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Brad Will death and Racism in the North

category north america / mexico | the left | non-anarchist press author Tuesday October 31, 2006 06:01author by Eric Report this post to the editors

How White Privilege Teaches Us to Value Certain Lives Over Others

This past Friday, October 27, 2006, at least five unarmed people were killed on the streets of Oaxaca City, Oaxaca. One of them happened to be a young, white, male, American anarchist, working for the radical media outlet “indymedia.org” named Brad Will. Now it is no surprise that the Corporate American media would jump on a story where any American is shot dead in the streets of a third world country, but that same mentality has trickled down across leftist/independent news resources like those of infoshop.org, indymedia.org, Democracynow.org, and others, to the point where the popular struggle in the streets of Oaxaca, is only a legitimate struggle now that Brad Will was killed. This Brings up many interesting questions of how the radical left in the United States views itself in the context of a global struggle.

I’m not going to pretend to understand, or have lived the struggle that people of color, especially Blacks and Latinos, go through in this country, as I am myself, a white American. However, we have some real issues of racism within our movement that must be confronted in our everyday lives and in our organizing that many have witnessed this past weekend.

This past Friday, October 27, 2006, at least five unarmed people were killed on the streets of Oaxaca City, Oaxaca. One of them happened to be a young, white, male, American anarchist, working for the radical media outlet “indymedia.org” named Brad Will. Now it is no surprise that the Corporate American media would jump on a story where any American is shot dead in the streets of a third world country, but that same mentality has trickled down across leftist/independent news resources like those of infoshop.org, indymedia.org, Democracynow.org, and others, to the point where the popular struggle in the streets of Oaxaca, is only a legitimate struggle now that Brad Will was killed. This Brings up many interesting questions of how the radical left in the United States views itself in the context of a global struggle.

Out of the 5 people murdered on the streets last Friday, how many pictures have we seen of them? And compared to how many pictures we have seen of Brad Will? Will we ever know, or pursue, the story of the teacher shot down just a short time later by the paramilitaries? Will we recognize her life by blockading the Mexican consulates in her name? Will there by calls to action only after Americans are killed? How many calls to action read “In memory of Brad and…”? Is this really how we value life? Do we believe 3000 lives on 9/11 are more important than the million and a half killed in Iraq during the sanctions? Are we really going to condemn our government, while at the same time replicating it’s own bigoted mentalities? This is dancing on the rough edges of nationalism.

Since the uprising began in Oaxaca, the police and other paid agents of the state, have been murdering and disappearing people on a weekly, if not daily basis. And where were our blockades then, comrades? Where was our solidarity? Left on the sidelines for us to live out our privileged lives here in the US, until we see potential? Until we see a revolution to Capitalize on? How many Mexican lives is worth an American? How many Mexican-American radicals have been told that solidarity actions with Oaxaca weren’t as crucial as some other type of organizing?

The most widespread action in the US in support of the APPO and the greater struggle in Oaxaca, has only now surfaced within a matter of days. Infoshop.org has ran a headline since Friday, “NYC Indymedia Journalist Killed; Protests Scheduled; Updates From Oaxaca.” Now normally, I believe infoshop runs a headline for 1 to 2 days, this headline has ran for 4 days. The organizers of a speaking tour of APPO delegates in Los Angeles have been overwhelmed with phone calls since Brad Will’s death. Democracy Now has dedicated almost the entirety of today’s programs to the life and death of Brad Will. People are excited, they are optimistic, they see potential. And yes, there is reason to be excited, we are living in a time where the fascists have to send in Federal troops to once again attempt to break the strikes. Their police forces can no longer take us, and their authority, as well as legitimacy, is being challenged all over the world. But we must not patronize the people of Oaxaca, now that we realize they have an amazing fight to fight. We cannot jump on the revolutionary band wagon and ride out the heroic end of the struggle, now that they have created their own radical potential. This all nearly replicates the lives Mexican American live in this country, and is a reflection of this white privileged/supremacist mentality that has been conditioned into us. Example: Mexican labor, has created so much of the wealth and resources we have here in the United States, especially in the Southwest, and yet the Mexican American population’s wealth comes nowhere near those numbers- The Anglo American society benefits. And in Oaxaca, the people have labored, and struggled, and sacrificed their lives, and now that we see all that they have done, we seek to, at least, call it our own, and at worst (and what I fear the most) co-opt it.


