Sunday, 13 November 2016

Memories of resistance project

When all the terrible things that are happening now seem overwhelming, it is useful to reflect on past struggles and try to find what worked. It is clear that broad coalitions are needed between different groups, as happened with the UK miners’ strike and LGBT people — the miners supported same-sex marriage when it came up as a policy in the Labour Party. Solidarity is real.

I am collecting people's memories of resistance to racism and fascism in past decades, to inspire younger activists who are scared rigid by the election of Trump and the vote for Brexit. I will post the article(s) on Medium.com and Gods & Radicals.

Here are some of my memories of resistance to oppression. I have also had a great contribution to the project from Sabina Magliocco, which will be published on Gods and Radicals on 16 November.

I would be very grateful if you could share something with me for the article. Please feel free to share this link with other seasoned activists. It doesn’t have to be long, but it would be helpful if you could describe things you or your relatives and friends personally experienced, whether it’s anti-racism, feminism, or LGBT-rights related. Photos would be awesome too. And please let me know how you want to be credited — anonymously, by name, or by pseudonym (and religious affiliation, if you want). Ideas for building a network of resistance are particularly appreciated.

Please comment on this post with your contribution.

8 comments:

  1. This is wonderfully timely - I was in fact just looking for such a thing at the weekend. I'll give you a family story to start with, and I'll follow up with more as they come to mind and/or as I have time to write them up. You can credit me as Sass Wolf (ADF Druid).

    My first story is about the Dutch Resistance. When my mother was born during WWII, she was one of four babies in the UK with a rare gallbladder disease that meant consuming any fat could kill them, unless they received a special medication. That medication was only manufactured in the Netherlands, which was occupied. The occupying German authorities cut off the supply of the drug to Britain and her allies. The Dutch Resistance smuggled supplies of the drug to the UK throughout the war. Despite their best efforts, three of the babies died due to the irregular supply, but my mother survived, despite a narrow escape when, as a toddler who didn't know any better, she grabbed a block of forbidden butter and ate the whole thing. I and my three wonderful children would not be here today were it not for those Resistance members risking their lives for those four babies and their unborn descendants.

    Some medications may become harder to get in the US following Trump's election - especially those connected with birth control, but also those that will be too expensive for many if Obamacare is reversed. Some of us in Europe may be able to help; we will not even need to risk our lives. If you can, please consider it.

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  2. A more personal one:

    Walking home one night, I saw a group of several white men and one black woman pushing and shoving each other. There was a lot of laughter, so at first I wasn't sure whether it was horseplay between friends or something more serious. As I passed the group, I realised there was a child watching the group and heard the woman yelling for the child to call the police. I turned back, placed myself between the men and the woman and child, banking on the likelihood that it was a racist incident and that they would be less inclined to attack a white, female-appearing person. This turned out to be the case. I think I said something fairly inane like "What's going on here, then?", but that was enough for them to back off. They disappeared into a nearby pub, casting some choice racist slurs behind them. I called the police, stayed with the woman until the police arrived, comforted the child while the police took the woman's statement, and then gave mine. The police searched the pub, but meanwhile I think the perpetrators had left. The pub itself was shut down not long after, however, having apparently become something of a rallying point for white racist thugs.

    Thugs are often cowards, and they operate on a prey/predator model that would shame a pack of animals. If challenged by someone they haven't learned to see as prey, they often back down. If you visibly share their privilege, use that.

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    1. Thanks so much for these - awesome.

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  3. In somewhat similar vein to the previous one:

    I was on the Tube and witnessed a man arguing with his female partner. He quickly escalated to physical intimidation, leaning over her, grabbing at her and following her from the vestibule of the carriage to a spot almost directly in front of my seat when she tried to leave. I stood up, which put me in her space and caused her to instinctively take a step back. I moved into that space before he could follow and said in what I call my Voice of Doom (the one that is resonant but not loud, useful for dealing with animals, small children, drunks and people whose hormones are in charge of their decisions), "YOU ARE GOING TO BACK OFF AND LEAVE HER ALONE NOW". He said something along the lines of "I just want to talk to her". I said in the same voice, "NO. YOU ARE GOING TO BACK OFF". He slunk back to the vestibule. I remained standing between him and her until she got off the train (which involved going several stops past my destination, but was totally worth it.)

    If you can get the tone of voice right, phrase what you want as a statement rather than a request, and use assertive body language, people (especially if already in a somewhat irrational state) obey more often than not. Looking privileged helps, and an outsider intervening is often in a stronger position than the person being attacked who by definition has already been categorised by the attacker as vulnerable. Still, I've also successfully used this technique to deter an attack on myself as a gender-ambiguous person. It's one worth cultivating, if you can.

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    1. Yes, the Voice of Doom has worked for me before, too. (Good name for it. I call it the Bene Gesserit Voice of Power. "She has the Wyrding Way.")

      I was on the bus a couple of years ago, when two slightly drunk guys started harassing a man (possibly of Middle Eastern background) for speaking on his mobile in a foreign language. They'd already been bugging me slightly because they'd been looking over the back of their seat at my iPad. I said, loudly, in the Voice, "There will be no racism on this bus." They were suitably cowed and even apologised to the guy on the phone on their way off the bus.

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  4. Slightly disappointed that it's just the two of us sharing so far, but here's another one, from when my son was about 12. Some boys at his school were bullying a classmate with learning difficulties. My son told them to stop. They said, "But he's stupid." My son said, "He might not be very clever at book learning, but he's clever at understanding people's feelings, and I think that's more important." Unsurprisingly, they turned to trying to bully my son instead after that, but another boy who witnessed it offered to go to the headmaster with him and explain the situation. The culprits were suspended, their parents got called in, and I got a lovely call from my son's Head of Year apologising for their initial failure to prevent the bullying and telling me to be proud of my son (which I already was, of course).

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    1. Yes, I hope that I will get other contributions, too.

      I will post this on social media again in the hope of getting more.

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