Race matters in cyberspace precisely because “computer networks are social networks” and those who spend time online bring their own knowledge, experiences, and values with them when they log on. The fact that race matters online, as it does offline, counters the oft-repeated assertion that cyberspace is a disembodied realm where gendered and racialized bodies can be left behind.

Jessie Daniels “Rethinking Cyberfeminism(s): Race, Gender, and Embodiment” (h/t Susana Loza)


“Not all toxic people are cruel and uncaring. Some of them love us dearly. Many of them have good intentions. Most are toxic to our being simply because their needs and way of existing in the world force us to compromise ourselves and our happiness. They aren’t inherently bad people, but they aren’t the right people for us. And as hard as it is, we have to let them go. Life is hard enough without being around people who bring you down, and as much as you care, you can’t destroy yourself for the sake of someone else. You have to make your wellbeing a priority. Whether that means breaking up with someone you care about, loving a family member from a distance, letting go of a friend, or removing yourself from a situation that feels painful — you have every right to leave and create a safer space for yourself.”

— Daniell Koepke

This is definitely important, but also what about when the only alternative to toxicity is isolation?

Some people experience multiple marginalizations so intensely that finding community and belonging can be impossible. It’s a real thing. What then? Since I feel like it works perfectly here, I made these lyric graphics from Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’.

As much as I wish I could just say…

Let it go...Let it go...Can't hold it back anymoreI'm never going backThat perfect girl is goneHere I stand, and here I'll stay.Let the storm rage onThe cold never bothered me anyway

but instead, to survive, a lot of the times I just have to

Conceal, don't feel

and do my very best to make sure that

You'll never see me cry

just ‘cause I

Couldn't hold it on

I just don’t want to end up in

A kingdom of isolationand it looks like I'm the queen

Why does nobody seem to care that the founder of Trans*H4CK is a raging transmisogynist??


Will anyone please spread the word about this person? It’s so scary and isolating to feel like there is nobody acting in solidarity and to see pretty much everyone defend this person’s hatred for trans women and particularly trans women of color.

Dr. Kortney Ziegler is the founder Trans*H4CK (and apparently an outspoken TransMRA who frequently cries about transmisandry when being called out). His influence, the support he receives for undermining trans women, and the total lack of people standing up to challenge those transmisogynist attitudes makes being a trans woman in the QTPOC hacker circles feel very unsafe.

Please signal boost!

Read More

As a trans femme of color who is doing work in the same area (see the Empowermentors Collective if you’re curious) and who was a participant in the conversation cited above, I can’t just let go of this. The more I grow into my femme identity, the less safe I feel in the tech world, even spaces for women and queer/trans folks, because I’m given the awful “choice” of being stuck with either white supremacists and MRAs, or less-overtly-racist queer liberals and transmisogynist self-proclaimed feminists.

From Ziegler’s more recent responses to this conversation as well as other unrelated posts of his, it’s apparent that he’s just oblivious and lacks a basic understanding of transmisogyny. His comments were clearly steeped in it. He doesn’t unintentionally fail to consider trans women or “subtly” exclude them, i.e., degendering them in whatever small or large ways by viewing/treating trans CAMAB folks as if they are/were men, e.g., “male socialization”. He goes above and beyond that. It’s bad enough when people don’t understand that the effects of cissexism and misogyny are compounded to create transmisogyny, but his attitude is clear; trans men (of color) have it so much worse than trans women (of color), or at the very least don’t receive the consideration they deserve as compared to trans women.

That’s not the worst part though. What’s most upsetting is his levying of one form of marginalization against another. Whether or not voz (the woman who started the hashtag that Ziegler used as a platform to complain about closed/safer spaces for trans women) has been racist towards Ziegler, it doesn’t make Ziegler’s attitude any less transmisogynist. One person’s experiences of transmisogyny does not excuse their racism, and another person’s experience of anti-black racism does not excuse their transmisogyny. Don’t forget who is left out of that dichotomy: the people who experience both. By positioning racism against transmisogyny, people end up taking sides, and trans women of color are the ones who suffer the most for it.

He manages to distract people from the transmisogyny implicit in the things he says not only by exclusively responding to those peripheral issues such as where & how he said something, but also by claiming that any analysis which explicitly challenges the underlying values apparent in his posts are just lying about & slandering him, taking things out of context, or putting words in his mouth.

Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "So #holidayhandup is only for trans women....yall really yhink that trans men just don't need shit, huh?" Kẏra ‏@kxra: "@fakerapper So trans women need to always include trans men? Transmisogyny is distinct from cissexism & deserves special attention #TransMRA" Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "@kxra that's not what i said." Kẏra ‏@kxra: "@fakerapper trans women things don't imply that trans men don't also experience cissexism, but forcing their inclusion erases transmisogyny"

Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "So, a trans person cant use a hashtag to point out how trans men are ALWAYS excluded?"

Ziegler leverages anti-black racism and black masculinity in a way that supports an idea of what can only be described as transmisandry or reverse-transmisogyny. Without a doubt, blackness does interact with masculinity and race cannot be separated from gender, but why does he choose to talk about that in competition with trans women and trans femininity? The realness of racist cissexism and specifically anti-black transphobia does not depend on the illegitimacy of transmisogyny. Let’s not forget there are people who experience the compounded effects of cissexism, misogyny, and anti-black racism. Sacrificing some axis of marginalization you don’t experience in order to challenge one(s) which you do is a struggle for domination, not liberation. The way Ziegler and others have derailed everyone calling attention to his transmisogyny by saying that they are just silencing a black man only serves to erase the black women who have mostly been ignored when trying to call him out.

Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "Don't come at me trying to explain how I am taking up space. Once you live as a black man who has NO space safe for them, then speak."

Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "When black men who happen to be trans open their mouth, we are shut down with the...but you're not a trans woman of color what do you know"

(context & mirror for all of the posts cited above)

If the transmysogyny is not evident to you, you might as well stop reading here. It’s not cherry-picking to respond to specific quotes which are part of a pattern connected to an overall antagonistic attitude towards trans women.

"If black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression." –The Combahee River Collective

Of course there are more systems of oppression such as transmisogyny and ableism, but the underlying idea is no less true. The lesson is clear: the liberation of those more marginalized than you advances your own freedom. It does not compete with it. Challenge those with privilege & power over you, and act in solidarity with those you have privilege & power over. Pursue liberation, not domination.

Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "when some trans women make jokes about men with a small penis...i am always amazed at how they don't see that could be offensive to trans men" Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "if a trans man made joke about a trans woman's junk, we would be shut out of the community"

(first & second post)

Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper:" anytime i point out how trans men are hurt, i am called a whiner or have to defend myself in a really fucked up way :(" Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "no longer going to be doing that--i get silenced a lot and that shit hurts even more :(" BlkMagic ‏@JlnFrancisco: "@fakerapper you went beyond that tho. You said transwomen's bodies are more respected than those of transmen." Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "i did not" BlkMagic ‏@JlnFrancisco: "@fakerapper but you did. You even argued a transman mocking a transwoman's genitals would face immediate exclusion. How else to read that?" Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "OMG stop putting words in my mouth. there is a power dynamic at play--we are marginalized and why cant i say that> fuck"

(1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, & 6th post)

Context & mirror.

Again, he blatantly implies something and then vehemently accuses people of misrepresenting him. There’s nothing surprising or unusual happening here. It’s just male privilege that has gone unchecked because it’s been obscured by racial and transgender marginalizations. He very deliberately maneuvers each conversation away from his belief that trans men have less support than trans women, because those peripheral issues don’t challenge that core belief, and he can use them to support that core belief by taking each attempt to call him out as evidence that trans men are always being silenced. Maybe he believes this is only true of trans men and women of color, or perhaps even more specifically black trans men and women, but then that just focuses his transmisogyny on the most intensely marginalized women.

A key piece of “evidence” that seems to be confusing Ziegler is the media attention being received recently by trans women such as Janet Mock and Laverne Cox. What’s missing from this shallow analysis is an understanding of how trans women do simultaneously live in invisibility and hyper-visibility which work together as elements of marginalization. Who is watched (think: examination, surveillance, objectification, etc.) is not necessarily reflective of who has power. The popularity of Janet Mock and Laverne Cox isn’t evidence that trans women are better off than trans men any more than it’s evidence that black trans women are better off than white trans women. The absurdity of both of those conclusions speaks for itself.

Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "we live in a moment where trans women are leading the movement and i express that all of the time. there is also room to be critical of a mainstream media that doesn't know trans men exist but who are out there changing policy"

(first & second post)

Dr. Kortney Ziegler ‏@fakerapper: "i have never stressed that twoc don't deserve the attention they get--i point out that tmen don't get enough"

(context & mirror)

These posts again clearly pit trans women against trans men, but this time they provide some insight into where, other than personal anecdotes, Ziegler gets the idea that trans women are somehow better off than trans men. Finally we can see why he would consistently focus his antagonism on trans women instead of the oppressors he shares with them. Hopefully this will be useful when engaging with him in the future and helping him understand how transmisogyny is plainly legible in his posts.

My biggest regret is how the #HolidayHandUp argument and more recent blunders have continued to blow up and only further obscure the the fundamental issue which is not where or how he chose to express himself (in a hashtag for trans women), or even his intention in doing so (expressing loneliness and disrupting a hashtag started by a trans woman who has hurt him), but substantively what he posted and the attitude it exposes. The other pieces are relevant, but they are not the crux of the matter.

In addition to diverting attention to those side matters, or perhaps being mislead to focus on them, people have been casting doubt over whether anti-blackness was the real motivation for his posts since it wasn’t mentioned at all until much later into the discussion. Instead of focusing on what wasn’t said, how about focusing on what was? Regardless of where and how he spoke, what he said was hurtful to trans women. I have no business calling into question a clam of anti-black racism made by a black person, and neither do any other non-black folks, POC or otherwise.

My own understanding of colonialism, white supremacy, and peripheral racism which comes from my personal lived reality of sinophobia & orientalism does not give me any experience with which to speak towards anti-blackness. White queer/trans folks and even non-black queer/trans POC (that includes myself) have no business trying to jump down a black person’s throat and shut them out of their area of work. All that would say is that transmisogyny is more important than racism (and remember who is left out of these dichotomies). Respectability politics is definitely a tool of oppression, but race is ever-relevant. Even if claims of anti-blackness were somehow “irrelevant” or “invalid” in the specific #HolidayHandUp conversation (however the fuck that could be), it would still be relevant for one simple reason: white people already dominate spaces for queer & trans folks. Shaming a black person out of the picture would not be not an isolated incident in a world that hyper-scrutinizes bodies of color and uniquely excludes black bodies. Of course I have to offer a congratulatory gold-star ‘fuck you’ to anyone who is recognizing this now, but would not do so when expressed by someone who is black.

I do, honestly, have a lot of respect for Kortney and the mission of queering code through the organization of hackathons for trans people. No, I don’t think working on a successful project which is currently gaining visibility gives anyone a pass to be oppressive, but QTPOC hackers working to empower themselves is an effort I hold very close to my heart and it would mean a lot to me to be able to work with Ziegler somewhere down the road. I jumped into the conversation in an attempt to fight to make the area in which he works safer for other trans feminine CAMAB folks of color, not in an attempt to get others who were also able to see the transmisogyny to shun Ziegler and certainly not to get Ziegler to stop doing the work that he does. I called him out for the same reasons I call out my friends for saying fucked up shit: because I care. My friends are important to me and I care about what they think, say, and do. The closer people are to me, the bigger the impact they have on my life and the more likely I am to trust them and find them worth calling out.

The last two highlighted posts above were part of a series in which Ziegler is processing the response to the #HolidayHandUp fallout. He is obviously evading responsibility (blaming the constraints of Twitter, apologizing to women he might have “offended”, and of course claiming lies & slander), displaying some bitterness and holding on to resentment over what he feels was an undeserved response (again focusing on the peripheral issue of using the hashtag which was only a tactical mistake because he “became a target to be watched as a trans misogynist”), at least he’s doing some honest and real processing of his privilege. Sure, it’s basic as fuck and still problematic on it’s own, but just maybe it’s a start. He ends by saying “I will be more mindful of how my identity and voice has resonance in a way that can be exclusive. Also to listen more.

I hope that he actually starts listen to other trans women of color to feel validated and respected in his experiences of cissxism and anti-black racism while learning how he himself is able to continue trafficking in transmisogyny.

Does anybody remember reading a Twitter post (I think) along the lines of, “Dear [group], the sentiments of white men are not your concern.”

