Transcript vum Interview:
Magda: Hello Luxembourg, I’m sitting here with my friend and comrade Lana, and we’re talking today about the political climate since Trump’s election.
So since the election, everyday we’re confronted with a barrage of news: They’re dismantling the environmental protection agency, they’re coming up with new abortion restrictions, 5 trans people were murdered in a week. There’s a lot. But we’ve also seen some of the largest mass mobilisations in the history of this country: a historic convening of indigenous peoples at the Standing Rock reservation to protect water from the pipeline; the Women’s March, which was one of the largest assemblies in the history of this country on the day after the inauguration. You went to the Women’s March, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Lana: Yeah, so I ended up going to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and I was pretty hesitant about it. I was hesitant because a lot of the conversations about it were criticisms that it represented a lot of what White Feminism represents, and that it was prioritising the concerns of middle class white women and was exclusionary. And so I kept watching it, and then the opportunity came up for me to go and after the election I felt like there was just a lot of pause, a lot of sitting, and I needed an outlet for that. So I ended up going, and it was an incredible experience to see so many people – kids, I love kids, and it was great to see kids there – involved.
But there were also a lot of really uncomfortable moments. People had signs that were critical of Trump’s relationship with Russia, but then would also say something that was like “This is not a communist country” and be very anti-communist. There were transphobic signs, and people that were there to march were high-fiving police officers. And so, in a lot of ways, because there was a lot of white ciswomen there, it represented, you know, a mainstream white women’s movement. While it was really energizing and heartwarming to see so many people turn out and get serious recognition for women’s work, it also made very aware the work that still needs to be done.
Magda: So that work that needs to be done – Right now our energy is obviously being pulled in so many directions, not just because of how the onslaught of repression is hitting so many aspects of society here, but also with internal divisions like you just touched on with internal criticisms within the women’s movement. What does solidarity look like when we’re pulled in so many directions? What are some of the practical ways in which people are dealing with this that you’ve seen on the ground with grassroots movements building right now?
Lana: Yeah, and I think going back to the criticisms that I mentioned in the March is that coalitions are just so important. Cause, as we see, and what has been the history with women’s movements in the United States, is that when we have this type of “universal”, “united” women’s movement so to say, it’s just really representative of the dominant identities within women. So middle-class, white, cis, educated women. And that’s not a women’s movement that I want to get behind. And so I think coalitions are so important. To organise within your own community, organise locally in terms of space, where your at, but also in terms of your social positionality. White women need to go and talk to other white women, and their families, and these people they have easy access to, about the things that are happening. And when you’ve done that, then you need to show up for the people that have been doing this work. A lot of Black women in particular very rightfully said, after the Women’s March, “Where were you when we were having Black Lives Matter protests?” So I think that’s what solidarity should look like: After we saw so many people come out, those people need to stay engaged, they need to be there when women of color and queer women need them and ask them to show up.
Magda: Now talk more about organising locally. So you work at a Women’s Center at our university. And just for some context to our listeners, we’re in Oxford, Ohio – a state that voted for Trump. We’re in a rural community, in a college town that is a bastion of conservatism, and I recall during the election just driving into town, you would see yards littered with “Trump/Pence” signs.
Lana: Yeah, two components to this.
One is that, in the vein of the Women’s March, after the election, so many of these people that were not previously engaged started reaching out to the Women’s Center, starting reaching out to me personally and different organisations, wanting to get involved. But you know, we’ve been organising. With a lot of these issues, there’s been an escalation of the horribleness I guess, but the root of the problem has been here.
Magda: So it’s not new?
Lana: It’s not, it’s really not. And so when those people come to me, it’s great to say: “Thank you. Thank you for doing this, for being angry about this. But you know, this person has been working on organising LGBTQ students at Miami, has been organising Muslim students at Miami, for a while; so why don’t you talk to them? Why don’t you ask them what they need?” And with that integrating people into the work that’s been happening.
