The Anatomy of a Revolution
|With Maddox Haberdasher at the 3rd CV BLM Protest|
Dismantling an entire system does not happen overnight.
A revolution has the function of igniting the spark, but it takes persistence and motivation to keep the fire burning.
And since we are already late -- we've been invited to the cookout ever since 2013 when BLM actually started as a reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin, and of course many remember past race uprisings from the Civil Right Movement era and Stonewall to LA '92 -- we need to double our efforts in order to A) make up for our complacency (obviously I am looking at the dispassionately disinclined to get involved due to their white fragility, but also at those who consider ourselves good allies, for even if we've been active so far the proof is in the pudding: despite our best attempts racism is nowhere near gone) and B) create an environment where active anti-racism is the majority’s default modus operandi so that systemic change could be possible by virtue of reaching that necessary critical mass as a society.
Listening and learning is the bare minimum at this moment. It, quite honestly, is the equivalent of "thoughts and prayers" during a crisis, and begs the question: what prevented people from listening and learning until now?! Like, seriously. We're talking about knowing and understanding the experience of a group of American citizens that has been of a crucial importance to the building of this country, about respecting the culture of a community that has a large role in the makeup of the nation's identity, and most urgently -- about valuing the lives of Black people as much as we do our own.
Sure, the Black experience is layered and nuanced, and Black culture is rich and complex, which could possibly require time and dedication to get intimately acquainted with for those who (somehow, in 2020!) still live in a bubble of
willful blissful ignorance... but it shouldn’t have taken innumerable Black deaths in the hands of the Police, and the consequent mass protests, in order to wake the heck up. That last part is crystal clear: Black. Lives. Matter, and it's high time to start acting like they do.
Doing the bare minimum of being a good ally doesn't cut it anymore. Outrage and shock, white tears, guilt, and apologies -- all that personal, emotional work must be done and over with (preferably in private and without centering ourselves), and we need to evolve to the next phase by becoming effective allies.
And how exactly, you ask? Well, that's up to you -- there are a hundred things you can change and improve in your own community, at your workplace, at your school. There's abundance of information out there, and the basics are pretty much common sense: we all need to be activists in our own right.
What Black people are NOT asking for is symbolic gestures, such as posting a black square on Instagram, painting streets, and even taking down the confederate flag or toppling monuments. Performative activism is not effective in the long run. Political reform is what is truly needed, so let's vote Trump out in November. Defunding the police, too -- I keep hearing people arguing against this concept, deeming it extreme and radical, but we have to admit that the law enforcement system is broken and corrupt, and understand that we can't trust that same system that oppresses BIPOC to be responsible for the healing and empowering of the Black community.
"Oppression refers to a combination of prejudice and institutional power that creates a system that regularly and severely discriminates against some groups and benefits other groups."
There's so much fundamental work to be done before we can begin to delve into deeper, intersectional identity issues considering that, today, even simple and obvious equality tools such as inclusion and diversity in so many social and political spheres are rare and hard-earned. So while we are doing the so called personal activist work of speaking up, fighting micro-aggressions, examining our implicit biases, donating, supporting Black businesses, and sharing our resources, etc., we also need to demand, act toward, and vote for:
Decriminalization of marijuana possession, the instating of a national standard for the use of excessive force, decolonization of history and eduction, elimination of the Black maternity mortality crisis, abolishing the prison-industrial complex, removing voter suppression legislation, closing the racial pay gap...
The key is to do this simultaneously; we can't just stop at, say, educating our children or at increased representation in media. Now's the time to decide what kind of activists we are, what is our particular role in the movement, and since the movement is not centralized or has a leader, I feel we need to employ all tools and methods available to us. We can't all be Antifa (as much as I am tempted) and protesting, as invigorating and powerful it is, is slowing down and changing form.
But protests do work.
In just a week since they began on a national scale, protests achieved more than we had done in the three and a half years since Trump's election. Minneapolis public schools terminated their police contract and the City Council approved a ban on chokeholds. The officers involved in George Floyd's murder were all charged. Six officers were charged after the violent arrest of two college protesters; two of the officers who killed Rayshard Brooks were fired and charged, and the police chief resigned in Atlanta. The Breonna law banned no-knock warrants in Louisville.
Nearly 70 percent of Americans supported the protests. They saw that people were willing to literally risk their lives to gather and stand for what they believe in during a pandemic, despite the risk of being gassed, beaten, shot with rubber bullets, and arrested. The protests served as a morale boost and inspiration even to the most moderate and "non-political" people to get involved in some way.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: everything is political, and social change is never neutral or value-free. Something gotta give. This was made obvious when companies and public figures began openly and actively supporting the fight for Black lives, and the conversation opened up (silence is violence).
Unfortunately, the fact that white people embraced the cause and joined the uprising didn't mean the injustice against Blacks would simply stop. We saw too many new fatalities, including violence against Black transgender women. Old cases of police brutality were reopened (or are being called to reopen), adding to the trauma of the Black community. We can't seem to be able to catch up and right all the wrongs without rioting and forming a mass resistance, but at the same time we also can't possibly keep up with the amount of energy this takes...
This is only natural, and textbook political science. Looking back at history, almost all revolutions have similar anatomy (see: Crane Brinton's work, albeit outdated). The stages of a revolution go something like this: incubation period, moderate phase, crisis and recovery (which, on a larger scale, correspond to the psychological process we go through when we seek personal change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, decision, action, maintenance).
I believe we are still in crisis mode. Once we are past the upcoming presidential election, we can start the way to recovery, but currently we need to find a way to maintain the momentum, stay on message, and keep the fight for equality front and center until we disrupt enough racist parts of the system so that we can start seeing palpable positive changes.
For me, this means working on a local level here in Carmel Valley. We don't have public or active extreme/alt-right groups, but we have more than enough Trump supporters, and there's a lot of privilege and denial even among the fairly liberal people who, according to my initial research, genuinely think that there's no problem with racism in our village.
I can’t operate under the assumption that the bubble will burst itself.
My personal calling during the uprising is to connect to, have a dialogue with, and mobilize local white people who are not willing to get involved because they don’t want to get political or to step outside of their privileged comfort zone.
I have to customize my approach and methods to be effective, but without compromising the values of the movement.
I aim to provoke real catharsis as opposed to a fake solidarity, and with the help of other like-minded people I hope to galvanize our community and make sure that not only we don't let it become a polarized elitist enclave/a racist small town USA, but actively turn it into a safe and welcoming place for Black people and to all people of color.
More on my progress with specific causes and plans for action soon!