How do we build broad-based, anti-racist, multiracial, feminist, class-conscious movements capable of challenging global capitalism and US imperialism? What can we learn from the largest anti-war mobilization in the history of the world that took place this past year? What does it mean for community based racial justice struggles when the AFL-CIO announces immigrant rights as it’s #1 priority and actively supports the historic Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides?
What are we learning about international solidarity as the struggle for a Free Palestine becomes more central and the Global South continues to lead the way in the global justice movement? What does it mean to look to radical leadership in oppressed communities and what roles do people coming from race, class and/or gender privileged communities play? How do mass mobilizations, like the one today, fit into a larger strategy? These are the kinds of questions that I hear people asking and when the left asks deep questions rather then knowing all the right answers, I think it’s a positive sign. Yes we need to be clear about what we think and believe (which certainly includes answers), but revolution is not an event to prepare for. Revolution is a process of transformation that we make and as Paulo Freire helped teach us, we must make the road by walking. Asking questions, with the goal of increasing our capacity to act, can move us forward.
I work with Anti-Racism for Global Justice, a project of the Challenging White Supremacy workshops. We do political education and organizing with mostly white activists in the global justice and anti-war movements. In the late 60’s the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee challenged white activists to organize other white people as a way to build the base of anti-racist radical politics in white communities. The goal was then, as it is now, to help build multiracial movements led by oppressed people. It is this political commitment that drives our work today. As white activists we know that challenging our own white privilege and internalized racial superiority is key to successful liberation struggle. We see how white privilege has undermined social change movements throughout US history and that solidarity with people of color is key to winning justice. Furthermore, successful movements require men challenging patriarchy, straight-identified people fighting heterosexism and those with class privilege looking to low-income and working class leadership to oppose capitalism.
As a white, middle class, male, I think it’s key to organize the communities that I come from – privileged communities that see themselves connected to and benefiting from the system. While there are real benefits, the costs of this system and the life affirming goals of the movement must be articulated and organized around concretely in privileged communities. Who are generally thought of as white leaders in the United States: CEO’s of the Fortune 500, Congress, George Bush? Organizing in privileged communities must mean more than challenging one’s own internalized superiority and fighting for the justice of other people. While staying grounded in historical and systemic analysis of systems of oppression and where one is located in those systems, it is imperative that our politics reflect the self-interest of the privileged to fight these systems. I believe that we need a new kind of leadership in white communities that moves people to fight both injustice and privilege. A leadership in white communities that changes how power is conceptualized and structured, changing from power over to power with. Radical white anti-racist leadership generally comes from people who are women, queers, working class, Jewish and transgendered people and that’s where we need to look for leadership.
However, I don’t believe that the shame, self-righteousness and fear that many in the US white left have used to move privileged people works. Rather then act as if we have all the answers, I want to encourage us to base our work in questions: How can we maximize what is liberatory and minimize that which is oppressive, in ourselves, in our movement and in society? How can we build a movement that brings out the best in each of us and offers the support and patience to help us all grow further? How do we live our revolutionary visions while working day by day to make step by step changes that lead to collective liberation? We know that it is critical to fight in the United States to open political space for resistance around the world. It is also critical to organize privileged communities to open up political space for resistance led by oppressed people here in the US as well. Together, another world is possible.
As we march today in opposition to war and empire and in solidarity with people’s struggles for justice around the world, let each of us think about the important roles that we play in making social change happen – in our families, workplaces, schools, communities and the world. As we move in the streets, let us feel the profound power of past movements that have made history and feel humbled in our work to make it today.
Chris Crass is a longtime anarchist organizer who is a member of the Heads Up collective and Anti-Racism for Global Justice. For more info check out www.colours.mahost.org