When I was like sixteen I had a buddy with the word Cracker tattooed across his back. Dude's last name was similar to the word and he wound up with the nickname Cracker, and he decided to throw that shit up across his shoulders. I suspect it was less an earning of the nickname situation, like when people started calling me Shakey, and more of a him choosing the name for himself situation, like when I had just seen The Land Before Time and tried to get everyone to call me Spike. I wasn't close with the guy, he was a peripheral acquaintance of two of my best friends from that time, who happened to be brothers. Incidentally one of those brothers killed himself with heroin, this was before fentanyl came on the scene and heroin was cheaper and easier to get than pills, and the other is serving life in prison for murdering a cop; I say murdering because it wasn't a shootout or arrest gone bad but literally a revenge killing to get the cop that clapped one of his pals. That's not important, really, it just comes out everytime I think about these dudes in particular, and it made it to the page because it's all just so fucking tragic. Anyway, this Cracker dude was the friend of friends of my friends, so we really only kicked it probably like a dozen times or so, and the only things I remember about him are his stupid haircut - that turn-of-the-millenium flatironed and winged screamo-metalcore-jock fusion look - and his dumb tattoo; oh, and also that he was a douchebag that I never really cared for. His tattoo rubbed me the wrong way, but his casual enjoyment of white supremacy is what really turned me off.
When I was a super rad little skateboard kid I listened to Pennywise. I listened to all the Epitaph and Fat Wreck bands, still listen to a lot of them in fact, but Pennywise was one of the bands that rose to the top of the scene. I personally think they fell off after About Time, but people still fuckin love them, and I get it, it's solid music; it's punchy and tight and melodic, they're talented artists for sure. When I went to jail the first time, sometime in the late-nineties, I saw a dude with what I thought was a Pennywise tattoo and I was like "Yo! What's good! Pennywise!" And he was like "Nah. White Power, brother!" And then something clicked in my head and I realized the stylized PW of Pennywise’s logo sure did look an awful lot like a stylized WP, and I have not been able to enjoy any Pennywise music since. I have seen quite a few dudes who I thought were rocking a Pennywise tattoo but it turns out they were rocking some white power bullshit. Their first, and possibly best, hit song, Homesick, used to be one of my favorite songs, that shit got me amped up! When I got home from jail I listened to the words and realized how much it resembles the fascist propaganda that's recently become mainstream but has always been lurking just around the corner here in the US; I walk down my old street/ used to be home to me/ now there's spray paint on the walls doesn't sound too dissimilar from Make America Great Again and all the other mytho-historical back in my day bullshit conservatives and reactionaries love to spout - we are well aware of the fact that an imagined historical period of greatness is central to fascism. Their song Fuck Authority sounds great on the surface; I agree, fuck authority indeed! That's the whole point of this Leftist™ project anyway, deconstructing systems of power, authority and control, not only imagining a better world but actively working toward it by any means necessary. The lyrics of that song, however, tell a slightly different story. Any social or political critique is only useful if it offers, or at the very least implies, a direction in which to move, otherwise the reader is left to assume that nothing can or should be done; I understand that three minute songs don't contain all the answers, shit, all the answers aren't inside even Capital volumes one, two, and three! But, it's long been a tactic of the Right to just get people pissed at the status quo and not educate them about what they should be angry with and why, to get them believing things are horrible as they currently are, but rather than engendering a sense that progress is possible and desirable they promote the idea that solutions lie somewhere deep inside that imagined historical greatness and a regression, not a progression, is in order. Another red flag in Fuck Authority is the term Silent majority, which is repeated several times in the song. That's a phrase I've always associated with the Right, Rush Limbaugh, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Rudy Guiliani; all these dudes used this phrase politically, they used it as a euphemism, or dog whistle if you will, for White America. They used it to garner populist support in elections and to squash progressive sentiment by othering those of us on the margins and those who would benefit from progressive reforms and reimaginings of society. I'm sure most of you have heard the Trump camp use the term generously these last few years, and it's not like they came up with it or co-opted it from the left. Look, I'm not calling the guys from Pennywise Nazis, I don't know enough about them, nor do I care to learn, to make that judgement. I know they kick it with a lot of other people I respect, so maybe I'm just tripping. I will say that Lars Fredricksen is surely a Nazi shitbag, but that's another story altogether.
