Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, it’s quite evident that the world is going to Hell in huge plastic totes.
Political disasters are bombarding people simultaneously: the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the appointment of Betsy DeVos, the defunding of more than seventeen federal programs that greatly benefit the working class, and most recently the immigration ban that prevents even documented immigrants and refugees from returning to the United States for 90 days. While anti-Trump protestors target the newly appointed president, it is later revealed that Chief Strategist/Ex-Nazi Promoter Steven Bannon is the co-author of these executive orders.
The Left responds in drones, protesting major airlines while taxis driven by immigrants refuse to provide services in solidarity. Most of us crowded the streets with signs, posted articles on our blogs and updates on our statuses. When Uber CEO Travis Kalanick becomes a member of Trump’s Advisory Council, the response is a boycott that costs the transportation company millions, making Kalanick drop out of the council. The resistance is powerful, beautiful to witness and—in some cases—be a part of.
Yet while reading updates about the immigration ban resistance on my computer screen, I’ve become increasingly numb and irritable, mentally and emotionally shutting down when scrolling down my newsfeed. Eventually, I’d exit out of my browser, feeling psychologically jarred by statues about the Islamophobic executive orders Trump placed into motion with a stroke of a pen. I’ve since reduced my Facebook usage by only using it to either schedule social outings, post a few articles, or to write a status.
Another reason is the infighting among Leftists in all factions. The debates between and vague statuses about radicals, liberals, Democrats, Anarchists, and Socialists have become increasingly acidic. Though I blame this behavior on Call-out culture and intellectual elitism, I also believe that elevating uncertainties for the world’s future triggers the recent disputes. The intensity of the drama unfolding on my Facebook feed has affected my writing to a certain extent. I was a day away from completing an article about the Liberal/Radical divide, but had difficulty even looking at it.
It has taken me distancing myself from social media to realize the reason behind my reaction: we Leftists remain discordant towards one another, the distrust elevating to near-critical levels. Many of us can’t even have a political discussion on social media (or in person) without it resorting to a battle of wills. And this petty shit needs to cease effective immediately—especially if we are to revolutionize this world.
Because let’s be real: To obtain political power, we must realize that none of us has the Ultimate Answer to dismantle this system. This requires all Leftists to thoroughly evaluate, question, and challenge their assumptions and ideologies about one another. Are all Democrats or Liberals unwilling to distance themselves from their privilege? Are most of them White people who only chant “Black Lives Matter” to earn ally points? Is it accurate for Leftists who believe in the system to brand Anarchists or other radicals as violent towards entire establishments? In fact, from where did these stereotypes derive and what purpose do they serve other than to cause unnecessary division?
The mainstream and some independent media outlets play a role publicizing the detrimental assumptions about Leftists. They observe the actions of certain factions, magnify it, and report on the dramatic moments exclusively. We verify these generalizations by using some of our personal interactions with one another as evidence. This is the reason why radical groups like the Black Bloc are considered destructive while Liberals and Democrats are deemed spineless. When focusing on differences, we Leftists fail to establish the trust necessary to collaborate on innovative tactics to resist oppressive industrial complexes.
Forming trust among each other also involves inner reflection and the ability to accept constructive criticism. I remember the backlash people of color and/or transwomen received after critiquing the National Women’s March. The former rightfully argue that the nationwide campaign have excluded them by adhering to White cis-female feminism. Instead of hearing them out, many of the participants (mostly White women) accuse these marginalized demographics of divisiveness—a tactic often used to silence. Even here in Rochester, organizers of the Solidarity March have come under scrutiny when one of them gave a shout out to the city’s police department. Some of the commentators (White folks) defend this status, stating that the cops have provided services worth noting.
Journalist Jake Fuentes writes “stop believing that protests alone do much good. Protests galvanize groups and display strong opposition, but they’re not sufficient. Not only are they relatively ineffective at changing policy, they’re also falsely cathartic to those protesting. Protesters get all kinds of feel-good that they’re among fellow believers and standing up for what’s right, and they go home feeling like they’ve done their part. Even if protesters gain mild, symbolic concessions, the fact that their anger has an outlet is useful to the other side. Do protest, but be very wary of going home feeling like you’ve done your job. You haven’t.”
Though he is referring to those protesting the immigration ban, his statement is very fitting for those who support oppressive organizations. What some of the Solidarity March folks don’t understand is that their Whiteness protects them from being harassed and/or murdered by law enforcement during a peaceful demonstration. Unlike Black and non-Black activists (and even our White accomplices), many of the participants will return home safely with the feeling of accomplishment and without the fear of police brutality. So if these particular individuals feel too obligated to study the history of law enforcement and the mistrust towards this industrial complex, they are not worth fucking with.
However, not all liberals (regardless of ethnicity) aren’t blinded by the system and second-wave feminism. In fact, many of us radical Leftists fail to recognize the Liberals that are down for what we do. These folks who attend our rallies or organizational meetings, but cannot devote themselves fully for whatever reason. These are also the ones who check their White friends (without the hope to earn cookies), incorporate intersectionality into their political and personal work. In fact, some of them have agreed with the radicals who’ve confronted the Liberals and Democrats thanking the police on the Solidarity March page. So if we are staunchly against working alongside these radicalized liberals, we have to ask ourselves why and what is hindering our ability to do so.
Trust also involves the acceptance of non-traditional forms of activism such as online, radio, and literary activism, slam poetry—among others. Many Leftists (regardless of age or generation) often dismiss non-traditional activism because it doesn’t involve able-bodied direct action. “Please stop acting like social media activists ain’t shit,” states online activist/Ratchet Feminist Fiyah Angelou. “Those are the ones that give your movements additional momentum. They use their platforms to support you and in return you foolishly minimize their contributions. These are the ones that share your shit and encourage people to be active in this movement these folks keep your street activism relevant. Stop that ableist shit!! The revolution will be accessible. The revolution will be revolutionized!!”
Angelou is absolutely correct in her assessment regarding non-traditional activism. Many activists with hectic work/school schedules, family duties, issues with trauma and/or disabled cannot (or will not) engage in direct action. They instead exercise other means to remain involved in their communities as well as the general population. Activists such as Love Life of An Asian Guy, AO Anderson, and Fiyah Angelou use their Facebook pages to serve as a platform to educate and engage their audiences. To completely disregard the influence of non-traditional activism by deeming it a waste of effort is not only insulting but ableist.
Why am I writing this? Because, as a Black Radical, I’m wanting my fellow Leftists to pull themselves together and function as a collective juggernaut. I want us to become more radicalized—if not shove our ideological differences aside to shut down the government and the industrial complexes employed by it. And from where I’m sitting, we Leftists really don’t have much of a choice.