Women’s March Organizer on Effective Resistance in the Age of Trump

Posted Aug. 16, 2017

MP3 Excerpt of speech by Linda Sarsour, Women's March organizer, at the 2017 Left Forum


After more than 200 days in office, multiple public opinion polls find that Donald Trump is the most unpopular president at the six-month mark of his term in office in U.S. history. According to a poll conducted by Gallup on Aug. 13, the president's approval rating is down to just 34 percent, while 61 percent of those surveyed disapprove of Trump’s performance. The poll was conducted following the violence perpetrated by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia that resulted in one death and more than a dozen injuries. Trump’s failure to specifically condemn the neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups that gathered in Charlottesville for three days has contributed to his growing unpopularity.

The Women’s March on Washington, organized in opposition to the agenda of the incoming Trump presidency on Jan. 21, became the largest national political protest in American history. Rallies and demonstrations held in 673 cities and small towns in all 50 states across the U.S., as well as cities abroad, attracted more than 4 million participants. The Women’s March set the tone for the national resistance movement that has effectively challenged many of the Trump administration’s priority initiatives since the inauguration. Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American political activist, was one of the key organizers of the Women’s March. The former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York has been active on a number of issues including advocating for Muslim rights, Black Lives Matter and feminism. What follows are excerpts of an address delivered by Sarsour on the topic of "Challenging State Repression," which was recorded at a plenary session of the 2017 Left Forum conference in New York City on June 2, 2017. [Rush transcript.]

LINDA SARSOUR: First, people were talking about we're going down the line – our president might be going down the line to fascism. I mean, I don't about everybody else, but I'd like to get on the same page. I think we're already living under fascism. That's just my personal opinion. And for those that may not be there, early warning signs of fascism – I hope everybody knows them, or you should by now. Very basic. Disdain for human rights. Controlled mass media. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts – as we defunded the National Endowment of the Arts. Powerful and continuing nationalism. Identification of enemies as a unifying cause. Rampant sexism. Corporate power protected. Labor power suppressed. Obsession with crime and punishment. Obsession with national security. Rampant cronyism and corruption. And fraudulent elections. I mean, we're at fascism, people. That's it. Let's move on.

And also for me and I know for many of you in this room, Trump did not introduce racism to me, he didn't introduce sexism to me, he did not introduce mass deportations to me. He did not introduce Islamophobia or homophobia to me. He didn't introduce anti-semitism. Trump is just an accumulation of all the diseases that many of us have been fighting in this room. Some for decades and some for centuries in this country. So let's move on from this Trump conversation because what it does is it undermines and underestimates and forgets the horrors and years of sacrifices and communities that have been devastated by policies from the days of the founding of this nation.

So, we talk a lot about kind of movements we need and what kinds of movements we need to bring back. But really, the kind of movement that we need is an intersectional movement. We can't have a anti-war movement that's not talking about racial justice. You can't have a racial justice movement that's not talking about healthcare or talking about immigration reform. So, I also want to give credit where it's due, because oftentimes we steal the intellectual property of black women – that we use this word "intersectionality" that was coined by Dr. Kimberly Crenshaw, a black woman who said that we have to bring those different types of discriminations together and tell a whole story together. So I am asking us in the left that we understand – that we have to organize together. And what we have been doing for a really long time is that we have been sitting in different corners of the room, the environmental justice people doing what they want to do, the ending police brutality people over here. Then we got the people talking about "healthcare is a human right." And we're talking trans rights and LGBT crisis - we're sitting in all different corners of the room.

But what we need to do is build a movement that brings us all to the table. Don't ask me to leave out any part of my identity. Don't tell me, don't come to a room and I can't be a woman, I can't be a mother, I can't be Palestinian, I can't be this, I can't be that. I want to show up in all of me. And Audre Lorde said that we can't have single-issue struggles because we don't live single-issue lives. So the left needs to start understanding that the only way to organize is intersectionally and if we're not building an intersectional movement, then we're going to be continue to lose like we've losing for a long time.

Now, people will say, but, you know what Linda, "We've won in some places. You've won some battles. But oftentimes when we win in the left those small battles, you are winning them on the backs of other communities or by throwing other people under the bus. I want to be part of a movement that loses with dignity and principles – because winning is inevitable. And when we win, I want to win together. I want to win united and in solidarity, and I do not want to win in a way that leaves any communities behind. The time for raising awareness is over. It's very clear to me what the problems are. The time for now is mass mobilization. The time for now is mass organizing, door-knocking, making sure that we are going to most down-trodden who are not actually at the frontlines of these movements in the way that they need to because they don't have the accessibility to be here.

And that if we're going to Washington, D.C. that there are buses that are taking from the corners of Brownsville to the corners of south Brooklyn, to the corners of the Bronx – that they too, get access to the very movement spaces that oftentimes been movement spaces of elitists who know big words and have big degrees and know how to talk abour important things. Let's remember that the most important people are poor people. Working class people. People of color, who need to be centered in the movement that we claim to be a part of.

Find links to Linda Sarsour’s views and other audio recordings from this year’s Left Forum by visiting http://btlonline.org/2017/spec/leftforum2017.html.

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