Tag Archives: colonialism

Post the Eighth 2 or On Juneteenth and Modern Day Slavery

I want to start this by saying as a non-black Latin@ that I have less of a stake in this. While my people today are subject to increased targeting by the prison-industrial complex, my people were not subject to slavery in the North. As a mestiza from Colombia and Puerto Rico, I am unsure of what legacy I have with colonization and slavery. I write this for my non-black sisters and brothers, so that we can talk about the ways that slavery still effect us.

Today is Juneteenth. It is the day that commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas. While the Emancipation Proclamation made slavery illegal in all of the United States in 1863, it didn’t roll out to all of the states until 1865 when the Union army came to Texas to enforce it 2 years later. In fact, Texas down right ignored the Emancipation Proclamation and the Union army had to take over the Texas government to make it happen.

Today is a day of celebration. It is the marking of a great victory. The liberation of a people from bondage. It is a commemoration that change can happen. And that often the change only comes at the point of a gun. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Union army, or even Abraham Lincoln, freed the slaves because the believed in the liberation of the slaves. It was all about winning the war and having Texas conform to the federal law. Lincoln himself said that if he could have won the war without freeing slaves, he would have.

Which brings me to today. Yes, we should celebrate. Because something is better then nothing. However, our work as abolitionist is not done. We are not yet free. You see, when Lincoln wrote the 13th amendment, he outlawed slavery except when it was the punishment of a crime. Slavery is still legal. And the prison-industrial complex is the logical extension of chattel slavery. Black and brown people are still being targeted at an alarming rate for incarceration. The sentences that black and brown people face are much harsher then for their white counterparts. And all too often they are convicted of crimes that were necessary for their survival. The inheritance of slavery is still plain to see in the generational poverty that Black folks have and the generational wealth that white folks have access too.

Whats more, folks who are funneled into the prison system then become virtually free labor for multinational corporations. Companies like Victoria Secret, Microsoft, Forever 21, Boeing etc all use prison labor to make their products. And these prisoners make pennies a day. On top of that, private prisons are booming and the prison industry is now a many billion dollar industry. The government and corporations are still reaping profit from the bodies of black and brown people. And it starts young. Young people of color are being targeted at alarming rates by schools and are being funneled into the prison system. And once in, it is very difficult to escape.

The prison-industrial complex is the result of 400 hundred years of colonial, patriarchal and capitalist violence. It is the tool of the state to continue to commit genocide against black and brown communities. Instead of private ownership, bodies are now owned by the state and given to the profit of corporations.

The other thing that is interesting to me is how the movement against human trafficking has capitalized on the term “modern day slavery” to paint women who are trafficked as helpless victims. Don’t get me wrong, I think that human trafficking is a terrible thing that should be stopped. No one should be forced to do things against their will. However, the response that anti-human trafficking advocates have is to further criminalize sex work and to rely on state power and incarceration. This not only makes things harder for sex workers who aren’t trafficked but also doesn’t address the underlying reasons for human trafficking, namely colonial and state violence. All of the solutions that the mainstream anti-trafficking movements advocates for actually make the lives of trafficked women harder. All the while obscuring the very real ways bodies are being owned here in the US. Because the anti-human trafficking movement frames the problem as something that happens in other countries and not here in the US. And that the way to save all of those poor brown women is through imperial violence and conquest.

But the state will not protect you. You cannot solve a problem with the problem. And we are none of us free, until we are all free.

(Check out this post for more information on prison abolition and anarchist people of color.) 

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Post the Ninety-Fifth or The Root of Violence

As some of you may know, I’ve recently started working at the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It is an amazing organization that is open 24/7 and provides support for victims, as well as family and friends, of domestic violence. We do everything from connect callers to local resources to just providing a space to listen. I also really enjoy the work. It is nice to be in an empowering space that is committed to worker wellness. Advocacy work is very satisfying for me and it allows me to deepen my analysis around social justice and liberation. I’m learning so much here and I know that I also have a lot to give.

One thing that I’ve gotten some more nuanced understanding is around the topic of space. I’ve written several essays here, and in other places, about the necessity of space in order to thrive in any situation. We need living space, work space, social space, emotional space etc.

In cases of domestic violence, the survivor is often robbed of most, if not all, space. All of the tactics that the abuser uses to maintain power and control in a relationship center around stealing space. Whether is it keeping someone isolated from friends in family or not allowing them to get a job or sexually assaulting them, they are all a robbing of space and of agency. The survivor is not allowed the space to have meaningful, loving and supportive friendships. They are not allowed the space to work and be economically independent. They are not given the space to make their own, unconstrained sexual choices.

And I got to thinking about this. What if the root of all marginalization, of all violence, was the theft of space? I began to think about colonialism and the displacement of indigenous people. Was that not the theft of space, the robbing of land? Colonist comes in and steal the space that once belonged to others and with that theft also stole their agency. I thought about slavery and how that is probably the greatest theft of space. And of course, domestic violence is a theft of space.

Even the most recent shooting in Connecticut is about the theft of space. The lack of funding for mental health programs create a situation where there is no space for someone who has a mental disorder to get the help they need. The abundance of gun access creates a situation where people who are violent for any reason can restrict and control the space of others. And all of this is 400 hundred years in the making. The latest iteration of violence created by a system that controls and steals the space of certain kinds of people. The theft of space, and violence itself, is more than just individual acts. It is a systemic inevitability. The way our society is structured makes it so that violence cannot help but happen. The system is rigged for it.

One of the things that we learn here as advocates is that we aren’t here to fix the caller’s problem. We are not here to save them or rescue them. Rather, we are there to empower the caller to solve their own problems. Because in the end, saving them does nothing to address the root cause of the problem.  We connect them to the resources near them so that they can decide what the best course of action is for themselves. We use active listening and empathy to facilitate the creation of space. And if the root of violence is the theft of space, than facilitating the creation of space is counteracting that violence. The space that is created allows for movement. And with movement, comes change. The creation of space allows for empowerment and the beginning of unconstrained choices.

The key to fighting violence is the creation of space. If we are going to bring justice to this world, then we need to facilitate the creation of space for ourselves. We need to carve out our space. We need to engage in deeply listening to one another and become stewards of one another’s trauma. This also means that we need to take care of ourselves. This also means listening to ourselves, to our bodies. It means that we trust ourselves and build community with those around us.

In the end, we cannot save the world. But we can try to open up space so that it can save itself. We can open up space so that each individual can save themselves.


Post the Forty-Eighth or Enough

I am fucking pissed

Pissed that I am the legacy of a 400 years of

Colonialism

Slavery

And Genocide

Pissed that after 400 hundred years

It hasn’t gone away

It’s just disguised itself in a million different forms

Like youth of color being pushed out of their schools

Or communities of color being microcolonized by gentrification

Or how I can’t walk down the street without some asshole thinking that because I’m pretty

And brown

That I should be his whenever he wants

Or that I have to yell

And scream

And stamp my feet

And get upset

Before white queers will listen to what I have to say

Or how people can make racist jokes

And pass it off as not racist

Or how when I say enough is enough

And I claim a space for my own

And I stop letting white people’s privilege slide unchecked

They call me racist

I’m fucking pissed

And I am done apologizing for it!

I have a right to my anger

And sorrow

I have wounds that will probably never heal

And fuck you if you can’t deal with that

Fuck you if that makes you upset

Fuck you if you can’t handle my anger

Because while you can just walk away

And ignore it

I

Never

Can