On Wednesday, Feb. 22, at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, 51-year-old Adam Purinton shot two engineers from India, killing 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounding 32-year-old Alok Madasani. He also wounded two other bar patrons who tried to intervene. ...

 

Black Girl in Maine - 5 new articles



Failure to name the truth, or White people are rarely named terrorists

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, 51-year-old Adam Purinton shot two engineers from India, killing 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounding 32-year-old Alok Madasani. He also wounded two other bar patrons who tried to intervene. One of them, 24-year-old Ian Grillot, who is white, was seriously wounded.

After Purinton had been kicked out of the bar for being disruptive, he later came back with a weapon, shouted racial slurs at the two Indian men, and began shooting, also shouting “Get out of my country.”

Whether he presumed them to be Muslims (and assumed them to be terrorists-in-waiting or terrorist sympathizers) or whether he simply hated them because of the furious hatred so many white people have toward immigrants right now, legal or otherwise, this was an act of terrorism.

And yet, authorities, and notably the Trump regime, have been reluctant to call this domestic terrorism. They say they don’t know enough about Purinton’s motivations. They say it’s too soon to name it terrorism.

It’s always too soon when the attackers are white. They are almost always called lone wolves, while brown-skinned and/or Muslim attackers are quickly assumed to be tied to terrorist groups. It’s never too early to call a Muslim or a Black person a terrorist. Even when non-white shooters are found to be acting on their own, somehow they aren’t “lone wolves” like the white people are. At the very least, they are assumed to have been radicalized by extremist Muslim groups or philosophies. And then Muslims in general are viewed as terrorists, despite the fact the overwhelming percentage of them are anything but, and groups like Black Lives Matter are labeled terrorists by many white people just because a handful of people act out violently every once in a while at a BLM protest or the like.

How quickly we forget that the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed not only adults but children in a daycare facility there, was committed by two white men, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (and two white accomplices, Michael and Lori Fortier). It was one of the worst acts of terrorism on our soil, motivated by the perpetrators’ hatred of the U.S. federal government and its handling of the 1993 Waco siege and the Ruby Ridge incident in 1992 (both of which involved actions against dangerous white extremists).

How quickly we focus on the 9/11 terrorist attack, which killed many more people but also is also the kind of thing that happens much less often…almost never, in fact, by comparison. Violence by white extremists…domestic white terrorists…is far more frequent and poses a much greater danger overall, especially to non-white people, Jews, LGBTQ people, Muslims and other groups that are marginalized by the government, society and/or large numbers of white, straight, supposedly “Christian” people in most cases. Shootings. Burnings of mosques or synagogues or Black Christian churches. Intimidation and beatings. And more.

Last year, for example, you were more likely to be shot by a toddler than harmed by a foreign terrorist. The fact is the 9/11 was a “lucky shot” by foreign terrorists. They killed so many but there’s never been anything like that before or since, nor much chance of something so dramatic happening again any time soon. Since 9/11, more people have been killed by white terrorists here in the United States than by Muslim terrorists.

Since Trump’s campaign to become president really heated up and since his election, terrorist violence against people in America based on racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia is up sharply. To claim that has nothing to do with Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims, immigrants and non-white people is beyond ridiculous. The cause and effect is clear. Trump and his cronies are happy to rile up the radical right white people, and they don’t care whom they harm, as long as they continue to divide us along lines of race and religion. As long as they continued to sow chaos that helps right-wing power-brokers seize more control and gain more support from white people who can only see the terrorist evil when it wears brown skin or a twisted version of the religion of Islam draped over it. And so many white people are so willing to buy into the lies that foreign terrorists or that innocent and socially conscious movements like Black Lives Matter are the real threats.

Terrorism is awful no matter who commits it. But we are long past the time when we need to name white terrorists as such. Terrorism hurts us all. But in this country, the people it hurts the most are the non-white people, because they get the brunt of overreaching police actions, increased levels of suspicion toward them, and more radicalized white people targeting them when violence is committed by a Muslim or an angry Black person. These victims are all too visible, they are often unprotected by the government compared to white people, and they are fewer in number. Easily targeted. Easily demonized. Easily made the scapegoats. Easily killed, jailed or deported when they’ve done no harm.

