Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

An Indigenous perspective & provocation.

pdf-128Printable version available here. (PDF | 3.3MB)
Print friendly cover w/corrections here. (PDF | 3.2MB)

This provocation is intended to intervene in some of the current tensions around solidarity/support work as the current trajectories are counter-liberatory from my perspective. Special thanks to DS in Phoenix for convos that lead to this ‘zine and all those who provided comments/questions/disagreements. Don’t construe this as being for “white young middle class allies”, just for paid activists, non-profits, or as a friend said, “downwardly-mobile anarchists or students.” There are many so-called “allies” in the migrant rights struggle who support “comprehensive immigration reform” which furthers militarization of Indigenous lands.

abolish-ally-industrial-complexThe ally industrial complex has been established by activists whose careers depend on the “issues” they work to address. These nonprofit capitalists advance their careers off  the struggles they ostensibly support. They often work in the guise of “grassroots” or “community-based” and are not necessarily tied to any organization.
They build organizational or individual capacity and power, establishing themselves comfortably among the top ranks in their hierarchy of oppression as they strive to become the ally “champions” of the most oppressed. While the exploitation of solidarity and support is nothing new, the commodification and exploitation of allyship is a growing trend in the activism industry.

Anyone who concerns themselves with anti-oppression struggles and collective liberation has at some point either participated in workshops, read ‘zines, or been parts of deep discussions on how to be a “good” ally. You can now pay hundreds of dollars to go to esoteric institutes for an allyship certificate in anti-oppression. You can go through workshops and receive an allyship badge. In order to commodify struggle it must first be objectified. This is exhibited in how “issues” are “framed” & “branded.” Where struggle is commodity, allyship is currency.
Ally has also become an identity, disembodied from any real mutual understanding of support.
The term ally has been rendered ineffective and meaningless.

Accomplices not allies.

ac·com·plice
noun: accomplice; plural noun: accomplices
a person who helps another commit a crime.

There exists a fiercely unrelenting desire to achieve total liberation, with the land and, together.
At some point there is a “we”, and we most likely will have to work together. This means, at the least, formulating mutual understandings that are not entirely antagonistic, otherwise we may find ourselves, our desires, and our struggles, to be incompatible.
There are certain understandings that may not be negotiable. There are contradictions that we must come to terms with and certainly we will do this on our own terms.
But we need to know who has our backs, or more appropriately: who is with us, at our sides?

The risks of an ally who provides support or solidarity (usually on a temporary basis) in a fight are much different than that of an accomplice. When we fight back or forward, together, becoming complicit in a struggle towards liberation, we are accomplices. Abolishing allyship can occur through the criminalization of support and solidarity.

While the strategies and tactics of asserting (or abolishing depending on your view) social power and political power may be diverse, there are some hard lessons that could bear not replicating.
Consider the following to be a guide for identifying points of intervention against the ally industrial complex.

“Salvation aka Missionary Work & Self Therapy”
Allies all too often carry romantic notions of oppressed folks they wish to “help.” These are the ally “saviors” who see victims and tokens instead of people.
This victimization becomes a fetish for the worst of the allies in forms of exotification, manarchism, ‘splaining, POC sexploitation, etc. This kind of relationship generally fosters exploitation between both the oppressed and oppressor. The ally and the allied-with become entangled in an abusive relationship. Generally neither can see it until it’s too late. This relationship can also digress into co-dependency which means they have robbed each other of their own power. Ally “saviors” have a tendency to create dependency on them and their function as support. No one is here to be saved, we don’t need “missionary allies” or pity.
Guilt is also a primary ally motivating factor. Even if never admitted, guilt & shame generally function as motivators in the consciousness of an oppressor who realizes that they are operating on the wrong side. While guilt and shame are very powerful emotions, think about what you’re doing before you make another community’s struggle into your therapy session. Of course, acts of resistance and liberation can be healing, but tackling guilt, shame, and other trauma require a much different focus, or at least an explicit and consensual focus. What kind of relationships are built on guilt and shame?

“Exploitation & Co-optation”
Those who co-opt are only there to advance self interests (usually it’s either notoriety or financial). As these “allies” seek to impose their agenda, they out themselves. The ‘radical’ more militant-than-thou “grassroots” organizers are keen on seeking out “sexy” issues to co-opt (for notoriety/ego/super ally/most radical ally) and they set the terms of engagement or dictate what struggles get amplified or marginalized irregardless of whose homelands they’re operating on. The nonprofit establishment or non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) also seeks out “sexy” or “fundable” issues to co-opt and exploit as these are ripe for the grant funding that they covet. Too often, Indigenous liberation struggles for life and land, by nature, directly confront the entire framework to which this colonial & capitalist society is based on. This is threatening to potential capitalist funders so some groups are forced to compromise radical or liberatory work for funding, others become alienated and further invisibilized or subordinated to tokenism. Co-opters most often show up to the fight when the battle has already escalated and it’s a little too late.
These entities almost always propose trainings, workshops, action camps, and offer other specialized expertise in acts of patronization. These folks are generally paid huge salaries for their “professional” activism, get over-inflated grants for logistics and “organizational capacity building”, and struggles may become further exploited as “poster struggles” for their funders. Additionally, these skills most likely already exist within the communities or they are tendencies that need only be provoked into action.
These aren’t just dynamics practiced by large so-called non-governmental organizations (NGOs), individuals are adept at this self-serving tactic as well.
Co-optation also functions as a form of liberalism. Allyship can perpetuate a neutralizing dynamic by co-opting original liberatory intent into a reformist agenda.
Certain folks in the struggles (usually movement “personalities”) who don’t upset the ally establishment status quo can be rewarded with inclusion in the ally industry.

