Whilst now in today’s contemporary, planetarily extended, post-colonial, post-Fifties/Sixties, neo-Liberal moment, these Human Others to Man2, include the now institutionalized Welfare Mom/Ghetto “Black” Others (including their Trailer-Park Trash, Wigger “White” counterparts) as the extreme expression of the category of the non-Breadwinning “planet of the slums” Jobless Poor and, at the world-systemic level, of the category of the “Underdeveloped,” all ostensibly as naturally dysselected Others … by the Malthusian … trope of “Natural Scarcity.”
– Sylvia Wynter, “The Ceremony Found: Towards the Autopoetic Turn/Overturn”
But who, we?
– Jacques Derrida, “The Ends of Man”
This paradox is not to be found at the crux of Gramsci’s intellectual pessimism or his optimistic will. His concern is with subjects in a white(ned) enough subject position that they are confronted by, or threatened with the removal of, a wage, be it monetary or social. But black subjectivity itself disarticulates the Gramscian dream as a ubiquitous emancipatory strategy, because Gramsci (like most US social movements) has no theory of, or solidarity with, the slave.
– Frank Wilderson, “Gramsci’s Black Marx”
We were from the privilege side of the street. Only a Walmart away from the Trailer Park Kids but we knew we had it different. Things weren’t that bad we’d say. We knew we had a “we.” It’s part of the reason we let the white boys in the neighborhood say the “N” word like loose spit off the tip of their tongues. We only wanted to throw hands over the Hard R. Only the Hard R really warranted an ass whooping. The Blacks of Timberbrook knew, whether consciously or unconsciously, that it was the Wiggers’ right to wield the N word like a knee over our necks. It was their neighborhood to begin with. We were only visitors in their slums. It didn’t matter that outside of this little enclave in the middle of nowhere no one gave a damn whether they lived or died. It didn’t matter that everywhere outside of this little space of nowhere they were called “townies” or put differently, identified easily or categorically as being a waste of white skin. In this little neighborhood, in these slim and winding streets, they were kings. The Wiggers of Timberbrook.
It didn’t matter that we were all nothing to the entire world beyond our triadic neighborhood feuds; the goal was to make it to the end of the day. This often looked like (co-op)eration. The Wiggers and The Trailer Park Kids were always at each other’s neck. Us Blacks rarely (though we were often involved) picked a side. That was unless the beef extended into Cedar Hill – the only predominately Black neighborhood in the small town of no-where I was raised. We didn’t know it since, we were nothing but, we all lived under the under/common stratifications of racial capitalism. Finding dignity in the scraps of “human nature.” As kids, when the Wiggers of Timberbrook and the Trailer Park Kids would fight, we would often line up outside our homes in the neighborhood to watch the brawls. The White folks always felt concerned about the undertaken and yet, there was a sense that the conflict unfolding was still of an order amenable to the coordinates of civilization.
There was no use of guns, they’d say. Despite the fact that the only gun violence I ever experienced in my neighborhood growing up was the result of an angry White man shooting a Black man for sleeping with his sister. I can’t confirm whether or not that was the precise reason for the shooting. But I can say that it was a white man who told me that that was the reason he died. And regardless: I took it as a warning. There was no use of deadly violence, they’d say. Despite the fact that the violence was enough to warrant rumors among the wealthier parts of town that Timberbrook, Cedar Hill and Lakeside (the trailer park) were geographies of the underdeveloped. This dose of speculation circulated around the small town with an underbelly of excitement. As if to say: Cecil County has a ghetto! A space to exercise the tensions of negrophobic projection beyond the confines of our imagination! There was no Life lost they’d say. Despite the fact that it was Life itself that separated the conditions of being a Wigger from the conditions of being a Nigger to which the Wiggers of Timberbrook attempted mimesis. It is for this reason that the Blacks of Timberbrook had often joked sardonically that our parents, who had often moved to the neighborhood under the pretense of “finding a better Life for their children outside of the hood” had only moved us into a “secondary ghetto.” It was an illusion of social mobility imagined by virtue of the phantasm of whiteness as the symbolic equivalent to Life itself. For what we encountered – outside of the perversity and absurdity of an anti-Black violence so severe as to nullify any notion of racial progress imagined in the neoliberal multicultural narrative of diversity – was a whiteness which mimicked Blackness as white trash. Only to find that there was always already a semblance of capacity, of ownership, of “at-least-I’m-Not-Blackness” that could never swell into absolute abjection.
The social geography of the small rural town rebukes the tendency to equate whiteness with wealth. For what one finds instead is needles in arms, the jobless poor, the trailer park junkie and a degraded whiteness that finds redemption in mimicking the same forms of Blackness as a way of becoming-trash. The question is: Can the white junkie let go of the Life that whiteness prescribes as destiny despite the junk that racial capitalism has made them? Can the Wigger refuse the symbolic exchange of Life and Death that separates the “W” of Wigger from the “N” of Nigger?
Less abstractly, when I was a kid I use to watch the junkies of the Trailer Park and the Wiggers of Timberbrook fight and with a kind of unconscious Afro-Maoism, I would always hope that one day we’d all get to together and recognize that our problem was bigger than the triangle of poverty that encapsulated Timberbrook, Lakeside and Cedarl Hill. Indeed, I use to believe, our problem was the rich people who had named our neighborhoods the underbelly of underdevelopment. Yet, what I learned was the nook in the Marxist cranny, was the way in which, these poor whites were incapable of superseding their own anti-Blackness in order to see the way in which my abjection was the abjection to which all the degraded Whites had begun to rejuvenate their own sense of being-Human. A scene of turbulence, resulting in one wearing what one imagines Blackness to be, since Blackness is an abstract and empty vessel through which White people have always projected their positive and negative feelings, ideas, desires, values and identifications upon. As such, we have been left with no space for cooperation – only, if we are lucky, (co-op)eration. For what the former implies is that the Wigger might be able to sustain their whiteness in the struggle for a beautiful world and yet, it is Whiteness itself which must go for the New World to emerge. It is the entirety of the historical-racial schema in general which must go for a New World to emerge. As Frantz Fanon writes:
“Beneath the body schema I had created a historical-racial schema. The data I used were provided not by ‘remnants of feelings and notions of the tactile, vestibular, kinesthetic, or visual nature’ but by the Other, the white man, who had woven me out of a thousand details, anecdotes, and stories. I thought I was being asked to construct a physiological self, to balance space and localize sensations, when all the time they were clamoring for more.
“Look! A Negro!”
To say “Look! A Negro!” is to say “Look! A Slave!” Even the word “Black” can come with a Hard R attached. It is against this grammar, it is against these ghosts, that the only cooperation is made possible. The cooperation for the end of an anti-Black World, which always already must mean the end of Whiteness, since it always already means the end of the historical-racial schema.