I have been searching for variations of that phrase for MONTHS and can’t find it. I’m just trying to re-share it with due credit.


jamie foxx wears a trayvon martin shirt to the BET awards.

the headlines:




macklemore mentions trayvon martin during his acceptance speech at the AMA awards.

the headlines:




the message: PoC are racist crybabies until a white knight notices the issue and plays champion.

Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy: Rethinking Women of Color Organizing

Andrea Smith

Scenario #1

A group of women of color come together to organize. An argument ensues about whether or not Arab women should be included. Some argue that Arab women are “white” since they have been classified as such in the US census. Another argument erupts over whether or not Latinas qualify as “women of color,” since some may be classified as “white” in their Latin American countries of origin and/or “pass” as white in the United States.

Scenario #2

In a discussion on racism, some people argue that Native peoples suffer from less racism than other people of color because they generally do not reside in segregated neighborhoods within the United States. In addition, some argue that since tribes now have gaming, Native peoples are no longer “oppressed.”

Scenario #3

A multiracial campaign develops involving diverse communities of color in which some participants charge that we must stop the black/white binary, and end Black hegemony over people of color politics to develop a more “multicultural” framework. However, this campaign continues to rely on strategies and cultural motifs developed by the Black Civil Rights struggle in the United States.

These incidents, which happen quite frequently in “women of color” or “people of color” political organizing struggles, are often explained as a consequence of “oppression olympics.” That is to say, one problem we have is that we are too busy fighting over who is more oppressed. In this essay, I want to argue that the precedents are not so much the result of “oppression olympics” but are more about, we have inadequately framed “women of color” or “people of color” politics. Truth is, the premise behind much “women of color” organizing is that women of color communities victimized by white supremacy should unite together around shared oppression. This framework might be represented by a diagram of five overapping circles, each marked Native women, Black women, Arab/Muslim, Latinas, and Asian American women, overlapping like a Venn diagram.

This framework has proven to be limited for women of color and people of color organizing. First, it tends to presume that our communities have been impacted by white supremacy in the same way. Consequently, we often assume that all of our communities will share similar strategies for liberation. In fact, however, our strategies often run into conflict.** For example, one strategy that many people in US-born communities of color adopt, in order to advance economically out of impoverished communities, is to join the military. We then become complicit in oppressing and colonizing communities from other countries. Meanwhile, people from other countries often adopt the strategy of moving to the United States to advance economically, without considering their complicity in settling on the lands of indigenous peoples that are being colonized by the United States.

Consequently, it may be more helpful to adopt an alternative framework for women of color and people of color organizing. I call one such framework the “Three Pillars of White Supremacy.” This framework does not assume that racism and white supremacy is enacted in a singular fashion; rather, white supremacy is constituted by separate and distinct, but still interrelated, logics. Envision three pillars, one labeled Slavery/Capitalism, another labeled Genocide/Capitalism, and the last one labeled Orientalism/War as well as arrows connecting each of the classes together.


One pillar of white supremacy is the logic of slavery. As Sora Han, Jared Sexton, and Angela P. Harris note, this logic renders Black people as inherently slave- able-as nothing more than property.’ That is, in this logic of white supremacy, Blackness becomes equated with slaveability. The forms of slavery may change- whether it is through the formal system of slavery, sharecropping, or through the current prison-industrial complex-but the logic itself has remained consistent. This logic is the anchor of capitalism. That is, the capitalist system ultimately commodifies all workers-one’s own person becomes a commodity that one must sell in the labor market while the profits of one’s work are taken by someone else. To keep this capitalist system in place—which ultimately commodifies most people—the togic of slavery applies a racial hierarchy to this system. This racial hierarchy tells people that as long as you are not Black, you have the opportunity to escape the commodification of capitalism. This helps people who are not Black to accept their lot in life, because they can feel that at least they are not at the very bottom of the racial hierarchy-at least they are nor property; at least they are not slaveable.

The logic of slavery can be seen clearly in the current prison industrial complex (PIC). While the PIC generally incarcerates communities of color, it seems to be structured primarily on an anti-Black racism. That is, prior to the Civil War, most people in prison where white. However, after the thirteenth amendment was passed—which banned slavery, except for those in prison—Black people previously enslaved through the slavery system were reenslaved through the prison system. Black people who had been the property of slave owners became state property, through the conflict leasing system. Thus, we can actually look at the criminalization of Blackness as a logical extension of Blackness as property.


