Zillah Eisenstein

My writings, thoughts, and activism.


ON RESISTING, while knowing it is not enough, and offering to think beyond where we are, together

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ON RESISTING, while knowing it is not enough, and offering to think beyond where we are, together.

Zillah Eisenstein

June 5, 2017

After 40 years of anti-racist and feminist activism and writing I want more—to be able to do more and to affect more. Most of my radical friends whether working inside or outside electoral politics want more too. This was true at the gathering of many progressive groups held in Stoneridge New York, shortly after Trump was elected. (We named ourselves A Movement of Movements) And it was true in the work I did as part of the organizing committee of the International Women’s Strike/US this past May. These friends and political networks are a part of what I write here, in this disheartening time.

 

Upon Trump’s election (by the Electoral College) resisters said that we should not normalize any thing about his regime. I think now it is important to say that resisters should not normalize resistance itself. That the last months of protest, while Trump continues to flail, and tweet, and make horrifically punishing initiatives in health care and prisons and climate change and war, has shown us that coalition, not simply resistance and its reformist framing, is needed– even if “we” do not know what this exactly looks like.

 

At first the massive marches and continuous outcry by so many of us against the travel bans, the forced deportations, the attacks on Planned Parenthood, poor people, Obamacare, Climate denial, DAPL (Dakota Access Pipe Line) was invigorating. The millions who poured onto the streets for the Women’s March the day after inauguration, the tens of thousands who stood in defiance in our airports said that “we” would not let Trumpism define this country.

 

But outrageous policy continues to be made. Trump lurches forward with war with arrogance and hubris. He pretends he is speaking for coal miners, but coal miners have not claimed him. They actually say they want good jobs; not outdated and poor paying and filth making old ones. The United Mine Workers never endorsed Donald.

 

Maybe it is time to further build connectors between these activists, and interests, and movements and start to make a revolution.

 

Yes, Antonio Gramsci was right that when the old is dying the new is not simply born. For Trump resisters today, in all our cacophonous chaos, we are living at the near end of many things: industrialization, living wage jobs, climate survival, traditional militaries/wars as they were once fought, legalized misogyny and racism and heterosexism, and disability. The capitalist structures of power are disassembling–nation states are in crisis, whiteness as a majority stance in the US, the mystification of class wealth exposed. BUT the (white) men who love these systems of militarism, racism, and hetero-patriarchy are still fighting for them in their decline. These men populate failed states:Trump, Duterte, Sisi, Erdogan, Putin, etc….

 

I seems that the US is living near the end of a particular majority/white supremacy and the anger/hysteria/violence and backlash is the response. The established forms of nation states are no longer needed, or they are leftovers and now stand in the way of a more rapacious global capitalism and its neoliberal predation. As such, Trump is a leftover—the old kind of white male supremacist who grabs women’s crotches. But,Trumpism uses a crass macho physicality that exposes rather than mystifies and stabilizes.

 

As former political structures—some of which worked, many that did not—sputter and struggle, more and more people are displaced and precarious. In this version—our operational but defunct prison system, the decimated social welfare state, the racist policing of Blacks and people of color, the illegal “grabbing of pussy”, it becomes clearer that democracy, as “we” have known it, in its liberal and neo-liberal racist misogynist forms does not work. “We” need new possibilities that do not suffer foundational racist capitalist misogyny.

 

There are some foundational truths to be found here. What we are living through is the crisis of old forms that are not yet gone and the men who still want them and benefit from them. This is a reminder of the end of plantation economies and yet the ex-slave holders/masters brutal extension of their privileges and power. Tera Hunter exposes these fraught years that were expressed through the chaos of sharecropping, reconstruction, Jim Crow, and new marriage laws. Tera Hunter, Bound in Wedlock (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2017) This history remains present today in mass incarceration, unprecedented police killings of Blacks, etc.

 

If “we”, all of us, recognize this horrific legacy threaded through important legal gains and civil rights and women’s rights struggles then it is time for us to move beyond the myth of success. Barack Obama was a first Black president, both because of all this, and in spite of it.

 

Abolitionism—the abolition of white supremacist misogyny and its capitalist nexus, alongside the racist misogyny of every day practices must become the heart of our visionary framework. If assimilation and reform and accommodation and integration and equality presume the foundational structure of class, sex, race, gender, and ableism—then a new foundation must be imagined. Start with a materialism of the body that is never singular. Envision a foundation of every color/sex/gender and bodily ability in a shared commons, rather than a class hierarchy.

 

 

Chattel slavery today

 

Systems of power do not erode all at once. They do so in fits and starts and repetitions. Legal endings are very different than actual ones. Chattel slavery was challenged and undermined by enslaved peoples from the start. White abolitionists came on board in fits and starts, and each state had somewhat of its own history. The enforcement of chattel slavery was always varied and complicated and never unitary.

 

Vera Hunter shows that there were non-legal slave marriages; legal ones that were sometimes recognized, and often not, and multiple forms of unrecognized Black marriage unions. There was intra-racial and inter-racial rape and cross-racial master/ slave rape. Black women’s importance in reproducing new enslaved peoples was consummate. Marriage law was very much protecting the slave master’s ownership of the black female’s sexual availability and her progeny as well. It is may be one of the most articulated even if debased recognitions of (black) women’s importance to economic life. The plantation economy did not need or want slave marriage—it wanted to claim all of black women’s labor—including their children—as its own.

 

Thomas Jefferson spoke against slavery but owned slaves. He had an entire shadow family with Sally Hemmings and even gave his daughter 27 slaves as a wedding gift so that she would have an appropriate dowry. He instructed that “his” slaves should be given their freedom at the death of his wife Martha, although this did not happen. How do you not believe in slavery and have slaves? This is white supremacist thinking: vacuous and disconnected from the reality of being Black.

 

Dolley Madison, wife and plantation mistress of James Madison inherited slaves in and through her marriages. Black slaves gave her social standing inside a patriarchal marriage system that gave her few rights in relation to her husband and total rights in relation to her enslaved “help”. Her life is determined by the death of her first husband and her next marriage—she is only entitled to 1/3 of the inheritance…but her slaves are completely defined by her demands, her relocation after remarriage, etc. They have no rights, including the 14-year-old girl who was her “favorite”. (Marie Schwartz, Ties That Bound (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2017)

 

The plantation economy ends but not the white misogynist supremacy of it. Chattel slavery documents the intimate weaving of ones class, sex, race inside it. Each of them is all of them. So Black men and women, though differently, are positioned in the newly evolving economy, free but without their rights. This is the racist/capitalist/misogynist classic lie: to be free is not to be equal—living at the end of something but not quite with a new enough beginning.

 

Resistance is not enough. Reform and assissimilation is not enough. Civil rights are not enough. Abolition of the old is necessary– but how to imagine the new?

 

 

White Supremacist Misogyny in Crisis

 

How do anti-racist feminists think and “do” and mobilize in this moment? Trump lies and makes punishing declarations and ultimatums daily. No one is safe from his bullying, except maybe his daughter Ivanka and the rest of his family.

 

Eve Ensler asks: how do you live at the edge of what is over? And I wonder with her, how do you know when something is over? Or how do you know what the leftovers might mean? I am thinking that white supremacy; at least in the ways it used to rule, in the slave trade, in colonialism, in early imperialism, is deeply changed. Maybe masculinism becomes less white as it becomes a tool for the globe that is majority brown and Black. Yet, white masculinist men and heterosexist racists are still in charge, doing their deeds in belligerent ways. The structures that buoyed and protected them at one time are no longer as enabling. Their challenged systems of structured supremacy beg for protection.

