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Posts Tagged ‘resistance’

The Trayvon Trial and the Need for Righteous Rage

In Decolonization, Geography/ Spatial Justice, Identity Politics, Racial Politics, The Revolution on July 12, 2013 at 8:00 AM


Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin
 (March 21st, 2012)

Hard to believe it was over a year ago. I’m proud of the fact that I was present here, although shamefully sans hoodie.

As the jury deliberates its verdict for George Zimmerman, the man charged with the second-degree murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, I feel some uncomfortable fusion of listless resignation and indescribable fury. White supremacy has never left us, and Jim Crow has only morphed into stealthier, more subversive villain. The long list of issues makes it clear how badly racial justice has regressed in this country, for in the last few weeks we have seen:

  •          A curtailment of voting rights in the South
  •          The evisceration of affirmative action
  •          The proposed militarization of the country’s borders
  •          Several state-by-state threats to a woman’s right to abortion
    (affecting particularly women of color)
  •           Direct assaults on indigenous sovereignty
  •           An ongoing criminalization of young men of color that targets “cultural”
    behaviors over economic disenfranchisement (e.g. the school-to-prison
    pipeline, or (quite unbelievably) the various “saggy pants” legislation
    throughout the country

And yes, surprising as it may be to some, this has all happened under a black president, a Democrat, and a man who was supposed to represent “hope” in the aftermath of global financial disaster and eight difficult years under President Bush.

As far as the Trayvon Martin case is concerned, I am feeling quite cynical of the possibility of true “justice” being served. Although I hope some modicum of justice transpires, such that Zimmerman is found guilty of unreasonable and bigoted manslaughter, I am completely aware that sending one man to prison isn’t enough. (This, even as last year’s cathartic chants of “Prosecute Zimmerman” and “Execute Zimmerman” still ring clearly in my ears.)

And I agree with the recently published statement by the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee, where the group states:

We have no plans to celebrate any conviction, since all possible “legal” outcomes point squarely toward a re-imagined Jim Crow justice….

Zimmerman may be acquitted, and while this would be a slap in the face, the entire trial has been a slap in the face, the media campaign to demonize this young man is a slap in the face, and the entire system of racial profiling, mass incarceration, capitalist exploitation, and police terror is a slap in the face and a punch in the gut.”

And this demonization of Trayvon Martin, an innocent 17-year-old who was targeted for wearing a gray hoodie and carrying a pack of Skittles, is not novel. Not in the least.

Trayvon_Martin_Justice

The Trayvon murder ignited a national conversation about something that is all too common. Yes, we’ve chanted, we’ve rallied, we’ve marched. But when do we know we’ve found justice?


Decolonizing Jim Crow

As a person of color, as a still-young man who has worked with various youth populations, I understand how the white mainstream can—and will—vilify us to exonerate their culpability in heinous inequalities. It is evident in the spatial injustice that constitutes marginalized ghetto communities and poorly funded neighborhood resources. It is evident in the scarce funding for public schools, and the inversely proportional funding for our expanding prisons. And it is evident in the fact that more than half of young black men without a high school diploma are unemployed (much more than comparable demographics).

Indeed, I have experienced just how injustice is propagated even in the most “liberal” of amerikkkan cities—New York. I have experienced, and witnessed, “proper” white adults from more affluent neighborhoods patronizing us for the ways we dress or speak (not daring to investigate the roots of resistive language against oppressive white hegemony). I have experienced, and witnessed, white people showing authentic surprise when we showcase “mature” or “intelligent” qualities (read: able to adapt to and integrate white cultural norms). Even worse: I have experienced, and witnessed, the very nuanced and subtle ways in which white supremacy infects us to the point of creating an epidemic of internalized bigotries, becoming a source of rage that rips apart families.

