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Liberal reformism in the context of surveillance reifies state power – only complete revolution has the power to be successful

Khalek 13, Rania Khalek is a staff writer for Truth Out, “Activists of Color Lead Charge Against Surveillance, NSA,”, NN

"We been exposed to this type of surveillance since we got here," declared Kymone Freeman, director of the National Black LUV Fest as he emceed the historic rally against NSA surveillance in Washington, DC. He continued, "Drones is a form of surveillance. Racial profiling is a form of surveillance. Stop-and-frisk is a form of surveillance. We all black today!"∂ This was the mood that characterized the atmosphere of the Stop Watching Us rally on October 26, 2013, organized by broad coalition of more than 100 public advocacy groups from across the political spectrum, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundations and Color of Change, and attended by thousands. The purpose of the rally, which began as a march from Union Station to the reflecting pool outside Capitol Hill, was to deliver a petition to Congress demanding an end to NSA mass spying.∂ A White-Centric Movement? Not Even Close∂ Throughout the day, Freeman's voice could be heard praising whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning or reminding the crowd of the racial significance of surveillance history. As a result, the intersection of surveillance and race remained at the forefront of the day's event, which the crowd happily welcomed with applause. Yet somehow this was lost on most journalists in attendance.∂ Despite the crowd's diversity and repeated acknowledgements of America's sordid history of aggressive spying on communities of color, the few outlets to cover the rally portrayed it and the movement against NSA surveillance as one dominated almost exclusively by privileged white people.∂ USA Today managed to interview white men only and failed to quote a single speaker of color. Neither the Huffington Post nor The Guardian fared any better. To be fair, big-name speakers, such as Jesselyn Radack, director of the Government Accountability Project, and Thomas Drake, former NSA senior executive turned whistleblower, were featured prominently in news reports most likely because they are well-known. But that still doesn't explain why almost all the attendees interviewed were white when the crowd was far from homogenous.∂ Not a single media outlet bothered to mention the moving and powerful performance of Malachi "Malpractice" Byrd, a member of the DC Youth Poetry Slam Team whose piece began, "I pledge civil disobedience to the flag of the hypocritical tyrants that expect us to assimilate and to the republic, which somehow stands, as one nation, under many gods, of individuals stripped of their liberties and in need of justice for all."∂ ∂ But it was Slate political reporter Dave Weigel who seemed to have attended a different rally altogether. "Among the attendees: More than a few Tea Partiers and young, small-l libertarians, possibly equaling those who could be put on the left," Weigel reported. ∂ While there's certainly nothing wrong with recognizing the presence of right-leaning civil libertarians who value privacy, this portrayal is inaccurate and ignores the voices of those who suffer the most from the NSA dragnet.∂ Surveillance State Was Built on Targeting Communities of Color∂ Two days prior to the Stop Watching Us rally, Busboys & Poets, a progressive DC restaurant, hosted "Enemies of the State? Government Surveillance of Communities of Color," a panel discussion organized by Free Press, the Center for Media Justice and Voices for Internet Freedom. The room was packed mostly with activists of color concerned about the implications of NSA surveillance on already-marginalized and increasingly surveilled communities.∂ The panel took place at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC, on October 24, 2013. Steven Renderos, national organizer for the Center for Media Justice, who helped put together the panel, told Truthout that examining the legacy of surveillance in communities of color could help lead to solutions. "It's critical to understand the history so we can learn how to dismantle it," Renderos said.∂ "Those of us from marginalized communities grew up in environments very much shaped by surveillance, which has been utilized to ramp up the criminal justice system and increase deportations," Renderos said. "It's having real consequences in our communities where children are growing up without parents in the home and families are being torn apart through raids and deportations, a lot of which is facilitated through the use of surveillance."∂ Panelist Fahd Ahmed, legal and policy director for the South Asian-led social justice organization Desis Rising Up and Moving, argued that mass surveillance is the predictable outgrowth of programs that have targeted marginalized communities for decades.