 

But why is misogyny always left standing? Why is it almost never targeted as actionable? Is it its incredible resilience and non-recognition that assists in its naturalization rather than a full throttle attack? What is it about capitalism that seems to suck all of the air out of a buoyant racial and sexual and gender critique? After all, in this political moment it seems pretty clear that the heart of the problem is capitalist hetero-patriarchal racism.

 

Why am I still forced to be making this case after all the years of incredible anti-racist anti-misogynist critique of capitalist-racist-patriarchy? Why is this still the question? Why don’t progressive thinkers and activists change more? Why does the “Left” fail to recognize that the personal is political, that there is a politics to sex, that racism is foundational to class? Why? Maybe this explains why there has never been a successful socialist revolution? Is it that socialism needs more heart, and body, and personal, and anti-racist feminism?

 

Trump dropped the largest bomb in recent history in the 17-year long war in Afghanistan. Noted scholar Phyllis Bennis says that he uses brute force in attempt to shore up US foreign policy. (https://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/04/06/carnage-and-chaos-loom-trump-weighs-military-attack-syria)That he uses uncharted illegal use of military force because he has no strategy or coherent policy other than the illegitimate use of raw power/a kind of sexual violence. I wonder if this “raw power” simply reveals his white male misogynist hysteria. From grabbing pussy, to rape, to dropping bombs, to deploying drones. Each uses terror to terrorize which is the main strategy of white male supremacy assisting empire.

 

Trump and Bannon and Sessions are each gladiator like, brutish, and mean white men. There is something particularly misogynistic about their irrational and illegal use of power. Trump is a noxious predator who continuously uses a brutish sexual physicality, which appears awkwardly visible against feminisms. His cabinet is all men. The committee to revamp his so-called health care bill is all 13 white men. His daughter Ivanka says he loves women. She sees no irony as he grabs her thigh or ass. So, feminism, the kind for the 99 percent must be brought into the coalition for solidarity.

 

And overly militarized police officers use deadly force against Black bodies, many of them children, as maybe we see the last gasps of white supremacy hurtling forward? But I also know that there are so many millions of guns everywhere waiting and ready.

 

Trump has re-mobilized an anti-abortion agenda, an anti-women’s health bill that is anti-contraception, anti-Planned Parenthood, and anti-woman. His appointees to oversee the public health say abortions cause breast cancer and contraceptives are harmful to the health of women and the nation. Really?

Ivanka claims to stand for women’s rights and their right to equality in the workplace with no recognition that planned pregnancies are a necessary for holding onto a job.

 

Abortion remains the canary in the mine in that it is used to always test the waters for women’s rights. But still and often abortion and misogyny are sidelined and misunderstood. There is no compromise about women’s bodies and our rights to decide about them. Abortion is not one issue. It is many. It is all of them. Women of every color and every class are impacted, most especially poor and undocumented women. So abortion is an economic issue. It is a racial issue. And, it is a woman’s issue simultaneously. It is therefore a human rights issue.

 

Reproductive rights are raced, and economic. Poverty is raced and sexed. But few public figures like the Pope, or Bernie Sanders really get this. Sanders recently decided to support Heath Mello, a mayoral candidate in Nebraska, even though Mello has had a problematic history on abortion. Sanders said: we cannot exclude people who disagree with us on one issue. Sorry, Bernie, abortion is not one issue, and it is not just “any” issue as such. Nancy Pelosi agreed with Bernie. Why is this still an issue?

 

For me, abortion is both controversial and non-negotiable. It clarifies that certain issues will always assist in uncovering what “revolutionary” means. Hillary Clinton says she wants abortion safe, legal and rare. #Feminism4the99 wants full access to abortion, and in a world that is egalitarian for each person. Make the world kind and equal and abortion will be different in a different world.

 

Pro-life democrats and republicans are not trying to make the world kinder. They are figuring out ways to punish the doctors who do abortions and the women who need them. I want a world that is not punishing, but restorative.

 

 

THE INTERSECTIONS IN COALITIONS

 

The need for coalition emerges out of the truth that no one resistance is enough. And, that no one “issue” is ever singular. Each issue, each individual, each structure is made of multiple problems, identities, and needs.

 

If individuals are always constituted by our multiple identities—no individual is ever singular in this sense—then the systems of power that attempt to control or release us will be structured in these multiple frames. Given this, all politics must be muti-plexed. And because this is the case, I look, in this interim, to build coalition strategies that connect the connections between sex, race, class, gender, nation, and…Fictions like the white working class do not help. Calling complexity identity politics does not assist.

 

When we work in coalition we temporarily can move beyond the limits of our politics. Unity is not the end goal here, but an intersectional/multiply differing solidarity is.

 

Expand sanctuary for all to include—all people of color, non-immigrant and immigrant, refugee and non-refugee—and Indigenous rights. Black, LatinX, Native,Trans, Bi, Disabled, Muslim refugee, and women across each of these identities. We must envision economic justice for all our multiple identities. This requires inclusive coalitions.

 

Coalitions are part of building solidarity with and between the differences. They are demanded by the complexity of our presences. We must move with and beyond the categories that push us apart like center and margin; we must move beyond binaries that separate and divide, and instead find a way towards connectedness that denies unity, or oneness, and instead images solidarity and its tensions.

 

This is a moment for cross-movement and intersecting actions that will create new alliances that we might not know or imagine yet. This means supporting autonomous actions that become cross movement through the intersections that exist within each.

 

BYP1000, BLM, Say Her Name, CTU, Fight for 15, ROC United, OUR Wal Mart, March 8 International Women’s Strike, Women’s March, economic justice, reproductive justice, the 3 R’s/Chicago—resist, reimagine, rebuild, immigrant rights, LGBTQIA rights, indigenous land rights, anti-militarism, pro-water rights, worker rights, feminism4the99, 100 women of color leaders, Black Women’s Blueprint—are just a few of the thousands of resistance groups in the US today.

 

The “Beyond the Moment” campaign, initiated by the national Black Lives Matter (BLM) network and their partners, that hailed May 1st, 2017 as a day to stand up against the ICE raids, and for worker’s rights, especially immigrant and undocumented worker’s rights. Black and Brown people, immigrant communities, the economically unstable, women, children, the disabled, the LGBTQ community, those working to protect our right to work and those fighting for our right to clean air and water, are all facing attacks because of a minority whose values are rooted in misogynist white supremacy,

 

Coalitions work to recognize and allow our complex inter-weavings, `double-jeopardy’, `adverse specificity’, ‘multiple status’, ‘both-ness’, all-ness, and `intersectionality’ of our being. These complex individual multiple identities exist within the structural systems of sex, gender, race and class. It is not enough to say that sex, class and race intersect with each other. They rather structure the selves and practices that already have multiple expressions. No one is ever just a member of a class in the singular sense; or simply a woman; or simply Black; or LatinX. So it is not about simply adding issues or identities or structures together but rather it is necessary to connect, blend, and marble them with the tensions that are inherent in difference and inequality.

