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June 02,2020

by Efrén Poveda Garcìa

Black Lives’ Conditions Matter

Of course, black lives matter, but not only when it comes to keeping or losing them. Besides police murders and impunity, the conditions in which black lives develop must be addressed. These conditions create suffering and separation between human beings, and they are the reason why so many black lives are cruelly taken away with impunity. The racist structure of societies must be unveiled.

Racism is not only in people’s minds. Behind overt racist attacks there is an entire social structure, the entire social structure, working in oppressive and discriminatory ways towards racialised collectives amongst others.

When we (the Miista team) talk of social structure, we are referring to the organisation of a society through institutions and norms, written and unwritten, that hold together patterns of distribution of space, property, roles, labour, access to goods and services, interaction possibilities, circulation, opportunities, visibility, etc. In short, we refer to the way power relationships are assembled and kept in place.

Murders such as that of George Floyd are the tip of the iceberg of racism. Social structures create channels for the flow of affects and feelings of identification, as well as for the allocation of guilt and worth and the orientation of rage.

Racist social structures create racist stereotypes and reduce the opportunities for their refutation. Racist social structures, therefore, create racist minds, as well as racist visceral reactions in those who don’t want to be racist.

GettyImages-7074372691-copy

We all need to realise our implication in the maintenance of the racist nature of our societies and, equally, of our collective potential to change it. After all, social structures are sustained by the sum of everyone’s actions.

But to achieve deep, long-lasting changes we need to be a majority, which is why all the unaware and semi-unaware beneficiaries of our racist system (including the one writing these lines) must be woken up. Indeed, “silence is violence” and “silence is complicity.”

The Miista team is a collaborative group of people that, despite being small, presents a wide array of skin colours, ages, origins, mother tongues, professions and ways of experiencing gender and sex. Of this we are proud, but also grateful because such variety of experiences and points of view is one of our most valued resources to accomplish the goal of offering our broader community something unique.

We are also a socially engaged team, sometimes with more questions than answers, that tries to get involved in constructive interaction with the Miista community. That is why in both our social media and our web’s Journal you can find reflections and perspectives on issues that we consider worthy of attention.

Since the beginning of protests prompted by the murder of George Floyd we have asked ourselves about the right way to proceed. We didn’t want to be, or seem, opportunistic, for opportunism can easily empty out any important message. At the same time, we didn’t feel that ours should be a simple gesture of repeating the mottos we support. If you have been following our Journal, you will know by now that we like to go further, to open windows and let fresh and informed considerations in; just as you will know that we have dealt with racial issues and other kinds of oppressions in multiple occasions. Moreover, we needed to do something basic when it comes to elaborate nuanced opinions with regards to a conflict: listening to those most affected by it, specially if their voices are usually unheard.

Today, we want to share a number of our thoughts (part of which have already been formulated lines above), hoping that at least some of you find them valuable:

1. Police brutality and murders such as that of George Floyd are the tip of a big iceberg. They cannot be explained away by talking of misguided individuals. 

2. Racism is not only, nor mainly, in people’s minds. Behind it there is a whole social structure, a systemic machinery of discrimination that shapes stereotypes and the way citizens think and behave.

3. Of course, black lives matter, but not only when it comes to keeping or losing them. Besides police murders and impunity, the conditions in which black lives develop must be addressed, and that entails unveiling the racist structure of societies. 

4. Anti-Black racism is inextricably linked to fierce capitalism and the history of capital accumulation that made slavery an essential “good” in the US. A great deal of the country’s wealth and hegemony comes, even today, from the profits of both slave work and the even cheaper freed slaves’ work.

5. At the same time, a great deal of the country’s institutions were tailor-made by and for well-off white men, who became the “neutral” model of citizenship. Through history these “neutral” citizens have made sure they kept their positions of power with policies and legislations that kept black people in a voiceless, impoverished status.

6. Furthermore, the “neutral” model of citizenship, formulated in civil rights, doesn’t suit the needs and problems of racialised and lower-class people, who don’t start from a position of economic security. No matter how equal before the law citizens are supposed to be, unfair social structures resulting from unfair historical relationships create the need of specific rights that attend specific needs and wrongs.

7. Sometimes, claims and proposals may be inadvertently discriminatory due to the model of universal citizenship in which they are based. Equal treatment prolongs inequalities.

