[TRIGGER WARNING]: guns, violence
About three months ago, I posted this and didn’t get any really satisfying conversations out of it. I’d like to think my thoughts have developed some since then, and it’s a conversation I’m still interested in having. To reiterate what I was saying in the first post: I’m basically thinking about radical and “scene kid” culture (which in my experience has comprised mostly of upper class, white kids, who have lived in the U.S. their whole lives) that like to glamorize gun imagery— both in posting on their blog and in clothes and jewelry, creating this hip violence aesthetic. So, I’m questioning if this is somehow appropriative or fucked up.
I feel like I’m reaching the conclusion that for folks who have never interacted with guns before (both in using one or having one used against them), it is appropriative and fetishizing other peoples experiences to sport this imagery. As I stated before, as someone who is queer/trans/a survivor, I can fully understand wanting to own a gun, and having there be an option of bashing back feel safer. However, I see the reality of wanting a gun as something completely different from people who have never interacted with a gun posting pictures of blinged out pink guns, etc. The latter seems like a fetishization of other people’s struggles for safety or resistance, coming from a really privileged standpoint, and a lack of understanding of those experiences. This fetishization is something I have definitely participated in, in the past, and I want to own up to that and work on deconstructing where that came from.
Additionally, I feel that the way I see this imagery being used totally ignores that it could be triggering for someone. I think it’s much easier to be aroused by gun imagery and violent rhetoric when it hasn’t been a constant reality in yr life. This appraisal of guns seems like a blatant disregard to the fact that those images carry a lot more weight for some folks, and that guns have had hugely damaging effects on peoples lives and should not be something that is uncritically praised, especially by folks who are really financially/racially privileged in hella liberal, rich, white towns (oh hey, Olympia and Arlington.) After all, guns are not only a tool of resistance they are a tool used to oppressed, they mean different things based on who is holding them.
I also think in some cases, this use of gun aesthetic play into a larger trend of a really awful fetishization of violence. There were some posts from kavitiya and waiflike on the racist and imperialistic aspects of white, western anarchists glorifying “riot porn” footage from other countries. Somewhat related to this, I’ve also seen recently, a “reclamation” of the word terrorist coupled with glorifying 9/11 from anarchists. Presumably it’s because they are “enemies of the state” and are seemingly comparing themselves with the people who bombed the twin towers, which seems to carry similar appropriative undertones the posts I linked above. I don’t have very developed thoughts, or much knowledge around the use of the word terrorist, and I’d be interested in hearing from other folks.
i don’t know the posts yr referring to, but to take this in a slightly different direction: it’s also definitely very common for white radicals—or more generally for people who’ve never had to turn to violence as an act of survival— to glamorize oppressed people using guns, rioting, or whatever. i know i’m guilty as charged too. there’s a fine line between being like, ‘hell yeah, i’m stoked to see people rise up and fight back and maybe even go on the offensive’— and being appropriative and fetishizing such actions. there are very few situations— the zapatista’s being the most obvious— where leaders of said groups of people have encouraged the fetishization of guns. i was watching a film recently that showed subcommandante marcos posing with his ak for marie claire and other fashion magazines. even though they’ve de-emphasized guerilla warfare, the zapatistas have nurtured this image a bit, but this doesn’t necessarily open up the floodgates and declare that anything goes.
it’s fine to support and be excited by oppressed people revolting due to their conditions and using force or ‘violence’ (often ambiguously defined and meaning something more like self-defense or extensional self-defense) as a means of resistance. but, when you’ve never been in a position where use of violence, as a response to your conditions- was a condition for your survival or dignity, then carrying that imagery can become a very different thing.
and calling yourself an anarchist or communist or whatever doesn’t put you in a vaccuum where your race, class, immigration status, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. are irrelevant because anarchists, communists and other radicals are persecuted and repressed by the state. because those movements, especially when they take place at several intersections of privilege, as they most often do in the us and kanada, have often been oppressive and repressive to different intersections of oppressed and marginalized people. many people of color, even apocs see white anarchists oppressors—and minus the rhetoric and lifestyle, not very different than the dominant culture. and part of that has to do with us fetishizing their struggles while remaining a predominantly white subculture that as a whole has failed to display sincere solidarity with people of color.
I wrote about this a while back, specifically about Queers With Guns, a regional meet-up of queer and trans people who learn how to use all kinds of different guns at a shooting range somewhere in New England. I was getting invited to it, and it made me really nervous. For the most part, how I feel about it was said well above. It seems like an easy thing to adopt and think is cool or glamorous when it hasn’t been an unwelcome part of your life. I grew up on the Southside of Chicago, in a relatively “safe” neighborhood, so I didn’t have nearly as much gun-related violence going on right around me, but it was still present. People get shot and killed in Chicago almost every single day.
Now I live in New Haven, which is faaaaar less intense than Chicago, but there is plenty of violence present in our neighborhood. And working with high schoolers who live in the same or similar neighborhoods, and many of whom know someone who’s been shot, that shit is very real to me; I am very protective of my kids and worry about them a lot.
Having lived in both of those places, it is difficult for me to jump on the bandwagon of thinking guns are cool or sexy. Guns are a threat to my students, in their neighborhoods. Guns are a threat to entire neighborhoods where I grew up—I am not exaggerating. Random drive-bys happen pretty often in Chicago; it’s not a place where you are safe just by not being a part of a gang or drug trade. Why would I turn around and embrace that for its sexiness? Especially why would I embrace that amongst white radicals, being a woman of color? I’m not giving them the okay on that if it isn’t something they’ve lived.
This is also why I’m interested in the POC antiviolence work that I’ve been getting involved in the past few months, that it’s rooted in what is more realistically helpful for communities of color. A lot of it centers around finding ways for young people of color to feel safe in their communities without relying on guns.
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- transsupremacy said: anarchists are considered domestic terrorists. I think that is a part of what the reclamation is about. Anarchists have been persecuted as terrorist for as long as the term terrorist has been around.
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