Y'all are so sweet. Hey! How's everyone? Okay cool. I'm not gonna lecture. I'm gonna rant for a minute, and then we're gonna talk. Cool?
It is an honor, an absolute honor, to be here with you all, and again I want to thank the Women & Gender Studies Department for having me. I want to thank all of the sponsors for putting together this event, and I want to thank all of you for spending your time here with us this evening.
The world is a hard place to be in right now, and if you're like me, there are days when you just want to curl up in bed and shut all the windows, and turn off all electronics, and just hope that it all goes away, so it does mean something to me that you decided that you could do one more time, and get up and come out and be in community with us this evening.
I have a few things I want to talk about here, but first I want to say that I want to acknowledge the Ohlone people whose land we're on right now, and I want to thank the Ohlone people for allowing me to be a guest here, and for being such gracious and important stewards of this land that we should be taking better care of.
It is the 43rd anniversary of the founding of the Combahee River Collective and the 43rd anniversary of the delivery, the writing, of the Combahee River Collective statement. I'm thinking about, and feeling deeply about that today.
That statement was written as a proactive attempt to redefine feminism as it related to black women specifically, but also women of color generally. Forty-three years ago, Demita Frazier and Beverly Smith and Barbara Smith formed this collective because mainstream feminism failed to address the unique and nuanced concerns of black women.
In this statement, they described the need for us to understand race and class, gender and sexuality, as forms of interlocking systems of domination, that when considered together uniquely and negatively impacted the lives of black women.
Let me say that in a simpler way. That statement was an intervention. It was a love letter to us. In that statement they were kind enough to remind us that we are not one-dimensional beings. That we in fact are multi-dimensional and that in the service of building movements that could potentially liberate us, we cannot for the sake of a false unity, try and flatten us back into one or two dimensional beings.
Now, while the Combahee River Collective referred to these interlocking systems of domination, and I say them that way in particular, they referred to these as simultaneity. They be making up stuff all the time. Thank goodness.
In 1989, black feminist and scholar, homegirl and hand grenade Kimberly Crenshaw, coined intersectionality as a way for us to understand, again, the multi-dimensional nature of systems of domination and their impact on the lives of black women and girls.
Yet, 43 years after receiving these gifts from black women who loved us enough to tell us the truth about the limits of any movement, any paradigm, that refused to embrace the complexity of our lives, in favor of a false or shallow unity, 43 years later, we're still struggling over these questions. In our movements and in our country as a whole.
Four years ago, when we created the Black Lives Matter global network, we did so as a tactic, to rebuild the black liberation movement, finally in our image. When I say in our image, I mean queer and trans. I mean disabled and immigrant, poor and working class, and black.
Four years ago, we worked diligently to build Black Lives Matter as an intervention in an ongoing tradition of amnesia that continues to plague the United States, and unfortunately continues to plague our movements.
Can you tell what's on my mind today?
As the Smith twins – you know they were twins, right? You didn't know they were twins? Barbara and Beverly. Twins, for life. As the Smith twins and Demita Frazier described, the Combahee River Collective statement was an intervention in the amnesia, not just of white men, but of black men and white women, and to be honest, the amnesia as well of some women of color. You see, the legacy of black feminism has always been a fight to define ourselves on our own terms, in our own interests, but for the sake of all of us.
Forty years later, we're still asking whether black lives matter, or all lives matter. Whether black lives matter means, just black lives. Whether there is such a thing as black supremacy, or black supremacists. We're still being asked to temper ourselves for the gaze of white people. To tone it down, have some respect, and to nurture that which we have never gotten in return. We're still being asked to show up, for those who fail over and over again to show up for us when we really need it.
Forty years, after Combahee, we are still pointing to cis men as the leader of movements, that we maintain, envision, and nurture. And then when we point out the fact that women have and continue to lead this movement, we are told that we are being divisive, too concerned with credit and visibility and ego.
Why should we not be concerned with credit? Wasn't it Claudette Colvin who, in fact, actually inspired the iconic Montgomery bus boycotts, but she was not palatable enough, so then we continued to remake the story of Rosa Parks, who apparently was just too tired to move to the back of the bus, instead of being a strategist and an organizer.
Why should we not be concerned with credit and visibility? Should we not be concerned with credit and visibility when the last period of civil rights continues to be laid at the feet of black cis male religious leaders, as opposed to people Fannie Lou Hamer, and Ella Baker, and Diane Nash?
Why should we not be concerned with intervening in the trend of amnesia that continues to plague this country? The contributions of women, of black women in particular, have been erased over and over and over again.
Why should we not fight to have our contributions recognized? Why is it that for black women to be seen means that we are being divisive?
You see 40 years after Combahee, we are still excluding trans women from our movements, still rooting ourselves in biology as a way to describe our lives and our experiences, the same ways that white legislators and judges did to us when deciding whether or not we could be considered white and therefore citizens, and by we, I mean our faves. Black feminists, white feminists, feminists of color, who have not yet updated our feminist practice or feminist vision from the second wave. I believe we're in a fourth wave, so that's a long way to go.
Forty years after Combahee, we're still saying intersectional, when what we mean is diverse and representational. Y'all don't hear me though.
Everybody likes to use the word intersectional. You're using it wrong. It doesn't mean diverse. To be intersectional does not mean we have one of everybody. It's not our college photos. That is not intersectionality. And as my friend and colleague Rashad Robinson from Color of Change is known to say, "We are still mistaking presence for power, and that mistake is literally killing us."
Forty years after Combahee, feminism is still seen as a threat. It's still seen as a distraction to the real issues that are really plaguing our country.