8. Because of the remarks above, we reject the neoliberal discourse of deserving winners and guilty losers.

9. Because of the remarks above, we find censure of protests by pointing at what is considered “vandalism” and “looting” hypocritical or ignorant. This either obscures or overlooks the institutional violence exerted every day on the collective.

10. As a consequence of the remarks above, we defend affirmative action and reparations, but we also believe that deeper changes in the direction of democratisation are what the majority of the population should aspire to. Inclusive processes of deliberation and a conception of societies as systems of cooperation are key to end inequalities.

11. At the same time, we believe that collaboration between women of all races, ages, sexualities, origins, etc., is essential for true progress and encourage the Miista community to participate in it. Current women movements have proved their capacity for inclusiveness as well as for influence and change, and we are confident that their history up to now is just the beginning.

atahualpa header 2

Next, we offer a more complete exposition of the points that haven’t been. 

Social structures don’t spring up out of nowhere. They are the consequence of historical processes. To put it another way, we can say that each social structure is the consequence of the spontaneous evolution and directed change of previous structures through time.

The distinction between spontaneous evolution and directed change is crucial to highlight the fact that social structures can be modified and maintained at will by oligarchies. We should never forget that a good deal of the US wealth nowadays is tainted by the blood of the slaves who created it with their work. That is how capitalism works. You make profit and invest it to create more profit to make even bigger investments to create even bigger profits, and, for all of this to be possible, you need workers with no rights of participation in the benefits generated their work.

Anyway, the point here is that slavery was the result of decisions by land owners, just as its abolition was the result of other decisions, and just as not giving lands to freed slaves was also a decision, one that prevented the production of their own wealth. Decision after decision, wealthy whites made sure that the black community lacked the means for capital accumulation. It turned out that the cost of salaries for free black workers was lower than that of maintaining slaves and their families…

Once fortunes are big enough, they are able to direct the changes in their societies in ways that keep them in power. The resulting institutions, therefore, are made by those fortunes to the benefit of those fortunes.

Screenshot 2020-06-02 at 09.01.39

George Floyd’s death is the tip of an iceberg, but this iceberg is not as impersonal as talking of social structures may seem to imply. A significant part of the racist iceberg is the result of past and present decisions and consistent voluntary inaction.

This way, we have a community of dispossessed, voiceless people struggling to adapt to a social order built by and for well-off white men. Researchers of so-called institutional racism have brought to light a very long list of policies and legislations that reinforced the state of disadvantage of racialised people in the US by means of unequal governmental assistance, quality of housing, access to loans, healthcare, social security, educational level, treatment in the judicial system, and a long and so on.

It is very understandable that a community not only abandoned by authorities, but suffering structural and institutional violence, needs to draw upon illegal activities in order to survive. Hence, some stereotypes have a grain of truth in them, which doesn’t mean they are true in their essentialism. In fact, stereotypes are self-fulfilling to some extent. If everybody believes you are a criminal and, as a result, you find closed doors everywhere, then you are likely to end up committing crime, again, in order to survive.

This is why we reject all images that present any disadvantaged community as being intrinsically prone to crime. Besides their unfair generalisation and their power to promote the behaviours they condemn, they intend to place the origin of such behaviours in the will of the members of the framed community, hiding histories of interrelations marked by exclusion and physical violence.

As a consequence, we find hypocritical all criticisms of the current protests that point at “vandalism” and “looting.” What are vandalism and looting compared with the more subtle, sometimes invisible, but dramatic institutional violence? A violence, furthermore, that, in its more visible manifestations, is approved by many whites as something well-deserved.

The segregation resulting from structural violence certainly doesn’t help debunk stereotypes and, sometimes, the absence of meaningful contact of privileged groups with others can lead to measures, claims and demands that are oppressive as a result of ignorance or undetected neglect.

This has been a topic extensively discussed by feminists. Authors such as bell hooks and Joan Wallach Scott have made plain how the figure of the universal right-bearer in both liberal and republican traditions was modelled by white bourgeois men after a white bourgeois masculine stereotype. That of a self-sufficient, unburdened, eminently rational individual who freely interacts with his equals in the public sphere.

Women, lower-classes and people of colour, associated with emotions and nature, weren’t considered self-sufficient nor able of free choice.

1 bellhooks

Citizenship (civil) rights presupposed the de facto equality between right-bearers. White bourgeois men were equals and were to be treated as such. And the extension of rights to other segments of the population didn’t change the association of universality with equal treatment, a fact that contributes to the endurance of many inequalities given the variety of unaddressed social conditions.

