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Half a century later, MLK is still right

Ghana has something to say to us. It says to us first, that the oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. You have to work for it. And if Nkrumah and the people of the Gold Coast had not stood up persistently, revolting against the system, it would still be a colony of the British Empire. Freedom is never given to anybody. For the oppressor has you in domination because he plans to keep you there, and he never voluntarily gives it up. And that is where the strong resistance comes. Privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance.

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. shared these insights after returning from the celebration of Ghana’s independence in 1957- the first country in Africa to do so – over half a century ago. The struggles for a world liberated from neoliberalism, militarization, imperialism, and white hegemony remain central to our quests for self-determined, free nations and peoples. In parts of the world, militarized states and polices forces continue to suppress people movements; corporations continue to cement their hold on resources and power through extraction, violence, and unjust trade; and in the United States white nationalists have found a national spokesperson, while the country’s domestic and international policies continue to marginalize and exploit black and brown people.

For people in the United States, these times are an excellent opportunity to examine the covert and overt manifestations of white supremacy within our governance structures and economic and social systems. We are seeing the worst attributes of leadership amplified through the voices of those committed to destroying the democratic ideals that many of us are working towards. In a time when the President of the United States believes and outwardly states that Mexicans are rapists, Muslims are violent, and all Haitians have AIDS, these racist views do not just degrade attitudes and narratives and rally his white nationalist base, they also shape policy. These ideas have and continue to manifest in material changes around aid, disaster relief, immigration policy, criminal justice reform, and public health resources.

If we stand opposed to this president and administration, it is incumbent upon us to support and be in solidarity with struggles being led by oppressed communities fighting for transformation. Some of the ways we can do this is by demanding protection under a just DACA and TPS, supporting the self determination of the people of Puerto Rico, working to support communities fighting the militarization of the African and Latin American continents, and by demanding the end of corporate power. It also remains important for us to refuse to normalize these incidences, and refuse to comply with the culture of impunity that is characterizing Trump’s tenure. This administration is a failure. We must stand united and strong across our movements and struggles.

At Thousand Currents, we partner with groups around the world that are fighting to create self-determined futures. Their work is rooted in the principles of equality, justice, accountability, and transformation. They hold the complexity of the structural and globalized challenges they face while advancing localized and contextualized solutions. Our partners in South Africa and Zimbabwe hold true that the fight for Black lives in the US is inextricably linked to the fight for Black lives everywhere. Our partners in Guatemala teach us that the fight for the intellectual rights of Indigenous women in Guatemala is the continued resistance against the genocide of native peoples and their cultures across the Americas. While our partners in Rajasthan, India affirm through practice the importance of sourcing local solutions of agricultural practices to ward off the rise of corporate power. Through their disciplined practice, our partners teach us the importance of maintaining interconnectedness, sharp political analysis, creativity, and solidarity as foundations and pathways towards a just, equitable world.

Even as the tainted ink of emboldened white supremacists dry on executive orders and bills and engulf our national conversations, let’s heed Martin Luther King’s words and remind ourselves of what side of the arc of justice that we want to be on. Words and policies are being used as weapons for division and destruction. White nationalists win when we become insular, when we shut the world out, and when we address problems in isolation. They win when we fall prey to their distraction tactics, lose sight of the big picture, and remain entrapped in cycles of despair and outrage without action. They win when we close our borders, our minds, and our hearts. We must remain vigilant and focused.

Our outrage is important, children are watching.

Denouncements are necessary, the world is listening.

Action is demanded of us, our freedom is at stake.

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