Forty years later, we're using identity politics as a way to describe why the pussy grabber is the president, as opposed to using and talking about identity politics as the opportunity that we have to save democracy, to save this economy, and to save what's left of the promise of America.
I think feminism should be a threat. I say that if we do our jobs right, damn right, feminism is a threat. It's a threat to colonialism, to capitalism, to imperialism, to patriarchy, to white supremacy, to ableism, to xenophobia – shall I continue?
Feminism should be a threat. If we're doing our jobs right, we will use feminism as a threat to that which is killing us all.
I don't say these things to shame us. I say these things because I love us enough to tell us the truth about what's going on. I say these things to inspire us, to compel us to commit ourselves, and in some cases recommit ourselves to doing better for the sake of all of us.
Because what's at stake is our lives, and if we're not clear about that, in this moment, when we're on the brink of nuclear war, if we're not clear about that in this moment, where manmade disasters are obliterating entire nations. If we're not clear about this in this moment, where people in Puerto Rico still do not have electricity, running water, or food, and that thing that calls themselves the president is throwing paper towels instead of canceling debt.
I'm saying this to compel us and commit us to doing better, for the sake of all of us.
Because it's women who are caught in the cross hairs of the terror that has taken over this country. The terror that has taken over the White House, Congress, two-thirds of our state legislatures. It is women and it is women of color in particular, who are making between 40 and 64 cents to the 77 cents that white women make and the dollar that men make, because black women are heading households and can't pay our bills. Can't get access to affordable childcare, can't get access to affordable housing, can't get access to affordable education, and yet we are still trying to get out from underneath the stereotype of the welfare queen who's driving a gold Cadillac and wearing fur coats, when all we are trying to do is survive.
Because black women's children are not growing up to be adults. Because every 28 hours in this country, a black person – not a black man, a black person – is murdered by police or vigilantes.
Because this president, if you call him that, talks about gun violence in inner cities in Chicago like a prop, when the reality is that racism and patriarchy and heteronormativity kills more black people than gun violence. What do you think about that?
Because some of us are still saying that if only Black Lives Matter had gotten behind Hillary Clinton, then we wouldn't have the pussy grabber as president.
Because again, we're supposed to unify and continue to undermine our right to a dignified life, because somehow this country still wants to drink at our breast as white babies did under slavery. Amnesia is a killer.
Because the disasters that are hitting the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and soon to be the Gulf Coast. Yeah, there's another storm coming. Those disasters are not natural. They are man-made, and I don't say that colloquially.
It's our responsibility to do better, because as people who live here in the United States, even though we may be oppressed, the United States still has its foot on the necks of women and girls around the world, as we claim exceptionalism for being the greatest democracy in the world.
I'm calling on us to do better, because our lives depend on it. I'm calling on us to stop talking about Black Lives Matter as a brand or a trend, something you want to be close to because it's cool, and I'm calling on us to deepen our practice, of what it actually means to make black lives matter. Because when black lives matters, all lives will matter.
If I have to say this again, I might scream. [laughter] Of course, all lives matter! How many more times do we have to say it? Should I do a cartwheel and say it? Stand on my head? Prostrate myself at the shrine of amnesia, to continue to say again and again, yes, all lives matter in theory, but if we want all lives matter – to actually matter in practice – then we have to do the work.
No more of this, I don't care if you're blue, green, red, or whatever. Stop that! You do care. If you didn't, black people wouldn't be being killed in the ways that we are.
I'm calling on us to do better, because our lives depend on it and because I believe that we deserve more. I still believe, as the Smith twins and Demita Frazier did, that black feminism will save our lives. That intersectional movements that do the hard work of being movements and not a collection of representations can save this planet.
I still believe that our unity is our strength. Not the false and shallow unity that asks us to swallow down the things that we live every single day. Not that kind of unity, but the unity that calls us to examine courageously the ways that some of us are still throwing each other under the bus for a few crumbs from the master's table.
And I believe we can do better.
I believe in us the same way that Barbara and Beverly and Demita and Audrey and Octavia and Angela and Kimberly and Sojourner and Ella and Fannie Lou and Harriet all believed in us.
I believe that we can do better, and I work every day to clear a path for us so that we can in fact, do better.
For me, doing better means a real commitment to not allowing anyone to divide us in the way that they have. For me, doing better means doing the work to educate ourselves on how to expand our feminism so that it's not based in biology, but instead rooted in liberatory visions that allow us to define ourselves for ourselves, on our own terms.
Doing better means making our circles wider. Doing better sometimes for some of us means not placing ourselves at the center of the universe.
Let me say that again. Doing better for some of us needs to mean not placing ourselves in the center, but instead allowing for there to be more spaciousness that allows for us to upset the ways in which power operates. We cannot continue to see power as outside of ourselves.
And so for me, doing better means being brave enough to collect your cousins, when they dare to narrow us. I'm collecting my people every day. Best believe.
Doing better means living free, living liberated, and not just talking about it, but being about it.
I had some strong words this evening, because I'm terrified of what is happening in our country. I'm terrified that I keep seeing the same old strategies recycled and rehashed and expecting different results. We will not get free if we continue to try to flatten the experiences of those of us who are the engine of this country. That does not a feminist movement make.
We will not get there if our trans family is not there with us, and that's not just about identity. That is about livelihoods. That is about humanity. That is about dignity. We will not get there if our family with different bodies and disabilities are not there with us.
Because the agenda of this regime is to take us all out. It really is to take us all out. They want to dismantle the government. They want to make sure that their pockets get fatter off your backs. They want to ensure white cis male Christian domination, for real, for real.
