From unity to collective liberation

Rowe, Uhuru Baraka

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FROM UNITY TO COLLECTIVE L I B E R A T I O N An Essay by Brian L . Rowe Just recently I finished studying a book I purchased from PM Press e n t i t l e d , "Towards Collective L i b e r a t i o n " , w r i t t e n by Chris C r a s s , an anti-racist white activist who played a major role in the p o l i t i c a l development of San Francisco Food Not B o m b s , The Catalyst P r o j e c t , and Colours of Resistance around an a n t i - r a c i s t , m u l t i - r a c i a l organizing framev7ork for racial ,and economic j u s t i c e . I must say this was one of the best p o l i t i c a l / a c t i v i s t books I've read and one that has been v i t a l in h e l p i n g me clarify my political vision and goal for creating liberating and transformative change within myself and the w o r l d . Written for the b e n e f i t of antiracist white o r g a n i z e r s , all who are serious about h e l p i n g to "build a new world on the ruins of the old" will b e n e f i t greatly from this book. As a 37 year old New Afrikan black male and h a v i n g had my politics shaped and refined during my 20 years of i n c a r c e r a t i o n , I've developed a certain awareness of how capitalist white male supremacy utilizes d i v i d e - a n d - c o n t r o l tactics to retard the growth of any type of unified movement among n o n - r u l i n g class whites and people of color struggling for s o c i a l , e c o n o m i c , and racial justice w h o s e u l t i m a t e goal is to create a society which is free, e q u i t a b l e , and just for a l l . I was not aware how this same system of d i v i d e - a n d - c o n t r o l creates and utilizes divisions along the lines of gender ( s e x i s m ) , sexuality ( h o m o p h o b i a ) , ability (elder d i s c r i m i n a t i o n ) , and nationality (anti-immigrant r i g h t s ) to maintain its r u l i n g - c l a s s d o m i n a n c e , p o w e r , and r u l e . This lack of awareness of these other systems of oppression along the lines of g e n d e r , s e x u a l i t y , a b i l t y , and nationality caused me to be comletely numb to and d i s i n t e r e s t e d in any struggles for justice and equality as it relates to gender equality and r e p r o d u c t i v e r i g h t s , LGBT r i g h t s , elder r i g h t s , and immigrant rights. Prior to reading Toward Collective L i b e r a t i o n , I would not have come close to embracing any struggles remotely dealing with feminism or LGBT r i g h t s , partly out of fear-of being viewed by my hetero-sexual male peers as w e a k , f e m i n i n e , or even g a y . I now see how such a thought or 1 of 6 concern is in and of itself sexist and h o m o p h o b i c in nature and is indicative of my own internalized values of sexist/hetero-sexist male s u p e r i o r i t y . All women and LGBT people are human beings deserving of our respect and collective support as they too struggle e q u a l i t y , basic human for rights, and the right to live their lives FREELY without h i n d r a n c e , s l a n d e r , ridicule or discrimination. Being exposed to an "Intersectional" analysis of all these systems of oppression has caused a revolutionary transformation in my political development and vision and have greatly influenced the way I will organize and struggle in the future for r a c i a l , social, and economic jus tice. If there were one point lacking in Towards Collective Liberation (and I was h a r d - p r e s s e d to find it) was the role that religion plays in regards to the other systems of o p p r e s s i o n . Religion is another tool used by capitalist white male supremacy to d i v i d e - a n d - c o n t r o l the non-ruling c l a s s . The American Empire was founded on the doctrine of C h r i s t i a n i t y . When one speaks of the spread of c a p i t a l i s m , c o l o n i a l i s m , and i m p e r i a l i s m , one should also speak of what can be termed as the spread of Christian h e g e m o n y . The spread of.so-called American democracy can rigtitly be defined as the spread of capitalist white male supremacy (and all of its accopanying systems of o p p r e s s i o n ) and Christian hegemony which is manifested by its p o l i t i c a l intolerance and repression of all n o n - C h r i s t i a n r e l i g i o n s . The spread of Christian hegemony (the idea that all n o n - C h r i s t i a n religions are barbaric or terroristic in n a t u r e ) can be likened to the spread of Catholicism under the brutal reign of King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I of Spain from 1 4 7 4 - 1 5 0 4 , who sent Christopher Columbus to the so-called "new world" in 1492 to commit mass genocide upon the Indigenous Natives in the name of Catholicism and g r e e d . After 9 / 1 1 / 0 1 , Islam was seen as the new evil much like Communism during the Cold War from 1 9 4 5 - 1 9 9 0 . Many p e a c e f u l , law-abiding American Muslims were routinely harassed and profiled by the p o l i c e , labeled as potential terrorists in the c o r p o r a t e - o w n e d media , and