Equality before the law (equal liberty) does nothing to change the non-neutral social structure and norms that hamper the capacity of many to enjoy their rights as some do. Instead, it seems to justify the neoliberal discourse according to which poverty is due to a lack of talent or hard work, while success is due to their presence. Just taking a look at what has been said about the origins of the wealth of US oligarchy gives us a hint of the extent of the lie in the neoliberal credo, based on the dogma of the existence of equal liberty.

Equal liberty cannot exist without equality of opportunities, and the latter implies that specific rights must be granted to historically disadvantaged groups in order to compensate their disadvantage. Affirmative action is one of those rights. Preventing school segregation is another, as should be the elaboration of educational curricula that transmit true knowledge on the history of ethnic minorities and the social, cultural and economic processes that have put each person in a particular social location. Only if we all learn to understand each other, to communicate with each other, will we be able to recognise our mutual humanity.

Deep, structural changes are needed, and we believe they must move towards a conception of society as a system of cooperation and a deliberative model of democracy where all have a voice and their right to be heard is warranted. Sadly, these won’t come without mobilisation, consciousness raising and displacement of the caste in power.

In the last years, we have seen feminist demonstrations in the US embracing a wide myriad of causes (no only those that fall under the feminist label) in their vindications and demands. They felt magical, they felt right. In them, there was awareness that different injustices are created by the same system of privilege, as there was a tacit will of celebrating diversity and erasing privilege from our world.

Steinem Pitman-Hughes

At Miista we believe in the power of collaboration between women to make societies advance. Around the world, women have been pioneers in the defence of the environment and pacifism. It was women who started the anti-slavery movement in the US, and women have been able of proving the existence of pervasive power structures where it seemed to be none. Nowadays, women movements are amongst the main motors of progress, and their force, no doubt, comes from their union.

We want to encourage the Miista community, our diverse community of followers, to make black women in the US know that they are not alone, that their sisters of all colours, sizes and conditions support them and that they are willing to join forces to create true democracies, where all human beings are not only recognised, but treated as beings of equal worth. Democracies in which equality means, on one hand, fair distribution of wealth, and, on the other, the cultivation in every citizen of the necessary skills and tools for political participation, for empathetic relationships, for the development of feelings of self-worth and for choosing one’s goals in life.

June 02,2020

by Efrén Poveda Garcìa

Black Lives’ Conditions Matter

Of course, black lives matter, but not only when it comes to keeping or losing them. Besides police murders and impunity, the conditions in which black lives develop must be addressed. These conditions create suffering and separation between human beings, and they are the reason why so many black lives are cruelly taken away with impunity. The racist structure of societies must be unveiled.

Racism is not only in people’s minds. Behind overt racist attacks there is an entire social structure, the entire social structure, working in oppressive and discriminatory ways towards racialised collectives amongst others.

When we (the Miista team) talk of social structure, we are referring to the organisation of a society through institutions and norms, written and unwritten, that hold together patterns of distribution of space, property, roles, labour, access to goods and services, interaction possibilities, circulation, opportunities, visibility, etc. In short, we refer to the way power relationships are assembled and kept in place.

Murders such as that of George Floyd are the tip of the iceberg of racism. Social structures create channels for the flow of affects and feelings of identification, as well as for the allocation of guilt and worth and the orientation of rage.

Racist social structures create racist stereotypes and reduce the opportunities for their refutation. Racist social structures, therefore, create racist minds, as well as racist visceral reactions in those who don’t want to be racist.

GettyImages-7074372691-copy

We all need to realise our implication in the maintenance of the racist nature of our societies and, equally, of our collective potential to change it. After all, social structures are sustained by the sum of everyone’s actions.

But to achieve deep, long-lasting changes we need to be a majority, which is why all the unaware and semi-unaware beneficiaries of our racist system (including the one writing these lines) must be woken up. Indeed, “silence is violence” and “silence is complicity.”

The Miista team is a collaborative group of people that, despite being small, presents a wide array of skin colours, ages, origins, mother tongues, professions and ways of experiencing gender and sex. Of this we are proud, but also grateful because such variety of experiences and points of view is one of our most valued resources to accomplish the goal of offering our broader community something unique.

We are also a socially engaged team, sometimes with more questions than answers, that tries to get involved in constructive interaction with the Miista community. That is why in both our social media and our web’s Journal you can find reflections and perspectives on issues that we consider worthy of attention.

