Fires of Resistance: Review of Coulthard’s Red Skin, White Masks

A review of Coulthard’s Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition, for The New Inquiry.

Rage is the disavowed truth of what resistance tends toward.

“Don’t expect to see any explosion today. It’s too early…or too late.” – Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks 

Fire is raging across Turtle Island. Fire over Ferguson. Fire in the streets. Fires of protection in defense of Indigenous territories. Burning police cars: a hallmark of indignation, sedition or infiltration, provocateur-led sabotage. Cars aflame in Ferguson and Crown Heights, RCMP vehicles and tiresablaze in Elsipogtog. Fires that clear, nurture, destroy.

It’s too early or too late. The latest instantiation of respectability politics is performed as acquiescence to a status quo that cannot hold. It is a grim acceptance of governance ruled by rights and recognition, sunk under the state’s delineation of what matters, what is counted as “morally legitimate” politics, authentic protest, acceptable forms of resistance.

But resistance contests these limits of respectability. In a war of defiance, resistance marks a union of forces that seeks to out-maneuver the policing of its legitimate parameters, that moves to negate its suppression. Anger forces itself to the surface. Will this rage be negated? Anishinaabe writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson states:

I am repeatedly told that I cannot be angry if I want transformative change—that the expression of anger and rage as emotions are wrong, misguided, and counter-productive to the movement. The underlying message in such statements is that we, as Indigenous and Black peoples, are not allowed to express a full range of human emotions. We are encouraged to suppress responses that are not deemed palatable or respectable to settler society.

But the correct emotional response to violence targeting our families is rage.

The temporality of resistance is the present. To resist is to affirm presence. Rage is the disavowed truth of what resistance tends toward: Outrage aimed at freedom, collective action rooted in love, the active defiance of injustice. Until we’re all free: A refrain turned echo. A call to commune with other collectivities in struggle. Until we’re all free. That this refrain should find resonance in our present affirms both the failings of the settler colonial system to realize any dreams of freedom and the people’s continued will to resist. To recognize the necessity of such co-resistance against erasure and death is to support each other in giving voice to collective outrage. Protest becomes the creative affirmation of the world to be realized here. Now. We already know whose lives matter and whose must be sacrificed at the altar of democracy.

Our flight from the future is a fight for the present.

From Fanon to Ferguson to the Unist’ot’en, Black and Indigenous struggles for freedom across the colonized lands of Turtle Island will be won in combat against the spectacle of a society losing control of its contradictions.

Read the full review: “Fires of Resistance” | The New Inquiry

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