White supremacy continues to happen

Interview mam Lana Pochiro, feministesch Aktivistin aus den USA. Den interview ass gekierzt, di ganz versioun an d’Radioversioun ass op jonklenk.lu ze fannen.

D’Lana Pochiro studéiert Politikwëssenschaften an Urbanismus an den USA zu Oxford, Ohio an schafft do ob der Uni an engem Women’s Center. Hatt beschäftegt sech mat Reproductive Justice an Amerika an natirlech och mat deenen rezenten Changementer an der amerikanescher Politik.

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.
Since the election, a lot has happened. They’re dismantling the environmental protection agency, they’re coming up with new abortion restrictions, 5 trans people were murdered in a week. 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 about that?

Lana: 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, that it was exclusionary. And there were 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 very anti-communist. There were transphobic signs, and people that were there to march were high-fiving police officers. So, in a lot of ways, because there was a lot of white ciswomen there, it represented 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, like the criticisms within the women’s movement. What does solidarity look like in this context?

Lana: Going back to the criticisms of the March, 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, it’s just really representative of dominant identities, of middle-class, white, cis, educated women. And that’s not a women’s movement that I want to get behind.
So I think coalitions are so important. To organise within your own community, organise locally in terms of space, 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. 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?”

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 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. What has your organising looked like here?

Lana: In the vein of the Women’s March, after the election, so many of these people that were not previously engaged started reaching out, wanting to get involved. I think it’s important to integrate people into the work that’s been happening. When those people come to me, I thank them, but I also tell them that the root of the problem has been here. So I tell them to talk to the people who have been doing this and ask them what they need.
What has also been and continues to be really important here is building informal networks, because the institutions in place don’t give resources or support to so many people here. So we support ourselves! Something that we have been involved in has been the diy (“do it yourself”) arthouse type environment, the diy punk scene, which is just so incredible in a lot of ways.

One in that it’s a space where the doors are just always open.

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 a very community oriented space. Often queer, leftist, femme spaces – 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. 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 it’s terrifying, you’re walking past all of these Trump signs, and then if your former abuser lives in one of these houses, 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’ve seen it happen with others. Because people are so unapologetic about their traumas, there’s a consciousness-raising in the storytelling that happens. 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. 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?”

So it’s not shocking, and I don’t think that it should have been shocking. And something that a faculty member said is that 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.
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.
But 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *