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35 Comments

  1. Bernard Welt said,

    March 28, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Wait, you’re telling me I’m up against a *woman*?
    Just tell me what I need to do to win this thing.

  2. Danteday said,

    March 28, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    “I will tell the secret to you,
    to you, only to you.
    Come closer. This song

    is a cry for help: Help me!
    Only you, only you can,
    you are unique

    at last. Alas
    it is a boring song
    but it works every time.”

  3. Bob Tonucci said,

    March 28, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Not just “a woman,” Mr. Welt, but a woman of great poetic talents, who already walloped Donald Justice in a previous round…..

  4. thomasbrady said,

    March 28, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Mr. Welt,

    The Scarriet March Madness Committee wrestled with this issue for months and finally decided to make the tournament co-ed…

    “Just tell me what I need to do to win this thing.”

    You might feel the need to jettison one or two lines at this stage. You might even want to add one. Don’t. Rules strictly forbid poets from rewrites in the middle of tournaments. We won’t budge on this!

    My advice is:

    Pound the boards.

    Or bribe the refs.

    Tom

    • March 31, 2014 at 2:17 am

      Dear Tom, I’m reminded of a professor of mine in journalism school who liked to “quiz” us students. I was taking his course in “International Communication and the Foreign Press.” He wrote “Le Monde” on the blackboard and said, “And what does that mean”? I answered under my breath, “Die Welt.” But he heard my answer, turned around smiling, and said, “It means Die Welt”? Unfortunately the story doesn’t have a happy ending because the following semester (at least it was too late for him to take my ‘A’ back) he took the side of one of his colleagues in a bitter dispute I had with this other man. But, then, as I may have noted before on this blog, I once read in a popular psychology column in some newspaper or magazine, “A death wish a day keeps the doctor away.” He provides grist for that!
      Tom, I think maybe you have several e-mail addresses for Scarriet. Am I right? Do you check dooxy.graves@gmail.com as often as you do your other e-mail addresses? I ask because that’s where I sent my “newsprint collage” of Johann Gutenberg. Of course if you don’t want to use it, that’s all right, but I just want to make sure you’ve had a chance to see it. Yours, David

      • April 20, 2014 at 2:36 am

        xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
        Since it was Vachel Lindsay who renewed my whole interest in poetry with his beautiful poem, “The Eyes of Queen Esther and How They Conquered King Ahasueros,” and since today is Easter, maybe it would be fitting to submit “The Hope of the Resurrection,” one of two “Easter Stanzas” Lindsay wrote. (I don’t like the second as much, but if I’m not too tired by the time I finish entering “I,” then maybe I’ll enter “II,” also.

        “The Hope of the Resurrection”
        By Vachel Lindsay

        Though I have watched so many mourners weep
        O’er the real dead, in dull earth laid asleep–
        Those dead seemed but the shadows of my days
        That passed and left me in the sun’s bright rays.
        Now though you go on smiling in the sun
        Our love is slain, and love and you were one.
        You are the first, you I have known so long,
        Whose death was deadly, a tremendous wrong.
        Therefore I took the faith that sets it right.
        I think of Heaven, for in that air so clear
        We two may meet, confused and parted here.
        Ah, when man’s dearest dies, ’tis then he goes
        To that old balm that heals the centuries’ woes.
        Then Christ’s wild cry in all the streets is rife:–
        “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

        • April 20, 2014 at 2:58 am

          zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
          All right, I still feel like I’m on a roll. I’ll submit Easter Stanza II.

          “We Meet at the Judgment and I fear it Not”
          By Vachel Lindsay

          Though better men may fear that trumpet’s warning,
          I meet you, lady, on the Judgment morning,
          With golden hope my spirit still adorning.

          Our God who made you all so fair and sweet
          Is three times gentle, and before his feet
          Rejoicing I shall say:– “The girl you gave
          Was my first Heaven, an angel bent to save.
          Oh, God, her maker, if my ingrate breath
          Is worth this rescue from the Second Death,
          Perhaps her dear proud eyes grow gentler too
          That scorned my graceless years abd trophies few.
          Gone are those years, and gone ill-deeds that
          turned.
          Her sacred beauty from my songs that burned.
          We now as comrades through the stars may take
          The rich and arduous quests I did forsake.
          Grant me a seraph-guide to thread the throng
          And quickly find that woman-soul so strong.
          I dream that in her deeply-hidden heart
          Hurt love lived on, though we were far apart,
          A brooding secret mercy like your own
          That blooms today to vindicate your throne.

          • Gerald Parker said,

            April 20, 2014 at 3:09 am

            Happy Estrogen Sunday!

          • April 20, 2014 at 3:13 am

            Tom, can you please make one correction….in line no. 11, the third word from the end should be “and.” I have it misspelled as “abd.” Thanks and Happy Easter.

    • October 2, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Dear Tom, Please forgive me for sticking this into just any good place I could find on your blog, but a couple weeks ago I tried e-mailing you at that address of yours that began with “doog,” and it must not have worked or gotten through or something. Anyway, all I wanted to say is that I hope you haven’t given up on me as a Scarriet contributor. The problem is that the seven computers in our computer lab here at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm are on their last legs and badly need to be replaced. But I believe that will come soon, seeing as how our old chairs in the lab have just been replaced with seven brand-new chairs upholstered in some leather-like material. So I look forward to being a Scarriet blogger again, and the first new piece I will probably do will concern some unfinished business from high school. My English Achievement test required a writing sample, and at that time of my life I was not a spontaneous writer. What I wrote must have paled in acceptable length and in substance. The subject we were given to write about was status symbols, and today I’m sure I could do a creditable job–especially with as much experience as I’ve had in the 40-odd years since high school! Yours, David

  5. Bernard Welt said,

    March 28, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Isn’t there some way I could just real, real dirty?

