From the grassroots to the upper levels of government, the national conversation today is indicative of a new development in the U.S. where resistance is widespread, diverse, and aboveground. Dissent is everywhere. Millions of newly-politicized people are refusing to normalize hatred in its myriad forms. The arrogance with which the new administration issues its spiteful and unconstitutional executive orders, and appoints unqualified candidates to positions that will devastate the majority of the people, has had the unintended effect of mobilizing the largest-scale protests in this country’s history. Even those of us who maintain that Trump is doing little that deviates much from the path this country was already on (the border wall, Muslim registry, deportations, torture, etc., are sadly nothing new) acknowledge that the vindictiveness and ferociousness of this administration are setting into motion a mass outrage that would not have happened otherwise.
The post-inaugural Women’s March on Washington and the multiple sister marches in every state in the country have seized upon the national feeling and catalyzed a movement that shows every sign of having longevity, rather than merely being a proud “moment.” Spoken or unspoken (and it definitely was spoken quite a bit), there was an understanding for the millions who marched that day, that we’re in it for the long haul, and that we would have to organize, and organize better, in order to block the harm we knew this administration would hasten to unleash upon the people.
And as the blows keep raining down fast and furious on us, the people are responding with newfound determination to resist, stay strong, stop Trump. Already, there is a general strike called for on February 17, around “President’s Day,” and another on March 8, International Women’s Day. And repeated calls for strategic organizing.
Importantly, the “Women’s March on Washington” originated from the impulse to denounce Trump’s blatant misogyny, yet the platform of the march included multiple intersecting struggles that would have been ignored by millions of newly-mobilized protestors, were it not for the vision and experience of the organizers. This is because many of the marchers were newcomers to dissent, indeed, only newly-threatened by a government, and would have been satisfied, even elated, had Hilary Clinton won the presidential election.
But the march organizers are women who have always been vulnerable, and who had long been active in struggles ranging from the school-to-prison pipeline, to challenging Zionism and Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, and environmental devastation, women who understand that so-called leaders who dismiss the massacres of Palestinians as collateral damage, and the deaths of Iraqi babies as “worth the price,” are the same people who would argue that George Zimmerman was “standing his ground,” but not Marissa Alexander. Angela Davis, who spoke at the Women’s march, also cast a wide net for our activism as she stated, “The struggle to save the planet, to stop climate change, to guarantee the accessibility of water from the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, to Flint, Michigan, to the West Bank and Gaza. The struggle to save our flora and fauna, to save the air—this is ground zero of the struggle for social justice.”
The signs protesters carried are not empty slogans, they reflect an awareness, long-held for some, newly-found for others, of the inherent interconnections of struggle. More people are realizing today the incongruity of denouncing a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but not Israel’s apartheid wall. More people are realizing that when we oppose a Muslim ban in the U.S., we must also denounce it in Israel. When we act in solidarity with immigrants and refugees, we must also support the Palestinian right of return.
Taking to the streets is important, but insufficient. As we march and strike to denounce this country’s multiple wrongs, laid bare for all to see, now is the time for an intentional revisiting of how we can organize optimally. We are mobilizing together at a historic moment when large-scale resistance is no longer focused on narrowly-defined causes and identity politics. Yes, these are extremely important, and an understanding of our differences even as we come together is absolutely critical for the long-term viability of our alliances. But for the marginalized, criminalized communities, these have never been silos, we have lived, and survived, at their intersections.
And today, as we look around, we cannot help but notice, and be thankful for, a new mindset in progressive politics. The leaders of national and transnational resistance movements are mostly young, overwhelmingly gender non-conforming women of color, with a critical understanding of violence encompassing intimate as well as institutional, state-sanctioned violence. It’s a leadership grounded in an experiential understanding of intersectionality.
And this understanding, this lifelong experience of social vulnerability, of surviving despite a system that wants you dead, comes with a wealth of knowledge from which we can all benefit. Some advice is for the long haul, “behaviors we can use right away to strengthen ourselves, so we can keep taking more and more powerful and strategic actions,” according to the wisdom for organizers site Finding Steady Ground.
Another equally useful analysis is about centering and prioritizing the voices of marginalized populations, because “We have always resisted. Resisted the lies of the two-party electoral game. Resisted police beatings and murders. Resisted environmental degradation and the evils of corporate polluters. Resisted male violence and transphobia. Resisted the rich bosses and landlords who own the airwaves and politicians. Resistance is our legacy. Resistance is our duty. We have resisted a long time. We will continue to resist,” said the Bay Area grassroots organization Causa Justa, Just Cause.
Indeed, some of us have been on the “unwanted” list all our lives, while others are now realizing that their lives don’t matter much. It is absolutely vital to our success that we not prioritize the newly-revived white feelings of victimhood. These are potentially truly revolutionary times, bringing about much-needed radical change, rather than reform. Radical change is about sustaining the leadership of the most disenfranchised, the most criminalized, those who have been in the struggle the longest. Leaders who understand that this is not “a nation of immigrants,” and who are made uncomfortable, rather than reassured, by settler-colonial anthems such as Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”
We see this taking place at the Standing Rock Sioux camps, we see it in the leadership of Black Lives Matter, and the Women’s March, we see it in the embrace of the Palestinian-led call for BDS, and we must continue to support these visions that emanate from the experiences of those who, in the immortal words of Audre Lorde, “were never meant to survive.”
“Gaza to Ferguson” is not an empty slogan. “Water is Life” in South Dakota, Flint, Michigan, and the Gaza Strip.
Our organizing base is getting broader. The connections we have been diligently forging over the past years are blossoming, as an ever larger number of people from all walks of life realize that solidarity is our weapon.
Welcome to the resistance.