Question concerning race and class

alec ramsdell a_ramsdell at
Fri Jul 3 12:28:41 PDT 1998


In response to your central question, what to do, I can think of some examples at the local level. This is doing by folks who don't have large-scale institutional and systemic political leverage. They are local examples of people working, yes, within the capitalist system--that is, people working with the material conditions of their lives in order to change them.
But in my posting I asked a very simple question, what are we
>supposed to DO to end it? I did NOT ask what are we supposed to THINK,
>what ATTITUDE are we supposed to express to end it. I do not belive
>thinking or talking equals doing. If it did, we would not have the

An example of the problematics of doing within the system: From _Street Sheet_, San Francisco's paper, published by the Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco, and sold by homeless street vendors, hot off the press today, this: "On June 17, a group of homeless people sued the City of San Francisco in Small Claims Court for property rights violations . . . They asked for $3,000 to $5,000 each for destroyed property [mostly shopping carts with scavenged goods-my note], emotional distress, and punitive damages. . . . the City also used workfare workers to do their dirty work. For example, while Kathleen Gray was doing her workfare with Rec and Park, her work crew was ordered to bag people's property and drag it to the side of the road where trash trucks came and took it away . . . on November 6th, Kathleen's supervisor told her that her crew would be cleaning out the area where she left her belongings."

>On the top of it, there is a host of moral entrepreneurs, symbol
>manipulators, academics, reverends, politicians, literary critics etc.
>see it as an opportunity to either sell their cultural commodity or to
>spring themsleves to leadership positions.

Yes, the likes of Baudrillard and Lyotard are largely regrettable for their political vacuity. Also, I would rather see someone like Eve Sedgwick in a position of academic authority, than blustery Harold Bloom supervising the Western Canon, lest any African-Americans make it in.

>Paraphrasing Marx: religion, culture and pop-psychology are the opiates
>the people. They distract our attention away from the material world,
>stymie social change.
Yes and No.

No. The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, still in operation and Sun Ra's former collecitve in South Side Chicago are interesting examples of the nexus of culture, politics, and Black empowerment. They are examples of resistance to the hegemony of the Culture Industry. Both collectives (almost, if not exclusively male) sought and within a certain historical context achieved a certain control of the means of production and distribution. They were musicians' collectives, integrating music, education, shared living space, with coherent "missions, visions, values, and strategies". For Southcentral LA there's Horace Tapscott's Union of God's Musicians and Artists Ascension and Pan Afrikan Peoples' Arkestra. They were part of the post-Watts riots galvanized cultural scene.

Yes (although it pains me to say it). In the words of capitalism's great, uh, white epistemological casualty, John (being a famous American poet is not the same as being famous) Ashbery:

We get lost in life, but life knows where we are.

We can always be found with our associates.

My 30 mins. is up at the SF library, so...

Best regards,


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