The lifting of Brad Will’s death over all other faceless, nameless Mexicans, is just one further example of the racism that people of color experience even in what is supposed to be ‘safe settings.’ White Supremacy has deep roots in this country, but the struggle against oppression, in all it’s forms must be one of an International sense. I pledge no allegiance to the United States, however I love the communities that I live in, and the streets that I’m from, just as the strong companeros and companeras do south of us, when they fly their red white and green. We must confront out racist conditioning day by day, but continue our organizing and fight all the oppressions that we have been taught, and those that we witness. Call out your white comrades, because if you don’t, what kind of comrade does that make you?


In solidarity with ALL the lost lives in the struggle for freedom,

Eric, pathology@graffiti.net

author by jennypublication date Tue Oct 31, 2006 10:56author email jennyny at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree with your article about racist america. i am a person of color who has met brad from activism and i am very sorry to hear of his death. i want to go to the demostrations and peace rallies on his behalf but all of the participants are white. one hundred percent white. how can this be, the segretation of a movement but it exists here in new york in seperate movements.

author by Sampublication date Tue Oct 31, 2006 11:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm sure you enjoyed typing your radicaler-than-thou critique, but you earn no points. Yes, there is a problem with white supremacy and patriarchy and all the rest within American activists (of all identities) that need to be rooted out; we are products of our culture after all.

But your critique holds little water.
First, the demands of the protests have called into question the situation in Oaxaca. Specifically, New York activists have explicitly pushed to expand this past a white american human interest story and to trumpet the demands of the people of Oaxaca. While not all of us are experts on Oaxaca, some of our community have been doing support work and a handful have traveled back and forth to film and spread the story of the struggle long before Brad's murder. Please don't mistake the corporate press for who should be your allies. The rest of us weren't just toasting our privilege: there happens to be only so many hours in a day and we're trying to bring down a global system of exploitation and there is a lot of work to be done on a number of issues. We didn't include the pictures of the other people because we didn't have pictures of all the other people killed, but we did have their names and we trumpeted their names in the protest.

Second, and most important, we did have pictures of Brad because he was our member of our community and while perhaps, in your strident analysis, you think that the hundreds of people out there protesting today in new york simply sent Brad through the old identity value machine and saw that it spit back "valuable because white male", your strawman is weak. Brad was killed on, what, Friday? It's Monday: people are mourning the loss of their friend and a member of their community. People are in grief and while the pictures captured a lot of vibrancy and excitement, I saw numerous people bawling outside the consulate today. These aren't "random activists;" The people protesting today had lived with, worked with, fought with, sang with, loved with, smoked with, and pushed struggle with Brad for the last decade.

Please, save your critiques. Note that I don't say discard; I say save. We need to talk about white supremacy in activist culture, but don't shotgun the mourning process with your boilerplate critique. It doesn't do your criticism any justice and, in a time of mourning and grief, that is in the shortest supply.

Related Link: http://www.historyisaweapon.com
author by Chepe - -publication date Tue Oct 31, 2006 16:53author email xe_cs at yahoo dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

This story maybe an attempt to earn points from fellow anarchists; however, it still holds true. To the person who wrote about he and his friends being in mourning and should thus be respected - immune from any criticism , I say with all due respect to the life, family and friends of Brad Will, if he was not willing to risk his in Oaxaca, he shouldn't of been there. As a Mexican here in the US, I've been disgusted by the fact that both Mexican and US media outlets have focused their almost exclusive attention on Brad Will's death. If he was a revolutionary, if you are a revolutionary, you should be celebrating his life not mourning it. Another point that struck me was that if Brad Will had been killed in NYC, say while he and his group were being evicted, the same corporate media entities would of not given a *f*. To them he was a dirty hippie, but somehow while amongst Mexicans, he is "one of us" and given all the rights and prevlidges of a White American.

You may take this as disrespect to you and your friend, but again, if you're truly revolutionary you'd be honored to give your life in the service of a noble cause. If you're not, don't go to Oaxaca, don't put your life at risk trying to save us - focus on saving yourselves.

¡Fuerza y Animo al Pueblo Digno de Oaxaca!

