it worries/distrubs me how many people are identifying with the equalists (on the legend of korra)—AND using comparisons to malcom X or the black panthers to justify that identification.
1. the nation of islam and the black panthers (among many many other “power” groups) had critiques of violence. they didn’t outright mindlessly advocate LET’S BLOW UP WHITEY! they made the idea of violence more complex. or: we have the right to defend ourselves. a terrifying thing to white people who were used to the idea of lynching black people for crimes as simple as being uppity. but *still a defensive/protective type of violence*.
another example: take a look at how many power groups were either ambivalent or outright condemned the weathermen. because the underground was agressive in their violence—not using it to protect the communities they were supposedly defending—NOR were they using it to advance the needs of the community.—and yet—how much violence against communities of color did the weathermen *justify* because of their tactics?
also: look at how much of the violent rhetoric was turned internal—or: abuse of women was rampant, using the FBI to target each other was not unheard of, using violence to shut up somebody who broke from the group absolutely happened.
i feel like the comparisons of the equalists to the panthers are playing on an uneducated understanding of the critique of violence most power groups had—and really relying on 60s imagery of black men with fists in the air and gun in their hands—in a way that *decontextualizes* that image. it also plays into the conservative right narrative that suggests that the power groups were terrorists because they were all hell bent on killing whitey—aggressive violence—rather than hell bent on protecting their communities FROM whitey—or defensive violence (not sure if that is an actual name, but you know what i mean). it’s a harmful narrative to continue, and it’s not really engaging in a meaningful critique of violence either way.
2. in any conflict, there’s *always* ALWAYS a third (and fourth, fifth, sixth) option, and that option is very much like what tenzin is suggesting (but I want to hear more of before i support—is it “cut and run” or is it “finding another solution” like what aang offered?). and to suggest that oppressed people will ONLY find violent means to fight their oppression again, invisibilizes SO many people who absolutely REQUIRE that we understand them outside of the aggressor/defenseless dichotomy. see: palestinians. probably the majority of palestinians are using non-violent protest as an *extremely* political statement against their oppression—but the only thing USian’s ever hear about are the “terrorists” or the “suicide bombers.” to be sympathetic to those using violence and their reasons is one thing. to suggest that the *natural* response to oppression is violence is to reinforce a narrative that the only choice isreal (as an example) as when it comes to palestinians is to destroy them completely—because they will *always* be in an active state of aggression—because to *be palestinian is to be oppressed*.
3. to suggest that it makes sense that power is an “either/or” thing (either the benders have it or the equalists have it) is to suggest that there is no such thing as true liberation.
5. to suggest that the only choice oppressed peoples have is to be controlled/control is to suggest that oppressed peoples are more invested in “making whitey pay” than they are in “not being murdered.” again—this is a narrative steeped in white supremacy in the US.
6. I promise you—most people of color in the US would *instantly* rebel at Mr. Amon for one reason alone—he calls himself “your leader”—when what has he done to be “our” leader outside of take people’s bending away and scare the shit out of everybody at a social gathering? Do you know how much fucking shit “our leaders” take from us? and these are people who actually walked the walk a long time ago. the only reason we still put up with their asses is *because* they walked the walk a long time ago. What has Amon done to walk the walk? What has he done to show he is accountable to the community of non-benders? Has he gotten anybody jobs? (I ask this while being fully suspicious that he may have given asami’s dad his start up money) Has he gotten better housing for non-benders? Does he live within communities of non-benders? etc. how did he account for the wrath of non-benders who were subjected to the raid by hassok? who maybe lost a family member or had to bail a family member out of jail—and thinks that amon is a trouble maker who is hurting their family?
Our communities have different ways of demonstrating accountability—and declaring yourself The Leader is almost never one of those ways. Just look at how many people rebel at Jval, AM, Courtney M, Jill, etc being “The Leaders” of the feminist movement.
WHat methods has Amon used to gain compliance? Sure—benders are clearly helping him get to the point where he’s at—but just like there were earth benders who married fire benders and didn’t want fire benders to leave their lands (in the comic book, the promise), i promise you that there are non-benders who are (like pema) married to benders or mothers to benders or whatever—and are terrified of amon, and don’t want his type of “liberation” for their children or families EVEN AS THEY FACE OPPRESSION.
7. if amon is willing to take away bending to gain compliance—what is he willing to do to non-benders who don’t obey? this is should be the number one question at all times for anybody who is thinking through violence, violent resistance, etc. if the person who has declared himself “your leader” is willing to shoot your enemy, what is he willing to do to you? if he is willing to rape your enemy, what is he willing to do to you? if he is willing to punish people who he thinks deserve it—what is he willing to do to you when YOU deserve it?
this is why so so so so many power groups in the 60s were about defense and doing it violently if necessary—but were MORE about building strong able loving communities where power existed in multiple complex spaces—this is why intersectionality and a “shifting lens” was formalized into academic lingo. because they recognized that power existed not as “one ring to rule them all” but as a spider web on multiple paths in multiple directions. violent overthrow wouldn’t work because it *didn’t fracture power*—or: it only hits *one* site of power (ex: the US still exists even in a post-911 world).
if your leader is willing to execute your enemy in a stadium in front of everybody AND HE HAS THE POWER TO DO SO—then that means he HAS THE POWER TO DO IT TO YOU TOO. being on “the same side” has never saved anybody from shit.
8. I could go on and on as violence/organizing tactics is an important issue to me.
but i’ll wrap it all up just by saying—for heaven’s sake—feel sympathy for non-benders. you can even feel sympathy for the equalists. but PLEASE. challenge and interrogate the seemingly “natural” response to violence. and most of all, challenge and interrogate the need to understand the equalists through the lens of power movements in the 60s. because without doing that, it is FAR too easy to be sloppy and draw on decontextualized and simply *wrong* narratives about the power movements as a means to satisify our idea of what an oppressed person *should* be (which oddly, usually looks like something on a t-shirt, rather than a tired person who enjoys watching mad men and nail polish and who every once in a while manages to get down and lick some stamps for their local grassroots org), rather than what they ARE.
It feels audacious to add anything to MMM’s commentary, but…i think to straight up draw analogies about US racial dynamics is a boring interpretation. It turns Avatar into the equivalent of all those sci-fi shows where aliens = people of colour. And the creators are too smart to do that, I think; they’re deliberately imagining a world without whiteness — how colonialism, nationalism, etc. would look in a fundamentally different setting, and where the end goal is returning balance to the world rather than the decisive triumph of good over evil. I’m not saying don’t talk about racial parallels in Avatar though; I mean, when you start thinking “so and so represent white people” think about the absence of whiteness in Avatar. It’s got to be more interesting than “equalists are the black panthers” or whatever.
ignore this if it makes no sense, it’s 2 a. m. and i wrote this all without my glasses