New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Toward a Maroon Society

June 12, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Fred Ho, Matt Meyer, Politics

Working Together to Build a New World

by Fred Ho, with Matt Meyer

{MM: The following piece was written by a founder and a supporter of the organization Scientific Soul Sessions, a majority oppressed nationality revolutionary group. Wrestling with the question of white membership, they have been engaged in recent struggles which have revealed how pervasive, entrenched and odious “whiteness” is even in these contexts. This article was penned in the course of those struggles.}

“Anti-racist whites” are against some of the right things, but what are they for? As we fight for a society of more than just tolerance and “equality” but for true justice and liberation, our goal is to escape the Matrix of the current systems. Like the historic maroons of the past, and the contemporary political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz who continues to resist from behind enemy lines, we must build for a Maroon militancy that fully rejects the shackles of the past as we build for a new tomorrow.

“Anti-racist whites” may believe in color-blindness, but we know that this is an impossibility in American society. Any obfuscation that believes that a “post-racial” society can be achieved simply by ignoring or eradicating the notion of “race” is fundamentally mistaken about the roots of racism and the function it serves: the social reproduction of assimilation (and therefore control) within the American Empire.

“Anti-racist whites” don’t necessarily challenge the fundamental presumption of assimilation and integration into the USA (The Empire).  Rather, racism is a byproduct and an integral part of the very construction of the USA as an Empire that occupies and controls a vast territorial land base that extends for several thousands of miles into the Pacific Ocean and a thousand miles northwards from its Northwest.

“Anti-racist whites” may believe in the illusion that “Americans” can be changed for the better. This deception about the nature of America — confusing some national pride with the reality of imperialism — ignores the basic design of the USA: for domination over peoples and territories.

“Anti-racist whites” are typical of the entire (white) Left: willing to acknowledge some degree of “white skin privilege,” willing to be berated by some megalomaniacal Third World leaders (of their choosing) without challenging them, willing to accept the inevitability that the Left will be white majority controlled.

“Anti-racist whites” may be content to serve as “race traitors” — special white folks who somehow transcend race because of their theoretical or academic views, but fail to actually engage in constructing liberated territories or spaces (Maroon societies) escaped from the Empire.

“Anti-racist whites” may be content to organize solely inside white communities as a sense of their obligation and political responsibility (to relieve whites of their racism!), without questioning whether those whites need to or should dismember and destroy the territorial integrity of the Empire.

History has shown that these whites are unacceptable; they will more than likely show their “true colors” through Eurocentrism, which reveals their inextricable belief in their own monopoly upon science, knowledge, leadership, expertise, finances, and/or power.  Often displayed as egotism (a bourgeois European doctrine), these practices can be seen as endemic, essential and acceptable “character flaws” — but they are inherently political. Most egomaniacs, of whatever “color,” are expressing bourgeois individualism. Eurocentric egotists take up too much space displaying these characteristics in the context of collaborative possibilities with oppressed nationalities, weakening multi-national, liberatory organization and Maroon community-building.

The 21st century needs Maroons, including Maroon whites! Maroon whites want to leave the toxicity of American society — not believing it can be reformed or changed, even as a socialist society.

“Anti-racist whites” may be satisfied with “activist” work, coalitions, united fronts, and mass work; Maroon whites will push these structures — with their Maroon comrades — towards more disciplined, highly accountable, soulful visionary formations designed to drive people beyond empire to more collective, humane, sustainable modes of living.

Maroon whites will join with oppressed nationalities — including national liberation movements of Native American Indian nations, Puerto Ricans, Chican@[email protected], Black/New Afrikans, and others — in the desire to make a new identity, a new culture, a new relationship to Mother Earth that rejects the bourgeois European mentality of domination and control, a desire to create an entirely new humanity.

Maroon whites, if given the chance for reforms or improvements in American society which will split them from revolutionary Maroons as a whole, will reject these and remain part of the Maroon community as a whole, and never accept any invitations, bribes, inducements, and temptations to leave or betray their fellow Maroons.

Maroon whites will sacrifice their lives to defend their Maroon societies. Maroon whites won’t assimilate into American-anything. Maroon whites believe that the toxicity of white supremacy must never be allowed into the Maroon societies.

Maroon whites gladly accept an oppressed nationality majority.  They shun white majorities everywhere. A Maroon society will never be a white majority as Maroons are outlaws against the American mainstream.

Maroon whites believe oppressed nationality Maroons are their brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers and would never betray them, or give up this community for anything.