∂ "Just by the very nature of [the United States] being a settler-colonialist and capitalist nation, race and social control are central to its project," Ahmed said. "Anytime we see any levels of policing - whether it's day-to-day policing in the streets, surveillance by the police or internet surveillance - social control, particularly of those that resist the existing system, becomes an inherent part of that system."∂ But, he warned, "These policies are not going to be limited to one particular community. They're going to continue to expand further and further" because "the surveillance has a purpose, which is to exert the power of the state and control the potential for dissent."∂ Seema Sadanandan, program director for ACLU DC, acknowledged the collective resentment felt by people of color who are understandably frustrated that privacy violations are only now eliciting mass public outrage when communities of color have been under aggressive surveillance for decades.∂ "The Snowden revelations represent a terrifying moment for white, middle-class and upper-middle-class people in this country, who on some level believe that the Bill of Rights and Constitution were protecting their everyday lives," Sadanandan said. "For people of color from communities with a history of discrimination and economic oppression that prevents one from realizing any of those rights on a day-to-day basis, it wasn't a huge surprise."∂ But Sadanandan argued that NSA surveillance still "has particular concerns for communities of color because of their unique relationship to the criminal justice or social control system, a billion-dollar industry with regard to, for example, border patrol or data mining as it's applied to racially profile." Sadanandan warned that NSA surveillance more than likely would strengthen that system of control.∂ Former political prisoner and Black Panther Party leader Dhoruba Bin-Wahad declared that "the United States has moved into a full garrison police state," which "has been exported and institutionalized all over the globe." His antidote? "We have to put together an international movement to check the development evolution of the modern national security state," which requires linking globalized labor exploitation to the prison industry to the war on terror to institutionalized white supremacy rooted in the "European-settler state." Bin-Wahad was skeptical about the ability of "legal" remedies to reform the system. "You cannot make the police state better. You cannot reform white supremacy. We need to abolish the system as it now stands," Bin-Wahad said.∂ Disappointed With Obama∂ Bin-Wahad's most scathing indictment was of African-Americans in positions of power. He referred to Barack Obama and the Congressional Black Caucus as "black enemies of black people" for sanctioning drone strikes and NSA spying" and called Obama "the worst thing to happen to black people since Reconstruction."∂ At the rally, Steve, who traveled from Philadelphia and declined to give a last name, said that growing up as a black man in South Africa instilled in him a desire to speak out against rights abuses. "I feel sensitive when I see here in America people having their rights infringed upon," he told Truthout. "The US government must act consistently with what it preaches around the world. They can't preach to the world about human rights if they're not providing them to the people over here."∂ Anthony Wilson, who traveled by bus from Philadelphia with the software company ThoughtWorks, told Truthout at the rally that despite being an enthusiastic Obama voter, he is disappointed in the president. "I believed that when Obama was elected things would be more open, but to my surprise it went in the other direction." Wilson also expressed frustration with his own community, saying, "A lot of black people give Obama a pass." "When I voted for him, I thought I was voting for a Martin Luther King or a Malcolm X. But he is not progressive enough. He has no intention of changing anything. And if he hasn't done it by now, then he never will." ∂ Renderos expressed similar sentiments. "A lot of communities of color are deferring to the president with very blanketed support for his policies."∂ Renderos said organizing and educating can help combat this. "When the framing around surveillance is posited around the first and fourth amendment, that's unfortunately a reality that doesn't necessarily resonate with communities of color. The fourth amendment has been eroded through programs like stop-and-frisk and Secure Communities," he said. "We need to build a consensus around the increase in deportations and the jail population by communities of color and how this is intrinsically connected with the increase of a surveillance state here in the US."∂ Learning From History∂ Ignoring activists of color does more than just rob marginalized communities of having a voice in the NSA surveillance conversation. It also overlooks potential strategies for fighting it.∂ Renderos put it best: "We need to learn from history about how movements like the Black Panther Party, American Indian Movement and the Brown Berets responded to living under a surveillance state."