That's not rhetoric. That's fact. They're not scared to say that, and that's a problem.
I may be preaching to the choir here in Berkeley, because I know y'all know, it's always lit over here. [laughter]
But when we see people like Richard Spencer, or Milo, Anne. [laughter]
We need to be very clear that we can't treat them as caricatures, but we have to see them as the biggest threat to democracy that there is.
I call on us to do better, because I believe that we deserve better and because I believe that we will win.
Are y'all with me? Are we gonna win? Are you ready to win? Are we gonna win? [applause]
Let's get to it. Thank you. [applause]
MINOO MOALLEM: Thank you so much, Alicia, for the most inspiring keynote address. I would now like to invite the panelists to this stage. While our panelists are coming to the stage, please complete your questions, and pass the index cards through the aisles to our volunteer staff. You can do it throughout the Q and A.
It's a pleasure to introduce our panelists for this evening who will each give five minute remarks, and we will then move to Q and A. After their remarks, we will ask Alicia to respond to their questions or comments and then we'll read your questions.
Our first speaker is going to be Paola Bacchetta, who is professor of Gender and Women Studies. My colleague. Our second speaker is going to be Russel Robinson, who is distinguished chair in LGBT Equity and a professor of law. And our third speaker is Leray Ford, associate professor in African American Studies. Please welcome our panel. [applause]
I'd like to ask Professor Bacchetta to start her remarks.
PAOLA BACCHETTA: Thank you Minoo. Thank you so much. I'd also like to begin by thanking the Ohlone people. I think we can't thank them enough, and so it's good to thank them many times, and I'd like to thank also Minoo Moallem for all the work that went into this, and the department of Gender & Women Studies. All our staff that did so much work, and all of our sponsors. Of course, I want to thank Alicia Garza for coming here because it's an incredible opportunity for us to have these ideas be on our campus, and thank you so much. All of us admire, so much, what you've done.
The thing is that we're speaking here in the midst of empire, in the midst of advanced capitalism, coloniality, racism, and we are I think, in the U.S., but also elsewhere, in a really counter-revolutionary dominated kind of moment and if we look across the globe, not to by hyper-pessimistic, but I think being hyper-realistic, we are in a really counter revolutionary moment in many, many places. But at the same time with Black Lives Matter, all over the United States, and even across the globe, because I'm gonna speak in a minute about France, but Black Lives Matters is in Britain. It's in Ghana. It's in France and Germany, and so many places across the globe. It corresponds to something. It moves people. It mobilizes, and it's very important, the work that it's doing. It's broad. It's intersectional, and I think many young people, many black young people especially, are discovering leadership qualities within themselves by just becoming leaders. By just doing it. By being leaders, and this is a really beautiful thing for a whole generation in this movement which is also very beautiful, in that it is so decentralized.
I want to just speak a little bit from my positionality as a queer person of color, who spends half my time in France, and I spend half my time in France working mainly in anti-racism movements and also in queer people of color movements, the size of which these two are very disproportionate, because the queer people of color movements are really just happy if we can have a meeting with 10 people, and we did have a town hall where we did have 200 people, but it was quite a lot of allies too.
That was last semester, but the fact that this movement has been able to really be built around recognizing and bringing to the center the most sub altern subjects, the very most hyper sub altern subjects among black communities, is really I think, a model for other places across the globe, or in any case it's a model for those of us who work in France. We've tried to organize. We've become really fragmented, and unfortunately, the anti-racism movements are mainly very much straight identified, and the queer trans people of color movements are very small.
My question is, and you probably get this a lot, but I really really want to know. It is, how did you ever do it? How did you create such an intersectional movement that really doesn't leave anybody behind? How did you do this, and then keep this movement together and growing, and many places across the globe are caught in intense fragmentation, and I think that you have managed – Black Lives Matter has managed – to not reproduce that, dramatically, the way that other movements have. That's my question. How did you keep it together?
Again, thank you so much for coming here, and I'm really excited that you're here, and I can't wait to hear what you have to say. [applause]
RUSSEL ROBINSON: Thank you to the organizers for putting this together. Thank you all for being here, and thank you Alicia for a powerful and incisive and insightful commentary. I heard you last year. I think it was the week before the election, and you said so many things that stayed with me and helped me endure when things unfolded. I appreciate that inspiration.
I read about race, gender, and sexuality, and there are many ways in which I'm pinching myself that I never would have guessed in 2017 that the leading black anti-racist movement would center women, and queer people, and trans people, and it's amazing.
I want to build on Paula's question, to think about whether you see any lessons from the LGBT movement, the marriage equality movement in particular. It's been incredibly successful in a short period of time. Using the courts and public opinion to galvanize a revolution, in terms of rights, that I didn't think I would ever see as a black gay man.
At the same time, we don't see many serious engagements with intersectionality in the movement. We see flattening of our multidimensionality, and maybe that's the price of their success. I wonder whether you see Black Lives Matter as intersecting with the LGBT rights movement, and if there are any lessons that you've learned from that movement.
The second questions is, I also was struck by your statements about not wanting to craft the movement to appeal to the white gays, and to tone down blackness to make it palatable, but I guess I wonder, is the goal to try to change the minds of mainstream white America? Is that something that you're trying to do? If it's not, do you think we can have a lasting systemic change, without persuading that mainstream? [applause]
LERAY FORD: I want to just add my thanks to everyone for being here, for organizing, for this space, and in the context also of this so-called year of free speech, I want to thank you Alicia, for demonstrating the true exercise of free speech. I think much of the meaning of free speech has gotten lost [applause] in the alt-right spectacle and manipulation of the First Amendment, which is also that Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances. Thank you, Alicia and Black Lives Matter, for gathering us together online and in the streets and for speaking truth to power, first of all.
