Sunday, October 9, 2011

thinking about solidarity

Whew, the air feels thick this morning.  I am sitting on so much tension and anger arising from the continuing debates about racism within SlutWalk, Occupy Wall Street, and the many other movements I see on a smaller scale in which young white activists (who are some of my favorite students and/or friends, and/or myself some days) make colossal mistakes reproducing racism as they seek to advance their chosen causes.

My tongue thickens as I taste that difficulty.  To hold the reality of the racism people are reproducing in SlutWalk--and how people are responding, failing to respond, again and again, in defensiveness and white blindness--holding that alongside my conviction that racism can and must be dismantled, that we must build a movement, we must step in together even with people we don't respect.  ("We" here being "people who care about justice and are willing to work".)  As a colleague said to me on Friday, as long as there are young people in the movement and racism in the world, we need older organizers to step in and help them.

How many people have to be hurt, shut out, or degraded before organizers (specifically white organizers who will likely experience this racism differently, thus enabling a more effective approach) WILL step in?  It seems as though many are or are trying to, yet I am so far removed from what's happening on the ground that I don't know whether a blog's-eye view is accurate or sufficient.  I also wonder about how many of us would even in times of less acute pain seek out resources like The Catalyst Project, which organizes in predominantly white movements to dismantle racism.

I wonder if the solution is for those of us who are angry, disturbed, dismayed, furious, hurt and enraged to seek out space and movement-building together, so we can find the strength to have the dialogue and accountability we need to have with the people who resist, derail, and actively reproduce racism in these moments.  I question whether (as with The Help) ongoing critique will really give me fire I need to contribute to ending racism and violence against women.  It is so important to name and understand what is terrible, and each day I struggle to clear the space to make something that is a life-giving alternative.

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