“Self proclaiming/confessional Allies”ally-badge
All too often folks show up with an, “I am here to support you!” attitude that they wear like a badge. Ultimately making struggles out to feel like an extracurricular activity that they are getting “ally points” for. Self-asserted allies may even have anti-oppression principles and values as window dressing. Perhaps you’ve seen this quote by Lilla Watson on their materials: “If you come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. If you come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” They are keen to posture, but their actions are inconsistent with their assertions.
Meaningful alliances aren’t imposed, they are consented upon. The self-proclaimed allies have no intention to abolish the entitlement that compelled them to impose their relationship upon those they claim to ally with.

“Parachuters”
Parachuters rush to the front lines seemingly from out-of-nowhere. They literally move from one hot or sexy spot to the next. They also fall under the “savior” & “self-proclaimed” categories as they mostly come from specialized institutes, organizations, & think-tanks. They’ve been through the trainings, workshops, lectures, etc., they are the “experts” so they know “what is best.” This paternalistic attitude is implicit in the structures (non-profits, institutes, etc) these “allies” derive their awareness of the “issues” from. Even if they reject their own non-profit programming, they are ultimately reactionary, entitled, and patronizing, or positioning with power-over, those they proclaim allyship with. It’s structural patronization that is rooted in the same dominion of hetero-patriarchal white supremacy.
Parachuters are usually missionaries with more funding.

“Academics, & Intellectuals”
Although sometimes directly from communities in struggle, intellectuals and academics also fit neatly in all of these categories. Their role in struggle can be extremely patronizing. In many cases the academic maintains institutional power above the knowledge and skill base of the community/ies in struggle. Intellectuals are most often fixated on un-learning oppression. These lot generally don’t have their feet on the ground, but are quick to be critical of those who do.
Should we desire to merely “unlearn” oppression, or to smash it to fucking pieces, and have it’s very existence gone?
An accomplice as academic would seek ways to leverage resources and material support and/or betray their institution to further liberation struggles. An intellectual accomplice would strategize with, not for and not be afraid to pick up a hammer.

“Gatekeepers”
Gatekeepers seek power over, not with, others. They are known for the tactics of controlling and/or withholding information, resources, connections, support, etc. Gatekeepers come from the outside and from within. When exposed they are usually rendered ineffective (so long as there are effective accountability/responsibility mechanisms).
Gatekeeping individuals and organizations, like “savior allies,” also have tendency to create dependency on them and their function as support. They have a tendency to dominate or control.

“Navigators & Floaters”
The “navigating” ally is someone who is familiar or skilled in jargon and maneuvers through spaces or struggles yet doesn’t have meaningful dialogue (by avoiding debates or remaining silent) or take meaningful action beyond their personal comfort zones (this exists with entire organizations too). They uphold their power and, by extension, the dominant power structures by not directly attacking them.
“Ally” here is more clearly defined as the act of making personal projects out of other folk’s oppression. These are lifestyle allies who act like passively participating or simply using the right terminology is support. When shit goes down they are the first to bail. They don’t stick around to take responsibility for their behavior. When confronted they often blame others and attempt to dismiss or delegitimize concerns.
Accomplices aren’t afraid to engage in uncomfortable/unsettling/challenging debates or discussions.

Floaters are “allies” that hop from group to group and issue to issue, never being committed enough but always wanting their presence felt and their voices heard. They tend to disappear when it comes down to being held accountable or taking responsibility for fucked up behavior.
Floaters are folks you can trust to tell the cops to “fuck off” but never engage in mutual risk, constantly put others at risk, are quick to be authoritarian about other peoples over stepping privileges, but never check their own. They basically are action junkie tourists who never want to be part of paying the price, the planning, or the responsibility but always want to be held up as worthy of being respected for “having been there” when a rock needed throwing, bloc needs forming, etc.
This dynamic is also important to be aware of for threats of infiltration. Provocateurs are notorious floaters going from place to place never being accountable to their words or actions. Infiltration doesn’t necessarily have to come from the state, the same impacts can occur by “well meaning” allies. It’s important to note that calling out infiltrators bears serious implications and shouldn’t be attempted without concrete evidence.
“Acts of Resignation”
Resignation of agency is a by-product of the allyship establishment. At first the dynamic may not seem problematic, after all, why would it be an issue with those who benefit from systems of oppression to reject or distance themselves from those benefits and behaviors (like entitlement, etc) that accompany them? In the worst cases, “allies” themselves act paralyzed believing it’s their duty as a “good ally.” There is a difference between acting for others, with others, and for one’s own interests, be explicit.
You wouldn’t find an accomplice resigning their agency, or capabilities as an act of “support.” They would find creative ways to weaponize their privilege (or more clearly, their rewards of being part of an oppressor class) as an expression of social war. Otherwise we end up with a bunch of anti-civ/primitivist appropriators or anarcho-hipsters, when saboteurs would be preferred.

