Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can Victims Be Perpetrators?

TwitThis


Yesterday the internet was abuzz with the fact that
Prince might be homophobic.

Carmen from New Demographic commented on
Twitter that
this didn't make sense. She wrote ,
"I'm still amazed that Prince is a
homophobe.
I mean, isn't there a good chance he's been gay-

bashed in his life? (Even if he's not gay)
.
I responded
back saying that she
presumed that possessing
a "fringe Black masculinity" would make him more
likely to be tolerant. I added that tolerance, like hate is taught.
She responded saying she agreed, but it was still sad.

I agreed.

Even before I read the evidence of what Prince said, I suspected that
if Prince was being intolerant, then perhaps may have something
to do with his interpretation of the tenets of his faith practices.

This Prince moment also reminded me that our generation has a
hard time accepting the fact
that victims can be perpetrators.

The question of whether victims can be perpetrators
has been on my mind for a while. A couple of weeks ago,
I was having conversation I had with Krisna Best, of the
Hip Hop and Democracy Project
, which grew from my review
of Byron Hurts film, Barack and Curtis.

Below I provide two quotes, which in my opinion
get to the issue of our discussion of whether victims
can be perpetrators.

Krisna wrote,
Your example of the white woman reminds me a lot of
the whole "black on black crime" thing. This is where
I start to disagree with you. There's a white supremacist
tinge to the black-on-black-crime concept because it
pathologizes, if you will, black behavior. Black folks commit
crime not because of a pathology or because of false
consciousness, but because of much larger structural
circumstances and is related to my point about this generation
breaking with the conditions of work
. They see the old arrangement
as providing no road out of the circumstances of our society,
not because they believe in their inferiority or whatever the
conclusions of this bogus psychoanalysis are.

I responded,

Aren't you pathologizing them into permanent victimhood?

They have agency. They can choose. We all choose to sell crack
blog, have children, vote, join the army. I am completely aware of
the fact that our choices take place within the range of options
available to us, and that often times our parents class status
dictates exactly which options we just may have.

Let me ask you this? Do you think that D-boys/Pimps have agency?
While he didn't respond at the time to my question,
he has done so since I posted this.

The notion of victims being perpetrators weighs heavy on
my mind, as I have been reading a lot about the Black Power
Movement, Gender and Sexism for the past few weeks.
You may be surprised, but, there were folks who felt that Black
men weren't capable of being sexist
because they were
victims of racism
. Somehow, they some folks to believe that being a
victim, they couldn't be a perpetrator.

Now this of course makes no sense. For example, Black folks
who have been victims of racism can be prejudicial towards others
Black folks regarding skin color.
Paper bag party anyone?

Thats the horror of racism. It corrupts. It poisons.

Once we decide to refuse to look at people solely as victims
who have nothing to contribute, and to see people as subjects
who have agency and a will to change, the path will be laid for
us to have personal transformation on an individual and societal scale.

9 comments:

(fŭng'kē) [blak] [chik] said...

Great post!
"...Once we decide to refuse to look at people as solely as victims
who have nothing to contribute to folks who have agency
and a will to change, the path will be laid for us to have personal
transformation on an individual and societal scale."


Realization vs. Reformation

For some people the reformation part is always the hardest, even if they realize the malaise and stereotypes they're perpetrating.

Model Minority said...

fŭng'kē) [blak] [chik]
======
First of all your name is a cryptic script.

I love it.

Secondly, thank you for commenting.

I am particularly fond of that closing.
Sometimes, closing, especially for pieces like this is hard. Its like, uh WHAT do I say now.


Realization vs. Reformation
Its like we need our own personal
and community wide TRC commissions.

Krisna Best said...

M. Dot,

Glad to see you're back and that you've taken the time to blog about our discussion.

I didn't respond to your last comment not to avoid the answer, but as I said, I wanted to give you the last word on your own blog. Every beginning needs an end, but the larger conversation never ends. A good friend of mine were talking tonight about our exchange and it got me thinking about it again.

