I’ve found it hard to think of little else other than our country’s future, by which I mean the futures of my friends of color, my queer friends, my disabled friends—the list goes on. I am grateful for Twitter, where writers and activists I admire remind me that what is happening is not normal, that we must resist as long as it takes. There are stories here about the Native-led protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, folks standing up to Donald Trump and his white supremacist cronies, and prisoners striking against their miserable living conditions in a racist system. As journalist Masha Gessen writes, “The citizens have posted guard.”
1. “Why We Must Protest.” (Masha Gessen, LitHub, November 2016)
Masha Gessen is one of the writers I’m thankful for. Yesterday I read her essay in the New York Review of Books, “Trump: The Choice We Face.” Gessen writes about her great-grandfather, a member of a Nazi-appointed Jewish council in his home ghetto, relating his position to the complicity we Americans may come to understand sooner than we think. I cried as I read. The NYRB essay led me to the one I’ve highlighted here, where Gessen examines and defends protest for the sake of protest.
2. “Protesting the NPI: A Case Study in Living the Unreal.” (Abbey Mei Otis, Full Stop, November 2016)
Like Masha Gessen, Abbey Mei Otis emphasizes the importance of preserving the integrity of our imaginations:
The opposition to a violent, alienating world must continue in the streets, every moment, everywhere, but it cannot end there. This is also, as Spencer makes clear, a fight for the imaginary. The white supremacists understand the power of the impossible, the visionary—they have fed this ideal to their people for decades and now suddenly are poised at its realization. If they can do it, so must we.
You may have seen the horrifying photos of young white men and women hailing Donald Trump’s victory–complete with Nazi-style salutes–but it’s unlikely you saw photos of the hundreds of people who gathered to protest the white supremacist National Policy Institute in Washington D.C. earlier this month. Otis was among the protestors who stood in the cold for hours outside the Reagan Building and Maggiano’s Little Italy. Otis estimates there were twice as many protesters as conference attendees, yet their presence was virtually ignored by large media outlets. In this beautiful essay, Otis posits it is time to reject the lure of normality and its institutions:
“It is not enough to avow your hatred of Nazis. It is not even enough to chant in the streets. You can also reject the narrative set before you as the one that must prevail. You can choose to root yourself unshakably in love, in the belief in your comrades and their potential, in our perpetual ability to confront the brutal structures around us and transform them, again and again, into something kinder and more just and more true. “
3. “The Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Is Unprecedented — And 150 Years In The Making.” (Anne Helen Petersen, BuzzFeed News Reader, September 2016)
The United States government has trampled or ignored Native American rights for hundreds of years. Anne Helen Petersen reports from Standing Rock, where Native tribes from across the country have come together to protect their water and sacred land. And at The Fader, Braudie Blais-Billie interviewed “6 Indigenous Activists on Why They’re Fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
4. “This Week May See the Largest Prison Strike in US History” and “At Least 24,000 Inmates Have Staged Coordinated Protests in the Past Month. Why Have You Not Heard of Their Actions?” (John Washington, The Nation, September & October 2016)
Though inmates in multiple states are protesting a range of injustices, they have found common ground against what they see as a brutal, retaliatory, racist system of criminal justice and mass incarceration. Continued inmate organizing could incite further federal investigations into—as well as increasing public attention of—America’s prison system, which is the largest in the world.
5. “Fight Trump: Stop Deportations By Any Means” (George Ciccariello-Maher, Verso, November 2016) and “Cities Vow to Fight Trump on Immigration, Even if They Lose Millions” (Jennifer Medina & Jess Bidgood, The New York Times, November 2016).
Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and other cities across the United States are gearing up to protect their undocumented immigrants, but these policies must be supplemented by direct action in order to succeed.