by Eve Tuck, Allison Guess and Hannah Sultan
If, as David Herman proposes, “storytellers use deictic points and other gestures to map abstract, geometrically describable spaces onto lived, humanly experienced places,” then the subjective component of space turns it into an infinite series of authorships—or so it seems—wherein speaking subjects both define it and are defined by it.
–Hortense Spillers, Topographical Topics: Faulknerian Space, 2004, p. 535
Do you remember where we are? No way where we are is here.
–Fred Moten, Blackness and Nothingness (Mysticism in the Flesh), 2013, p. 743
We write to you from the middle of something.
It may not really be the middle, but it is not the end and it is not the beginning.
We write to you from somewhere, though as we write we are geographically dispersed. We write as collaborators in the truest sense–committed to one another’s personal, political, poetical, and professional projects. But our collaboration is contingent because of how we are differently implicated and invested, differently coded, by settler colonialism, Indigenous erasure, and antiblackness.
We repeat the story of how we came to collaborate carefully, because every time we retell it, it ignores how the rest of us came to know one another and choose again and choose again to work in contingent partnership. Eve and Mistinguette Smith met several years ago at a summer institute hosted by the Public Science Project. When they learned that they were both researching and theorizing relationships to land–Eve as an Unangan ciswoman scholar and Mistinguette as a Black woman/founder of The Black/Land Project–they agreed to find a future way to be in connection and conversation.
Along with Allison, Hannah, Tavia Benjamin and other members of The Black/Land Project, Mistinguette has worked for the past three years to interview and record the narratives of members of many Black communities as they describe their relationships to land as Black people, however that identity presents itself in their lives. Eve has theorized decolonization of Indigenous land (with K. Wayne Yang), Land education (with Marcia McKenzie and Kate McCoy) and the significance of place in social science research (with Marcia McKenzie). What is important about that first fifteen minute encounter between Mistinguette and Eve is that they discussed the tripled relationships between Indigenous peoples, Africans-made-into-chattel, and white settlers (see also Byrd, 2011; Tuck & Yang, 2012; Wilderson, 2010). We discussed these tripled relationships as antagonisms (Wilderson, 2010), but also spoke of the need for more thought and attention given to the relationships between Indigenous peoples and Black peoples. This is to say that the imbrication of settler colonialism and antiblackness was what sparked our collaboration– but more, our desire has been to supersede the conventions of settler colonialism and antiblackness toward another kind of futurity. Not knowing that futurity is what makes our collaboration contingent, but knowing that there are many futurities available to us brings us to the work. This post is meant to be in conversation with other Black writers and Indigenous writers on land, Indigenous dispossession, and antiblackness, but also Indigenous sovereignty and futurity, Black futurity and optimism, and again, land.
by Andrea Smith
While both Black and Native studies scholars have rightfully argued that it is important to look at the distinctness of both anti-Blackness and Indigenous genocide, sometimes this focus on the distinctness obscures how, in fact, they are mutually reinforcing. There is much to be said about these interconnections, and this work has been explored by many in this blog series, in the #decolonizesaam Twitter discussion on anti-Blackness, and elsewhere. Here, I want to focus on how anti-Blackness and Indigenous genocide are connected through colonialism, and further expand on how colonialism constructs both the labor of Indigenous and Black peoples, in particular and different ways, in order to secure the settler state. In this article I want to focus on how settler colonialism is enabled through the erasure of colonialism against Black peoples as well as the erasure of Indigenous labor, with a particular emphasis on some of the legal proceedings that undergird these processes.
by Moyo Rainos Mutamba
“Black people have been in Canada since 1604. Their contribution to the nation-building process is, however, subject to erasure and their presence is often taken as a sign of trouble, “a problem.” Furthermore, African Canadians, in spite of their long history in Canada are seen as recent immigrants and thus not a part of the historical memory of the nation. Erasing the African Canadian presence retroactively liberates Canada from the context and rich histories of the Black Diaspora, and the Trans Atlantic World.” (Black Canadian Studies Association, 2013)
As evidenced in this conference call from the Black Canadian Studies Association (BSCA), the mythology of the colonial Canadian state, as founded by the English and the French – on the backs and lands of Original Peoples – is being opened up for racialized communities to seek a respectable place in it. The conference call claims that Afrikans played a crucial role in building the Canadian nation state and, therefore, should be included in the national historiography.
Seeking inclusion could be strategic, given the multiple ways Afrikans have suffered within the confines of the colonial state. As the Canadian state consolidates its colonial hold through various juridical, discursive, and coercive means, violence against Afrikans increases. Given the depth of anti-black racism, the expansion of the prison industrial complex that affects many of our peoples, the economic and social deprivation, political disenfranchisement, and the reality that the racist apparatuses of the colonial Canadian nation state have violently erased and made invisible the histories of Afrikan peoples, it makes sense that we might seek freedom via any means possible.
However, the violence of colonial inclusion, perpetuated by this approach for redress, is untenable. The history of Afrikan peoples on this land is not a history of nation building; nor is it is not a history of conquest, displacement, or genocide – the methods in which nation-states are formed. Afrikans, at times, have been forced, to be participants in a colonial project that was and is always intended for the benefit of white settlers. We should not wish to be included in the nation state; inclusion is not freedom. History shows how the white supremacist colonial state of Canada strategically desires our inclusion at times, to further its colonial agenda, only to exclude us to sustain its racist, anti-black agenda. To be included in the nation-state is to be in a colonial relationship with Original Peoples of this land, and inclusion necessarily comes at the expense of Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. To avoid perpetuating colonial relationships with the Original Peoples of this land, Afrikans need to reflect on our history here, our relationships with Original Peoples and continue working to practice decolonial solidarity against and beyond the nation state.