I also attended the talk that you gave at the Henderson Center last year, which was on Monday November 7, and I brought my Black Intellectual Thought class to that and we all left feeling both anxious about the future but also clear about the work ahead, and we also left very clear about the place of Black Lives Matters in the black radical tradition. A tradition that is not Dubois and Washington, but is clearly Ida B. Wells and Anna Julia Cooper, and Zora Neale Hurston, and Ella Baker, and Paula Whitmore, and Combahee.
But you concluded your talk then by saying that while you recognize that folks have a complicated relationship to electoral politics, quote, "Tomorrow we're voting against fascism, y'all." End quote. Of course, November 8 came, and on November 9, I stood with the students in Black Intellectual Thought, with many of you on campus, with the students of Berkeley High, and the students of Berkeley City College, trying to figure out the work for this different future.
Your words have really haunted me. Not only because people just need to heed the words of black women, because really I just want to reiterate, black feminism is fierce, and fiercely generous, and it is trying to save us all. But because we are indeed wading knee deep in the waters of fascism at this moment, and I just want to make sure we're all on the same page, to offer a really quick definition of fascism from my colleague Michael Mark Cohen. Fascism as an authoritarian and militaristic form of governance that is driven by an aggrieved sense of white racialized nationalism. It is the organizational and political form of regeneration through violence. Thank you for that definition.
So my question really is, given the last year, what are your current thoughts on electoral politics at this moment?
GARZA: Thank you. Whoo. Y'all didn't want to do the easy thing, did ya? Let me start with the last question, and then I'll move my way through.
I still stand by what I said, which is that we are still in the fight of our lives against fascism and that we should understand electoral organizing in this moment as a set of tools to use to uproot fascism. That doesn't mean that the only way to impact what's happening in this country is by voting. That's not what I'm saying. What I am saying is that we should be clear about why we're using those tools, and what we're using them for. I was not wrong when I said that the election had transformed from being about, will we have the first woman president to will we devolve into fascism as a country? For me, my thoughts on electoral politics right now are expansive and it's a lot of what I'm thinking about, working on, dreaming about. Not because voting gets us free, but because there's a set of tools that I think many of us have abandoned, because really righteous reasons actually. A lot of us feel like voting does nothing. A lot of us feel like the entire system is a sham. A lot of us feel like we're choosing between the lesser of two evils and that doesn't feel good, and I'm like, um hmm, I feel it. And in a fight against fascism, we need every tool that we can get.
For me, what I'm thinking right now about power, is that we need lots of tools, lots of roles, lots of people doing different things in a coordinated way to change the balance of power in this country. And what I'm thinking is that we don't have a lot of time. I don't say that to be…you know what I'm trying to say. Yeah, I don't say that to like, do too much. I say that because I think a lot of us aren't doing enough.
After Trump was elected, the resistance – a lot to say about that – we really went into this mode, and I say we because I have a lot of criticisms but I am a part of the resistance, we really went into this mode about not normalizing what is not normal, and I think we lost that a couple months ago. I think that we've gotta get back into the mode of resisting at all stages, all points, all places, and we should not kid ourselves that our job right now is to see what happens. Because I'm hearing a lot of that. We should see what happens. Aren't we being a little harsh on him? I mean, he's trying. He's almost there. He wasn't as bad today as he was yesterday. The spectacle of all of it is training our eyes away from the impacts. It's not about him. Folks, seen the Wizard of Oz? He's the voice. He's the voice, but he's actually the little dude on the milk crate with the microphone. He's not really the biggest problem. He doesn't have a clear ideology. He doesn't have a clear program. But people do that are around him that are writing his speeches that he's now reading from teleprompters – thank goodness. At least I can get through one of them, right? But it's not about the performance, and it's not about the dude who is the spectacle. It's about why the spectacle exists, and what it's distracting us from. As we speak, the DOJ is dismantling trans protections. As we speak, there are laws being passed that are intended to limit healthcare for women, and the ability to choose when and where we decide to start families or not. As we speak, right, the Supreme Court is considering whether or not public sector unions should still be a thing. Yeah?
Then when I talk to my classes – because I decided to teach this year, which was, I don't know. Bless y'all. [laughter] When I talk to my classes, and they're like, "I don't…. What does the governor do? Who's the Department of Justice? Why does that matter?" I'm like, yo, how we gonna fight fascism if we don't know how the thing works?
So all of that to say, I think that there's a perception that I want to intervene on, from a number of different angles, that both has to do with this idea that young people don't care about what's happening. We do, and we've been failed in a whole bunch of ways, and we're also failing ourselves by not really diving into understanding how the enemy works. You have to understand how it works if you want to dismantle it. I'm not saying you have to be a part of it to dismantle it. I'm saying you have to understand how it works in order to dismantle it, if you're really serious. If you're not serious, then we could just do something else.