Maroon whites gladly work side-by-side with oppressed nationalities, will take the worst abuse from racist whites, and immerse themselves in the deepest Afro-Asian-Indigenous cultures.

Maroon whites do not accept or use terms like “people of color” or “minorities” or any nomenclature or appellation for which the American mainstream preferences and promotes in pronouncements about their brother and sister Maroons.

Maroon whites don’t accept anything white: white people, white culture, white history, white narratives, etc. Maroon whites learn about the world as it is, for which Europe and North America are indeed the true minorities. Maroon whites don’t dress white, don’t eat white, don’t do anything white. They have ended whiteness in everything in their existence.

We require a world of Maroons — radical rejecters (not just resisters) ready to take on Empire, white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and all oppressions, including the war being fought against the Earth itself.

Maroons must work passionately together to build for matriarchy, eco-socialism, and an end to “civilization” as we know it…

For more information, readings, and some ways to break into “marooing” work, check out Scientific Soul Sessions, the Campaign to Free Russell Maroon Shoatz, and EcoSocialist Horizons.

Fred Ho, famed composer-musician, is an award-winning master innovator of the baritone saxophone. A playwright and bandleader, he is noted for his unique Afro-Asian Music Ensemble. A writer and social activist, Ho is the author of Legacy to Liberation: Politics and Culture of Revolutionary Asian Pacific America, and the inspiring Diary of a Radical Cancer Warrior. A self-described “revolutionary matriarchal socialist and aspiring luddite,” Ho is also a founder of the cultural-political organization Scientific Soul Sessions. He is editor of the recently released book of writing of former Black Panther political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz, Maroon the Implacable, for which Meyer (co-chair of the Campaign to Free Maroon) co-wrote the Afterword.

Matt Meyer is an educator-activist, based in New York City, and serves as convener of the War Resisters International Africa Working Group. His recent books include Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan-African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle and Liberation (Africa World Press, 2000), the two-volume collection Seeds of New Hope: Pan African Peace Studies for the 21st Century (Africa World Press, 2008, 2010), and Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free U. S. Political Prisoners (PM Press, 2008). Meyer is a contributing member of the Editorial Advisory Board for New Clear Vision.

10 Comments to “Toward a Maroon Society”


  1. “Maroon whites don’t accept anything white: white people, white culture, white history, white narratives… They have ended whiteness in everything in their existence… ready to take on…patriarchy [and] work passionately together to build for matriarchy…”

    In other words, “acceptable” whites must reject everything about their whiteness, just as whites once demanded that blacks reject everything about their own heritage and identity, and they must reject one form of oppression (patriarchy) for another (matriarchy; archy = rule by, power over).

    This is NOT a liberation ideology, but a reversal of oppression. No thanks.

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  2. “Archy” also means “consent to.” Regardless, it does not matter its etymology–your algebraic reversal of the roles of oppression shows how thoroughly you are entrapped in relations of domination. Human society, being for much of its existence matriarchal and matri-centric, did not experience class society, gendered power differentials, bourgeois conceptions of family and ownership of spouses as property, etc. It was a communalistic commons in which humanity was integrated with nature and women were at the center of political and economic decisions.

    As per your defense of “white” culture (as if there ever was such a thing) I’d like to refer you to James Baldwin. Those who became white did so at the expense of their indigenity in other contexts,

    “The crisis of leadership in the white community is remarkable – and terrifying – because there is,
    in fact, no white community.

    There is, for example – at least, in principle – an Irish community: here, there, anywhere, or more precisely, Belfast, Dublin, Boston. There is a German community: Rome, Naples, the Bank of the Holy Ghost, and Mulberry Street. And there is a Jewish community, stretching from Jerusalem to California to New York. There are Swiss consortiums. There are Poles: In Warsaw (where they would like us to be friends) and in Chicago (where because they are white we are enemies). There are, for that matter, Indian restaurants, and Turkish baths. There is the underworld – the poor (to say nothing of those who intend to become rich) are always with witness to what happened to everyone who got here, and paid the price of the ticket. The price was to become “white”. No one was white before he/she came to America. It took generations, and a vast amount of coercion, before this became a white country.”

    It’s not just a European identity- destroyer. Whiteness built on a specific foundation which makes it unacceptable to any civilized community. Here’s the clincher:

    “America became white – the people who, as they claim, “settled” the country became white – because of the necessity of denying the Black presence, and justifying the Black subjugation. No community can be based on such a principle – or, in other words, no community can be established on so a genocidal lie. White men – from Norway, for example, where they are Norwegians – became white: by slaughtering the cattle, poisoning the wells, torching the houses, massacring Native Americans, raping Black women.”

