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Against Black perfectionism: in defence of Carlee Russell

An anarchist re-reading of Carlee's faked kidnapping

Design by Naomi Gennery @nn.aa.ii

Carlee Russell, a Black woman who faked her own kidnapping, has been charged with “falsely reporting to law enforcement officers and falsely reporting an incident.” These charges could send Carlee to prison for one year. No one should go to prison for a year for lying! Especially to the police. No one should ever go to prison, period, but this is about Carlee right now. 

Carlee didn’t hurt anyone! If you are thinking, she wasted the police’s time when they could be helping other people, this is the time that I would like to reiterate to you that the police don’t help anyone. That is not their job. The police’s job is to racially profile Black people; that is why they spend most of their time doing that. In fact, we should be happy that the police were busy “solving” Carlee’s kidnapping because that’s time they could have otherwise used to harass Black people.   

I’m not just saying this just because I hate the police or because I get a lot of joy in seeing Black women behaving badly in a world that doesn’t want them to exist. I will confess to absolutely being Team Carlee the whole way even when it was becoming more clear that she was lying. I’m so tired of Black excellence and respectability politics that say that Black people are only deserving of freedom if they achieve based on white supremacist standards of achievement, i.e. accumulating wealth in a racial capitalism. 

I’m saying this because instead of shaming her, people should be asking why Carlee would pretend to be kidnapped for two days. Who amongst us has not thought about manufacturing their own kidnapping so they wouldn’t have to go to their terrible job? Maybe you haven’t, but you have to admit that someone must be very desperate to come up with a movie plot kidnapping to escape their reality or get attention.  

I don’t know Carlee, but I do know life is hard for everyone because we are fundamentally not free. 

There are days when I wake in the morning and my brain just screams fuuuuuuck I’m still here! Why am I still here? Why do I have to wake up every morning and go do a bullshit job I don’t want to do to live? 

I eventually get out of my bed after convincing myself there is no way out of it today. I walk over to the couch and lay there staring at the ceiling trying to figure out a way to get out of selling my life to some corporation for 10 hours.

I never come up with a solution other than getting everyone to revolt. Given that planning a revolt in an hour is not an option, I get up from the couch, go to the kitchen, and make my coffee. 

Once I make my coffee, I move over to my desk, open my laptop and stare at my black laptop screen for a while. Yes, I’m part of the laptop class that Elon Musk condemns. I get to sell my life from the comfort of my home instead of selling it under the scorching heat of the sun. Yes, I’m definitely more privileged than those who do back breaking labour to live, but I’m not free either. So Elon, why don’t you shut your mouth and do something other than coming up with terrible ideas funded by your piggy bank, the US government. I suggest maybe spending your time in an isolated house in the wilderness where no one will ever hear from you again. 

After staring at my laptop for a while, I eventually turn it on and give in to handing my body over to carry out bullshit tasks that do not serve me or my community. It’s painful and demoralising, but I don’t have a choice. I have to do it. Once I’m done with my day, I move from my desk to my couch and stare at the ceiling for hours. My body is finally my own but I don’t have the mental or spiritual energy to do most of the things I love to do. I get high and eat gushers. 

As I said, I don’t know Carlee but I do know what it’s like to want a break from a life that’s not really yours. I don’t know what Carlee’s life was like at home, at work, or at her nursing school. However, I do know that Carlee is like any of us who doesn’t have autonomy over our own life. Wanting basic autonomy over your life can make you do things you would not otherwise do.

If you are thinking, well my life is not great either but I didn’t stage my kidnapping, good for you but you are not Carlee. I will never forget something that my therapist told me, which is that we all react to situations differently because we are different people. 

We all react to the fact that we are not free differently. 

Some people embrace rampant consumerism; some people jump turnstiles to ride the train for free, and some people frame their own kidnapping. Worse, some people blame marginalised groups for their lack of freedom because they refuse to recognise white supremacy and capitalists as the source of oppression. I’m looking at you, transphobes who literally don’t understand that their transphobia isn’t just vile but is also bad for them.  

Transphobia prevents transphobes from realising they should be yelling outside Amazon’s headquarters for oppressing workers not yelling outside drag story hours. Transphobia is one of the key elements of hate that capitalists use to distract people from the fact that Elon Musk and the rest of his evil crew are taking everything. Just like naps are one of the key elements I use to avoid doing my job. 

Capitalists love it when transphobes look at trans people trying to be free as the reason why the transphobes’ lives are bad. This way transphobes don’t notice the reason why their lives are actually miserable is because Jeff Bezos and other billionaires are taking everything and leaving them with nothing. So instead of enjoying a drag show, transphobes are being used as a tool to maintain capitalism which oppresses the transphobes and trans people. 

I for one would rather people start staging their own kidnappings instead of spending their time being bigoted. 

So instead of condemning Carlee for framing her own kidnapping, maybe we should ask her why she did it? If we did ask her, we would find that her reasons are no different than the reason why some of us will lay on the couch staring at the ceiling for hours. Then maybe we would ask ourselves why we live in a world where we are forced to sell our lives to survive. Why do we live in a world where we are told we are not worthy of love unless we meet certain criteria of success manufactured by racial capitalism? 

Once we ask these questions, maybe we would all finally revolt and spend our time living the lives we want, not the lives we are being forced to live. 

What can you do?

  • Read Anarcho-Blackness by Marquis Bey to learn more about how transphobia, racism, and misogyny are used to maintain capitalism.
  • Read Killing Rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks to learn about how the gender binary and racism are  integral to capitalism and imperialism 
  • Read this op-ed from Truthout to understand why transphobia is white supremacy
Design by Naomi Gennery @nn.aa.ii
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