    • Bernard Welt said,

      March 28, 2010 at 11:13 pm

      Wait, that should say FIGHT real dirty! Oh God, am I gonna get penalized for sloppy blogposting?!
      I was kind of hoping to get through this by elbowing someone rather than by blowing someone, but whatever . . .

      • Bernard Welt said,

        March 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm

        Wait, there’s no way to remove your own comments at this site?! First thought is SO not best thought.

  6. thomasbrady said,

    March 28, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    It’s OK to be nervous, this is a very prestigious tournament, single elimination, the Kennedy Center…

    We can all understand the pressure you’re feeling right now…the final four with your next win…perfectly understandable… a few jitters…

    No penalites for sloppy blogposting…it’s all about the poem…

    Marla, get him a drink or something…

  7. art predator said,

    July 20, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Glad I came across your site! Looks like you’re having fun poking holes in Poetry. Good idea to have a post that lets people know your comment policy and that everyone’s first comment is held in moderation.

    FYI–Commenters don’t have to have a WordPress account to comment. It can make it easier or fancier but unless you the admin blocks the comment function, people can comment.

  8. jk said,

    March 14, 2012 at 10:14 am

    This piece was written by Will, a close comrade to many members of Black Orchid Collective.

    Notes on Privilege Theory
    Introduction: White Supremacy Lives on

    It is crystal clear that white supremacy exists. It seeps through every pore in our society. It infects every social relationship. It obviously affects Occupy Wall Street.

    Everyone knows the wealth divide, the incarceration numbers, gentrification, the education gap and more are part of the class and racial oppression of the United States. All this is obvious. More politically contentious matters are the social interactions, which are racialized in negative ways in society and specifically in OWS. It is always painful, because at best we hope movement spaces are places where people can finally engage with one another on universal-human terms. However, it is not a surprise that even in movement spaces people experience white supremacy. Our society is saturated with it, so to expect non-racialized human relations in the movement would be utopian.

    The combination of structural oppression based on race and class, the history of white supremacy and capitalism, and how that affects people’s interactions with one another, has led to a school of thought called Privilege theory. Privilege theory recognizes structural and historical oppression, but has an undue focus on individual behavior and thoughts as a major way of addressing white supremacy (and other oppressions, but I will tend to focus on white supremacy and class). Privilege theory has a set of basic principles: a) Privilege theory argues that movement spaces should be safe for all oppressed groups. One way to make such a space safe is by negotiating one anothers’ actions in non-oppressive ways. For example, this means straight white men should talk less or think about the privileges they have when discussing an action or political question. b) Privilege theory justifies that militancy and political sophistication is the domain of a privileged elite based on class, gender and racial privileges. c) Privilege theory roots political and strategic mistakes in the personal privileges that people bring into the movement. d) Privilege theory seeks to deal with these issues primarily through education, teach-ins and conversations. This piece will point out key failures in all four principles of Privilege theory. It will tentatively lay out some ways forward, while recognizing more research and, more importantly, more struggle is needed to resolve some of the outstanding problems facing the movement.

    There is certainly a long history of people of color facing white supremacy inside the movement. However they have tended to focus around programmatic and organizational critiques. Areas where deficiencies could be more easily seen and addressed. For example, if a group does not organize around Black prisoners, it can be addressed by having political discussions, changing the program of the group, and making an organizing orientation towards Black prisoners. Privilege theory addresses this by claiming that someone’s privilege creates a blind spot to the reality of incarceration of Black men.
    Another aspect of oppression Privilege theorists tackle are social interactions. However, it becomes much harder to objectively assess if a white man’s glance objectifies a person because of the color of their skin; if a white man yelling at a person of color is due to race, if it is a non-racialized-gendered reaction to political differences; or if a white man is taking up a lot of space because of his privilege or because he needs to speak because he simply has something valid/ important to say.

    There is no doubt that in any organization or movement, where this is common behavior, people of color will either not join or leave after some time. But at the same time, any movement/ organization which spends tons of time on this will no longer be a fighting organization/ movement and eventually people of color will leave. It will become talk shops or consciousness raising circles. In a period when the NYPD are killing Black and Latino men with impunity, schools are being closed in POC neighborhoods, anti-Muslim propaganda is rampant, and immigrants are deported every day, few will join a group which only focuses on inter-personal relationships. They key is to understand the tension and get the balance right.

    At the same time it is undeniable that that many POC believe this to be a serious way to deal with white supremacy. That many believe a movement can be built from Privilege Theory’s political and strategic claims. Privilege Theory has come to be the dominant trend under specific historical circumstances, which I will briefly address. I believe this to be a false strategy, ultimately failing to actually solve the problems Privilege Theory wishes to address.

    Probably every person of color has experienced some variety of interaction described above. First, lets discuss the complexities: when this happens, even amongst people of color there is disagreement over the perception of what the interactions meant. Understanding the seriousness of the charge is tied up with the white militants’ past behavior or track record. People of color are also coming in with their own experiences with white supremacy. This certainly affects how they see social relationships. Lastly, some agreement has to be found that as a general rule people who join the movement are not white supremacists. This should be a fundamental assumption, otherwise, we are left with the ridiculous and suicidal political reality that we are building a movement with white supremacists. So that leaves us dealing with racial alienation or white chauvinism by people who we assume are against white supremacy. That seems to be a crucial point that needs to be recognized.

