by Michael “Quess?” Moore
It was a few minutes before we began chanting that I found out what we were going to do – that we were going to do anything at all besides be passive observers at the white supremacist rally disguised as a presidential campaign. My nerves churned a bit like anyone’s do as they realize they’re about to engage in an altercation that could become physical. Or violent.
But the crowd was so huge and the momentum so irreversible at that point that something in me turned off (fear, concern for my own physical safety?) as something else turned on (dogged determination, the blind focus of tunnel vision).
It’s a strange thing that happens when you know you’re in a “no turning back” situation. You just accept your odds and decide that whatever will be will be. But what you won’t do is back down from the principles on which you stand. Or turn away from the ledge from which you’ve been forced to leap.
In that way, the stance that we took on Friday, March 4, at a Donald Trump rally in New Orleans is but a microcosmic mirror of what we all do in movement work. Up against immeasurable odds, we barrel down and push forward despite how unlikely the win may seem.
It’s what we all must do when we realize that the heels of oppression have made circumstances so unlivable, that all bets on comfortable conformity are off as we are forced to action. For in the balance lie our very lives and the ability to live them as freely as possible.
The same was the case for enslaved Africans in New Orleans who waged the greatest “slave” revolt in U.S. history in the winter of 1811. And for the Haitian Revolutionaries who inspired them only 20 years prior.
And the unapologetic resistance of the Civil Rights Movement baptized in the blood of Emmitt Till. The not guilty verdict that pushed Trayvon Martin’s mother Sabrina Fulton into fulltime activism. And for the unrequited murder of yet another Black body in the form of Mike Brown that got me and thousands of others off our couches and into the streets towards the end of 2014.
The stance that we took on Friday, March 4, at a Donald Trump rally in New Orleans is but a microcosmic mirror of what we all do in movement work. Up against immeasurable odds, we barrel down and push forward despite how unlikely the win may seem.
And since then I believe there has been an unwritten contract that many of us have written with our own lives. We have agreed to stand against state sanctioned violence and its patriarchal root of White Supremacy at all costs.
We have signed this contract in the sweat, tears and breath of our movement and sealed it in the blood of our unrequited lost sisters and brothers. And we’ve done so with the cognizance that whatever is done to the least of these, you also do to me.
So when a mentally ill Black woman is killed in Texas, we understand that she was someone’s sister, mother, daughter or friend and that since her primary impetus for being killed was the color of her skin, then it could have been any Black body.
And when Trump speaks xenophobic bigotry against Mexicans and Muslims, we understand that their struggle is ours too. Because we contextualize their struggle within the racial hierarchy that often places Black bodies at the bottom of all systems of racist oppression. So if they’re in trouble, we must be too.
Meanwhile, our opposition understands the socio-historic context of Trump’s race baiting as well. That’s why only minutes before we began our own disturbance, Trump’s rally had already been disturbed by a white man holding up a sign that read “KKK for Trump” and “Trump Duke 2016.”
When Trump speaks xenophobic bigotry against Mexicans and Muslims, we understand that their struggle is ours too.
Because just as Trump’s popular vitriol creates solidarity among the oppressed, it also flashes a Batman signal for White racists – of all types. There are those like the aforementioned man with the sign who wave their white nationalist flag proudly.
Their brand is too obviously caustic to navigate the political schema of today. It’s shunned from the public eye just like Hitler’s genocidal platform was dismissed by Western nations some 80 years ago.
Western nations, mind you, that still practiced a brand of hatred not far removed from Hitler’s, albeit not as murderously or obviously. So the man with the sign was promptly disappeared from Trump’s rally just as Hitler was vanquished from the world stage.
But then there are the rest of the rally’s attendees who, like the aforementioned Western nations, still practiced their own brand of marginalizing hatred. They won’t honestly proclaim to be White Supremacists. They’ll just co-sign on so many of the tenets and behaviors of the ideology that it becomes difficult to tell the difference between them and Nazis.
Some of the same folks who tried to silence the man with the sign only minutes later tried to quell our cries of “Black Lives Matter” with the popularly oblivious “All Lives Matter.” At the same time they antagonized us with racial mockery like dancing the “Dab” as we chanted, assisting security and police officers in shoving and pulling us out of the space and generally fostering an environment more prone towards violence against us.
It’s this kind of cognitive dissonance that has been the bane of many a Black and/or oppressed person in America. When we clearly articulate the parameters of our discontent, explain them as systemic problems that foster unsafe environments for us, only to have racism reduced to the isolated acts of a few rabble-rousers like one genocidal maniac or a man with a sign endorsing a fringe group of terrorists.
Meanwhile, the environment that fosters a safe space for that terrorism to exist and the people – like the Trump supporters at the rally – who help create and perpetuate that environment go completely ignored and unchecked.
And yet we press on. As soon as we were all violently ejected from the rally, a young Latina with the organization VAYLA (Vietnamese American Youth Leadership Association), who was also the person to initiate the organizing of folks into a circle, began to reassemble our now fractured circle with a chant. The words were, “I believe that we will win!” And we said it again. And again. And again.
Michael “Quess?” Moore is a national spoken word poet, educator, actor, playwright, activist and founder of Take ‘Em Down NOLA, a coalition committed to the removal of ALL symbols of white supremacy in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“No one expected this to happen in New Orleans. But longtime protesters point to a new generation of younger activists steeped in local history, seasoned by the recent divisive debate about Confederate monuments and energized to oppose Trump, whom they see as a successor to a long racist political tradition exemplified by former Louisiana gubernatorial candidate and Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.” – The Advocate