A second pillar of white supremacy is the logic of genocide. This logic holds that Indigenous peoples must disappear. In fact, they must always be disappearing, in order to allow non-Indigenous peoples rightful claim over this land. Through this logic of genocide, non-Native peoples then become the rightful inheritors of all that was Indigenous-land, resources, Indigenous spirituality, or culture. As Kate Shanley notes, Native peoples are a permanent “present absence” in the US colonial imagination, an “absence” that reinforces, at every turn, the conviction that Native peoples are indeed vanishing and that the conquest of Native lands is justified. Ella Shoat and Robert Stam describe this absence as “an ambivalently repressive mechanism [which] dispels the anxiety in the face of the Indian, whose very presence is a reminder of the initially precarious grounding of the American nation-state itself.. .. In a temporal paradox, living Indians were induced to ‘play dead,’ as it were, in order to perform a narrative of manifest destiny in which their role, ultimately, was to disappear.”

Rayna Green further elaborates that the current Indian “wannabe” phenomenon is based on a logic of genocide: non-Native peoples imagine themselves as the rightful inheritors of all that previously belonged to “vanished” Indians, thus entitling them to ownership of this land. “The living performance of ‘playing Indian’ by non-Indian peoples depends upon the physical and psychological removal, even the death, of real Indians. In that sense, the performance, purportedly often done out of a stated and implicit love for Indians, is really the obverse of another well- known cultural phenomenon, ‘Indian hating,’ as most often expressed in another, deadly performance genre called ‘genocide.’” After all, why would non-Native peoples need to play Indian—which often includes acts of spiritual appropriation and land theft—if they thought Indians were still alive and perfectly capable of being Indian themselves? The pillar of genocide serves as the anchor for colonialism—it is what allows non-Native peoples to feel they can rightfully own indigenous peoples’ land. It is okay to take land from indigenous peoples, because indigenous peoples have disappeared.

Orientalism and War

A third pillar of white supremacy is the logic of Orientalism. Orientalism was defined by Edward Said as the process of the West defining itself as a superior civilization by constructing itself in opposition to an “exotic” but inferior “Orient.” (Here I am using the term “Orientalism” more broadly than to solely signify what has been historically named as the Orient or Asia.) The logic of Orientalism marks certain peoples or nations as inferior and as posing a constant threat to the well-being of empire. These peoples are still seen as “civilizations”—they are not property or “disappeared”—however, they will always be imaged as permanent foreign threats to empire. This logic is evident in the anti-immigration movements within the United States that target immigrants of color. It does not matter how long immigrants of color reside in the United States, they generally become targeted as foreign threats, particularly during war time. Consequently, Orientalism serves as the anchor for war, because it allows the United States to justify being in a constant state of war to protect itself from its enemies.

For example, the United States feels entitled to use Orientalist logic to justify racial profiling of Arab Americans so that it can be strong enough to fight the “war on terror.” Orientalism also allows the United States to defend the logics of slavery and genocide, as these practices enable the United States to stay “strong enough” to fight these constant wars. What becomes clear then is what Sora Han states—the United States is not at war; the United States is war. For the system of white supremacy to stay in place, the United States must always be at war.

Because we are situated within different logics of white supremacy, we may misunderstand a racial dynamic if we simplistically try to explain one logic of white supremacy with another logic. For instance, think about the first scenario that opens this essay: if we simply dismiss Latinolas or Arab peoples as “white,” we fail to understand how a racial logic of Orientalism is in operation. That is, Latino/as and Arabs are often situated in a racial hierarchy that privileges them over Black people. However, while Orientalist logic may bestow them some racial privilege, they are still cast as inferior yet threatening “civilizations” in the United States. Their privilege is not a signal that they will be assimilated, but that they will be marked as perpetual foreign threats to the US world order.**