The other piece of this though is we need new leaders. We need new leaders. [applause] The thing that I've been thinking about a lot is not just about changing the pieces on the chess board, but how do we change the rules of chess? Part of how I think we get there is taking seriously this question of governing and governance, and what does it mean to be able to solve problems at scale? Our way, with integrity, with values that uplift dignity, and humanity? That's what we mean when we say we want to fight fascism. So we have to be clear about what we're fighting and how it works, but we also have to be really clear about what's the thing that we want and how do we do that at scale, because people are hurting, and people hurt tend towards these kinds of movements because they speak to them. It's not because people are stupid. It's not because they didn't get an education. It's not any of that. It's because people can't pay their bills. They can't eat. They don't have clean water. They can't afford housing. They're looking for a reason why, because everything we've been taught in this country is that if you work hard you will succeed, and there are millions of people who are working really hard and not succeeding, and we have to be able to address that as a movement. As people who are anti-fascist. As people who are pro democracy. As people who want liberation. We have to be able to concretize. What does that mean? How do we do it better? Yeah? Otherwise, we'll continue to be the people on the edges throwing rocks at the castle. Sometimes hitting it, most of the time not, and they're hitting the bullseye. Right?
Last thing I'll say on this piece. If we're not serious about either getting this president impeached, or really considering what are the vehicles to uproot this entire administration, not only will we have Trump for another four years, and I want to be really clear about this. Don't think that 2020 is freedom day without some work. You know what I'm saying? Because real talk – the people who elected him are not unhappy with him. They like him even more. They're like, yeah, stand up to those fools. Yeah, you said it. You know what I mean? For real. We have to be offering more than "he's whack." That's our challenge, and I think that electoral organizing is a road, not the road.
Is the goal to change the minds of mainstream white America? Somebody needs to do that. [laughter] Somebody definitely needs to do that. Somebody please. [laughter] That's not my job. That's not our job. I see my role as getting my folk ready to be able to govern and to fight. That's my role. My role is not to change the minds of white people who are willfully obtuse about the nature of race in this country. It's just not. It has never been successful. That without a strategy whereby antiracist white people take on the challenge of disinvesting from white supremacy, and working with y'all brethren to dismantle it. If that doesn't happen, it's not going anywhere. It's not my job to make white people feel more comfortable around me. I grew up around white people. I grew up in Marin. I love white people. Y'all gonna walk outta here and be like, she doesn't like white people. My dad's white. Look, it's not that. It's that white supremacy benefits all white people, and some people of color aspire towards whiteness because of what it promises to offer. It never actually produces that for us, but it promises something. If we're serious that we don't want Nazis marching through Berkeley or Charlottesville or whatever, don't call me. I'm so serious. Don't call my phone. [laughter] I'm like, well what are they out here for? They want a white nation. Well, okay, that don't have nothing to do with me. Seriously. I'm like not being facetious here. We had this whole big debate, right, when San Francisco and Berkeley. We should just stay home and show them that they can't…. What are you talking about? No, you need to be out there. You absolutely need to be out there. They need to see that they can't come to Berkeley and San Francisco and Oakland and show out. Absolutely not. They need to know that, and if it's just my face out there, okay, that defeats the purpose. They want to break heads like mine. That's what they come to do. That's their role. Racial terror. Extra judicial racial terror. That's their role. That is the role of white supremacists in that form. Why? Don't call my phone. Call your neighbors and say, listen, we need to show them that we're not for this. That is a powerful statement, and I'm telling you when we were having these debates, and people were saying there should be one strategy, or everybody should stay home and that's how we're gonna do it, or we're gonna, rainbows and stuff. I was like. No. They are really serious. They ran over somebody and killed her. This isn't a game show. Again, not a spectacle. This is real life. They're willing to take and interrupt life in pursuit of their vision and values. They're serious about that. So if we're serious about living up to the legacy of this place, where the Black Panther Party for Self Defense originates, where the Third World Women's Collective originates, then let's do it right. We're gonna stand up every single time they come. We're not gonna stay home. We're not gonna just stick a sign in our window. We're gonna confront, and we're gonna say no, you're not coming here again. Not here, not now, not ever. [applause] So no, the goal is not to change the minds of mainstream white America. The goal is to signal that we are building power and we plan to take it. Full stop.
Does Black Lives Matter intersect with the LGBT movement, but in particular the marriage equality movement, which I see as different things. Marriage equality had a really fascinating and effective strategy that I think we should continue to dissect and entertain. I work at the National Domestic Worker's Alliance. We're fighting for the rights of caregivers, cleaners, elder caregivers, folk who are personal attendants, right, because we're not covered under basic federal labor protections. Because white supremacy, right? No seriously. That was a deal that was made between Southern lawmakers and union leaders, and who got thrown under the bus? Black and brown workers. Agricultural workers and domestic workers. That was through the Wagner Act. This is not rhetoric y'all. This is history. But inevitably, somebody will leave and be like she was… [shaking finger] Okay, cool. [laughter] It's a strategy that we've tried to employ to win rights for domestic workers, knowing that the ground was not right to try to win federal legislation, that we had to build momentum state by state. It's something that our movement should be considering around a whole bunch of other demands, a whole bunch of other demands. And it's not about copycatting – copy, cut and paste. You can't do that because everything has its own contours, but it is to say strategy is important. Now with that being said, there has always been critiques of the marriage equality movement, that it was intent on amnesia, right? Lifting up that white people are gay, too, and so therefore, they should have rights. The families that we saw were white families. White lesbian families, white gay families. Cool. All families should thrive, and there's lots of us who are not white. Lots of us. Lots of us for whom marriage is not about being able to do what other people do, but marriage is about being able to have access to our partners if they're sick. Marriage being about being able to maybe have a shot economically, right? Marriage being about the right to be recognized as someone's caregiver, yeah, and be recognized by law. Black Lives Matter, I will say this, is challenging this notion that black people are a monolith. Black people are incredibly complex. We are diverse. We're everywhere. We're from everywhere. So when we're talking about issues that impact black people, you should just know all of them do. Including marriage equality. Including being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, pansexual. All these things. Black people are a part of all of those groupings. Do they intersect? Does the mainstream LGBT movement intersect with Black Lives Matter? When it wants to. When it wants to. And that's not to say that more is not possible, but again, that's not up to us. We have created something that is very expansive and that says, there's room for all of us, and that challenges us to be able to look at ourselves differently, yeah? To acknowledge that even our oppressions as queer people can intersect with positions of power and domination, and just to be honest about that. So, being white and gay doesn't exempt you from being racist. I mean there's places in the Castro that are still requiring several forms of ID from black people. Several forms, in 2017. Do we intersect? Yes, when it's desired. Do we want something more? Absolutely. Is that up to us? No.
