We Have Just Begun To Fight
Grace Lee Boggs, August 18, 2013
(written after Detroit was taken over by an emergency manager and plunged into a corporate-styled bankruptcy.)I‘ve been a Detroiter for 60 years and this is the first time in my experience that so many different organizations with different ideologies and personalities have recognized that the time has come when we must join together to resist and defeat the growing counter-revolution.
This counter-revolution is very unprincipled, very dangerous and taking many forms, Therefore its defeat will take a lot of cooperation, courage, and principled struggle.
Rooted in race, and the search for the American Dream, it began at the end of World War II when white people moved to the suburbs to escape blacks in cities like Detroit where whites were becoming the minority. Taking with them their schools, their businesses and their taxes, they impoverished the cities and attracted the attention and money of extreme right-wingers like the Koch brothers.As a result, over the years the suburbs have become increasingly reactionary. They have elected governors like Scott Walker and Rick Snyder. They have passed anti-union right to work, anti-women, and anti-black “Stand your ground” laws, which have given men like George Zimmerman permission to kill teens like Trayvon Martin as if they were roaches.It is also mushrooming on college campuses. Professors are writing books celebrating Senator Joe McCarthy, claiming that his red-baiting witchhunts were actually early warnings against the big government that Obama is trying to force on us. Every year the ultra-conservative Phyliss Schlafly hosts a nationally-telecast Collegians Summit at the Heritage Foundation to provide these professors with a youthful audience.
As a result, on some campuses white students warn black professors not to flunk them – or else. At UCLA’s medical school Dr. Christian Head, a black surgeon, was assaulted by a flyer depicting him with the body of a gorilla being sodomized by another professor. He sued and was awarded $4.5 million.
With growing unemployment, the crisis in the Mideast, and the decline in this country’s global dominance, we have come to the end of the American Dream. The situation reminds me of the 1930s when good Germans, demoralized by their defeat in WWI, unemployment and inflation, followed Hitler into the Holocaust.
These days, in our country, a growing number of white people feel that, as they are becoming the minority and a black man has been elected president, the country is no longer theirs. They are becoming increasingily desperate and dangerous.
We need to address their fears, and at the same time invite and challenge them to join with us in creating a new American Dream.
It will not be easy. It will take the willingness to risk arrest that North Carolinians are demonstrating in the Moral Mondays movement.
It will take the kind of militancy that students are exhibiting in sit-ins against ‘’Stand your ground” legislation.
It will take the kind of courage and persistence that Texas State Senator Wendy Davis demonstrated when she carried out a 13 hour filibuster against a bill that would have denied women the right to choose.
We have just begun to fight….
The victory of Donald Trump has sent chills through many of us. Shock, grief, and fear, are giving way to a deepening resolve to resist the onslaught of violence that is sure to come.
What America will become in the next 50 years depends on what we do now, individually and collectively. There are no simple answers, no quick solutions, and no going home again. We have to find new ways forward. This will require deeper thinking and more thoughtful actions than ever before. The stark choice between revolution and counter-revolution is here.
This choice has been evolving for a long time. In 1955 the Montgomery bus boycott broke the right-wing grip on America that controlled the life of most people. Following the Civil War, after a brief flowering of African American freedom, the forces of counter-revolution reasserted themselves. In the South, white supremacists used a combination of violence and legislation to restore their power.
In the rest of the country, whites did the same thing, often rioting and attacking vulnerable communities. From Maine to Oklahoma mobs drove African Americans out of their homes, creating thousands of “sundown towns” for Whites Only. Immigration was tightly controlled, queers were killed for sport, people with disabilities were hidden in institutions, indigenous rights were violated, sexual exploitation was commonplace, and working conditions for most were often deadly. As we endured the World Wars, intellectual life was degraded by a virulent anti-communism, given voice by Joseph McCarthy whose campaign destroyed art, culture, and compassion. As Martin Luther King observed, America was “the greatest purveyor of violence,” and much of that violence was directed at one another.
All of that was shattered by the power of the liberation movements launched by ordinary people in Montgomery. Over the next two decades, America became a more human place. We became more aware of one another and our responsibilities for the sustainability of life on our fragile earth.
But the forces of white supremacy did not go away. They continued to organize, to evolve, and to challenge every hard fought gain of the last 50 years. There is a long line from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump. And Regan and Trump embody the sensibilities of those who came before like Bull Conner, David Duke, George Lincoln Rockwell, Fred Phelps, Rush Limbaugh, Phyllis Schlafly, George Wallace, Huey Long, Father Coughlin, Orville Hubbard, Robert Welch, Lester “Ax Handle” Maddox, Coors and Koch, Andrew Jackson, and Nathan Forrest. Trump is no foreign fascist. He is part of a shameful American history of violence in support of power. It is a history we can no longer evade if we are to create a more human future.
