Anticapitalism won’t save us if we can’t face white supremacy, transphobia and colonialism
If you feel like transphobia has become the most common word on everyone’s tongue or keyboard, you’re not wrong. Trans people have been warning us for years that hate crimes, bigotry, and the occasional case of transphobia have become more common than ever. In the Western world, legislation targeting trans people dominates headlines and conversations. Worse yet, acts of physical violence are becoming more familiar, almost universal. “A pandemic within a pandemic,” says a Harvard student, denouncing the increase in hate crimes against black trans women. UK government officials have reported a more than 15% increase in anti-trans hate crimes across the country.
If you’ve been paying attention to an ever-changing political conversation in the so-called developed world, this wave of anti-trans sentiment shouldn’t surprise you given the parallel rise in nationalist political rhetoric. Specifically, this should come as no surprise to anyone who understands the inherent connections between white supremacist ideology and transphobic beliefs. The constant refrain of “well, scientifically speaking …” is familiar to anyone familiar with eugenic thought experiments throughout history. Sad accounts of falling birth rates are a common introduction to the argument that nationalism is not really about racism, but simply about preserving the “family.” The family being, of course, a homogeneous mixture of patriarchal norms and “ideal” genetics.
And if you haven’t paid attention, “it’s just a few bad apples” might come to mind. Scientifically speaking, bad apples often arise from compromised roots. White supremacy is the most insidious because it creates false comfort. From empty platitudes about ‘representation’ and proverbial table seats to ultimately meaningless conversations about the validity and importance of identity politics – white supremacy thrives because it gives people little symbolic moments that feel good but offer them nothing material.
You can call it “economic insecurity” if it helps ease the shock, but everyone likes to feel powerful. White supremacy and its ideological ramifications thrive, often unnoticed, as they target the deepest insecurities about “otherness” that we share.
Blacks, people with disabilities, trans people, migrants, the poor are often a visual representation of all that just does not fit. In a nutshell, those who are most likely to exist outside of “traditional” means of employment and socio-economic mobility are most likely to be the targets of identity hatred while simultaneously being bombarded with messages of abuse. “Class solidarity”. The darker the skin, the more visually disparate from our surroundings, the less pleasant and familiar a person’s cadence is to the ear – the more clearly they stand out. This makes the most marginalized among us easier to identify and more available to be used as scapegoats.
This otherness can be fairly straightforward to recognize – the 44 trans people murdered in 2020, for example. It can be fairly straightforward to understand – crimes against Asians increased by almost 150% in 2020 as a result of former President Trump’s violent and inflammatory language surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. But it can be more insidious, more mundane, more difficult to identify.
The hypersexualization of Asian women which leads a white man to murder 8 people in order to “eliminate temptation” …
The fetishization of black women as sexually libertine and uninhibited, thus making them “irrecoverable” …
Uneasiness with trans women justify their murders in courtrooms …
Fear of non-normative bodies leading adults to debate openly and shamelessly and discuss the genitals of minors in legislative procedures …
And so, the more we can find in common and identify with the hierarchical “winners”, the easier it is to say: “don’t look at me, I am like you”. The less identifiable we are as “others,” the easier it is for us to blend in, deflect, and point out identifiable flaws in others. For white women, especially chick white women, this is a fairly straightforward task. They are almost indistinguishable from those who hold the most power. If the slightest alignment with those below them paints a target on its back, what incentive is there to upset the status quo? As long as they stay positioned above everyone else, they have less ground to cover on their ascent to the top. Symbolic protests against misogyny and sexism will abound, but rarely, if ever, will such protests extend to those below.
For those of us at the bottom of the said hierarchy, the inability (or refusal) to understand this simple leap of logic, is the most frustrating of those who claim to understand the supposedly common class struggle. The ideals of “comrades” and “class consciousness” ring hollow when confronted with the reality that even those who espouse the most progressive ideals are still sensitive to the “teacher’s tools”. Self-proclaimed ‘leftists’ (and other communists, socialists, anarchists, etc.) continue to promote eugenic, transphobic, prostitute, and / or racist nationalist talking points with handpicked verses from the theological schools of Marx, Stalin. , Mao, and others.
The same people then turn their tired old arguments against us, berating us for not seeing the same reality as them. Reality, which portrays trans people, sex workers, blacks and indigenous people speaking out against racism, the prostitute and transphobia in their ranks, and migrants without status privileges – as dangerous heretics seeking to sow discord and to stop progress in its tracks.
The appeal of left-wing political ideology – and its many hyphenated camps – is that it creates a world where liberation is more than a pipe dream. This makes real the hope that changes in socio-economic policy can undo centuries of colonial, fascist and white supremacist violence in the blink of an eye. If se puede, or something I guess. But this myopia comes at the expense of people who do not have the privilege of thought experiments that do not address the reality of their tenuous survival. Endless conversations about dialectical materialism, class wars, and terminally ill capitalism do little to address the current realities that plague visibly non-white people, trans people, and sex workers. The violent realities of capitalism have real and tangible consequences for those most affected by white supremacist violence and the constant refrain of “read on” does nothing to address it. The most oppressed peoples cannot bet on the theoretical liberation promised to them by leftists (usually white) berating them on how they survive capitalism. There’s not much to recommend aligning with people who deny their agency, their humanity, and their lived experiences. At best, it’s a tenuous proposition that could bear fruit after their death. And therein lies the biggest mistake that supporters of anti-capitalist thought continue to make. The insistence on denying the varied experiences of those most affected by capitalism will be the very thing that will continue to divide us all. Because class consciousness cannot come until liberation recognizes us all, makes way for realities that we do not share.