 

In this process, it is important to remove binaries, such as race or class, and instead see them both, and simultaneously, so neither is separate from the other, but remains distinct, nevertheless. Displace the notion that there should be one center and with that rethink what is understood as the margins. We are connected and divided by the threads of sexism, racism, white privilege, militarism, environmental degradation, able-ism, heterosexism and transphobia. Sexist and racist violence oppresses so many of us, especially women of color, Native and immigrant women. So, there is a possible complex camaraderie in the making here.

 

Our work must commit to being radically inclusive. When one thinks of protecting the earth and climate this means naming environmental racism and environmental sexism as the hazards that they are. People do not all suffer in the same way from the climate disaster “we” all face: people of color live in areas that are the most at risk here and abroad. Women, especially disabled women of color face particular challenges as hurricanes hit, as was so clear after Hurricane Katrina a decade ago.

 

Poor people of every color face the misery of drought, of floods and tsunamis in more calamitous fashion, and poor people come in every sex, gender, sexual orientation, bodily ability, and geographical location. Climate change exaggerates these disparities so the resolution of these crises must address these inequities.

 

Bombs and missiles (their manufacture and the damage they wreak) heat the globe. One cannot support the wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen without endangering human existence. Wars always involve violence, especially sexual violence, specifically of women of color, and women who are poor, older and young. We must end militarism and war to cool the earth and end violence of every kind.

 

Everything affects each of us but one’s race, and class, and sex and gender and geographical location, and able-ness, specifies the particular punishment each of us face. An anti-racist anti-militarist/imperialist, anti-misogynist climate justice demands that differences are recognized in order to find the huge commonality needed to save each of us and with us the planet.

 

Unity is not the goal. So let us move forward finding the connections, not expecting ease or immediate results. Maybe we could further the coalitions that are already started by also nurturing cross movement alliances on some of the demands below:

 

single payer health care for all

alternatives to prison

universal guaranteed income

full access to contraception and abortion

justice and freedom for Palestine

end the use of fossil fuels and ban fracking

affordable housing for anyone needing it

immigrant rights and sanctuary cities

 

Right now this work demands a loving generosity with each other as “we” try to find a way to go forward together. Whatever issue you are committed to, make sure to connect with others. “We” must demand everything from each other and ourselves to find the courage together to make a revolution. And making a revolution is a process that has no end in sight, but will create new possibilities.

 

So, yes—I am stuck and also ready to begin. If enough of us are ready “we” can start, again, now. And, take all that we have learned, and have been given, by earlier struggles and present ones, into the fire, humbly and courageously.

 

 

 

 


An Open Letter to Katha Pollitt

An open letter to Katha Pollitt

You wrote many of us on the organizing committee of the International Women’s Strike and asked us why Palestine should be a feminist issue. We all wrote back and you obviously did not like what we wrote. You mention none of our responses to your queries in your recent piece, “Actually, Not Everything is a Feminist Issue”, and instead you just repeat your questions.

 

Your queries reflect the stance of a white imperial feminist, from a privileged site that does not need to demand full inclusion.

 

 

  1. Can feminism be too inclusive? My answer, no. Our feminism of the 99 percent cannot be too inclusive, too democratic, or too big.

 

  1. Once you widen the lens of feminism how do you know where to stop? My answer: “we” do not want to stop. For the past ½ century anti-imperial feminists in the heart of empire have been learning how to deepen, what you call widen, our gaze to see more and know more. “We” are hopefully catching up to our sisters of color across the globe.

 

  1. Must women save the whole world? I wonder which women you mean. But “we”–#femnists4the99, are not saving the world, “we” are saving ourselves and with us, the world. Yes, “we” must save our communities, our families, our planet, and thus ourselves from a rapacious, militarized, corporate power structure. Palestine is one critical, but not singular piece of this. As long as Palestine is colonized by Israel and the support of the U.S. there can be no world peace. The apartheid conditions in Palestine have become the challenge of this century as South African apartheid once was. But I already said this to you in our correspondence.

 

  1. What about other countries like Syria? or Iraq? or? Why does the International Women’s Strike (IWS) not name them? Because the question of Palestine lays embedded in these other sites and some of us do name these other conflicts. Each one of us may not be able to be present for each and every action. But “we” can support and sustain each other across differing commitments. The fact that there is so much to be done is not reason to recoil from it.

 

  1. Is feminism at risk of diffusing itself within the left? No. Feminism is multiple at its root/route. Women—trans and gay and cis—are leading Black Lives Matter and they are anti-racist feminists. Women of all colors are leaders of the $15 movement; Native women lead the Standing Rock and DAPL resistance. You see dispersion where I see complex and overlapping coalition building. Feminists connect differing movements and different movements exist within a #feminism4the99.

 

  1. Are feminists becoming “perfect ideologues” and looking for purity? No, #feminists4the99 are looking for solidarity, not unity; complexity, not purity. Differences are necessary and embraced. They enrich and extend us.

 

  1. How do you make a mass feminist movement? By reaching deep and wide. By naming the specific struggles that must be addressed and by doing so actually destroying boundaries and borders that require wars. And, this mass movement may and can become revolutionary if it is opened widely enough.

 

Katha you are holding feminism back, by keeping it defined by liberal and neo-liberal agendas. In the last decades I hope I have grown in my understanding of the complexity of white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy. This has meant a constant engagement with women of color across the globe, most especially my Black feminist sisters here at home. My/our commitments to liberation must remain expansive and creative. Closure is not a goal here.

 

I have always treasured your defense of women’s right to abortion. But it is time for you to recognize that this singular focus should be used to broaden and deepen feminism, so that our multiple identities are always at the heart of everything. Your fabulous devotion to women’s rights to their bodies—their right to abortion, always—needs to grow and make sure that the color, race, nation, sexual preference of these bodies build the coalitions that are needed for the liberation of all women, and thereby, all of humanity. “We” women must control our bodies, but our bodies are multiple, complex and radically plural across this globe. Drop your imperial gaze and you will see more.

 

“We” live in impossible times. Economic inequality is at obscene and unconscionable levels; white supremacy continues to be murderous to people of color, especially Blacks; Islamophobia and anti-immigrant policies create impossible conditions. A #feminism4the99 has no choice but to embed itself in these crosshairs.

 

You get it wrong. When anti-imperial, anti-racist feminists specify Palestine, or world hunger, we do not divide, but rather open the gates to an inclusive humanity. How can you ever be too inclusive? That is like saying, as neo-liberals do, that you are too equal, or too free, or too democratic, or too feminist.

 

You have clarified the difference between white imperial neo-liberal feminism and the #feminism4the99. I hope you can see the difference/s. If you can, join us.

 

 


The Many Ways To Strike on March 8: Rise, Resist, Organize, Dance, Dialogue, Refuse

http://www.thefeministwire.com/2017/02/many-ways-strike-march-8-rise-resist-organize-dance-dialogue-refuse/

The Many Ways to STRIKE on March 8: Rise, Resist, Organize, Dance, Dialogue, Refuse

The International Women’s Strike, US, on March 8 hopes to be a catalyst for the liberation of all women, cis and trans—of every color, sex, gender, class, nation, and identity—from every kind of exploitation. “We” have an opportunity in this moment that we should not ignore. There is a long labor history to the celebration of women on March 8. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/21/womens-day-strike-march-8-donald-trump A strike for women is more complex and multiple than the usual notion of strike. So much of the work women do takes place outside the factory or restaurant or day care unit, and is not paid at all. There are as many ways to strike, as there are ways that women labor.

