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Creating Otherwise Worlds: Relations, Abolition and Freedom

Livestreamed on May 30th, 2021

Full Transcript:

Beverly Bain: 

Good evening, and welcome to a final session in the series Anti-Asian Racism Undone titled Creating Otherwise Worlds Relations, Abolition And Freedom. I'm coming to you from Toronto, the traditional territory of many nations including Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples. Part of the title of this session, which is Creating Otherwise Worlds, was taken from the edited collection by Tiffany Lethabo King, Jenell Navarro, and Andrea Smith. In that collection, the authors challenged how native genocide, anti-Blackness and slavery while having distinct edges, while antagonism exists, these terms are often shaped and presumed as terms of incommensurability, meaning lacking commonality, and relationality. 


We heard from several speakers and panels over the weekend on the intimacies, proximities and relationality of Asians in the diaspora, but particularly in terms of relationships to Blacks and Indigenous people in the context of living, working and culture. This panel will move us through conversations on how we together, as Black, Indigenous, and Asians, imagine decolonial and Black and Indigenous futures, creating otherwise rules that would make new forms of life possible, to quote Rinaldo Walcott, in terms of the future that we move, that abolition does, and Dionne Brand, the spaces and practices we employ, not spaces of reform, but newness, making otherwise. 


So let me now introduce our panelists. Erica Violet Lee is a nêhiyaw scholar, writer, and urban Indigenous community organizer from Saskatoon. She holds a graduate degree in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto. 


El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor and activist living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was born in Wales and grew up in Winnipeg. She was Halifax's Poet Laureate from 2013 to 2015. Her book, Live From the Afrikan Resistance! published in 2014 by Roseway, an imprint of Fernwood Publishing, is a collection of poems about resisting white colonialism. In 2015, she was a resident at the International Writing Program at University of Iowa. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.


Harsha Walia is the award-winning author of Border and Rule, Global Migration, Capitalism and the Rise of Racist Nationalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism and Undoing Border Imperialism. She is also the co-author of Never Home: Legislating Discrimination in Canadian Immigration as well as Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Harsha has organized in grassroots migrant justice, anti capitalist, feminist, abolitionist, Indigenous solidarity and anti-imperialist movements for two decades and remains committed to imagining and building worlds anew.


Ian Tian is a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto, researching race, gendered labor, and the question of the human in China's socialist communes and global factories. He has experience in organizing labor and queer activism in China, and abolitionist and migrant justice issues in settler Canada, particularly queer refugees, and migrations. 


Welcome, all, welcome! I want to start by asking you, each of you, and in the order of the introduction, to say something about the work you do, and why that work is critical in this moment. So, Erica.


Erica Violet Lee: 

Thank you for those introductions. Beverly. So it's such an honor to be here with everyone on this panel today, I think it's a critical moment to be talking about anti-Asian racism in all of our communities, whether Black, Indigenous, people of color, and especially for white folks who are tuned in to be cognizant of this moment and reckoning with the colonial legacies that we all share in common. So the work that I do is centered a lot in the inner city in Saskatoon, and in urban Indigenous communities. And so often, we don't have the luxury of theory, it feels like we don't have space for the luxury of theory, of sitting with our relatives in ways that aren't centered on settler colonialism. And I think about that a lot as a nêhiyaw person, how our relationality are completely centered on reconciliation with white settlers. And how we're not taught to imagine anything else. 


And so even just in the past few years, I think since my grad degree, have I really begun to do the research and the self education, and build the relationality as necessary to become a good relative to folks that aren't white. And obviously, I've always had people of color, Black folks and other Indigenous folks in my life. But to think about those relationalities in a meaningful way, that is based on freedom for us all, that is based on what we each need in our communities, and articulating what we each need in our communities, and not waiting around for white folks to be nice to us, to give us that space, to grant us the ability to build connections beyond them, is what I've been thinking about a lot lately in my work. So yeah, I guess that's all I'll leave it there.


El Jones: 

Thank you, Erica. You're always so humble when you speak. And you always want to locate yourself within so many different relations. And I really want to highlight that because you always speak that way. You always put yourself within a web of other people and other people's work and within community, and that's so important to hear. And I just wanted to say that, every time I'm on a panel with you. I want to speak about my work. 


I want to talk about my family for a minute because I think it actually locates me. So I often speak quite a lot about my grandmother who was an African Trinidadian woman, and really gave me the nurturing pole of my work. So she was like a saintly woman. She was the classic Black woman that ran the house on nothing, raised the children, dealt with all the trauma, prayed it out, and then kept moving in life and obviously brought us to where we are today. I perhaps speak less about my grandfather sometimes, and in particularly in context of this event, I wanted to raise it because my grandfather's the political voice, and he was a Chinese Trinidadian. So African Chinese mix, the Chinese blood coming out of the Taiping Rebellion - because if there's one thing about the Jones family is that we got kicked out of like every single country in the world at some point for fomenting revolution, including like Martinique, Haiti China, like wherever we were we were doing something - and that's how my grandfather's family initially ends up in Trinidad. A bunch of that family actually go back into China and I was quite involved in Sun Yat-sen’s government. So, keep up the revolutionary spirit. And they actually have some African Chinese blood that then kind of moves around that government, which is kind of interesting. 


