No, Actually, This is Exactly Who We Are

Tuesday, a 21-year-old white man went on a killing spree, murdering 8 people in Georgia. His targets were mostly Asian American women, working in massage parlors across Cherokee County and in Atlanta.

He was arrested, alive. He was called a kid. He had had a bad day and was mentally ill with a sexual addiction. Apparently, the Captain decided to buy a shirt a year ago telling everyone that COVID came from “Chy-na”. 

Funny how, for men who have committed violent acts can use the mentally ill excuse. If we were really using violence as an indicator of mental illness and trauma women would have burned this entire country to the ground centuries ago. 

There must be something else to this story. 

Maybe the deaths of these women were a culmination of nearly two centuries of anti-Asian racism, policies that were designed to bar them from citizenship and deported them when they finished laboring out in the west. 

Maybe it was the continuing fetishization of Asian women, because it is not lost on me that massage parlors and happy endings are still somehow a joke that is acceptable to be shared. Maybe it’s the over-sexualization of Asian bodies, while simultaneously infantilizing them, fantasizing of raping Asian women, and seeing them as nothing more than objectified pieces for white male pleasure. 

Maybe it was the coronavirus, and an entire year of the president calling COVID-19 the China Virus, The China Flu, disparaging Chinese citizens as dirty, diseased, disgusting. 

I wonder, why the English virus hasn’t caught on (because of the COVID variant, and not the bubonic plague, or syphilis, or the many diseases that the English brought to America and wiped-out indigenous populations with) the same way all those amazing slogans above caught on. 

So, when I hear politicians or White Americans tell us this isn’t who we are…I’d like to remind them that this is exactly who we are. We spent a year blaming a group of people for “creating” a virus, when viruses do not have a race, an ethnicity, a nationality. We spent the Second World War interning Japanese Americans because of anti-Japanese racism; we’ve denied citizenship to Chinese because of anti-Chinese sentiment when they built the west; and we continue to other Asian Americans into the model minority to create tensions between other groups of people in this country. 

This is exactly who we are. This is how white supremacy works. The next shooter will still be a white man, and will be called a boy, and we’ll told he was mentally ill and just “snapped”. We’re not going to do much better until we reckon with our history. 

By Nichole Smith

(Photo Credit: AlJazeera)

For our White Nation, Cannon already received justice

I come back into social media to find the story of a young boy that was brutally murdered. His murderer found after a manhunt, his mother calling and actively seeking for the death penalty. The silence from all of you on the deaths of children murdered by police—children who are black, brown, who have mental illness and learning disabilities—highlights your hypocrisy and desire to return to “normal”. Where you don’t have to confront the country’s racist past and present. Where you get to take comfort in your own privilege because your privilege benefits you personally. 

Where you don’t have to come to terms with your “guilt” or your own culpability in this nation’s white supremacist values. 

I watch as posts are made about a boy who was killed too early, by people who made no commentary about Mike Brown, or Trayvon Martin, or the children of Brittney Gilliam who were pulled from their vehicle in Aurora, CO because the police “mistook” her car for being stolen. Who have remained silent on George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain—a boy who played his violin for cats at his local animal shelter; for the lynching of Tamirat “Amani” Kildea in Morristown, NJ. So, my fellow white people, here is what I have to say to you:

You are taking the murder of a young white child by a black man as a call to disrupt the movement for black lives. You are actively working in tandem with white supremacy in equating no justice being done when, for a white nation, our definition of justice has most definitely been done. 

Breonna Taylor

Was the perpetrator arrested? Yes.

Is he currently awaiting trial? Yes. 

Will he face a jury where he may well face the death penalty for his crimes? Yes. 

I’m curious, then, what more is it you’re asking for? 

Aiyana Stanley-Jones

Are you asking for justice for the murders of black children too? Where were you when Tamir Rice was killed for having a toy gun? Where are your hashtags for the punishment of the officers that killed Aiyana Stanley Jones? Your anger over the Kameron Prescott, who was killed by police on December 23, 2017? The black and brown boys and girls who have been murdered with no accountability from the boys in blue? 