Women always need to be imaginative and inventive with the political language that exists. So a strike for us, the “big inclusive” us means in part, to re-invent the meaning of strike. In established discourse a strike happens at one’s place of work, and work means a waged-labor site like a factory or a service job. And, a great many women, especially women of color, work at these sites. But work is happening elsewhere all the time, and most women do it whether they are working a traditional job or not. So, the IWS/US intends to strike in new ways that recognize the multiple and differing and complex forms of labor that all women do. So, there are many kinds of actions—recognizable and newly formed– that will be taking place throughout the country from California, to New York, to Wisconsin, to Washington, D.C., to Illinois.

The purpose of a strike is to stop the usual work being done and to make sure that people acknowledge that the work is not getting done. And it is not getting done because the worker says no, that, the labor is unfairly taken, stolen, un-remunerated, etc. For women, our labor is never paid its worth. And, there is a raced hierarchy to the exploitation. Often the labor is not paid at all. Almost all women labor as domestics in their own homes for no pay, and when women, particularly women of color, labor in someone else’s home, it is for super-exploitive wages.

Women also labor as the major consumers of necessities like food and clothing. This consumer work is dispersed and chaotic. The emotional work of family life is a full time job, but most women have other jobs as well. Women routinely multi-task so a triple day of labor is a matter of course: reproductive, productive, domestic, and consumer laboring goes on simultaneously. So, the IWS/US asks women to refuse, or strike on March 8, in new creative ways that reflect their complex lives. These actions will amplify the already on-going mobilizations planned by women workers in the workforce. These unions and work groups are also planning with new strategies that protect workers who cannot afford to be fired; so there will be partial work stoppages, the use of vacation and sick days, etc. http://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/a43109/women-strike-history-significance/

The guide to “us” all is to make our labor visible especially if it seems invisible to the larger world. As a friend suggested to me: maybe instead of refraining from the invisible caring work that we do for our families we can make it visible: make a Facebook post and/or a Tweet describing the labor of the day. And, tell others to do it to. “Today I made 3 breakfasts, did 2 loads of laundry, shopped for dinner, went to the office for 4 hours, came home, made dinner, comforted a distraught child and…” The national planning committee is hoping to set up a log-on to the IWS/US website so women can keep a labor tally for the day, and collectively.

And, for whatever part of your labor you refrain from on March 8, publicize it in as many ways as you can. And, with the time this frees you up from your work we hope you will join with other women to: support each other, listen to each other, organize against what feels tyrannical to you. THERE IS NO ACTION THAT IS TOO SMALL. HOLD A SIGN OUTSIDE YOUR PLACE OF WORK OR SUPER MARKET. ALL YOU NEED IS TWO PEOPLE TO DO THIS. OUR WORK IS DISPERSED TO MULITPLE SITES SO OUR RESISTANCE WILL BE AS WELL. Build small and large communities with others that you will trust and resist with. This is what an anti-racist/anti capitalist FEMINIST revolutionary process looks like.

The International Women’s Strike/US and the Women’s March, initiated on January 21, share similar commitments for March 8, with the Women’s March campaign to highlight “a day with out a woman”, along with our recognizing the multiple forms of labor, paid and not paid. We are coordinating together when possible, and also may have autonomous commitments. We are doing what women do: partnering, sharing, endorsing, and embracing one another, and across difference. We all are hoping to grow our coalitions while at the same time many of us have uncompromising commitments to anti racism, anti colonialism, anti misogyny, and anti-neoliberalism. Out of this unknown mix of commitments we are growing a new feminism for the 99 percent. Do not be too ready to say that this cannot work. Give us a chance to make it work. https://www.thenation.com/article/striking-on-international-womens-day-is-not-a-privilege/

It is urgent to find and build the camaraderie that develops as coalitions across differences of race and class and gender and sexual identity become possibilities. All of these actions taking place before and on March 8 are getting us ready to confront and dismantle the present political regime. “We” are getting ready for whatever is coming. “We” are building a revolutionary resistance. March 8 is not an end to itself. It is a process of mobilizing new alliances and coalitions involving risk and trust.

If you think sexual violence towards women is part of everyday life, especially in places of work, if you are ready to dismantle white supremacy, if you want a living wage, if you want to have access to contraception and abortion facilities, if you believe in universal and affordable health care, if you want to end the wars everywhere, if you want to end all deportations of immigrants, if you want to welcome refugees until the wars end, if you want your city to be a sanctuary in this unsettled time, if you want to build schools rather than prisons, if you want guns controlled and then eliminated, if you want Palestinians to be free and equal, if you want to save the planet from environmental devastation, if you want every woman who needs an abortion across this globe the ability to get one, if you want to end hunger and poverty….you want to strike with “us” on March 8. All you need to do is to decide on one action related to the labor(s) that you do, and share it with others.

Women are already readying to do this. A doctor in Miami, Florida says she will be standing with IWS/US while she treats her uninsured and undocumented patients. A friend from South Africa says he will invite a speaker to his university on March 8 who will speak about “women, race and revolution”. In Poland women write that they will take no more abuse and denial of their rights to their bodies. They say they have the best weapon available to them in order to win: their solidarity. Tocan a una, tocan a todas. They say their rulers should be scared of them. I say, let us join our Polish sisters.

In Washington D.C. on March 8th women workers from around the country will join together in a massive rally along with women of One Billion Rising who rise against all violence towards any women– they demand an end to sexual violence and all its iterations—at work, at home, in war, against the earth. They will surround the Department of Labor with their bodies. They—the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), and Jobs with Justice, and the National Nurses United, and National Domestic Workers Alliance, and OUR Wal Mart, along with V-Day activists, will demonstrate, and rally, and say no to exploitation, to work place violence, and yes to a living wage, paid leave and labor rights at work. https://www.facebook.com/ROCUnited/ These women of all colors express the solidarity “we” all wish to achieve. Their rally will be done in solidarity with women around the world rising for racial, sexual, economic justice. Join them if you can.

Women will rally in Washington Square Park, New York City to publically stand together for a feminism against the cruelty of neoliberalism and deportations and criminalization of Black and Brown people. They will be organizing a feminism of and for the 99 percent.

Nawal el Saadawi is standing with us from Egypt. Years ago when US women asked her how could support the revolution in Egypt during the Arab Spring, she said: “make your own revolution, and free the rest of the world from your imperial government.” And, that is what “we” will hopefully begin to do now.

Figure out what makes sense for you and your friends and get organized for March 8. When you read the IWS/US declaration of purpose you will see a large and inclusive set of commitments. https://womenstrikeus.org/ It is a feminism against racist/capitalist hetero-patriarchy; against an anti-imperial feminism, against anti-colonial feminism; and for an anti-white supremacy anti-rape culture feminism. Even if you are hesitant, even if you disagree with some of the commitments, even if you think the vision is incomplete, join us. Join us, and engage with us. We will build a new revolutionary comraderie together.

The women’s actions, and rallies, and marches on March 8 are part of a process that began with the first resistances against the Trump regime after his inauguration, beginning with the Women’s March on Washington, and its sister marches throughout the country and globe. Acts of resistance have continued apace ever since that moment. The International Women’s Strike/US will continue this process. And the process is readying us for when we must all come together and dismantle this regime. No one knows when this moment will occur, but we do know how to build the camaraderie to get us ready. Revolutionary resistance is a process. Help us begin and continue to nurture this process.