Overwhelmingly, white people have little to fear overall from Muslim or Black terrorism, because it is such a small part of the picture of violence in America. But Black and Muslim people, and so many other marginalized groups, have much more to fear from white terrorists.

Name them for what they are. Punish them for what they are. In the land of supposed equality and justice, let them pay the same kinds of prices that Muslim terrorists do. Stop letting them get away with murder.
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On mindfulness and change, or BGIM musing

In 2008, I stepped into my first yoga class, a yoga nidra class to be exact. I wish that I could say that I was seeking spiritual enlightenment, but the truth is that after fifteen-plus years of suffering from panic attacks that had a habit of sneaking up on me at the most inopportune time (giving a lecture to a class  while working as an adjunct instructor and having to be taken out by paramedics, to name just one of those exact moments).

It had become clear that anxiety and panic were starting to take a toll on my life and that I needed to face the issue head-on. While medication was most certainly an option, I was uncomfortable with the idea of using medication before exhausting all other options, and my research revealed that yoga was possibly one way to manage the panic attacks that had plagued me for years.

I wish that I could say that I went to that first class and left feeling like a brand new person; actually, I left the class thinking: “What kind of woo-woo-ass bullshit did I just participate in?” However, I am stubborn and figured I would give it an honest chance before committing to medication. After weeks of classes, I did experience a shift. I learned to feel my body and that in truly feeling my body, I could feel the signs of tension building that would lead to a full-on attack. I also found that combined with mindfulness around my breath, I could lessen the strength and duration of the panic attacks.

Over time, I would add on full-length ashtanga yoga classes and over the years, the frequency and duration of the attacks dropped sharply. A life without fear of what had been the omnipresent panic attacks became a reality and my love of yoga grew. I started putting the cost of yoga classes into the budget like a regular bill because $100 a month seemed a small price to pay for reclaiming my life. Despite my professional life as a non-profit executive director, I decided to study to become a yoga teacher because my one issue with yoga had always been how overwhelmingly white the discipline is, especially in Maine.

In 2013,I started the process to become a yoga teacher and I also applied for a new job out of state as the executive director of a small anti-racism organization. I was hired in the fall of 2013 with a start date of January 2014. Life felt good. I was a totally immersed yogi, practicing every day, developing strength that I had never known, looking at major life changes and most importantly keeping the anxiety at bay that had almost destroyed my life.

I started my position at Community Change Inc. in January 2014 and despite the plan to move to Boston, life happened. My marriage was in a state of emergency and I knew that if we were to break up, there was no way I could support myself in Boston on my lone income. So I made the painful decision, much to the consternation of my board of directors, to commute from Maine. Initially I was taking the train to Boston three to four times a week. With a 4 a.m. wake-up for the 5:20 train and a return home at 7:00 on a good night, my daily yoga practice fell by the wayside. During that time, I remembered a lesson that my yoga teacher said often: “What happens on the mat mirrors what happens off the mat and in many ways, your time on the mat is about preparing for life often the mat.” At times those words rang hollow yet they sat with me and over time, they would become my lifeline.

In August of 2014, I was eight months into a position that at the time wasn’t going well as financially stabilizing the organization was my key priority. Yet the 125-mile distance between my office and home meant I couldn’t put in the 10- to 12-hour days needed to connect with our organizational base to build my support. My marriage was growing even more strained, it seemed like every other week I was battling a bug as my resistance was down, and frankly I felt like I had made a horrible mistake in taking the job. Then Michael Brown was killed and the Ferguson uprising happened, people were starting to pay attention to the gross racial inequities that were still very real and I found myself thrust into a position of needing to truly guide my organization that has the distinct honor of being the oldest, continuously running anti-racism organization in the country. As the head of the organization, people wanted community and they wanted answers. I was 41 at the time, which is still pretty young by the standards of non-profit directors, and…well…it was a time period where I learned a lot about myself and my limits and pushing through them. I also learned that I desperately needed yoga to stay above the fray but the limitations of 24 hours in a day meant that the almost daily time I needed on the mat to keep my anxiety at bay simply was not possible. Instead, I went to class as I could and went further into breathwork and meditation even on a moving train to keep my equilibrium.