For Breonna Taylor has not received her “justice”. Elijah McClain remains the butt of jokes for police officers in Aurora. Gilliam got an apology and the promise of “age-appropriate therapy” for her children held at gunpoint by police officers. On hot asphalt, face-down. George Floyd’s death stopped being a crying call for change after some buildings burned to the ground. Not to mention, his killers got to post bail. Sessoms will not be given that luxury. 

You had better think, very carefully, about how you want to be remembered for decades to come. When the progress for civil rights does win, and we look back on this time as a reflection on how we could have done better. Do you want to be those who have actively worked against a movement that focused on valuing the black people as deserving of justice? 

Elijah McClain

Because right now, you are the villains of this story. Your moderate response to racism and white supremacy is your calling card, where the valuation of property over black people is paramount. Where you want to support the movement, but “All Lives Matter”, not just Black Lives Matter. Your All Lives Matter sure sounds like White Lives Matter Most. 

(Photo Credit 1: BBC) (Photo Credit 2: Mother Jones) (Photo Credit 3: The Cut)

Yet again, we face, or don’t, the fearful symmetry of white supremacy

March 15, 2019, and the news, once more, is terrible. In Christchurch, New Zealand, 49 Muslim worshippers massacred in the name of white supremacy. Off the coast of Morocco, 45 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Three years ago, all that was human drowned in the seaall that was holy had been profaned, and we thought, we hoped, we were at last compelled to face with sober senses our real conditions of life, and our relations with our kind. Seven years ago, we thought it might be too late to sing songs beyond mankind. We thought there had to be songs to sing, and that those songs had to begin by turning swords into ploughshares, immediately, right away. And then we moved on, which is to say we went nowhere.

Today, the news and much of the world is filled with discussions of “white supremacy.” The butcher of Christchurch was “deep” into white supremacist culture. The drowned migrants, many of them women and children, had to take to the sea because Europe (and the United States and Australia) have declared a “just war” on migrants of color who are represented as an “invasion” at the border and in the homeland.

There are no more songs to sing; even silence fails us, as we fail silence. Here’s how the news from Christchurch was contextualized, “Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city, which is known to have an active white-supremacist subculture.” Known to have an active white-supremacist subculture. What kind of knowledge, what kind of knowing, is that which knows and does nothing? White supremacy is hate; white supremacy is a hate crime. It is not a preference; it is a deadly assault always already in motion. 

Having survived, at times regretfully, the Holocaust, Paul Celan tried, and failed, to turn the pain, horror and anguish of mass violence into the possibility of understanding. Poetry is what emerges from that failure. May it not be too late.

Whichever stone you lift

Whichever stone you lift – 
you lay bare 
those who need the protection of stones: 
now they renew their entwinement. 

Whichever tree you fell – 
you frame 
the bedstead where 
souls are stayed once again, 
as if this aeon too 
did not 

Whichever word you speak – 
you owe to 


(Image credit: Meditatioprodomo)

Southern New Jersey races: Don’t co-opt white supremacist and sexist slogans for your campaign this election cycle

Andy Kim, one of us

New Jersey was one of several key races in the election this year. As a South Jersey native who lives in districts that tout all spectrums of Republicans – from Trumpsters who worship the ground he walks to moderates who don’t “always” agree with his positions, I had some advice:  Stop co-opting his white supremacist slogans and jargon.

In the 4thDistrict, Representative Tom MacArthur was in a hotly contested election battle with Democratic candidate Andy Kim; Kim, the son of South Korean immigrants and a former national security aide to President Barack Obama, had to actively prove he is part of the South Jersey club, in the face of not so covert racism that hint that he isn’t “part of the club” from the New Jersey Republican Party who described him as “Real Fishy’ – the text printed in a typeface called Chop Suey-next to a photo of dead fish on ice.” While MacArthur dismissed the ads as race-baiting, Republican super pac ads warned voters that Kim is “not one of us.”

From a state that boasts immigrant cultures, promotes Liberty State Park and Ellis Island as proudly located in New Jersey (yes, it is), Kim is as much “us” as Hoboken native, Frank Sinatra.