Chepe
xe_cs@yahoo.com

author by kilroy - NYMAApublication date Wed Nov 01, 2006 04:09author address http://www.nymaa.orgauthor phone Report this post to the editors

i absolutely agree that it's important to bring a critique of white supremacy into any struggle, especially an anarchist one. we should always be trying to unpack the complexities of this murderous bullshit we're facing, in order to more effectively confront and destroy it, right?

but i don't think this little article went deep enough at all. excuse me if i'm getting spiteful because i'm in new york and have been close to the grieving and action around here, but i don't think it's fair at all to take an image presented by the corporate media--"gringo killed in mexico! egads!"--and project it onto any action that people in the north take hereafter in solidarity with folks in oaxaca.

keep in mind that in nyc, just as folks were starting to reel from the impact of their friend getting shot, Fox used the latest murders as a pretext to storm Oaxaca with thousands of federal riot police. so not only had a close companero been killed, but now that death, and its presentation by corporate media, was being used to support further repression. what to do?

a big part of the conversation around actions in nyc focused on how to bring attention to the situation in Oaxaca by akido-ing all the attention focused on Brad's death. with banner drops, lockdowns, and traffic-blocking, folks put their bodies on the line to say that Brad wasn't "caught in the crossfire" of dangerous, dark-skinned, leftist violence--rather, he died supporting a struggle that we also support, that of people's resistance in Oaxaca. and we said as much in our list of demands--which echoed those of the APPO--our calls to action, and our distributed literature.

so, aside from acting out of grief over the death of one of their own, radicals in nyc were also taking a situation presented them by bullshit, white-supremacist power structures--Brad Will's death as an indication of the need to "restore order"--and turning it into action against those structures--"Brad and others died supporting these struggles; let's support them too!" it's not a perfect strategy, but it's a reasonable one--and it deals with the reality presented us by the systems of power and control. it's also a hell of a lot more complex than this author bothers to mention.

(another point: part of the voluminous online response to Brad Will's murder is probably connected to the many contacts he made traveling around the Western Hemisphere and Europe--which he may have been able to do, in part, because of the background afforded him by skin color. if that's the case, then a critique of the situation shouldn't boil down to "don't be sad about this or else you're racist and less radical than me", but rather "this death resonates with many people because this guy was able to travel a lot--how can we make sure that people from the lower rungs of global apartheid are also able to travel, share ideas, and make contacts?" that strikes me as a lot less hurtful, and a lot more productive.)

author by stacy - arizona indymediapublication date Wed Nov 01, 2006 06:23author email malcreada at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Before we start self-castigating over this, I'd just like to point out that since June 14th, many people have been killed in Oaxaca, and we haven't been out marching in the streets over them, nor do we remember their names.

The reason that Brad's death has meaning to us is because we knew him. We knew him in the context of indymedia reporting, which is something that many of us have in common. He was one of us. Yes, 'us' is mostly white, middle class kids. Luckily, our government has
not started shooting us in the streets (yet), and so we are shocked when that happens to one of us.

Grief is not something that can be formed logically around politically correct philosophies. I feel what I feel, and Brad's death touched me in a way that none of the other deaths in Oaxaca have. I will not feel ashamed of that. But nor will I stop doing what I can to help the people in Oaxaca, many of whom are being touched much more deeply by the loss of their friends and family in the struggle to free Oaxaca.

So what is the author's recommendation for purging our souls of white guilt? "Call out your white comrades, because if you don’t, what kind of comrade does that make you?"

How do you "call out" your friends? Demand that they feel grief for people they didn't know? Or perhaps demand that they not act on the grief they feel for Brad? I resent the implication that we are doing something wrong, with no clear recommendations for how to do it differently.

author by Christine Karatnytsky - NEFACpublication date Fri Nov 03, 2006 01:25author email ck at nefac dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Howard Besser wrote:

Yes, there certainly is racism within the various
"movements" in the US that support "peoples'
struggles" in other countries. But I think that you've
chosen the wrong example to focus on. Making a big
deal of an American journalist killed in a "peoples'
struggle" in another country is both a pretty natural
reaction, and a long-standing organizing tool. I'm
living in Brazil. A year ago a Brazilian named Jean
Charles de Menezes was killed by security forces in
London because they mistook him for a terrorist. There
was enormous publicity over this in Brazil. And even
though every day people are killed all over the world
by security forces (and even though hundreds of other
"innocent" people die in Brazil every week), the focus
on this one person and one incident had an enormous
effect on the average Brazilian. It help focus the
average Brazilian on what the "War on Terror" meant to
personal freedoms, it pointed out the kind of
xenophobia that leads people in most countries to be
suspicious of any foreigner, and it made the average
Brazilian feel that you didn't have to be in the
Middle East of the US to become a victim of the "War
on Terror".