    Usually people of color want acknowledgement that something fucked up happened. It is true that generally, most white militants flip out. On one hand the white militants grasp the seriousness of the accusation, but on the other hand, in their defense, they fail to give recognition of how another person of color perceived an event. The white militant usually acts as if the theory of white supremacy infecting everything stops with their mind and body when they are accused of anything. This is understandable, as no serious militant should take such accusations lightly.

    This is particularly important as people of color, based on all the shit that happens to them, tend to see the world differently, and are obviously sensitive to racial slights. The lack of recognition usually escalates the situation as the person of color tends to feel, what is “objectively true” falls back on how the white militant defines reality. At such a point, productive conversation usually breaks down.
    Lastly things are more complicated today because white supremacy is much more coded today in language and behavior. No one in the movement is going to call anyone nigger. People actually did so in the 1910s, 20s, and 30s. No one is going to say that a person of color should not speak because of their color of their skin. Things are not that clear. This is partially a sign that struggles of people of color have forced white-supremacy’s anti-POC language to take a different form. However, white supremacy still exists. In the media for example talk of crime or poverty is code word for lazy Black or Latino people who ruin paradise for the hard working great white citizens of America. Exactly how white supremacy works in coded language and behavior in the movement is still something that needs to be investigated.

    While the difficulties of being a person of color militant in movements is difficult as hell, there are certain odd problems of being a white militant in the movement. People of color enter the movement expecting better racial relationships. This is certainly fair. This usually means that white male militants are expected to take up less space, talk less, etc. Every personal interaction, while always influenced by the weight of history, cannot be judged solely by that dimension alone. For example, Black people have been slaves in the US and specifically servants to white masters. Extrapolating that historical past to the social interaction when a Black man or woman gets a white friend a cup of water would be ridiculous. There is always agency and freedom in the actions we participate in today. They are always shaped by race, class gender, sexuality and history; but we are not completely trapped by the crimes of the past either. Otherwise friendship, love, camaraderie would be impossible. The very possibility of any form of human social relationship would be destroyed. We would be parroting the past and dogmatically replicating it in the present.

    Usually, after acknowledgement, things can be left at that. However, sometimes deeper organizational and political issues come up. Especially if a person of color says there is a pattern/ history of such behavior. If this is the case, it should be dealt with in terms of organizational and political dynamics. The limitations of privilege politics in dealing with such situations will be spelt out later.

    Fanon, Black Liberation, and Humanity

    The most sophisticated traditions in Black liberation have struggled to deal with such problems. Revolutionaries such as Frantz Fanon in Black Skin and White Masks (BSWM) used the philosophical tools of Phenomenology to explore the experience of consciousness/ lived experience of people of color. This tradition in the movement is sadly dead. In light of his investigations of Phenomenology, there is strong evidence in Fanon’s writings and practice in his life showing that conversation cannot solve such racialized experiences; only the most militant and violent struggle can cleanse racialized human relations. The United States has not experienced high levels of struggles in over 50 years. Major problems develop because of the lack of militant struggle in the country.

    Fanon also left a puzzling legacy by writing Black Skin, White Masks, which often is used to justify privilege theory. However, two problems exist with such a treatment of BSWM. The first is that this book was part of Fanon’s development; his working out of problems he saw and experienced. Second and more importantly, almost all privilege theorists ignore the introduction and conclusion of the work. This is strange considering those two chapters are the theoretical framework of the book. In these two chapters Fanon expresses equality with all of humanity and denies anyone demanding reparations or guilt of any kind for past historical oppressions. What else can Fanon mean by, “I do not have the right to allow myself to be mired in what the past has determined. I am not the slave of the Slavery that dehumanized my ancestors. I as a man of color do not have the right to hope that in the white man there will be a crystallization of guilt toward the past of my race.” The gendered language aside, this stands in stark contrast to privilege theory.

    Fanon stands at the heights of attempting to reconcile the experiences of oppression with the need to develop human interactions and the necessity of changing them through militant struggle. There is no doubt that Fanon’s attempt to have human interactions with white people constantly clashed with white people’s racialized interactions with him. In other words, white people do talk to people of color in condescending ways, dismiss POC issues as secondary, ignore POC etc. The issue is how to address it when it happens and in that realm Privilege theory fails.

    Privilege theory puts too much weight on consciousness and education. It ends up creating a politics of guilt by birth. At the same time, there is no doubt that more education is needed on the history of white supremacy in the United States and on a global level. Furthermore, the relationship of white supremacy and its effect on consciousness is vital and a legitimate field of politics and philosophical inquiry. W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Michelle Wallace, Frantz Fanon and others have all made vital contributions in the United States regarding this tradition. Re-framing the debate along such a tradition is vital.

    New social relations can only be forged in collective struggle of the most militant character. No amount of conversation and education can form new relationships. It is only the mass involvement and struggle of oppressed people which can ultimately destroy white supremacy, re-establish the humanity of people color, and create social relationships between people as one among humans instead of the racially oppressed and white oppressor.

    The Failure of Privilege Theory

    Privilege theory seeks to redress and describe the huge inequalities which materially, psychologically, and socially exist in society. While it is often accurate in its sociological analysis of such inequalities, it fails in crucial realms of actual struggle. Privilege theory ends up being a radical sociological analysis. It ends up not being a theory of struggle, but a theory of retreat. Privilege theory’s main weakness are a tendency towards reformism, a lack of politics, and a politics of retreat.

    Reformism

    Privilege theory tends towards reformism or at best the radical politics of a group of people who seek to act above the oppressed. The latter is especially important. We have lived through a century of where people claiming to represent the masses claiming revolutionary politics acting above them: Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Jawaharlal Nehru, Weather Underground, Josip Broz Tito or Julius Nyerere are just some figures who have fallen in this trap. Today the names are not so grandiose, but things are not so different.

