by Andrew Walden
As a Congressman, Rep Neil Abercrombie co-authored the 1997 book "Blood of Patriots", a thriller which Publishers Weekly says “opens with terrorists crashing into the House of Representatives and killing 124 of its members with assault-weapons fire...." That is well known. But almost nobody knows about the other Abercrombie book, "Segregated Sisterhood."
Published in 1991, just after Abercrombie won his first full term in Congress, “Segregated Sisterhood” is written by Abercrombie's wife, UH Manoa Professor Nancie Caraway. In the dedications, the feminist academic does something almost unthinkable. She gives credit to her man:*
“The indomitable Neil Abercrombie was my energetic partner in every phase of this book and my most enthusiastic benefactor. Through wit, reflection, and discipline, he pushed me through. Neil, himself an exemplary model of solidarity, convinced me of the power of male feminism. Even in the midst of his own demanding Congressional race, Neil was an exuberant force. And fun.”
The product of the Caraway-Abercrombie "partnership" is a mind-blowing read. This Primary season, Abercrombie hammered Mufi Hannemann for telling union carpenters "I look like you." But during his 1990 Congressional campaign—in which he won his first of 10 straight terms--the "exuberant" Abercrombie took time to work with Caraway "in every phase of this book", producing these beauties:
“I speak as a white feminist political theorist…” P1
“I view the book as my own strategy of intervention in the troubled authority of whiteness in feminist scholarship and politics.” P2
“I needed to start with the paralysis I often felt and the rage I imagined would be directed at me—as the repository of “white racism”—by women of color. I felt urges toward self-erasure.” P16
“I had reified and entrapped myself within a rigid ‘white’ identity, which is one of the ways guilt depoliticizes us by instilling a sense of fatalism.” P 16
“I could subvert what (Marxist “third-worldist” theoretician Franz) Fanon called ‘the all-white truth’ of my life.” P 17
Where did these suicidal-sounding "urges toward self-erasure" come from? By the end of the 1980s feminism had devolved into an academic pursuit. And academia's obsession with political correctness had begun to take a toll on "white feminists." Lacking the oppression cred of "women of color", "white feminists" suddenly found themselves marginalized within their own movement. When Caraway speaks of “depoliticizing guilt” it may seem that she is acknowledging the failure of multi-culturalism and political correctness. But she’s not. Instead Caraway explains:
“I became aware of certain debilitating patterns which I saw developing in myself and other white feminists as we attempted to frame responses to racism. I wrote in my journal ... warning myself against unproductive and pathological compensations for the loss of self and animus toward my own culture.” P18
“…I have chosen to speak without resolving the contradictions of my own whiteness. From women of color I have learned that my culture, my whiteness, has exploited them; and I have tried to teach myself to intervene in that process, to be an ally. I also have learned that I will not, cannot erase myself or my whiteness.” P 22
The revolution was eating its children. Could Caraway and Abercrombie come to terms with the failure of Fanon’s cultural nationalist model? Could they recognize the destructiveness by which everybody is assigned an "identity" and is expected to live up to the racial, ethnic, and gender stereotypes of that “identity” imposed by the politically correct elite? No. Instead, Caraway fights for the rights of "white" activists.
And what kind of white rights are Caraway and her partner fighting for? She minces no words:
“The politicization of the criteria for theoretical knowledge becomes one of the most significant achievements of Black feminist discourse. The question of who is ‘authorized’ to create theory, in what voice and from what spaces of life, become powerful interventions enabling Black feminists to reject the policing authority of both the feminist and the phallocratic establishments.” P35 (emphasis added)
Free speech? No. In this world, only certain people are "authorized" to create theory and “white feminist” Caraway is fighting to be one of them.
If she is allowed, what theories will she create?
“One of the most creative and iconoclastic attacks on conventional modes of scholarship, genre, and epistemology today come from scholars of color in the critical legal field. Rejecting traditional jurisprudential canons of ‘rational’, ‘objective’ modes of thought, critical legal scholars are projecting a discourse radically new in both form and content.” P38
That is precisely why Katherine Leonard was rejected as Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Would this philosophy guide Neil Abercrombie's judicial selections if elected? It clearly guides Colleen Hanabusa’s Senate.
These two wanna-be “authorized theoreticians” already arrogate unto themselves the authority to look down on Christianity and religion in general .
