Excerpted from a talk by Heather Carvellas, an 18-year-old college student and member of Workers World Party, at a Feb. 25 Black History Month forum in New York City. To view the entire talk, go to tinyurl.com/j2dnujd.
Growing up, I was never taught that Black lives mattered.
As a matter of fact, I was taught not only to fear Blackness, but to deny my own. I was told to tell people that I was not Black, that I was Dominican. I have been told on several occasions that I needed to marry a white man. My mother told me she would be disgusted if she had any dark-skinned grandchildren, despite being dark-skinned herself.
Whenever I asked my parents if I could have any friends over at our house, the first thing they would ask me is whether they were Black, and they even disapproved of me hanging out with other Latinxs, and eventually Muslims. I was not shocked at all when my mother told me she was voting for Donald Trump in November.
I am not shocked at all that Trump won the election, because I had already been aware that we live in a white supremacist, cis-hetero-patriarchal, capitalist state that was literally built on the genocide of Native Americans and the backs of African slaves, my ancestors. Donald J. Trump, with his racist, xenophobic, anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic rhetoric, quite literally represents everything the U.S. has always stood for.
This may come as a shock to those who believe that the United States is a “democracy,” a land of freedom, liberty, equality and justice for all. It may come as a shock to those who believe the United States is a land of immigrants, that it is a “melting pot” of different cultures. Many immigrants have come to the United States out of the belief that they would be able to make a better life here for themselves and their families, only to face a massive amount of discrimination.
Many people in my generation believed that things were getting better for us; that society has been becoming more progressive and accepting during the past few years and now that we are in the 21st century.
However, as a Black, Latina queer woman who suffers from a mental illness, I have always been aware that this was never the case.
I have to admit, at first I felt a bit apathetic the night when I had found out Trump had won the election. Actually, I wouldn’t really say apathetic, but I just simply felt defeated. I felt powerless, as if all I had ever done to educate myself so I could speak out against bigotry had just gone to waste. The people in the United States were not listening to me, nor were they listening to other people who looked like me.
I remembered that no matter who was president, oppression would still exist not only within the United States but around the globe, which made me feel even more helpless. I thought I had escaped the bigotry I was exposed to at home once I moved away to college, only to turn on the TV and have to hear the damn President say the exact same sh-t my parents would say.
Taking to the streets
However, what really moved me was seeing the reactions of other people of color around me the day after the election. I finally realized that I was not alone in feeling that pain, that defeat, the helplessness from the night before. I barely saw any students hanging around campus; everyone kept to themselves or stayed inside their dorms. A few professors had cancelled class, and the ones who did not devoted their class to talk about how we felt about the election, rather than teaching the lesson they had planned that day. My friends cancelled our plans that night.
When I went to eat in the cafeteria, it was dead silent. Then, when I walked out after finishing lunch, a white student with one of those “Make America Great Again” hats approached me and was all like “Ha, ha! Trump won and there’s nothing you can do about it!”
I was not about to let myself be disrespected like that. I was going to stand up for myself and make my voice heard. That evening, I took to the streets in Manhattan, where we marched from Union Square to Trump Tower.
It was unlike any demonstration I had ever been to before. You could feel the emotion in the crowd as we marched and chanted. Nearly everyone on the sidewalk and through the windows of each building stood by, watching us and even cheering us on.
We stuck cars in traffic, but a lot of the people inside them supported us, honking their horns in support and high-fiving us as we walked by. It is very important to note that many of the people in this crowd had never been to a militant demonstration before. Another major thing to note is that these anti-Trump rallies and marches are literally bringing together people who all hold different beliefs to fight for one single cause.
I was a Marxist, marching alongside liberals, democratic socialists, anarchists, Hillary and Bernie supporters, and even people who had never really paid attention to politics before.
Unity spells end of capitalism
Trump’s election has definitely made the people around me a LOT more political. I now frequently talk about politics and about Trump with friends who have never really cared much before. Every single day there is yet another thing Trump has done that everybody ends up talking about.