I juggled all the balls until Dec of 2014 when, at a much needed massage, my massage therapist discovered an unusual lump on my back. A few weeks later after developing strange sensations on the right side of  my back and shoulder, I went to my general practitioner who assured me that the lump was a benign lipoma and that while surgery was an option, doing nothing was also an option. Given the realities of my personal life and work at that time, I opted to do nothing which in hindsight was a horrible decision, as I would spend the next year living with discomfort. Discomfort that started to affect my yoga practice. When I did make time to get on the mat, I couldn’t do a full primary series practice without feeling like I was about to die. In early 2015, the decision was made to separate after 18 years of marriage and 20 years of being a couple. It was also the year that I had to shit or get off the pot with regard to my day job and either get the organization stabilized or watch a 40-something-year-old organization die on my watch, which would be tantamount to career suicide.

My life was messy and complex, as was my yoga practice; then to add fuel to the fire, given the nature of my work, increasingly I was being called on to show up both locally and regionally to talk about race. However, as messy as it all was, I learned a lot about life that can only come from lived experience. I learned that the time on the mat does indeed imitate life off the mat. I learned that in my work, the key to change was compassion and creating space for people to not be perfect.

Anti-racism work is ultimately about people; yes, we are fighting a system called white supremacy, a hideous system, yet systems involve people and that’s where the compassion comes in and the space to fuck it up. We can know the lingo, we can understand how oppression works in our heads and how utterly wrong it is but change happens when our hearts and heads connect and form a union.

2015 would eventually end but not before I saw myself leave our family home and start over in a apartment that pretty much could fit inside 2.5 rooms of the house that had long been my home. By the end of 2015, I could barely do a single sun salutation without wincing and my organization ended both our fiscal and calendar year with a deficit which, when you are still a relatively new executive director, isn’t ideal. Yet I persisted.

In early 2016, I would finally have surgery to remove the fast growing lipoma which was taking over my life, and the recovery period provided a much-needed break to clear my head. I would return back to the office with more compassion for myself and my limitations and others. Learning compassion was a hard lesson coming but one I needed and one that continues to resonate deeply with me and which now spills over in my work.  I also learned compassion on the mat, for when I was finally cleared to return to yoga, the strength I had built up over the years had atrophied and poses I once could master in my sleep were hard to hold. Yet I would end 2016 on a high professional note as I saw our new programming structure come together, a successful partnership with The Privilege Institute form and the first ever White Privilege Symposium in our region, and lastly an erasure of the financial deficit. Organizational stability was no longer a dream but a real reality. 

2016 became the year that America lost her compass and the compassion that I had developed in myself allowed me to extend grace to people whose views I did not share and yet develop a common bridge to connect. I would later see seeds of change developing in people who once doubted the existence of white supremacy.  I would over time see my very own home yoga community start openly discussing white supremacy and how it harms. Yet it was the result of years of putting in the time with people.

Right now, I am standing at a crossroads as I see the anger that is driving so much of the dialogue on both sides and knowing so many other change makers who are exhausted at what at times feels like deliberate obtuseness on the side of others. Yet it took America hundreds of years to get here and while it may not take hundreds of years to right the ship, it is going to take real time to dismantle the systems of oppression that unfairly burden all without white skin; thus, we must work harder than ever especially in the era of Trump.