In NJ’s 11thdistrict, Republican Candidate Jay Webber fell behind his opponent, Navy Veteran and Federal prosecutor Mikie Sherrill who hoped to win Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s seat after his retirement this year. In desperate form, Webber attacked Sherrill as “the dark, fire-breathing radical in this race.” Webber conveniently neglected his own open support for Trump and his legislation, even as the president’s tax bill is set to actively harm New Jersey residents because it curtailed their ability to deduct state and local taxes. Meanwhile, Rep. Leonard Lance fiercely defended his seat in the 11thdistrict, against Democratic candidateTom Malinowski, who raised Lance’s—and really, most NJ Republicans can be applied to this—relationship with the Very Unpopular President.

A commonality to the Southern New Jersey races that many Republican candidates need to be wary of is the massive unpopularity of the president to New Jersey voters. Co-opting Trump’s sexist, homophobic, and overtly racist dogma isn’t going to be your ticket to winning this year.

Here’s an example. As I was determined to vote early in my district — New Jersey’s 4thDistrict, where Republican incumbent Chris Smith defended his seat against Democratic Candidate Josh Welles — I had the misfortune of reading my unopposed Mayoral candidate Kenneth Palmer, and two city councilman’s, campaign slogan: Manchester First.

The campaign slogan harkens back to the “America First” political slogan, used by isolationists in pushing anti-Semitic programs in the 20thcentury, with Trump himself adopting the phrase. Aviator Charles Lindbergh most famously promoted “America First” policy, and David Duke, former Klan Leader, happily endorsed Trump’s use of the phrase.

I hope that the mayoral candidate did not take the meaning of his campaign slogan from the Trump administration; given the politics of the small township I wouldn’t be surprised. I have had to cross many a stop sign with Info Wars and Hillary for Prison 2016 bumper stickers forManchester First to be a coincidence. Given that New Jersey ranks third for most anti-Semitic incidents, a slogan promoting just the kind of anti-Semitism that has taken hold of the state would be exactly what a largely Trumptown mayor meant to convey.

Mr. Mayor, being unopposed does not give you the right to pander to the hate growing in the South Jersey region, even if it was not what you meant to convey. You may have won now, but the anti-Trump sentiment is growing, even in comfortably red districts of the Garden State, and you shouldn’t stay comfortable when in four years that campaign tag comes back to haunt you.

Meanwhile, as of Sunday, November 11, 2018, New Jerseyans elected Democratic candidates Andy Kim; Mikie Sherrill; and Tom Malinowski to the United States House of Representatives. Feeling blue? Oh yeah.

Manchester, New Jersey, sample ballot


(Photo Credit 1: Huffington Post / AP) (Photo Credit 2: Author’s photo)



Charlottesville or University of Virginia: The Locations of White Supremacy (2)

In the 1980s, Michael Ryan, a leading social theorist, was denied tenure at the University of Virginia. At the same time, up and coming postcolonial feminist theorist Gayatri Spivak was rejected for employment. In the late 80s, Ryan wrote a piece, for Semiotexte, entitled “Mr. Jefferson’s University”, in which he stressed Jefferson’s being a slaveowner. According to Ryan, the architecture of the University of Virginia had been designed for White Masters, purposefully to deny the body, and to enhance the Master/Slave structure of power. Ryan also noted that much of the town of Charlottesville was built on old slave quarters.

I attended the University of Virginia, later, when Emily Post’s “Manners are how we get along” acted like a purposeful restraint on the possibility of invested exchanges that might not follow specific rules. This social mandate ignored the question: are there only ‘manners’ and violence? Can something else exist? I was told I was un-mannered for saying complicated things, for asking people to listen too hard or read too carefully. My cis-het-man-colleagues were less harshly criticized. These “manners” echo in current discussions of “what happened in Charlottesville”. This echo invokes the socially formalized and reversed restraining order against the traumatized one who says too much. Sometimes the language of trauma, privation and of the imperialized has to be improvised and innovative.

Richard Rorty, the preeminent American philosopher who worked for decades at UVA and with whom I studied, was one of Pragmatism’s greatest advocates. Rorty believed that the world does not need theory, complex notions or any engagement with the analytics of social differences, but only needs the mechanical and usable protocols of science and commerce. His work legitimated a tidal wave of American anti-intellectualism. For decades Rorty held his position in pleasant well-mannered arguments with those of us who saw where his dream was going, and, in the end, he got his wish that theory be seen as useless and be done away with.