“(Black feminist Patricia Hill) Collins cites biblical images which serve as symbolic vehicles for everyday life in Black communities: ‘Stories, narratives, and Bible principles, are selected for their applicability to the lived experience of African Americans and become symbolic representations of a whole wealth of experience.’ This is a different way of reading Black religious affiliations, one which secular intellectuals easily might misinterpret as naïve and escapist, another of the delusions with which the unsophisticated navigate daily life.” P50 (emphasis added)
Adherents of the eco-religion “navigate daily life” with the unsophisticated delusion that global warming exists--and is caused by your SUV.
Nancie Caraway was a national leader of the Democratic Socialists of America, serving in 1985 on the DSA's national Feminist Commission. Although the Abercrombie campaign has denied evidence indicating that Abercrombie himself was a DSAer, the Abercrombie campaign statement made no response to the claims about Caraway. Here, six years later, she implicitly criticizes DSA:
“…Black women’s social profile resides in shifting social space, lacks the assurance of a secure ‘fit’ in stable communities of resistance. In Black liberation politics, the feminist movement, and class-based Marxist and socialist organizations, Black women have failed to find their interdependent concerns of racism, sexism, and classism addressed.” P52
Perhaps DSA was not far enough to the left?
Caraway succinctly outlines the intended effects how political correctness undermines Western culture.
“The post modern consciousness perceives the edifices of Western thought as increasingly fraught with uncertainty and ambivalence: transitions in geopolitical alignments, Third World resistance to Western political and intellectual hegemony; the horrendous environmental repercussions of ‘progress’ in a nuclear age; and the continuation of structures of sexism, racism, and other imperializing prejudices of Western xenophobia. All these negative aspects of modernity, the analysis goes, throw the West’s ‘meanings’ severely into question.” P55
“(Cultural critic Andrew) Ross’s narrative about postmodern times makes clear that this assault (of postmodernism) has made room for many dissenting voices: feminists, gays, ethnics, and ‘nonmetropolitans’ have found space to resist the totalistic definitions projected by colonial/Western/patriarchal/heterosexual/racist world views.” P57
The akamai reader will note that feminism, gay rights, and cultural nationalism are not portrayed as improving anybody's way of life but instead are seen as tools to undermine “the West’s ‘meanings’”. Caraway continues:
“Feminist political theorists have emphasized how certain ‘private’ alternative modes of group life can lend moral and ethical bearing to public life, challenging the antidemocratic inequalities of the status quo. First, the norms of democratic, alternative communities can serve to relativize the dominant culture, foregrounding its partiality. Alternative practices, she notes, unmask ‘normal’ hegemonic culture, revealing it as in fact specific: Anglo, European, Protestant, masculine, straight. Second, such strategies promote a notion of group solidarity against the liberalism of liberal society. And third, the critiques of progressive ’others’ offer a standpoint from which to criticize prevailing institutions and norms.” P62
Islam also offers "a standpoint from which to criticize prevailing institutions and norms.” Thus progressives are using and manipulating the Islamists in the same way they are using and manipulating gays and women. This explains their seemingly contradictory simultaneous embrace of Islam and irreligion. It also explains why for years Rep. Neil Abercrombie for years cast lonely Congressional votes-- against his own party--in favor of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
“…(Coronel) West reinforces a Marcusean faith in the space of mass culture as a potential site of freedom.” P68 (emphasis added)
Marxist theoretician Herbert Marcuse, in his 1956 book "Eros and Civilization" rejected Freud's conclusion ("Civilization and its Discontents", 1930) that all civilization is necessarily based upon repression of bestial instincts. Instead Marcuse claims such “repression” created both Stalinism and Fascism and a new "non-repressive" form of civilization could be created. Marcuse also authored a 1965 article, "Repressive Tolerance", explaining that this new society would be created by ...uh... repressing ... those who dissent from it. Dissenters will not be “authorized to create theory.”
Key dissenters deserving of "repression" include adherents of the Judeo-Christian tradition, founded 6000 years ago on laws designed to “repress” human instincts to steal, murder, or covet their neighbor's wife.
Caraway then proceeds to outline how her utopia can be built, starting as all socialists do, by changing the concept of what is human.
“The strategies (of literary-cultural critic Satya P. Mohanty) can help us to see how Black feminist theory helps to elaborate ‘post humanist conceptions of the human.’” P70 (emphasis added)
And the first step is already well under way. Black women are "conceptually" animals:
“How is it that the Black female has been culturally defined as the ‘mule of the world.’” P78
“I want us to be able to understand and defuse the rage of someone like the Black feminist playwright Marita Bonner when she asks, ‘Why do they see a colored woman only as a gross collection of desires? You long to explode and hurt everything white.’” P80
“The master frauds of patriarchy create their own contradictions, mystifications, in our minds. In our efforts to deconstruct the colonizing male stereotypes which ‘create’ images and icons of our physical appearance, we often come close to analyses which describe how both Black and white women are pawns in the game of male-created iconography.” P99
But calling black women "mules" is not a fraud...uh...because... Caraway and Abercrombie are "authorized" to create theory. Who gets that "authorization" is the key distinction between the current “multi-cultural diversity” enterprise and the former segregationist enterprise.
