June 30, 2020

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor Quote

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We can’t win with the idea that only black people can fight for black people, white people should fight for working class white people, Latinos should only fight for themselves. We can’t win that way. And we have a lifetime of experience over the previous century that is proof of that. And I like to think of myself as an Afro optimist. I think that the black struggle in this country has been a source of inspiration for people around the world, because this is the most exploitative, the most oppressive country, just simply because it has the resources to be different. You know, this is not a struggling republic that has no money and resorts to brute force in order to eke out an existence. This is the richest country in the history of the world, where its ruling class deliberately sets poor and working class people in opposition to each other, to maintain wealth at the top of our society. And we acquiesce to that politically by reinforcing the lines of division that they have drawn in the first place. And so we have to think about solidarity as not an exercise in finding the least contentious issue around which to organise, so that’s not what we’re arguing for. We’re arguing for an informed solidarity based on an understanding of the oppression of black people and a rejection of it, an understanding of the oppression and exploitation of immigrant labour in the United States and a rejection of it. And that’s hard. It is hard. But there’s no other way. There’s no shortcut. There’s no way to circumvent the need for what Combahee talked about as coalition-building and the need for what is actually playing out in the streets right now, which is a multiracial rebellion against capitalism and the excesses of it. And so people want to be in a movement. People want to be a part of an effort to transform this country. And no one should be told that you can’t be a part of it, you know? And so to me, that’s part of what it means to democratise our movements, to open them up and to struggle. You know, we have to struggle with each other. And we can’t have this kind of sacrosanct approach to politics where you don’t get to say the wrong thing. You don’t get to make a mistake. And if you do, then you’re banished from organising. Because the reality is if that is the standard that we are creating, then we’ll never have a mass movement of ordinary people who’d make those mistakes and say those things all the time. And so if it’s you and your 12 friends who had your American studies seminar and your women’s studies seminar, and you figured out what all the language is, then that’s great, and good luck. But if we’re actually going to build a movement of the masses who are affected by this, then we have to have some grace, then we have to listen to people. We have to understand what their struggles are. And we have to find a way to knit ourselves together into a force that can actually fight for the world that we want. And that’s hard. And it’s much harder than just saying ‘you people go to the back because you haven’t experienced what it’s like to be called the N word’. We’re not going to get anywhere with that. And we have to have a different vision of politics to fight for the kind of world that we want.

- Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, from the interview How do you change things?



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