The violence in Charlottesville last weekend that resulted in three dead and dozens injured has left the US reeling. For many of us in the V-Day and One Billion Rising movements, it has been a time of action, speaking out against hate and also of mourning, re-traumatization, fear and anger. Many activists have reached out asking what they can do to fight back against the white supremacist ideology that is spewing out of the White House and those who US President Trump has emboldened by his vitriolic words, weak acknowledgements, and incendiary tweets.
With a racist sexual predator in the US Presidency, now is the time for all of us to take action and deeply understand the systemic racism and violent misogyny that are behind this historical moment.
Below you will find some suggestions from Color of Change and the Movement for Black Lives. We encourage you to take up their calls, and engage with your local V-Day and OBR networks to come together and plan local community responses. At times like this, showing up for each other is the best first step. We will continue to share calls to actions over the coming weeks over e-blast and our social media (Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter).
Words from our Founder, Eve Ensler
In June, the African American Policy Forum – co-founded by V-Day board member Kimberlé Crenshaw – celebrated its 20th anniversary, at which Eve spoke. As the violence in Charlottesville unfolded – for those of us who were in the room that night – her words rang out. What follows is an excerpt:
“Every white person in this country is born in a racist world. The work is to unmake yourself, decolonize yourself, to engage in the project, to give yourself fully to this project. It’s a life project and it requires every bit of your being and devotion. Which is why I don’t believe in allies. Ally implies I am helping you with your problem. The struggle to end racism is actually the problem of white people in the same way that ending violence against women is the problem of men. Turns out we don’t rape ourselves. But another added injustice to the many injustices is that not only does racism undermine, devastate, destroy black folks then they are the ones who spend their days fixing it.
Solidarity implies it is all of our problem. That we are in this equally together. Allyship suggests distance and comfort. Solidarity implies something more daring, more direct, more radical, more consuming, more committed, crossing lines, taking the struggle upon ourselves. Making it our own, doing the hard painful work of excavating the history embedded in our DNA. To know black people, to be in relationship with black people, to be in solidarity. Solidarity means I am in this struggle as deeply as I can be. Something easy about being an ally. When the going gets tough you can step away. Something patronizing about being an ally. It reminds me of tolerance. I despise the word tolerance.
It implies that I am tolerating you. Giving me the position of authority to be the one who tolerates. Tolerates is not the same as accept. Or love or become. Ally implies an inside and an outside. Solidarity, a bond of unity between individuals, united around a common goal or against a common enemy racism. It’s time now to put our white asses on the line for the freedom of our black sisters and brothers time to be willing to forfeit our privilege and status. Time to admit the devastation of a racist ideology and framework. Time to stop criticizing the tactics or methods or emotions of revolutionary movements like Black Lives Matter or Say Her Name that rise with bravery, heart, vision, passion, patience and heroic kindness in response to the most grotesque atrocities, murders, degradations, terror, isolation and exclusion. Because nothing will change until we are willing to shut up and listen and serve, willing to stop making it about us: our feelings, our hurts, our guilt.
Can we own our selfishness and fear and need for comfort and our desperation for power? Can we give ourselves in service without directing or determining? Can we walk behind black folks or beside them? Can we allow ourselves to get close, real close, and rub up against the burning pain of those we have abused and enslaved, raped, incarcerated, shot, lynched, ignored, diminished and degraded?
From my favorite writer James Baldwin: “The white man’s unadmitted–and apparently, to him, unspeakable–private fears and longings are projected onto the Negro. The only way he can be released from the Negro’s tyrannical power over him is to consent, in effect, to become black himself, to become a part of that suffering and dancing country that he now watches wistfully from the heights of his lonely tower and, armed with spiritual traveller’s checks, visits surreptitiously after dark.”
Can we become part of that dancing and suffering country and not make black people responsible for our guilt and neglect? Can we stop punishing people we have harmed for reminding us we have harmed them? Can we be that honest, that generous, that vulnerable, that humble that we are able to provide support and kinship without being thanked or getting credit?
Can we serve without expecting to be worshipped? Can we stop issuing instructions and offer our bodies for action instead? Can we make this terrible wrong of racism the center of our thought and moral occupation?
The truth is we are as much sinew as we are symbol. Our whiteness is our skin color, but it’s also a torn sheet draping the dead, a flag of privilege that will not surrender, a town called separateness and power. Our whiteness is that poisonous sky right before it rains, the color of shame.
So can we sit and be still for a minute and let the onerous truth and sorrow and history wash over us? Then, in that cataclysmic silence, when we have touched into the tidal wave of our responsibility, we will know what lengths we have to go, what risks we will have to take to dismantle this mad hatred. And how fiercely we will have to love to right this wrong.”
– Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising, in a speech given on 11 June 2017 at the 20th anniversary event for the African American Policy Forum, NYC.
The Movement for Black Lives: To mark the one week anniversary of Charlottesville, Movement for Black Lives is calling on people to take action on 19 August, this coming Saturday, at local institutions of white supremacy. They are also calling on people to pressure local Charlottesville officials to respond to the racist white supremacist ideology and the events of last weekend.
Color of Change: Color of Change has issued this series of strategic actions responding to the tragedy in Charlottesville. We urge you to share them in your communities and get deeply involved in the fight for racial justice and against hate in your communities.
1.) End corporate funding of hate groups: calling on credit card companies to stop processing fees for white nationalist/supremacist sites, cutting off their funding and hobbling their ability to do their work.
2.) Remove Confederate Symbols & Effigies: organizing communities to pull down confederate monuments.
3.) Media Accountability: Holding media responsible for language and representation, targeting a set of hosts and influencers and eventually going after funding.
4.) Quit the Council: calling on CEO’s to quit the trump business council.