ANTI-RACISM AND BLACK INTERNATIONALISM


TEXTS


  • Martin Luther King Jr. "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence." Speech delivered at Riverside Church, April 4, 1967.
  • Gerald Horne, The End of Empires: African Americans and India. Introduction and Chapter 2.(Munshiram, 2010)
  • Cristina Mislán (2016): Claudia Jones speaks to "half the world": Gendering Cold War politics in the Daily Worker, 1950-1953, Feminist Media Studies.
  • Ashley Farmer, Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era (UNC Press, 2017). Chapter 5: The Third World Black Woman, 1970-1979.
  • Dayo F. Gore, "A Common Rallying Call: Vicki Garvin in China and the Making of US Third World Solidarity Politics." In Keisha Blain and Tiffany Gill, To Turn the Whole World Over (University of Illinois Press, 2019).


INTRODUCTION & PROBLEMATIC


This week's readings explore a tradition of Black internationalism and Black feminism that worked to make visible the relationships between imperialism in Asia and the subordination of Black people in the US, especially but not exclusively in the context of the Cold War, during which the Black Power movement and a wave of Communist revolutions in Asia coincided. The authors draw out historical instances of solidarity in which Black people, especially Black women, responded to U.S. imperialism by theorizing their liberation as being intertwined with that of people in Asia. As U.S. military expansionism precipitated the gutting of social security programs and drafted poor men of color into warfare, internationalism—especially internationalist working-class solidarity—became a cornerstone of Black radical thought: said King, "I watched the [poverty] program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube."

Establishing a transnational connection between British exploitation of South Asian labor and American exploitation of African slave labor, Horne creates conceptual space for a "larger antiracist and anti-imperialist struggle" that makes visible shared histories of European colonization. Gore traces how Black Americans in China, particularly Black women like Vicky Garvin, engage in a "range of utopian, pragmatic, and misinformed forms of solidarity" (238) in emergent Third World formations and give shape to the movement's transnational scope through practices of communication, critique, and pedagogy. These practices drew on their individual and collective experiences along the trajectory of moving from spaces in the U.S., like CPUSA, to postcolonial African nations, like Ghana and Nigeria, to Asian nations, like China. Choosing the Third World Women's Alliance (TWWA) as her subject of inquiry, Farmer roots the ideological origins of TWWA's multiethnic feminist solidarity in socialism, black nationalism, and anti-colonialism- a direct intervention in masculinist Black Power movement. Mislan analyzes the work of Claudia Jones, a Black feminist, Communist and journalist whose writing delineated, among the other things, the way war impairs the capacity of both the state and people to perform care work and reproductive labor—forms of work disproportionately performed by working women of color. Like Martin Luther King Jr.'s analysis in "A Time to Break Silence," Jones' critique of war emerged from an understanding that war takes place at the cost of the wellbeing of poor people in the imperial core. King elaborates on this by delineating the history of anti-colonial struggle in Vietnam, which he notes preceded the establishment of a Communist Chinese state and was led by indigenous people who desired land reform.


KEY INTERVENTIONS


  • Challenging political discourses of a masculinized saviorism, Black feminism instead theorizes the ways in which U.S. imperialism is legitimized through the collateralization of women of color both domestically and transnationally.
  • Black internationalism is also simultaneously Black-Indigenous solidarity in the context of U.S. empire.
  • Working-class people bear the brunt of war's multifarious costs, whether in the imperial core or in the nations that the imperial state is attempting to colonize. This can become the basis of international working-class solidarity.
  • The "domestic" is structured by war. Black women in the imperial core theorized the personal as political at the same time as they posited that the domestic territory of the US was inseparable from its overseas military exploits.
  • Although China was a symbolic horizon and literal home base to some Third World revolutionary organizing, South-East Asian nations were home to independent indigenous movements that could not easily be subsumed under the rubric of Maoist revolution. Black radicals established relationships with these movements as well as with China.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS


  • Cristina Mislan describes journalist Claudia Jones's writings as "challenge[s] and reinforce[ments of] essentialized understandings of gender and war,". What are the gains/losses of reinforcing essentialist understandings of concepts like gender and war [and other concepts]. Further, what [if any] are other instances of this kind of reinforcement that we've encountered this semester thus far?
  • Gore argues that Garvin's narrative speaks to "the vibrancy of an African American 'global vision'" sustained through "an intricate web" of travel, transnational political networks, and international alliances. Thinking particularly about gender-focused civil rights movements, what is helpful about framing liberation through a a "global vision," and what are the limitations?
  • Reflecting on Farmer's piece, how does adopting a global lens to solidarity give women means to reimagine or redefine womanhood/gender identity? How does this re-imagination interact with definitions of what is "revolutionary"? To what extend is this re-imagination intersectional?

  • King maintains that "social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action," . How do the readings from this week interact with this claim? How does this claim change under Afro-pessimist frameworks?
  • Horne examines the rise of the Ahmadi anti-racist Muslim movement in North American in the late 19th-early 20th century. How does an examination of the Ahmadi, as well as some Hindu practitioners, disrupt the narrative of the Black Christian church as the center for all anti-racist organizing?


PRIMARY DOCUMENTS/MULTIMEDIA


RAPPORTEUR REPORT


Our discussion drew out three key themes:

Nationalism

  • Toxic Nature of Nationalism: Vicki Garvin's loyalty to the PRC
    • In remaining loyal to the PRC (even during their cultural revolution), Garvin maintained loyalty to the Black nationalist cause
  • Masculine Model
    • In nationalist ideologies, the war front was deemed masculine while the home front was deemed feminine
      • i.e. In "Beyond Vietnam," we can clearly see how King argues to protect our sons and brothers, highlighting the masculine nature of nationalism, especially in a war context

US Foreign Policy

  • U.S. Foreign Policy as a site of ethnic studies (and specifically Afro-Asian racial study); questionings of colonialism; and of racial production

  • Nationalism vs. Liberalism
    • Nationalism creates ingroups and outgroups (constructing race similarly)
    • Liberalism obscures the differences between these and claims equal access to all--ignores differences between ingroup and outgroup
    • Both promise incorporation
  • Anti-War vs. Anti-Violence
    • Possible kinship networks
    • War speaks to existence of nation state vs. violence pertaining to individual behavior

Gender

  • Prescribed masculinity to nationalism and war
    • Masculine warfront vs. feminine homefront (see Nationalism)
      • Jones —> women as creators of peace/nation is masculine structure that needs to be resisted
        • This gets reproduced within U.S. radical movements as well (the Black Panthers)
  • Abstraction of the third world in creating a "Third World Black Woman"
    • In calling on this identity, limitations exist with no specificity surrounding Black experiences (both international and American), thus creating Blackness as a monolith
  • "Third World women living in a First World country"