were often on the receiving end s l a n d e r , s l u r s , and v i o l e n c e p e r p e t r a t e d by hardline p a t r i o t i c and sometimes Christian A m e r i c a n s . This internalized d e m o n i z a t i o n , h a t r e d , and p r e j u d i c e against American Muslims created a rift between the C h r i s t i a n / R i g h t w i n g e r s and the progressive Left, and was also a point of contention within r a c i a l , s o c i a l , and economic justice movements and society in general. An intersectional analysis would 2 of 6 have been b e n e f i c i a l in helping anti-war American activists draw a contrasting line between the war on terror (read: war on Islam) with the war on women's reproductive rights; the war on LGBT p e o p l e s ' right to m a r r y , adopt c h i l d r e n , and other rights; the war on (im)migrant rights; the war against the h o m e l e s s ; the war against working-class home-owners resulting in mass foreclosures and evictions; the war against law-abiding A m e r i c a n s ' right to privacy via the Patriot Act; and the war against drugs which has swelled the prison population to h i s t o r i c a l numbers unseen in any other country on the p l a n e t . Such an intersectional analysis would have been h e l p f u l in convincing h a r d - l i n e P a t r i o t i c / C h r i s t i a n Americans blinded by revenge and emotionalism that the so-called war on terror has often been used by the Empire to expand its imperialist aims and agendas by waging war under false pretenses and committing mass genocide against the people of d e f e n s e l e s s , poor T h i r d - W o r l d countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Y e m e n , L i b y a , S o m a l i a , e t c . , and then installing puppet governments who w i l l be receptive to and easily swayed by imperial and neocolonial i n f l u e n c e . Having been in prison for 20 c o n s e c u t i v e y e a r s , I bear witness on a daily basis how these same d i v i d e - a n d - r u l e tactics manifest themselves even behind these prison walls w h i c h sow seeds of d i v i s i o n , d i s t r u s t , and chaos within the p r i s o n e r - c l a s s , especially within the ranks of those who are politically a c t i v e . As far back as can be r e m e m b e r e d , the penal system has used behavior m o d i f i c a t i o n and psychology against the p r i s o n e r - c l a s s , especially those politically active prisoners engaged in a protracted struggle against all forms of o p p r e s s i o n . Such psychology or d i v i d e - a n d - c o n t r o l tactics can be achieved by i n f l a m m i n g / i n s t i g a t i n g hatred and v i o l e n c e amongst the races; the use of prisoners who covertly c o l l a b o r a t e with the penal a d m i n i s t r a t i o n as leaders; treating prisoners who are willing to collaborate with the p e n a l a d m i n s t r a t i o n in far more lenient/favorable ways as those who are not; using c o l l a b o r a t i n g / i n f o r m i n g prisoners to spread rumors d e t r i m e n t a l to the character and reputation of natural leaders so they w i l l not be trusted; and most n o t i c e a b l y , the use of Secure Housing Units (SHU) and A d m i n i s t r a t i v e Segregation (Ad.Seg.) as a tool of repression and to isolate all prisoners deemed to be influential natural l e a d e r s . 3 of 6 Of c o u r s e , there are other divisions within the prisoner-class that can clearly be seen in these modern-day gulags: 1) Division between much older and experienced convicts who view y o u n g e r , less experienced inmates as r e c k l e s s , lacking a "code" of e t h i c s , and not willing to listen to instruction; and the y o u n g e r , less experienced inmates who view the older convicts as w a s h e d - u p , institutionalized, and "behind in the times"; 2) Division between those inmates housed in "honor" dorms/ units and labeled as "model prisoners" who view non-honor dorm/unit and n o n - m o d e l prisoners as trouble makers and a threat to their "honor ' and "model prisoner" status; and the non-honor dorm/unit and n o n - m o d e l prisoners who view honor dorm/unit and m o d e l prisoners as s e l l o u t s , i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d , and collaborators with the penal administration against them; 3) Division between those inmates assigned to prison slave jobs who may feel superior to those inmates who have no prison slave j o b ; and the inmates who are not assisgned to a prison slave job who may envy those inmates who are; 4) Division between those inmates who classify themselves as g a y / b i - s e x u a l who are resentful towards those inmates classified as h e t e r o s e x u a l who openly alienates them; and those inmates classified as h e t e r o s e x u a l who look down upon those inmates classified as g a y / b i - s e x u a l with disgust and h o s t i l i t y ; 5) Divisions between those inmates who are part of religious/ c u l t u r a l organizations such as C h r i s t i a n s , M u s l i m s , R a s t a s , C a t h o l i c s , Gods and E a r t h s , A t h i e s t s , etc.; 6) Division