Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Many struggles, one movement

Upon Leaving Chicago…

there are several things that i was deeply inspired by. namely, the work that local organizers did in Little Village to shut down 2 coal burning plants in the area. but there was also local youth working to shut down youth detention centers, working to open up crisis centers and stop the closure of their mental health clinics. and there was immigrant women working to expand DREAM organizing into something more holistic after asking themselves the question “why do i want to be a part of this system?” and the anti-eviction organizers that are working to get people moved into empty houses.

there was sitting in a room with almost all people of color who were working to bring a chapter of the International League of People’s Struggles to the US. and then there was the marching—right next to a massive palestinian contingent, alongside filipino students, and in front of a pro-migrant group.

but then there was other crap. like a counter summit that was brilliantly white (except for the interventions activists of color were able to make). the fact that jesse jackson kept showing up every damn where. even as local activists spoke quite passionately about how the church had failed them time and time and time again. and then there was this weird emphasis on anti-war activism by white organizers. i mean, who could be anti anti-war right? but i found myself feeling that way as more and more of the weekend passed. the anti-war rhetoric was so oddly disconnected from reality, even as it was steeped in reality…

bear with me a minute here. let me back up and try to unfold things.

lets start with this article about the closing of the the coal burning power plants.

there is nothing obviously wrong with it—in fact, it seems to be fairly supportive and actually points to local work and local activists.

but then there’s this.

Bridgeport pastor Rev. Tom Gaulke, with the Clean Power Coalition, said, “It’s nice that finally a decision was made that is good for the people, rather than good for the people who are trying to make a profit.”

In May 2011, eight Greenpeace activists climbed a 450-foot smokestack at the Fisk plant, and eight others rappelled from the Pulaski Road Bridge near the Crawford plant and dangled above the Chicago River to prevent a coal barge from passing.

The demonstrators were arrested, but the protests drew attention to the health issues created by the coal plants.

you see what happened there? local folks are grateful….and outsiders (greenpeace activists) who may or may not have been welcomed into the community (ahem) *DID SOMETHING*.

the years and years and years of work being done by organizers who *had no choice* were boiled down to “we’re so grateful” and the activists who dropped in for some drive by weekend activism—“drew attention to the health issues.”

this is the issue i have with the well meaning white dominated anti-war groups—they are grounded in this general mentality that “war is wrong” (it is) rather than being anchored in the *reality* that it devastates my community through recruitment and then denial of mental health services all to kill brown folk who never tried to kill me. or: “war is wrong” does not position white activists in a space of accountability and solidarity—it allows them to “show support” without having to link their actual communities to war torn communities.

it allows for drive by weekend activism that makes it look like they’re *doing* something—and positions (in this case) iraqis and the people of afghanistan as “grateful.’

actual solidarity and actual accountability is about looking at your actual community (the “good neighborhood” that has almost no people of color in it and wasn’t even considered as a site for the coal burning plant to go up in) and wondering—what accountability does my community have to the mexican town that’s twenty miles to the south?

this is not about “white privilege” (i.e. i have the privilege to breath clean air!).

this is about accountability. how is your community’s survival dependent on a brown community’s destruction? and what are you going to do about it?

are you going to go flying over an incoming barge like spider man? are you going to use cloth grocery bags when you buy groceries at whole foods? or are you going to ask those communities what they need? and then do every fucking thing you can do to do what they asked, including flying over a barge like spider man and licking stamps and cooking food for their meeting?

i have a whole bunch more to say about the way that the dislocation of geography plays out in activism (i.e. issue based activism instead of needs based grassroots basebuilding) and what that has to do with advancing white supremacy even with those who are really well intentioned—

but i’m off to work. i’ll have to save it for later.

have a good day, y’all.

Victoria Goff

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