i spent the past weekend at a gathering called with/out ¿borders? hosted by the arcus center for social justice at kalamazoo college.
it was a well structured gathering, four plenary conversations over two days, each one with a set of related breakout sessions afterwards. there was an ‘unconference’ as well, emergent sessions and film screenings that bubbled up from a brilliant participant body.
i got to speak on the first plenary and the election came up. as i was speaking i realized that i have been feeling unexpectedly calm about this election lately.
but how is this possible!
i was returning from a hot springs off-grid moment after a six day facilitation extravaganza, so i’m not sure how coherent i was.
but here is some exploration of the feeling, and the context.
to begin with, i feel like all the people i most respect and admire are playing their positions well – in movement, in life, and in relation to history.
the vision for black lives platform is brilliant, complex and clear. it really helps as a guideline to any and all who would hope to lead in or shape the future of this country.
in each place/movement i get to facilitate, i see people moving towards complexity and alignment with each other in ways that support being able to advance the leadership of grassroots and directly impacted communities.
these organizers i look up to are aware of the election, and doing work around it that makes sense. none of them are dropping everything and doing reactionary electoral organizing – their work is much longer term. most are not endorsing any candidate, because our standards are high.
and! we are not ignoring the election, primarily because many of the people we care about are looking through the election lens right now, and we dance between the attentions of the people and our visions for justice.
rosa clemente and others are reminding us that in spite of all the fear drums, there are other legitimate and politically aligned options, especially in blue states, and no individual has to bear the brunt of a broken system – everyone should have the right to vote their values.
the conversations i’ve been in are nuanced, and this, more than any particular individual or formation, gives me hope.
mostly we recognize that candidate pump as a hilarious and offensive attention-suck is not himself the problem, it is the ideologies he is playing with, the animus he is stoking to get attention – that’s the problem. still, he is doing us the favor of showing how vast and solid white supremacy and economic fear are in the u.s. right now. mapping the opposition. and white house or not, white supremacists are turnt way up right now.
and…that is what we expected, and should expect, in response to this moment of nonlinear black political, economic, athletic and entertainment flexing.
the death throes of white supremacy are vile to witness. it never stops shocking or hurting us to witness and be prey to white supremacist vitriol. but i am focusing on how many white people are standing up, stepping back from the table, and finding ways to learn self-love that don’t require dominance, looting, destroying.
i am also impressed with the radical compassion of leaders who can see through the fragile surface of white supremacy, see through to the pain, all the way to economic alignment, and are reaching through to speak about shared oppressions and shared possibilities.
regarding clinton, mostly we recognize that while having a woman president will be a move forward, we won’t be tricked into ecstacy over symbolic gains again. constructs such as race and gender expose themselves most when they are fully indulged. the mind and values of each woman are different, are not to be assumed. yes she is a woman, and familiar, and ridiculously competent, and a survivor, and a human being. and a hawk, and a zionist, and so on.
clinton is not the first woman to run for president, but she does seem to be the most experienced human to ever run for this office. still, she doesn’t align with or advance many of our values (“Who do you trust to be the president? The Republican, or Donald Trump?“), particularly in the ways she has used the tool of war.
we have under our belts two or three shared experiences (at minimum) of overattending to the office of the president. one is the panic of george w bush’s presidency, the terror that was drummed up, the heartache of watching critical funds move away from what we cared about and towards war and destruction. the stolen elections upheld by the supreme court, which shaped eight years of history, left us cynical, and in a mounting racial and climate catastrophe.
two is the thrill of obama’s election to the presidency, followed by years of seeing the limitations and compromises that defined his position, guaranteed his second term, constricted his legacy.
he is perhaps the best president we will experience, the most feminist and facilitative. but in a capitalist imperialist nation it’s hard to measure or celebrate such a thing.
an example of the contradictions needed to consider the obama presidency: i pray for him and michelle’s black love and safety daily, but i don’t trust him to free mumia and peltier.
i trust the savvy organizers who are using this election frenzy to move important stuff down ticket – sheriffs and school boards and policies matter so much more than presidents in our daily lives.
in detroit we are organizing people to vote on prop A, which will allow communities to hold corporations accountable for what they do in our city.
and during this time the exciting news is not happening in the media-election frenzy, but on the front lines of the Standing Rock struggle to stop pipelines that were prophecied to destroy the land and water from being built across North Dakota, as black people continue to live and die at state whim and to learn to love and protect each other in real time. and Flint and Detroit fight for basic water rights, and learn to love and protect each other in real time.
what i am saying is, our priorities are in order, we are aware of the paths of fear and limitation, and we are choosing to organize, collaborate and grow what we long for.
so no matter what happens? we gon be aight.