Suggestions for some ways forward for anti-colonial accomplices:

Allyship is the corruption of radical spirit and imagination, it’s the dead end of decolonization.
The ally establishment co-opts decolonization as a banner to fly at its unending anti-oppression gala. What is not understood is that decolonization is a threat to the very existence of settler “allies.” No matter how liberated you are, if you are still occupying Indigenous lands you are still a colonizer.

Decolonization (the process of restoring Indigenous identity) can be very personal and should be differentiated, though not disconnected, from anti-colonial struggle.
The work of an accomplice in anti-colonial struggle is to attack colonial structures & ideas.

The starting point is to articulate your relationship to Indigenous Peoples whose lands you are occupying. This is beyond acknowledgment or recognition. This can be particularly challenging for “non-federally recognized” Indigenous Peoples as they are invisiblized by the state and by the invaders occupying their homelands.
It may take time to establish lines of communication especially as some folks may have already been burnt by outsiders. If you do not know where or how to contact folks, do some ground work, research (but don’t rely on anthropological sources, they are euro-centric), and pay attention. Try to more listening than speaking and planning.
In long-term struggles communication may be ruptured between various factions, there are no easy ways to address this. Don’t try to work the situation out, but communicate openly with consideration of the points below.
Sometimes other Indigenous Peoples are “guests” on other’s homelands yet are tokenized as the Indigenous representatives for the “local struggles”. This dynamic also perpetuates settler colonialism. A lot of people also assume Indigenous folks are all on the same page “politically,” we’re definitely not.

While there may be times folks have the capacity and patience to do so, be aware of the dynamics perpetuated by hand-holding.
Understand that it is not our responsibility to hold your hand through a process to be an accomplice.
Accomplices listen with respect for the range of cultural practices and dynamics that exists within various Indigenous communities.
Accomplices aren’t motivated by personal guilt or shame, they may have their own agenda but they are explicit.
Accomplices are realized through mutual consent and build trust. They don’t just have our backs, they are at our side, or in their own spaces confronting and unsettling colonialism. As accomplices we are compelled to become accountable and responsible to each other, that is the nature of trust.

Don’t wait around for anyone to proclaim you to be an accomplice, you certainly cannot proclaim it yourself. You just are or you are not. The lines of oppression are already drawn. Direct action is really the best and may be the only way to learn what it is to be an accomplice. We’re in a fight, so be ready for confrontation and consequence.

If you are wondering whether to get involved with or to support an organization:

Be suspect of anyone and any organization who professes allyship, decolonization work, and/or wears their relationships with Indigenous Peoples as at badge.

Use some of the points above to determine primary motives.
Look at the organizations funding. Who is getting paid? How are they transparent? Who’s defining the terms? Who sets the agenda? Do campaigns align with what the needs are on the ground?

Are there local grassroots Indigenous People directly involved with the decision making?

  54 comments for “Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

  1. May 5, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    Can you clarify here– Is it supposed to be whose LAND/whose ISSUE/whose SPACE- All of the above? “The starting point is to articulate your relationship to Indigenous Peoples whose you are occupying.”

    • admin
      May 5, 2014 at 1:06 PM

      Thanks! The correction was caught earlier and changes made. Making changes to the PDF as well. We also received a note to use a more printer friendly image for the PDF, that change is coming too.

  2. Eric
    May 5, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    As a White, Straight, Cis-gendered, Male, American, Middle Class, University Educated, Jewish, Atheist, Able-bodied, able-minded (etc., etc. privileges in no particular order) I realize I pretty much am the problem. I know this because of friends and specifically friends from my housing cooperative. Maybe this isn’t the place for this (my apologies if so) but this is a public forum on the intartoobs talking at least generally about such issues, so what the hell.

    I’m not involved in social justice things because I can tell I am not wanted (rightly so in many forums). I am trying to not be part of the problem, I guess I am asking what do you want, and what do you want from me and people like me? If it is recognition, sure I count for jack squat but whatever you want and think is needed. Poorly phrased, but another example is I default to calling someone whatever gender and pronouns they want. Agency, it is a thing.

    I am an Engineer, meaning that I need not have anything to do with this and other issues, which is a choice vast majority of Engineers make consciously. I am not saying it is your job to make me comfortable.

    If I should just off and go away, I can and will, nary to reappear save to vote in an election (e.g. I voted for marriage equality in my state’s election, but did not campaign, updated no profile pictures, nor attended any pride parades; I simply saw an injustice in society and did my small part to help where I knew I comfortably could.

    However, I see that there *are* in fact problems in society and I think that there *are* things to do without really being involved.

    Here is an analogy: The first person is cutting a very long board on a table saw. The second person is there holding the end after it is cut. If the second person pulls, it messes up the person who is actually doing the cutting. That is what I see many of these problems as, the second person asserting themselves. However if the second person is simply supportive and keeps the piece of wood from falling, the first person can get a much better cut.

    I want to be the second person, supportive, not assertive. My question is how?