Let me just say that I do believe, like you, that oppressed folks can be oppressors too. I also believe that oppressed people have agency and if they didn't, there never would have been a labor movement, a black power movement, or a women's movement. Agency is central to being human I would say. My point in our exchange, however, is that notions of agency can be bent in conservative and reactionary directions. You can't just say, "Black men who abuse women are oppressors, thank you and good night." Agency alone, without looking at oppressive institutions, can be used as a way to justify the subordination of people. "Agency" can be a way to say that Islam is a backwards religion and they need to be "civilized" because they won't do it on their own. However, I think you know this, so the question is how do people change? How do people come to revolutionary ideas? More importantly, how do people make revolution?

Being a revolutionary, to me, means a commitment to fighting capitalism, imperialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism (which I actually consider central to patriarchy), and all oppressive and exploitative relationships. This doesn't mean that the extent of this fight is one on one (it sometimes is), but is part and parcel of building organizations that can struggle against these things. So, in my own life, agency plays a huge part of my daily existence. But what folks like myself have to keep in perspective is that most folks don't come to revolutionary ideas on their own or in small groups. They come to revolutionary ideas out of an aroused revolutionary activity. Oftentimes, the folks who are on the forefront of mass revolutionary activity and creating new political forms aren't aware of what they are doing, so they explain it with old ideas.

The immigrant labor movement is a good example. They have appropriated the term "civil rights" to explain and contextualize their struggle. But their struggle isn't about civil rights. They employ that term though because of its historical connotations and because it is one of the more recent manifestations of a mass movement in our society. Given time, they will evince an idea or set of ideas that can more accurately convey their activity.

But this isn't to say that they don't have agency either; their agency merely takes a different form. Best believe, a lot of the folks involved with that outburst of creative activity were sexist or abused their spouses, they sold dope and indulged in forms of crime, perhaps they had racist conceptions of black people, etc. The ugliness of them co-exists with all that is beautiful and desirous of freedom. And until we live a society that is organized on freedom, on direct democracy, the full potential of what is good about them can't be realized.

For the cats on the corner, they have agency too. But just as most folks, their ugliness will not fade away by simply picking up books and reading. Sometimes a cat will pick up a book by Louis Farrakhan or Jim Baker or Frantz Fanon and it will challenge them to turn their lives around. This doesn't imply that their new sense of self is in response to a mass movement. But if they don't, and they continue what they do, we can't hate on them for that either, or, conclude that they are just backwards people incapable of changing. I personally think selling dope is legitimate work, no different than selling any other commodity and it provides an income for marginalized people who don't have the same access to employment that other sections do.

I say all this to say that unless we see ordinary people as contradictory, we wind up turning on folks who are legitimately oppressed. Hell yeah, dope dealers can be oppressive. And it ain't just d-boys. The men of the Black Power movement in many cases subordinated women and relegated them to clerical tasks, to reproduction of labor-power (Stokely's imfamous statement about women's role in the movement being "prone"), and at worse were violent towards them. This is fucked up and antithetical to building a free society. But the agency of women in the black power movement led to the women's movement and it has had a positive effect for the overall struggle of working people.

Alright, I need to finish here before I write too much, if I haven't already. I hope this explanation on my behalf helps as well as add some meat to the discussion. Again, glad to see you're back.

Holla,

Krisna

Model Minority said...

Krisna!

Good to see you respond.


Interesting that you bring up the Immigrant labor movement, it has been on my radar a lot the last couple of days AND I have also come to know, rather intimately, the Black Power movements ideas about Black Female "prone" postion.


Oh. You don't have to worry about giving me the last word. I have, ahem, agency, pun intended.


Agency alone, without looking at oppressive institutions, can be used as a way to justify the subordination of people. "Agency" can be a way to say that Islam is a backwards religion and they need to be "civilized" because they won't do it on their own.
======
Anything CAN BE anything.
Education CAN BE liberatory.
Education CAN BE oppressive.
Women CAN BE patriarchal.