I'm not from Southern California, I'm from Phoenix, Arizona. There are a lot of similarities between the regions, both historically and at present, but there is a very specific culture surrounding a particular type of white dude from Soouthern California that is both kinda funny and actually fucked up. This particular type of dude wears doggers, those squared-off black sunglasses often called Locs, chanclas, or stepped-on house shoes, with white crew socks or Vans, Dickies shorts, or if they’re fancy they'll rock Ben Davis, solid-color t shirts, often with a chest pocket, or a wife beater, with an optional Pendleton for when it's brisk out, and a flat- or flip-billed hat. These dudes often have goatees and like to drink malt liquor, methamphetamine enjoyment is also common among these folks. These dudes are all over the country, there's a shitload of them in Phoenix, but the ones from SoCal just hit different. The jails I've had the pleasure of visiting as an inmate, and all but one I've worked at, were Arizona jails. As such I never really had to play the race game, Arizona jails aren't as fucked as California's; but I did work in a California prison for a while and it wasn't great getting to know and having to be civil with those hardcore AB guys. I actually fucked up when I worked CDCR by letting one of the Wiods know I used to fuck around with SHARPs - Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. The dude was a pretty cool dude, he was a tattoo artist from San Diego who went down for cannabis charges, and he got in the race car because he really didn't have a choice, or so he said. And I don't doubt it, that whole racial program is brutal as fuck and very difficult to get away from if you're down for a substantial length of time. A week or so after I let it slip that I used to be a radical Neo Nazi-fighter I was accosted by a very large inmate in a cleaning supply closet and informed of the thinness of the ice upon which I was treading, and I realized I had made a boo boo. The prison culture is strong in SoCal, the program and politics pervades communities and has largely replaced many of the existing social groupings with disciplinarian constructs that serve the status quo and the state by relegating many working class individuals to external categories. These SoCal white dudes are beholden to the program and politics in a way that not many other groups are. That's not to say the AB and similar organizations don't operate elsewhere, or that prison culture is particular to the region, in fact prison culture is alive and well all over the United States and is especially prominent among those communities most violated and violently repressed by Capital; but the sheer number of these white dudes who subscribe to the gang/race mythos of California prisons creates a unique subculture centered around this Southern California White Dude. They're not all explicitly racist, many of them even believe they're anti-racist, they all make their class, that of the working, central to their identities, but in so doing implicitly reject any intersectional projects without even exploring the possibility that they "might be the bad guys," they all look and sound like they've been out in the sun for too long, and they go out of their way to appropriate specifically Hispanic and, weirdly, Norse cultural heritage, and they all think they're fighting the system but in reality they're supporting the status quo and the state by pursuing the very same radical white supremacy this nation was founded on and promoting the rugged individualist propaganda that enables it's longevity. I'm not condemning all the white dudes from Southern California who look and act that certain way; I'm just sayin.
I had another buddy with a bad tattoo back in the day. I met him through a girl I was trying to sleep with. I had just moved, with my dad and his fourth wife and her kids, from one side of The Valley to the other. I didn't have any friends so I spent a lot of time skateboarding and smoking joints all by myself. One day a cool little hesher chick came up to me and introduced herself. She liked smoking joints and wanted to know if I could share my weed. I did. I smoked her out, and she enjoyed the weed I had. You see, dear reader, I had the hook up on the chrondo, and all she could get was schwaggy bullshit dirt weed, though her guy used to get this gnarly gas tank bud that I actually kinda liked. Anyway, she and I became friends, and I harbored secret feelings for her despite the fact that she had a boyfriend and he was a very violent and unpredictable little fucker. We all started hanging out a lot, and once this other kid got out of jail he became one of my friends as well, despite the swastikas tattooed on his legs and chest. He was a big dude with a bad attitude. He liked to fight, he liked to fuck shit up, and he had a really hard time staying out of trouble. By the time he was eighteen he had already made choices that ensured a life behind bars, and he adopted the program as a survival tactic. I haven't seen or heard or even thought about that dude in over twenty years, and now that I am thinking about him all I can say is that it's fucking tragic.