“I resisted the assumptions that all white women are selfish, spoiled, and oppressing.” P108
“We ought not to resist being accountable for this history; it is our collective responsibility to be grounded in the historical and economic conditions that have made our current misperceptions possible. To accept this antidote of accountability is not to fall back on a reactionary infinite regression—‘But I wasn’t alive then, I didn’t do those things’, ‘I’ve never had a maid.’” P109
The "conscious, enlightened, and progressive" crowd is "authorized" to assign you responsibility for things that happened before you were born. But they want absolution for themselves because they have done the penances and recited the prayers of the Marxist religion.
How does thought reform work UH Manoa liberal arts classrooms? Taxpayers might want to know because they are paying for it and Caraway is not shy about explaining:
“In my own feminist classroom, discussions with students about the political implications of oppositional standards of beauty often become contentious, revealing intense commitments to often contradictory notions of race and gender representations of self. When an outspoken beautiful Black woman with ‘white’ features and straightened hair asserts that it is her ‘right’ to choose to wear blue contact lenses and ‘preppy’ rather than ‘ethnic’ clothing, she is met with admonitions from radical white female students. It is they who expect her to be the badge of ‘her people’; they urge her not to deny or invalidate her “Blackness”, her special beauty. “ p111
“We debate about the potential for appropriation in our Hawaiian community when haole (white) women wear Zulu African bracelets or Hawaiian style dress or jewelry, or dance the hula, insisting that such sartorial symbolism can be fraudulent. Casual appropriation of the cultural symbols of people of color can represent a co-optation of those people who are in struggle against racist colonial heritages if it is not conjoined with activism on behalf of such peoples. “ p111
These techniques are nearly identical to those used in Maoist reeducation camps. The effectiveness is enhanced by the perception that one is choosing to go to college—not only volunteering to be brainwashed, but actually paying tuition for it. Likewise the effectiveness of the commissars of political correctness is enhanced by taxpayers’ choice to pay their salaries and sometime even elect them to office. They drive taxpaying “mules” not by whips and chains but by guilt and shame.
Caraway continues demanding that “white feminists” like her not be denied the opportunity to lord it over the “naïve, deluded, and unsophisticated” masses:
“Do certain self-designated people stand as radical ‘vanguards’ to judge others’ purity? Who, in our oppositional community, owns the images, artifacts, and clothing of Third World peoples? What principles legitimize such ownership? By what criteria do we ‘know’ who can justly dispense scorn or praise to regulate ‘our’ use of ‘their’ cultural artifacts?” p111
The artifacts of the past are 'owned' by self-appointed activists who purport to speak for your culture. Like the black UH Manoa student with the blue contact lenses, anyone who deviates from what the progressives dictate is denounced as a "coconut" or "uncle Tom". You are what those who are “authorized to create theory” designate you to be or else. That's "Repressive Tolerance."
“How does one send off visual signals that one is wearing such adornments in a spirit of anti-capitalism, anticonsumerism, political solidarity? Who benefits from our fashion proclivities? Are our hands clean?” p112
One has to be very self-absorbed to write about anti-consumerism and "fashion proclivities" without skipping a beat.
That women of color often become “otherness machines,” as Sara Suleri puts it, is manifested in other feminist scenarios. P112
Wait. Weren't they supposed to be "mules"? Oh I get it. Black women are "mules"--other "women of color" are "otherness machines."
Would an Abercrombie administration erect a sign along Farrington Highway in Nanakuli: "Welcome to the Otherness Coast, home of the mechanical wahines?" Maybe he should write that into his campaign platform.
“Expressions of cultural private property abound: A part-Hawaiian woman watching a performance of a hula halau (dance school of the hula) says to another ‘local’ woman, ‘What’s that haole (white) woman doing up there dancing the hula?’ Are there subtle new forms of social/spatial segregation operating today, cues which convey a ‘keeping one another in their places’ rhetoric, only in racial reversals? P113
If there are "subtle" new forms of "segregation" operating today, it is because multi-cultural diversity is just a new version of the previous segregationist enterprise.
Now we finally get to the point.