The majority of us rejected Trump. But we must now face the forces he has unleashed. We know that they will try to take our homes, seize land, shut off water, pollute our air, close schools, lock up our children, defile our sacred places, bomb our homes, terrorize us in bedrooms and jail cells, ridicule our beliefs, risk our futures, incite riots, infiltrate our organizations, round us up, limit democracy, beat us, and kill us. We know this because this is what they have done. This is what they are doing. This is what they will do with renewed force.
Already the KKK is marching. Young men are shouting obscenities, high school students have erected walls against immigrant children, and countless acts of aggression are recorded daily.
After more than 50 years of political struggle for better lives, one thing should be clear. Only love can overcome this violence. As Dr. King said, “When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response…Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality…Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in individual societies. We must find new ways to speak and act of peace and justice…If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight…Let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world.”
We need to take the time to grieve together, for it is this grief that grounds us in our best hopes for the future. And then we must turn to one another to ask what now affirms life, what moves us toward ways of living that expand compassion and creativity? We are not alone in facing these questions. We have a collective memory of those who came before, struggling against racism, materialism, and militarism and for a vision of loving communities to enrich our thinking. Together we will find ways to open our hearts and imaginations.
Today, we welcome the resistance to this violence. But much more is required. We must draw upon our deepest spirits of love, honesty, courage, and hope if we are to create a world worth preserving.
After the Blame
Tawana Honeycomb Petty
The past several days have been a bit of a blur for me. I sat down to write out my feelings several times immediately following the election to no avail. So, I finally decided to sit with my thoughts for a few days and listen to what others had to say.
During my moment of reticence, I heard numerous explanations regarding why the next President of the United States is going to be Donald Trump.
As a lifelong Detroiter, I expected and heard the narrative that Black Detroiters cost Hillary Clinton the election. Then I heard the story of how the arrogance of the Democratic Party cost Hillary the election. Then it was that white men who weren’t being heard by President Obama or Hillary Clinton voted for Donald Trump and that their wives simply voted with their husbands. I also heard that many Trump supporters’ feelings were hurt because Hillary called them “a basket of deplorables,” so that solidified their votes for Trump. I have listened to folks say that all Trump supporters are rape apologists, racists, misogynists, women haters, self-hating women, self-hating Latinos, and self-hating Blacks. I have witnessed Trump supporters say that supporters of Hillary are stupid. I have listened to 3rd Party supporters say that both sides are stupid for voting for Trump or Hillary and I have heard non-voters call all three stupid for buying into a system that has failed to represent them.
My point is that there is enough blame to go around and according to everybody, somebody else is to blame for this recent election and our current conditions in America.
On April 4, 1967, one year before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered what was in my opinion, one of his bravest and most profound speeches, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.
In that speech, Dr. King said in part:
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
Dr. King knew that, not only did Americans need to make a radical shift in their thinking and ways of being, but that they needed to be challenged to challenge a system that would create beggars in the first place.
This, I believe, is where most of us have failed. It is not about who can get more of the pie, or a piece of the pie, at all. It’s about the illusion that the pursuit of the pie holds the key to our liberty and justice. It’s about the fact that conditions of oppression and struggle have been fostered in far too many communities through oppressive policies, so that we have folks scrambling all over the globe to find sanity at the expense of other human beings. It is about our internalization of materialism in such a way that even poor folks seek to oppress other poor folks. It’s about our internalization of the sort of individualism that would allow us to go on about our days while tens of thousands go without food, clean water, or a roof over their heads. It’s about our blatant disregard for the earth for our personal benefit.
I am a proponent of Black Lives Matter and, yes, I do believe that the dangerous terrorism narrative that has been allowed to permeate the media and households across the globe has put far too many activists in danger. Yes, I do believe that the hatred that has been perpetuated during this election cycle towards Muslims, Black people, people with disabilities, the LGBTQIA community, Mexicans, and women has sparked a nasty violence reminiscent of a society that I have to believe most of us do not want to revisit. I also believe that fear, just as much, if not more than hatred is responsible for most of the violence we have witnessed the past several years and I believe that the constant bombardment of ratings-inspired sensationalism in the media has fostered this fear which is emblematic of a lack of imagination and a resolute opposition to human beings coming together for the good of all humanity.
It’s time we checked ourselves, Democrats, Republicans, Third Parties, non-voters … all of us, because we have yet to actually witness a true democracy and a vision for this country that represents us all.
This failure is all of ours to share as a burden. We have not undergone the radical revolution of values Dr. King called for. We have not begun the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. We have failed to put people before profit and, for that, we have struggled at every turn to humanize our society and make conditions more livable for everyone and the earth.
Just days before Dr. King was assassinated, he had this to say:
I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win. But I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had. And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.
Dr. King was right about the struggle ahead for Black people in America. But, as another Ancestor James Boggs argued: “I love this country not only because my ancestors’ blood is in the soil, but for the potential of what it can become.”
