“When Your Anti-Racism is Anti-Black: An Open Letter to Organizers in Austin”

13 May

Anti-racism is defined by a set of beliefs and actions that work to combat the pervasiveness of racism’s insidious nature in our communities. Anti-black racism, for LEAD, helps us understand what we talk about when we talk about racism. It isn’t some vague “social” group we are fighting for but people and families who find themselves up against political, economic, and social antagonism every single day of their lives in Austin, Texas.

This antagonism is just as insidious as ever. It’s not dressed in a white bed sheet with eye holes anymore. It’s not just screaming at me, calling me a nigger, as I bike through the East Side. It’s not only my landlords attempting to hike up my rent just because. Even more insidious than all those things, anti-black racism has now taken the form of anti-racism: white and non-black POC ostensibly fighting the good fight alongside black folks (or, if they’re really delusional, “for” black folks), but in doing so, actually recreate the imbalances of power that have subjected black people to hardship, silence, and even death.
When I look at the Austin-based zine “Black Women Matter” published by Underground Sketchbook, I am met with a mixture of feelings and concerns, but one thing is certain: I do not know who this collective is and they use the images and “stories” of slain black women (as if the events leading up to their death is the only salient part of these women’s lives?) to sell copies of their publication.

Perhaps there are black women part of this collective. Perhaps they are all actually black women (though this is doubtful). Perhaps, even more, all the donations gained from this publication go directly to the families affected by the deaths of women drawn in this magazine. The point of the matter is this: not even in death are black women afforded the same level of respect, dignity, or sympathy as their non-black sisters in Austin. The likely truth of the matter is this: Underground Sketchbook is not a transparent enterprise, I cannot give it the benefit of the doubt that what they are and who they are is anti-racist, and they misrepresent black life by equating it with black death.
Not long ago I participated in a die-in in front of the Austin Police Department with dozens of other black people. I was splayed out in the middle of Frontage Road for 4 minutes and 37 seconds to symbolize solidarity with Mike Brown.
Other rallies have taken place since then, ostensibly in support of and led by black people. I wouldn’t know for certain because based on the Facebook event pages for events like “May Day for Freddie Gray!” hosted by Abidemi Sankara and Nurk Sheffy, these spaces are infiltrated by non-black people to check how black rage gets to be expressed, i.e. my rage and my POV is unwelcome. Matt George writes,

IMG_4134“Change the event photo, we don’t need a bunch of idiots thinking this is a riot party.” Facebook User Matt George. Posted on “May Day for Freddie Gray!” event page May 1 at 10:24 AM, Austin, TX.

The photo George (who I interpret to be a non-black person) references shows black youth atop a Baltimore City police car. In their argument, George makes a clear distinction between how they envision appropriate protesting behavior and the “idiots” smashing police cars, presumably with no place in a protest against police brutality. Their argument, like so many others’ on this event page, believe that there is a right way for black people to behave and everything else is fetishized “badass” violence, read: black people acting like thugs acting like niggers (see Megan Cognioli’s comment on the same page). Well I, too, have lived in Baltimore. But you do not see me criticizing another black man’s rage with respectability politics that have no place in this discussion.

This open letter may come off as an indictment against anti-racist causes based in Austin, Texas. Or perhaps that I am looking for an apology because your anti-racism praxis is at its core anti-black. Neither is the case, I promise you.

Yes, anti-racism social justice is work that someone has to do. No, I will not give you a pass because at least you tried.

Yes, I love seeing black people organize for black causes. No, that does not mean black people are incapable of anti-black sentiment (see Don Lemon, Ben Carson, Bill Cosby).

Yes, I am angry, enraged even. No, I am not an angry black man stereotype you can write off in one fell swoop.

Yes, LEAD has made similar mistakes and strives to be better. No one person, no one organization is doing this work perfectly, but the least we can do is hold each other to the standard of not repeating the same mistakes again.

LEAD (Learning and Exploring Anti-racist Dialogue)



10 Sep

….it has been a loooooooooong time since anyone has posted here.  For those of you who still check this thing and aren’t on Facebook, you should know about our first meeting back after our summer break!  I’ll copy and paste the link and event description here:


Tomorrow September 10th, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM at Treasure City Thrift [2142 East 7th Street – (512) 524-2820 – info@treasurecitythrift.org – this event is wheelchair accessible]

“For the last month, death has occupied a proximity in our lives that is as close to home as it gets. On our newsfeeds. On our news outlets. In our hearts. But what has come to our attention are the ways in which deaths in our community, the deaths we collectively mourn and wish were not so, have become fraught with the issues of gender, race, and politics of the living. Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO, is an impossible reality to reckon with. But is this not also true for Islan Nettles and Kathryn Johnston? Why are black male deaths more socially palatable than the death of their sister counter parts?