“Why would a group of mainly female Black scholars ignore and render invisible a white woman who comes to a public lecture on a major campus to hear a Black professor speak about ‘African Goddess Myths?’” p114
Is all of this being written because "white feminist" Caraway gets snubbed at conferences and fears she is losing her “authorization to create theory”?
“Isn’t it America’s assimilationist crimes which have deprived us all of the cultural moorings and symbols which could enrich us?” p114
To Caraway, and her "energetic partner in every phase of this book”, "e pluribus unum” is the slogan of a criminal enterprise. Note that no distinction is drawn between cultural assimilation and assimilation to a body of laws. They are one and the same, hence the Abercrombie version of the Akaka Bill with its instant tribal jurisdiction freeing corrupt trustees from those pesky investigators from the AG’s office and the IRS.
“For balance, we need other, more solidly political criteria for character-assigning.” P 115
“what looks like appropriations in fact can be aesthetic and cultural appreciation. Politics is the test.” P115
How will Caraway regain her “authorization to create theory”? “More solidly political criteria for character-assigning." In other words ethnicity is now a political line, not a blood line. And the “mules” and “machines” need to know that the "white feminist" has won absolution for the sins of her ancestors and now meets the criteria to “assign” their “character”.
“Walter Benjamin identified this aestheticization of politics as a real danger, a step towards fascism. When political activity or political agents are evaluated in terms of ‘beauty’ rather than substantive political commitments, we come dangerously close to a fascist elevation of style.” P115
"Super Senator" was not then "a fascist elevation of style?" Just asking.
If the Abercrombie-Caraway "partnership" can see "political agents ...evaluated in terms of ‘beauty’" as being "close to fascist" then it makes a lot more sense for Abercrombie to call his opponents "Nazis".
Caraway thinks religion shows "ignorance" but she does have her own concept of "the creator."
“Our experiments must respect and honor the original ‘first people’ creators.” P 116
All the elements of a religion are contained in Caraway’s book; including the belief that this ideology is the sole path to salvation. Talk of separation between church and state is just a distraction. The real issue at hand is which religion will have the greater influence? Theirs or yours?
Here is Caraway's description of heaven:
“All women need to feel safe about representations of self, certainly within feminist worlds. That space ought to be a site of gender play, an alternative playground of diversity. Only then can we recognize each other, in Chapka’s forceful words as ‘different and therefore exciting, imperfect and as such enough.’” P116
"Gender play, an alternative playground of diversity?" More tools to undermine the status quo. Gay marriage is just a head-fake on the road to dissolution of the nuclear family.
The next 34 pages consist of Caraway detailing a debate between two-time Communist Party Vice-presidential candidate Angela Davis and former Communist Party "theoretician" Bettina Aptheker over just how racist the women's suffrage movement was. At the end, Caraway concludes:
“The white suffragist movement became an elitist, bigoted instrument for the advancement of white class privilege. As head of this influential mass organization, Susan B Anthony contributed to such a legacy by endorsing a ‘neutral’ stance on racial issues.” P150
If Davis, Aptheker, Abercrombie, and Caraway are "authorized to create theory" they have the right to make such determinations even though the four of them together don’t measure up to Susan B. Anthony's ankles. They make this judgment in spite of Aptheker and Caraway's acknowledgement that:
“Anthony had several significant relationships with Afro-American women, including Sojourner Truth, Ida B Wells, and Mary Church Terrell. Evidence suggests that Sojourner Truth especially influenced her ideas.” P157
Having declared the suffrage movement to be "an elitist, bigoted instrument for the advancement of white class privilege", “white feminist” Caraway then takes the opportunity to speak up for free love and take another swipe at Christianity:
The volatile issues which Stanton earlier had raised—women’s domestic duties, divorce restrictions, marriage and free love—were silenced by all but a few women. At its 1898 convention the NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association) officially disassociated itself from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s scathing feminist critique of the Bible as promoting female subservience. That “feminists” could so publicly rebuke one of its most radical theorists—not for her racial prejudices, but for her truly revolutionary deconstruction of patriarchy—is evidence of the movement’s increasingly reactionary turn. P156(emphasis added)
Religious law freed women from the pre-historic reign of unbridled violence and rape. But Caraway can’t be bothered with history, she has a utopia to build. How?
We need to think through a politics of memory which begins with the paradox of assimilating a new identity one which holds within its bounds both emancipation and shame. And somehow we must convince Black women that we engage this paradox in order to earn both their trust and their forgiveness….
And this "new identity" will be built not on truth but on "historical fragments" selected no doubt by those who are “authorized to create theory.”