Anonymity allows whiteness to remain unchallenged while people of color are continuously exploitegd

Rodriguez 15, Princess Harmony Rodriguez, 3/27/15, Princess is an afro-latin trans woman, survivor of childhood and adult sexual violence, creator, otaku, and anti-violence activist. Her writing has been published on The Feminist Wire, Feministing, Black Girl Dangerous, Know Your IX, and “Who Are the Real Victims?: SAE Racist Chant, Yik Yak, and the Weapon of Anonymity

Recently, a video depicting members of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) singing a racial slur-laden song making reference to lynching shocked and appalled the nation. The outcry resulted in a near-instantaneous dissolution of the chapter and expulsion of its ringleaders. However, the attitudes expressed by SAE aren’t exactly isolated. In fact, the outcry spawned the #NotJustSAE hashtag in which students of color shared our experiences with racism on our college campuses. An ongoing source of controversy, Twitter and Facebook university “confessions” pages and anonymous posting apps are making waves for the exact same reasons. In particular, the app Yik Yak has been highlighted as a source of trouble because of the chaos it enables. While some posts are innocent, such as those asking about parties or asking who got the hookup to a good weed man, there are too many that are dedicated to violent and white supremacist acts. On campuses across America, the app is either creating or worsening gender, racial, and class divisions. Schools, including schools already under a microscope for their (mis)handling of sexual violence, are allowing individual students who come forward about sexual violence to get targeted by those who were reported. A dear friend of mine, who had already survived violence, was targeted on her college’s Yik Yak. They threatened her with violence for daring to speak what happened to her. I saw the screenshots and so did the administration. Similarly, schools already the target of criticism for their racial divisions are rife with yaks that are filled with violent threats and racial epithets. For example, a school in North Philadelphia that’s already the target of criticism for gentrifying the area and for having a disturbingly high number of overt racists has racist yaks posted almost every day. Words that ordinarily have no negative connotation to them, such as “local”, are racialized and turned into an acceptable form of the N-word. When posts get reported to college administrators, it’s almost a given that the administration will wash its hands of the responsibility to handle it. Civil rights laws such as Title VI and Title IX (among others) and the Department of Education’s subsequent Dear Colleague Letters say that universities have a responsibility to handle violence and harassment from students on campus, even if the violence occurs online. By ignoring and failing to acknowledge incidents of harassment and violence, they’re breaking the law. Even if they’re unable to track down who is responsible for particular threats, they can at least make an attempt to acknowledge the problem. This highlights the problem of anonymity. When people use anonymity, it can either be used for innocuous or outright negative purposes. In Yik Yak’s case, as has been noted across the country, it’s used mostly for negative purposes. In its short history, Yik Yak has been used to make bomb threats, target specific students who were already survivors of sexual violence, target entire races of people, and threaten said people with violence. In each of those examples, with the exception of only a few, not only did those posts remain, they got upvoted. And they didn’t get just one or two upvotes, they got dozens of upvotes. Most yaks don’t even get 5 upvotes. But they got dozens. Juxtapose that with statements made by one of its creators. Brooks Buffington claimed the app was made for the “disenfranchised”. With violent yaks not being removed and a constant stream of racist yaks, who really is disenfranchised to them? Who really is marginalized to them? Who are the real victims? The answer is simple. The victims are the white bros who use that app, in their own minds. Then, what purpose does anonymity – especially in terms of this particular app – serve? Anonymity serves as a weapon for the patriarchy. Why? Because they’re not held accountable for their words. When someone posts an anti-black, racist, and/or misogynistic yak, the people who view it – including the people in charge of moderating those posts – support it. They upvote it. Even if people report the post, it’s probably not gonna go down. In other words, it serves as a weapon for the patriarchy because the audience of that post, from top to bottom, supports that viewpoint. And that’s more than just within the app, since this app was targeted at college students, so the audience then includes administration because it’s inevitable that they’ll get involved. Usually, “involved” only means that they acknowledge that it’s happening and then nothing happens from there. Despite their responsibility to protect their students from violence, particularly violence based on race, gender, etc., they refuse to act. They protect and enable the status quo: violence towards gender/sexual minorities, people with disabilities, and oppressed racial groups. With the exclusion of incidents that go viral, such as the SAE chant, this status quo is never challenged by administration, There is an unspoken agreement between the powers that be and the students that violence against oppressed people is okay. In an ideal world, anonymity would protect the oppressed and serve as a means for us to subvert the negative things forced on us. However, that is not the world we live in and while there are those who have used anonymity for that purpose, it’s more common to run into racists and misogynists using anonymity as a shield to keep themselves from being accountable for their words and actions. In this world, anonymity and the existing power structure make it so that oppressors don’t have to be accountable for their actions or words unless they become too much of a burden for the patriarchy to protect. For us to further the conversation started by #NotJustSAE, we have to acknowledge the challenges that anonymity creates for oppressed people. Some college students started campaigns to “take back” Yik Yak from students who use it to harm others. While anonymity serves as a weapon for the oppressors, it can be made to serve us as a means to fight back and change the environment on the internet, on campus, and in society overall.

