Why is the alt-right’s political discourse having success while the American left is unable to stop it? Because both of them are operating within the same discursive categories of “Liberty”, the “Individual”, and “Property” inherent in the Republican-Democratic political culture that founded the United States of America. Both political options articulate these categories in a different hierarchical manner, naturalizing the ontological differences which emerged alongside Modernity and within Eurocentric and white standards: the civilizational mission as a substantiation of genocide, slavery and sexism. It would be in this context how those categories were born.
We are not declaring that the American left stands for racism and sexism. What we are trying to say is that it is operating inside post-enlightened categories rooted in the birth of this oppressive dyad. A leftist articulation of those categories is possible due to the opportunity of transcendence, but not the one of complete removal. That is why through this article we propose a new twist of nut to the political discourse in order to look into the emancipatory power of the deconstruction of gender and race as natural ontological categories.
It would be this particular connection between Liberty, the Individual, and Property the one operating in the American Enlightenment, cause and actor of the Independence and the Revolution. The latter are based in the radical conviction about the human being as created by God, gifted by him with Reason, and possessing certain natural rights which cannot be undermined. Those rights were Property and Liberty, so all men entitled to them could be equal and enjoy happiness. However, not all human beings were active political subjects within/of Enlightenment. Since the ending of the 18th century and during the 19th century, two other central categories of this article were born: race and gender. White men, hitherto to this development, had already had contact with black societies and enslaved them. The nature of this domination was based in the perception that the possession of certain technical artifacts were evidence of a natural superiority: the possession of firearms and their capacity for mass killing. Parallel to that, women and men coexisted and were perceived as human subjects, yet the entity of the relation among them was not conditioned by gender as we perceive nowadays; only by tradition and subsistence social roles.
The change in those perception was caused by the enlightened scientism and its believing in the rational entity of the human being. The existence of non-white societies was considered as the empirical manifestation of underlined natural and biological differences between white men and the Other. This ‘scientific’ discourse of white supremacy also added to the culturally difference from the European’s, led the latter to believe the technical superiority – the category of Progress as the vehicle of domination- was also and again the empirical manifestation of the White Men superiority. White men colonized black people’s minds and bodies and similarly did the same with women’s. That is to say, they used the historical women´s relegation from certain social roles and the enlightened exclusion of them from politics to invent ‘women’ as an irrational, sensitive, therefore, inferior, and so genderizing women as a human being with vagina, and inventing femininity.
The latter is the process by which race and gender were born, and also it is the foundation for the alt-right supremacist political discourse. The Alternative Right centers its political strategy in the oppressor victimization, that means, victimizing white masculinity. White and Male privileges questioning is read by alt-right as the neglect of their own identity. That implies they interpret their ontologically oppressive position as equal to the oppressed identities, just because the latter are recognized as legally equal to the first by law, even though those laws do not establish a radical equality among them. Moreover, the alt-right in order to develop a false victimization and vindication strategy of radical equality between identities, operates within the United States´ founding categories of Liberty and Equality, with its inner oppressive connotations through the ontological axis of race, property and gender. That leads to the reinforcement of white privilege. Only by deconstructing whiteness as oppression and not as identity does exist the opportunity of dismantling alt-right discourse. American left is failing in treating them as any other identity, because this cause a validation of its discourse and narrative: white men, white middle-class, and white working-classes as victims.
This process has its roots in New Conservatives and its opposition towards the Civil Rights movement. This victimization was present in the neoconservative movement during the 1960s and the 1970s and also during Reaganism as well. To neoconservatism, feminist and antiracist movements, and anticapitalist New-Left were nihilists, anti-American and dangerous movements willing to destroy the morals of the American society. This lead to pose this two questions: 1) What usually have been thought as the traditional American values, and which started to became disputed during the seventies, actually they were white, male and Eurocentric articulation of property, liberty and individual; 2) 1970s entailed the hatching of the political consequences of postmodernity, which led plain way the emancipatory opportunity of Race and Gender deconstruction. These emancipatory opportunities will be analyze in the following lines.
We begin deconstructing the category of Race focusing on the dialectical dichotomy between Whiteness and Blackness. The concept of Race re-signified the existence Human Beings with different skin color, and the physical-military domination of white colonizers over black people, and the slave trade. The European colonizers gave both skin color and cultural difference of those black population the meaning of a natural difference, creating an hierarchic relation between: Whiteness, civilization and superior, and blackness, that has to be civilized and inferior. It implies that whiteness and blackness are Eurocentric concepts created to reinforce the dialectics among Same and Other. What we mean is that White men place himself as normativity, creating the Other (blackness) that held the categories opposed to normativity. In doing so, two watertight boxes to fill with arbitrary categories were created. Whiteness is in fact nothing more than a Eurocentric historical construction fill with positives characteristics according to Enlightened standards in order to create a mirror identity opposed to an Other that was also filled with arbitrary negatives categories. The main consequences of that was the creating and the reinforcement of white domination. By imposing blackness to black people according to Eurocentric parameters white people were confining the chances of creation of a self-identity without having to operate within oppressor´s categories. Thus, Whiteness is an ontologically oppression category based on bodies, minds, and identities domination and colonization. The acknowledge of this would open to a radical political strategy in order to fightback white supremacist nationalism.
Similarly it occurred with the categories of woman and men. The historical relegation and exclusion of the first from certain social roles, was seen as an empirical evidence of a difference among women and men. Therefore, the binary relation between woman/men and the later binary relation among genders female/male are not detachable from the enlightened concept of individual and dichotomic/dialectical entity of Modernity. An useful example to clarify this would be the preeuropean and non-european culture where the genitalia has nothing to do with the construction of the self-identity just because the enlightened category of individual does not exists. Which implies that if the category of woman is historically constructed, the category of men is nothing more than that. Man as paradigm of normativity, measure, and socially desirable and acceptable is, as Whiteness, an ontologically oppressive category historically generated. Gender binary construction is the naturalization of some modern categories and assumptions which nowadays not only colonize societies that previously did not operate with Gender, but also oppress those people whose identity construction is constrained by binary gender: such as transgender people and gender fluid people. So, the opportunity to fight back the AltRight sexist political discourse, do not laid back on the traditional liberal and marxist feminist articulations defending ‘woman’ as a natural political subject, but on its deconstruction jointly with the oppressive political subject ‘man’.
This would be an emancipatory solution which would include the transfemmes, ciswomen, and gender fluid -regardless they racialization and sexual orientation- giving way also to all those subjects whose bodies and minds has been colonized with the category of gender. Inasmuch as the alternative that is the feminist struggle that naturalize the categories of ‘man’ and ‘woman has no resources to effectively dismantle the AltRight gender discourse and generates a universal and unitary ‘man’ regardless racial oppression. An example of this problem would be Women for Trump, naturalized women who believed being conservatives, mothers, and housewives -the classical Eurocentric femininity- is an equally respectful identity as the feminist. Here we can see two identities operating within the same discursive matrix. It is therefore the feminist movement opportunity to end up with gender oppression pass through not only deconstruct the category of gender, but also race. An authentic radical intersectionality also linked with anticapitalism.
To sum up, what we propose in this article is not to cease the vindications of racialized people, women, and LGTBI+ people, but to take them to its ultimate consequences: the complete removal of those categories that gave birth to oppression, but without forget the necessity of its denouncement and reparation.
Jaime Caro-Morente is a PhD candidate at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and specializes in US History and US Labor Movement & Gender History.
Marta Caro-Olivares is a PhD candidate at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and specializes in US History, Neoconservatism & Critical Theory.