Saturday, November 19, 2016

Notes From The Field: The Strategy Of Struggle

"We won't go back" rally at the capitol in Augusta, Maine on 11/18/16
"Love trumps Trump's hate" is the message on the sign partly visible on the left of this photo from yesterday's rally at the state capitol in Maine. About 50 people were in attendance and the dozen or so who spoke were, by and large, very young. So encouraging to this aging activist who was only able to be there on a work day due to a medical procedure early that morning (that's why I'm sitting down).

Two things I learned yesterday: 1) young people have been radicalized by the election of an avowed homophobe, misogynyst and white supremacist who publicly mocked a reporter with disabilities; and 2) there's a campaign to contact electors of the infamous electoral college -- which has been used to rig elections in the U.S. for generations -- to change their pledged vote before casting it on December 19. You can get the list of their emails to ask them yourself on this website:

I learned from this young mother whose son ran up to join her as I took her photo after she spoke.

Me: Are you proud of your mom?

Him: Yes.
Mom: I'm proud of him! He made his own sign for today.

A local tv news station covered the rally organized by college student Emma Donnelly. Their coverage completely ignored the real news, which was the strong presence and voice of young activists -- very young in some cases. Instead, the corporate "news" invited an old white man who supports Trump to disparage the protests sweeping the nation.

Hearing children speak from their hearts, stumble over their words and be less than eloquent at the megaphone while the audience was patient with their process left me feeling encouraged and hopeful about the silver lining in these dark, dark times.

I think we would all do well to be guided by the thinking of organizations that have been on the front lines during two Obama administrations. You know, the times when things were supposedly ok. Except for racialized state-sanctioned killings and environmental destruction all over the planet.

Black Agenda Report's Glenn Ford shared this wisdom on the BAR blog this week in a history minded post called "None Are My Presidents":

On November 6, after their annual march on the White House, the organizations of the Black is Back Coalition ratified a 19-point document that puts self-determination at the heart of the broadest range of issues confronting Black America: 
“Every central demand, every strategy of struggle, must be formulated with the goal of self-determination in mind. Otherwise, the movement will allow itself to be drowned in reformist schemes and projects that bind Black people even more tightly to structures of outside control.” The points range from “Black Community Control of Police,” to “Halting Gentrification,” to “Nationalization of the Banks.”
Now you may be thinking, isn't emailing the electors a reformist scheme? And wouldn't I in fact be implicitly asking them to vote for the odious warmonger that the Democrats nominated? 

Yes, and yes. But the email took less than five minutes to send. That's about as much time as I'm willing to spend on reformist schemes. I didn't want the warmonger, either, but the rise in hate language and hate crimes since Trump got enough electoral votes to be president is horrifying. 

Here's a facebook post from Shay Stewart-Bouley creator of the blog Black Girl in Maine:

BlackgirlinmaineNovember 14 at 5:01pm
Today I was verbally accosted in downtown Portland, ME by a middle aged white woman in a nice coat with cute lipstick. She looked like a basic middle aged white woman hence when she started speaking, I was caught off guard. I was standing on Fore Street, across from the Hyatt, catching up with an old colleague when this woman came up to us. 
Initially she asked what was this place? I assumed she meant the establishment we were standing in front of, so I said it looks like a bar. Then she pointed her gaze at me and asked me where was I from? From there she proceeded to ask me me where I lived? At that point, I realized that I was having a potentially racialized encounter and her next question confirmed it. She asked me where did the Blacks (her exact words) live in Maine because there was no ghetto here. She got louder as she repeated herself at which point the white man I had been with said, I think that is enough, these questions are not appropriate. She asked one final question, what would I do if she got aggressive with me? I told her this exchange is over and slowly backed away from her. 
She didn't hit me, she didn't call me a ni**er, but her words and her stance made it clear that she felt entitled to my space and that she had the right to ask me whatever she wanted to. 
My father in recent years has shared many details about his childhood in Blytheville, AR under Jim Crow. It wasn't that long ago in America, that a white person could come up to a Black person and demand that we give up our seats, call us ni**ers and do what they wanted with no fear. 
We are rapidly moving back to that place and while we sit around thinking about it and trying to work through our collective angst over Trump, there is a segment of white America that now feels emboldened to do what they want.

I have spent all afternoon thinking about what would have happened if I had slapped that white woman, given her boldness, I think she would have earned it. But a Black woman hitting a white woman is multi-layered and complex and frankly I am too busy for a visit to the local lockup.

The other thing that I have pondered today is that while I have been expecting backlash, I had a preconceived notion of what it would look like. Never did I expect it to look like a woman who I would do business with or look like a possible friend.

I am okay, as okay as one can be. Life goes on as does the struggle. But as the young folks say shit got real. America under Trump is about to be a place that many of us have never borne witness to and we need to acknowledge it.

Our system is beyond reform at this point. Only revolution will save us.

The U.S. has lost the consent of the governed. But look at all the love young people are bringing to our ongoing struggle. I stand (or sit if I need to) with them.

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