the defenestrator


The defenestrator is Philly's sporadic newspaper for resistance, creative revolution, and action. To defenestrate Power means total refusal of its tools and tentacles. Like the Hussites who had their oppressors thrown down from the Prague castle into the angry mob below, the defenestrator wrestles power and privilege from its highest and most protected strongholds and casts the beast out of the window and down into the angry hands of the people.

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Excerpt from
A guide for
21st Century
The White Volume

Melissa Moore, Detail from Norwegian Landscapes 2.0. Photograph, 2012.

October 8, 2014

Why does it all matter?

What is the “truth”? I put truth in quotes here because I don’t want people to get derailed and I think it is important to note that this truth that I speak of is the relative truth, the day-to-day-lived-experience truth. Spiritually speaking however, I believe there is also an “ultimate truth” (I am not speaking monotheistically here) that is much more expansive then the truths that we live in our day-to-day realities1. I hold both truths with equal value, especially when we are talking about dismantling something so omnipresent as white supremacy. The truth is that white bodies are valued over black bodies (and all other bodies) and this idea is solidified in all of the structures that we all participate in. The truth is that black bodies are not given equal humanization as white bodies and this legacy has carried on for hundreds of years in this country and beyond. The truth is that the covert and overt violence that black folks live with, move through the world with, and play out on each other because of systems in place that reinforce the devaluation of our bodies is deeply woven into the fabric of this place we call “home”. The truth is that anti-blackness is the fundamental building block for uplifting, perpetuating, and expanding the capitalist/economic structures that have been put into place to continue a cycle of stratification, competition, and separation. The truth is that anti-blackness and racism are tools. Just as erasing the humanity of enslaved Africans by severing a whole people from their cosmology, lineage, and place were tools needed for colonization, the dehumanization of black bodies from that time until today is a tool used to create the illusion of the “American Dream”. This white supremacist tool and methodology has been used all over the world, particularly to dehumanize Africa and was/is also used in different but related ways to colonize indigenous peoples on this land and beyond. The truth of this illusion is that no matter how much monetary or social capital a black person has access to, we are still racialized and regarded as a body with less human value and one that is a threat to whiteness2. There have been and continue to be many skilled methods used to hide these truths from most people. However, those claiming to be working in the context of solidarity should always be cognizant of the low hanging fruit of race/racism analysis (such as the prison industrial complex) and do the necessary research in order to better understand what it is we are all existing in. This minimal description of structural racism is one arm of this prolific organism. Dismantling relational racism, I believe, is the forgotten place that holds the richness for dismantling structural racism and the place where real solidarity movement building can and does take place.

The truth is that the covert and overt violence that black folks live with, move through the world with, and play out on each other because of systems in place that reinforce the devaluation of our bodies is deeply woven into the fabric of this place we call “home”.

What does it look like?

One way to start the work of building3 and sustaining a 21st Century Solidarity movement begins with stripping away the cuticle of complacency from your eyes and mind’s eye. When you commit to doing this, you are acknowledging that there is more to see, more to notice, more to let go of and more to understand. When you lift away this cuticle, you could ask yourself if there are more cuticles to be lifted after this one. Depending on where you are currently on your journey, lifting this cuticle of complacency may be the one catalyst that you need in order to understand that this stripping away is not a one shot deal. You may have the forethought to see that this cuticle is thick and that it will require a lifetime of stripping away. Acknowledging and resting in the space of understanding that this is a life-long journey may alleviate some of the barriers that prevent white people from engaging and finding their way on this journey in the first place (white guilt, shame, embarrassment, ego, superiority, feeling overwhelmed, self-hate etc.). If you are just beginning this journey or at a very rudimentary place (which in my experiences, most white folks are), then your mind may trick you into believing that this lifting happens once and that is all it takes to be awake. Deeper movement into this work continues by employing the inner voice. Uncovering the authenticity of the inner voice so that the inner voice can move toward accountability and then toward dismantling (we will get to dismantling later in this guide). Not only do white people need to start explicitly giving voice to the realities that white supremacy exists, white/white-presenting privilege exists, anti-blackness exists and that these racist/dehumanizing structures (colonization: beginning with stealing Africans from their homeland, using capitalist constructs to sell these black humans, and from their de-humanization over hundreds of years, building the most economically powerful country in the world) have been the bedrock that our modern social, political, judicial, and economic institutions have been built upon. White people need to begin to go deeper than you ever have before by learning all you can about these structures, building an understanding of their insidiousness and nuances, teasing them apart, and dismantling it from the inside out4. Until this begins to happen in white people’s hearts, minds, and bodies, solidarity built on truth and sustainability cannot happen.