How do we fight fragmentation? Do we fight fragmentation? Are we fragmented? Are we not? A little bit fragmented? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. We've come a long way in four years, and I believe that we're just getting started. When Black Lives Matter was created it was an intervention but it was also meant to build infrastructure where it had been decimated by our government, COINTELPRO, by COINTELPRO – I'm just going to keep saying COINTELPRO, COINTELPRO – and what the destruction, the intentional destruction of the black liberation movements of the '60's and '70's led to was a lack of infrastructure for movement to exist. So what we saw was that we were talking about building intersectional movements, building diverse movements with people from all different communities – and yes, I said those things, not interchangeably but as different ideas – and black folks weren't there. If we were there, we were there in handfuls, in pockets, not as parts of political vehicles but as individuals, and that does not a movement make. Where we are now is that there are dozens if not hundreds of new organizations, and not just nonprofits, but organizations, organizational forums, that have gotten clear about what it is that they're fighting for and that are populating what can be a vibrant black liberation movement for the 21st century. Some people see that as fragmentation. Does that make sense? The expansion, some people see as fragmenting. Meaning, when Black Lives Matter was created in 2014 – 2013, excuse me – we were created as an online-to-offline vehicle. When Mike Brown was killed in 2014, the name of our organization became the name of a movement and it got really confusing. Lots of people's feelings are caught up in that, right? Who owns the movement? Who leads the movement? Who holds the rights to define who the movement is or is not? Some people see that as fragmentation. I don't. I actually see that as a deepening, as a maturation, as an expansion, and while it's tough, it's necessary, and I would say in fact that our goal being to expand what was possible inside of the contours of black liberation, I think is being achieved as we speak. That means and will mean in some ways that Black Lives Matter will be decentered in favor of other formations, other ideas, other groups. Just to say when I think about what fragmentation means, I think splintering. I think about what happened for example, inside of SNCC, when folks said, "White folks, you need to go organize other white people, and you can't just be organizing amongst black people. We need interventions in white communities." That was a fragmentation and a splintering that impacted that movement and still does to this day. I don't think that that's what's happening here. I think what's happening here is that Black Lives Matter as a movement is expanding and growing and changing, and redefining itself, and I actually hope that what happens is that our organization gets decentered in favor of more of a multiplicity of forms. That's what I hope happens, because we get this thing about being co-founders of a movement – which we're not – of an organization – which we are, but the only reason we even had to say that is because groups that are leaving relevance tried to claim it, and say that it was them. We had to come out the cut and be like "We're not doing this anymore. This is what we're doing instead." But the idea behind it wasn't for us to be in the center of it. The idea behind it was to say, no, we've defined this space differently. And I do think that there are more groups that are operating from queer feminist lenses, more organizing, deeper organizing, that is happening amongst trans communities. Deeper organizing that is happening amongst disabled communities that are saying, "Y'all didn't get it right with us either. Who's being killed by police violence more often? We are." That degree of expansion, while it may come with critique or conflict, I think is a good thing. That's where I stand on that. [applause]
The last thing I want to say really quickly, and I know we have other questions – Ferguson's still fighting. You're not seeing it on CNN because it's not cute anymore, but Ferguson's still fighting. Y'all know that right? One hundred twenty-eight people were arrested last night in Ferguson. They're still fighting. They're still fighting because they're still acquitting killer cops. They're still fighting because racism is alive and well in Missouri. If y'all don't think Missouri is holding on to a past, you're trippin'. They're still fighting. What are we doing? What are we doing? Are we contributing to the bail funds to make sure that people aren't languishing in jail, because you know that's how they do it in Missouri. You can't get out of jail unless you can pay bail. That's why they have so many people in the jails. That was the whole thing. Are we supporting organizations like Hands Up United? Organization for Black Struggle? St. Louis Action Council? This is what I mean by Black Lives Matter not being a brand. Not being a trend. We have to stay following it, even when it's not trending on Twitter, or on CNN, MSNBC, or even Fox News, to be honest with you. We have to keep following it, because to black it out is on purpose. It's intentional. I know in this moment a lot of us feel like, "I'm so overwhelmed by all the news. I don't want to follow any more of it." I'm asking us to keep following, to keep our eyes open, to stay paying attention. This is how we don't normalize what is not normal, is by paying attention. Not wallowing in the grief of all of it. That's a real thing, and we should be doing what we can to take care of ourselves, but that doesn't mean tuning out. If you want to support Ferguson, you can give to Arch City Defenders, who are the folks that are making sure people get out of jail as they resist and exercise their First Amendment rights. You can donate to Hands Up United and their Books & Breakfast programs. You can donate to the St. Louis Action Council. Yeah. You can also send resources, send books. It's really important. Ferguson catalyzed a movement and we continue to be like, "Oh my God, it's so inspiring," but like they're still fighting, so let's still keep being inspired by them by supporting them and letting them know that we're paying attention. [applause]
There's a lot of questions in there.
