Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Street Art Installation: "A Place for White People"

SubRosa features a new surprise "street art" installation.

Questions of the day:
  • What can SubRosa do to further challenge racism?
  • What are you doing to fight the institution of racism in your communities?
Thank you for the food for thought.  It the future, it would be swell if you have strong concerns about the project if you come  and talk to us about it first before taking direct action. 


    1. When I arrived at SubRosa this morning, there was large red graffiti written across the asphalt in front of the door:


      I put up a chalk board calling attention to our new anti-racist street art installation.

      It spurred a lot of conversation during my shift. There were regulars who are people of color who looked a little incredulous, sort of a "What am I? Chopped liver?" expression.

      It got me thinking. What ARE we doing to fight racism? Well, I made a list:

      * SubRosa regularly hosts anti-racism events.
      * Being John Brown, an anti-racist collective has hosted movies at SubRosa.
      * There are numerous books in the Anarchist Library hosted at SubRosa dealing with issues of racism.
      * An anti-racist Free School class, Confronting Whiteness was held at SubRosa just this Sunday.
      * People aren't required to BUY something to spend time at SubRosa, which makes a difference to poor people who are disproportionately people of color
      * Street people, who again are disproportionately people of color, are welcome at SubRosa
      * Police, on the other hand, are NOT welcome at SubRosa, which helps keep people of color safe from their institutional racism
      * Fascists and white supremacists are similarly NOT welcome at SubRosa
      * SubRosa is available to host your anti-racist event if you are willing to put energy into organizing one.

      There is so much more we could do to fight racism, no doubt, and we are open to your suggestions.

    2. I wrote that in a spirit of inquiry. What have we done? What are we doing? What more could we do? Of course, for me, the question is broader: What are we doing to fight racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of domination?

    3. Undoubtedly the staff at Subrosa is what creates the face of this space. There is not a diversity of voices that are represented by the staff creating a clear hierarchy between those who may 'use' the space versus those who have a strong say in how the space functions. Thus the dominant community that the space reflects is that which is most similar to the staff: socially, aesthetically, and in ways of articulating political and intellectual beliefs.

      Therefore, the question that should truly be asked, is:
      "How do we create a space that is welcoming, accepting, and legitimizing of a wide diversity of cultures, and identities?"

    4. "The dominant community that the space reflects is that which is most similar to the staff: socially, aesthetically, and in ways of articulating political and intellectual beliefs."

      @Samone, have you been to the space?

    5. This provocation has led me to a few thoughts.

      First, the manner of raising this question leaves little room for dialogue on this issue. Graffiti followed by online posting pales in comparison group discussion. I wonder if this person feels scared to raise this question face-to-face. At some level graffiti dropped in front of the entrance represents an assault on the space.

      Samone presents an interesting and important question. It is unquestioned that the collective impacts the space. And any group (even the most thoughtful and radical) that is monolithic on any social identity (e.g race, gender, sexuality) will have blindspots on that identity. Therefore we need to treat Samone's question with respect and answer it at a deep level.

      Confronting whiteness is something that many staffers already do every time they enter the space. Bob's list above is accurate and no exaggeration. Yet, as long as racism and white privilege exist in our society, our work is not enough. The ways that racism carves our society into haves and have-nots occurs today at an alarming level. Racism creates mass suffering in our society and upholds the machinery of capitalism. It also works in insidious ways to crop up in our radical spaces and prevent mutual understanding. Thus, the original graffiti question is a valid one to ask.

      The graffiti was not found at another cafe, the library, or another activism space, even if these spaces are as white or more so than SubRosa. We, as anarchists, are attempting to deconstruct and dismantle whiteness and must do so because of the violence of this particular hierarchy. To the art-installer I ask: what are you really doing to fight racism? I staff on Sunday afternoons - come on in and let's chat.


    Comments on the SubRosa website are fully moderated. As a collective, we agreed that the purpose of the website was to promote SubRosa, not to provide an online place for lively and invigorating debate. We hope that the space itself is where conversations on the nature of anarchism and local projects will take place. That said, we occasionally approve comments that are informative or reflect a viewpoint we feel it is important for website visitors to read.

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