A Wall is Just a Wall: Anti-Blackness and the Politics of Black and Prison Abolitionist Solidarity with Palestinian Struggle
by Che Gossett“It is possible for prison walls
For the cell to become a distant land
Without frontiers” – Mahmoud Darwish “A wall is just a wall and nothing more at all. It can be broken down”
–Assata Shakur “One might have hoped that, by this hour, the very sight of chains on Black flesh, or the very sight of chains, would be so intolerable a sight for the American people, and so unbearable a memory, that they would themselves spontaneously rise up and strike off the manacles. But, no, they appear to glory in their chains; now, more than ever, they appear to measure their safety in chains and corpses.”
James Baldwin, “Open Letter to Angela Davis”
As a Black trans/gender queer femme who works with/in trans studies I am hyper aware of the ways in which Blackness complicates trans studies. There is a need for new language and concepts, considering how, within the U.S. white supremacist settler and enslavement estate, Blackness has always figured as gender trangressive. Terms like “cisgender,” ultimately lack the explanatory power to account for the colonial and anti-Black foundational violence of slavery and indigenous genocide through which the gender binary itself was historically instituted. For me, trans studies begins in/as Black and Native studies.
(Anti)blackness also complicates decolonial studies. I am currently working on a project, focusing on the legacies of Black queer solidarity with Palestinian struggle in a time a carceral regimes and settler colonial continuity, for which I peruse the archives of June Jordan, James Baldwin and also Bayard Rustin. Yet there are critical limits to the historical as the sole means through which to explain and understand the politics of Black solidarity with Palestinian struggle. While there are rich archival sources that document Black solidarity with and in opposition to Palestinian liberation movement(s) – ranging from SNCC, to the Black Panther Party to Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin – scholarship on anti-blackness, ranging from work by Hortense Spillers, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Fred Moten, Frank Wilderson, Saidiya Hartman, Christina Sharpe, Jared Sexton, Ronald Judy, Sherman Jackson, Joy James and many others, is crucial to understanding anti-blackness and finally, how anti-blackness, when left in the “position of the unthought” undermines political solidarity.
by Tiffany King
For the past few weeks a convergence of social media discussions on reparations, Shona Jackson’s book Creole Indigeneity: Between Myth and Nation in the Caribbean, and her recent post “Humanity beyond the Regime of Labor,” as well as my own thinking about Black Studies’ engagement with Conquest have all compelled me to think critically about the issue of Black labor. I would like to take a moment to focus on the conceptual limits of labor as an epistemic frame for thinking about Blackness (as bodies and discourse) and its relationship to settler colonialism. I am particularly concerned about the ways that Black labor may crowd out Black fungibility as a conceptual frame for thinking about Blackness within settler colonial discourses.
Humanity beyond the Regime of Labor: Antiblackness, Indigeneity, and the Legacies of Colonialism in the Caribbean
by Shona N. Jackson
In 1970, the late Caribbean historian Elsa Goveia wrote that what unifies Caribbean society and culture is the subordination of blacks. It is a claim that has been roundly ignored within contemporary political and cultural work that seeks to frame Caribbean cultures in terms of survival, continuity, transformation, and the embrace of blackness. Goveia’s words, however, are as true today as they were then. Blacks were brought in to work on Dutch, French, British and other plantations because they were seen as the absolute lowest point of humanity. They could not be redeemed, even as Gentiles, as the Dominican friar Bartolomé de Las Casas strove to do for Indigenous peoples within the Spanish territories in the 16th century. This anti-blackness became foundational for the societies that ultimately emerged from colonialism.
However, this anti-blackness cannot be understood apart from the subordination of Indigenous peoples in early Empire, under colonialism, and ultimately in postcolonial nationalism throughout the Caribbean. Most writers and theorists tell us that blacks had to be brought into the Caribbean because its Indigenous peoples disappeared or were too weak to work on plantations. This uncritical argument, that the disappearance of Indigenous peoples was the reason for the introduction of black, and later indentured labor, hinders us from seeing how these two causalities are in fact irrevocably yoked.
Failing to Ford the River: “Oregon Trail”, Same-Sex Marriage Rhetoric, and the Intersections of Anti-Blackness and Settler Colonialism
by T.J. Tallie
On May 19, 2014, U.S. federal judge Michael McShane struck down Oregon’s state ban on same-sex marriage, finding that the law violated the constitutional right to equal protection under the law. In his ruling, McShane argued:
My decision will not be the final word on this subject, but on this issue of marriage I am struck more by our similarities than our differences. I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure. With discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community.
The marriage decision was a cause for much celebration in Oregon and beyond. In response, the California same-sex marriage advocacy group, Equality California, released an image to celebrate the announcement in Oregon. The graphic adapted a scene from the ending of Oregon Trail, the popular 1980s-1990s educational video game, which read, “Congratulations! You have made it to marriage in Oregon!” Equality California likely intended to play upon a sense of shared childhood nostalgia for a historic game, as a means of celebrating a historic achievement for same-sex marriage. However, the image itself demonstrates a profound connection to histories of settler colonialism, anti-black legislation, and anti-Indigenous violence. Indeed, the May 19 Oregon Trail image offers a powerful lens for understanding the invested and intertwined histories of colonial violence and sexual modernity.