“We” the organizers of the IWS/US are looking to build coalitions with and between our shared and differing needs. Unity is not needed–just trust and a belief in the possible.

Check out our web page for a local action. If you don’t see one, make one. https://womenstrikeus.org/

A note: Here are some possible hashtags you can begin to reach out to others with.

 

#BreadAndRoses   #WomenWorkersRising   #InternationalWomenStrike/US

#WomenStrike #ADayWithoutAWoman   #AWoman’sWorkIsNeverDone

#WomenRisingMarch8     #WomenUnitedMarch8

 


Revolutionary Imaginaries in a Time of Women’s Marches

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

REVOLUTIONARY IMAGININGS, with and after the WOMEN’S MARCHes, 2017

Or: For ‘Colored Girls’, when the ‘rainbow’ and white women being allies is not enough’

February 2, 2017

I am the same age as Hillary Clinton. I am a white anti-racist feminist. I grew up in the civil rights movement and was called a race traitor as a child. As an adult I worked with Angela, and bell, and Chandra, and Barbara, and so many fabulous women of color (WOC) trying to end the then exclusionary racism of the white women’s movement. How things change and do not. Today I am listening and resisting along with these friends and also learning from and with my younger sisters of color.

 

This might be a historical moment in need of a bit of theory—theory meaning connecting the dots between disparate actions so “we” can see the connections and see each other. The theorizing will be partial and inadequate but necessary. The resistance has gotten ahead of our theory—it is mixed, and intersectional, and wildly chaotic in a productive way. Terms like left, liberal, radical, feminist, etc. are in motion. And terms describing Trump, like proto-fascist, or pre-fascist, or totalitarian are not nuanced enough to name and therefore see the misogynist/racist excess of this regime.

 

The day after the Inauguration there was the spectacular outpouring of resistance by millions in the Women’s March on Washington, and its sister actions. This was a huge mass action against Trump on the streets of Washington D.C. and the streets of our cities and towns here and across the globe. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/it-started-with-a-grandmother-in-hawaii-now-the-womens-march-on-washington-is-poised-to-be-the-biggest-inauguration-demonstration/2017/01/03/8af61686-c6e2-11e6-bf4b-2c064d32a4bf_story.html?utm_term=.d6a0e77fc680 The marches were incredible and women of color led these many majority white marches. I am not ready to discount the importance of learning from this hugely successful action. If it was not radical or revolutionary enough for some of us, it still offers a fertile site for further radicalization. https://www.thenation.com/article/the-womens-march-succeeded-because-it-spoke-to-womens-outrage/ And, do not assume you know what the pink pussy hat means exactly.

 

What is there important to say about these moments that follow Trump being elected–so to speak–forgetting hacks and voter suppression and 3 million more votes for Hillary. He, along with Steve Bannon is consolidating their power and re-configuring the power elite. And these early days of massive resistance are only the beginning.

 

The right wing of this country is delusional. They are NOT the majority. Yet, their attacks have such breadth and depth that they have awakened almost everyone other than themselves. “We”, the rest of the people that Trump loves to hate, are: taxi drivers, restaurant workers, women of all colors and classes, the new working class, immigrants, Muslims, Black Lives Matter (BLM), Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Planned Parenthood (PP), Black Women’s Blueprint (BWP), undocumented students throughout the academy, Movement of Movements, Standing Rock, ACLU, etc. etc. There are many of us: occupying, protecting, rising, overcoming, revolting—trying to be ungovernable.

 

Women and men, trans, white and every other color—the bigger “we” that Trump insists on excluding have repeatedly taken to the streets to build a resistance at every opportunity. The commitment is to: form a resistance; to be ungovernable; to de-normalize the Predator in Chief and his cabinet.

 

Name this? See this? Do this? The Electoral College completely ignores, smashes, and sidelines this reality. The two party system – enmeshed in gridlock and dysfunction is probably done, if it ever was effective. What is next?

 

In this urgent moment Trump and his cabal are attempting to prop up racism and misogyny for the capitalism they love so dearly. In doing so they have deepened and exposed the fissures while all of us who they hate are trying to uproot and eviscerate anti-immigrant/racist misogyny once and for all. In actuality, ironically, Trumpism reveals the very oppressions “we” have longed to both expose and destroy. They do not get that “we” are the many, and they are the few.

 

With extra speed he makes executive orders/decrees: reinstate the global gag rule and disallow even the mention of abortion to all the women of color across the globe; continues settler colonialism re-issuing land rights to DAPL and the Keystone Pipeline; making full blown enemies of all immigrants and refugees, especially those from Muslim countries creating enemy strangers where they do not exist. Mass actions took over airports throughout the country as people were detained and refused entry.

 

There may not be a woman president but there are now many women leading the resistance in its many forms, like Sally Yates who just refused to enforce Trump’s immigration ban and was promptly fired.

 

I have lots of questions: how can these reform movements become revolutionary? How to think about this? Because the problem “we” are focused on is multiple and “intersectional”, as Kim Crenshaw and so many other women of color feminists would have it, the old questions centering capitalism and sidelining its whiteness and its misogyny are more insufficient than ever. Is it possible that if the problem itself is multiple, even single site assaults can disarm and weaken and make shaky the foundation?

 

And let us learn a bit here from the predator-in-chief himself. He made clear that misogyny—he will grab our pussies if he wants to –and his whiteness—his base is white—was key to saving global capitalism. But of course it is not just capitalism that he needs, because capital couldn’t do much of what it does if it didn’t use patriarchy and its deep roots/routes of settler colonialism and chattel slavery in modernized forms to garner its profits, for white rich powerful men.

 

Maybe the global greed is undermining the golden rule. Instead of mystifying the racist hetero/patriarchal underbelly of capitalism Trump up-ends it. It is so revealing that when Trump defends the white working class male it is not called identity politics. Instead everyone else who calls out the racist/sexist/hetero-gendered unfair structuring of citizenship and political life are categorized as such.

 

Let the resistance call out the failed two-party system. Let some wonder about a third party. Let others imagine a whole new structural apparatus for communities living in a global world. Let some call for an end to nationalism as we know it, and with it the wars and destruction of the planet. Audre Lorde would point us to the master’s tools and the master’s house. It is not reformable. Rosa Luxemburg also demanded revolution and a vision of it that was not limited to resistance but moved beyond what seemed possible.

 

Following Audre and Rosa “we” need to imagine beyond what feels like possibility. We need to mobilize our different movements of so many differing voices into a risk-taking set of actions, even though too many are already at too much risk. It is for those of us—especially non-poor white women and men to listen carefully and then put our bodies between the police and their state orders, and alongside our brothers and sisters of every color.

 

So “we” need to be and can be diverse, and unified and multi-pronged in our visions simultaneously. Alicia Garza of BLM similarly says that the time is now, not before, so embrace whoever is ready in this moment. https://mic.com/articles/166720/blm-co-founder-protesting-isnt-about-who-can-be-the-most-radical-its-about-winning#.msnpfr7mJ “We,” the most of us people, can unite for the planet and our bodies against Trumpism and his cabal of violators and predators. S/exploitation is key to this system. Sexual and racial violence is present in all wars for domi/nation.