MOALLEM: You actually answered a number of questions. That's perfect. A few people asked about, how do you think Berkeley as a community and as an institution should handle the threats of this so-called free speech and I would call them hate speech activists? Such as Milo and the rest of them.
GARZA: You see how good the right is? They're really smart. They are really smart. They have taken the crucible of free speech – of protest, of movement – and they have boxed us in to the tiniest corner possible. Is it free speech or hate speech? It's such a weird frame. What does it matter? It's violence. It's violence. It's literal violence. It's racial terror. That's what it is. They're doing the exact same thing the Klan does without hoods on. The exact same thing. And they feel emboldened to do it because we're caught in this weird frame of, is it free speech or hate speech, and then we get stuck in this box. Well, we have to let everybody say everything they've ever wanted to say. That's only true when it's white people. Let's keep it a hundred. [applause] I have to temper everything that I say. I have to temper everything that I say. Everything. Because if I don't, the FBI visits my house. I'm not kidding about that. That's a real thing. If I don't, I get put on a list and I can't travel. That's how this works. Now imagine if I wore a hijab. I can't say whatever I want, so free speech is like [makes confused expression]? It is a way to paint ourselves into a corner, to allow for neofascists to publicize their viewpoints, to get attention because they get to say, "Oh, the liberals are shutting us down again." And frankly, they wanna fight. I'm serious about this. They wanna fight. I know people are talking about – we had this conversation – Antifa, we can't be Antifa. Listen, we need to be anti-fascist, full stop. Full stop. [applause] Antifa, Black Bloc, those things are tactics. They're not formations. They're tactics. If you're going to be against something, I just want you to know what you're against. You're against a tactic. Not an organization. Not a group of people. A tactic, an approach. Fine. Not everybody's gotta do the same thing. But don't get caught in the whirlpool that is their nonsense, where they paint us into a corner yelling at each other about is it free speech or is it hate speech? Should we be violent or nonviolent? Hello. People are dying. People are dying, so do whatever makes you feel comfortable, but make sure that what you're doing is effective in stopping racial terror, racial violence, and white supremacy. Full stop. [applause]
FORD: I should ask a question now? Yeah, I have a question. This question is coming from the audience, and it is related to your role as a teacher. It says, "What is the most important role research can play in making Black Lives Matter? Where are the gaps that academics can step up?" [laughter]
GARZA: Honestly? Because you know I'm like both and stuff. There's two really big places that I can think of. One is something that is of particular interest to me, which is we need more data on black people and how we take political action, because without it there's a bunch of narratives about us that are not from us. And given that we're not a monolith it would be helpful to understand how black folk actually think about this stuff in different places throughout the country, all that, because not every black person is woke. I had to clean out my little online space today, because I was like wow, what is going on? I'll struggle with you in person, but online, I need to protect my sensibilities. But I also say this because I think when people are trying to assume positions of power and they appeal to black folk, it's weird. It's weird the way that it happens, because it ends up just being this weird thing around class and doesn't have a full understanding of, again, the intersections – how race and class and gender and sexuality are shaping people's livelihoods. So I want to see better policies, better practices as it relates to black communities. I want black communities to be seen in our complexity and I want solutions for our communities to also be complex. So we need more data. That's one thing. The other thing that I'm struck by, again, from my experience now teaching. Y'all are saints. Our scholarship is getting more and more complicated, and by complicated I mean hard for people to understand, and that is the opposite of what scholarship is for. I'm trying to assign things in my class that I think are really brilliant, and I'm like [shaking head] it's rough for my students. Really rough. And for all the people who are hungry for understanding how these systems interlock and interplay that don't have access to the academy in the same way. Folk deserve scholarship that can communicate complex ideas without having to use hundred-syllable words. You know what I mean? That's what I think we need. We need more scholars who can break it down and make it plain, make it plain, so that more of us can understand better why our conditions are the way they are. That to me is the key, that kind of consciousness is key towards people's political action. Those of us who really care about making sure people understand fascism. Those of us who care about making sure that people understand why feminism can't continue to just be biologically rooted. We need more scholars that can break that down in a way that more people can understand. I want my grandma to understand it, because she didn't understand my trans partner and so she didn't come to my wedding, and she died two years ago regretting that she didn't come to my wedding because she didn't understand my life, so we need scholarship that my grandmama could understand, that my grandmama could be moved by. Yeah? That's what I think. [applause]
ROBINSON: My question from the audience is defending humanity is not easy. How do we do this difficult work while acknowledging the emotional labor involved?