    • Mac
      May 5, 2014 at 7:02 PM

      Eric – here are some rad recommendations made in an article I just read called “Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex”

      “Suggestions for some ways forward for anti-colonial accomplices:

      Allyship is the corruption of radical spirit and imagination, it’s the dead end of decolonization.
      The ally establishment co-opts decolonization as a banner to fly at it’s unending anti-oppression gala. What is not understood is that decolonization is a threat to the very existence of settler “allies.” No matter how liberated you are, if you are still occupying Indigenous lands you are still a colonizer.

      Decolonization (the process of restoring Indigenous identity) can be very personal and should be differentiated, though not disconnected, from anti-colonial struggle.
      The work of an accomplice in anti-colonial struggle is to attack colonial structures & ideas.

      The starting point is to articulate your relationship to Indigenous Peoples whose lands you are occupying. This is beyond acknowledgment or recognition. This can be particularly challenging for “non-federally recognized” Indigenous Peoples as they are invisiblized by the state and by the invaders occupying their homelands.
      It may take time to establish lines of communication especially as some folks may have already been burnt by outsiders. If you do not know where or how to contact folks, do some ground work, research (but don’t rely on anthropological sources, they are euro-centric), and pay attention. Try to more listening than speaking and planning.
      In long-term struggles communication may be ruptured between various factions, there are no easy ways to address this. Don’t try to work the situation out, but communicate openly with consideration of the points below.
      Sometimes other Indigenous Peoples are “guests” on other’s homelands yet are tokenized as the Indigenous representatives for the “local struggles”. This dynamic also perpetuates settler colonialism. A lot of people also assume Indigenous folks are all on the same page “politically,” we’re definitely not.

      While there may be times folks have the capacity and patience to do so, be aware of the dynamics perpetuated by hand-holding.
      Understand that it is not our responsibility to hold your hand through a process to be an accomplice.
      Accomplices listen with respect for the range of cultural practices and dynamics that exists within various Indigenous communities.
      Accomplices aren’t motivated by personal guilt or shame, they may have their own agenda but they are explicit.
      Accomplices are realized through mutual consent and build trust. They don’t just have our backs, they are at our side, or in their own spaces confronting and unsettling colonialism. As accomplices we are compelled to become accountable and responsible to each other, that is the nature of trust.

      Don’t wait around for anyone to proclaim you to be an accomplice, you certainly cannot proclaim it yourself. You just are or you are not. The lines of oppression are already drawn. Direct action is really the best and may be the only way to learn what it is to be an accomplice. We’re in a fight, so be ready for confrontation and consequence.”

      Here’s another great article:
      http://becomingcollective.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/speaking-for-speaking-beside-thoughts-about-consensual-allyship/

    • i n d e e
      May 5, 2014 at 7:12 PM

      this is not the space to have this conversation. have a brainstorming session with other folks whose privilege mirror your own. aka you figure out how to not be shitty white dude, while we figure out how to survive.

      also it wouldnt hurt to re-read the “Suggestions for some ways forward for anti-colonial accomplices” section, especially the part that says “Understand that it is not our responsibility to hold your hand through a process to be an accomplice.”

      • Jane
        May 6, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        Indee, thanks for demonstrating what I think I hate more than condescending liberal types and spotlight hogs– the people who make it impossible, even for someone who is humble and well-meaning– to make any kind of positive step forward without being attacked. “I am not this white dude’s teacher and i will not coddle his feelings in telling him so by swallowing my own. ” — so basically you’re unwilling to even talk to people who are putting themselves out there. If you don’t want to hold his hand then don’t do it, you don’t have to respond to men like that. People who want to take on the task of educating can do so, because.. guess what! it’s our collective responsibility as progressives to educate people, whether you like it or not.

        • sexandonions
          May 18, 2014 at 1:34 AM

          wrong. this dude can put himself out there all he wants, but nobody deserves even a pat on the back for that. in the end it is on HIM to do the research, to take the time, do the hard thinking and talking and crying and deciding to do better. he needs to figure that shit out. there are mountains of literature addressing these and other issues already out there, written by indigenous folks and oppressed peoples. theres also tons of stuff written by white people about whiteness and facing white supremacy. the words have already been written, the stories told – he needs to find them for himself if any personal transformation is to be really really fucking real. it cant be a quick-and-dirty, silver bullet experience. what he calls for here, and what entitled liberals and others call for all the time, is for someone surviving on the front lines to take the their time to make it easy for him. “heres a concrete, short list of 5 perfect, easily digestible and explicable steps for you to take that i as a scholar of my experiences plus everyone in my minority demographic has learned for sure.” as a white dude my continuing education of race and privilege has been long and will not end. ever. start today for the long haul or dont bother. and dont dare take shit personally when folks call you out. and cheers for indee! right on

        • ffff
          May 20, 2014 at 10:38 PM

          lol jane if you’re so committed to educating the white man why don’t you go ahead and do it then? oh i guess its even more important to be a self-righteous prick. who told you “we” are progressives?

    • Merdeka
      May 6, 2014 at 3:53 AM

      There’s nothing wrong with your comment & you seem sincere don’t let Internet radicals intimidate you. Political groups who fail to recruit members of the public outside their clique & insult or snark at you on the internet to make themselves look radical on blogs are a big part of the problem.

