Do The Change

by Ian Kennedy

Yesterday, January 28, at JFK and airports across the country, protests mattered. They mattered because they helped show federal employees at all levels that enforcement of this order went against large numbers of the public, people who had nothing to gain from fighting. Nothing to gain from fighting except the continuation of any semblance of Democracy or Freedom in the United States.

The protests last night were about defending people who are from muslim majority countries. People who might have dark skin, who might wear robes or head scarves or burkas or other clothing we consider signs of difference. People who get pulled out of line for random searches. Mark Lilla and David Brooks tell us that identity politics is over, is too small for this movement. But, what can we do instead of identity politics?

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The left did not make this about identity politics. Those of us standing at Battery Park today on January 29 did not make this about identity politics. We would love to walk past identity politics and focus on something else, and we will. But not until the president doesn’t make it about identity politics by banning certain immigrants. Not until we dismantle the system of mass incarceration that’s locking up black and brown folks. Not until women have access to basic health care and fair wages. Not until trans people can, at the very least, safely use the bathroom.

Mark and David are two white cis man who are not targeted personally by the more scary policies of the past week. They insist that they don’t mean we should ignore the dangers Trump poses to specific groups: of course those issues are important, but we need political power to fight for them, and in order to get that power we’ll need all of the identity people to shut up. Once the white cis men have power again, they will totally for real use it to deal with those issues, but quietly so no one will notice. Sure, I believe you, 100%. And also, who cares about what happens then? What matters is that people are still being detained because of that crazy orange dude and his flights of crazy.

So we did not choose identity politics as a framework. We looked at the world and realized that the issues that mattered most, the places where the most harm was being done, were also places where those doing harm focused their efforts through lenses of stereotype and bigotry.

Thank you ACLU, thank you immigration lawyer volunteers, thank you everyone who showed up at JFK yesterday, at other airports around the country, at Battery Park today, and at other locations around the world. We are now the bulwark of U.S. American democracy.

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