Education, activism and organizing are all key to creating systemic change but increasingly I believe that we need to create space for beloved community and mindfulness in our toolboxes of social change. Beloved community combined with collective and individual mindfulness need to undergird our education, activism and organizing efforts. We can’t let others off the hook but when we touch and feed our own bodies and souls with these tools, it strengthens us to create space that allows for the mistakes that will happen along the way. As for me, I am slowly rebuilding my yoga practice and I am up to a few minutes a day on the mat most days and allowing the space that I create on the mat to guide me off the mat during these unprecedented times.
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Calling all white people, part 8: Mixed-race unions aren’t the ultimate answer

Calling All White People, Part 8

(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)

By An Average White Guy

TODAY’S EPISODE: Interracial marriage and mixed-race kids won’t save us

George Lopez had a joke he used in his stand-up routine many years ago that went something like, “The sooner we all intermarry and have babies and everyone looks like Filipinos, the better off we’ll be.”

Used to love that joke. Nowadays, not so much. I’ve learned better.

I don’t hate the joke. There’s even still tiny smidgen of truth in it. But there are a couple major thing wrong with it. First, we won’t ever all look the same shade no matter how much interracial procreation we do. Second, we always find ways to divide ourselves even when we’re in the same general color group. Colorism, for example, is a significant issue among many in non-white communities in the United States (dark-skinned Blacks vs. light-skinned ones, for example) and in other countries (such as India, just to name one).

No matter how many mixed-race babies we make in the United States, it isn’t going to erase racism. Too often I’ve seen in online life (and offline, too) white parents who have racist attitudes toward their non-white kids, whether those kids are biologically related or adopted. Issues around hairstyles that the white parent finds inappropriate (even if it’s natural for the kid’s genetically determined hair texture), for example. Or just about anything.

I mean, really. Even interracial marriage doesn’t prevent or eliminate racism. Plenty of white people have dated and married outside their race and continued to be racist at hell. Think about it: Plenty of misogynists are with women. In fact, most misogynists are with women. Married or dating. Doesn’t stop them from doing sexist things and being hateful toward women. The victims of their issues often being the women they are with, in fact.

But despite the glaring illogic that interracial relationships and families are the solution to our racial ills in this country, I see too many of my fellow white people lift up mixed-raced homes as the thing that will bring racism to its knees.

It won’t.

We need to do a lot more fundamental things to change society and our outlook on people who don’t meet the societal “norms” that we set if we are ever to solve racism. No matter how much fun it might be to try, we won’t screw our way out of the problem of racism.
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Bookends for the school to prison pipeline, or DeVos and Sessions are poison

If I am to be honest, almost all of Donald Trump’s picks for his main minions (cabinet positions and such) I find horrifying.

It started, of course, with Steve Bannon as chief strategist and possibly as a top member of the National Security Council (though apparently the law and tradition might have something to say about that latter thing), a man who looks like he loves his booze as much as he loves white supremacy, racism, misogyny, homophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. And that’s saying a lot.

But aside from having a Nazi kind of guy advising the president and apparently writing a lot of his executive orders and, apparently, kind of doing much of the president’s other work, my two biggest concerns are two recently confirmed Cabinet members: Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions.

The Secretary of Education and the U.S. Attorney General.

The soon-to-be Wonder Twins of the school-to-prison pipeline.

Students of color are among the most vulnerable to being shunted into the criminal justice system at a young age. In fact, studies show that student of color are unfairly targeted for all kinds of disciplinary action, out of proportion to white students (even white students who commit the same, similar or worse offenses).

And with this already the situation, what do we face now?

A Secretary of Education (DeVos) who has never been to public school, never taught or administered at one, and never sent her kids to one. A woman who champions charter schools and likes more religion mixed in with education. The kind of woman who, when she hears about failing schools in predominantly non-white areas, most likely blames the parents and the kids rather than society’s (and government’s) failure to preserve and nurture public education. She sees privatization as the answer. Yes, and privatization of the prison system has worked so well, hasn’t it? We now have a higher rate of our population imprisoned than any other nation on Earth. Except that unlike that prison example, I don’t see privatization of schools leading to more students; it will lead to costs and profits being of higher importance than educating our kids.

And on the other end, what do we face with our Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer and chief lawyer of the nation? Jeff Sessions, a man who in the 1980s was deemed too racist to be a judge. He was too racist in 1986. The ‘80s. A time when America had in the theaters the movie “Soul Man” was really keen on putting Black people in prison in droves because of crack cocaine use. And I haven’t seen anything about Sessions that shows me he has turned over any kind of leaf and embraced racial equity or racial justice.