“We who believe in freedom” cannot think about this country as a corporation or as an organization we reluctantly belong to. We have to shed the culture of violence that this country was founded on. We have to shed the character of a country that would make invisible the Indigenous population even as they struggle for their lives at Standing Rock. We have to start thinking as the 99% while rejecting the values of the 1%. We have to become a country that makes it moot for Black people to have to affirm their lives. It’s time we started thinking about this country as a place filled with people trying their damnedest to figure out what it means to be human.
The giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism must consistently be struggled against and it is going to take all of us tackling the parts of these systems that each of us has internalized.
This election cycle has indeed been brutal, but not nearly as brutal as we have become towards one another. It’s time we all did better.
It’s Our Time or Their Time…
As we feel, reflect and share our thinking, I hope we do not panic, become demoralized, nor label, nor simply react, nor look for 20th century answers.
This can be our time to learn from each other, our history and our work to create caring communities.
We too often use words of system change/structural change, but now we can develop practice that moves from our movement of rebellion and uprisings to revolution and truly create engagement with ALL of America giving meaning and form to MLK’s 1967 call to challenge the evil triplets of racism, materialism, militarism with a radical revolution in values. Or as a friend recently said when she called, ;As James Boggs often said, “Love American Enough to Change IT” and “Change Ourselves to Change the World”.
Let us think dialectically, and historcially seeing hope and vision in our day to day work, engagements and imaginations. The political revolution or the counter-revolution is not electoral politics, it is the emergence of our new identity as a human race.
The purpose of revolution is the evolution of human kind. Trump’s victory challenges us to truly move beyond protest to vision and resistance.
Freedom School: America Elects a New President 2016
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Detroit, Michigan USA
Fifteen Detroit Middle School children, with four mothers adding powerful intergenerational substance to our discussion, evaluated the recent presidential election. There were no right or wrong answers or bad questions. Someone asked “Where and how do we find our power?” An answer: “Step 1: Learning to accept and love yourself.”
Power to do what we need to do; power over us and others.
“Stop mass incarceration and police brutality. It’s a big deal.”
The ways we use language; we know better, and when you know better, you have to do better
What is “gerrymandering”? What is the electoral college?
Amaniyea: Nobody will get hurt, no violence, no terrorism.
Colin: Everybody gets the same amount of food, nobody gets left behind
OTHER PLATFORM PLANKS:
Help people: money, water, food, clothing
Schools with good electronics
Clean, kept up houses
Take care of homeless/get them a job and a house
“Of course we can fix it”
INDIVIDUAL WORK SHEETS/QUESTIONS:
- Do you think the election leads to a procedure for the peaceful transfer of power from one group to another?
Yes: 3 No: 5 Sometimes: 1
- Why do you say that?
[yes] I don’t OK nothing, I just circled it
[sometimes] It Depends on the Group of people
[no] Because D.T. won
[no] I say that because he’s going to cause world war 4
[yes] Because our President will help us.
[no] Because when we vote for the different person the different person wins the votes (the electoral college?)
[no] he’s a racist
- If I could do one thing to change our government, I would:
Give people a second chance
I would make him understand how it feels to be in my shoes for days.
Give homeless people homes, cars, clothes, and jobs because some people have kids and they can be sick and die of cold weather.
I will stop him.
I would supply schools with good electronics, clean up run down houses and I would let everybody get bridge cards
Thanks to Doc Richey for the two social studies sessions with several of these children before the election, Piper Carter for such sensitive and brilliant assistance, and Mama Aneb for lesson plan development assistance.
In Love and Struggle Book Release!
(PHOTO BY: Leona McElevene. Stephen Ward reading from his new book, In Love and Struggle)
Video from the event, by Leona McElevene, can be seen here.
Nearly 100,000 voters stepped up to support communuty benefits
The grassroots community coalition Rise Together Detroit, managed to get almost 100,000 Detroiters to defend their right to negotiate community benefits when billionaires get massive public subsidies.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
(From the Veterans of Hope Project)
After the recent election results, the person many people wanted to hear from was Dr. Vincent Harding. According to our friends at On Being, his voice and wisdom are necessary right now and give us hope.
On Being is re-broadcasting a conversation that Dr. Harding had with host, Krista Tippett, a few years ago. It will be airing on NPR stations throughout the weekend and is now on their podcast and website: http://www.onbeing.or g/program/vincent-harding-is- america-possible/79.
The Veterans of Hope Project
Repair The World: Detroit, The Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, and Voices For Earth Justice are partnering to host a screening of the documentary “The Amor of Light” at the Repair the World Workspace on 2701 Bagley Ave this Friday, November 18th at 6:15 pm.Please come out for a great film on the intersections between faith, religion, gun control, gun violence, and politics. There will be light refreshments and snacks, and small group discussion after. The film is a little less than 1.5 hours.