Patrisse Marie Cullors of the Black Lives Matter movement shares her thoughts on Charlottesville and the actions we need to take to move forward in the face of extreme bigotry.
Photo courtesy Patrisse Cullors.
With every meeting I organize for Black Lives Matter or other groups, I close by inviting everyone to link arms, circle up, and collectively chant Assata Shakur's words:
"It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains."
Her words remind each of us of our duty to organize every day for our liberation—the struggle for which must be rooted in abolition and the fight against white supremacy.
Despite Trump's claims, "two sides" are not to blame for the violence in Charlottesville last week, or for the spread of hateful rhetoric since. White supremacists built this country. European colonizers, the early adapters of white supremacy, plundered land in Africa and the Americas, using it as an unwilling backdrop to incredible physical, psychological, and spiritual devastation. In the United States, white supremacists organized lynchings of black folks, terrorized our communities and entire families, burned crosses in front of our homes and churches, and physically brutalized our people. These histories continue to manifest in the fabric of our country today: Our education system perpetuates the false mythology that our children are less capable scholastically; the healthcare system is inaccessible to millions, especially to people of color; black mortality rates in this country are soaring, and non-consensual corporate pipeline and mining projects continue to target indigenous lands.
The violence in Charlottesville is nothing new; however, it's startling nonetheless. Mainstream media coverage exposes what black communities have endured, fought against, and known to be true for over two centuries in this country and over half a millennium of enslavement and repression on this continent.
But more importantly, black history is also rich in its history of struggle, strength, and hope in the face of adversity. We are resilient and we are determined to rebuild our communities. We organize for a better society—one that is not rooted in our surveillance, imprisonment, exploitation, and genocide. Black Lives Matter and other organizations led by or made up of people of color are taking a united stand against white supremacy in this country and beyond. We envision a society that addresses our country's issues holistically and values black lives, and we accept nothing short of that.
Since the violence in Charlottesville, many conversations have fallen in line with the common narrative for more resources for "public safety," which often translates to "more policing."
We need to continue talking about public safety, but those conversations should be grounded in what actually keeps us safe from the violence of white supremacy, such as equal access to culturally-relevant education, universal health care, accessible and affordable housing, and dignified employment, among other things. If we are determined to dismantle this country's white supremacist values—those that strip our communities of our fundamental human rights—these qualities are too important to keep out of any and all conversations on "public safety."
We will heal together, we will organize together, and we will fight back together.
Today, we stand at a tipping point: We have the opportunity to change the debate and radically transform the very fabric of America. A majority of Americans are ready for a country that honors the civil and human rights of all people—through its monuments and memorials, yes, but also through its social and political structures. We are ready for a country that is rooted in the values it has claimed to believe in. It is our duty to tear all the Confederate monuments down.
During times like this, building power is critical. Building coalitions is necessary. The current administration and its refusal to strike down on white supremacy is one challenge—but it is not representative of the entire battle we face.
Our true challenge? We must organize. We must continue to fight against white supremacy, and we must do so with love for one another as we carefully hold tight to our dreams for a better future. Although protesting is a significant part of our the resistance, we need everyone to continue fighting after the marches have ended: to join local organizations committed to fighting back against racism.
So I ask you to gather your neighbors and break bread with your community. We will heal together, we will organize together, and we will fight back together. Together, we will ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. Once again, we have nothing to lose but our chains.