GARZA: It's hard. It's hard. Movements are built off of emotional labor. This is why it makes me so angry that those of us who are doing this emotional labor don't get seen. Yeah? The advice that I have is very simple but it's very complex as well, which is, protect your energy. Protect your energy. Inevitably somebody after this will say to me, I really don't think you should be excluding white people from whatever the thing is, and that's not what's happening. It's just that when I think about the finite time I have on this Earth and the finite capacity that I have, I have to be really strategic about where I use it. Maybe that emotional labor wouldn't feel so hard if it felt more distributed. Maybe that emotional labor wouldn't be so hard if it was widely distributed. That's an invitation to those of us who tend to be centered. Right? Those of us for whom bristle at hearing that we have some form of privilege, which we all do. We need more hands to take up the work, the emotional labor of developing consciousness so that people can act differently. Because defending humanity is hard. It is hard, and lots of that work is happening in our families. Holidays are coming up. People are going home. Some of us are dreading that. Because here we get to be our full selves and maybe when we go home we don't get to be that. Lots of us have family members that have viewpoints that are different than ours and they're painful, and lots of us do the thing where we're like, "Okay, I just have to be here for one more hour, and then I'm not going to engage with you at all for the rest of the year." We need more hands to do that labor of building consciousness and struggling with people. Not just over ideas, but over how we act, how we vote. In my family, my grandfather is a Trump supporter. Now I'm not putting my energy there. I'm really serious. I'm not putting my energy there, but my dad is, and he should be. He should be, because he has a black family. Emotional labor wouldn't feel so hard if there was more people doing it, and it feels exhausting mostly because it lays at the feet of a few. If you're wondering what your contribution could be, it's talking to your uncle that sends me death threats. I'm really serious. It's struggling with your dad that thinks that Muslims should be round up and shot. I'm really serious about that. If you're wondering what you can do that's not holding a picket sign or a bullhorn, it's that. Not being woker than them, but really trying to understand, why do you believe that? Why do you believe that and can we figure out a different way together? Because it's not benefiting you, and it's not benefiting us. [applause]
MOALLEM: We have time for one more question.
BACCHETTA: I feel like both of these questions are similar versions of "What can be done?" and I think just to try and put them together, one is building on the point of that amnesia. Silencing is a tool of amnesia used even in how we teach history to young people. How do we combat it, how do we make noise, how do we people of color make our voices heard? But I think also coupled with that is a second question, is the stigma is always that youth are powerless and fragile, so what tangible means can young people – what can they do? I know you've been talking about all of the ways that people can show up and be involved in part of that, but maybe one way to talk about this is to say a little bit more about how we combat silencing as a tool of amnesia and white supremacy, and also specifically to youth, that notion that young people are fragile snowflakes, et cetera.
GARZA: I have so much to say on this. I'm all checkin' time like. Let me try to keep it short. Young people is a relative term, first and foremost. I get called a young person all the time. I'm 36 years old. I'm not a millennial. I think I might be a Xennial. But it was this year where I realized, I got old enough to not be sunned anymore. Nevermind. [laughter] But it made me think that, we need to do different. Youth have always been catalysts for courage and bravery that those of us who are a little more established in our lives might have lost somewhere. That's why in every narrative of any movement you hear inspirational stories of young people who took risks and engaged other people in the process of taking risks for the sake of transformation. And you're right that we do fetishize that at the same time we try to shut it down. Young people are already doing stuff, and they do it whether we recognize it, like it, get down with it or not. And so the first thing I think is actually just to pay attention to what young people are already doing. Berkeley High has been killing the game for years now. [applause] Years now. I'll be in my house, and I'm like – I live in East Oakland – and I'm like why do I keep hearing helicopters? Oh, because Berkeley High walked out. You know what I mean? No, seriously, that's what it is, when it's during the daytime. [laughter] Keep it a buck. I think there's something that needs to happen around paying attention to what's happening right in front of us and celebrating it. Second piece that feels really important is, struggling with young folk as if young people are our peers, which they are. I'm gonna say some unpopular stuff, which is that the best things that my elders and yelders have ever done for me was tell me I was trippin'. They didn't do that thing where they were like, oh, you're a young person so I just want to encourage you and not actually help shape you, but they also didn't do the thing where their word was the end all be all. There was a nice balance in there. Letting us make mistakes that they knew were mistakes but also being like, I think you're about to make a mistake and I have your back 100% and we'll talk about it afterwards. [laughter] You know, you know? I'm somebody who is quicker than I want to be approaching yelder status and I find myself in this weird position, because there is a whole new generation of 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-, 22-, 23-, 24-, 25-year-olds that are all the way in and hella righteous about it. Like hella righteous, and like, deeply righteous about it, which I was and still am. I have to love them enough to take them aside – not in the shaming way – but to be like, "You're using that wrong. You called that anti black. That's not anti black. You just don't like it." No, I'm being serious. No, I'm being really serious. Like, we owe it to each other to be disciplined, and to be deeply steeped in our craft. And if social change is our craft then let's become masters at that craft, which means it does matter when you use things wrong. Everything is not anti black. Just because it happened to you and you don't like it. I'm serious. And when we do that it kind of…. If we're not challenging our frameworks around how we understand what's happening to us, we run the risk of not understanding the world as it functions now. Part of how I think we support young people and lift up the leadership of young people is by engaging it and crafting it and being that person in young people's lives that is gonna tell you the truth no matter what and still be down with you. Like really really be down with you. Like we're folks forever, kind of a thing. Even when you do things that I don't do anymore, because that's really what it is sometimes. I mean I locked myself to a BART train a couple years ago, and I was like I think I'm too old for this. [laughter] You know what I mean? But then sometimes in that process, we start to tell young people not to do stuff that's risky that we did one time, but we're like oh my God, it's too dangerous. It was dangerous then, too. No – people should be taking risks. It's okay for people to put their bodies in between things that are harmful and people that are harmful. It's inspiring. We gotta have people's backs but we also have to acknowledge, I don't think young people need inspiring, I think young people want to be respected and not talked about as if they're not here. Young people do care about stuff. Young people talk about politics and political issues, better than some of us do, honestly, and the number one thing that I hear from young people is that they don't feel seen or supported or listened to, and not trusted to make the same mistakes that we allowed ourselves to make. That's what I think about that. Support your local young person. [applause]
MOALLEM: This has been a wonderful event, and I would like to thank Alicia again, for accepting our invitation, and for her inspiring lecture. I also wish to thank our colleagues for their comments and questions, and all of you for being here and for asking very insightful questions. Thank you so much. Goodnight.