My roommates are even talking about getting a TV so it would be easier for us to keep up with the news. People also know me around campus as that commie girl. I’ve been getting a lot of people asking me questions about socialism and communism.
Because what Trump is doing will have a devastating effect on ALL of us, except of course those who are wealthy, white, male, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied and Christian — n other words, those who benefit from the marginalization of others.
As the focus of today’s discussion and especially in awareness of Black History Month, it is important to point out that Trump’s policies will have a devastating effect on Black people and our communities, especially as he recklessly signs executive order after executive order each day and as he tweets that he would “send the feds to Chicago”.
Not only does he plan to increase policing in Black and Brown communities, but it was just reported on Feb. 23 that he will rescind Obama’s plan to phase out the use of private prisons and that he wants to take action against states that have legalized use of marijuana.
This means that even more Black and Brown people would be locked behind bars away from society. And if they are labeled as felons, even when they get out of prison, they lack several rights such as the right to vote, to receive financial aid for college, to public housing and many more rights, in addition to being discriminated against by employers and landlords. Yes, many of those living in Black communities are affected by poverty and violent crime.
However, this is a result of capitalism which has historically and systematically disadvantaged Black people for centuries, not because of a failure of moral character. And the solution to this is not to increase policing, especially when the police have a history of brutalizing — and continue to brutalize — Black people on a daily basis. Instead of spending money on increasing the size and presence of the police force, that money could easily be used to go back into the community and help people have access to resources, such as healthy food, quality education, reliable transportation, jobs, affordable health care and child care, and so much more.
Trump’s not even concerned about helping the Black residents of Chicago and other cities to make their communities a better place to live. He’s just worried about making sure that white people feel comfortable. He does not really care about fighting poverty; he is a billionaire himself and he is literally serving to protect the interests of capitalists. He does not care about violence when his own supporters are committing hate crimes against people who are part of historically marginalized groups.
He does not even recognize Black communities for their vibrant histories and their unique cultures. He assumes they are all like “living in hell” where there is non-stop “carnage” going on. That is telling of how he thinks of Black people: perpetuating the stereotype that we are all violent and criminals.
It is also important to note that there are many Black Muslims, which Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric and travel ban affect, as well as Black immigrants, including Afro-Latinxs. Trump thinks that Black people are a threat, when in reality, he is the one who is a threat to us.
I often find myself wishing that Trump had never became president. Unfortunately, however, under Hillary Clinton we would not have had protests and demonstrations practically every single day, and many people would have never been made aware of the fact that the United States, the land of “freedom, liberty, and justice for all” was in fact still racist as hell, still sexist as hell, Islamophobic, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic and just straight up f–ked up.
I have to admit, it is frustrating knowing that I have been experiencing racism and sexism every day of my entire life, no matter who was in the White House. Yet instead of listening to women of color who have been speaking out for ages about the oppression we have continued to face, it took a literal white supremacist and orange fascist being elected to office for some to wake up.
At the same time, I definitely think we should embrace the fact that the myth we are living in a post-racial society is literally falling apart right in front of our own eyes. It may have been obvious to many of us before, but now it is painfully obvious to everybody. I feel like now is the perfect time to radicalize people even further.
We just need to make it a priority to explain to people that Trump is not just one extreme example of a racist, but he is literally a product of our society in the United States, which has always been white supremacist and cis-hetero-patriarchal to its core as a result of capitalism.
The only way we could even begin to achieve liberation for Black people, for all people of color and immigrants, for queer people, for disabled people, and for women is if we dismantle capitalism first. I still faced blatant racism under Obama. I most definitely would have continued to face sexism every day had Hillary Clinton become president.
There’s no way you could reform a system that was literally made to guarantee inequality — capitalism cannot survive without oppression — and to ensure that the people remain divided rather than standing up together to resist and revolt.
It is impossible to predict when exactly the revolution would come. However, all I really know is that in the meantime, Donald Trump has got to go.
(WW photo: Brenda Ryan)
(WW photo: Brenda Ryan)