between the races and even within the races; 7) Division between lumpen street organizations who are convinced that it is more "gangsta" to fight (oppose) each other rather than fight for change in their circumstance or e n v i r o n m e n t , or fight (ride) against oppression and e x p l o i t a t i o n , inhumane living c o n d i t i o n s , slave w a g e s , substandard f o o d , etc.; 8) Division between those inmates who are fully developed p o l i t i c a l l y and are p o l i t i c a l l y active;and those inmates who are less developed p o l i t i c a l l y and are not politically active; and 9) Division (disconnect) between those inmates in general p o p u l a t i o n • a n d those inmates assigned to Secure Housing Units (SHU) and A d m i n s t r a t i v e Segregation (Ad.Seg.) The "Agreement To End All Hostilities Among The R a c e s " initiated by those courageous brothers of the Pelican Bay State Prison- Short Corridor Collective and the "United Front for Peace in Prisons- 4 of 6 Statement of Principles" developed by the M a o i s t Internationalist Ministry of P r i s o n s and other types of p r o g r e s s i v e collective movements taking place in various prisons across this E m p i r e , these are just glimpses of the type of unity and leverage we can achieve w i t h a multir a c i a l , i n t e r - o r g a n i z a t i o n a l , cross-gender alliance if we of the prisoner-class develop an i n t e r s e c t i o n a l analysis of how the p e n a l administration utilizes d i f f e r e n c e s in r a c e , r e l i g i o n , s e x u a l i t y , a g e , g e n d e r , e t c . to keep us divided and at each other's throats instead of w o r k i n g together for own own common g o o d . When the prisoner-class as a whole chooses to set aside our d i f f e r e n c e s , we will come to the realization that we are ALL collectively o p p r e s s e d , e x p l o i t e d , b r u t a l i z e d , a b u s e d , and tortured by the same vicious machine- the Prison Industrial Complex- which we h a v e the right to oppose and abolish by v i r t u r e of the Declaration of I n d e p e n d e n c e . For the Declaration of Independence declares: "We h o l d these truths to be self-evident: That a l l men are are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator w i t h certain u n a l i e n a b l e R i g h t s ; that among these are L i f e , Liberty and the p u r s u i t of H a p p i n e s s . T h a t to secure these r i g h t s , g o v e r n m e n t s are instituted among M e n , derviving their just powers from the consent of the g o v e r n e d ; that w h e n e v e r any Form of G o v e r n m e n t b e c o m e s d e s t r u c t i v e of these e n d s , it is the R i g h t of the P e o p l e to alter or a b o l i s h i t , and institute a new G o v e r n m e n t , laying its foundation on such p r i n c i p l e s , and o r g a n i z i n g its powers in such f o r m , as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and H a p p i n e s s . P r u d e n c e , i n d e e d , w i l l d i c t a t e that G o v e r n m e n t s long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and a c c o r d i n g l y all e x p e r i e n c e h a t h s h o w n , that m a n k i n d are more d i s p o s e d to s u f f e r , w h i l e evils are s u f f e r a b l e , than to right themselves by a b o l i s h i n g the forms to w h i c h they are a c c u s t o m e d . But when a long train of abuses and u s u r p a t i o n s , p u r s u i n g invariably the same O b j e c t evinces a design to reduce them under a b s o l u t e D e s p o t i s m , it is their r i g h t , it is their d u t y , to throw off such G o v e r n m e n t , and to p r o v i d e new Guards for their future society...." What the p e n a l authorities hates most is that after decades of oppressive and inhumane living c o n d i t i o n s , the arbitrary use of S H U ' s , A d . S e g . , and this "lock'em up and throw away the key" m e n t a l i t y , that h a v e left families broken and poor communities of color the p r o g r e s s i v e , revolutionary elements within the various devastated, neo-penal colonies w i l l always raise its h e a d . They see within the p r o g r e s s i v e , 5 of 6 revolutionary elements that which will expose and defeat them: the c o m m i t m e n t , determination and resolve to oppose and ultimately abolish the Prison Industrial C o m p l e x . At the same time, they can see and feel their own p o w e r l e s s n e s s , for their power ends at the point when the entire prisoner-class lift Our h e a d s , take the reigns of Our lives into Our own h a n d s , throw off the old G u a r d , and COLLECTIVELY struggle to provide new Guards for Our future s e c u r i t y . S o , C O L L E C T I V E L Y , LET'S DARE TO STRUGGLE AND DARE TO WIN! Brian Lee R o w e , # 1 1 3 1 5 4 5 Buckingham C o r r e c t i o n a l Center P . O . Box 430 D i l l w y n , V i r g i n i a 23936 (A.K.A. Uhuru Baraka Rowe) June 3 , 2014 6 of 6

Author: Rowe, Uhuru Baraka

Author Location: Virginia

Date: June 3, 2014

Genre: Essay

Extent: 6 pages

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