There’s another component of organising locally here that I think has been happening, that continues and has been important. You know Miami was hard to be at before the election for a lot of people just because it is so wealthy, so white, so masculinist. So there’s been a lot of informal networks that have dealt with that. Because the institutions in place don’t give resources, don’t give support to so many people here. So we support ourselves!
Something that you and I have been involved in has been the diy (“do it yourself”) arthouse type environment,…
Magda: (laughing) …the diy punk scene…
Lana: Yeah! (laughs) Which is just so incredible in a lot of ways. One in that it’s the first space I’ve been in that the doors are just always open to, in that you’ll walk into a house and people will be making art and putting it on the walls and they don’t even live there. It’s just this very community oriented space. The environment is controlled by the owners of the house.
Magda: Often queer feminist, leftist spaces.
Lana: Leftist, femme – it’s explicit in everything. If there’s anything that’s sexist, racist, transphobic, that will not be tolerated and not only will that not be tolerated but it will be dealt with by the community. This is a space where everyone should feel like they’re wholeness is accepted and embraced and loved.
Magda: And where people are held accountable personally.
Lana: Yeah, exactly! And when things have come up that’s how they’ve been dealt with and it’s so beautiful and affirming. I’ve seen it happen and I always offer to support people. Like what do you need outside of this space, for example, do you need me to walk you somewhere? You know you’re walking past all of these Trump signs, and it’s terrifying, and then if your former abuser lives in a house that has a Trump sign, what does that mean when that house is on your way to class? So having a support network to just do your everyday life is so important.
Magda: And these spaces have been such a source of radicalisation for people, right?
Lana: Absolutely! It certainly was for me and I’e seen it happen with others. Because people are so unapologetic about their traumas and I think there’s a consciousness-raising in the storytelling that happens. People are opening up, sharing their experiences because it feels like a space where they can be vlnerable in that way. I think the lived experience is told a lot more. And then the other side of that is people share academic knowledge as well in a way that just doesn’t happen in the classroom. It’s pretty common to go to these spaces and hear people having conversations or debates about different philosophies of Marxism or anarchism.
Magda: And that’s quite uncommon in this country in a way, right?
Lana: Absolutely. There’s so much fear around just those words. You say that in a classroom and the air just gets sucked out of the room. So you can’t really have a discussion about it. Saying that you’re a “liberal” here or a “democrat” is a scary thing for some people, let alone…
Magda: …a leftist.
Lana: Yeah. Which people hardly know the difference in that too. So it make those resources a lot more accessible. And that’s been huge for radicalising people and integrating them into the movement.
Magda: Were you surprised at Trump’s election?
Lana: Initially yeah, I was, because I think the whole country was. I mean the last time I smoked a cigarette was after the election, and I smoked three. And there was just this atmosphere of despair, but as a cis white woman in this country, I really thought it was important for me to sit with that, like
“Why am I shocked when my country has such a long history of this white supremacy that’s been happening and continues to happen?”
It’s more visible now, but it’s been here. So it’s not shocking, and I don’t think that it should have been shocking. And something that a faculty member said, you know, people were going to die no matter who was elected. Maybe the difference here isn’t the lives lost, but where they’re lost. That we would see maybe Americans come more under attack. And it just so happens that the president that was elected, those people that are going to die are going to be in greater numbers. So maybe that’s the difference, and it took a lot for me to recognise my privilege as being an American citizen in that way. I will not be targeted by a US drone strike probably, but other people have been – under presidents that we like to make memes about and adore. So this wasn’t a radical departure from what we’ve been doing as a country. It just has a different rhetoric around it, that maybe is more obvious.
Magda: Any last thoughts?
Lana: (chuckling) Yeah, I want to end on something a little more hopeful! I think that the movement has a lot of energy right now, and that the mainstream might be recognising the fault in a lot of the institutions that we’ve held so dear as a country for a while – such as our electoral system, the legal system, these neoliberal institutions that people think will protect them. And so I think that in the holes that are emerging, leftist movements have a huge opportunity to seize upon that, to fill those cracks. I think that that’s really, really inspiring and there’s a lot of potential. I’m not giving up.
Magda: Well thanks so much for your time!