 

Let us name the revolutionary problem as global capitalist hetero/patriarchal racism. There are new possibilities, as global capital has demanded the mobility of labor threading many sites of colonial power: from Europe to the US. with new colors. Whiteness is more exposed as a minority global population than ever before, when earlier the predominantly white US could live its supremacist lie at home. And, when France and Germany could spin their white majority status for supremacy. Now the supremacy is harder to protect. White people have always been a minority in Africa, Asia, and South America. They are now becoming that in the US and Europe.

 

Newest right-wing fascist, xenophobic, misogynistic politics of Trump and Modi and Putin bespeak this politic in their own local discourses. The troubled yet promissory stance and status of white women exists within this complex moment. It is no surprise that women of color and especially Black women voted against Trump in overwhelming numbers. And way too many white women, across class lines did not.

 

Trump targets multiple hatreds and animus. Our resistance takes this assault and lovingly embraces the multiple venues smashing at us. This is a new cacophonous call to arms by the president: a calling out of the multiple systems of oppression of the nation by the commander in chief. Instead of protecting these multiple/intersectional ruling class sites, he exposes them. So it is important that “we” stay multi-purposed and unified in this very multiplicity. Oneness in diversity. The Black Woman’s Blueprint asks us to do this. http://www.mamablack.org/single-post/2017/01/06/On-January-21-2017-Black-Women’s-Blueprint-Will-March-on-Washington

Congressperson Luis Gutierrez did this when he said he would walk in the Women’s March with his wife and daughter because he cared about every slight to every human right. https://gutierrez.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/why-i-will-not-be-inauguration-and-will-be-marching-women

 

A new collaboration. A new solidarity. A new revolutionary/reformist movement. “We” the people must be inside and outside; legal and extra-legal; uncompromising and compromising; supportive and more to each other. Difference and conflict must be embraced in order to grow. Voices of critique from WOC are opportunities, not condemnations. “We” are in a post-women march/es world. Deal with it: women leading us all for revolution whatever this will mean. At moments demands will be specific and singular. Other times demands will be inclusive. Sometimes the politics will have to be vague and unknown and scary.

 

Do we really know exactly how or why Trump won? Do we really know who the white working class exactly refers to, or if it is really white any longer? Do we really know why the Democrats undermined Bernie and chose Hillary? Do we really know how the new working class/es of women of color across the planet as well as here at home can become our new revolutionary hope? Although I am sure Ai Jen Poo of the Domestic Workers Alliance have some good ideas. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2017/01/see_whos_speaking_at_the_womens_march_on_washingto.html

 

Trumpism reflects an old radical feminist brilliant formulation: the personal is political and there is always a politics to sex. He like the former white radical feminists forgets to be newly brilliant and realize that personal politics in its racial and class underbelly is deeply, radically, revolutionary. So—the moment calls for WOC of every kind to go forth and lead this next revolutionary movement. I hope you remember to use what was incredible about your foremother’s brilliance and make it better.

 

And I am with you, listening and collaborating on your and our behalf, not simply as an ally, which does not explain my interest enough, but as an anti-racist sister/comrade, freedom fighter, in this struggle to finally up-end white supremacy’s gendered racist abuse of us all. The struggles are not the same between us, but they are similar enough that I and many others will risk everything. Because, when “we” are doing the work together we make a new world for us all.

As I finish this writing #GeneralStrike for February 17 is trending on Twitter.

And, as Osagyefo Sekou sang the other night in Ithaca, New York: “what a time to be alive. When we stand up we have already won”. Or, we have a fighting chance.

 

 

 

 

 

 


An Open Letter to Planned Parenthood Leadership; Dear Cecile Richards

An Open Letter to Planned Parenthood Leadership

Dear Cecile Richards

You are amazing along with the huge Planned Parenthood apparatus that delivers health care and reproductive freedom to millions of women. THANK YOU for all you do and continue to do.

I have been a keen supporter of Planned Parenthood for most of my lifetime and even more so in these last years as the right wing of the Republican Party have put PP under such fire and assault. Nonetheless, Planned Parenthood has continued to stand courageously and defiantly for all women’s rights to their bodies and their health.

So this makes it all the harder for me to question and disagree with the endorsement Planned Parenthood has just made of Hillary Clinton for President, 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zillah-eisenstein/hrc-and-us-exceptionalism_b_6844022.html I, along with many progressive feminists cannot support this endorsement. It elicits an unwarranted level of support for a candidacy that does not stand strongly enough for an inclusive notion of womanhood and humanity, as well as reproductive justice.

To endorse HRC is to allow PP to be used on behalf of Hillary’s support for war as a necessary form of politics; to continue the unwise legitimation of her foreign policy initiatives in Iraq, Libya and now Syria; http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016L1RTR8/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?ie=UTF8&btkr=1 to dissect the politics of race and class from the lives of women, especially in these named countries; to endorse her non-intersectional approach to women’s lives; to accept her privileging of her whiteness and all white women’s privilege in relation to women of other colors. http://www.thefeministwire.com/2014/08/shes-anti-racist-anti-imperial-feminists-war/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zillah-eisenstein/hrc-and-us-exceptionalism_b_6844022.htmlI will always support Planned Parenthood in the way it supports any woman who walks through its doors. I just wish you would have followed your inclusive and democratic vision of women’s health and reproductive rights before handing over so many of our voices to the HRC campaign.

Instead of endorsing HRC, feminists who believe in peace, anti-racism, women’s bodily rights, economic and racial justice, must stand as an alternative to the limited neo-liberal/imperial politics of the moment expressed in this dismal 2016 presidential campaign. Anti-racist/anti-imperial feminists need to make HRC uneasy and uncertain about her exclusionary mind-set, and demand accountability for a more just world.

Sincerely,

Zillah Eisenstein

 

 


Why did Sandra Bland Die (and why we need a white-anti-racist feminist posse

http://www.thefeministwire.com/2015/08/why-did-sandra-bland-die-and-why-we-need-a-white-anti-racist-feminist-posse/

 

Why Did She Die?

(and why we need a white anti-racist feminist posse!!!

Zillah Eisenstein

Ithaca New York

August 3, 2015

 

By now Sandra Bland’s name has been in the news for several weeks. http://www.salon.com/writer/brittney_cooper/ A 28 year old Black woman is stopped by a white police officer. She saw the police officer in her rear view mirror and tried to get out of his way. He pulled her over for moving lanes without using her signal. She gets a ticket, which is a bit of an overreach in and of itself. She then was arrested for this minor traffic violation.

 

She is annoyed and bothered; who would not be? But the officer gets more annoyed and nasty and loses his temper. It seems irrational, given the origin of the stop. He tells her to put out her cigarette. She refuses. She is told to get out of the car, probably illegally, and then is manhandled and pulled out of her car, and thrown to the ground.

 

What started out as an ordinary day, July 10, turned to shit quickly for Sandra, Sandy to her friends. Instead of receiving a ticket and going on her way she is terrorized by a policeman, arrested, thrown in jail and had bail set at 5000 dollars. The bail is outrageous and excessive. She has no history with the law and yet was made to stay in jail until the bond could be paid. Bail became a punishment without any due process, ending in her unnecessary death.