Since the beginning of protests prompted by the murder of George Floyd we have asked ourselves about the right way to proceed. We didn’t want to be, or seem, opportunistic, for opportunism can easily empty out any important message. At the same time, we didn’t feel that ours should be a simple gesture of repeating the mottos we support. If you have been following our Journal, you will know by now that we like to go further, to open windows and let fresh and informed considerations in; just as you will know that we have dealt with racial issues and other kinds of oppressions in multiple occasions. Moreover, we needed to do something basic when it comes to elaborate nuanced opinions with regards to a conflict: listening to those most affected by it, specially if their voices are usually unheard.

Today, we want to share a number of our thoughts (part of which have already been formulated lines above), hoping that at least some of you find them valuable:

1. Police brutality and murders such as that of George Floyd are the tip of a big iceberg. They cannot be explained away by talking of misguided individuals. 

2. Racism is not only, nor mainly, in people’s minds. Behind it there is a whole social structure, a systemic machinery of discrimination that shapes stereotypes and the way citizens think and behave.

3. Of course, black lives matter, but not only when it comes to keeping or losing them. Besides police murders and impunity, the conditions in which black lives develop must be addressed, and that entails unveiling the racist structure of societies. 

4. Anti-Black racism is inextricably linked to fierce capitalism and the history of capital accumulation that made slavery an essential “good” in the US. A great deal of the country’s wealth and hegemony comes, even today, from the profits of both slave work and the even cheaper freed slaves’ work.

5. At the same time, a great deal of the country’s institutions were tailor-made by and for well-off white men, who became the “neutral” model of citizenship. Through history these “neutral” citizens have made sure they kept their positions of power with policies and legislations that kept black people in a voiceless, impoverished status.

6. Furthermore, the “neutral” model of citizenship, formulated in civil rights, doesn’t suit the needs and problems of racialised and lower-class people, who don’t start from a position of economic security. No matter how equal before the law citizens are supposed to be, unfair social structures resulting from unfair historical relationships create the need of specific rights that attend specific needs and wrongs.

7. Sometimes, claims and proposals may be inadvertently discriminatory due to the model of universal citizenship in which they are based. Equal treatment prolongs inequalities.

8. Because of the remarks above, we reject the neoliberal discourse of deserving winners and guilty losers.

9. Because of the remarks above, we find censure of protests by pointing at what is considered “vandalism” and “looting” hypocritical or ignorant. This either obscures or overlooks the institutional violence exerted every day on the collective.

10. As a consequence of the remarks above, we defend affirmative action and reparations, but we also believe that deeper changes in the direction of democratisation are what the majority of the population should aspire to. Inclusive processes of deliberation and a conception of societies as systems of cooperation are key to end inequalities.

11. At the same time, we believe that collaboration between women of all races, ages, sexualities, origins, etc., is essential for true progress and encourage the Miista community to participate in it. Current women movements have proved their capacity for inclusiveness as well as for influence and change, and we are confident that their history up to now is just the beginning.

atahualpa header 2

Next, we offer a more complete exposition of the points that haven’t been. 

Social structures don’t spring up out of nowhere. They are the consequence of historical processes. To put it another way, we can say that each social structure is the consequence of the spontaneous evolution and directed change of previous structures through time.

The distinction between spontaneous evolution and directed change is crucial to highlight the fact that social structures can be modified and maintained at will by oligarchies. We should never forget that a good deal of the US wealth nowadays is tainted by the blood of the slaves who created it with their work. That is how capitalism works. You make profit and invest it to create more profit to make even bigger investments to create even bigger profits, and, for all of this to be possible, you need workers with no rights of participation in the benefits generated their work.

Anyway, the point here is that slavery was the result of decisions by land owners, just as its abolition was the result of other decisions, and just as not giving lands to freed slaves was also a decision, one that prevented the production of their own wealth. Decision after decision, wealthy whites made sure that the black community lacked the means for capital accumulation. It turned out that the cost of salaries for free black workers was lower than that of maintaining slaves and their families…

Once fortunes are big enough, they are able to direct the changes in their societies in ways that keep them in power. The resulting institutions, therefore, are made by those fortunes to the benefit of those fortunes.

Screenshot 2020-06-02 at 09.01.39

George Floyd’s death is the tip of an iceberg, but this iceberg is not as impersonal as talking of social structures may seem to imply. A significant part of the racist iceberg is the result of past and present decisions and consistent voluntary inaction.

