This post was inspired by the controversy that happened earlier this year when the Feminists With Disabilities Helen Keller blogswarm clashed with Juneteenth. One of the comments made was that Juneteenth is a North American/ US’ian holiday and as such only relevant to North Americans US’ian’s.
Slavery is and was not just a North American tragedy. It was a tragedy that is felt by all of humanity. I say this not to diminish the other human tragedies that have occurred throughout history like colonialism, the holocaust, ethnic cleansing etc.. but rather to illustrate how these tragedies are tied together. They occurred for many reasons but they would not have been possible without the denial of the humanity of the groups that were targeted. Denying the humanity of those who are different from us is something human beings are very good at and in my opinion the catalyst for many of the great evil’s that happen in the world.
By claiming that slavery in the USA was only a North American or USian tragedy we deny the cultural factors, the political discourse and the simple othering that is common to the ways in which all marginalised people are marginalised. This is not to say that all opressions are experienced in the same way, only that the process by which white supremacy, or abelism or any other opression operates are built upon the same blocks. Denial of personhood and autonomy, othering, objectification.
I view all opressions as being the symptoms of the sickness of the kyriarchy and so being a good ally is as important as fighting my own battles. This to me means seeing the tragedies of all oppressed people as being my own tragedies because they are allowed to happen by the same system that allows my own. This means listening to people who are oppressed because of different factors to me and ensuring that I am subverting – not reinforcing those forces that make their oppression as well as my own possible.
The other reason that this is so important is because of intersectionality. Oppressions do not exist in discrete boxes and neither to people. We all have many facets to our idenities and can be both privileged and oppressed by many different factors at any one time. Intersectionality not only forces us to take heed of those whose voice have been most erased by mainstream social justice movements, often because they are invisible within them, but to also see the commonalities as well as the differences between our marginalisation.
Solidarity has often meant making some people wait for their rights and recognition so that some can progress now. It has often meant the silencing of critical voices in the name of the movement. What I want is a true solidarity that comes from collaboration, true listening to the concerns of all marginalised people, and a universal rejection of the kyriarchy – not just the bits that affect us as individuals.