      My recommendation is find an actual political movement that exists in your area, join up with them & see what they’re doing. Something like pcr-rcp, brown berets – i’m not American so I have no idea what exists where you live. If they’re working with indigenous groups get involved through them. Alliances can be made between groups with known political goals not random individuals

      • i n d e e
        May 6, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        To be clear, i dont think that there was anything wrong with Eric’s comment or questions above. In contrary I think its really important for white folks to be asking these questions, thinking about these things. Its to whom the questions are directed to and also where the questions are being asked that make me feel icky and frustrated. I am not this white dude’s teacher and i will not coddle his feelings in telling him so by swallowing my own. And Merdeka, you can try and minimize that to some unimportant ass internet/radical credibility, still i come from a long line of black women who were forced to take care of white babies with a smile on their faces and that cycle ends with me.

    • May 20, 2014 at 1:51 PM

      “I count for jack squat” … I find it tragic and counter-liberatory that some have been made to feel like this based on their social class and skin color , and it is celebrated by privilegemongers as some kind of victory. Eric: You are every bit as equal as the rest of us and your voice has value!! Don’t ever feel like you are not wanted or needed, or let another person diminish you as an individual.

      Aside from that, I would add a cautionary note to this entire conversation: Many, actually most, of we so-called “colonialists” were actually born here … thus, we, too, are indigenous to this land, and we face a common enemy in the political ruling class. Our struggle IS a struggle that is bound up as one; but casting it as a struggle for territorial dominance that places some ethnicities above others is … problematic.

      Thank you your acts of complicity in the fight for liberation. This is an amazing article.

      • the rizqian
        May 28, 2014 at 6:00 PM

        u trivialize the term indigenous with ur statement.
        if u are white(of european decent) , u are not indigenous. stop playing games up in here. none of those tired plots will stick sir. the privilege on blast in this thread shows exactly why nothing will change as a result of himming and hawing on a website with a kinder gentler version of monstrosity. trust and believe that. there can be no allies where there is no shared triumph and shared pain. ur pamperd,enclosed,assured position must be defended even when u pretend to be above such considerations. hence no real communication is taking place.

  3. Beorn
    May 5, 2014 at 10:05 PM

    “Accomplices aren’t motivated by personal guilt or shame, they may have their own agenda but they are explicit.”

    I think it is important for accomplices to recognize they are motivated out of some personal factor. Recognize it and name it. Abstract terms likes “liberation” or “ending oppression” need not apply.

    And only because you seem concerned with grammar/typos already I’ll mention one I noticed…yes this is a silly language but what the hell:

    “The ally establishment co-opts decolonization as a banner to fly at it’s unending anti-oppression gala.” it’s/its

    • jeff sorenson
      June 27, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      “Recognize it and name it. Abstract terms likes “liberation” or “ending oppression” need not apply.”
      The personal factor that motivates me is common survival. If that’s not good enough, then never mind.

  4. Merdeka
    May 6, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    I don’t really appreciate this article advising white people as individuals to look around for indigenous people or movements to attach themselves to. That’s the most annoying thing they do. There should be alliances between movements, Indigenous movements of Indigenous people already exist & mainstream movements if they want to be “accomplices” to our movements could use some advice how to behave. I have no idea of this blogger even belongs to a movement themselves or they’re just issuing instructions on their own initiative.

    • admin
      May 6, 2014 at 10:39 AM

      Merdeka, why do you assume the article is just advising white folks to look for Indigenous movements? The assertion here is that this dynamic is already occurring, not just with WFs but POC as well. “if they want to be “accomplices” to our movements could use some advice how to behave.” Agreed. Sometimes this happens with protocols that are established and sometimes it doesn’t, hence some of the suggestions at the end of the piece. As one of the primary authors of this piece, I have been involved in a range of movements for years. Being born into the land conflict on Big Mountain area opened my eyes at a very young age. The primary movement I’ve been involved with for the past 20 years is protection of sacred places. I helped to build a coalition that brought together 14 Indigenous nations and non-Native enviro groups (some Big Eco ones). I learned some very hard lessons regarding allyship then. For the past 10 years I’ve worked with Indigenous youth to create a media justice movement, we started a radical resource center 7 years ago called Táala Hooghan Infoshop. The infoshop was one of the main points where these conversations, observations, and frustrations were born from. Ahe’ hee’, Klee

  5. Marissa
    May 6, 2014 at 6:05 AM

    What an amazing article! !! As a descendant of enslaved Africans I find myself meeting these ‘allies’ time and again and REALLY appreciate the thought that went into this project. My question is I would love to know what the relationship between indigenous people and the children of those kidnapped from Africa ie African-Americans, could & should be?

    • admin
      May 6, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      Marissa, thank you for the comment. I would highly recommend connecting with Indigenous folks whose lands you’re on and starting the conversation there. These discussions certainly have occurred in a range of circles/movements before, particularly focusing on Black & Brown unity, to my knowledge not much has been written regarding Red & Black (lot’s of historical documentation exists though). Check out Andrea Smith’s “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy: Rethinking Women of Color Organizing” if you haven’t already. If you’re in AZ I would be happy to connect that conversation here. Otherwise if you email me (through the site contact page) I can forward you some info from research/convos that I’ve been part of. – Klee

      • May 6, 2014 at 12:37 PM

        I think engaging in the relationship between Red & Black unity is a critical point that continues to be marginalized. As a Black-Indian (Warao/Lokono) woman, I think we should recognize that blackness and redness are critical to the construction of the settler landscape, and that indigenous and black communities continue to undermine one another’s political projects by constantly framing the political projects as mutually exclusive. In fact, they are inherently linked, and not in a hierarchical my-struggle-is-greater-than-yours or my-struggle-comes-first. However, on the ground there continues to be anti-blackness within native and indigenous communities and anti-indigeneity in black anti-racist struggles. I would love to see more on this particular point as notions of settler colonialism often continue around a native-settler binary that fails to consider how blackness is the third aspect of this triangulation.