None of this is meant to so much as scratch the surface of a long history of white supremacist violence against men of color. It also does not touch the equally, if not more devastating, topic of violence against trans* people of color and women of color. But seeing the highlights of a trial that has showcased the worst stereotypes of racism in the neoliberal age of colorblindness, I am reminded of the perverse and irrational abuses that murder innocent young men like Trayvon, Ramarley Graham, and Bo Morrison. While we may be indoctrinated to view these cases as isolated incidents of “bad cops,” people fighting for true justice must resist this ideological wrench.  We must make it clear to the public that an amerikkkanist culture of white supremacy—a “re-imagined Jim Crow”—still persists in everyday life.

subway racism

In New York City, the subway facilitates a convergence of different types of people. As such, racism proliferates in subtle ways (sitting or moving elsewhere) and not-so-subtle ways (the relatively rare screaming or pushing).

Despite my deeply-entrenched indignation, I still bear optimism for the possibility of change. But as corresponds with my skepticism of reformist politics in challenging state-orchestrated violence, I imagine that a substantive overthrow of this new Jim Crow will require an extirpation of imperial legacies more than 500 years old. A true uprooting of racism—to the extent that such an ahistorical process would ever be possible—would necessitate a potent counter-resistance that can match the powers that link liberalized capital and the modern colonial-settler state. In other words, it would require a decolonization of the mind, body, and soul of a people conditioned into an acceptance of racial hierarchy and violence.

Indeed, from my vantage point, our country’s regrettable actions against youth of color—as seen in the ways we deprive them of opportunities given unquestionably to whites, as well as in the ways we criminalize and vilify them in the mainstream media—are simply demanding civil unrest. Whether this manifests as a veritable uprising that takes cue from the militancy of ‘60s Black Power, or from the cyber-fluidity of contemporary, regime-changing revolutions, remains to be seen. But given the direction of racial politics in this most imperialist of nations, more civil unrest is a virtual guarantee.

And as with every such unrest, it’s hard to forecast where the fire will finally ignite.

trayvonmartincase

Zimmerman’s defense attorney apparently acquired a graphic design person to manufacture this indelible image: it is an animation “proving” how Trayvon attacked his murderer.

 

“I AM NOT TRAYVON MARTIN”

A young white woman acknowledges that, if anything else, whites should really be saying “I AM GEORGE ZIMMERMAN.” I find her points potentially instructive for a mainstream white audience in the united states.

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El Mundo Zurdo: Notable Queer People of Color on Art, Resistance, and Community

In Creative Writing, GenSex & Queer Politics, Identity Politics, Intersectionality, Latin@ Politics, Racial Politics, The Revolution on June 30, 2013 at 8:28 PM

Rather than be a spectator to this year’s celebration of Gay Inc.—with what I’m sure will be an overwhelming parade of “Equality” signs after last week’s ruling—I ended up, quite unintentionally, staying home. With my sickly body, however, I wouldn’t have been able to do much anyhow. I’m sure my headache light and sound sensitivity would have been irritated by the loud music, vibrant colors, the heteronormative displays of happy families and smooching couples, and the flagrant show of queer capitalism and “equality” symbols blazoned beside corporate logos. No, it may as well as have been for the best.

Yet, as I look over a Facebook newsfeed today, in 2013, I can’t help but ponder the meaning of the many displays of joy, love, and affection. While I sort of wish my wall wasn’t so littered with “Happy Pride!!!” messages, I’m also tired of being the Pride Grinch; the fact is, I do realize there is a need to celebrate. Communities besieged by multi-pronged wars against capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy, criminalization, and pathologization need to celebrate. Five hundred years of colonialism, genocide, and slavery (none of which have ended, in spite of what the McGraw-Hill® textbooks will have you believe) necessitate moments of enjoying the victories, enjoying life, enjoying the moment.

Yes, perhaps marriage “equality” was more a victory for bourgeois gay and lesbian whites. And, yes, it will likely perpetuate and fortify an institution of epistemic violence and exclusion that will hinder efforts towards an authentic queer liberation. The decisions of five people in our “highest court” will not liberate me as a Latin@, unemployed, and chronically ill queer person. But there are reasons to rejoice nevertheless. If it means less families will lose a loved one through deportation; if it means a partner getting much needed health coverage; or a couple being able to legitimize their relationship before their oppressively conservative families—then, well, it might actually be a good (albeit short-term) thing. So why not celebrate?

