoshop.org, indymedia.org, Democracynow.org, and others, to the point where the popular struggle in the streets of Oaxaca, is only a legitimate struggle now that Brad Will was killed. This Brings up many interesting questions of how the radical left in the United States views itself in the context of a global struggle.
Out of the 5 people murdered on the streets last Friday, how many pictures have we seen of them? And compared to how many pictures we have seen of Brad Will? Will we ever know, or pursue, the story of the teacher shot down just a short time later by the paramilitaries? Will we recognize her life by blockading the Mexican consulates in her name? Will there by calls to action only after Americans are killed? How many calls to action read “In memory of Brad and…”? Is this really how we value life? Do we believe 3000 lives on 9/11 are more important than the million and a half killed in Iraq during the sanctions? Are we really going to condemn our government, while at the same time replicating it’s own bigoted mentalities? This is dancing on the rough edges of nationalism.
Since the uprising began in Oaxaca, the police and other paid agents of the state, have been murdering and disappearing people on a weekly, if not daily basis. And where were our blockades then, comrades? Where was our solidarity? Left on the sidelines for us to live out our privileged lives here in the US, until we see potential? Until we see a revolution to Capitalize on? How many Mexican lives is worth an American? How many Mexican-American radicals have been told that solidarity actions with Oaxaca weren’t as crucial as some other type of organizing?
The most widespread action in the US in support of the APPO and the greater struggle in Oaxaca, has only now surfaced within a matter of days. Infoshop.org has ran a headline since Friday, “NYC Indymedia Journalist Killed; Protests Scheduled; Updates From Oaxaca.” Now normally, I believe infoshop runs a headline for 1 to 2 days, this headline has ran for 4 days. The organizers of a speaking tour of APPO delegates in Los Angeles have been overwhelmed with phone calls since Brad Will’s death. Democracy Now has dedicated almost the entirety of today’s programs to the life and death of Brad Will. People are excited, they are optimistic, they see potential. And yes, there is reason to be excited, we are living in a time where the fascists have to send in Federal troops to once again attempt to break the strikes. Their police forces can no longer take us, and their authority, as well as legitimacy, is being challenged all over the world. But we must not patronize the people of Oaxaca, now that we realize they have an amazing fight to fight. We cannot jump on the revolutionary band wagon and ride out the heroic end of the struggle, now that they have created their own radical potential. This all nearly replicates the lives Mexican American live in this country, and is a reflection of this white privileged/supremacist mentality that has been conditioned into us. Example: Mexican labor, has created so much of the wealth and resources we have here in the United States, especially in the Southwest, and yet the Mexican American population’s wealth comes nowhere near those numbers- The Anglo American society benefits. And in Oaxaca, the people have labored, and struggled, and sacrificed their lives, and now that we see all that they have done, we seek to, at least, call it our own, and at worst (and what I fear the most) co-opt it.
The lifting of Brad Will’s death over all other faceless, nameless Mexicans, is just one further example of the racism that people of color experience even in what is supposed to be ‘safe settings.’ White Supremacy has deep roots in this country, but the struggle against oppression, in all it’s forms must be one of an International sense. I pledge no allegiance to the United States, however I love the communities that I live in, and the streets that I’m from, just as the strong companeros and companeras do south of us, when they fly their red white and green. We must confront our racist conditioning day by day, but continue our organizing and fight all the oppressions that we have been taught, as well as those that we witness. Call out your white comrades, because if you don’t, what kind of comrade does that make you?
In solidarity with ALL the lost lives in the struggle for freedom,