When I attended the University of Virginia, the English Department was hostile to most forms of theoretical work, especially those that responsibly carry considerations of the social world.

The famous 90s Hoax by Alan Sokal clarified a multi-decade attack on ‘Theory’ and theoretical methods that analyze historical events and scientific ideas, make predictions, open dialogues, and most importantly enable different approaches. It was a spectacular moment of a well-regarded entity being taken in by ‘fake news.’  It’s time to revisit that discussion. There are millions of ways to misread. If the editors of Social Text were acknowledging their own lack of scientific knowledge and deferring to the title of a decorated scientist, the critique could have been aimed at the acceptance of authority as institutional position rather than the language of theory. The outcome of a critique aimed at positional authority would have been vastly different. It might have opened a dialogue about the toxicity of deference, rather than promoting a widespread attack on diverse schools of thinking suddenly all yoked together as “jargon.”

There has been only one sanctioned way to understand the Sokal affair: that decades of social theory – including identity politics, postmodernism/poststructuralism, materialist feminism, historical materialism, subaltern histories, French sociology, linguistics, hermeneutics, phenomenology, a multitude of anti-imperialist considerations, and many other schools and ideas and combinations thereof – all became de facto fraudulent pseudo-scientific posturing that deserved to be ridiculed. Any iterations of reality outside of the always obviating norm were collapsed into identity politics – as if there were only one way to think social reality against empire. While theoretical work and its difficulty were embattled long before the Sokal Hoax, Sokal managed to produce a sudden, sweeping, universal revaluation of these now fully othered methods. That this revaluation happened could have spawned an enormous study on an instance of the sudden reconfiguration of truth. That so many possible dialogues were so successfully silenced should have provoked more suspicion. Instead mechanical reality has since become the norm. The utility and pragmatism of life have reigned with little opposition: only the technical masters of science are permitted to construct unchallengeable narratives about the world and its progress.

This silencing uber-coherence under the aegis of rational simplicity is White supremacy in its very form and being. Silencing is not what the Antifa are ‘doing to’ Unite The Right. Silencing is being denied engagement with the many variant and possible apparatuses for thinking.

The Sokal Hoax legitimated a major backlash against theoretical work, and seemed to forge part of the ether of shrinking departments and dismissals. Why were questions about being forced to speak Standard English not circulated more? What are the implications of the notion of a ‘transparent’ or ‘plain’ language? Why was this perfect plain simple language with its Emily Post manners of dotted “i”s considered the language of the non-elite? How White is it? Why are some technical languages permitted while others not? Who gets shot down for using big words or complicated sentences? What is wrong with learning, asking questions, reading slowly, looking up words? Why is it discrediting to give an author the benefit of the doubt while reading their work?

All of this has been part of White supremacy’s quiet maintenance program. It was theorists who saw and noted it decades ago, many of whom, including Michael Ryan at UVA in the 1980s, lost their jobs.

The advent of White supremacy in Charlottesville is no surprise, even if it’s not particular to now and not particular to Charlottesville. The University of Virginia has always been a location where White privilege not only perpetuates but strengthens, and where those stamped with degrees help each other into the highest offices. The myth that Universities safeguard histories or that White philosophy engages real questions of ethics was exposed decades ago in the work of thinkers like Spivak and Ryan. Now the substance of their work, their exposes, “call-outs,” concerns and criticisms, are being spectacularly played out.


(Photo Credit: Huffington Post) (Image Credit: The Nib / Nomi Kane)

Charlottesville or University of Virginia: The Locations of White Supremacy (1)

The narrative that occurred during Brexit and the election of Trump that continues with regards to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville is that “educated people” understand the evils of racism while White supremacy is solely owned by a White working class. But the idea that those with a privileged University education are immune or exceptional is not a given. The violence, cruelty and hate that has appeared in recent and not-so-recent shootings or trolling seems to serve as a screen against which scholars, professionals, and/or the wealthy and prestigious hide their own contributions to social containment and control, and worse.