It is in honor of celebration, liberation, and resistance that I’ve decided to compile some important quotes from notable queer people of color in amerikka. While not to glorify these individuals at the expense of others, they were glorious, beautiful people in their own right. They showed us how we can persevere in the search for love—love of our (chosen or unchosen) families, love of a partner, love of our art, love of our communities, love of ourselves—amid the terrors of Oppression. They weren’t all “activists,” at least not in the narrow way it’s conventionally understood, but their work as embodied agents of change enabled for, not some paltry, self-oppressed form of acceptance from the mainstream, but rather a celebration of difference that confronts head-on the social realities of intersectional identity politics.

La lucha sigue

           James Baldwin

james baldwin

James Baldwin (1924 – 1987) was a renowned black novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. Best known for his novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain (1953), his novels poignantly include such complex themes as exclusion, isolation, racism, and sexuality.

“Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to him from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it’s true of everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace.”
– 
“An interview with James Baldwin” (1961)

“[I]f one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected — those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most! — and listens to their testimony. Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person — ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
– 
from No Name in the Street (1972)

Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera (1951 – 2002) was an activist and founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance, and STAR (Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries). She was a Puerto Rican New Yorker, transwoman, and vocal opponent of the assimilationist gay agenda.

“It was a fabulous feeling for me to be myself-being part of the Young Lords as a drag queen-and my organization [STAR] being part of the Young Lords.

I met [Black Panther Party leader] Huey Newton at the Peoples’ Revolutionary Convention in Philadelphia in 1971. Huey decided we were part of the revolution-that we were revolutionary people.

I was a radical, a revolutionist. I am still a revolutionist. I was proud to make the road and help change laws and what-not. I was very proud of doing that and proud of what I’m still doing, no matter what it takes.

Today, we have to fight back against the government. We have to fight them back. They’re cutting back Medicaid, cutting back on medicine for people with AIDS. They want to take away from women on welfare and put them into that little work program. They’re going to cut SSI.

Now they’re taking away food stamps. These people who want the cuts-these people are making millions and millions and millions of dollars as CEOs.

Why is the government going to take it away from us? What they’re doing is cutting us back. Why can’t we have a break?

I’m glad I was in the Stonewall riot. I remember when someone threw a Molotov cocktail, I thought: “My god, the revolution is here. The revolution is finally here!”

I always believed that we would have a fight back. I just knew that we would fight back. I just didn’t know it would be that night.

I am proud of myself as being there that night. If I had lost that moment, I would have been kind of hurt because that’s when I saw the world change for me and my people.

Of course, we still got a long way ahead of us.”

– from an interview with Leslie Feinberg

  Audre Lorde

audre lorde

Audre Lorde (1934 – 1992) was a self-identified black lesbian feminist best known for her poetry and critical sociopolitical essays. Her writings touch upon such topics as self-determination, celebration of difference, overcoming silence and oppression, and cancer, among other topics.

“If our history has taught us anything, it is that action for change directed only against the external conditions of our oppressions is not enough. In order to be whole, we must recognize the despair oppression plants within each of us–that thins persistent voice that says our efforts are useless, it will never change, so why bother, accept it. And we must fight that inserted piece of self-destruction that lives and flourishes like a poison inside of us, unexamined until it makes us turn upon ourselves in each other.
“Learning from the ’60s”  

“Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged… As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.”
– “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”

Gloria Anzaldúa

Gloria Anzaldua

Gloria Anzaldúa (1942 – 2004) was a queer Chicana scholar best known for her book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Her works examine social and cultural marginalization in a physical and symbolic borderlands that goes beyond an either-or state of dominant binaries (e.g. U.S./Mexico, Spanish/English, indigenous/white).