    There is no doubt that certain groups are more likely to be targeted by the police during political actions and that the repression they face will be greater, not to mention they might have less resources to call upon in their defense. These are all fairly obvious realities of white supremacy. These factors certainly hinder greater struggle. At no point should they be underestimated. At the same time, these factors are exactly the forms of oppression which must be defeated. These movements must find ways to deal with these issues politically and organizationally. Who will defeat these forms of oppression and how? If the liberation of oppressed people must be carried out by oppressed people then the tasks of liberation remain in the hands with the people who have the greatest risks. If white supremacy can only be defeated by mass and militant action and not legislation or pithy reforms then the style of struggle is fairly clear as well. What is privilege theory’s response to these two fundamental premises? Privilege theory ends up in a dead end.

    According to its arguments, the most oppressed should not struggle in the most militant ways because they do not have the privileged access to bail money, good lawyers and not to mention their racial status which will surely guarantee extra punishment. This leaves only one group of people who can possibly resist: those with a set of privileges who have access to lawyers, have the spare time to struggle, etc. This is in sharp contrast to the revolutionary tradition which has argued that the defeat of capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, imperialism etc are the responsibilities of billions of oppressed people. This is exactly the group of people Privilege theory tends claims has so much to risk.

    No doubt huge gaps exist in speaking, writing, confidence etc amongst movement activists based on race, class, and gender. Privilege theorists are at the forefront of acknowledging this reality. However, where the task is to make sure that everyone in the movement has roughly the same skills, privilege theorists are rarely clear on how to address this, other then reminding the privileged of their privilege. Privilege theorists so far have not demonstrated how this can be dealt with.

    Privilege theory in a partially correct way grasps that people of color do not participate in many of the militant actions precisely because they face greater risk of arrest and more punishment. But instead of finding ways to get around this problem, privilege theorists fetishize this problem into a practice of demobilization and reformism.

    Lastly, Privilege theory has no response to the rich history of oppressed people who struggled in the past. In Privilege theories on words, these were some of the most under-privileged humans and yet their theories and actions were at the front of militancy and revolutionary politics. What makes the situation any different today is not clear.

    Lack of Politics

    Privilege theory de-politicizes most discussion from their most revolutionary potentials. Privilege theory has no political program other then a sociological analysis of who is more likely to be imprisoned, shot, or beaten in protests, strikes, and rebellions.

    The past struggles have been over communism, anarchism, nationalism, Maoism, anti-colonialism, African socialism etc. These struggles have fought for the defeat of capitalism, the state, patriarchy, white supremacy, and homophobia (or at least they should have fought for all their defeats if they failed to do so in actuality). The point is that the greatest struggles of the oppressed rallied around mass struggle, militancy, and revolutionary theory. Privilege theory de-centers all three.

    In the United States, generations of militants, since the defeat of the 1968 current, have developed with little revolutionary theory and organization, and even less experience in mass struggle. This has meant extremely underdeveloped politics. And at the university setting, where political theory resides, it has been generally dominated by middle class, academic, and reformist tendencies. There is little thinking through of this dynamic in the movement. At its worst, there is a sloppy linkage between any theory–even revolutionary theory — and academia, which only destroys the past tradition of oppressed people who fought so bravely to acquire the freedom to read, theorize strategies of struggle and liberation on revolutionary terms.
    Privilege theory is completely divorced from a revolutionary tradition. I have yet to meet Privilege theorists who hold classes on revolutionary politics with unemployed people, with high school drop outs, with undocumented immigrants etc. Privilege theory’s fundamental assumption exposes its proponents class background when they claim that theoretical-political knowledge is for people who come from privileged backgrounds. That is true if the only place you develop that knowledge is in universities. Privilege theorists have not built the schools the Communist Party did in the 1930s or the Panthers did in the late 1960s. These were not official universities, but the educational institutions developed by the oppressed for the oppressed.
    They claim that to act in militant ways or to theorize is the luxury of the privileged. This actually leaves no solution for freedom for the oppressed. The theory that the oppressed cannot theorize or struggle militantly is the theory of an elite who see the oppressed as helpless and stupid. It is the oppressed who must theorize and must eventually overthrow capitalism. They actually have the power.

    Political mistakes as seen by Privilege theory roots in the privileges a given person has. Usually the person is asked to check their privileges as a way to realize whatever political mistake. This obscures political and organizational conversations, instead diverting the conversation into unmeasurable ways of addressing politics. How do we know this person has checked their “privilege”? By what political and organizational means can we hold this person accountable?

    The more important tasks are what is the political program, what organizing does the group actually do, are people of color (or any other oppressed group) developed as revolutionaries and through development they too are leaders of the group/ movement.

    The Politics of Retreat

    Privilege theory has only come to dominate the movement in the last twenty years or so. In the United States the last forty years has been a period of massive retreat in militancy and revolutionary politics. The rise of privilege theory cannot be separated from the devastation of mass movements. It is in this context that privilege theory has risen.

    Privilege theorists are a generation who have never known mass and militant struggle. They are a generation who have never seen the masses as described in Frantz Fanon’s Towards the African Revolution. They have never met an oppressed people who have simply stated, I will either live like a human or die in struggle. I do not know if they have been in rebellions where very oppressed people choose to fight the police and other oppressors risking imprisonment and much worse. Have they seen such a people? Is there any doubt it is only a people who are willing to go this far who have any chance of defeating white supremacy?

