Director of Special Projects at the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter Movement
What is our primary task at this moment, given this terrain. What is it that you want for our movement?
The first thing that I think should be clear to all of us is that our primary task, as people who are not only disaffected by the recent shift in the political terrain, but also still have a clear vision for what kind of world we want to live in, then the primary task is for us to build a broad-based movement against fascism that is multi-class, multi-gender, multi-racial, and multi-national. I'm going to break that down a little bit.
I think that one of the things that is scaring me in this moment is that I’m starting to see the Left as a broad swath move back into some pretty dangerous tendencies. One dangerous tendency is to assume that because we are terrified, anxious, fearful, and scared, quite frankly, of what the potential of this kind of, not just administration, but political terrain means for our communities right now, in the intermediate term and in the long term...there's a tendency that we then have to go back into our silos.
So, we are under attack, my particular group is under attack, I don't have time to think about what your group is dealing with, I just need to fight like hell to save my own people. And that is the worst possible thing that we could be doing right now. There is no better time than now for us to really figure out how to work intersectional politics in practice. With that, we also need to make sure that we are not just talking to people who already agree with us, but that we are reaching out to folks who, quite frankly disagree with us like the comments earlier about people saying, “I’m confused about what is the Black Lives Matter movement?” “I’m upset about why people care about why trans people should be able to use bathrooms.”
We need to do a better job of reaching out to those folks and making sure that our vision also is a vision for them. That is different from capitulating to the worst tendency of this moment. Under no circumstance should we normalize, capitulate, negotiate with, compromise with any vision that removes humanity from anybody. We need to be really careful about that because I do think that there’s a failed strategy, that people call “playing for the center.” What they actually mean is, camouflaging themselves as part of the Right, and they’re very different things.
The other thing that I think we can'’ underestimate when you look at those maps, it is very clear what we need to be doing. To me, I think one thing we’ve got to be really, really clear and strong on is that there is nothing at all that replaces grassroots organizing. Absolutely nothing at all. I think it’s important for us to continue to think about, how do we use technology-based tools to reach more people? But it is not a substitute for having real conversations with folks in real plain language, that really puts out not only what’s at stake, which we’re really good at; we are really good at sounding the alarm and being like, “We’re about to run over a cliff.”
But what we’re not that great yet at doing, and we need to get much better about is being able to talk about what's on the other side, and really paint that picture in a way that people can taste, touch, feel, and smell. Another thing that I think is really important here is to do both: absolutely 100% active opposition to all of the reactionary policies and practices that are moving in real time right now. That deep organizing piece. But, I think we also need to make sure that we are supporting those efforts appropriately in the Midwest and in the South as well. We don’t want people who are in those sections of the country overshadowed by the visions and the strategies that are coming from people on the coasts.
We all have something to contribute, but I think if we're going to get real about what strategies will work to change what that map looks like, we absolutely needs to be led by folks who have been treading water in this landscape for a long time before the rest of us started to really feel it, touch it, taste it, et cetera. Then there’s just a concrete thing that I think is really important that I’ll close with, is that this is a time for us to protect and provide for each other.
There’s something to be said that is very real about Trump’s one-hundred-day agenda, which includes repealing and rolling back the Affordable Care Act. He says, for every new federal regulation, we have to get rid of two other ones. These are things that will impact people’s lives right now, and we need to be able to have a way to take care of folks. How do we get people medicine who do not have access to it? There are already loads of people who don’t get to access the Affordable Care Act or get to access Medicaid because their Republican governors wouldn’t accept federal money to expand that program so that more people could access it.
It’s very, very real that with the Republican control of the House, the Senate, and the presidency, as well as the ability to appoint federal judges and Supreme Court judges, there will be a move to limit people’s access to basic needs, not just at the federal level, but at the state and local level. We’ve got to get real sharp about figuring out how it is that we provide for our folks, and how we defend each other against attacks—the things that we’re reading about, that we’re hearing about. Stories of people being punched in the face who are wearing hijabs. Stories of people being told you’re going to get deported soon because we won is a real thing.
I’m not clear that we’re sure about what it means to actually physically protect people who are in danger. That’s a piece of what we can do and think about right now that needs to be put into place. One suggestion that I would have, just in closing, is that we talk to people who have been defending folks for a long time. The folks that come to mind are folks who have been protecting people’s rights to access healthcare services. Those folks know exactly what it means to go up against racist vigilantes. They know exactly what it means to protect people, with the least amount of loss of life.
Those are some strategies that we could be employing right now to make sure that our communities are safe and are inspired to join the fight. That they’re not so paralyzed by fear, or quite frankly, so decimated by not having access to the things that they need, that they're not able to be a part of this movement. I’ll close that there.