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News ::
Race, Anarchy, and Punk Rock (full story)
31 Mar 2001
The following essay was the handout for the workshop of the same title at the SF Bay Area Anarchist Conference 2001 in March, which was added due to the fact there wasn't a single workshop/discussion on the issue of race/diversity in the schedule of the conference.
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Right on!
06 Apr 2001
Otto is 100% correct, although I think that a lot of
what he says about the anarchist movement can be said
about others: environmental, labor, communist, green,
and so on. I think that in fact that is the one crucial
test point on which socially progressive movements will
succeed or fail, independent of specific ideology, is
the will to get out there and be a part of real people's lives and problems.

I consider myself to be an anarchist, but I worked hard
for the Green Party Nader campaign. Why? Because they
were not just having meetings with each other or planning
the next big demonstration: they were out in the streets
talking to people, registering people to vote up until
the last minute, the focus was on street presence.
And I understand that some anarchists would consider
anyone who encourages others to vote as part of the problem,
but as far as I'm concerned, that's just another example
of the way this movement is really good at alienating
people. Especially the minority community, where the
memories of what it took to get the vote are quite strong,
telling people that voting is useless or even helps
perpetuate the system is going to really turn people off.

Another thing, of course, is social skills. I work in a lab
and normally dress like a slob, but when I went out in
the streets to do campaign work, I always tried to look
as nice as possible: brushed hair, decent clothes, nice
shoes. Why? As a matter of respect for the people out there.
I was going to ask them for their time and attention, and
I wanted to make sure that they knew I respected them. I
made sure to talk to _everyone_ regardless of appearance,
including immigrants, winos and children, but as I was the one asking them to talk with me, I wanted my manners and
appearance to be respectful of my audience.

So what was the point? Actually meeting people, especially
minority people, that I would not have met had I stayed
in the small circle of work and activist meetings. I formed
some dear and lasting friendships with older minority
people in my community. When I met people, I always made
their interests and concerns a priority, not assuming to
have the answers, but asking them what they were doing about
it, and what, if anything, they would ask of me or the
Green Party folk. This way I became involved in their
work and projects. It is patronizing to assume that minorities must join our groups or political movements:
the reverse is much more important. We must join theirs.
We must become a part of their neighborhood groups, parents
groups, cultural activities, join their struggles. This
makes us a part of their community, and once you're part
of a community, you are sharing resources and thoughts to
get stuff done together, which IS the anarchist ideal!

So my message is simple: get off your (mostly) white (mostly) black clad butts, get some decent clothes and manners, and join your older, minority, REVOLUTIONARY neighbors and become part of their fight.
They need you, but far less than you need them.
Anarchists get confused with Skinheads
08 Apr 2001
Another problem is that Anarchists get confused with skinheads, even though they are usually kicking the shit out of each other in street fights in Europe.

Ideologically, traditional Bakunin-originated Anarchism, just like Marxism, draws its ideological roots from Europe, and anarchists, like their socialists cousins, also suffer from the same eurocentrism that narrows their view, and makes it very difficult to work with others. Nevermind the black clothes, the theory is also limited in scope, and atuned to a specific historical moment, something assorted sectarian communist groups have never overcome, and unfortunately, some doctrinaire anarchist haven't either.

This might sound unfair, but it is well meant, as anarchism holds out enormous hope as a way people can live together, struggle together, without all the ugly facets of hierarchy and domination inherent in capitalism and state socialism.

Gandhianism, Zapatismo, Third World Environmentalism, and other back to the community, autonomous self-reliant village movements can better inform a modern anarchism, but they must be understood as wholly independent and valued systems, and not just adjuncts to general anarchist thought. They must be respected.

To really break through the bollocks, Anarchism must stand for true freedom, and not just knee-jerk anti-traditionalism. If it is to win friends among the wretched of the earth, it must first value their history, culture, and yes, traditions. A people without history, is a people lost, and this cannot be forgotten in the rush to create a new world on the ashes of the old.