the illusion of power and space
December 20, 2014
i still find myself vexed by this conversation i had on twitter about #thistweetcalledmyback and critiques.
the interlocutor is one Black woman who was in the tag and talking about whether or not there is any ‘room” for critique. i”m vexed bc so many of my questions were left unanswered (and not just by the Black woman in the convo or Riley, i”m not just speaking of this one convo).
one of the things i said/repeated last night is that ppl have the right to set their own boundaries. this includes boundaries for engagement. no one owes anyone direct, involved engagement. at all.
and so one is left with the question: what is this ‘space” being spoken of such that within it there isn”t any room for critique?
part of this speaks to the scope of the HT and what it is about… and it feels like general crtiques i”ve seen make two general errors of scope. one type of critique is hyper localized and focused on single individuals within the collective as a way to discredit the entire collective. the other type critiques the HT as an abstract, general concept that is about exploition and lateral violence in general.
these are scope errors because the first creates a monolith out of the collective and acts as if they are a single unit, rather than individual agents working together. which only serves to prove their point (ie, that they aren”t being taken seriously as individual human beings). the second erases the actual collective from the conversation. so instead of the HT (and the issues it raises) being about the experiences of this finite group of ppl, the HT is already undergoing the exact process they are attempting to resist (ie, the co-optation of their work and their subsequent erasure from conceptual frameworks they helped build).
and the thing is, is that pretty every critique i”ve read of the HT and the collective commits one of these two scope errors. and in so doing, misses pretty much the central tenet of the strike and the HT to begin with (since u can only commit these scope errors if ur disregarding one of their key points).
and so… when looking at the scope, we can get a clearer idea of what the ‘space” is. and also what it means to make demands or comments about the fact ‘valid” critique is being erased.
erased by whom?
since the scope of any critique must consider both the individuals of the collective and the collective as a whole at the same time, the only real conclusion we can draw from this is that critique is only ‘heard” if one of the women of the TTCMB collective responds or acknowledges it. this is the ‘room” or ‘space”.
but this brings us back to the prior point about setting boundaries. if one can admit allow that ppl are allowed to set their own boundaries and that no one is entitled to engagement, how does this reconcile with this understanding of the conceptual space created by the HT?
which also sort of brings the HT into focus. since the primary scope of the HT is how it refers to the collective of individuals who created it as a way to signify their specific set of concerns. the secondary scope of the HT is the discussions everyone else is having about it.
so one could also say… perhaps the ppl in the secondary scope (this conceptual space) are the ones erasing or pushing out ‘valid” critiques. but then… if this is the case, then the collective has no responsibility for what anyone outside of the collective does. or what they say about the HT or how any of us (who aren”t in the collective) engage with the HT and any of the other ppl outside of the collective.
i”ve also been scare quoting ‘valid” this entire time… bc my other question is about ‘valid” critiques.
who decides what is valid?
like. i get ppl thinking their own critiques are valid. i mean. i think all of mine are valid, otherwise i wouldn”t write them. so like.
but it feels like validity in this case is being considered as ‘critiques that are listened to/paid attention by the collective” and i”m like… this isn”t a great way to base ur own understanding of the value of ur words. like. your valid critique will be true regardless of whether or not the ‘right” ppl see it. validity adheres in the truth of ur words and this truth isn”t dependent on others.
like. it can fucking suck when it feels like ur the one screaming and no one is listening, but like… so many of us struggle with this. all the time.
but this shouldn”t stop u from speaking ur piece.