Which historical fragments from this first–wave (of feminism) legacy might we use to construct a new feminist public memory? What kind of interpretive language might we employ in our attempt to redefine our identities and politics? P166
Caraway titles her concluding chapter:
"Crossover dreams: Toward a multicultural feminist politics of solidarity"
Caraway called Abercrombie "an exemplary model of solidarity."
Crossover feminists try (but never truly succeed) to see and hear from “other” vantage points.
One can only aspire to reach Godhead--always come closer to God, but never arrive.
Then Caraway confronts the "mules" and the "otherness machines":
Worrying about white essentialism, I want to illustrate the troubling kinds of results when women of color create equally non-negotiable constructions of self. …
In defining what they are, feminist women of color ought not succumb to the bait of ethnocentrism—as have so many of us white feminists. P173
That sounds like she just rejected ethnocentrism, but then Caraway agrees that:
…nothing a non-woman-of-color can says can protect against the charge of racism. P175
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This is what makes Caraway's book third rate. She walks right up to the edge of 'getting it' again and again, and every time retreats right back into the Marxist miasma.
Churchill once said: "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened." In Caraway's case, she appears to "hurry off" in fear of the very same "charge of racism" that she so assiduously flings about. In Maoist reeducation camps, older internees were used to indoctrinate the newer.
But Caraway, desperately trying to avoid the "charge of racism" against which "nothing can protect", is thinking about another Communist revolution:
We certainly can hope, and exert great care to ensure, that “our” approach to such issues be free of offensive innuendo. Emma Goldman found herself in a similarly vexing situation in the period following the Bolshevik Revolution. She was insistent in her determination not to “shut up” about her views of a derailed Soviet socialism, even while she contemplated the possibility that her criticisms might work hand-in-hand with those of the reactionaries. P175
What happens when "character-assigning" by those "authorized to create theory" reaches its logical conclusion? The results are hilarious:
Of course, we must insist that as a group white feminists are most in need of “correcting,” learning, listening, being educated by the leadership of women of color, working to root out the racist criminality on the streets of the U.S.A. In no way are my remarks intended to deflect such accountability and struggle. Am I demanding a shortcut, a reprieve, a premature absolution for white feminists who don’t like a taste of their own medicine? I don’t think so. My fear is that if we do not insert the robust and healing structures of democratic political practices into our feminist polity, those resentments, dichotomies, and distrusts will consume whatever is left of “us.” P196
Well, yes, there are crucial times when loquacious white mouths need to stay shut, ears opened… (but) I would want to know what politically evaluative criteria we might envision to bring white feminists out of the shadowy recesses of the conference hall? At what point might we hope for participatory inclusive settings? And what safeguards might we initiate to initiate in order to quell dominating voices? P197
…the white feminist being ostracized rendered invisible, stereotyped, and interpreted as crazy. Indeed such reversals are now being demonstrated in feminist interactions. P198
The "crazy, ostracized" "white feminist" then acknowledges that shame-based multi-cultural political correctness points her in the direction of "the final solution of total self-erasure."
I am asking whether all whites are all that bad all the time. P190
Such wholly negative accounts of “whiteness”, which are often encountered in writings of women of color, can paralyze rather than mobilize. Massive clouds of guilt seem to hover above such statements …inducing fatalism rather than political initiative. Totalistic representations encourage me to think: “The only way for me to absolve myself from the horrors perpetuated by those of my race is the final solution of total self-erasure. When my evilness is gone, perhaps they will be saved.” Only pathology here. P190 (emphasis added)
So what is the cure for this…ahem… "final solution" pathology?
Historian Elsa Barkley Brown has extended Aptheker’s strategy of pivoting the center by including overlapping diverse “gumbo ya ya” conversations where everyone talks at once while simultaneously understanding other talking selves. P191
In other words, since her politics have led to the brink of "the final solution", we must proceed to create a society--not where the personal is political, but where politics is all that is left of anybody's personality. And of course those who are "authorized to create theory" will be in charge of telling us "ignorant, religious, family-oriented" peasants exactly what those personalities will be. "Gumbo ya ya" is to replace 6,000 years of law.
And we may look to a future whose daily enactment involves that most erotic attribute of politics, what Alice Walker has called the ”machete of freedom”. Talk. Endless talk. P203
Isn't that what Neil Abercrombie is noted for?
Google Books: Segregated Sisterhood
* Caraway also gave credit to:
- Bettina Aptheker “Her generous spirit and commitment to interracial feminism literally made much of the book possible for me.”
- Amy Agbayani “for bringing me to political life; she was there from the beginning, underwriting my intellectual and personal growth.”