But if they don't, and they continue what they do, we can't hate on them for that either, or, conclude that they are just backwards people incapable of changing. I personally think selling dope is legitimate work
==========
Define Legitimate work.
Please understand that I am especially interested in how you reconcile selling crack as legitimate work with the fact that CRACK destroyed our neighborhoods.

Glad you responded.

~m.

Krisna Best said...

I knew you'd get me on that.

I don't think crack in and of itself destroyed any neighborhood. I think crack funneled into communities already being decimated by gentrification, militarization, and white supremacy has definitely exacerbated the problem.

I just don't see dope dealers in and of themselves as the problem. I see what they do as legitimate in the sense that dope follows the same laws of value as does every other commodity. I certainly don't think crack is a healthy thing and I would certainly support community self-organization that fight drug trafficking as long as it ain't on some state collusion type shit with cops or politicians who lock up drug dealers but gentrification and police brutality continues uninhibited.

To me, that would be a form of agency. How else does it change M. Dot? Are we to think that the State has "agency" and that it should just wake up and not be white supremacist? What about the fact that it continues to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders at a higher rate than anything else?

I guess, fundamentally I'm asking what you define as agency.

I'm gonna put you on the blogroll, btw.

Peace,

KB

Model Minority said...

KB,

Moi, on the blogroll, why thank you.

I just don't see dope dealers in and of themselves as the problem.
======
Wow.
We have a fundamental differnce of opinion then.

If you don't see the selling of crack as the problem. Then what do you see as the problem?

I have written, at length about the crack/coke sentencing disparity, so I won't go into again here. If you are interested, do a blog search for the piece titled, 5 years for $90 worth of crack.

What stops you from being willing to HOLD the D-boys and the state responsible for the impact
they both have on the hood?

I get the sense that you think that cats in the hood were just adding on to an already bad situation. Where is the room for agency in this characterization?

Agency = the will to act.

~m.

Krisna Best said...

M,

You didn't answer my question, though. Remember the Panthers and the Young Lords. How did they orient to dope-peddling and hustling elements? What was their conception of agency?

Furthermore, how do you tell someone to not make a living doing what they do when you are not in a position to offer them something else? Isn't that an overly subjective and idealistic notion of agency? That they can just "choose" not to?

Can't we all be implicated in the social process that is capitalism? There is a certain amount of getting by that we must all conform to, but the point of transition is how we create forms of organization that challenge the dominant order.

Model Minority said...

Remember the Panthers and the Young Lords. How did they orient to dope-peddling and hustling elements? What was their conception of agency?
========

I am not sure of how The Panther's or the YL's
characterized agency and D'boys behavior or why it is relevant.
If you want to share their definition and why it is relevant, I am open to hearing so.

Furthermore, how do you tell someone to not make a living doing what they do when you are not in a position to offer them something else?
=======
Make a Living? Dope Dealers Feed/Create/Sustain Crack heads. Did you see Oakland/DC/Newark/Harlem in '89. Fuck outta here dude.

Shit was a war zone. My hood and my family imploded.

Interesting. I would infer from this what
you are a) saying that because "I" don't offer an alternative to d boys, that I cannot critique them. Have you considered the fact that I have a responsibility to the ENTIRE black community?

Can't we all be implicated in the social process that is capitalism?
===
yes. We all choose, one way or another.

That they can just "choose" not to
========
Yes. They do it every day, and to think that
they can't is to treat them like babies and pathologize them.

Do you know anyone who stopped selling crack?
Didn't they also choose?

-m.

neo said...

You really should blog about prop 8. I'm currently in a twitter discourse about it. This dude suggested or rather was mad at Obama for picking Rick Warren to say the prayer at his inauguration 'cos according to him, RW was a "raving homophobe." I proceeded to ask him two questions:

1. What does a pastor saying a prayer have anything to do with the gay or anti-gay agenda?

2. Does not agreeing with a chosen lifestyle automatically = bigotry and homophobia?

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