Racial Apparatus and White Supremacy

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 21, 2011

Race is an apparatus through which power is ordered. The term apparatus is useful because it reveals the essential juridico-politico-theological operation of managing what is separated from the whole. How the life common to all beings (zoe) becomes the life of particular beings (bios). Apparatuses categorize and catalog, transforming difference into distinction. In the regime of law, apparatuses function to take that which is excluded from the law and reintegrate it under the care of the law as unlawful. This is how a body passes from legal subject to criminal subject and still maintains its governability. Apparatuses function to produce governable subjects. White-supremacy is one way to describe the outcome of the racial apparatus in the US, both historically and presently. The operation of the racial apparatus is to create a licit racialized subject (white) and an illicit racialized subject (non-white). In this way the rituals of excess and expenditure can be performed, antagonisms can be directed into competition for recognition, and capital can rely on surplus populations from which to extract value. The racial apparatus serves ideological white-supremacists, but it functions autonomously.

US white-supremacy is a politico-theological program. It grants an imagined community of whites the moral imperative to seize North America for themselves and suppress all other forms of life, which are subjectivized racially (with an emphasis on blackness). Whereas no one would argue the police in the US aren’t structurally racist, they also aren’t as an institution ideologically promiscuous. They serve the concept of the People—which needs its inclusions/exclusions to justify itself—but ultimately must enforce reductions of antagonisms and protect the People’s right to private property. If the police were to trade management of racial and social order for enmity with racialized subjects—if they were to admit that they were a white-party in a war of annihilation against blackness—they would abolish their own legitimate use of force, and thus smash the illusion of their legitimate authorization (of so much black death). The police care about who is criminalized, and thus to be suspected, arrested, incarcerated, and murdered. They are a part of the racial apparatus that reproduces white-supremacy, but they need not be white-supremacist partisans.

Like capitalism, white-supremacy was one among many hypotheses of enlightenment-thought. Like capitalism, it was the concerted effort of a party. Concrete material practices overthrew and defeated other regimes of difference and brought white supremacy into fruition. Finally like capitalism, it has grown free from its hypothetical category and become normal. One only speaks of “the economy,” as one only speaks of “race.”

The discourse of the US anti-austerity struggle, coded in racial-terms and represented as white, is a limit to the struggle’s expansion and development. However, a global anti-austerity struggle has a similar character and potency as did the late anti-globalization struggle, but without the same day dreams of alternatives. The French banlieue Riots in ‘05 then Greece in ‘08, represent this particular overcoming. Strikes, occupations, and riots against austerity in the US would play an important role in figuring anti-austerity as a struggle that can really begin to attack. Because of this, capital sleeps unwell. The negativity of our times suggests that any struggle that can grow will be far more unpredictable and antagonistic than previous “social movements.” However, without the deactivation of racial apparatuses, even a racially diverse struggle in the US will be out-gunned by the armed partisans of white-supremacy and what is not subtracted will continue to be forcibly included into the global multi-cultural petty bourgeoisie.