on Charlottesville and the ACLU and stuff

Saturday: just seeing the news from VA, tears in my eyes.

we know history repeats itself. right now, multiple phases of our very worst history as a species are repeating and colliding with each other – civil war, nazis, slavery, nuclear attacks, witch trials, all of it.

we must face what is right now.

believe these hate filled people telling us who they are and acting on it – our surprise and shock won’t protect us. there are no rules right now.

we have to grieve and feel and strategize while in motion.

we are being hunted. we must protect each other and move together. keep our hands locked together, cover each other’s backs, and let go of any beef that isn’t at this scale of life and death.

love y’all, each and every one of y’all.

Later Saturday: this moment in aclu choices is a great way to highlight the difference between theory and praxis. in theory the first amendment exists to protect free speech, but praxis (how we embody and apply that amendment) matters. aclu is choosing {not for the first time, by far} to use money they earned from people who actually want to protect freedom of speech (for all people) to protect people whose every speech, assembly, and action is intended to return the majority of the country to slavery and incite the violent elimination of free speech.

nuance and long term thinking is crucial for our survival right now.

aclu won’t be getting another dime from me.

in response to that post on the ACLU, a few white men came into my comments to explain how the constitution works and why it just has to be this way.

I have two responses.

One is from Malkia Cyril, who I look to for leadership around all things communication and free speech related:

“I wish white progressives would stop talking about the ‘right’ of White Supremacists to speak. This has never been about free speech.

As if speech and the constitution were flat in a flat world, devoid of power relations.

As if those power relations don’t explicitly and systematically criminalize the dissenting speech of people of color and other oppressed groups on a daily basis.

As if those power relations would remotely allow a protest of Black, migrant or Muslim/Arab bodies to march with riot shields, torches, mace and assault rifles.

As if there has been high profile litigation supporting the rights of the thousands of Black protesters arrested.

As if property destruction hasn’t been responded to with the fullest extent of the law, while bodily harm by white supremacists and police officers was flat out encouraged.

Hate speech is one thing, violence is another. The context of power means when it comes to white supremacy – even I as a free speech advocate knows one is a powerful predictor and driver of the other.

Bottom line: if you litigate on behalf of White Supremacists, our contact will be limited at best. Dollars? Never.

my second response poured out of me late last night. I felt myself shaking, and realized my love for my people and those who we need as our allies includes sharing these thoughts.

so here they are:

when I lived in Oakland I was directly across a courtyard from a physically violent domestic abuse situation. what I and my neighbors heard, often, was an escalation from yelling to beating.

I never wanted to call the cops on the abuser – because he was a black man, because the cops shoot first and make alibis later, because I believed they would make the situation worse.

my neighbors and I tried other things – calling out to her, banging on the door, trying to talk to the woman. eventually, when the sounds were too terrifying, the cops were called. she sometimes let them in, sometimes sent them away.

eventually she broke up with him and got a restraining order.

a short while later, he kidnapped and killed her, left her by the side of the road.

he hated her, and no law was going to stop him. each incident of hateful speech and behavior had been leading up to this. it was in his voice, in the veins popping out his neck when he opened the door to tell us to mind our fucking business.

these memories haunt me often. what could I have done? the reality of the situation was more complex than the options I felt I had, we the neighbors were liberal-to-radical people who wanted to do the right thing when there wasn’t a right thing. it felt like the laws weren’t actually designed to protect this black woman living right at the poverty line. the mix of police racism, toxic masculinity, violence and this woman’s privacy and agency – it was so complex.

but what I keep returning to is that his intentions were always clear. there was always death on his breath. over the long term I have thought that only community could have intervened. community willing to be bodies that upheld the restraining order, might, maybe, have helped.

the increasing white supremacist violence in this country has me feeling echoes of this trauma. especially as the Charlottesville story unfolds and the perpetrators of violence and murder have histories of domestic violence in their backgrounds.

people who yell that they want to kill me and everyone who looks remotely like me, that we are slaves, niggers, children of Satan, whores, sluts, abominations, thieves of their land/power/jobs/power/women/power – and then follow that up by hurting and killing members of my community every chance they get, using whatever weapon is available…whatever laws protect those folks cannot actually also protect me.

this is why I identify as a visionary American revolutionary and a post-nationalist.

the country of my birth must experience a fundamental change to be worthy of the miracle of my life, our lives. we should never have to argue that we matter, whether we are black, trans, women, immigrants, or anything else.

borders are constructed to make clear what is within and what is without. what is within u.s. borders right now is toxic and viral, rooted in an ancient hatred, an ancient contorted destiny, and invited, encouraged from the highest office in this country at this moment.

and as long as I look around and don’t see a majority of people committed to fundamental self-examination and growth, I must remain committed to people, not borders.

I would rather “start all over, make a new beginning”*, where we are not catering to the potential of those so broken that the only action they know to take is to break others.

I am openly building a society of justice in the crumbling shell of an America rooted in hate.

I will not sit quietly on my bed, listening to the destruction across the way, hoping it doesn’t come knocking at my door.

I will not pretend the playing ground is equal, and that everyone should have a right to practice their violence in words, to incite race war on the internet, not checked until they have successfully built up their arsenal and come for me and my loved ones.

I will not pretend killers ever arm themselves with torches and assault rifles and sign poles and white hoods and then peacefully assemble just to talk.

my love is deep, my faith is deep, my willingness to work with a lot of people working in a lot of different ways is deep. I rarely draw lines in the sand, I rarely close a door.

so I say this with all the love and all the respect I can muster: if you think you’re on the right side of history, and you are not one of the people they are hunting, then you better go stand between those armed Confederates/nazis/racist police and me. stand before me and mine, stand there and receive that free speech from those armed bodies several times before you open your mouth or fix your fingers to tell me about the constitution.

*Tracy Chapman, New Beginning