This is a time of unification and power. A time where Black Lives Matter protests have erupted in Israel, where law school deans pledge real solidarity in Baltimore, and where Strike Debt is strategically staging a general Student Debt Strike in solidarity with Corinthian students already on strike. While thinking about these types of ongoing developments back in January I wrote a piece on Strike Debt’s blog about connecting our struggles – specifically speaking about how the battle against debt and the fight for systemic change waged by the Black Lives Matter movement have deep similarities.
I’ve still been thinking a lot about this – especially in relation to the ultimate power and potential of our movements. I say movements in plural because a number of us who are active still see our struggles as discrete battles, and because collectively we have not found a way to connect the overarching energy of our resistance.
It is sad to say that on more than one occasion I have heard people talk about ‘being led astray’ in the latest incarnation of the struggle for Black liberation (Black Lives Matter, and the Black Spring). These were comments that either referred to the struggles of LBGTQ people of color and the trajectory of BLM / Black Spring, or, they essentially erased non-Blacks who are killed, brutalized and dehumanized at the hands of the police despite their tragedies occurring in much the same way as those of Black people.
These tendencies are dangerous because they keep us from seeing the true form of the entity we are combating, and because they foster divisions that will grow into wide rifts leaving us isolated and unable to fight in unison. The thing we truly must not be lead astray from is the goal of total liberation. Not some piecemeal, easing of suffering for a narrowly defined group. No. Total, unconditional liberation for all.
Not recognizing that LGBTQ people of color are – obviously – people of color who suffer not simply as much, but much more than straight people of color is an affront to our fellow brothers and sisters, their experiences and their lives. And, not recognizing that LGBTQ people of color are human beings deserving of as much dignity, safety and security as straight people of color is just another way of mirroring what our oppressors are currently engaged in: the stratification of peoples and their worth. Huey Newton understood this in 1970, and we should collectively understand this today.
Not recognizing the fact that Asians, whites, Native Americans, hispanics, Indians and other peoples are also being killed, trampled on and brutalized by the police leaves out a key understanding of what is happening in America. Though the police have always held undesirables in check, now the police in every nook and cranny of America resembles SS storm troopers. And, the bulk of the “officers” this militarized police state creates are some of the most twisted, cynical caricatures of human beings America has ever given birth to.
If we take a step back and look at the context of this “rise of the warrior cop” we notice that it coincides with the decline of America: the festering effects of deindustrialization (i.e. mass joblessness), drastic increases in the number of the poor, a rapid decline of the middle class, and the hyper-concentration of wealth for a small select few. The poor and recently expelled middle class – of all races – are not important when it comes to the standard economy. In other words, we are living in a time where the number of useful citizens to capitalism are shrinking, while the number of those same citizens being killed by the police is increasing. Not recognizing this translates to a missed opportunity for organizing and building alliances to fight capitalism.
So, yes: the police are essentially racist storm troopers for capital, but when all the focus is on how racist the storm troopers are, we miss the fact that these are storm troopers! Troops who, frustrated at the crumbling America that capitalism has brought on, vent by happily engaging in a war on us all – a war that Black and Brown folks are disproportionately bearing the brunt of, but a war nonetheless on the entire population. As people of color, we have a very important lead-role to play in this fight, precisely because we have always been in the position of precarious usefulness to the capitalist order and, as such, we have essential experience when it comes to understanding and fighting a power that has no problem tossing you away like a some piece of dirty linen.
So, let us embrace the potential of these times for increased unification and power. Rather than isolate our struggles, let us instinctively recognize the connections between our peoples. Not in some tired simplistic fashion, but with an attentive deliberateness that allows for connections across differences. That kind of recognition will grant us power. The power to fight in tandem.