So, what do I foresee? An Education Secretary who will likely gut our public schools and likely support any efforts to increase disciplinary action against students in “troubled” schools (which I’m sure will rarely be the mostly white ones), which will likely become more troubled because of her policies. And then the KKK Keebler Elf-looking Sessions will be ready with a tough “law and order” approach for the nation that will lock people up more (especially if they aren’t white) and stop giving much of a care to issues like civil rights.

The school-to-prison pipeline seems to be very much on track. Truth is, it never stopped flowing and it’s always been well maintained. But I think the capacity is about to increase.
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If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

 

Showing up for us in meaningful ways

Today we have a new post from contributor Marena Blanchard. It’s a very personal piece in the sense that it focuses heavily on her home city of Portland, Maine. But while some of the names and circumstances may be specific to that city, I think many of the issues she touches on will resonate with people of color and those who support them as far away as the “other Portland” in Oregon and oh so many communities in between in the United States. By the way, Marena is a community organizer, working to resist and dismantle the imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy in Maine. She focuses on racial justice and immigration rights.
–BGIM
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Here we go.

I love you, Portland. I love you so much that I choose to live here and have committed to raising my precious daughter here. Liberal and progressive white people of Portland, I love you so much that I am willing to expend significant emotional labor to remain in dialogue with you, over and over. I love you so much that I put my Black, queer, femme body in white-only spaces to provide a perspective you can’t imagine. I love you so much that I’m willing to make you uncomfortable and navigate through the consequences that has for me. My love is actively working toward King’s Beloved Community.

Here we go.

I am embarrassed to admit how long it took me to learn how white supremacy permeates all things. (Shout out to the Black folks who invested in teaching me outside of the institution of public education). Truth is, America is and always has been a country rooted in white supremacy. Since its genocidal founding, the institutions that make up this country have been built and maintained to keep a Black person down and keep the white man on their neck. There is not a single American system, law, code, etc. that exists outside of Racism. There is not a single region, state, county, or city that exists outside Racism. See where I’m going with this?

There’s this pervasive myth that Portland is a progressive bubble devoid of the racial strife present in other cities. It’s not. Portland stays hella problematic and perpetuates white supremacy in ways you may not recognize. Yet. More on this below.

Chances are your analysis of race has deepened due to your exposure to PoC [people of color] writers and thinkers, like Shay. There is a local lineage of leaders who have taught and mentored us, directly and indirectly. Gerald E. Talbot, Rachel Talbot Ross, Pious Ali, Leonard Cummings, Bob Greene, Keita Whitten, Regina Phillips, Daniel Minter, Rev. Kenneth Lewis, Samuel James, Rene Johnson, Samaa Abdurraqib, and the organizers of Portland Racial Justice Congress are just a few who have influenced me. You also have relied on their labor, perspective, insight, and persistence to gain understanding, whether you are conscious of this or not. It’s in this tradition, and that of my own familial ancestors, that I attempt to pop this myth about the Portland bubble.

Here we go.

Let’s talk about white saviors taking up space, the value of civil disobedience, and grounding anti-racist work in a human rights framework which centers the voices and perspectives of marginalized and frontline communities.

Are you ready?

Local white folks are so concerned with the anger expressed by some Black folks, specifically Black women. I have been prompted to address this so many times that I need to declare publicly, at the onset of this discussion: civility is not the greatest good. Black people are humans. With the full range of human emotions. Black women are humans. With full human rights to life. Black women should be angry. I, personally, am angry as fuck. And I will remain so, as long as my people remain oppressed. White folks, understand that you are also bound by white supremacy and will not be free until I am. Our liberations are interwoven.

The ways white supremacy manifests internationally, nationally, and locally should make us all mad. I am here for normalizing anger and normalizing its expression. I am here for the motivation it can provide to us. I am here for what it can tell us about ourselves and the world around us. And ultimately, I am here for transmuting it into the deepest kind of love. Feel your feelings, Black fam; they are valid and I will never shame you for it or tone-check you.