Race always comes first – the privilege to be anonymous is something only afforded to whiteness

Yancy 14, George Yancy is a professor of philosophy at McAnulty College who focuses primarily on issues of social justice, “White Self-Criticality beyond Anti-racism: How Does It Feel to Be a White Problem?”, NN

This feeling of anonymity has also arisen in similar situations in which my whiteness renders my antiracist aspirations utterly invisible. I feel my particular identity being effaced by whiteness itself I want to be able to censure whiteness simply by looking a certain way, through the use of facial expressions and body language, but I can't. I feel trapped, rendered invisible behind a screen that makes all white people look identical.. Since I can't change the fact that I am white, I can't get out from behind the screen. Subtle gestures toward resistance or cross-racial solidarity, such as looking angry or hated, rarely make any difference: they are easily ignored or misinter-preted by other screened-in whites, and they are usually indistinguishable to those on the other side. If I yell loud enough or jump high enough, the people out there may be able to hear me or see me, and a large enough disturbance stands a chance of being noticed by those on my side, too. But as soon as I cease to make this tremendous effort, I retain instantly and by default to the anonymity guaranteed by the hegemonic screen of whiteness. My protest against feeling "anonymous" may signal that I have realized the impossibility, in this racialized society, of being judged on my individual merits and not according to my race. Before noticing that whiteness is a problem, and a problem fore, I was able to enjoy the presumption (mine and other white people's, thatmis) of my own goodness and the assurance that my individual acts, good or bad, would never reflect on my race, but only on me personally.. This exposes my mistaken white belief that U.S. society had already become, as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King tr. dreamed, a meritocracy where we are "not ... judged by the color of lout] skin but by the content of [ourl character.” I now retain that white people generally feel this way only about white people, and that people of color are justified in assuming white people, including me, to be racist (actively participating in whiteness) unless we demonstrate This realization is sobering, especially the latter. It feels unfair, though, of course, it is not, to have to prove myself, not to be considered "innocent until proven guilty." Is this in any way analogous to what individual people of color experi-ence when white people make assumptions about them based on their actual or perceived race? Does my sense of "anonymity" in a white crowd signal that what I am up against is nothing less than racial stereotyping? By asking this question, I do not intend to blame people of color for stereotyping white people or to cry 'reverse discrimination." Insofar as white people can be "stereotyped' as part of the oppressor group, it is our own fault for having been and continuing to be oppressors; it is our own racism, coming home to roost. Neither do I intend to imply that all stereotyping has equally detrimen-tal effects. hi my experience, the white stereotype of a white person as good works to the psychic advantage of white people who are clueless about whiteness. It is extremely pleasant to be able to expect to be received warm-ly, or at least chilly, by virtually everyone I encomter in my dolly life. I am chafmg against this stereotype because working to diminish the power of whiteness and gaining the good opinion of mtiracists, especially people of color, has become important to me. But unless I am carving out a path different from the masses of white people who don't do a whole lot to counteract whiteness, it is perfectly logical for everyone, whites and people of color alike, to assume that I am part of those masses. If I'm not taking such steps, I am just like them.