This kind of hiding halts and dismantles any inquiry into how supremacy gets preserved. Neither racism nor toxic masculinity have been completely eviscerated by any group to date, even if the strategies, methods and frequency of these things differ drastically among different groups. Some activism contexts, and a myriad of campus political movements, have recognized neo-fascism on the Left and within universities, covert forms of maintaining White power, and conflicts of interest when fighting on behalf of imperialized social bodies, identities, cultural realities and genders.

At the “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, The University of Virginia appears repeatedly painted with a broad brush, as if the entire University had, without exception, participated in the counter-protest. I wonder about the role of fraternities, and faculty members and administrators who support them, and budget cuts for departments that analyze historical conflicts or engage social reality. UVA is a locus for producing famous and powerful White people. Even if now the entire University is against Trumpism and its White supremacist supporters, I believe those who practice eugenics, Great White Man reading practices in literature and history, and legalized date rape, among other examples, owe an explanation for how this transformation into an anti-Nazi university en totale came about. How do such miracles occur?

I raise three examples as practices that abound not just at UVA but in many university contexts. First, UVA’s history of eugenics, its “American scientists [who] pushed for the perfection of the human `gene pool’ by influencing the reproductive process” supports arguments of segregation, and justifies violence against and dehumanization as ‘sub-normal’ particular populations whose social conditions of despair and privation are occluded by statements about intrinsic or genetic inferiority. Though eugenics gets dismissed as a history healed by progress, schools of essentialism, the under criticized realism of biology, and speculations as well as the science of DNA remain ongoing obsessions, with DNA uniquely rendered as the profound and concrete analysis of life-being. No stably funded science-critical fields seem to exist to trace the social implications of the genealogies of these sub-fields.

Second, “Great Man Theory” pertains to the order of works and knowledge, most obviously in literary studies where meaning is explicitly granted in relation to authorship, but also in practices that span many disciplines, including history and the sciences. The order of authorship produces a category of special, elite, privileged (usually White, male, often imperializing) figures whose work is read and re-read, from which entire communities that influenced and cultivated them are erased. Ideas ordered around ‘great’ people simplify the reality of social existence, and misleadingly produce, stabilize, and sanitize a supreme actor while erasing the uneven and multi-dimensional thicket of an ever-discoverable social reality.

Third, ‘legalized rape’ refers to a legal system that values and devalues evidence in an order that nullifies the wishes, limits and corporeal autonomy of survivors who are most often of a class of people such as cis-women, people of non-conforming genders, disability, people of color, and those designated to provide informal and exploited labor in prisons, in domestic contexts, and as undocumented workers. The more networked and privileged the rapist, the more the law does not apply to him.

Days after the rally, UVA English Professor Mark Edmundson wrote an opinion piece that broke the crowd down into three types: antifa, fascist and “peace and justice people.” In his telling, the antifa and the fascists are both extremists, each with some good, bad and comedic qualities. He doesn’t align himself within these groups except as basically critical of Donald Trump, though not critical of Trump’s “violence on all sides” phrase, which he agrees with. Edmundson’s position of exteriority in which racism should be condemned, but that the expressions of rage it produces is no better than that which initiates it, aligns with white privilege. The position of his article is almost neutral. For many in the classes of people who fear for their lives in the presence of threatening expressions, a mild temperament such as Edmundson’s may not be an option. He mildly acknowledges this kind of experience but does not meet or encounter it in any sincere way. His statements are un-critical of “freedom of speech,” with ‘speech’ being the supreme right with little exploration of its uses for endangering much more concrete freedoms of those people this right was not written for. What does it mean for a UVA English professor of administrative power to permit and concur with Trump’s whitewashing of life and death matters?

The Nazi March’s main organizer, Jason Kessler, is an alum of the University of Virginia. Richard Spencer attended UVA for undergraduate work. Neither of these men qualify as White working class if education is the gold standard for defining pedigree. Neither of them appear to be the types who can be ignored because, as Edmundson puts it, “they can only spell cat on the third try.” And what does it mean for a highly-celebrated teacher such as Edmundson to suggest that the uneducated can or should be dismissed?

We must not turn a blind eye to the role University administrators have played in producing the current situation, or the role of universities in sanctioning supremacist political stances and forms of being-in-the-world. What is the social role of the Humanities and Social Sciences and why have they been so fully disempowered?


(Photo Credit: The Guardian / Lois Beckett)