Black and white—these two colors have defined so much of the American social landscape, casting their shadow over social struggles. If today on official documents and in academic studies “diversity” and “multi-culturalism” are recognized, at bottom, the dichotomy between “white” people and those who are not white remains the predominate definition of “difference”, because it is an all too useful tool in the hands of those who rule us.
It is quite easy to condemn white supremacists—blatant racists and bigots purveying a small-minded, narrow view of the world that impoverishes all it touches. For these nasty and ignorant people, the situation is simple: those who are not white are dangerous and must be dealt with as such. So out come the clubs and crowbars and the hunt begins. Or, more frequently, out come the laws and cops and the prisons fill up.
But what of the anti-racists, those good white people who have nothing against their black, brown, yellow or red sisters and brothers, who are even willing to defend them? These are quick to demand that those who are not white should not be mistreated, that their rights should be protected, because they are really “just like us”, they are our equals. These good, “broad-minded” people are ready to subsume everyone under that great, unified human race, blinding themselves to all that might threaten their abstract magnanimity.
But whether one chooses narrow-minded bigotry or broad-minded magnanimity, the result is the same: the different is made to disappear, because it must not exist; it is too frightening, too challenging. In fact the bigotry of the racist feeds on the rhetoric of the anti-racist. The doctrine of the latter, the promotion of “multi-cultural” homogenization and “diversity” as commodity, is really founded on a refusal to see that which should not need to be pointed out—that no individual is equal to any other; it fuels the fear of losing oneself. And if one has learned to define their peculiarity in racial terms, this doctrine will goad her to defend his racial heritage with ever more vehemence. Thus, the blind, abstract generosity of the anti-racist simply pushes the racist to be more narrow-minded and defensive. In the same way, the anti-racist needs the racist to whom she can respond. Without the racist whose attitudes and ignorance he can condemn, thus distinguishing herself, he’d have no way to prove his anti-racist credentials. For she, like the racist, is afraid of the different, and equally afraid of losing herself. Unlike the racist however, he does not express her fear with the club, but rather through self-deception and flattery. He does not see the arrogant and self-serving racism in her claims that “ they are just like us; they are our equals”. Such claims are not only insulting and arrogant, but false as well. But the anti-racist won’t understand this. Prey to their own bad conscience about sharing the same skin color as the white supremacists they despise, their anti-racism becomes a symbolic martyrdom, self-deprecation indicative of their inability to step thinking in essential racial categories.
There have been attempts in recent years among revolutionaries in this country to move beyond the pathetic dichotomy that still dominates the discussion of race. Although early attempts to point out the lack of a biological basis for the concept of race have sometimes led to a lazy refusal to deal with the matter at all, there are those who have taken the next step of trying to develop an analysis of the usefulness of the concept of race to the rulers of this order for the maintenance of current social relationships. In particular, the “new abolitionists”, publishers of Race Traitor, have made useful contributions to an analysis of how the development of the concept of the white race allowed the exploiting classes to create significant rifts between different parts of the exploited classes and to manipulate large portions of the latter into identifying with their exploiters. Such analyses indicate that these new abolitionists have moved beyond the simplistic self-righteousness of anti-racism, but there are still elements of anti-racist moralizing to be found in their ideas. Their tendency to still think in black and white (or white and non-white) may be an essential starting point for the development of their analyses that are ultimately attempting to supercede this dichotomous way of thinking. But their slogan, “Treason to the white race is loyalty to humanity”, seems to carry with it the attempt of the anti-racist to subsume all difference under that abstraction, the human race. Correspondingly, the practice to which the writers of Race Traitor most frequently call “white” people is the refusal of white privilege, the specifics of which—as described in their writings—seem to have more to do with personal moral righteousness, and thus self-sacrifice similar to that of the anti-racists, than with the development of a revolutionary project that can bring down this society and its concept of race.
A truly revolutionary project—one that can destroy class society, domination and exploitation and open the possibility for the development of free, self-determined relations—is rooted in the desire of individuals to determine their own lives in terms of their own singularity. In this light, I do not consider any individual to be equal to any other. Profound differences abound, and among these differences, which make up the uniqueness of each individual, are those characteristics that could be called “racial” or “ethnic”, but these are not the most fundamental characteristics. Nor do they make for the superiority or inferiority of any group. Rather they reflect that each of us is a unique being with our own history and our own way of facing the world around us. In order to create ourselves on our own terms—possible in the present only in revolt against the social order—it is necessary to examine the differences that have their basis in socially defined categories in order to overcome them, move beyond them and make them our own, servants to our singular selves. So I choose to relate to each individual not based on their racial or ethnic identity, but based on who I am and want to be and what interests and desires these individuals evoke in me.
It is this singularity, this very real difference between every individual, that is feared and rejected by both the racist and the anti-racist. The racist seeks to eliminate difference in a homogenized conception of whiteness which justifies the violent suppression of those who cannot be assimilated into this category. The anti-racist seeks to deny difference by assimilating everything into the “multi-culturalism” of commodification, offering only the murky greyness of capitalist pseudo-diversity—the “diversity” of products on the market. To move beyond this greyness requires precisely that we embrace that difference which cannot be commodified—the marvelous uniqueness of each individual. But such an embrace demands that we truly wrestle with those social concepts and categories in which the present world strives to enclose this difference with the aim of destroying these cages. Such an effort is essential if we ever want to dream in colors.