The Problem Isn’t Merely Policing – Dismantling the Matrix of Domination

The Problem Isn’t Merely Policing – Dismantling the Matrix of Domination

by Dr. Herukhuti

In the wake of the most recent murders of and attacks against Black people, people around the world have taken to the streets to demand justice for Black victims of police and vigilante violence and defunding the police. But anti-Blackness, white supremacy, and racial terrorism didn’t begin and won’t end with policing. Patricia Hill Collins, sociologist and Black feminist scholar, coined the phrase matrix of domination to refer to the interlocking systems of oppression that exists in Western societies, including but not exclusively the United States. I define that matrix as European settler-colonial, imperialist, white supremacist, neoliberal capitalist cisheteropatriarchy. By European, I mean these nation states: England, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany, the United States., and Russia.

European settler-colonialism has waged war against Indigenous people around the world through various movements including genocide, theft, exploitation, and environmental destruction of land, and cultural genocide and appropriation. European settler-colonialism has waged war against African people all over the world for the purpose of developing colonized land through kidnap, hostage taking, and forcible extraction of labor through enslavement, mass incarceration and prison labor, and peonage.

European imperialism has waged war against Black, Indigenous, and people of the Global South through various movements including religious conversion, natural resource extraction and exploitation, monocropping, cultural genocide, international monetary policy, international development aid, international trade policy, invasion, coups, political assassinations, destabilization of governments, blockades, and propaganda.

White supremacy has waged war against Black, Indigenous, and people of color through various movements including psychological warfare, anti-Blackness (associating negativity with the literal color/concept of Black), the creation of the concepts of race, whiteness, and Europe, thought policing, tone policing, respectability politics, creating myths about racial and cultural purity and unity among people racialized as white (e.g., Aryan nationhood and ancient Greece as the origin of European civilization), creation of cultural and social hierarchies (e.g., mission civilisatrice, American exceptionalism, Moynihan Report), and developing social policy and laws that create and maintain racial hierarchies, structural inequity, discrimination, prejudice, preferential treatment, and social stratification based upon race.

Neoliberal capitalism has waged war against everyone born into socioeconomic classes without wealth, of which Black, Indigenous, and people of color make up a disproportionate percentage through various movements including nepotism, peonage, consumerism, trickle down economics, corporate welfare and tax breaks, attacks on labor unions and collective bargaining, propaganda, red baiting, philanthropy and the non-profit industrial complex, inverted totalitarianism, hazardous working conditions, low wages, and food, housing, and job insecurity.

Cisheteropatriarchy has waged war against people who do not conform to Anglo/European rules about love, relationships, embodiment, and ways of being through various movements including compulsory monogamy and heterosexuality, toxic masculinity, sex negativity, criminalization of sex work, monosexism, sex slavery and trafficking, conservative religion, decency laws, public health regimes, propaganda, miscegenation laws, and anti-abortion policies.

In describing the ways in which racialized structural violence and systemic oppression operate, Neely Fuller, Jr., sociologist and racism theorist, identified nine area of human activity: economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex, and war/counter-war. I have expanded Fuller’s list nine to twelve areas:

  1. art
  2. economics
  3. education
  4. entertainment
  5. food production
  6. health and healing
  7. labor
  8. law
  9. politics
  10. sex
  11. spirituality
  12. war/counter-war.

The matrix of domination operates in some form in each of these twelve areas. I advise anyone interested in dismantling the matrix of domination to analyze how it functions within these areas so that they can understand the scope of the problem and predict how the matrix of domination will defend itself from attack through these areas.

  1. Start with the area most familiar to you and ask yourself, “how does the matrix of domination function in this area?” Diagram or mind map it.
  2. Study and analyze the other areas and ask yourself the same question for each area. Use diagramming and mind mapping to the degree that they are useful.
  3. Link the diagrams/mind maps together..
  4. Ask yourself, “based upon my analysis of the matrix of domination in these areas and my positionality and resources, where am I best positioned to contribute to the dismantling of the matrix of domination?”
  5. Ask yourself, “what co-conspirators do I know or with whom I can build relationships to work collaboratively to dismantle the matrix of domination from our relative positions in the matrix?”
  6. Go forward
  7. Evaluate lessons learned
  8. Refine your analysis and strategy as needed
  9. Repeat steps 6-9 until the matrix of domination has been dismantled

Moving from the singular but important objective of defunding the police to a systemic goal of dismantling the matrix of domination will move us closer to creating a world in which we can live free from all forms of oppression.

4 thoughts on “The Problem Isn’t Merely Policing – Dismantling the Matrix of Domination

  1. It’s always good to read your work, Dr. H. Naming the areas in which oppression can be built into the processes of life itself is empowering. The specificity reminds me that there is revolutionary work to be done in every realm. One area I would add to your list of twelve is raising families. While some of the work of raising children to become healthy adults is covered in other areas, such as education and health, pregnancy, childbirth, direct care of infants and young children, and all of the care and modeling that go into raising kids, are unpaid labor performed, as art often is, as expressions of being human, and therefore open to exploitation as much as needs for housing and food. Parenting is often overlooked both as production in the capitalist sense, and literal reproduction of people, with all the dignity and worth we deserve, and the hope that implies for the future of society.

    1. From a decolonial and Africanist framework, I am curious about the concept of family in the way you have raised it here and the cultural and social values underlying it. Raising a family has so many implications to it as well. Raise from what/where to what/where. Raise is a word full of values and fueled by worldview.

  2. Hello Dr. Herukhuti! You blew my mind the other day at the Feminine Shadow Summit when you said (paraphrasing) bodies of color receive the projection of the collective, and individual, shadow. I just wanna say a huge THANK YOU for your work!!! Thank you for your bravery, I felt the energy shift when you said that and I know that is only a small reflection of what you must face every single day. Thank you for curating this information and presenting it so fluidly and concisely. I appreciate the list you’ve presented in the above article and the questions accompanying it; you’ve really simplified and broken it down in such a succinct way. And you’ve made it so easy! You’ve laid out the game plan, I just gotta fill in the blanks. I know this is an informal message to you but please know you have my humble and sincere gratitude. You’ve got a cheerleader in me and I’ll be sharing your work with the people I know.

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