(On November 25th, 2015, the Southern Maine Workers’ Center wrote the following statement as a show of support for Syrian and other refugees. Many things have happened between that time and now, however the urgency remains. Thank you to our members for reading this message of solidarity and to Ali Mann for making the video.)
At the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, our hearts are heavy with the latest round of racist, xenophobic, and anti-Muslim violence and rhetoric around the world: from xenophobic hysteria about the Syrian refugee crisis, to the news that five unarmed #BlackLivesMatter protesters in Minneapolis demanding #JusticeforJamar were shot by three white men wearing bulletproof vests, to the release of video that shows the brutal murder of Laquan MacDonald, a Black 17-year old killed by police in Chicago last year. Locally, we’ve heard elected leaders make sweeping racist and Islamophobic attacks on Syrian refugees. We know these incidents are part of a long legacy of racist US policy at home and abroad. We know that for communities of color around the world, these incidents are nothing new. We also know that as long as there has been white supremacist violence, occupation, and war, there has been and continues to be resistance.
Anne Braden, a white anti-racist organizer who worked with Ella Baker and other racial justice leaders for close to 60 years, said, “All through history there have been people who’ve envisioned something better in the most dire situations, and that’s what you want to be a part of.”
In the streets of Minneapolis and Chicago, on the shores of Syria, Turkey, and Greece, and in the neighborhoods of Maine, we see glimpses of the people who envision something better. Their faces are weary with fear for the lives of their children, drawn with anger about the violence against their family and community, and fierce with a commitment to liberation. Their hands are cooking food, making phone calls to elected officials, and comforting those in mourning, and their eyes are set on a vision of a different world.
At SMWC, we believe in the value and importance of racial justice organizing that is multi-faceted, multi-racial, and that makes a direct call to white people to participate in dismantling white supremacy. There are moments in our lives when we must declare ourselves on the side of racial justice, on the side of human rights. At SMWC, we believe that refugee rights are human rights. We believe that Black lives matter. We believe that one of the most powerful actions we can take in this moment is to turn to the people in our lives we love the most and ask them if they feel the same. If they do, we need to ask them to join us in attending a march, donating money, and organizing for justice our communities. If they don’t, we need to ask them why. We need to speak from our hearts about love and liberation, and invite them in.
But conversations and invitations are not enough. We must also be pushing for solutions from power-holders. We support demands for police accountability. We support policies that welcome refugees into our neighborhoods, states, and country. We refuse to support leaders who stoke hatred with racist and Islamophobic lies. The state-sanctioned violence that Black and Brown people experience daily is systemic, far-reaching, and built to last. But our demands and our organizing are also systemic, far-reaching, and built to last. And we have something to fuel our work that the systems we are fighting can never have: conscious, critical, and liberatory hope.
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way,” Arundhati Roy said. “On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
So can we.