1. The ultimate truth of interdependence, human-ness and beyond human-ness.

2. As in slavery, our monetary value is still very much of great importance because black bodies reinforce and build up the institutions of capitalism: prisons, policing, and entertainment for white people and white institutions.

3. I use the word “building” instead of “creating” in order to acknowledge that some work has already begun.

4. Inside refers to in the body, mind, spirit of the white person and then on the “inside” of your learning spaces, work places, institutions, community spaces, on the street, relationships, and beyond.

posted in: theory


October 8, 2014

On May 5th Democracy Now! featured Al Jazeera journalist Salah Hassan, who had been imprisoned and tortured at Abu Ghraib. He is a plaintiff in a case that seeks to hold private military contractor CACI International accountable for their role at the American military torture and imprisonment facility at Abu Ghraib. However, in September, a judge dismissed the case. If those who were tortured by the military contractors lose their appeal, they could be ordered to pay CACI International more than $14,000.

Those who proclaim that they are outraged at the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (or Guantanamo Bay), but are in favor of the U.S. foreign policy, are standing in contradiction

Amy Goodman, the host of Democracy Now!, spoke with Hassan on the tenth anniversary of the release of the photos that exposed the torture at Abu Ghraib. Goodman asked about his treatment at Abu Ghraib; Hassan explained that he was ordered to undress and, though he initially refused to disrobe, the guards threatened to forcibly remove his clothes if he failed to comply. He stressed that undressing in front of others is a violation of his honor, family and cultural values. Hassan went from being a human to being nothing: “These were very difficult moments. I transformed, in a second, from a journalist on the ground who has a social status and people look at me in a certain way—I have my familial and social values and status—to a humiliated person stripped down forcefully, very naked, helpless.”

Goodman asked Hassan to respond to Donald Rumsfeld’s comment on a memo about “Counter-Resistance Techniques.” Rumsfeld wrote, “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?” Hassan pointed out that choosing to work on your feet all day and being forced to stand all day (while naked) are obviously different.

The difference is significant, and it begs the question: what is torture? Standing for long periods of times is not, in itself, torture, but when one is forced to do this, it becomes a method of torture. Marnia Lazreg argues in her book, Torture and the Twilight of Empire, that we have to look at the “torture situation”—that is, the totalizing relationship between the torturer and the tortured—to understand how standing or slapping can be constituted as a form of torture. So, when the guards at Abu Ghraib told the prisoners that they were going to rape and/or kill them and/or their family, or when guards urinated on them, or when the guards forced them to masturbate, all of this has to be understood as part of a totalizing atmosphere of the torture situation.

Rumsfeld issued an apology in 2004 stating that, though he didn’t know it was happening, he accepted responsibility. He described the treatment of prisoners as “un-American” and “inconsistent with the values of our nation.” However, Lynndie England, one of the guards prosecuted for her role at Abu Ghraib, suggested in an interview with Michael Streck and Jan-Christoph Wiechmann that this type of treatment was happening all over Iraq and that she believed Rumsfeld knew about it.

Both proclaim their regret and their adherence to the values of the nation. However, this raises two other important points that strike at the underlying issue. First, those who proclaim that they are outraged at the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (or Guantanamo Bay), but are in favor of the U.S. foreign policy, are standing in contradiction. One cannot support U.S. imperialism and oppose the methods necessary for the maintenance of that policy. Second, those Americans who torture are not in opposition to America’s ‘values’ as Rumsfeld claims; those who torture uphold these values by inscribing them upon the bodies and minds of the declared ‘enemy’.

In other words, if we accept U.S. imperialism, then we must accept the techniques that are necessary to carry out this policy. U.S. imperialism is not a new policy and goes back to the founding of this country. Likewise, the technique of torture is not a new tool of U.S. foreign policy and was highly developed during the Cold War. Therefore, those who torture (Lynndie England) and those who sanction torture (Donald Rumsfeld) are not in contradiction with American values because torture is an American value.

posted in: theory