Surveillance reform has no chance of remedying racial inequality

Taylor 14, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is Assistant Professor of African studies at Princeton University, “The system isn't broken, it's racist by design,”, NN

NONE OF the reforms that Obama and Holder at the federal level or New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are suggesting will do anything to address these systemic issues. Instead, Obama's commission on policing in the 21st century is likely to produce many of the same "reforms" that created the problems in the first place.∂ The commission is to be led by former Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson and Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey. These two particular people at the helm of a commission aimed at curbing errant police conduct in Black communities is akin to putting the fox in charge of investigating a rash of attacks on chickens. It's literally absurd.∂ All one needs to know about Robinson is that she worked in the Department of Justice for seven years during the Clinton administration, when the U.S. became known as the "incarceration nation." Under Clinton, the federal and state prison populations rose faster than under any other administration in American history--the rate at which Black people were incarcerated tripled.

The affirmative’s reaction to NSA surveillance is a product of white privilege. The abuses they’re outraged with aren’t exceptions to the rule; they are the rule.

Wise 13 — Timothy J. Wise, anti-racist activist and writer, holds a B.A. in Political Science from Tulane University, 2013 (“Whiteness, NSA Spying and the Irony of Racial Privilege,” Tim Wise’s blog, June 19th, Available Online at, Accessed 02-17-2015)

The idea that with this NSA program there has been some unique blow struck against democracy, and that now our liberties are in jeopardy is the kind of thing one can only believe if one has had the luxury of thinking they were living in such a place, and were in possession of such shiny baubles to begin with. And this is, to be sure, a luxury enjoyed by painfully few folks of color, Muslims in a post-9/11 America, or poor people of any color. For the first, they have long known that their freedom was directly constrained by racial discrimination, in housing, the justice system and the job market; for the second, profiling and suspicion have circumscribed the boundaries of their liberties unceasingly for the past twelve years; and for the latter, freedom and democracy have been mostly an illusion, limited by economic privation in a class system that affords less opportunity for mobility than fifty years ago, and less than most other nations with which we like to compare ourselves.

In short, when people proclaim a desire to “take back our democracy” from the national security apparatus, or for that matter the plutocrats who have ostensibly hijacked it, they begin from a premise that is entirely untenable; namely, that there was ever a democracy to take back, and that the hijacking of said utopia has been a recent phenomenon. But there wasn’t and it hasn’t been.

Blackness is a phonotypical and aesthetic phenomena – black bodies are already coded in the temporality of modernity – there is no invisibility to a body marked by gratuitous violence


Yancy 12, George Yancy is a Professor of Philosophy, works primarily in the areas of critical philosophy of race, critical whiteness studies, and philosophy of the Black experience. “Look, A White!: Philosophical Essays on Whiteness,” NN

