By Sammie Lewis
As a 27 year old, I have had to consider the various ways I may die. Will it be because of an unsurvivable climate? Will it be because of a mass shooting? Will it be because of the rise of fascism? Will I die as a political prisoner? I don’t really know, but any of these seem likely.
The George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery Uprisings — When I came out to the streets in 2020, marching daily, and at times facing extreme cases of police brutality, I learned so much about both myself and the system. When I first started protesting, I prepared myself for what I was getting into as both a Black person and as someone fighting the system, the State. Part of my preparation included writing out a will, just in case the police brutality (or fascists, Nazis, and counter-protesters) resulted in fatality. This may sound like an extreme, but there were rubber bullets that caused head wounds, canisters of tear gas aimed for our heads, skulls hitting the ground after being knocked down by riot cops’ shields, batons aimed for and contacting faces, protesters with holes in their lips and collapsed lungs, and cars of both police and counter-protesters hitting us. Not to mention the hundreds of death threats I would receive through social media and text messages. It wasn’t an extreme to write a will, it was the truth I had to live as a Black person and activist.
Back in 2020, my parents and I got into a heated argument about my protesting as I defended Hakim Littleton, a Black teen executed by the Detroit Police Department as he laid face down on the ground. The story was that Hakim had a gun, and despite DPD pulling up like a gang, suddenly my parents didn’t agree that he was worth defending and protesting for, in which I told my mom and dad, “no matter what you say, I will never stop doing what I’m doing.” After that comment, my white parents kicked me out in the middle of the pandemic for no longer agreeing with me, a Black person protesting for Black people. I wrote about this incident recently and the police brutality we faced for demanding answers as to why this boy was shot down in a residential area during the day, by a racist police department and system. I remember seeing a goose egg on someone’s head that was struck with a baton and watching a friend’s skull slam into the ground after the excessive force used by Detroit riot police. I thought about what death would look like, but I didn’t let it stop me from using my voice. Nothing could stop me.
I first learned about the 1948 Nakba and illegal, Israeli occupation of Palestine in 2020. I familiarized myself with this struggle and how it related back to the Black liberation struggle. I learned so much about internationalism and the intersectionality of all struggles, as we have the same capitalist and imperialist enemies: the United States, Great Britain, and other white, oppressor countries such as Zionist Israel, as well as big businesses. To fight for true liberation means to fight for the liberation of all oppressed people everywhere. Black people cannot be free until Palestine is free, and vice versa. The liberation of all people, at all intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality is dependant on one another. To win means to defeat all oppressor states and systems, not just here in the US, but everywhere. Of course, this won’t be easy, but it is what is necessary for us to be free and to have true democracy.
As we are a month into the genocide of Gaza, I see so many people remaining silent and I have had some people confront me for how loud I am about Palestine. A white girl in the music scene told me she felt attacked because I told her I needed her to support Palestine more than I needed her to support me. The silence, the defensiveness, the deflection all screams white supremacy and settler colonialism. Truly, I see many people within various communities claim to be allies, claim to support the fight for freedom, but either remain silent when it matters most to raise our voice, or to be critical of how that freedom is achieved, or to overall show their true colors as oppressive people themselves. I see this everywhere, from the music and entertainment scene to our movement spaces. It used to shock me that spaces that should be better often fail to live up to the values and principles they’ve previously stated, but now I understand the ways we reproduce the conditions of the system. What I do believe is that those who fail to speak up and practice said values and theories, are actually the people who don’t want to liberate everyone, because they have something to gain themselves from the oppression of others. This is something I see from white people and men especially, as they do not want to give up the power they feel they have.
This is something I see from white women and the LGBTQ+ community as well. For example, many women fought for reproductive healthcare access and many within the queer community fought against bans on Trans people, but yet many of these people stopped fighting once their rights were no longer being challenged. That type of activism is transactional and conditional. I think we should all show up for our passions, but what is activism if it stops at ourselves? Is it really activism then if it’s for one, but not all? I see many queer people and white women staying silent on the issue of Palestine, getting offended if called out and hiding behind their identities as queers, and that just shows me that these specially oppressed groups of people cannot fathom or understand racial oppression, which is okay, but there must be a willingness to learn and to fight, especially being that all our broad struggles have the same exact enemies. Queerness doesn’t excuse whiteness.
What I’m getting at is that I don’t think white people make enough sacrifices, often because they never have had to and because there is a certain power they want to maintain. White people do not understand what it is like to be targetted just for the color of your skin, they politically take less heat than BIPOC organizers too. White people have an obligation to do more in speaking up and utilizing their platforms to educate, learn, and decolonize. While white protesters were targetted with police aggression in 2020, they do not face the same daily, constant threat that Black and Brown people do just for breathing air. It is not up to white people to decide how oppressed people fight their own oppression, it is up to white people to amplify the struggle instead. I believe in all oppressed people’s right to self determination.
I ask white people to do better and do work to really be antiracist and to decolonize. I ask white people to take up less space and stop acting like they know opppression better than the people who actually face it. I ask white people to show up without acting as white saviors. I ask those that use the words solidarity and comrade to really consider what that actually means and looks like. I ask you to actually stop using the words, unless you plan to apply it. I ask other Communists to think of what that root word, community, means and looks like. We don’t have the world we want yet, we have not yet won the revolution, but there are things we can put into practice now, while considering that theory evolves and Russian theory may not be exact to the conditions of America. Use your radical imagination and practice what you preach, as words without action is just nothing.
Lastly, I started writing this as I thought about death in Gaza and the fatalistic mindset I’ve had to have as a Black person, organizer, and Millenial/Gen Z cusper that faces the brunt of the world’s issues. I have had to think about death and what that may look like, but I have never had to experience constant bombardment. I can’t imagine not using my voice to continue the conversation around Palestine, because of the fear that may be involved with losing a job, friends, or family. I don’t want to invalidate the feelings that may arise from those fears, but I also think it is paramount that everybody unapologetically uplift the Palestinian struggle. I think it’s a privilege to be afraid of losing those things or to prioritize your mental health, and I think it’s rather ignorant to remain silent or neutral because you’re afraid when there is literally a genocide happening and Palestinans have been nothing but resilient, including children that deliver their own press conferences asking to the world that the genocide stops and that their lives are spared. I think those fears that are stopping people from speaking up means that you have work to do to decolonize and address your own internalized oppressive behaviors. Like I told my parents in 2020 on Hakim Littleton, nothing anyone says could ever stop me from doing what I’m doing, because I know it is the right thing. When I die, no matter how it is, I will die confidently knowing that I fought for what’s right and for the liberation of all, not some, not just myself. All.
Reprinted from medium.com