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Why I’m More Inspired by UC Student Actions than I am by NYC Student Actions
by Farah Khimji
20 Nov 2009
Modified: 11:43:32 PM
why am i writing this? well, i’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately, one of them being my very deep dissatisfaction and feeling of alienation from “the radical scene” in new york. these feelings come not from the fact that i don’t share similar political beliefs – i’m as much an anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, smash-hierarchy kind of person as the next anarcho-dude. my dissatisfaction & alienation come from not feeling a part of (nor wanting to be a part of) the sort of material trappings of the anarchist scene.
Look at the pictures. pics from new york all look similar to this:
and like this (except, you know, with much less sunshine):
but at the uc actions, not only are there angry white punkish anarcho-kids (which, don’t get me wrong, i do love y’all) but there are ALSO photos like this:
See a difference? yeah, that’s right, there are ACTUALLY WAY MORE students of color who are being radicalized, standing up, and fighting back. they’re not all caught up in the trappings of white anarcho-punk subculture (look! they wear colors! and no bandanas! and they’re also wearing their college sweatshirts, oh dear god, SCHOOL SPIRIT!) – instead, they’re caught up in the fact that their tuition is going up by 32%, that their classes are regularly cancelled due to lack of funding, that this is the ONLY WAY THEY CAN GO TO SCHOOL and it’s being taken away from them. they aren’t fighting back against bourgeois ennui and problems with authority, and they aren’t checking to make sure their black bandanas are hanging out of their ass pocket, just so, before they go out to march. they aren’t even fighting because they don’t want to graduate from private school with a fuck ton of debt. nope – they’re fighting to actually be able to go to school. if nyu/new school raises tuition – and we know they will – we’re just gonna dig deeper into our loan pockets and keep paying. we aren’t having our classes canceled because our school couldn’t afford to keep them open. we didn’t come back over the summer to find out that hundreds of professors and staff had been fired, and that the tuition we’d already paid suddenly wasn’t going to be enough to cover us for the whole year. now, THAT is something to get seriously pissed off about.
why am i writing this? well, i’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately, one of them being my very deep dissatisfaction and feeling of alienation from “the radical scene” in new york. these feelings come not from the fact that i don’t share similar political beliefs – i’m as much an anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, smash-hierarchy kind of person as the next anarcho-dude. my dissatisfaction & alienation come from not feeling a part of (nor wanting to be a part of) the sort of material trappings of the anarchist scene. i don’t wear all black, unless i’m in a black block, and no i don’t feel the need to have my bandana swinging from the pocket of my supertight torn black pants all the time. no, i don’t identify with your insurrectionist zine because it doesn’t pull from my life experiences, or leaves very important life experiences out of its rhetoric (like race & gender). to put it frankly, the radical scene here makes me feel whitewashed. and i don’t like being whitewashed, because it’s something i’ve felt like i’ve had to do for most of my life. and i’m beginning to refuse, consistantly and constantly, to ever be whitewashed again. problem is, my refusal to be whitewashed also makes me feel like i’m not welcome.
the number of times i’ve been told, jokingly of course, that i don’t “look radical” or that they thought i was a “norm” or they’re “surprised” by “how radical” i turned out to be once they got to know me – all of these times make me realize just how much these otherwise good folks are caught up in a certain white subculture that i’ve never wanted to be a part of. looking around the room and realizing that not only am i the only non-white face, but i’m also the only one wearing blue jeans, is getting really fucking tiring. and my problem isn’t that folks like to wear these things and express their radicalism in these ways – that’s fine, if it makes you feel good, then go for it. what pisses me off, what makes me want to not be a part of it any more, is that i am judged as not-quite-radical because of the way that i look – or rather, the way that i don’t look. it feels yet again like i’m expected to assimilate. well, fuck you, i refuse to assimilate. fuck your cultural hegemony, fuck the fact that you call yourselves anti-racists but you don’t have a problem with trying to whitewash me. i’ve fucking had it.
and so, i return back to my original point: why i’m so much more inspired by uc student actions than i am by nyc student actions. clearly, i care deeply about what happened (and what will continue to happen) on our campuses here in nyc – i participated in these actions, and cared enough to get arrested with a bunch of strangers, most of whom i’d just met a week before. but it’s because of shit like this that i’ve stopped feeling like i can be a part of this, on my terms, without compromising who i am and who i want to be. but when i look at press from uc, and read about the percentages of students of color, and see people in the photos who i can actually identify with, i feel inspired by them. we run around asking ourselves how the fuck are they doing this, how are they getting so many people involved (500 at the last ucsc campus shutdown, wtf?), why can’t we accomplish things on this scale? well, maybe this is part of the reason: because we alienate people. and i don’t mean we’re too anarchist, we’re too militant, and that’s why we alienate people. no, that’s not why i feel alienated. we alienate people because its just so goddamn important to look and act like a white kid who got politicized by listening to punk and grew up to read the coming insurrection. maybe if that stopped being an unspoken prerequisite, maybe more rad folks would be willing to work with us. hasn’t anyone ever wondered why some apoc folks are so angry <http://illvox.org/2009/07/smack-a-white-boy-round-two-crimethinc-evictio; at what they call the “white anarchist movement”? we alienate people because race is hardly ever addressed, and if it is then it takes a person of color to agitate for it to be addressed.
so yeah. i’m really fucking inspired by students at ucsc, because when i look at those students, i feel like i’d fit in and be accepted much more than i do here. those people look like they could be my people. some days i’m not even sure if i really have people here.
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