    Privilege theory thrives off the inactivity of the masses and oppressed. They seek only to remind the masses of its weaknesses. Instead of immortalizing fallen sheroes they only lament of the tragedy of the dead. Perhaps it is better to be beaten and killed in struggle then to die on your knees like so many have in the past 50 years. Who does not live on their knees today? Humiliation by the police, humiliation by the boss, humiliation everywhere we go.
    Ironically these privilege theorists who claim to be representatives of the underprivileged tokenize and trivialize the struggles of the past. They name drop past struggles only to argue that the conditions are different today. They fail to recognize that “the conditions are not right for struggle” is an old argument going back hundreds of years constantly reminding the oppressed to delay revolution and mass struggle. Who is willing to tell the oppressed, “the system sees you as a dog. Only when you struggle on the terms of life and death will you achieve humanity.” Every fighter in the past has known this. The privilege theorists are afraid to accept from where human freedom comes from.

    Every struggle for freedom carries the risk of death imposed on the oppressor or the oppressed. It is a universal reality. There was a time when Harriet Tubman simply told all slaves that. Ironically, she is lionized today, but her life and wisdom have no practical political lesson for revolutionaries other then tokenizing this brave Black woman.

    I simply state: those who speak of privilege are reformists. Their only task is to remind oppressed people of what it cannot do and what it has to lose. The privilege theorists have not lived in an era of rebellions and revolutions. They are far removed from the days when Black and Brown worker-unemployed militants shook 1968. Such privilege theorists cover their own tracks by hiding behind the risks which the proletariat must take. No doubt, deportation, imprisonment, and certainly death are at stake. Is the price of freedom and human recognition be any else?

    When any militant action or militant politics is proposed in a meeting, privilege theorists are the first to stand up and remind those at the meetings that only those with such and such privilege can participate in such and such militant action. That the oppressed has no such luxury in participating in militant actions.

    Gone are the days when revolutionaries such as Harriet Tubman simply stated that human live was meant to be lived in freedom or not at all. That existential proclamation of humanity has been lost to fear and political degeneration. Those are the stakes. There is no denying that militancy and revolution are a grave risk for the oppressed. The struggles of the past are littered with corpses and destroyed lives.

    If capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, imperialism, ableism, homo and transphobia can only be destroyed by the most violent, militant, and revolutionary means, what other option then all out struggle do oppressed people have. What say the Privilege theorists? Is there any other strategy? Voting for the Democrats?

    My experiences in the POC Space

    The People of Color Working Group at Occupy Wall Street in New York City was certainly a testing ground for the effectiveness of Privilege theory. One of the most contentious issues was the question of Queer politics where some members of the working group argued that being Queer had nothing to do with being a person of color. The argument tended then to dissolve in people saying those members did not recognize their straight or male privilege. This ignored the reality that not all straight men of color agreed with the anti-Queer politics put forward, but more importantly that there should been a discussion of program and organization.

    In terms of program, the working group could have struggled to put out a document which stated that the POC Working Group is against anti-Queer politics. That seems simple enough. And in fact, if memory serves me correct this was eventually done. However politics must always be enforced or otherwise they are just empty words on a piece of paper.

    This brings us to the organizational dimensions of the discussion which as far as I am aware of were never discussed. Once a group of people agree to something, what are the repercussions when someone violates that set upon agreement? This is a question which has no easy solutions. In a tightly knight organization, the person could be kicked out. But OWS has a very open and fluid organizational structure. Hell, it cannot even be called an organization in sensible way. This poses serious problems. At the same time it seems OWS can ban people from the space as seen in the discussion around the Spokes Council and the decision to ban folks who are violent.

    Another problem in the POC Working Group was that few if any people had a revolutionary pedagogy in teaching others about the relationship of Queer oppression to POC oppression. Attempts to address the question were left to accusations that some were not recognizing their straight privilege, or informal discussions with little historical or theoretical discussion of the questions. It simply was not enough to bridge the political differences. The inability to come to terms with such questions seems to have alienated many people, further hampering whatever possibilities of unity in the POC Working Group.

    A Concrete Example and a Possible Alternative

    There is no denying that if Graduate students from Columbia or NYU demanded that workers at a McDonald’s go on strike for the upcoming May 1st meeting it would be a preposterous politics. Grad students at these two institutions have huge autonomy. If they are not teaching or if they have class on May 1st, missing it is going to be of little or no consequence. If they teach, cancelling class is also an option with much less consequences for going on strike. It is absolutely correct that the stakes are different for workers at McDonalds. At best they can request the day off, but that is hardly in the spirit of going on a one day strike. If they do not go into work that day and they were on schedule, they could risk losing their job in an already poor economy.

    Privilege theorists would focus on the privilege the Grad Students have which blocks them from recognizing the political or organizational problems. It is almost as if the Privilege theorists are divorced from concretely thinking through the organizational and political tasks required to ultimately have McDonald workers going on a general strike. That is the point of organizing isn’t it? So, yes the dangers of going on strike are huge for McDonald workers. How do we make it so that the McDonald workers can enforce their class power on the boss and the company? That is something you never hear the Privilege theorists discuss.

    I am not a full expert on the rise of Privilege theory in academia. But one can wonder if people like Peggy McIntosh or Tim Wise have ever had to organize. Obviously many organizers today are major Privilege theorists. Instead of finding militant and political solutions to problems of the most oppressed, I see them pointing out sociological realities as I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, organizing is not a Grad School sociology class. Organizing means class struggle–with all its different subjectivities– and revolution.