“We are the queer groups, the people that don’t belong anywhere, not in the dominant world nor completely within our own respective cultures. Combined we cover so many oppressions. But the overwhelming oppression is the collective fact that we do not fit, and because we do not fit we are a threat. Not all of us have the same oppressions, but we empathize and identify with each other’s oppressions. We do not have the same ideology, nor do we derive similar solutions. Some of us are leftists, some of us practitioners of magic. Some of us are both. But these different affinities are not opposed to each other. In El Mundo Zurdo [the left-handed world] I with my own affinities and my people with theirs can live together and transform the planet.”
– ‘La Prieta’

“Why am I compelled to write? Because the writing saves me from this complacency I fear. Because I have no choice. Because I must keep the spirit of my revolt and myself alive. Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it.
Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers, from This Bridge Called My Back


Black feminists marching“We realize that the liberation of all oppressed peoples necessitates the destruction of the political-economic system of capitalism and imperialism as well as patriarchy. We are socialists because we believe the work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products, and not for the profit of the bosses… We need to articulate the real class situation of persons who are not merely raceless, sexless workers, but for whom racial and sexual oppression are significant determinants in their working/economic lives.”
“A Black Feminist Statement” by the Cohambee River Collective

June Jordan

june jordan

June Jordan (1936 – 2002) was a Jamaican-American writer, educator, and activist who grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. While in Berkeley, she founded the group Poetry for the People, and wrote extensively around themes affecting her and her students.

“Our earth is round, and, among other things, that means that you and I can hold completely different points of view and both be right. The difference of our positions will show stars in your window I cannot even imagine. Your sky may burn with light, while mine, at the same moment, spreads beautiful to darkness. Still we must choose how we separately corner the circling universe of our experience. Once chosen, our cornering will determine the message of any star and darkness we encounter. These poems speak to philosophy; they reveal the corners where we organize what we know.
-Introduction to the “Corners on the Curving Sky” section of  Soulscript (1970), compiled by Jordan. 

                                                                     

   

Alice Walker

alice walker

Alice Walker (1944 – ) is a black author, poet, activist, and womanist. Best known for her work The Color Purple (1982), for which she won the Pulitzer, she was also involved in civil rights activism in the South (with her professor, Howard Zinn). More recently, she has spoken out against the war in Iraq and Israeli apartheid.

“It has become a common feeling, I believe, as we have watched our heroes falling over the years, that our own small stone of activism, which might not seem to measure up to the rugged boulders of heroism we have so admired, is a paltry offering toward the building of an edifice of hope. Many who believe this choose to withhold their offerings out of shame. This is the tragedy of the world…  Sometimes our stones are, to us, misshapen, odd. Their color seems off. Their singing, like Paul’s whistling, comical and strange. Presenting them, we perceive our own imperfect nakedness. But also, paradoxically, the wholeness, the rightness, of it. In the collective vulnerability of presence, we learn not to be afraid.”
– from “Working Towards Peace

Cherrié Moraga

cherrie moraga

Cherrié Moraga (1952 – ) is a Chicana lesbian feminist, an essayist, poet, and activist. She co-edited This Bridge Called My Back (1981) with Gloria Anzaldúa, is currently a professor at Stanford University, and has written about intersectionality and the need for “oppositional consciousness.”

“We plead to each other,
we all come from the same rock
we all come from the same rock
ignoring the fact that we bend at different temperatures
that each of us is malleable
up to a point.

Yes, fusion is possible
but only if things get hot enough–
all else is temporary adhesion,
patching up.