I had a homeboy with White Castle tattooed down the back of his arms. It looked like a prison tattoo, big black and gray gothic letters. It was the funniest fucking tattoo I'd ever seen. Not because I found it funny on the surface, I guess a random White Castle tattoo would be kinda comical, it was so funny to me because I understood the context. He intentionally had the tattooer make it look like a prison tattoo to shit on all the dudes who were so proud of the White Power tattoos they got in prison. He was an organist in one of the greatest ska bands of all time, and a talented tattooer himself. I fixed his car as payment for a tattoo once. The White Castle tattoo was an in-joke for people who were engaged in Nazi-fighting, a direct shot at all the bumblefucks who bought into the ideology of White Power; an ideology that these assholes think is revolutionary but in reality does nothing but protect Capital and the status quo, it plays to the economic anxiety of the precarious whites in largely deindustrialized cities and rural areas bereft of any possibility for economic mobility. It uses valid premises, the oppression and exploitation and hegemony that sustains the status quo, but comes to the wrong conclusions - specifically that the domineering machinery oppressing the working class is actually singling out and oppressing the White Race alone, and that they must defend themselves from below, when non-whites are racialized and relegated to the role of a permanent underclass by the cultural presuppositions of the State, the working class whites view non-whites as beneath them. White Power may look like a bunch of idiotic chuds screeching their insecurities into the night, and it's definitely not not that, but it's also a sophisticated op designed by educated men who are just defending Capital by preaching a return to the mythologized period of historical greatness that the insecure whites latch on to.
White Power was a direct response the Black Power movement in the United States. Black people were starting to build organizations and coalitions and revolutionary potential predicated on the fact that the only common roots they had were specifically none at all; white people in Wisconsin could rely on the shared German heritage of themselves and their neighbors to provide the seed for a sense of community and communal wellbeing, white people in New York had their Italianness, Bostonian whites had Ireland to comfort them and so on, and yes these groups all endured periods of being considered non-white, but they were not subjected to the inhuman horror of the triangle slave trade. Black people in America did not have that option; their heritage and history had been deliberately stripped from them as they were bought and sold as objects, and they were on their own in hostile conditions all over the US. The Black Power movement was both a consequence of and method to combat the white supremacy at the heart of the US, the one thing they shared was that specific lack, the lack of a historical narrative, the lack of heritage and family, the lack of community, the lack of human rights and political agency. This frightened a lot of white people, and Capital noticed this and used it to its own advantage. White Power was an explicit articulation of the white supremacy this nation was founded on, and it picked up steam because the poor whites didn't have the time to examine the facts and the arguments, and they were actively incentivized to adopt the ideology - they knew they were getting fucked and placing the blame on the non-whites was the path of least resistance and it sufficiently satisfied their sense insecurity. I'm not going to pretend that White Power is entirely explained by economics, there is deliberate malice and explicit bigotry, but the reason it grew so fast and so far was the dissatisfaction of the white working class. Reactionary movements are inherently tied to insecurity, and while I believe we'll defeat bigotry when we defeat the idea of organizing society around wealth and lack thereof, I know we'll never eradicate it - but eradicating it isn't the goal, only taking away its potential to harm.
If you’ve made it this far, I’m sorry! This is another lazy and sloppy phone post, and I hope you found something here of value. I am about to start working on a deconstruction of Whiteness - I often exclaim "I fuckin hate white people!" when I see one of them do some dumb shit, and my partner always chides me for using sloppy language. It took some time to explain, but she knows what I mean. Other people, however, don’t know what I mean and it’s just laziness on my part to be using such imprecise language. So, that’s what I’m gonna work on. These memories came up when I started thinking about whiteness, and they’re relevant but not really the point, so I figured I’d throw it all up to get it out of the way so I can actually try to take the issue seriously enough to produce something of value. Thank you so very much for dropping by and sticking around! Your time and your attention are the only things they can’t take away from you, try as they might, and I can’t express how much I appreciate you spending some of it with me. See ya' soon!