        I appreciate this article for its really insightful critiques of the ally industrial complex, but one point I would like to engage further is how alliances or as to quote the articles “accomplices” are formed within native/indigenous communities as this remains a contentious issue that receives little attention.

        • andrea
          May 6, 2014 at 4:57 PM

          Although both my parents are “white”, based on the current definition of the term in american culture, my extended family — cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, etc– people who occupy my heart space and share life closely with me, are people of color, including descedents of people indigenous to literally every inhabited continent of the planet except Australia. Being an ally or accomplice or whatever word is trending right now for an anti-racist, anti-fascist person is an act of love and self-defense for me and my entire family. The real battles are fought daily on a personal level, and we will never be paid in anything but love and survival.

  6. May 6, 2014 at 2:14 PM
  7. Andrew Curley
    May 6, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    In a recently published pamphlet, “Accomplices Not Allies: An Indigenous Perspective & Provocation,” the un-credited author(s) highlight some real problems facing indigenous social movements. The work is commendable in many ways. It surveys the range of potential compromises different actors within indigenous social movements might face. Although the categories are debatable, it’s a good start to the conversation.

    For example, the author(s) account for the complicated and sometimes self-serving role of nongovernmental organizations and what they describe as patronizing attitudes of academics, intellectuals (and I would add lawyers.)

    But the pamphlet lacks ideals. It doesn’t assert an ideology or something to build upon. It does suggest “direct action,” but this is a tactic, not a strategy—and to what question?

    Instead the pamphlet provides a vague critique of different types of actors who move in and out of indigenous social movements. Each one of these critiques deserves their own examination, but at this point I feel that the categories are too hard to understand to make this pamphlet workable, now. To be clear, I’m not dismissing the pamphlet. I’m just pointing out areas where we can build a debate.

    Primarily, the author(s) define all “allies” or “accomplices” against the assumed backdrop of “we.” Who are we? What constitutes “we” in a social movement? Is the author(s) perspective(s) the most militant faction of a struggle? If so, we would better understand what the writers are asking for. They want “allies” to become “accomplices,” to move from the safety of a privileged position to the center of the struggle and bear some of its burden, to “not be afraid to pick up a hammer.”

    Arguing for increased militancy is a fair point and shouldn’t simply be dismissed from the equally vague notion I hear a lot of “non-violent resistance.” But the pamphlet assumes too much that “we” is a consistent thing that should be supported. Maybe I would support it, but I don’t know what it is and what it stands for. No movement should be blindly followed and framing things in “us versus them” leads to this dangerous tendency.

    Using the language of the well-known critique of the “not-for-profit industrial complex,” the author(s) assert something of an “ally-industrial complex.” There might be some truth to this and it’s an insightful claim. I really think it should be looked at further. Again, I’m not dismissing it. But here are some problems:

    Unfortunately the category of “allies” is still too vague and probably isn’t anywhere close to “industrial” in the sense that Eisenhower coined the term in 1960 to talk about “the military industrial complex.”

    There is an inherent interest in nongovernment organizations to work on a problem in a certain way that feels disengaged. It’s also true that their perspectives and actions are complicated by their funding sources. This is something called the not-for-profit industrial complex. The notion of the ally-industrial complex builds on this. But academics, intellectuals, gatekeepers and floaters have varied interests and don’t maintain an institutionalized form of funding that the term “industrial complex” evokes. This might sound like its splitting hairs but it’s important.

    It’s important because we want to know what really drives these actors and their involvement in indigenous social movement. Calling it an ally-industrial complex might obscure more than it illuminates. Are university interests the same as nongovernment organizations? How about lawyers who double as intellectuals for Native communities? In some circumstances, we have lawyers and members of not-for-profits maintaining very different institutional motivations. Some work for their tribal government and defend existing tribal policies while others are extensions of large foundations and critique these same polices. Maybe I am confusing things because the latter is not an “ally.” But without clear definitions in the pamphlet, it’s hard to know what the author(s) are talking about in each of these categories. It’s really hard to understand how these constitute an “industrial-complex.”

    Getting to the point, I feel that it would have been a useful exercise to talk more about the ideals for an indigenous social movement that could inform the role of “allies” rather than to simply denounce the activities of these vague categories and then to simply ask for people who fit in them to stand as accomplices. Simply put, if there are floaters or parachuters, don’t let them get in the way.