In the aftermath of Mike Brown’s murder and the mobilization of Ferguson, Brittney Cooper wrote this in defense of Black rage: “Nothing makes white people more uncomfortable than black anger. But nothing is more threatening to black people on a systemic level than white anger. It won’t show up in mass killings. It will show up in overpolicing, mass incarceration, the gutting of the social safety net, and the occasional dead black kid. Of late, though, these killings have been far more than occasional. We should sit up and pay attention to where this trail of black bodies leads us. They are a compass pointing us to a raging fire just beneath the surface of our national consciousness. We feel it. We hear it. Our nostrils flare with the smell of it.”

The trail of Black bodies has led us to this election. Donald Trump is our very own fascist president. Yeah, I’m fucking angry about that. And also terrified for my physical safety and that of my daughter. And also realize that even I, as a Black queer femme, am still less of a target than disabled PoC, trans PoC, Muslim PoC, and LGBTQ+ Muslim PoC.

After checking multiple news sources to confirm his victory, I was immediately triggered by the sense of not being able to protect those I love. I became instantly obsessed with figuring out how best to address the safety concerns of my community and change the system that made the concern a reality to begin with. In dialogue with another organizer, Samaa Abdurraqib, we formed For Us, By Us.

Liberal and progressive white folks in Maine also sprang into action. Suddenly, there was an excess of energy and ideas. Which is great and inspiring and part of the reason why I love Portland. There were meetings, events, and action plans made to protect marginalized communities. But y’all, the spaces were almost exclusively cis hetero white, as was the leadership of these initiatives. As a principle, I need you to understand that nothing about us or for us, should be without us. Liberal and progressive white folk do not have the perspective or lived experience to fully understand the challenges facing communities y’all don’t belong to. So how can y’all set priorities or frameworks? The assumption that you can save us is Peak White Savior mentality. We need to dead that shit; no more white saviors.

Recognize where your learning around race comes from, give credit where it’s due, don’t set up initiatives that compete with PoC initiatives and yet claim to benefit PoC. Don’t take up space and collect coins for initiatives that claim to benefit marginalized communities. Again, nothing about us or for us should be without us.

In these weeks and months directly following the election, I have been SO BUSY. I made it my mission to interrupt predominantly white spaces. I’ve had mixed results. My goal was and is to center the experiences and priorities of marginalized communities in their struggle for full human rights. Another goal was and is what is referred to in the organizing community as “the slow build.” The slow build acknowledges that white folks have more access to the financial and social capital required to begin a project as quickly as possible and that members of marginalized communities largely don’t have that access.

The idea of a slow build says slow down. It says don’t just do outreach to token and visible Black folks, LGBTQ+ folks, etc., in order that they may join and support your project. Rather, show up for us, in the spaces we curate, and figure out how to support us. Build mutually beneficial relationships, not exploitative ones. Figure out how to leverage your resources and connections, so that you may further initiatives led by members of marginalized communities. That is the work of an accomplice.

So here we are.

We’re about a month into the fascist presidency. Locally, we’ve seen our “moderate” Republican Sen. Susan Collins kiss the ring in a multitude of ways, KKK flyers manifesting in your suburban neighborhoods, hate crimes against PoC youth, a bomb threat against a Jewish preschool, the Portland Police Department chief holding a press conference in which he elevates rallies and condemns civil disobedience, and recruitment at the University of Southern Maine (USM) by a group listed on Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate map. Insert spinning Mr. Crab meme. Do you still think Portland is a bubble? I need to know where y’all white saviors at right now on this.

Last I checked some of y’all were still asking whether racism is a problem in Maine…where exactly the line is between cultural appropriation and appreciation…and characterizing the occupation of a commercial center as violence. When I think about where the needle is on these conversations, when I observe how basic civic engagement in participatory democracy is labeled as resistance, when I see the commodification of movement moments…my anxiety sets in. I wonder if you are prepared to address what’s happening. I wondered if you are prepared to stand with those of us who are most affected by this regime’s policies. My fear is that you are not.

