“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” —Frederick Douglass
The phrase “the personal is political” was originally intended to mean that the oppression that you experience as an individual is patterned—that there are structural factors underlying your experience, and so there are probably others experiencing similar things. “The personal is political” encouraged individuals who were experiencing oppressive situations—for example, a woman abused by her husband, or a worker exploited by her employer—to view these situations not as personal problems, but as political problems, and to realize that remedial action requires coming together with others to address the issue collectively in the public sphere.
Such a process is precisely what has been happening across the United States as police killings of our black and brown brothers and sisters are now being seen as a pattern, a structural problem, and a political problem, by more and more people. This means that each needless death and each instance of excessive force is now understood as part of a bigger moral narrative. Victims’ families and communities no longer have to struggle on their own, isolated from each other. There is now a stronger sense, at least, that ‘you are not alone.’ This articulation of a common story about structural racism and economic inequality in relation to America’s police departments provides a stronger basis for the collective mobilization it will take to change this intolerable situation.
Racism is a powerfully destructive force in American society. Its crimes and its harm are immeasurable. It is a structural problem, which means it is everyone’s problem. It is all of our responsibility. It asks something of each of us. Please pay attention to Baltimore, with compassion in your heart. #BlackLivesMatter #FreddieGray
An amazing person left us today. Eduardo Galeano’s writing about Latin America is a gift to all of humanity. If you’ve never read anything by Galeano, The Open Veins of Latin America is a good place to start.
A reader recently brought to my attention that there’s no landing page that houses all of my publications on Occupy Wall Street. Now there is…
Smucker, Jonathan Matthew. 2014. “Can Prefigurative Politics Replace Political Strategy?” Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 58:74–82
——. 2013. “Occupy: A Name Fixed to a Flashpoint.” The Sociological Quarterly 54(2):219–225.
——. 2012. “Radicals and the 99%: Core and Mass Movement.” Pp. 247-253 in We Are Many: Reflections on Strategy from Occupation to Liberation, ed. by K. Khatib, M. Killjoy and M. McGuire. Oakland, CA: AK Press.
——. 2012. “Falling in Love with Ourselves.” n+1 Occupy! (An OWS-Inspired Gazette), September 2012, pp. 28-29.
——. 2012. “A Practical Guide to Co-option.” n+1 Occupy! (An OWS-Inspired Gazette), May 2012, pp. 5-8.
——. 2012. “The Tactic of Occupation and the Movement of the 99 Percent.” Progressive Planning Magazine, Spring 2012, pp. 6-9.