Racial nationalism and why I cannot in good faith condone the violence of borders
Okay, I’ll admit I’ve been thinking for a long time of how to express my views on the issue on “dream goals” if you will.
As many of you know, leftism can be a sort-of catch all phrase for everything from liberalism to socialism to communism to anarchism in modern Western discourse.
I’m going to talk about my journey in the world of leftism because why not? A lot of you are radicalizing left in the wake of Trump-topia, realizing that we are not (and have never truly) lived in a democracy. We live in a country founded by slavers, where Black people were the original form of capital-C Capital, where “cargo” meant human beings, where Western expansion meant Native extermination, and where so much violence was committed mostly in the name of created and enforcing the concept of private property.
I’m Afr0-Latina, and have organized with Black organizations, White leftist spaces, and Latino, immigrant, and Native organizations. The harsh discourse around “mulatto” and “quadroon” attitudes has polluted spaces in the name of purity politics — politics that arise from Black Nationalism, White Nationalism, and any bioessential ideas of who “we” really are.
My problem with Nationalism as a person with Native roots is that borders are a white supremacist construct created to decide who is with us and who is not. In my opinion, our radical dreams should not include walls and artificial borders. They should not include nazi race science. They should not include racial purity politics. They should not include bioessentialist ideas of who we “truly area” because we are never truly “born” into a set of behaviors and identities — they are all discursive and built upon signifiers we associate with physical traits.
This is not to erase or eradicate the idea that white supremacy is real, but that in my own perhaps idealist, ultra-leftist opinion, my goal is not to live in a world where I am expected to identify and behave in certain ways because of my ethnic background, and where people who we currently identify as white will no longer associate their skin tone with “normalcy,” power, violence, or alienation from empathy. In other words, the goal is not to interpret whiteness but to abolish it.
Nationalism is a potent drug for those without resources and racial purity politics are always aimed at injured or seemingly injured parties. If you ask white nationalists why they want their own nation, it is because they feel aggrieved by other races. If you ask Zionists why they want a nation-state, it is because they (more rightfully) feel aggrieved by White supremacists. The problem begins when we notice that once you build a border, a wall, the decision of who is on either side of it inevitably includes people who inherently belong to both communities.
I started off with more nationalist ideas against whiteness — that we must remove the oppressor completely to find our identity as African and Afro-diasporic peoples and thrive. But watching other forms of identity nationalism fail and attack the wrong groups pushed me to question my stance.
For example, gender purity politics. Who is really a woman? Who is really “femme”? What is a “butch” versus a “man” versus a “male”? These lines are blurred and manipulated by those who believe anyone born with a penis is inherently associated with oppressive behavior, that there is something essential to our genitals that decides how we will rule and who we will protect. The problem begins when there are people assigned female at birth who take that sensitive definition of “femme” to victimize themselves against trans women and anyone they perceive as a threat to power. The word “femme” has been so removed from its Black and queer roots that to say someone is femme means nothing consistent about their identity with anyone else using the term. And frankly, it’s not a word I care about or am interested in, but as “femme” becomes a way for CAFAB (coercively assigned female at birth) trans people to alienate and push out trans women and trans feminine people, it is also becoming a form of gender separatism and nationalism. And just as not all my skinfolk are my kinfolk, neither are all “femmes.” I might have long hair and enjoy pink, but do I have anything in common with CAFAB non-binary people who use the term to simultaneously claim they are oppressed while integrating into misogynist ideas of what Black women are and are not? When you distance yourself from Black womanhood, are you pointing at us and saying “no, don’t treat me like her” not because you care about us, but because you are just more deserving of humane treatment?
Again, it is not integral to me how gender nationalism evolves to the modern era, but rather how we move away from it. I myself am dysphoric with my own body — its color, its shape, its history, its origins, its pleasure and its pain. Vulgar materialists might say it is because I do not associate with womanhood, but I would say womanhood as defined by white women does not associate with me. Ultimately, I am not “femme” regardless of what I wear, and neither is my partner as long as they do not “pass” for “femme” whatever that means to the individual essentialist in question.
I extend this form of nationalism to my identity within other nationalist communities. Where does a mixed race person sit within ethnic nationalism? Where as at first, I assumed that Black and African communities would welcome me, it has become increasingly obvious that Blackness can be revoked when your politics around nationalism change.
At the suggestion that borders were violent, one can quickly be labeled an anarchist, a post-leftist, white-washed, and even have their gender “re-assessed” by the “femmes” in question. Are you a butch anarchist non-black POC as soon as you question borders? The answer, for some nationalists, is yes. You’re only one of us when you agree with us.
What then does it mean to not want borders or a nation-state? Does it mean I would like to live side-by-side by my oppressor, or that I cannot define him?
I say no: it means he cannot define me. It means I cannot depend on someone to “be” white or male based on how they were born. White race-traitors and those who reject manhood continue to be my accomplices. I do not centralize a leader or a racial or gender purity politic to accomplish my goals.
When I lean towards anarchism, I clarify I mean a world without rulers, not a world without rules. A decentralization of power, and a removal of concepts like borders and hard-and-fast identity politics, allows ideas and goals to be removed from physical markers and genitals.
In the same way that I cannot say the white colonizers who raped my ancestors have much in common with how I behave today, I cannot say much about how related I am to modern day “femmes.” A nationalism based on these markers can never and will never decolonize me.
I am not interested in replacing one hegemonic idea of what Black or Native people are with another. I am not interested in worrying what shade my children will be born as, and whether or not they will be welcome across my border or not. I am not interested in DNA tests or historical rewriting of people’s identities.
Instead I ask myself what will help people now and how can we betray people who profit off of our suffering? When will I feed someone next? When will I extricate resources from the greedy and give them to our people dying in our streets while buildings stand empty?
This is all not to say that I eradicate racial analysis for a class one, but that I will continue and always consider an intersectional idea of who I can support and how, and stop assuming people that look like me, share physical, biological or genetic traits with me, or sound like me are in solidarity with me. I commit to never thinking up how to build a prison or a wall or a cage until I think up how to build a way to feed and house those in need.