Showing up in Meaningful Ways:

I see Rep. Larry Lockman’s speaking engagement at USM as a test. Read about his background here. I’ve heard your arguments about freedom of speech and the slippery slope toward absolute censorship for us all. I’ve heard your warnings that he’s down here solely to get a rise out of leftists and repeat what happened at UC Berkeley. And honestly, y’all got me fucked up with all that and I call bullshit. Lockman’s down here to spread his anti-immigrant message. Successful recruitment will have real impacts for our neighbors. Worry about THAT slippery slope. Y’all keep talking about the need to make inroads into rural Maine while the hateful and violent are out here making their own inroads into our community. Hate speech incites violence and USM shouldn’t be used for recruitment in this way. It’s already a dangerous environment for PoC and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Go ahead ask me about that, I got stories and receipts for days.

Let me connect a couple dots for you. Remember the Islamophobic graffiti that appeared in USM’s student senate office late last year? One of the senators forced to resign due to his efforts to cover up the incident is listed as the primary contact for this newly formed student group, Young Americans for Freedom. And one of their first acts is to invite down this motherfucker Lockman. In a public Facebook post, a student senator revealed that the event is privately funded. Further, this group is paying for their own security for the event. Where’s this money coming from? Y’all wanna talk about freedom of speech, tho.

In a recent Maine Beacon piece, Teddy Burrage asks, “To what extent should we allow freedom of speech to become an incubator for violence, particularly with the genocidal undertones within the so-called ‘Alt-Right’ movement? At what point are we responsible for snuffing out the embers of hate despite our commitment to freedom? Our answers to these questions may determine whether or not we repeat history.”

Let’s talk about history for a quick minute. White supremacists have been using the “freedom of speech” argument to spread hate and recruit for their cause for over 100 years. When “Birth of a Nation,” a horrid film which glorified the KKK and set a new bar for racist imagery, first debuted it was widely protested. The brand new NAACP worked tirelessly to prevent showings. This prompted the director of the film, D.W. Griffith, to pen “The Rise and Fall of Free Speech in America.” Let me emphasize this: the very argument that hate speech is free speech was popularized by the white supremacist filmmaker credited with the spread of the KKK in America 100 years ago and y’all out here repeating it.

Further, did you catch that Portland Press Herald article about how the resurgence of the KKK spread throughout Southern Maine and resulted in significant influence over Portland’s City Hall? It started with speaking engagements. We cannot afford to sleep on this. We cannot afford to normalize this. We cannot afford to appease this. As a queer, Black femme, daughter of an immigrant, the stakes feel very high for me.

This needs to be, first and foremost, about standing with those most affected by the threat Lockman’s views represent to our lives and our human rights. We need to stand with women, PoC, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ folks. Portland Racial Justice Congress, #USMfutures, and other student groups are calling for a nonviolent protest of the event. We should follow their leadership. They are centering the most affected voices and we should stand with them. You should stand with us.

Portland, I love you and I’mma need you to get your shit all the way together and fast. I need all of you to fiercely defend the rights of affected communities to protest if and when they so choose. If you can fix your mouth to defend the free speech of someone like Lockman, I better see you at the protest too. If you are able, don’t leave the marginalized to stand alone, surrounded by police. I’m going to need you to understand the value in civil disobedience and show up for it in a way that makes the most sense for your body. That’s what this moment requires. That’s how you leverage your privilege. That’s how you resist.

You are not powerless.

We are powerful. All power to the people.

#BlackLivesMatter

Six resources for going deeper:

Reframing Faculty Criticisms of Student Activism

White Progressives: It’s time to be transformers, not just have opinions

PBS Independent Lens Documentary: The Birth of a Movement

A Public Menace: How the Fight to Ban the Birth of a Nation Shaped the Nascent Civil Rights Movement

Some Garbage I Used to Believe About Equality

The Trump Era will Test us. What are you willing to risk?
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