It is the intimacy of steel melting
into steel, the fire of our individual
passion to take hold of ourselves
that makes sculpture of our lives,
builds buildings.”
‘The Welder’
                                                                                                                       

chrystos

Chrystos (1946 – ) is a First Nation (Menominee) rights activist and poet. From San Francisco, her poetry embodies such themes as love, alienation, identity, and violence.Chrystos

Chrystos

“Within this basket is something you
have been looking for all your life
Come take it
Take as much as you want
I give you seeds of a new way
I give you the moon shining on a fire of singing women
I give you the sound of our feet dancing
I give you the sound of our thoughts flying
I give you the sound of peace moving into our faces & sitting down
Come
this is a give away poem
I cannot go home
until you have taken everything
and the basket which held it

When my hands are empty
I will be full.”
–  “Ceremony for Completing a Poetry Reading”

On Non-Violent Direct Action: We Ain’t Gonna Take It No More!

In History, The Revolution on February 11, 2013 at 3:44 AM

Following my previous post on struggle and acceptance, I came across the following bits of writings from the late historian and activist, Howard Zinn. My attitudes around non-violence are too nuanced to be addressed here (let it be noted that I see the relevance of a diversity of tactics, the importance of context, and the importance of self-defense). Nevertheless, I am intrigued by his recognition of ‘acceptance’ and ‘resignation’ as possibilities within a spectrum of human reaction, although he rejects these in favor of direct action.

In an article entitled “Non-violent Direct Action,” he writes:

“The health of society, I assume, is dependent on a balance between people’s expectations and the fulfillment of those expectations. Both the Buddhism of Gautama in the East and the Stoicism of Epictetus in the West in their emphasis on resignation as a means to happiness were fitted to the limits of a crude technology. Today the momentum of science has created worldwide waves of demand which can be fulfilled. Quiescence and resignation are no longer pertinent, and the clamor everywhere for change, though expressed in passion, is reasonable.” [italics my own]

HowardZinnquote

Elsewhere, in his book Declarations of Independence, he writes:

“Too many of the official tributes to Martin Luther King, Jr., have piously praised his nonviolence, the praise often coming from political leaders who themselves have committed violence against other nations and have accepted the daily violence of poverty in American life. But King’s phrase, and that of the southern civil rights movement, was not simply “nonviolence,” but nonviolent direct action.

In this way, nonviolence does not mean acceptance, but resistance – not waiting, but acting. It is not at all passive. It involves strikes, boycotts, non-cooperation, mass demonstrations, and sabotage, as well as appeals to the conscience of the world, even to individuals in the oppressing group who might break away from their past.” [italics my own]

What is crucial here is the deliberateness of collective defiance, the earnest will to contest a heinous status quo in a world where technological advances have obliterated a need for poverty and scarcity. Examining the present situation, where 1% of the global population owns 40% of the world’s wealth, technologies have been appropriated by capitalist enterprise for the pursuit of profit rather than for the promotion of social well-being and genuine freedom. But just as Marx predicted a dialectical friction between the forces of production and the relations of production, the global Information Age has wrought a tool that the world’s oppressed can use against its oppressors: the *free* forum of the Internet.

It is through such technological advantage that I’m able to express my dissent, learn about the meetings and actions of compas and comrades, and become an active contributor to a knowledge production that brings us closer to liberation. Although I’ve reconciled my cognitive dissonance between struggle and acceptance by realizing the contextual applicability of both, I nevertheless find Zinn’s words quite prescient: if there is no need to resign, if we have the means to distribute the world’s basic resources to all alive, why not oblige with our moral prerogative towards justice and take action? Why not recognize our inherent humanity and our innate right to share in the fruits of our labor?

Just as we cannot be neutral on a moving train, we cannot afford to be silent about the injustices of a markedly unequal, unfree world. If we are to take a Marxist spin on the state of today’s revolutionary movements, we can very reasonably argue that capitalism has created the very tools of its own destruction: the largely unmanageable, horizontal communication streams afforded by online social networking . Of course, our enemies will still hound us, surveil us, use the technologies that are at their disposal. But we also have the right to take back what is rightfully ours.

Taking action. Never resigning. Never accepting a status quo that we, as humans, created. Never failing to lose sight of who we are and what we can become.

And so we move forward in our march to liberation–alone or together, through collective struggles and personal resistances. Always p’alante, siempre p’alante. 

Kristin Richardson Jordan

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