Organizing Implications

Under the old but still potent and dominant model, people of color organizing was based on the notion of organizing around shared victimhood. In this model, however, we see that we are victims of white supremacy, but complicit in it as well. Our survival strategies and resistance to white supremacy are set by the system of white supremacy itself. What keeps us trapped within our particular pillars of white supremacy is that we are seduced with the prospect of being able to participate in the other pillars. For example, all non-Native peoples are promised the ability to join in the colonial project of settling indigenous lands. All non-Black peoples are promised that if they comply, they will not be at the bottom of the racial hierarchy. And Black, Native, Latino, and Asian peoples are promised that they will economically and politically advance if they join US wars to spread “democracy.” Thus, people of color organizing must be premised on making strategic alliances with each other, based on where we are situated within the larger political economy. Thus, for example, Native peoples who are organizing against the colonial and genocidal practices committed by the US government will be more effective in their struggle if they also organize against US militarism, particularly the military recruitment of indigenous peoples to support US imperial wars. If we try to end US colonial practices at home, but support US empire by joining the military, we are strengthening the state’s ability to carry out genocidal policies against people of color here and all over the world.

This way, our alliances would not be solely based on shared victimization, but where we are complicit in the victimization of others. These approaches might help us to develop resistance strategies that do not inadvertently keep the system in place for all of us, and keep all of us accountable. In all of these cases, we would check our aspirations against the aspirations of other communities to ensure that our model of liberation does not become the model of oppression for others.

These practices require us to be more vigilant in how we may have internalized some of these logics in our own organizing practice. For instance, much racial justice organizing within the United States has rested on a civil rights framework that fights for equality under the law. An assumption behind this organizing is that the United States is a democracy with some flaws, but is otherwise admirable. Despite the fact that it rendered slaves three-fifths of a person, the US Constitution is presented as the model document from which to build a flourishing democracy.

However, as Luana Ross notes, it has never been against US law to commit genocide against indigenous peoples-in fact, genocide is the law of the country. The United States could not exist without it. In the United States, democracy is actually the alibi for genocide—it is the practice that covers up United States colonial control over indigenous lands.

Our organizing can also reflect anti-Black racism. Recently, with the outgrowth of “multiculturalism” there have been calls to “go beyond the black/white binary” and include other communities of color in our analysis, as presented in the third scenario. There are a number of flaws with this analysis. First, it replaces an analysis of white supremacy with a politics of multicultural representation; if we just include more people, then our practice will be less racist. Not true. This model does not address the nuanced structure of white supremacy, such as through these distinct logics of slavery, genocide, and Orientalism. Second, it obscures the centrality of the slavery logic in the system of white supremacy, which is based on a black/white binary. The black/white binary is not the only binary which characterizes white supremacy, but it is still a central one that we cannot “go beyond” in our racial justice organizing efforts.

If we do not look at how the logic of slaveability inflects our society and our thinking, it will be evident in our work as well. For example, other communities of color often appropriate the cultural work and organizing strategies of African American civil rights or Black Power movements without corresponding assumptions that we should also be in solidarity with Black communities. We assume that this work is the common “property of all oppressed groups, and we can appropriate it without being accountable.

Angela P. Harris and Juan Perea debate the usefulness of the black/white binary in the book, Critical Race Theory. Perea complains that the black/white binary fails to include the experiences of other people of color. However, he fails to identify alternative racializing logics to the black/white paradigm. Meanwhile, Angela P. Harris argues that “the story of ‘race’ itself is that of the construction of Blackness and whiteness. In this story, Indians, Asian Americans, and Latinos/as do exist. But their roles are subsidiary to the fundamental binary national drama. As a political claim, Black exceptionalism exposes the deep mistrust and tensions among American ethnic groups racialized as nonwhite.”

Let’s examine these statements in conversation with each other. Simply saying we need to move beyond the black/white binary (or perhaps, the “black/non-black” binary) in US racism obfuscates the racializing logic of slavery, and prevents us from seeing that this binary constitutes Blackness as the bottom of a color hierarchy. However, this is not the only binary that fundamentally constitutes white supremacy.There is also an indigenous/settler binary, where Native genocide is central to the logic of white supremacy and other non-indigenous people of color also confirm”a subsidiary” role. We also face another Orientalist logic that fundamentally constitutes Asians, Arabs, and Latino/as as foreign threats, requiring the United States to be at permanent war with these peoples. In this construction, Black and Native peoples play subsidiary roles.

