To be a leftist of color is to open yourself up to insult and attack from different directions, yet, still, we fight for the liberation of every human being.
Over the events of the last year or two, being a leftist is in vogue. Socialist became a household word after decades of Red Scare-mongering and it’s been something that’s been beautiful to watch. People are joining leftist and socialist organizations, socialist media outlets have been increasing in popularity, and the ideas espoused by socialists have become increasingly popular even among non-leftists.
Finally being able to discuss my politics openly, and have people understand them has been a dream come true—I’ve been a leftist for 11 years. The reason I turned to leftism was because I was experiencing the worst racial violence I’ve ever been subjected to. I lived in an overwhelmingly white town where seig heils as greetings, “lynching” black and brown baby dolls, and creating effigies of black people and Jews was common.
Every single day, I heard a new racial epithet hurled at me. They couldn’t decide what my race was, so they just picked out a new insulting term for every race they thought I could be. Because of what I experienced, racial justice and socialism became important to me. At 14, I read the writings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. I learned about the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords Party, people dedicated to the fight against racism and dedicated to uplifting black and Puerto Rican people (respectively). I was devoted to smashing inequality.
So for leftists of color to experience the level of erasure that we do in socialist, communist and anarchist circles, is absolutely insulting—especially when it comes from our own people and those who are supposed to be our comrades. We are uniquely positioned to experience insults from liberals of color while our voices are drowned out by white leftists who conveniently forget the roots of leftist organizing. White leftists often attack liberals of color using racial microaggressions, often using faux-AAVE to condescend to them (especially if they’re black). Having leftist politics don’t shield their racism. Liberals of color rightly call out their racism, but the brocialists claim that they can’t be racist because socialists of color exist. They do what most white people do and use the people of color they know as a shield against criticism.
Leftists of color, myself included, often call out those brocialist-types. To be expected, they usually ignore it. In fact, white brocialists tend to ignore us all the time, even when we’re not directly calling them out. They ignore our contributions to political discussions and the contributions of other socialists of color to theory. This puts us in a position where we must convince people who are supposed to be our comrades that we know what we’re talking about and that people of color have contributed greatly to leftist theory.
Because liberals of color don’t see that we call out brocialists and are often ignored by them, they think that we agree with them or how they act. That leads to the deeply hurtful accusations that they aim against us. Liberals of color often say that the reason why we’re socialists is because we’re doing it for white approval. They ignore that many of us have experienced horrible acts of inequality and oppression and choose to think that we’d support white leftists attacking them. To accuse people of color of holding any view for the approval of white people is an accusation that’s serious and attacks the very character of people of color. Worse, to accuse socialists of color of holding views for white benefit diminishes the work that our elders did for our freedom.
For example, I’m a Puerto Rican and an Afrolatina. I draw my politics from the politics of Afro-Boricuas and their political organizations. My politics are drawn directly from organizations like the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, the Young Lords Party, and the Boricua Popular Army; organizations that all had Afrolatinxs in leadership roles. To accuse me and others like me who hold positions that our elders did of doing it for white approval insults the people who fought, struggled, and were killed for us.
Even though white socialists ignore and mistreat us, and even though liberals of color erase and hurt us, we still fight for liberation for all of them. To be a leftist of color is to open yourself up to insult and attack from different directions, yet, still, we fight for the liberation of every human being.
That’s what being a socialist is. It is to be someone who wants to mend the wounds between individuals and groups of people. And I’ll never stop fighting for that no matter how much we’re maligned.
Featured Image: Taliesin Gilkes-Bower