This way, we have a community of dispossessed, voiceless people struggling to adapt to a social order built by and for well-off white men. Researchers of so-called institutional racism have brought to light a very long list of policies and legislations that reinforced the state of disadvantage of racialised people in the US by means of unequal governmental assistance, quality of housing, access to loans, healthcare, social security, educational level, treatment in the judicial system, and a long and so on.

It is very understandable that a community not only abandoned by authorities, but suffering structural and institutional violence, needs to draw upon illegal activities in order to survive. Hence, some stereotypes have a grain of truth in them, which doesn’t mean they are true in their essentialism. In fact, stereotypes are self-fulfilling to some extent. If everybody believes you are a criminal and, as a result, you find closed doors everywhere, then you are likely to end up committing crime, again, in order to survive.

This is why we reject all images that present any disadvantaged community as being intrinsically prone to crime. Besides their unfair generalisation and their power to promote the behaviours they condemn, they intend to place the origin of such behaviours in the will of the members of the framed community, hiding histories of interrelations marked by exclusion and physical violence.

As a consequence, we find hypocritical all criticisms of the current protests that point at “vandalism” and “looting.” What are vandalism and looting compared with the more subtle, sometimes invisible, but dramatic institutional violence? A violence, furthermore, that, in its more visible manifestations, is approved by many whites as something well-deserved.

The segregation resulting from structural violence certainly doesn’t help debunk stereotypes and, sometimes, the absence of meaningful contact of privileged groups with others can lead to measures, claims and demands that are oppressive as a result of ignorance or undetected neglect.

This has been a topic extensively discussed by feminists. Authors such as bell hooks and Joan Wallach Scott have made plain how the figure of the universal right-bearer in both liberal and republican traditions was modelled by white bourgeois men after a white bourgeois masculine stereotype. That of a self-sufficient, unburdened, eminently rational individual who freely interacts with his equals in the public sphere.

Women, lower-classes and people of colour, associated with emotions and nature, weren’t considered self-sufficient nor able of free choice.

1 bellhooks

Citizenship (civil) rights presupposed the de facto equality between right-bearers. White bourgeois men were equals and were to be treated as such. And the extension of rights to other segments of the population didn’t change the association of universality with equal treatment, a fact that contributes to the endurance of many inequalities given the variety of unaddressed social conditions.

Equality before the law (equal liberty) does nothing to change the non-neutral social structure and norms that hamper the capacity of many to enjoy their rights as some do. Instead, it seems to justify the neoliberal discourse according to which poverty is due to a lack of talent or hard work, while success is due to their presence. Just taking a look at what has been said about the origins of the wealth of US oligarchy gives us a hint of the extent of the lie in the neoliberal credo, based on the dogma of the existence of equal liberty.

Equal liberty cannot exist without equality of opportunities, and the latter implies that specific rights must be granted to historically disadvantaged groups in order to compensate their disadvantage. Affirmative action is one of those rights. Preventing school segregation is another, as should be the elaboration of educational curricula that transmit true knowledge on the history of ethnic minorities and the social, cultural and economic processes that have put each person in a particular social location. Only if we all learn to understand each other, to communicate with each other, will we be able to recognise our mutual humanity.

Deep, structural changes are needed, and we believe they must move towards a conception of society as a system of cooperation and a deliberative model of democracy where all have a voice and their right to be heard is warranted. Sadly, these won’t come without mobilisation, consciousness raising and displacement of the caste in power.

In the last years, we have seen feminist demonstrations in the US embracing a wide myriad of causes (no only those that fall under the feminist label) in their vindications and demands. They felt magical, they felt right. In them, there was awareness that different injustices are created by the same system of privilege, as there was a tacit will of celebrating diversity and erasing privilege from our world.

Steinem Pitman-Hughes

At Miista we believe in the power of collaboration between women to make societies advance. Around the world, women have been pioneers in the defence of the environment and pacifism. It was women who started the anti-slavery movement in the US, and women have been able of proving the existence of pervasive power structures where it seemed to be none. Nowadays, women movements are amongst the main motors of progress, and their force, no doubt, comes from their union.

We want to encourage the Miista community, our diverse community of followers, to make black women in the US know that they are not alone, that their sisters of all colours, sizes and conditions support them and that they are willing to join forces to create true democracies, where all human beings are not only recognised, but treated as beings of equal worth. Democracies in which equality means, on one hand, fair distribution of wealth, and, on the other, the cultivation in every citizen of the necessary skills and tools for political participation, for empathetic relationships, for the development of feelings of self-worth and for choosing one’s goals in life.