Clearly the black/white binary is central to racial and political thought and practice in the United States, and any understanding of white supremacy must rake it into consideration. However, if we look at only this binary, we may misread race dynamics of white supremacy in different contexts. For example, critical race theorist Cheryl Harris’s analysis of whiteness as property reveals this weakness. In Critical Race Theory, Harris contends that whites have a property interest in the preservation of whiteness, and seek to deprive those who are “tainted” by Black or Indian blood from these same white property interests. Harris simply assumes that the positions of African Americans and American Indians are the same, failing to consider US policies of forced assimilation and forced whiteness on American Indians. These policies have become so entrenched that when Native peoples make political claims, they have been accused of being white. When Andrew Jackson removed the Cherokee along the Trail of Tears, he argued that those who did not want removal were really white. In contemporary times, when I was a non-violent witness for the Chippewa spearfishers in the late 1980s, one of the more frequent slurs whites hurled when the Chippewa attempted to exercise their treaty-protected right to fish was that they had white parents, or they were really white.

Status differences between Blacks and Natives are informed by the different economic positions African Americans and American Indians have in US society. African Americans have been traditionally valued for their labor, hence it is in the interest of the dominant society to have as many people marked “Black,” as possible, thereby maintaining a cheap labor pool; by contrast, American Indians have been valued for the land base they occupy, so it is in the interest of dominant society to have as few people marked “Indian” as possible, facilitating access to Native lands”. Whiteness” operates differently under a logic of genocide than it does from logic of slavery.

Another failure of US-based people of color in organizing is that we often fall back on a “US-centricism,” believing that what is happening “over there” is as important than what is happening here. We fail to see how the United States system of oppression here precisely by tying our allegiances to the interests of US empire “over there.”

Heteropatriarchy is the building block of US empire. In fact, it is the building block of the nation-state form of governance. Christian Right authors make these links in their analysis of imperialism and empire. For example, Christian Right activist and founder of Prison Fellowship Charles Colson makes the connection between homosexuality and the nation-state in his analysis of the war on terror, explaining that one of the causes of terrorism is same-sex marriage:

Marriage is the traditional building block of human society, intended both to unite couples and bring children into the world … There is a natural moral order for the family … the family, led by a married mother and father, is the best available structure for both child-rearing and cultural health. Marriage is not a private institution designed solely for the individual gratification of its participants. If we fail to enact a Federal Marriage Amendment, we can expect not just more family breakdown, but also more criminals behind bars and more chaos in our streets.”

Colson is linking the well-being of US empire to the well-being of the heteropatriarchal family. He continues:

When radical Islamists see American women abusing Muslim men, as they did in the Abu Ghraib prison, and when they see news coverage of same-sex couples being “married” in US towns, we make this kind of freedom abhorrent—the kind they see as a blot on Allah’s creation. We must preserve traditional marriage in order to protect the United States from those who would use our depravity to destroy us.

As Ann Burlein argues in Lift High the Cross, it may be a mistake to argue that the goal of Christian Right politics is to create a theocracy in the United States. Rather, Christian Right politics work through the private family (which is coded as white, patriarchal, and middle class) to create a “Christian America.” She notes that the investment in the private family makes it difficult for people to invest in more public forms of social connection. In addition, investment in the suburban private family serves to mask the public disinvestment in urban areas that makes the suburban lifestyle possible. The social decay in urban areas that results from this disinvestment is then construed as the result of deviance from the Christian family ideal rather than as the result of political and economic forces. As former head of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed, states: “The only true solution to crime is to restore the family,” and “Family break-up causes poverty.” Concludes Burlein, “‘The family’ is no mere metaphor but a crucial technology by which modern power is produced and exercised.”’

As I have argued elsewhere, in order to colonize peoples whose societies are not based on social hierarchy, colonizers must first naturalize hierarchy through instituting patriarchy. In turn, patriarchy rests on a gender binary system in which only two genders exist, one dominating the other. Consequently, Charles Colson is correct when he says that the colonial world order depends on heteronormativity. Just as the patriarchs rule the family, the elites of the nation-state rule their citizens. Any liberation struggle that does not challenge heteronormativity cannot substantially challenge colonialism or white supremacy. Rather, as Cathy Cohen contends, such struggles will maintain colonialism based on a politics of secondary marginalization where the most elite class of these groups will further their aspirations on the backs of those most marginalized within the community.

