Notes for An Activist Struggling with Depression and Overwhelm In These Times
By Chris Crass (June 1, 2017)
I am with you.
Because I feel the grief and anguish of these times, with the recent murders of Black, Indigenous, and white people in Maryland, Washington and Oregon by white supremacists. Of Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, canceling two public speaking engagements on the West Coast, after receiving over 50 death threats. Of Linda Sarsour, a Muslim leader and a leading voice on the Left, denounced by right wing media, protested by the Alt-Right, targeted for violent threats and racist/misogynistic hate mail.
Because I feel the pain of far too many progressive/liberal white people in faith communities and in social justice efforts, pushing back against, actively undermining and marginalizing women of color leaders who are working to center the visions, values, strategies, needs, hopes and futures of communities of color in majority white faith denominations, in majority white progressive efforts, and in the hearts, imaginations, and visions of progressive white people our/their selves. In doing this monumental and visionary work, women of color are ultimately working to redeem, revive and revolutionize our justice movements, our faith traditions, our progressive/Left institutions, organizations and communities so that we can rise to the challenges and opportunities of these times.
Because I feel the push and pull, the tragedy and the organizing opportunity, the dual realities of what it means to have so many white people activated by the election. I feel the anger and frustration of “where were you when we were in the streets for Sandra Bland, for Michael Brown” and I know that white supremacy works on my people to systematically live in denial of and often in resistance to Black protest, Black leadership, and Black life and that the impact of the election is an organizing moment for anti-racist/racial justice leadership to bring large numbers of white people into the river of multiracial democratic struggle, as the Women’s March showed both the challenges and the possibilities.
Because I feel the tension of large number so white liberal/progressive people coming in without prior knowledge, without humility to look to and align with justice leadership in communities of color who have long been in the work. And I feel the need and opportunity to help support these organizing efforts, to help connect new white people to racial justice resources, to the powerful visions and voices of leaders of color, knowing that white supremacy works overtime to keep white people’s hearts blocked from truly hearing, let along uniting with, leadership of people of color.
And even though each day presents devastating news and social media anecdotes of the grassroots Left’s shortcomings, we know that our ancestors, that our elders, that the movements of the past have faced profound conditions of oppression, violence and racist reaction, and have made a way forward. We know that
Because even with anguish and pain in our hearts, we also have love and rage, and we will fight for multiracial democracy, for the future of our planet, for the future of our children.
And for those of working to unite the struggles and aspirations for change in white communities, with racial justice, we draw lessons and nourishment from the work of white abolitionists Abby Kelley and William Lloyd Garrison, running against the storm of white support for slavery, from the work of white anti-racist socialists Anne and Carl Braden, Zyphia and Myles Horton working to build up the Black Freedom Movement and bring white people into the movement.
For those of us working to destroy the death grip of white supremacy on white people’s minds, hearts and souls, we will fight in white communities to unite as many people as possible to collective liberation with racial justice at the center.
Because even through supremacy systems work to drain us of our energy, of our hope, of our belief in each other and ourselves, we know that, as Michelle Alexander reminds us, it is really Trump and the forces who elected him that are the one’s resisting the gains, the progress, the future created by women, people of color, immigrants, disabled people, LGBTQ, Muslims, white anti-racists, working class and poor communities, all of us who believe in multiracial democracy, of an inclusive society with equity and justice at the core.
We are in a fight for our lives, for our future, for the earth, and grief, depression, anguish, heartache, and tragedy are all around us, but so to is the love, resilience, beauty, magic, and ferocious courage of our people, our traditions, and the movements that fought for us.
I am with you.
And even in these times, I believe in us and I believe that we will win.