Hola mi Gente,
I made a promise I would post at least one blog post per day this year. I am in a rush and had written a draft of what I think is a great article, but I don’t have the time. I have to go meet someone about a J-O-B. So, I’m offering some random thoughts…
* * *
A couple of years ago, I decided to go on a week-long silent meditation retreat. The retreat followed what is called “noble silence,” no talking, no cellphones, no TV — I was completely off the grid doing vipassana meditation 12-14 hours a day. When the retreat was over, UI was waiting for the bus back to NYC when I was confronted by a sight on the large flat screen TV in the waiting area — Ferguson, Missouri was on fire. I mention this because having been away from the daily deluge of graphic violence, these particular images hit me in the gut. For one, being away from the habituation of media bombardment on my senses had the effect of making Ferguson much more graphic. Secondly, I was reminded that the struggle against state-sanctioned violence, which has existed since before the founding of this nation, is real and often deadly.
Yesterday, it seemed as if social media was lit up with posts regarding Black Lives Matters “victories” in voting recalcitrant prosecutors out of office — as if it was done by the vote. This is so much unmitigated bullshit. Without the literally hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of people acting in concert across the nation, doing direct actions and acting out in civil disobedience, getting arrested, and in many cases, getting their heads bashed, the vote wouldn’t have mattered. What matters is challenging the status quo and bringing to light the injustice of racism. What matters is challenging white supremacy.
Believe me, there’s no guaranteed “victory” — that those voted in office will behave differently. In fact, we can be assured that as long as all we do is vote, the system that allows the cold-blooded murder of black and brown lives to go unpunished, state-sanctioned violence against black and brown people will continue. It’s the system, stupid. Fuck!
If you look at history, all of the great social justice movements didn’t depend on the vote. The Labor, Civil Rights, Abolitionist movements, for example brought about change by acting outside of the parameters of politics. Within the nonprofit-industrial complex, there is a huge debate regarding the efficacy of electoral reform. My major criticism of those who seek incremental change is that this has become the dominant strategy for social justice change. I am not against incrementalists, nor am I against the franchise (the right to vote). I happen to think these are useful tools that have become the de facto approach to change in if the United States. Voting and legislation geared toward social change have their usefulness, but they were never meant to be the main form of agitating for change. Yet it has been this way for too long.
And where do we find ourselves today? We have a labor movement in shambles, a mere stepchild to a democratic party ruled by neoliberals. Today we have more black people in cages than we had slaves in 1840, right before the Civil War. We have a representative democracy in tatters, with some respected social scientists saying our society now more closely resemble an oligarchy than a democracy.
Voting? Let’s conveniently ignore the fact that millions of people of color have lost their right to vote, or are languishing in prisons. Let’s forget for one moment the nation-wide movement to stop people of color through voter registration laws that serve to stop huge blocs of us from voting. Yes, let us ignore all of this and I say even if these obstructions didn’t exist, the system will never change through the vote alone. It never has and never will.
I think it is beyond condescending to ignore the many mostly young people of color who fought and paid a price to bring to light the atrocities of state-sanctioned violence to the rest of the nation and were often marginalized and ridiculed for it. The prosecutors in Cleveland and Chicago weren’t merely voted out, they were challenged by thousands, maybe millions of people fighting the good fuckin fight. I know because I am one of them.
As Glen Ford wrote today, “The great task of independent Black politics is to pry Black folks loose from the Democratic Party’s lethal embrace. For that, we need a movement in the streets.” I would add that this is the task of all marginalized people.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…