    -James Baldwin, “On Being White…and Other Lies.”

    Accepting “white” as your organizing space, your identity, etc., is like saying you accept being an Imperialist. Do you try to “anti-Imperialize” the Empire? Or do you dismantle it? White identity is built on Empire, therefore, the destruction of whiteness and the destruction of Empire are the product and process of each other.

    Thanks,
    Ben

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  3. Michael Graaf says:

    Interesting piece, thanks. In an “imperial-majority” context, the maroon paradigm depicts enclaves of transcendence, whereas in an indigenous-majority context, liberation from Whiteness lies in creolisation. However, this is problematic insofar as the indigenes have become marginal subjects of empire.

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  4. Andrew Ryder says:

    Thanks for this contribution to the anti-racist struggle. I have some reservations, though.

    1) There is an elitist tone to this entire piece that seems to depend on voluntarism. How does one become a “Maroon white” and not simply inadequately anti-racist? Where are the spaces liberated from imperialism? It seems to me that one cannot accomplish these goals simply by declaring them. Rather, the imbrication of racist ideology with capitalist requires a struggle within North American society (if that is where one lives). Escape, on the other hand, simply leads to sectarianism and self-congratulation.

    2) I understand that there is a social-constructivist rather than biological conception of race underlying this piece, but I still find “white culture” ill-defined. Are Jewish, Slavic, Hispanic, Arab, Irish cultures presumed as white or not? Certainly there are members of these groups who enjoy white privilege, but others who do not. So if we understand this culturally, which cultures need to be overcome and discarded versus which others can be presumed as progressive.

    3) In general I think this is an idealist case of putting the cart before the horse. “Whiteness” comes as a second-order ideological identification after the priority of the reproduction of capital and the imperialist global order. Eric Williams, for example, makes this clear in his Capitalism and Slavery; Frantz Fanon and Malcolm X also realized this. A cultural battle against the ideology of white superiority is absolutely crucial, but on its own it cannot serve as a substitute for understanding its causes.

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  5. Holly Ellenbecker says:

    I still have a ways to go. Thank you for the piece.

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  6. Michael Graaf says:

    Taking up the patriarchy/matriarchy discussion in the first two comments, my two cents says neither is good if it inflicts domination. But patriarchy can only exist by subordinating matriarchy, so it intrinsically dominates – to some degree, by means of the very same subordinate matriarchy. Matriarchy, on the other hand, can exist without patriarchy and is therefore potentially less dominance-based.

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  7. Mark Lance says:

    Ben: I certainly agree with you that there is no such thing as “white culture” aside from a late vague construction that is tied to imperialism and racism. But I don’t see how that puts you in agreement with the initial article. That article assumes it and talks about it. How do you interpret the claim that one should reject white people, white culture, white history and white narratives if none of these things exist?

    Put another way – and this is as much a response to Matt and Fred (if I may): if there is no such thing as white culture, then there is also no such thing as maroon culture. Indeed, the idea that Palestinians, Sikhs, Ethiopians, descendents of Mississippi slaves, Hmong, Australian aboriginals, Tibetans, each of the first nations of the Americas, etc. are all a culture is far less reasonable than that “whites” are. Of course that is not to say that it might not be strategically useful to form particular groupings of people in resisting various aspects of oppression, but not only is there no such cultural group, it is clearly misguided to suppose that racism operates according to the same dynamics or that it is driven by the same forces in all cases. (The Ainu of Japan are pretty seriously marginalized and oppressed, and along familiar racist lines, but I trust we can’t talk about “whiteness” there as if it is the same power structure with western imperialism.) Further, any political program that is going to have the legitimacy to make specific demands about how others work in solidarity vis a vis all racially oppressed people will have to come from a pretty broad and representative group encompassing all these diverse peoples.

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  8. Interesting article and comments. I would just like to add that it is important that we move away from the patriarchy/matriarchy paradigm and think of what truly respects and honors the earth and all Life is a matrifocal society. To use the word matriarchy merely turns patriarchy on its head and sustains a relationship of domination. I think Barbara Mor in her The Great Cosmic Mother explains this concept excellently…Great dialogue, btw.

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  9. Sam Diener says:

    Hello, Fred and Matt, this is fascinating.