    Conclusion

    The implications of Privilege theory run much deeper then what has been addressed in this small essay. While they have not been addressed, some of the best readings regarding this are the works of Frantz Fanon. He sharply dealt with the very question of being a human being in light of the color of his skin, in relationship to the anti-colonial struggle, and the desire to forge a common human-bond.

    The purpose of this essay has been to challenge the framework of Privilege theory. This theory fails in its ability as a theory of struggle and actual emancipation of oppressed people. In fact, it locks in people in the very categories capitalism assigns them by only focusing on their oppressed category: whether it be Black, woman, Queer, worker or student. It fails to develop actual politics, organizations and strategies of liberation, because it was never meant to do that. Privilege theory is the politics of radical sociology attempting to struggle.

    Privilege theory forces serious discussion of revolutionary politics, organization and strategy out. Forms of oppression obviously mean different risks depending on who you are, but what solutions does Privilege theory offer? It is only the revolutionary tradition which offers a way forward so oppressed people, through their own militancy and politics, can destroy all the things which oppress them.

    Appendix

    Our generation has few older revolutionaries to learn from. Their wisdoms are largely being forgotten as they pass away. For this purpose, I paraphrase a conversation I recently had with an ex-Black Panther. I outlined the basic points of this article and his responses were the following. They are brief, but I believe outline some important questions revolutionaries of our generation should think through. At times there are contradictory pieces of advice, but helpful none the less.

    First this Panther was against politics of guilt. The Panther felt that privilege theory created such a situation and people who are guilty are not good revolutionaries. The Panther off handedly also mentioned the politics of guilt are the bedrock of the Catholic Church.

    Second, the Panther said that you should just “fuck’ em” when negative racial incidents happen. It is about remembering people who make you feel that way do not deserve your respect and attention–so “fuck’em”. This could also be read as simply having thick skin.

    Third, the Panther said that one should not focus on the little things. That the goal of politics is to achieve big things: general strikes, smashing the state, getting rid of the police, ending patriarchy etc. Perhaps the Panther was also saying out organize such people. Make them irrelevant by your organizing skills.

    Fourth, the Panther said that there has been a rightward shift in all aspects in the United States for over thirty years. Such interactions are bound to happen. People are a part of this society.

    Last, the Panther went on to explain the importance of keeping your dignity. It was not clear why the Panther brought up this point. The Panther said if someone is ignoring you because of your gender, class, or race; clear your throat, or directly go up to them and say, “excuse me, but I believe we have the following things to talk about.” But keeping your dignity seemed important.

    The following works influenced the writing of this piece

    Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon
    Towards an African Revolution by Frantz Fanon
    Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
    A Dying Colonialism by Frantz Fanon

  9. A.B. 2011 said,

    March 15, 2012 at 2:01 am

  10. noochinator said,

    April 6, 2013 at 10:38 am

    “Privilegist”: yeah,
    I think it’s got potential—
    Copyright it quick,
    ‘fore its growth is exponential.

    It’s going to the top—
    Straight up to heaven—
    Gonna be big as
    “This one goes to eleven.”

  11. Gerald Parker said,

    August 24, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Wpw! I knew Antonio (Tony) Giarraputo very well, too! I even remember him reading the very poem that you cite, seated at Harold Ferner’s table downstairs at Union Park, where Tony let out rooms. I was an university student, majoring in Music History, then. When I moved out after having lived at Union Park for a bit less than two years, it was to go to Kent State University to get my M.L.S. My friend Thomas Zajkowski, a pianist more famed in Poland and Russia than in the U. S. of A., also knew Tony. By the way, Tony’s Italian poems were utterly magnificent. He was proud of them, as well as of his French poems. (I knew all of these languages and others besides.) I am glad to know that somehow his rare books and that beautiful African art survived his move from Union Park to his later home. I wonder what became of the gorgeously and fully restored Chickering concert grand piano that he had. Do you remember Eric (Erik?) Schnickwald, the young artist for whom Tony was his chief patron? Tony had dozens of Schnickwald’s weird, demonic, and, in their own way, quite wonderful paintings.

  12. Gerald Parker said,

    August 25, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    A bit more about Tony Giarraputo. I talked by phone with Tom Zaiko, who also knew Tony. He mentioned how Giarraputo died. He was robbed and slain in his apartment.

    Also, one never really could take Giarraputo’s negative comments very seriously. He was a bitter, cynical man who constantly was lashing out at others. I understand why that was so, which made one sympathise with him, but, really, he could not have meant seriously all of the kind that he said. He was something of an exhibitionist, after all. He would say things in order to make himself to look superior. (In the literal sense of exhibitionism, he often would shed his clothes in front of others, especially attractive young men, which could be variously shocking or grimly amusing.) Anyway, for all of his imperfections, personally, Giarraputo the fine artist is someone to miss now that he is gone.

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 25, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      Gerald,

      Robbed and slain? I don’t believe that’s correct.

      Yes, Tony was outspoken, and could be verbally acerbic at times, but he was always a gentleman when I knew him. He used to say, “I will let you live in my world, but you won’t let me live in yours,” and he was often speaking of ambitious poets he knew, like Spicer, O’Hara, Blaser, Wieners, etc. Tony had a classical aura that didn’t fit into their vibe.

      I don’t remember the paintings in his apartment. His books were piled to the ceiling so there wasn’t much wall space.

      Tom

  13. Gerald Parker said,

    August 26, 2013 at 12:05 am

    After I went to Kent State University, I lost contact with Antonio Giarraputo, though, when having returned to Boston I would hear about him now and then. However, Tom Zaiko was in Tony’s circle at that time, right up to his death. From what Tom told me, a mutual friend, a lady, found Giarraputo dead in his apartment when she came to call on him.

