There is no such thing as apolitical anti-racism
Updated: Jul 10, 2020
Why The Gaudie doesn’t truly support Black Lives Matter
by Martin Hare Michno
Credit to Flickr User Fibonacci Blue
DICLAIMER: Here at The Gaudie, we encourage criticism and aim to match the high standards we hold others to. WE are always trying to do and be better. The following opinion piece does not reflect the view of The Gaudie, merely that of the author.
Many readers will have spotted the statement published by The Gaudie, wherein the editorial team expresses its upmost support and solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement. One can easily discern from their words the profound sentiments of grief, heartbreak and frustration at racial injustice.
The statement itself harbours a powerful call for action, declaring: “We must learn, take action, and never simplify the story. Token statements cannot resolve these issues, but knowledge, ideas, sacrifices, and an awareness of our responsibility and complicity can.”
However, as I will argue below, the student newspaper not only fails to be anti-racist, but is actually guilty of misrepresenting and weakening the movement they claim to support. In spite of their persuasive anti-racist sentiment, The Gaudie persistently misses the point about Black Lives Matter and the whole history of racial oppression: the strictly political nature of race.
In the form it exists today, race is political. It is a symptom of political realities. The experience of race in our society is not coincidental. It’s the result of the relations between political realities both historical and present. In this sense, race is a construct that can only be legitimately understood by studying the political and ideological forces which produce, reproduce, and materialize it.
From the slave trade to modern mass-incarceration, a historical function of race has been to subjugate racialized bodies to capital. The state, capitalism, and racism are all inevitably intertwined, forming a complex web of interdependence. These racist ideologies are sustained within and propagated by a political structure which, in turn, benefits from racist ideologies.
Therefore, race and racism cannot be considered an isolated phenomenon. Racism takes shape as part of a constellation. Any discourse on racism and attempt to dismantle it must confront the material and historical production of race and the broader societal architecture which engenders it. While a study on the political construction of race lies beyond the scope of this article, the fact remains that you cannot divorce race from politics. To de-politicize race is to obscure precisely what constitutes it.
This organic relationship between race and politics is exactly the point The Gaudie misses about anti-racist struggles. The Gaudie is non-political, often claiming they cannot be political as they are funded by AUSA. Yet, as a former member of the editorial team, this excuse seems to me to obfuscate the other various reasons why the student paper positions itself as strictly apolitical. We find these reasons elsewhere.
In an exchange of emails, the Editors-In-Chief confirmed the following statements captured their sentiment in that The Gaudie is not being political by being anti-racist or supporting Pride, and does not consider the Black Lives Matter movement to be an inherently political issue.
Needless to say, it is clear that The Gaudie believes the political sphere to be essentially separate from emancipatory struggles such as the Black Lives Matter movement. On the premise that black lives are not a debate, The Gaudie has taken the comfortable position of aligning themselves politically neutral in an inherently political matter. In this way, they evade actual confrontation with the reality of racism and avoid deviation from mainstream consensus.
Global corporations have assimilated the LGBT liberation movement into capitalism by de-politicizing and re-appropriating Pride. Similarly, today we find apolitical statements attempting to transform Black Lives Matter, an autonomous political uprising, into a mere de-radicalized and pacified Twitter hashtag.
We cannot let this happen. We cannot let them win.
By remaining apolitical in their support for these liberation movements, The Gaudie is guilty of reinforcing and bolstering a liberal narrative that aims to de-politicize the struggles of the oppressed and obscuring the cause and reason of the oppression itself. They will proudly denounce racism but stay silent on the political structures which enable institutional racism in the first place.
We find in the ideology of The Gaudie a veiled form of racism. It is invisible and often calls itself anti-racist. It is this form that is pervasive throughout all liberal societies. However, just as we are able to deconstruct the ideological workings of The Gaudie to identify its racism, we can do the same with society as a whole. Leaning heavily on the writings of black critical theorists, the point of this article is precisely to layout a basic approach towards such deconstruction.
The Black Lives Matter movement is a political movement. Black liberation is a political struggle. Anti-racism is a political endeavor. There is no such thing as apolitical anti-racism. All anti-racist aspirations must inevitably tackle the root causes of racism.
Anti-racism must be anti-capitalist. It must be anti-fascist. It must be abolitionist.
Anti-racism must be radical if it is to be anti-racist at all.