I don't think that it's morally right, but the truth
is that the average American will take notice of an
American killed in Oaxaca more than they will respond
to an APPO member being killed. But more importantly,
if Oaxacan security forces would openly kill an Anglo
like Brad Will, it means that the threat to Oaxacans
is much greater! So, making a big deal about Brad's
murder shows how much worse it is for the average
Oaxacan. Like Rachel Corrie's death pointed out the
kinds of things that happen to Palestinians every
single day.

I totally agree with your point that people need to
recognize and own up to racism within the various
movements. But trying to use too broad a brush to
paint a racist picture doesn't do anyone any good. And
to say that what's been happening in Oaxaca has become
a "legitimate struggle"for progressive organizations
ONLY since Brad's death is really stretching it
(particularly for the organizations you mention)!
Democracy Now! had dozens of stories on the APPO, long
before Brad was killed. IndyMedia has had many more.
Maybe it's fewer than you wanted to see, but it
certainly was enough for me (and many many others) to
feel more informed about what was going on there than
on just about any other struggle anywhere else in the
world.

One more point: when someone you know is murdered,
don't you spend a little more time complaining and
shout a little louder about it than when someone you
don't know is murdered? That doesn't mean that you
don't value the lives of all the other people who have
been murdered! To be extra vociferous about harm that
has come to someone you know personally is not a
racist act. (By no means does this obsolve all the
people complaining about Brad from any racism; but
complaining about him being killed is not itself a
racist act.) Brad was intimately involved with
IndyMedia, and had many friends on the staff of
Democracy Now!.

I would guess that every single day hundreds (or maybe
thousands) of people in the world are killed
struggling for what I would regard as basic human
rights. And though I wish I had time to write about
and demonstrate
about each of those struggles (and each of those
people), if I did so, I wouldn't have time to eat or
sleep, and eventually I wouldn't be able to support
even a single one of those struggles.

If you're going to complain about the very real
problem of racism, please look to better examples than
activist journalists supporting a comrade slain in a
struggle that they had previously singled out as an
important one.

author by hambonepublication date Sat Nov 04, 2006 08:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes, i'm white, and my neck is wikid red. To read this shit makes my face a little red, too. a little shame, a little anger. a little jaundiced with contempt. Do you know who victor alejo plata is? or demon? their asses are in jail. they're organizers, victor has been on a wanted list for six years and they got him. they're from oaxaca, and could use your attention. I hope you follow up on that, everyone reading this should check victor out in the movie el enemigo comun (elenemigocomun.net) and start replacing brad's name here and ther with victors' name, because victor is alive and a badass.
Yeah, so, Brad was a friend of mine. You don't get creedence or respect from me with your pointy-headed prick critique. It's fucked up, and you're fucked up, and this charming bit of constructive analysis is going to stir up a bunch of grief and fear and anger-driven, misguided defensive bullshit and counterspin, energy that is needed to respond to the situation in oaxaca and the upcoming general strike across mexico that the zapatistas have called for november 20. Your totally right, but go a little softer. this dialogue is non-stop amongst the organizing in NYC. We figure brad wants to be used for every drop to get the oaxaca msg out. My problem with you is that you're being a snot.
There's something about unconstructive criticism, criticism motivated by self-aggrandisement and lacking in productive input, that i think further entrenches PATHOLGICAL tendencies. Anyway, fuck you and your cheesy second-hand pathology, don't spit on my mans' grave and don't distract us from the work. We're busy and you are undermining the credibility of a very important introspective critique that is essential to our survival. That shit really chaps my ass. Do us and this discussion a favor. EARN yourself a little respect by introducing yourself a little more humbly and the work that you're doing to make your opinion relevant, or show us something that means something to the oaxaquenos. Apologize for your vitriolic "pinch-my-nipple-and-call-me-honky!" fetish routine and work on your half-assed shtick a little and i won't have to tear your shit down in public any more.
check out that elenemigocomun.net and friendsofbradwill.org, good online organizing and education going on there.

love and elbow grease, hambone

author by FluxRostrumpublication date Sat Dec 02, 2006 13:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

;~)

author by Sheilapublication date Thu Feb 28, 2008 23:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bush/Calderon are seeking to send $1.5 Billion dollars of u.s military aid and Blackwater mercenaries to repress the people even more in Mexico. Congress is considering it now. There have been actions in Congress I read and locally anyone can meet with their Representatives or organize an action if that is not their cup of tea. All colors. Aho!

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