    What I love about the Maroon metaphor is that it emphasizes the long history of escape from and resistance to enslavement and domination of all kinds, and the importance of building communities of liberation and resistance with diverse allies. Your essay reminds me of the argument that Sara Evans makes, in her book, Free Spaces, about the crucial role that liberated and liberating spaces can have for fostering movements for fundamental social change.

    I also appreciate the importance of critiquing white anti-racist practice: the question of what is effective work against racism, in this case when undertaken by white people, is a thorny one. As someone with white privilege struggling to be an effective anti-racist ally and advocate of justice, I wrestle with these questions, and I don’t think there are easy answers.

    I’m bothered by a tone in this piece that seems to present an unnecessary binary choice: white anti-racists bad, Maroon whites good. I know the piece doesn’t necessarily say that all white anti-racist practices are harmful (hence the repeated use of the phrase “white anti-racists may…”) but I think too often what follows the “may” is a straw person argument which doesn’t critique white anti-racist practice itself but is an important critique of the positions of putatively liberal whites who profess, not even anti-racism, but the ideology of “color-blind” non-racism.

    Rather than characterizing people as good or bad, I want to learn from, honor, and build upon a long line of flawed but important anti-racist _actions_ by people of all races, including a few white people, in North America and Europe. The earliest examples of white people working to end racism in the Americas I know of were in Cuba in the early 1500s: they were Jesuits who refused to give communion to any fellow Spaniard who practiced slavery. They in turn motivated the slave owner Bartolomé de las Casas to free the people he had enslaved and become a life-long campaigner against racism against the indigenous people of the Americas and advocate of human rights. His legacy too, is quite mixed (which I won’t go into here, but see http://www.lascasas.org/), but is a fascinating one.

    By the way, I wonder if you might regard some of the actions of Cabeza de Vaca and Thomas Morton as early exemplars of Maroon anti-racism.

    Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish would-be conquistador who, after being shipwrecked multiple times in 1528, himself became enslaved for a time, according to his account, and then (after escaping) walked across the Southwest part of what is now the US and Northern Mexico. When, six years later, after living with a number of ethnic communities, he encountered Spaniards again, they were Spanish slave raiders whose crimes he strenuously objected to (see http://www.abqjournal.com/venue/books/276888books01-13-08.htm).

    Morton served as “host” of the Merrymount community in what is today Quincy, Massachusetts in the 1620s (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Morton_%28colonist%29), a community that worked closely with the Algonquin tribes of the area and spoke out against the racist and genocidal and theocratic depredations of the Pilgrims and Puritans. Again, his legacy was mixed: among other things he still believed in spreading Christianity to native peoples, but his attempts to build a multi-racial community of resistance fascinates me.

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  10. 1. The colonization of North America into the consolidation as the U.S.A. Empire has meant the de-ethnicization of ALL for the “price of the ticket” (James Baldwin) of entry into the American Matrix. Therefore, Europeans BECOME white in the context of becoming Americans. The continuation of African slavery today is the de-Africanization of Black people to becoming Americans, hence they wear straightened, pressed/processed hair, bourgeois business suits, eat the worst food from slavery days (and call it “soul food”), etc.

    2. The Empire is now consolidated, spanning across the globe, including territories in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean (including the U.S.’s 50th state).
    Maroon societies were STAMPED OUT. our call, or manifesto, is to regenerate them. one example is SCIENTIFIC SOUL SESSIONS http://www.scientificsoulsessions.com and the cajun, seminole and others continue the historic identities. we need new revolutionary maroon identities, spaces, kreolization, etc., to resist the Empire’s imposed identity and allegiance.

    3. Matri-focal, Matri-centric, Matri-lineal, all combined, is both the old ancient matriarchy and the new, coming-into-being revolutionary matriarchy. Ancient matriarchies continue, tho diluted due to capitalist globalization, with the Iroquois, the Minangkabau, the Wayuu–in every part of the globe, but they are indigeonous, local subsistance-local production based societies, not global empires or nation-states.

    4. Whiteness is pure fabrication. What is its music? What is its cuisine? What is its clothing? What is its history? All expropriations, the plunder of conquest and subjugation, and the lies of White Mythologies. When people naively cite Pizza or Spaghetti, I point out that these are originally Chinese, and not Italian!

    5. The practice of marooning is like the practice of commoning: it must be brought about through opposition and continued colonization/captivity by The American Matrix. The Black and Chicano and Native liberation struggles all seek to dismember and de-link from the U.S. Empire. Are “whites” helping? Are YOU helping? Or are you promoting assimilation and integrationism?

    Fred Ho

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