    Andrew Curley

    • admin
      May 6, 2014 at 6:51 PM

      Andrew, Thanks for your prodding at this provocation. The intention of the piece isn’t to promote an ideology but to confront a problematic tendency prevalent in pretty much every current struggle. After all, it’s not a manifesto, it’s a provocation and as such has very different utility. The closest moments this piece comes to identifying an ideology is in naming the desire for total liberation of land and people and the mentions of anti-colonial struggle. Ultimately prescriptive treatises become dogmatic, a tendency we intentionally tried to avoid here (with the caveat of some advice being necessary based upon direct experience, not just theory). The “we” section is left somewhat abstract so affinity can be drawn based upon positionality. Certainly it’s a great question to interrogate, just as much as what we mean when we say “community.”
      If the critique is too vague, maybe it’s the difference in the lens you’re looking through? All of these categories (and more that we did not include) are based upon experience in a range of movements, both Indigenous and non-indigenous. Certainly we could have built them out more, but that would require more attention and time than we cared to spend exploring our frustrations. Maybe someone will write a book about it and pontificate more, we could have provided examples and named names, but we decided to play nice, for now.

      “But academics, intellectuals, gatekeepers and floaters have varied interests and don’t maintain an institutionalized form of funding that the term “industrial complex” evokes.” Just because interests are varied – just as non-profits have varied interests from all points in the political spectrum – doesn’t change the current trends in commodification and exploitation of struggles through allyship. While the Ally Industrial Complex may be smaller scale (at this moment) than the examples you compare it to, it isn’t so much a matter of scale but effect.
      - Klee

      • Andrew Curley
        May 7, 2014 at 1:27 PM

        Good points. I’m glad you opened the conversation! Thanks again for the work you all put into this.

        Andrew

  8. May 6, 2014 at 6:41 PM

    Thank you for these thoughts. I really enjoyed them. I’m wondering if I may write something based on this but more digestible for my own audience, citing what you wrote? My audience being a whole bunch of white lesbians who don’t seem to be very open to understanding the difference between, “I’m here to help!” versus “Would you like any help from me, and if so, of my skills xy and z, which would you like and how can I apply them in a way that would be beneficial?”

    My big thing to try to teach people is that the best thing we can all do to fight racism or any -ism is to send our ego elsewhere and to start from the premise that we are -ist. I am not racist in the sense that I *mean* to be racist: I’m racist in the sense that I was born a white person in a white-oppressor society, fed messages of superiority about my “race” and inferiority about others from my first breath. I did not CHOOSE to be fed those messages, so why should I be guilty or ashamed that I was? No–I should be vigilant and aware, knowing that it is my job to root those messages out and destroy them. The only shame, the only guilt, is when I adopt those racist messages as my own. The only shame is if I do not make it my responsibilty to notice, to care, and to do what I can to change the status quo.

    I tend to find myself dashing my head against a wall at times, but my head is sometimes harder than their wall, and it’s fun to smash that sort of wall. Look! Bricks-of-Idiocy are flying, whee!

    • admin
      May 6, 2014 at 6:57 PM

      Thanks for asking, this is @nti-copyright so have at it. It would be great to see this re-worked from various perspectives.

      • May 28, 2014 at 3:24 PM

        I’m working on same topic.. and they way you broke it down is so good ! Recently i tried to do the same thing and i get compared to George Wallace…..
        I’m Palestinian-Syrian and queer.

  9. The Great Bandito
    May 6, 2014 at 11:11 PM

    this is stupid. you anarchists dont actually want to change anything. you just want to find more things to complain about so you can maintain your “edge.” what a stupid article.

  10. Markus
    May 9, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    Thank you for writing this – it is a powerful piece and so important.

  11. Hailey
    May 9, 2014 at 9:50 PM

    As said by others who commented, this pamphlet offers critical and needed insight for those in circles you’re referring to – it poses many, perhaps unfamiliar, questions for self reflection, for myself and to others this relates to. Hopefully this piece will be used as a means to abolish these dynamics and not solely as a field guide to pigeon-hole people into “ally” stereotypes because they exhibit certain characteristics, like being generally quiet, curious of anarchism, or whatever else, especially if the consented goals of the dialogue/space are allusive.

    I look forward to which conversations this will lead to.

  12. Isabelle
    May 10, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    Please excuse my english, it’s not my mother tongue.

    There was (and there still is) a culture linked to Mother Earth in Europe (where I live). Those who practiced formerly were probably… white. This didn’t prevent them from being burned alive in the Middle Ages as “witches and wizards” (they were shamans, plant healers, druids, european pagans…). But their spirit survived (this kind doesn’t fear death) and finally : it is more and more recognized today, everywhere in the world, that the care of Mother Earth – as she takes care of us – is the most “valid spirituality”. In connection with how things work in reality, with the Spirit, from we all come and return (whose only “book” is Nature, sorry).

    I probably will never go to the U.S. But when I have the opportunity to read texts written by Native American spiritual leaders, they are often very enlightening because they come from nations that have managed (against a terrible violence) to maintain their communities and knowledges through the centuries, while ours were atomized. In the revolution of souls smoldering and secretely strengthening – for now – before spreading widely sooner or later, inevitably (or we will disappear), they have a major role to play. You can take it as a prophecy ; on this side of the world as in the other, those who walk in truth quite easily read the future. And who predicted centuries ago the colonizer civilisation was “no sustainable” ? Right. You see.

    That is why I understand this text – without understanding it *really*. The Spirit also speaks to white people if they want to listen. He makes no such discrimination. But if those people do not make the effort themselves to connect, by returning to their own “pre-christian” sources (yes, appropriating a practice that is not from your culture is quite inefficient, because it is through your own ancestors that you will connect more easily to what flows within you – and that’s a little ridiculous, besides being disrespectful), how do they see natives ? Only as “opressed people” they have to “help” with their “activist science” ?