    Tony’s manner may have changed when you knew him, which is later than when I did. He was undergoing a lot of difficulty (personal, not really so much financial) when I knew him (at which time he was teaching at the Boston Latin School), being refused a position in the French Dept. at my undergrad alma mater, the Univ. of Mass. at Boston by what he considered to be a cabal. (I was taking French there at that time, as I did throughout my junior college and undergrad university days, so I knew some of the French professors.) My impression is that Tony became much more sociable in the last years of his life.

    Harold Ferner, who also back then was living in the house on Union Park, had been a lifelong friend of Tony, with whom he had grown up. He described Tony’s youth to me in touching terns. Tony had been an exceedingly beautiful teenage boy, but one who was sensitive and bullied a lot.

    As for Eric Schnickwald’s paintings, at the house on Union Park they lined the three floors of the staircase and the landings, from ground floor up to the top (3rd) floor, so they were not in Tony’s living space. He simply may have packed them up and never mounted them again at his newer residence. (I am just speculating; for all that I knew he may have disposed of them, and, anyway, it would have been a terrible shame for such brilliant canvases to have been lost or destroyed.)

    Anyway, I hold no hostility for Tony, believe me. I was able to recognise his literary gifts, which to me were of the genius level and awed me. Tony’s Italian poetry, especially, was sublime, exceedingly beautiful with a terrific command of the language (which I knew then and still do) and great, epical and lyric sweep. With someone like that, one forgives eccentricity; one is OBLIGED to forgive such a person almost everything, if one has the soul to appreciate the beauty of such creations.

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 26, 2013 at 2:59 am

      Thank you, Gerald; yes I knew Tony in his last years and I do recall now that he said he used to be shy, but then the “worm turned,” is how he put it. Another thing that I remember was that he spoke French so exquisitely that I could understand the language even though I knew very little. He was somewhat traumatized by his WW Two service, and he used to talk about a friend also in the war who went crazy. I forget his name, but he used to talk about him all the time. He was proud of his calligraphy, but I really think his real strength was in Romance languages. I think he would have been happier in Europe. He had an Old World soul. He spoke about his bricklayer father hating his love of poetry, and he used to say of his mother, Angela, “she really was an angel.” He had a few siblings who I never met; I think one brother was a hairdresser in Boston, gay like himself. He did have a lot of “enemies,” and that was sad, because I liked him and got the impression that he was treated unfairly somehow. He was too honest, perhaps; he wasn’t a flatterer. I still think of him and feel like he’s watching me from heaven; he just had that kind of spirit, that kind of presence. He hated to go to parties when I knew him; but when he did go to a party, he was always the life of it. He’d break into an aria and blow everyone away; he spoke to you as if you were the most important person in the world. He could be very charming. He was a Shakespearean character, almost; bigger than life, honest, proud, but he also had a modest streak, too. I miss him.

  14. Gerald Parker said,

    August 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Yes, yes, that’s how Tony was! I wish now that I had known him after I was back in Boston from K.S.U. and before I immigrated to Canada. It would have been so much fun to see Tony interact with Count Thomas Zajkowski (a.k.a. Tom Zaiko). Both of these guys were (in Tom’s case, still is) such ebullient spirits. Tony never spoke to me about his W.W. II experiences; I guess that this was just too painful a subject. Tony was a terrific linguist, not only speaking French and Italian so magnificently, but composing poetry of great worth in those languages (as well, of course, in English).

    Folks who just could not cope with such a towering intellect, or who cringed at such a bubbling personality, would become his enemies (and Tony was not good at fending off enmity), often because he so upstaged them. I never met or heard of his gay brother, so it’s good to know that at least someone in his family was on a wavelength in some way akin to him. It’s true, too, that he befriended others easily, though he lacked Harold Ferner’s compassionately common touch with even the most hurt and humble of people. It could be annoying when he would expose himself naked to my friends (or to those of others who lived at Union Park), which happened twice to me when attractive male friends from university came to Union Park. That’s just a fluke, though, and afterwards it would be amusing to recall. Tony really was “larger than life”.

    Tony would have an hard time coping with occult phenomena, however, and he really should have avoided that kind of thing, which ran rampant among his roomers (though not me, who would shun such activities) and friends, too (e.g. Eric Schnickwald and others). On one occasion Tony induced a robbery of his house at Union Park through that kind of involvement with the occult.

    It’s just great to recall someone like Tony with another person after all these years!

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      Tony often complained about the cruelty of gays towards older men who had lost their beauty—as a gay senior, he really was a tortured soul in that respect. Another thing was that his homosexuality did seem to stem from a fear of female sexuality, or perhaps more prominently, from a feeling that the male was superior. I remember being at a restaurant with him once, and we happened to have a beautiful young woman as our waitress, and she just made him very uncomfortable–he looked at her with a mixture of disgust and fear, and I know it was just because she was attractive. I know he was attracted to me, but I treated it with indifference and had no qualms about being his roommate. He never stripped for me—of course, he was an old guy by then, but I never knew or imagine he could do something like that. But he definitely had an interest in sex. He warned me about the predator female, and the imagery he used was a “cunt with teeth.” We had a good friendship, but looking back, I was probably just another young, attractive male he couldn’t have; I was having bad luck with women then, but we both knew it was just a matter of time when I would find a girlfriend and move away from him. I did meet a young woman who was sweet and poetic and Tony was very nice to her and she liked him. That was shortly before he died. He told me a war-time anecdote once, a woman who sexually received a line of men in a tent—I don’t know how much of it was embellished by his imagination—but the incident obviously filled him with horror for womankind. In ordinary situations he was mostly charming and kind to women, but he was preyed upon by mythic feelings and fears about them. He was also aware of class differences between himself and his Harvard colleagues—he felt his Sicilian background did not always recommend him in the eyes of the New England brahmin. But he loved Harvard and was so proud that he was a Harvard alum. His English poetry could be very mawkish and didactic. I was stunned by the pure beauty of short lyrics in Italian he had composed, and I encouraged him to pursue this avenue, but of course he wasn’t really going to take advice from me. He was condescendingly tolerant of my adoration for Poe. He should have loved Poe, but he didn’t. He admired Auden’s writing, but of course he had a typically harsh opinion of Auden’s personal habits: “He always smelled like shit.” He never saw his family. He was mostly a recluse when I knew him. He did have a few friends he would see occasionally. Types like Tony don’t come along every day and I suppose the era of his type is passing…