 

She was isolated in a cell by herself for two days. Instead of total outrage at this, the news media interrogate her. Whether she was unruly, whether she was using drugs, whether she was depressed, and in the end, whether she committed suicide. She has no culpability here. None. Instead, the arresting officer and judge who set the bail are to blame.

 

Sandra Bland was condemned to death as a Black woman, having nothing to do with who she was as an individual. This is what a white supremacist patriarchal justice system looks like. You have no rights or affective legal protections to defend yourself in moments like these.

In a sane world “we”–everyone—especially white people would be asking how could this happen? “We” would be outraged that she was arrested in the first place, that there was a punishing bail set, that she had to suffer even an hour locked up. Instead there are queries about her as an individual.

 

The problem here is not Sandra Bland or any of the other recent victims of police violence and carceral state abuse. Since her death/murder at least three other women of color have been found dead in their jail cells. She died because she was a black woman who got annoyed at a white police officer. She died because of an overly punishing and retrograde police state. Police and policing have become violent beyond sanity. http://www.thefeministwire.com/2015/07/sayhername-sandrabland-is-sojourner-truth-harriet-tubman-and-fannie-lou-hamer-2/

 

I am sadly reminded of Kalief Browder, the Bronx teenager who was jailed for three years without ever receiving a trial. http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/kalief-browder-1993-2015 He was arrested for supposedly stealing a backpack. He continually refused plea bargains because he said he was totally innocent. He languished in jail because he stood by his innocence. His jailers beat him tortuously. His case was finally resolved and he was released from Rikers prison only to succumb to his tortured existence and commit suicide. But he did not kill himself. He was killed by the racist prison system and its officers.

 

Sandra Bland was innocent of any actionable wrong doing on the day she was incarcerated. She did not deserve to die. Sandra had about as much rights on July 10, 2016, as she would have had as an enslaved black woman in chattel slavery. No laws would have protected her then, or now. However she died, she was murdered by an unforgiving system of white supremacist patriarchy.

 

Sandra’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, a single mother of five girls, says she will bury her daughter, which she did last week, and then will turn to seeking justice. “Once I put this baby in the ground, I’m ready. This means war”. http://madamenoire.com/549162/im-readythis-means-war-sandra-blands-mother-eulogizes-daughter-prepares-to-fight-for-justice/

 

Sandra is dead because of the unjust racist and sexist country she/we live in.

 

White anti racist feminists need to make a posse to protect our Black sisters. We need a white women’s anti-racist feminist posse that uses our bodies as a shield. We need to put our bodies between the white police and our black sisters. We must risk everything. Black women don’t get to choose. We do. This is the only way the violence will stop.

 

#WhiteAntiRacistWomenforBlackLives   #sayhername


Towards an Abolitionist Feminism

http://thefeministwire.com/2015/05/towards-an-abolitionist-feminism/

TOWARDS An ABOLITIONIST FEMINISM

Zillah Eisenstein

May 14, 2015

Ithaca New York

 

As an anti-racist white feminist I wonder if it is enough to be an “ally” in this present and “newest” moment of racist/militarist/carceral violence. Or, is there something more to do? I am thinking hard about this “newness” which is also very old.

 

White anti-racist feminists can take the lead from our Black and Brown sisters and embrace an abolitionist stance towards chattel slavery and its racist and misogynist remains. Such an abolitionist feminist must commit to abolishing all forms of racial and sexual violence along with the hierarchies of economic class and hetero-patriarchy in their white privileged forms.

 

If I had lived during chattel slavery I would have been an activist abolitionist feminist. Today I/we need an activist abolitionist feminism focused on ending the hetero-patriarchal capitalist racist police state.

 

I used to be grateful that I did not live during institutionalized and legal chattel slavery. Instead, I was raised by Communist parents whose entire beings were committed to an ending of Jim Crow law. As a child I participated in picket lines and the civil rights movement. Laws were then changed; and it was now easier to fool yourself, especially if you are white, that racism had ended. Actually, racism got more complicated, more extra-legal, and more insidious.

 

 

On Being White

 

I am not sure James Baldwin is nuanced enough when he says that being white is an attitude more than a color—that you are as white as you think you are and therefore it is a choice; and that for Blacks their color is a “condition”, and not a choice. http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/interviews/a23960/james-baldwin-cool-it/ But I like the lack of equivalence, making whiteness a choice, and that whites have an added responsibility for the times “we” ALL live in. What does this mean for white anti-racist/abolitionist feminists?

 

It means challenging white privilege at the core of everything while being white. Otherwise I/we walk around enforcing the white racist hetero-patriarchal capitalist state, privileging its whiteness. This is where white “choice” comes in.

 

I could not begin to ask these questions if I had not been in the struggle for years with Black feminists, side by side—when the white women’s movement was being openly and doggedly indicted for its racism. bell hooks, and Angela Davis, and Barbara Smith, and Audre Lorde, and Hortense Spillers and Beverly Guy-Sheftall were part of my earliest anti-racist feminist experience and work.   I continue to learn more recently with and from Brittney Cooper, and Tamura Lomax, and Aishah Shahidah Simmons, and Salamishah Tillet, and from Black Lives Matter Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, to name just a few. http://thefeministwire.com/2014/10/blacklivesmatter-2/

 

So I tell myself to not “be/act white” and use this privilege of “choice” to help make a revolution that is structural but also an individual affair. If Franz Fanon and Frank Wilderson are right, and white people function in their own corporeality as deputies of the state, we must destroy this unauthorized “deputization” that is as misogynist as it is white privileged.

http://www.incognegro.org/afro_pessimism.html

 

 

“New-Old” and “Newest-New” Racism

 

I use the phrase “newest–new” racism to call attention to the fact that violence towards Blacks has a too-long history. Everything new is also old, and yet not the same, even if similar. The “newest-new” of racism replaces homogeneity with complexity, and fluidity, and modernization of the slave relation itself. Black slavery as Saidiya Hartman would have it, was an ultimate form of dehumanization and severing of people from their family, especially their mothers, and their sense of place. Although racism is no longer articulated in a system of chattel slavery, it is enforced through a prison/police state of carceral punishment that has shattering likenesses to the slave system.

 

Whiteness as it exists still makes being Black irreconcilable with safety, and possibility. Afro-pessimists like Wilderson see the continual dispossession of Black life; Jared Sexton calls this hatred of Blackness “captive flesh”; Hortense Spillers writes of the Black woman’s body as a “hieroglyphics of the flesh”. And, yet, Blackness remains captive but defiant in #BlackLivesMatter and #KnowHerName.

 

Saidiya Hartman writes that she is living in “an afterlife of slavery” and in a “future created by slavery”. She reminds us to remember “the present was created by people in chains” so that “slavery feels proximate rather than remote”. http://www.amazon.com/Lose-Your-Mother-Journey-Atlantic/dp/0374531153

 

Freddie Gray’s killing by Baltimore police harkens back to this past. His neck was broken. He was killed with no “trial, without a jury, without a sentence”. State Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby determined that the arrest was illegal at the start. Former Black Panther Eddie Conway says that the police were a lynch mob. “There was a body, and no trial, but rather an execution.” This was a modern day carceral lynching, in its newest form. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Amno2Ukn_k0

 

Slavery exists in its “new-old “ and “newest-new” form in the prison system today. Black captive bodies reside here in similar and also different fashion, but the dehumanization that is/was essential to chattel slavery remains in its more modernized form. It is interesting that the capitalism of today, which is very differently formed than its early beginning is still named capitalism. Patriarchy as well, no longer resides in most of its earliest legal forms, but still retains its name. Yet, although there are new forms of slavery and lynching these names are not readily applied to their more recent incarnations. There is continuity and restructuring here to be recognized in this present moment of neo-liberal misogynist racist slavery.