    It seems a bit unreal, the totally lost guy who wants to teach life to the one who never lost sight of the path.

    But perhaps it’s too early, it’s true. The human mind is not so alert. So, to the allies-comlices or whatever they are I will say : be careful and respectful, learn to shut up, you’ve done enough stupid things at this time. And to Turtle Island people : remember who you are, please. We don’t have so much time, our mother is already seriously injured. And as we all are her children, we are brother and sisters, nothing more, nothing less.

    Isabelle

  13. May 21, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    Okay, I’m going to stay away from this group, which would obviously see any contribution I might have to offer as some sort of slippery oppression fueled by my shadow of white guilt. Good luck finding accomplices who make the cut.

  14. fanto
    May 26, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Thanks. I find the idea of building relationships of sincerity and radical friendships across those oppression lines really important. It sounds to me in some lines that it’s something maybe similar that is advocated for here. And yes, building those relationships through direct action sounds like a good way to start.
    But I wonder if the making of a new category of « the good ally » (with a new name) helps to build a space where we are actually able to let go of some of our pretence and anxious search for purity or perfection and can work from the place of being our whole evolving, learning selves, imperfect yet perhaps more in touch with who we are at the moment. Seeing and accepting ourselves and each other for who we are, even with those tendencies we perceive as our « annoying » or counter-productive ways (of course unless it’s voluntary and for personal gain like exposed in the first part of the article), seems to me like it could also be a foundation to building a real partnership culture that counteracts the dominator culture on that level.

  15. May 30, 2014 at 8:19 PM

    Can you explain this contradiction in the article?

    First the author says: “The self-proclaimed allies have no intention to abolish the entitlement that compelled them to impose their relationship upon those they claim to ally with.”

    Beyond intentionality, this seems to imply that allies _should_ be willing to abolish their own entitlements, if they were actually in support rather than just acting out of guilt.

    Later in the article there is this: “You wouldn’t find an accomplice resigning their agency, or capabilities as an act of ‘support.’

    Now, the accomplice knows she _should not_ resign agency as an act of support.

    On the one hand, tell allies they _should_ give up entitlement. On the other, note that an accomplice would never do that, because any power can be used against the system.

    • admin
      May 31, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      You’re observing the distinction between “self-proclaimed allies” and accomplices. The two roles should be mutually opposed.

  16. June 24, 2014 at 8:03 PM

    it is an enjoyable read but a concerning topic. to me it is concerning because its tone is essentialist (yes i am using academic jargon- i think lots of people are smart enough to be able to have complex thoughts and use complex words- i think you are talking down to people by trying to make complex ideas seem simple when they are not). Complex issues, complex societies, and complex institutions require complex approaches. If you are going to turn everything into an essentialistic conversation that turns every issue into a simple dichotomy then you are alienating a lot of people who are honestly trying to be helpful to your struggle. Yes, some of them are ‘professionals’, but everyone needs to live. And often it is poor people who end up in these situations with people acting like they are a walking talking political ideology instead of a human being with human needs. I think there is a big problem with interpreting everything as political when alot of what happens under the guise of politics is the result of human people, with human needs, having human responses to human problems and feelings. Trying to turn everything into a political dichotomy sounds to me like blame and hate instead of trying to work towards improvement and cultural coexistance. that said i have always hated the term ‘ally’. i am not a state, i am a human being, i am not your ‘ally’ i am your friend and someone who cares.

    I think the above comments clearly show how angry and vapid essentialistic conversations about politics become when they are formulated along essentialist ways of thinking. Your essentialism is also colonial, so you know, thats where that way of thinking originates.

  17. June 25, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    (I would cut that last paragraph I wrote since it seems unnecessary)

  18. Nij Iskode
    June 27, 2014 at 5:18 AM

    I’m seeing a lot of frustration that I feel is not necessary. There are a lot of good points in this article, and a lot of truth. As I understand it, the spirit of this article is to point out the worst motivating factors (especially those corporate “not for profit” organizations), but leaves potential individual allies/accomplices little information on how to contribute in a good way…and that is not very conducive to acceptance and cooperation.

    In my experience, nobody does anything without motive…and no ally nor accomplice has the same spirit of the Indigenous decolonization “movement”, for they have not faced the obstacles. That does not mean they cannot participate, are unwelcome, nor that they are all corrupt…they must find something in the cause that motivates them, and we as Indigenous people need to understand this. We also must aid them to understand us…clearly they have an interest in helping our cause to some degree, and that is to our benefit as much as it is to theirs.

    Certainly we don’t need to educate them…but we cannot simply shut them out either. We must be open and accepting, in the same spirit our ancestors were when colonials first came to this land. With the wisdom and knowledge our people have now, in concert with the understanding of the atrocities and consequences of the past, by those colonials, this generation can accomplish much! We cannot alienate people for not understanding if we are unwilling to answer their questions, and they will never learn if we are unwilling to teach. It is a simple equation delivered in the seventh fire, and it is our responsibility to our ancestors, Mother Earth, and humanity to make it happen.

  19. September 7, 2014 at 6:22 AM

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