my mother would teach me that you have to be careful because the things you think are revolutionary can become reactionary.
JFK: That’s right. MC: The word ‘accountability’ is one of those contested spaces where, within movements for Black justice and Black lives, we are sometimes trying to hold our leadership accountable by basically shaming them in public, by using social media to beat the shit out of them and using a framework – call-out culture – that was built to support survivors of sexual assault (and) folks who have less visibility and power. That’s what social media call-outs were intended for initially, right? A type of restorative justice. Maybe you might lose your job, but you’re not going to jail, right? So that was abolitionist. My mother would say, what is restored in that relation, in that process? Number one, restorative justice, transformative justice requires something be restored or transformed. What is restored or transformed in that context? Many (of) the call-outs I’m seeing have nothing to do with sexual misconduct. They’re about political differences among, basically, allies. So, is the call-out culture being used to attack those with real power? (Or) Black leadership? There’s this feeding frenzy on Black leadership. And I say ‘Black’, but I really mean radical, revolutionary, progressive Black leadership, you know? Especially women, where women are using this instantaneous platform of social media to attack one another. ‘Accountability’ is a phrase that I think we need to give more principled meaning to. We need to be more clear about what it means, and we need to understand the framing of it within our movement and also the framing of it (with regards to) targets outside of our movements, to those who really hold the reins of oppression. But then how would you suggest that, within the movement, we keep each other accountable or address issues? Because I think there is a value in the idea of public accountability.
MC: There is the possibility of dialogue with folks that are private. (laughs) It’s crazy, (the idea that it’s somehow) not transparent to have a private conversation with an ally before you make something public. (But) there are some things that maybe need to just be straight-up publicly addressed. It depends on the nature of the problem, obviously, but I would say that, nine times out of ten, it isn’t necessary, and yet it’s the first place we go. It’s the first place we go without any conversation or questions.
JFK: I think we have to be very careful, because one of the terms that we use a lot is accessibility. And I do believe in it. But I don’t think we have to give up expertise for the sake of accessibility. I think our responsibility is to remove the obstacles towards expertise.
MC: You have to be able to be in coalition – political coalition – to drive towards particular goals, even with people you don’t having earned their stripes. Listen, expertise takes years. And it doesn’t have to come from an institution, but what you absolutely need is a circle of peers.
MC: And practice! JFK: And practice, right? I think this notion of accessibility as it’s commonly used now – save that for amateur burlesque night. You know, I love it there. But in terms of you suddenly calling yourself an organiser… I’m never going to say you can or cannot identify as this and that, but if you do not have a circle of peers, a practice, a set of values, and if you have not been tested, I think you need to be really mindful of how these terms are used and what kinds of responsibilities you’re coming into this with. But the other thing is this. Look, I’m going to say this because I have a bone to pick…
MC: Pick it. JFK: This notion of ‘allies’… TA: Oh my God. JFK: I’m bored, it’s boring, I’m tired of it. This endless study of whiteness and concepts like ‘white fragility’. I can’t think of a more boring scholarship. You are never going to solve or address or confront the reality of racial injustice. Whiteness can never confront or change the reality of racial injustice by studying itself. It’s not possible. So there’s this very navel-gazing, guilt-ridden sort of mobilisation of people that’s fuelled by this narrative of ‘allies’. I think that identity can, and at times should be, the entry point into a movement, but it can’t be your exit-point. What I want to say now is, I started to fight for Black Lives Matter because I am Black and that makes sense. I now fight for the Black Lives Matter movement for Black lives, because I understand that Black liberation is integral to the liberation of all people. We tried to come up with cute ways to reframe ‘ally’– it’s time that we retired those terms. What is it, an accomplice? Thandiwe, how would you define an ally, if you think such a thing exists?
JFK: Look at that smile on her face, you’re about to go in. (laughs) Get ’em, get ’em!
TA: Wow. I mean, I feel like what Future was alluding to is that we have been framing all this ‘ally’, ‘accomplice’ conversation in a way that is supposed to be rewarding for people – for non-Black and particularly white people – doing the bare minimum. And I think that ends up taking power away from the movement and the struggle altogether, because now what we’re doing is like, here’s a cookie, here’s a gold star for showing up, right? When in reality, if you really cared about Black lives, you would just show up without even needing that label, without even needing a badge of honour. I personally think that all our struggles are, of course, bound together. And if we start by making sure we are uplifting the most vulnerable, then I don’t really, truly believe that allies
“I don’t really, truly believe that allies are a real thing. I think you’re either in the movement or you’re not” – Thandiwe Abdullah are a real thing. I think you’re just either in the movement or you’re not. I also don’t believe that people who identify with that truly feel as if they have anything at stake in the work. It’s kind of, ‘I’m outside of this movement, I don’t have anything at stake here, but I’m showing up to make you feel better.’ Are you there or are you not?
JFK: I’m curious about what Malkia and Thandiwe have to say, but I’m gonna be all the way honest with you, I don’t actually think we need to keep having this particu-
agree with all the time about every damn thing. If you are a big policy head (I’ll be) like, fuck policy, I’m about grassroots struggle, I don’t need to come for you because you’re trying to move in a different strategy, within a different tactic than is my arena. It takes a lot of different tactics to win. So anyone who comes out here asserting that their approach is the right way, and the only way, they’re not interested in victory, they’re interested in being right. And I’m not interested in that. (laughs) Our lives depend on us being able to actually win.
JFK: And I believe that expertise can come from places outside of institutions. And what Thandiwe and Malkia have alluded to in different ways is people becoming the face of a thing without lar conversation on the role of white people. I do believe that it is a waste of time at this particular point, because it really is, for me, not about what to do with (white people), but about how to win. And they’re just one of the many spaces and places that need to be leveraged towards (that goal). I think there’s a way that capitalism funds racism and I think that a lot of white people, and poor white people, will betray their interests for proximity to a power they’ll never own, but I want to be mindful about how much time and capacity, when we do come together, is invested in what to do with white people.
MC: Can I throw something in there? JFK: Yeah, please.
DAZED AUTUMN 2020
HOPE IS A DISCIPLINE