The Strange Fruits of Today's Resegregation and Confronting Whiteness
This nation that elected its first Black president, is now seeing in high-definition the strange fruits of today’s resegregation. Sacramento is in shock and protest right now over the unjust slaying of 22 year old and innocent father of two, Stephon Clark. Here in Portland, Oregon there was a vigil last Sunday night to mourn the loss of yet another Black life taken too soon. Portland's Resistance and community members gathered at Director Park in downtown Portland to speak out against gun violence and police brutality, as well as highlight the importance of using whatever privileges we have to counter racial injustice.
As thousands showed up to the March For Our Lives protests to show solidarity with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teens, the energy was reminiscent of the same fervor that rose surrounding the Women's March. And we know how hollow the women who showed up for that can be with their pink pussy hats and poisonous Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism (TERF). Many who spoke at the Portland vigil called out the white people who showed up for March For Our Lives to protest mass shootings in high schools, but couldn't be found for a Black Lives Matter march or vigil for a Black man like Stephon Clark. Donna Hayes, grandmother of Quanice Hayes (a 17 year old young man who was killed by Officer Andrew Hearst of Portland Police Department), shared her voice. She set the record straight about her grandson, and illuminated the terrible ways in which the police and media constantly seek to degrade Black lives after they are killed, and how desperate they are to find items to associate Black men with crimes they did not commit in order to tarnish their character and justify their untimely deaths.
Just this past Saturday night in Sacramento, a sheriff intentionally drove their car at protestors who would not move. Wanda Cleveland, 61 years old, was knocked to the ground. In the video you can hear people chanting, “No justice,” and then, “Oh my god. Oh my god.” Cleveland was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The unjust slaying of Black lives, the militarization of police, and the unchecked power that emboldens them to act in these violent ways, is the result of living in a police state.
We are coming up on the 50th year anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. On Thursday April 4, 1968, King was in Memphis to support sanitation workers who were striking against poor working conditions and low wages. It was that night that James Earl Ray killed him.
Today Black life is just as fragile. The genesis of the Black Lives Matter movement came out of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin on July 13, 2013. In all of this discussion about police brutality, Black women often go unnoticed. We must bring forward the words of Kimberle Crenshaw who said, “Although Black women are routinely killed, raped, and beaten by the police their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality. Yet, inclusion of Black women’s experiences in social movements, media narratives, and policy demands around policing and police brutality is critical to effectively combating racialized state violence for Black communities of color.” Kimberle Crenshaw is the co-founder and executive director of the African American Policy Forum that launched the #SayHerName campaign. Crenshaw also coined the term “intersectionality.”
The Black Lives Matter movement originated as a protest of respectability politics, out of the minds of three pro-queer Black feminists, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, though there has always been a groundswell of activism and resistance gaining momentum across the nation among Black families and communities. Darren Seals, a prominent activist in St. Louis, Missouri, who was unjustly murdered in St. Louis last month, spoke frequently and openly about the co-optation of Black pain and the internal fractures within the movement. Sarah Kendzior wrote about Seals in The Correspondent stating, "Seals never cared if he offended. His blunt assertions that the movement had been hijacked by out of town activists and NGOs – as well as his misogynist and homophobic comments about other black protesters – offended many." Seals wrote about the hypocrisy of activism.
We need to pay attention to his message, while also paying attention to how the power structures that we are fighting against re-materialize within our activist organizing. That means being aware, and weary, of how we unwittingly perpetuate and re-establish sexism, transmisogyny, classism, ableism, etc. in our actions.
Currently, the organization formerly known as Black Lives Matter Cincinnati put out a statement that they have changed their name to Mass Action for Black Liberation (MABL) because they feel Black Lives Matter has become a brand capitalizing off “…speaking engagements and donations from foundations that support the Black struggle (or want to co-opt it).”
In this statement, MABL writes, “But we can no longer use or identify with the name Black Lives Matter – a rally cry that still has meaning, even if perverted by those pushing it as a brand. The depth and scope of betrayal of struggles against police brutality and of the families fighting for their loved ones is too great. The continuous shift towards electoral and liberal Democratic Party politics and away from revolutionary ideas is too great. The consequences for Black, brown, and poor people are too great. The possibilities to build a truly independent movement on a national scale for Black liberation are too ripe.”
In number 9 of MABL’s list of Principles it states:
"9. We practice independent, revolutionary political action.
* We don’t support Democrats, Republicans, or any other party that puts their faith in a system built on institutionalized racism and sexism.
*We look to organize mass forces in the streets to make change. We have no illusion that these profound changes we are calling for will be achieved through the ballot box. Our power comes from ourselves, our neighbors, our will, our commitment and our determination to fight."
When speaking out about the anti-Blackness that pervades our nation, gun violence, and police brutality, we must also be talking about whiteness and how white supremacy functions. White supremacy is having no Black friends. White supremacy is never going out of your way to attend an organization or meeting that works towards ending racism. Whiteness means you can go about your day and never think about race. But this issue is everyone’s issue. It’s especially a white person issue because white people created these systems in the first place. We cannot kill the beast until we understand it. White people need to engage with their friends, families, and communities about racism, and seek to understand how white supremacy functions in their everyday lives.
We recommend John Biewan’s podcast “Seeing White,” a 14-part series exploring whiteness in America – where it came from, what it means, and how it works.
So, in your community what are you doing to fight? How are you engaging in order to defeat the empire of oppression that we all struggle against? How are you celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, Assata Shakur?
How are you smashing the notion that we live in a postracial society? Today, diversity is touted as an accessory in the outdoor industry. It is a marketing campaign. The scholar Nancy Leong calls it, “racial capitalism.” She wrote that “in a society preoccupied with diversity, nonwhiteness is a valued commodity. And where society is founded on capitalism, it is unsurprising that the commodity of nonwhiteness is exploited for its market value.”
We have to make choices and be discerning about our energy. What organizations are you working for or partnering with that are truly fighting for justice for all? In what ways are you helping marginalized communities in your own community when it comes to issues like chronic illness and housing justice, and how these things relate to environmental racism?
Let’s all go hard in our mission to fight for ending police brutality, gun violence, and mass incarceration, while at the same time looking closer, with more scrutiny, at the media we consume, and the ways we subconsciously fall prey to the oppressive structures, as well as the oppressor within us. Ultimately Terra Incognita Media is here to serve and build solidarity among feminist communities both online and in the real world. We are standing strong with more resolve than ever to create content that speaks to the complexities and nuances of this world, and the future that we are moving towards. We will keep showing up, just as you keep showing up for us.
With love and support,
Erin Monahan, founder