Through this process of secondary marginalization, the national or racial justice struggle takes on either implicitly or explicitly a nation-state model as the end point of its struggle—a model of governance in which the elites govern the rest through violence and domination, as well as exclude those who are not members of “the nation.” Thus, national liberation politics become less vulnerable to being coopted by the Right when we base them on a model of liberation that fundamentally challenges right-wing conceptions of the nation. We need a model based on community relationships and on mutual respect.


Women of color-centered organizing points to the centrality of gender politics within antiracist, anticolonial struggles. Unfortunately, in our efforts to organize against white, Christian America, racial justice struggles often articulate an equally heteropatriarchal racial nationalism. This model of organizing either hopes to assimilate into white America, or to replicate it within an equally hierarchical and oppressive racial nationalism in which the elites of the community rule everyone else. Such struggles often call on the importance of preserving the “Black family” or the “Native family” as the bulwark of this nationalist project, the family being conceived of in capitalist and heteropatriarchal terms. The response is often increased homophobia, with lesbian and gay community members construed as “threats” to the family. But, perhaps we should challenge the “concept” of the family itself. Perhaps, instead, we can reconstitute alternative ways of living together in which “families” are not seen as islands on their own. Certainly, indigenous communities were not ordered on the basis of a nuclear family structure—is the result of colonialism, not the antidote to it.

In proposing this model, I am speaking from my particular position in indigenous struggles. Other peoples might flesh out these logics more fully from different vantage points. Others might also argue that there are other logics of white supremacy are missing. Still others might complicate how they relate to each other. But I see this as a starting point for women of color organizers that will allow us to reenvision a politics of solidarity that goes beyond multiculturalism, and develop more complicated strategies that can really transform the political and economic status quo.

I am tired of listening to able-bodied, white, and cisgender feminists acting shocked and appalled over every instance of misogyny, cissexism, white supremacy, and/or ableism (depending on their pet issues of choice) as if they come from some fanciful queer utopia and have never heard a pop song or read a mainstream news article.

When someone makes a regular effort just to show how upset they are by the everyday reality of colonialism and patriarchy, chances are they’re doing more to—at least attempt to—mark their politics as superior to others’ than to actually challenging those issues. What’s worse is that by acting surprised, they erase the already harshly scrutinized reality of just how great the frequency and pervasiveness of violence experienced by marginalized identity groups is.

The people who are the most comfortable publicly displaying these opinions (i.e. those with privilege) often do so at the expense of those whose daily lived experiences they are—if not overlooking, then—coopting for feminist-cred.

This is not to say that we should not call attention to these issues, and I am loath to express this for fear that it will be used as such. It’s not that it hurts to see that people care; it’s that it hurts to see the same hierarchies of domination reproduced in whose reactions and feelings are recognized the most.

Learning to recognize and challenge oppression isn’t a game of who can take up the most space with their various expressions of disapproval and disgust. It’s about fostering an understanding that the way power in society is organized around ability, race, gender, sexuality, and class makes coercion and subjugation ubiquitous and ever-present in laws, institutions, technologies, and individuals. That’s what it means for oppression to be systemic.

So if by any chance, there are any able-bodied, white, or cisgender feminists reading these words, remember this: your performances of astonishment and outrage are validated by the privileges which grant you greater mobility and attention in society than those without. Your surprised disbelief doesn’t make you a gold-star feminist; it makes you an ignorant bag of hot air.

(via stfuwhiteliberals)

The true meaning of solidarity is under serious attack and runs the risk of being drastically changed. The proof of this is how fashionable its usage has become, how easily it rolls off the tongues of all sorts of speakers, how unthreatening it is. If the true meaning of solidarity were understood and intended, visible radical change would be happening in the lives of those who endorse it with their applause. Solidarity is NOT a matter of agreeing with, of being supportive of, of liking, or of being inspired by, the cause of a group of people. Though all these might be a part of solidarity, solidarity goes beyond all of them. Solidarity has to do with understanding the interconnections among issues and the cohesiveness that needs to exist among the communities of struggle.

Ada María Isasi-Díaz, “Solidarity: Love of Neighbor in the 1980s” (via wocinsolidarity)