After Ferguson

Maria Svart Interviews Darnell L. Moore

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Darnell L. Moore

After Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, this past summer, writer and educator Darnell L. Moore helped organize, with Patrisse Cullors, the Black Lives Matter ride over the Labor Day weekend.  This action brought protesters to Ferguson to join the ongoing demonstrations against police brutality and increased militarization of the police. DSA National Director Maria Svart spoke with Moore soon after his return from #FergusonOctober, a mass mobilization attended by thousands of people from around the country, including some DSAers. Brown and Svart discussed building a movement against both capitalism and the so-called “colorblind” system of race relations that sustains white supremacy.

Maria Svart: Let’s start really big picture. Can you define white supremacy and how it intersects with capitalism, since there is a long history on much of the ideological left of treating racism as secondary to capitalist exploitation? How does white supremacy relate to #BlackLivesMatter?

Darnell L. Moore: White supremacy is an ideology that fosters systemic forms of racial discrimination, such as political disenfranchisement, economic deprivation, educational inequities, and poor health outcomes. It is based on the idea that white people are inherently superior to people of color. White people overwhelmingly control the corporate class—and benefit disproportionally from the labor of non-white workers—despite the fact that under capitalism all types of people are differently exploited regardless of who holds power. #BlackLivesMatter is a political intervention in a society, within a political system, that is antagonistic to black people.

MS: Alicia Garza, one of the founders of #BlackLivesMatter, mentioned in a post on The Feminist Wire, where you are a managing editor/partner, that part of the message of the campaign is that “when black people get free, everybody gets free.” Can you unpack that a bit?

DM: First, the black struggle for liberation is expansive enough to include the specific struggles of all people of color living under the weight of global white supremacy as well as the struggles of poor and working-class whites. It is possible, however, for poor and working-class whites to reinforce anti-blackness. Second, anti-blackness is so pervasive among whites and non-whites that it even shapes the ways we black folk see ourselves. The fight against white supremacy is truly intersectional. Given that, #BlackLivesMatter is a call for all people to wrestle with anti-blackness. 

MS: Narrowing down to the specific issues of police brutality and mass incarceration, what Michelle Alexander has called “the new Jim Crow,” what would be the elements of an ideal system of justice? How could the state be truly responsive to the community? What would “winning” look like?

DM: It wouldn’t look like anything we have now. We have to stop thinking of the justice system as that which can only be achieved by the state. The carceral state cannot be both the problem and the solution. An ideal system of justice, or a just society, is one free from an increasingly corporatized prison system, a society where we fix the problems (that is, poverty, educational inequity, racism, sexism, inequality, employment, to name some) and not react to the effects of the problems. We want communities where “justice” for victims of crime is humane accountability that rehabilitates people who commit crimes and restores relationships, when possible. The state could do more to ensure resources are used to redress various forms of structural inequalities as opposed to exacerbating them, like supporting successful restorative justice or community-developed and -driven crime-reduction programs.

MS: We’ve heard a lot about how the leadership of young women of color has been central to the Ferguson rebellion, and in fact, #BlackLivesMatter was founded by queer women of color. Why do you think that is, and why is it important?

DM: #BlackLivesMatter was conceptualized by three black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. And, yes, black women have been and continue to be on the front lines in Ferguson and so many other places. It is important to acknowledge this fact because racial justice cannot be achieved if our concept of justice is one that focuses on cisgender heterosexual men only. Too often, patriarchy, able-bodied centeredness, class stratification, and queer/trans antagonism hinder our racial justice work. When we say black lives matter, we mean all black lives. 

MS: What are some of the new (or perhaps not so new) forms of organizing going on today around police brutality? Young folks in Ferguson, in Florida, in Ohio, and elsewhere, are experimenting with new forms of activism.

DM: Younger organizers are using various tools: new media technologies like Twitter, Vine, and Tumblr have allowed them to tell the story from their perspectives on the ground and to create counter-narratives beyond the limited and skewed stories the media have chosen to air. They have used cultural productions, such as hip-hop, as a source of inspiration for their protests and as a means to galvanize comrades. One of the actions I participated in during the #FergusonOctober Weekend of Resistance consisted of a peaceful protest held at night. We marched from the site where the Vonderrit Myers memorial is placed in the Shaw neighborhood. [Myers was shot by an off-duty police officer working as a security guard on October 9, 2014.] We ended up in a gentrified business district in St. Louis called The Grove and shut one of the main intersections down while chanting, “They think it’s a game.” Youth organizers literally began playing games (i.e. Twister, double Dutch, dodge ball) in the middle of the street. It was genius. 

MS: I usually feel a visceral rage when I hear about the latest incident of police violence and profiling (and the response from folks who don’t think it’s a problem at all). How can individuals and organizations take that immediate rush of energy and put it to good use to build long-term capacity to fight for justice?

DM: We have to move from reactive to proactive responses. This moment has activated folks from around the world, and we can use the energy to do work in our local communities. We have to see incidents like Mike Brown’s shooting as indicative of a larger problem. It isn’t isolated, and once we understand that, it might move us to work to ameliorate police brutality, racial profiling, capitalist exploitation, educational inequities, and other structural forms of oppression in the communities we hail from. #BlackLivesMatter has issued a series of demands, for example, that folks can push in their local communities. 

MS: For individual DSA members or local chapters, what are the best first steps to take to begin to make racial justice central to our activism? In my mind, it starts with educating ourselves and “showing up” in solidarity. Can you suggest some initial steps and some key blogs (including The Feminist Wire, of course!) or books to read and some things to keep in mind when engaging in anti-racist activism as a socialist?

DM: Self-reflexive analysis is a first step. Beyond analyzing whose feet are on our necks, we have to analyze whose necks our feet are on. We are all, in some ways, both oppressed and oppressor, and it behooves us to figure that out. Second, our work must be guided by multi-variable politics. We have to figure out which bodies are missing from our advocacy platforms and begin to center them in our work. I am thinking here of the recent state and philanthropic focus on boys and men of color through public-private initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper, for example. MBK is a clear example of an initiative designed to ameliorate structural oppression that leaves some out, namely black and brown girls and women. I read blogs like BlackGirlDangerous, Black Youth Project, TransGriot, For Harriet, Crunk Feminist Collective, and Son of Baldwin and follow the writings of Brittney Cooper, Mychal Denzel Smith, Jelani Cobb, Melissa Harris-Perry, Janet Mock, Kortney Ziegler, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Robin D.G. Kelley, Angela Davis, Cathy Cohen, and many others. 

This article originally appeared in the winter 2014 issue of the Democratic Left magazine.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership.
Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

Grassroots Fundraising: Paying for the Revolution (9pm Eastern)

June 23, 2017
· 45 rsvps

Are you new to socialist organizing? Or after many years do you still struggle, raising money from members when you need it but without a steady flow of income or budget to plan ahead? Are you afraid to tackle fundraising because it seems so daunting or you are uncomfortable asking people for money?

In this webinar, you will learn why fundraising is organizing, and how to do it – face to face, through fundraising events, and other ideas.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

Instructor:

  • Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

Training Details:

  1. Workshops are free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have preferably headphones or else speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt talt@igc.org.
  5. If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt schmittaj@gmail.com 608-355-6568.
  6. Participation requires that you register at least 21 hours in advance -- by midnight Thursday for Friday's webinar.

NOTE: This training is scheduled for 9:00pm Eastern Time (8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific, 5 pm Alaska, 3 pm Hawaii).

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 63 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"
WHEN: 9PM EST, 6PM PST

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/9173276528

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 8 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.