Join us next Wednesday, September 10th, for a vital conversation on the role of masculinity, gendered hierarchy and white supremacy complicating Black death in America. Please find it in yourself to see the ways white privilege, male privilege (cis or not), and institutionalized racism factored into sympathy for Mike Brown, but none for black women (cis or otherwise) in our communities.

Please use this article as a starting point for discussion:

We also want to open this as a space for healing. We may have lost Mike Brown one month ago, but that does not mean we are any closer to recovering from such a terrible blow. Feel free to share how you deal with loss of black and brown loved ones, or where you are in your recovery process(es). Thank you.

In Solidarity,

LEAD Core”

There are almost 50 people RSVP’d for this event so we are expecting a larger group than normal.  If you have questions or concerns going into this meeting that you would like addressed, please feel free to contact our organizing team at leadatx@gmail.com.

-Kanoa Bailey

Founder, LEADATX: Learning & Exploring Anti-Racist Dialogue in Austin, TX


LEADATX 7: Everything TBD

24 Jul

LEADATX 7: Everything TBD

Hey folks we need some suggestions for a place to meet next week.

I’m throwing up some suggestions for readings based on posts on the LEAD homepage. Just like the article to vote for it.




5th Meeting – LEAD

3 Jul

Ah!  Forgot to get a reminder for this week’s meeting up – my apologies folks.




4th Meeting L.E.A.D. – Black Power Mixtape

19 Jun

4th Meeting L.E.A.D. – Black Power Mixtape

Hola gente!

Just a friendly reminder and invitation to come out to Treasure City Thrift tonight (June 19) at 7:00 PM for L.E.A.D.’s fourth meeting.  There has been no reading posted because we’re changing it up this week and showing a film instead.

Jena Harris will be screening and facilitating discussion of Black Power Mixtape.


Hope you all can make it!



Community Agreements/Acknowledgements Doc

7 Jun

Community Agreements/Acknowledgements are up!  This is a public doc that can be edited by anyone – please feel free to add your own 🙂



4th Meeting – L.E.A.D.

6 Jun

Let’s see some suggestions for readings/possible docs to screen!

Themes from Meeting #3: school to prison pipeline, prison industrial complex, codependency, just to name a few…

Notes – Meeting 6/5/13

6 Jun

Notes – Meeting 6/5/13

  • Systemic nature of white supremacy: how people with scientific/intellectual capital get in a room and make a plan
  • Do people trust the U.N.?
  • what does it mean to appeal to the same power structure that upholds the system of oppression?
  • School of the Americas – rebranding of racism
  • systemic squashing of all hope
  • New stat: every 36 hours a black person is murdered by law enforcement – more frequent than slavery in the 1840’s
  • Byron Carter, Jr
  • Genocide: history – term coined by U.N. – holocaust
  • Conquest by Andrea Smith: sexual abuse as foundation of genocide
  • Prison system borne of slavery as way to control black population
  • murder of young black and latino men in ATX
  • upping of Assata Shakur’s ransom
  • FBI putting up billboards in New Jersey re: Shakur
  • What are the cops doing at Queerbomb?
  • Queerbomb hostile to POC?
  • White dudes in headresses
  • Discipline & Punish – Michael Focault
  • Focault – appropriated critical theory from BPP?
  • Co-Dependency: white supremacy – adopting codependent behaviors as a product of living  in it
  • Call behavior modification “dating advice” and put it in Cosmo – brainwashing
  • White supremacy proposes the idea that this is how race/gender/relationships work
  • Who is profiting from this?
  • Being groomed for prison – whistles/bells in schools
  • prisonmapping.org
  • School to prison pipeline
  • Department of “corrections” – what does that mean?
  • Movements in place to disrupt the system: Shakespeare Behind Bars (documentary)
  • The only viable objective is the abolition of the prison system
  • Supporting existing projects: everydayabolition.com, anti-Father’s Day, political prisoner writing night
  • Black Power Mixtape – potential doc screening for L.E.A.D. discussion
  • “Queer” as politic vs. identity