Blue Pill, Red Pill: The Incommensurable Worlds of Racism and Antiblackness


  • João Costa Vargas



Examining two foundational texts of Black liberation, Kwame Ture and Charles Hamilton’s Black Power (1967) and the Black feminist socialist manifesto “The Combahee River Collective Statement” (1977), through an allegory borrowed from the 1999 film The Matrix, this article argues that both engage two distinct worlds: the “red pill” world of antiblackness, defined by Black people’s specific, exceptional, and incommensurable ontological and social conditions, including Black strategies of survival and political transfiguration; and the “blue pill” world of racism, that affects nonblacks and Blacks in distinct but related manners. To explore the fundamental difference between racism and antiblackness, the article analyzes the ways in which each world (1) manifests its foundational racial divisions; (2) engenders modalities of progressive political struggle and alliances focused on eliminating, or ameliorating, exclusion based on race and its interlocking forms of oppression; and (3) gestures toward, or demands, horizons of social transformation. It concludes by raising questions, against the backdrop of antiblackness, about the socialist horizons both paradigmatic texts embrace.