In terms of the clicking sounds, my body, through the gazes of white people, manifests a particular modality of volatility (etymologically volare, "to fly"). The etymological meaning of volatility captures the sense in which the black body, within the context of white lies and fears, can experience instability, flux, where its meaning appears to fail to remain tethered, as it were, by the power of black self-definitional agency alone. When walking by whites in cars, I might be said to exist ontologically quadrupled. While it is not possible for me to exist in four different places at once, I am after some-thing that arises at the phenomenological or lived level of experience. For example, it can be said that I am "here," taking up space outside on the side-walk or crossing the street before the appearance of any car. However, I am also "ahead of myself:" I don't mean this in the way that Heideggerians speak of human beings as always ahead of themselves qua possibility, or in the way that Sartreans speak of human reality as being for itself and as always future oriented, as always more. Rather, "being ahead of myself' suggests the sense in which I am always already fixed, complete, given. From the perspective of white looks, my being—the dynamic possibility and openness of being other than I am—can never transcend the fixity of my presumed racial essence. After all, a "nigger" will always be a "nigger." In other words, before I walk by a car filled with whites, and before they catch a glimpse of me and lock their doors, I exist in the form of a static racial tem-plate. My being is "known" by whites before my arrival. I reside in a fixed place, always already waiting for me. In short, then, I exist ahead of myself. In Charles Johnson's brilliant phrase, and from which the title of this chapter is derived, I encounter myself "much like a mugger at a boardwalk's end."" My destiny has already been determined; the meaning of my life is forever foreclosed by my blackness. As Frantz Fanon writes, "And so it is not I who make a meaning for myself, but it is the meaning that was already there, pre-existing, waiting for me."" Whiteness has created a world in which necessity is the foundation of being black-in-the-world. As black, I am possessed by an essence that always precedes me. I am always "known" in advance. Please welcome the "person" who needs no introduction: the black. Once next to the car (or once whites "see" my black body approaching), though physically separated from it, I find myself "over there" floating like a phantasm in their imaginary—much like a thought bubble. Yet I am also "alongside" myself as I catch a glimpse of me through their gaze—I have become a predator, their predator. It is as if I carry myself in the form of an extraneous appendage, a superfluous meaning. Brent Staples offers a fasci-nating phenomenological description of what it means when the black body, his black body, experiences a sense of ontological disjointedness and multi-plicity vis-a-vis white looks: ∂ I'd been a fool. I'd been walking the street grinning good evening to people who were frightened to death of me. I did violence to them by just being. How had I missed this? I kept walking at night, but from then on I paid attention. I became an expert in the language of fear. Couples locked arms or reached for each other's hands when they saw me. Some crossed to the other side of the street. People who were carrying on conversations went mute and stared straight ahead, as though avoiding my eyes would save them. . . . I tried to be innocuous, but didn't know how. The more I thought about how moved, the less my body belonged to me. I became a false character riding along side it.. ∂ Staples's point is that he felt removed from his body, disembodied. Under the white gaze, his body undergoes a process of volatility, a form of ontologi-cal destabilization. In my case, then, to exist ontologically quadrupled is to experience myself as "here-ahead-over-there-alongside." In this way, I have become, under the white gaze, "immaterial" and "vaporous." I am spatially "here." Yet I am "over there," ahead of myself, fixed as a dangerous preda-tor even before I am "seen" by white gazes. Then again, once "seen," I am also "there," residing in the minds of whites as a fixed stereotype. Further still, I am "there," alongside myself—a fourth place. As Robert Gooding-Williams says, the clicking "performances which [produce] this sense of be-ing enslaved to an image ... leave one feeling literally and utterly dislocated in physical space."" The metaphor of finding oneself much like a mugger at a boardwalk's end is a profound way of depicting the black body's meaning as always already ahead of itself. Think about it. One is typically unaware of the pres-ence of a mugger. The mugger is secretly hiding, waiting to attack. The mugger, if successful, robs you of something precious, valuable. You feel vio-lated. To be black, in the context of antiblack racism, is to have one's mean-ing determined—already in place. As Johnson argues, "All that I am, can be to them [whites], is as nakedly presented as the genitals of a plant since they cannot see my other profiles. Epidermalization [or reduction to the black epi-dermis] spreads throughout the body like an odor, like an echoing sound.". So, then, the meaning of my blackness is no mystery. There is no deeper meaning waiting to express itself. All is surface; there is no depth; I am known already. In this way, too, the meaning of my being awaits me. Indeed, just when I thought that I was an individual, someone with inner complexity and layers of psychological sophistication and subtlety, I am laid bare, the "secret" of my being is out: "I am your worst nightmare." In fact, when in the presence of many whites, I discover that I am a universal, one who is plagued by an inner racial teleology that is indelibly fixed. And like a mugger at a boardwalk's end, I am robbed of ontological upsurge. I feel as if the capacity to transform the meaning of my life, to define the terms of my existence, has been stolen from me.

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