I lived in Portland, Oregon, U.S. for seven years, leading up to 2016. And, I didn’t live there as a go to work and get my information from television type of person. I can say humbly, yet confidently, that while I was there, I made a significant contribution to the activist culture there, especially towards colonized people building capacity for our own self-determination. Also, while there, I engaged in consistent work that forced me to be in direct physical confrontation with Oregon’s white supremacist militia community. Plus, before even moving to Oregon, I already had plenty of experiences with violent white supremacists i.e. confrontations, fights, organizing protection against them.
I say none of this to tout myself on an individual level. In fact, this piece seeks to directly challenge the entire individualistic approach to analyzing the conditions we face today. I look to my experiences, particularly those related to mobilizing/organizing communities to defend themselves against white supremacists, including police, as the main challenge to much of what is happening today.
In the case of this incident in Portland, lots of people are praising the shooting while expressing shock at the fact police cornered and assassinated the Portland shooter in Washington state this past evening. On a primarily emotional level, these responses from those on the left are understandable. We don’t control the capitalist dominated narrative. With the rabidly anti-African, anti-Indigenous, anti-colonized, anti anti-fascist narratives that are forced down our throats 24/7, and the constant images of us being arrested, brutalized, and murdered in cold blood, its clear why people would see this incident as a flashpoint of sorts about us winning something for a change.
Unfortunately, the stark reality is symbolism, which is exactly what drives the romantic desires to highlight the shooting as some sort of victory for the forces of justice, is enough for the majority of us, who are not in anyway engaged with skin in the game (involved in organizing work on a consistent basis) in this process. For those of us who regularly sacrifice greatly to make our humble contributions, we are long past the symbolic phase. And, anyone who defines what happened in Portland, i.e. us being brutalized daily compared to one death of one fascist, any different than symbolism is exposing their lack of real understanding of political struggle.
Now, I didn’t know the alleged shooter. From accounts from people I do know, he was someone who was sincere about his work for justice. For the sake of argument, I’ll take their word on that, but even if he was the greatest revolutionary in the history of human existence, or something on the opposite end of that spectrum, that is completely beside the point. The real issue is white supremacist groups like the one the victim apparently belonged to, organize. They recruit youth. They indoctrinate them to their political ideologies and while doing that, they are building relationships with these people to build the capacity of trust among their ranks. They exist side by side and interchangeably with police agencies and they use those relationships to facilitate their cover in planning and carrying out attacks against us. They are well organized, supremely supported, and focused on planning and carrying out their agenda of violence and white supremacy. They terrorize us daily, everywhere. If we ever think we are going to challenge them on a serious level, we have to mature behind thinking one individualistic shooting is some sort of victory. Its not. It does absolutely nothing to advance our collective struggle. It actually endangers colonized people because those white supremacists will respond to that attack, not just in Portland, but everywhere. And, the focus of their response will be waging increased attacks against the masses of African and other colonized people. So, if the primary objective of a lot of these so-called white revolutionaries is to protect African lives, which was supposed to be the foundation of everything happening right now, these individualistic cowboy actions actually do a lot to further endanger us. Everyone aware of the social conditions in Portland and everywhere else knows that the groups the victim was apparently affiliated with have extensive histories of terrorizing colonized people in the Portland metro area. With this knowledge, its difficult for us to understand why anyone would think one shooting would do anything except accelerate this violence against us.
Instead of playing up one individualistic shooting that is in no way connected to any mass plan to overrun white supremacist actions, what should be happening. What needs to happen, is for any truly concerned white activists, not just in Portland, but everywhere, to make that commitment to do the real work. The work that will extend your spirits, physical energies, and spiritual focuses, far beyond just posting on social media. That work centered around recruiting and building those capacity creating relationships in white communities. Work to challenge the currently and mostly unopposed work of white supremacists, police, and the military/militias to recruit among white youth. At this stage in the process, its impossible for us to understand how any logically thinking person could believe that we can effectively defeat white supremacists when they are engaging in the day to day organizing efforts among white communities I’m speaking of here while all you have to face off against them is the continued sporadic and spontaneous physical showing up to stand off against them at demonstrations. Meanwhile, that’s all most of you have to offer while they are doing so much more in the organizing realm which is exposed by their abilities to come prepared to bear mace, beat, and even shoot us, while having the police clean up their terrorism. That is what organization looks like.
Make no mistake about it, despite idealistic attempts to lump us together, the deep rooted racism and ignorance about anti-colonial struggles among most so-called radical white activists ensures that our approaches and participation in this struggle are different. In other words, most whites know little to nothing about independent organizing efforts by colonized people in our communities. Nothing at all. Well, we can report that we are doing our work. And, most of us support BLM, but we are not a part that movement. We are building revolutionary capacity and that is why you don’t see us in mass at your demonstrations. You never will. Our energies are tied up in struggling for, despite institutional white supremacy (and all its political, economic, social, and psychological manifestations that adversely impact us), a reality where our people are organized along community defense projects to provide us the protection we need from police/white supremacists, and even many of you. For us Pan-Africanist revolutionaries, this work, even here in this backward country, is always 100% centered around Africa’s liberation.
If you are truly concerned about ending white supremacy (and we have deep suspicions that many of you are not truly interested in that, although many of you are), then you have to mature beyond this fascination with the lone wolf type of actions that the alleged shooter carried out. White supremacists can utilize the lone wolf approach because they support and work within this capitalist system which is clearly the dominant force oppressing us. These white supremacists, including police, etc., understand that their role in this process is simply to keep us in line. Keep us repressed. So, for them, the lone wolf approach such as that carried out in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S. against protesters there, is exactly what they need to keep doing. Meanwhile, if our efforts are designed to bring about justice, at some point we have to wake up and realize justice requires a mass consciousness about the need for people to be valued over profits. That requires the type of mass political work we are discussing here. Lone wolf approaches do little to advance this as evidenced by the statements made by the alleged shooter’s sister who is publicly characterizing him as an unstable and disturbed person. Something many of our relatives would duplicate if we were similarly in the public discourse for actions we carried out on an individual level with no community support or understanding. Also, the lone wolf approach for this alleged shooter created the conditions where the police could corner him and do whatever they wanted, which is exactly what apparently happened. Imagine an organized community to rally around him as opposed to being able to isolate him and move in with absolutely no resistance to speak of.
Nothing about mass political organizing work excludes physical preparation. Anyone who thinks we are advocating just the reading of books without anything supporting those efforts, knows nothing about our work or about revolutionary organizing work in general. This work includes a mass political education component accompanied by the community defense work I have mentioned and that is reflected in our work. If you wish more information on this work, all you have to do is read and/or watch one of the many articles and videos we have posted about this work. Anyone who interprets this piece as an attack against anything is operating primarily based on your emotional reactions. This piece is clearly about pushing us to get better so that we can win. Some of us have seen these movies many, many times before. We know the outcome and we are tired of living through it. We desire victory and we implore people serious about change to step up the game so that we can move collectively and decisively in that direction, once and for all.