 

The “Newest” New-Old Slavery

 

The violence today towards Blacks has new publicity. The violence itself is not new. The history is continuance. The murders of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice exposed police violence anew before the more recent killing of Freddie Gray. The present noise often inadvertently silences other recent violences: towards Abner Louima, Rodney King, the Black teenagers falsely incarcerated for rape in the “notorious” Central Park 5; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2380247/not to mention the more recent egregious jailing and beating of Kalief Browder, a young Black teenager jailed and beaten for 3 years in Rikers Island with no trial. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/06/before-the-law

 

Structural/institutional racism is the problem, but is not specific enough to clarify the meaning of the particularly racist-structural relations of today. The knowing and really caring is in the details. Mass incarceration and carceral expansionism locates the new racism within much of the civil rights legislation that was meant to address racial inequality. Instead, according to Naomi Muakawa, the present/new police state grew out of the criminalization of the “race” problem. Bill Clinton was a recent architect. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-first-civil-right-9780199892785?cc=us&lang=en&

 

White Anti-Racists Against White Misogynist Privilege

 

Racism is as intimately patriarchal as it is race based. Reproductive rights are not color specific. Each and every woman of every color needs to be able to determine her own body. Yet, the mobilization against racism assumes Blacks are men. Barbara Smith decades ago spoke to the problem that: “All the Men are Black, All the Women are White, and some of Us are Brave”. Misogyny assists the killing of all people and with no accountability.

 

Militarized policing focuses an unrelenting surveillance of Black bodies, especially Black boys and young men. They are criminalized and in part killed because of a hyper-sexualized fear of Black maleness. But Black women’s bodies are also surveiled and beaten and raped and incarcerated in disproportionate numbers to white women.

 

However, racism also has new complexity.   White privilege has learned how to be more flexible than during chattel slavery. The present feels both really different from the past and also too similarly tied to it. So the present is a way of seeing and knowing with a connection to this erasure, re-wiring, redefinition of slave life.

 

There is a new visibility of Black women with Michelle Obama as first lady, and Loretta Lynch as the new Attorney General, and in Baltimore with a Black woman as mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and key prosecutorial state attorney Marilyn Mosby. There is no simple inside/outside as new “colored” identities and borders are crossed.   This visibility contrasts deeply with the invisibility of the Black and Brown women who are disproportionately beaten, raped, killed and incarcerated.

 

There is supposedly new accountability and transparency with a Black president and the new technological capacity, through cell phone cameras exposing police violations. And yet, there is the concentrated 1 percent and condensed and concentrated power that curtails resistance and insurgency. The established borders of inside/outside that denote the notions of reform and revolution need reimagining. Even though her spirit remains with us it would be wonderful if Audre Lorde were here to talk about the “masters tools”.

 

#Black Women/Trans/Gays Matter

 

The new slavery, the “newest new racism” demands a more complex resistance because the problem is complexly layered and in contradictory fashion. Misogyny still masquerades within the anti-racist rhetoric. Rekia boyd, Natasha McKEnna, and Tanisha Anderson are black women who have died at the hands of police. Yet, there are no marches in their name. Twenty percent of unarmed Blacks killed in the last fifteen years by police are black women. Sexual violence and rape are the more usual forms of racist treatment of Black and brown women. Marissa Alexander was jailed for defending herself against an abusive husband, as are countless women in domestic abuse situations. Accused serial “rapist” police officer Daniel Holtzclaw has continued to escape the media limelight.

 

The new resistance and organized movement(s) of Black men and women are more inclusive and radical than earlier leaderships in the 1960’s and 70’s civil rights movement. This may in part be because racism itself has become more exposed in its complex forms. The leadership of Black Lives Matter, Million Hoodies, Hands Up United, Dream Defenders, etc. is staffed with people of all genders and sexual orientations. http://billmoyers.com/2015/05/04/meet-woman-behind-blacklivesmatter-hashtag-became-civil-rights-movement/?utm_source=General+Interest&utm_campaign=c7a89a47d3-Midweek12171412_17_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4ebbe6839f-c7a89a47d3-168294985

 

I think it is especially important for white anti-racist feminists to have the backs of our Black and Brown sisters especially in this moment. Kimberle Crenshaw and her leadership with the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) have been relentless in bringing an inclusive view of anti-racist work to include Black women. http://www.aapf.org They have critiqued and re-imagined Obama’s initiative of “My Brothers Keeper” (MBK) to address the needs of Black and Brown girls of color as well as boys. Racism cannot be fully addressed with the exclusion of Black girls and women.

 

Black women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population. Black and Latina women are suspended from school at a higher rate than white women. They are also murdered and unemployed at higher rates. Without dealing with racism misogyny stays in place, and without attacking misogyny racism marches on. Police violence, sexual violence, domestic violence is implicated with each other as are racism and misogyny in their different class configurations.

 

When Black women are killed in police encounters they do not mobilize the same kind of media coverage or anger/resistance/outcry. There is a silence about these deaths of young women: Tanisha Anderson, Yvette Smith, Miriam Carey, Shelly Frey, Darnisha Harris, Rekia Boyd. Their lives matter, and yet like the Combahee River Collective said all those years ago, in Boston during the serial killings and rapes of Black women– they died because they were women and black. http://www.sfu.ca/iirp/documents/Combahee%201979.pdf

 

Black women’s lives have been silenced when chattel slavery is described singularly as a racist system, rather than as intimately sexual as well. Chattel slavery was a racial and sexual system of exploitation, brutalization, and oppression. Slavery today remains implicated in both racism and misogyny. Its intimate “intersectional” relationship continues through new more present forms.

 

Patriarchy, for Black women may liken them to white women, as in less dangerous than Black men. But racism is not exclusive according to gender; it is filtered through it. If racism is to be fully addressed a specific yet shared focus across male and female borders is needed.

 

So, “we”–white anti-racist feminists—must stand in support of our sisters of color against the brutalization of Black male bodies while also standing with them against their own invisibility. To keep Black women invisible is to assist the patriarchal and misogynist support systems of racism. White masculinity, militarism and misogyny props up racism.

 

Racism should not be allowed to make the sexism in/and/of racism silenced or ignored. To do so makes Black women invisible in both the practices and resistance to racism. As white anti-racist feminists we must stand with our sisters of color exposing, not allowing, not “choosing” our own white privilege by being close, really close—in neighborhoods, schools, parks, restaurants—everywhere, to Black and Brown lives that always matter. And then be ready to abolish racism and misogyny by redistributing white wealth through a (tax) system of reparations that will rebuild infrastructures of everyday life in communities of color.

 

So, I am not sure being an ally asks enough of us. It might not be getting close enough to our Black and Brown sisters, or our own whiteness.

 

#Know Her Name, #We Can’t Wait, #Say Her Name, #Black Girls Matter, #Her Dream Deferred

And:

#Hands Up/Don‘t Shoot, #Hands off/Don’t Rape, #White Abolitionist Feminists For All Black Lives