Concepts of race, property and value

I found this video by Sonya Renee Taylor to be very thought provoking. “When capital is more valuable than black bodies, capital must be disrupted.”

I continue to be uplifted by the masses of people going to the streets to demand that we confront the issues of racism, including abuse and death from the police.

I used to be disappointed when looting occurred because I saw that as a way for those who disagree with the underlying issue being protested to dismiss it. Its not that I advocate for violence and property destruction now, but I recognize the White privilege that informs that for me. I recently wrote a lot about my view of what is valued in the post “Of so little value”.

I remember the first time I realized my life might be considered of less value than property. I was running when a truck turned right in front of me, forcing me to abruptly stop. I slapped the side of the truck out of anger, but also to send a message to the driver. He got the message, jumping out of the truck and yelling at me to come back. Instead, I continued to run (a little faster). Thinking as I continued to run, at first I thought if there was a question of value, my life would be considered more important than potential damage to the truck (of which there was none, of course). But I was shocked to consider the possibility that someone else might think the truck was more important than me. Of course this is nothing compared to the possibility of being shot to death merely for the color of my skin.

The problem I have with capitalism is it places a monetary value on everything, including things that can’t rightfully be owned. The most extreme being the idea that people could be purchased. That also extends to the idea that the commons can be “owned”. That natural resources can be owned and the owner allowed to do anything they want with “their” property. The idea that a company can own land with tar sands, and devastate the earth and water to mine them. Even as the burning of fossil fuels is killing Mother Earth and ourselves. The idea that a company should do anything it can to increase the profit of its shareholders regardless of the damage those policies might do. It is a system without morals. A system where success is defined by how much wealth you accumulate. Native peoples were living for thousands of years without a system like capitalism. So yes, I believe capitalism is a “bad” system.

According to my friend Christine Nobiss, Decolonizer with Seeding Sovereignty, “Capitalism is the pandemic because, though we face COVID-19 together, the heightened economic imbalance is further exposing the deep racial divide in this country. Black, Latino/Latina, Indigenous, and immigrant communities are experiencing higher morbidity rates of COVID-19 due to pre-existing conditions created by the long-term global pandemic of colonial-capitalism. These communities face strained and genocidal relationships with the American government and live with elevated rates of poverty, violence, unemployment, chronic illness, incarceration, deportation, water crises, inadequate housing, and food deserts—creating a perfect storm for mass infection.”

Seeding Sovereignty organized having an airplane pull a banner “Capitalism is the Pandemic” over New York City, a center of capitalism.

With this action, we demand an end the colonial-capitalist economy supported by institutionalized white supremacist and heteropatriarchal systems that have devastated our lands, climate, and peoples through ceaseless resource extraction, land occupation, border imperialism, misogyny, homophobia, enslavement, and genocide. This viral pandemic is part of a much larger problem as explained by Buffalo-based media artist, Jason Livingston, who conceived this action, “The crisis began before the virus, and the crisis will continue beyond the vaccine.”

I was very glad to come upon the video below and guidelines related to anti-oppression and decolonization. Interview recorded at PowerShift Canada 2012, Oct 28 in Ottawa on unceded Algonquin territory.

This gets to the fundamental question of whether anyone can “own” the land.

We share these points of unity to guide our allyship and activism:

  • All people not indigenous to North America who are living on this continent are settlers on stolen land. We acknowledge that Canada, the United States of America, Mexico, and Central & South America were founded through genocide and colonization of indigenous peoples–which continues today and from which settlers directly benefit.
  • All settlers do not benefit equally from the settler-colonial state, nor did all settlers emigrate here of their own free will. Specifically, we see slavery, hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, market imperialism, and capitalist class structures as among the primary tools of colonization. These tools divide communities and determine peoples’ relative access to power. Therefore, anti-oppression solidarity between settler communities is necessary for decolonization. We work to build anti-colonial movements that actively combat all forms of oppression.
  • We acknowledge that settlers are not entitled to live on this land. We accept that decolonization means the revitalization of indigenous sovereignty, and an end to settler domination of life, lands, and peoples in all territories of the so-called “Americas.” All decisions regarding human interaction with this land base, including who lives on it, are rightfully those of the indigenous nations.
  • As settlers and non-native people (by which we mean non-indigenous to this hemisphere) acting in solidarity, it is our responsibility to proactively challenge and dismantle colonialist thought and behavior in the communities we identify ourselves to be part of. As people within communities that maintain and benefit from colonization, we are intimately positioned to do this work.
  • We understand that allies cannot be self-defined; they must be claimed by the people they seek to ally with. We organize our solidarity efforts around direct communication, responsiveness, and accountability to indigenous people fighting for decolonization and liberation.
  • We are committed to dismantling all systems of oppression, whether they are found in institutional power structures, interpersonal relationships, or within ourselves. Individually and as a collective, we work compassionately to support each other through these processes. Participation in struggle requires each of us to engage in both solidarity and our own liberation: to be accountable for all privileges carried, while also struggling for liberation from internalized and/or experienced oppression. We seek to build a healthy culture of resistance, accountability, and sustenance.

As my friend Ronnie James writes:

I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James

This entry was posted in Black Lives, decolonize, enslavement, Indigenous, Native Americans, race, Seeding Sovereignty, solidarity, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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