  15. Gerald Parker said,

    August 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Tony was right, of course, about the chrono-sexual preferences of young gay men for each other. With heterosexuals there is the “cougar” phenomenon of older women seeking out younger men, some of whom like to become sexually involved with an older, sexually seasoned woman. This seldom happens among gays, though it does do so sometimes. “Chubby chasing” gays are perhaps rarer still, and Tony, even when I knew him on Union Park, was ageing and big-bellied. The graceful thing simply would have been to recognise how things tend to be and to be resigned to it. Of course, he could have sought out men of his own generation, but older gays, too, prefer young gay men, so it is not surprising that Tony did not go for that option.

    You mention that Tony “turned on” to you. He did that with me (then in my mid-twenties), too, though he did not push that matter very far. Anyway, I was a “late bloomer” and really did not hit my peak personal beauty until my 30s; I looked younger and more boyish in my 30s than I did in my 20s! That’s partly because I was too haggard in the second decade of my life, only attaining the slim side of normal weight in my 30s. I do recall, though, a comment that Tony made at how much handsomer I looked when I was, for a few months, on a no sugar diet; well, my always good complexion did look even more radiant then! I never felt any sexual attraction to Tony, but that just is the way that things were. As for women, I have an hard time understanding the fear and loathing that some gay men feel towards women; even if one prefers guys (and, as a sort of borderline bisexual, that’s true of me) it seems excessive to detest women like that.

    That prejudice against Sicilians seems to have been a factor in the University of Massachusett’s French faculty’s aversion to Tony. On the other hand, that may have been so only in Tony’s mind. I never found the French teachers to be so snobbish as Tony sensed them to be. Anyway, despite all of the language courses that I took in four different languages during my junior college (California) and undergrad university (Massachusetts) years, I was a music major, so I did not hobnob with language teachers to any unusual extent. I knew what field I wished to pursue right from the get-go during those years, aiming to be a music librarian, so I knew that intensive work in European languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, German) would benefit my qualifications in my future work (which certainly was the case). This language sophistication did enable me to appreciate Tony’s gifts that much more. You are right, too, that Tony’s Italian (and French) poetry was superior to his English verses and free, too, of the sentimentality that affected much of his English poetry.

  16. drew said,

    October 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    This blog is a breath of freshness in a putrid poetic nightmare.

    My lyrical response to Amiri B’s “Dope”:

    http://connecthook.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/lines-for-leroi-jones-the-imamu/

  17. drew said,

    October 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I don’t know where else to tell what just happened to me so I will tell Scarriet.
    I wanted to find out about Marge Piercy’s poems – so I went to Poetry Foundation. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/marge-piercy#about

    I clicked on Marge P, “Poems” and it took me to this:

    Colors passing through us
    For the young who want to
    More Than Enough
    My mother’s body
    The cat’s song

    I thought it was a poem !
    (A very modern Zen Koan-like piece of free verse…)
    Then I realized each line was an active link to a poem by her and I was supposed to CLICK on them.
    Whoops….

  18. Anonymous said,

    October 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Maybe in a far distant future, this “poem” of Piercy’s will be thought of as the greatest modern poem of all time…

  19. Frank Avon said,

    November 1, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Just a couple of [probably stupid] questions. I’m new to the site and learning my way around [and strictly an amateur at high-tech].

    1. How do I edit my own comments?

    2. How do I remove one of my own comments – if, for instance, I mistakenly submit it twice]?

    And THANK YOU for the site; it’s indeed a breath of fresh air – even a genuine breeze, but not a windstorm.

    • thomasbrady said,

      June 4, 2015 at 9:26 am

      Hi Frank,

      Sorry to be so late. I don’t see ‘How to Comment’ comments for some reason, unless I happen to look in a certain place! Thank you, you cannot edit or delete your own comments, but feel free to ask us to make corrections with comments…we don’t mind.

      Tom

  20. Keith Welch said,

    December 8, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    A bit of doggerel for you…

    so you’ve written a great article of
    eloquence and grace
    and among the cognescienti you have
    garnered so much face
    but of one thing will I warn you of that
    time will not erase
    If you read the comments you will learn of
    your disgrace

    Your essay on the stoics has gained you
    much renown
    And your colleagues will salute you as you
    stroll about the town
    But one thing to remember as you’re dusting
    off your gown
    if you read the comments they will surely
    bring you down

    So if you are a writer and you ply
    the internet
    beware the trolls that prey upon such
    prose as you will set
    they only live to feast upon the spice
    of your upset
    Do not read the comments and you’ll never
    need to fret.

  21. Austin Peay said,

    February 28, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    I have written a play, a historical drama, The Enigmatic Death of E. A. Poe. I would welcome input if any Poe scholars are interested in reading and weighing in with criticisms and comments. Contact me with inquiries: Austin Peay, audop@cox.net.


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