But why it's interesting in this context is because like I said, my grandmother was a African, dark skinned woman, and came from those traditions. My grandfather actually very much wanted to integrate this kind of idea of the Chinese culture and his African culture together. And one of the things he contributed was the Dragon Mas at carnival. So, really thinking of us in the context of this global migration. And of course, his work, he was a trade unionist, he was a political singer, I see that blood in my veins too. So as we sit here today to think about Stop Asian hate, the relationship to Indigenous solidarity, the relationship to the movement for Black Lives, something that I don't necessarily talk about a lot, but of course, I'm very located within the threads of that diaspora with an Asian diaspora within Black diaspora - even though of course, I identify as Black most prominently - part of that political thread comes through these different migrancies in different movements, and the ways of course that our cultures and had to come together and create. Especially in a country like Trinidad, which was until the mid-20th century, actually the most diverse country on Earth, in terms of those different hybrid identities. So that has actually really influenced my positioning. 


So in the work that I do, which I think is ever changing, which I think is part of the work of Black woman, so whenever you say what is your work, you're like, in this moment? or like over time? Sometimes it's fighting deportation, always working with people in prison, always working with people facing state violence, always trying to work within community. Obviously, that work changes over time, and as we are and as we mix our positions, but the main thrust of my work is always within abolition, which means that we have to be focused on the state and state violence. And one of the things that's of course, been very disturbing in this moment, is how effectively in Canada and elsewhere - so within the broader the Black Lives Matter global network, which has, of course, been dealing with this issue of, where's the money gone? 


And now, one of the things I want to relate to as well is, I've been talking about how so effectively in the last year, our movement in Canada has been switched from fighting state violence, to talking about entrepreneurship and business almost exclusively. So how do we move from the space of Black people are dying because they've been killed by the police, and we need to abolish the police. And we need to abolish the prison. I mean, we need to connect that to like the military and imperialism, we need to think about Indigenous sovereignty. How did all of that move to “Trudeau just needs to give us money to start some businesses?” Even my mother pointed this out to me, she's like, Oh, I was reading the Globe and Mail and it's all business like, what does that have to do with anything? Why - we already have childcare! 


So I actually want to locate us in this moment, and also talk about - in talking about my work, which is abolitionist work, what that means in this particular moment, as we somehow allowed a movement for Black lives to become so pro capitalist, so entirely tied up in the idea of like, wealthy Black business being the savior, and these corporate figures that have stepped in and completely derailed what we're doing. And of course, abolition work is committing to something much broader than “replace white capitalism with Black capitalism.” Oh the people that kill Black people in mines in Africa will somehow come save us now. Right, like, this idea, which is also of course, as we move into this corporate business space is of course, businesses making their money off Indigenous lives and Black lives. Oil companies are now trying to be diverse, mining companies are saying that they have diverse boards, right. And the people's lives that are at expense in this are Indigenous Black people racialized people around the globe. 


So in this moment, as abolitionists, we need to constantly, constantly, constantly recommit to what it is that we are actually fighting for. And we are actually fighting against capitalist power, we are fighting against patriarchy, we are fighting against punishment. We are fighting against these hierarchies in capitalism that deem some people disposable, that deem all workers interchangeable, and create this idea of a global proletariat. If we lose sight of that we are not doing any abolition work. And we cannot I think in this moment, stand up and speak about Black lives with any kind of straight face and claim that the most powerful and privileged people are who should be heard from this time and not, of course, the people living in shelters, the people living in prisons, the people living in tent cities, and people facing all kinds of destruction, damage and life threatening conditions from capitalism. So I'll stop there as well. And I don't know who's next, I'm sorry. Harsha, I think.


Harsha Walia: 

Thank you. I was trying to my find my reactions. For El, as always. Thank you. Thank you all. Yes, I was trying to find fire, I could just find a party hat. Oh, Erica has got it to. Thank you, thank you all. It's It's such an honor. And thank you, Beverly and Min Sook, for convening this. And again, just all of your care and labor in this second series of Scholar Strike events, and all the brilliant work and everyone on this panel, I'm so honored. 


And in terms of my work, I don't really know, to be honest. What that work is because I think, perhaps similar to others here, and many of us who are in movement and in community, the work is always multiplying. And always of course, interwoven, struggle is in so many realms. But maybe what I can offer is a few things. And one is that a lot of the work that I've done over the past 20 years has been generally in the context of Migrant Justice and really an anti-border politics, that is anti-capitalist, anti-colonial. And when I came to these territories, and for several years had precarious status and was under a deportation order, the communities that sheltered me literally were Indigenous nations, including elder Wolverine Ignace of the Secwepemc nation who has since passed on, who was seeking out ways for me to gain status in his nation and his community - and received that welcome and I mean, welcome in a genuine way, not the Justin Trudeau “refugees welcome” way. 


But that relationship, that kinship, that reciprocity, for me has always guided me in the context of trying to understand and think about what it means to be Asian, if you will, on these territories in a way that understands what that means; what that means in kinship to Indigenous nations, what it means to reject immigration laws, as they have been developed by the Canadian settler state, the anti-Indigeneity, the anti-Black racism, that's inherent to immigration systems, the system of global apartheid, and what it means to then come to these territories and become part of trying to build something different, right? Of pledging allegiance, not to the settler state, pledging allegiance, not to Canadian ”multiculturalism” or the facade of reconciliation, or assimilation, but to really pledge resistance to struggle for liberation. And for me, that's really informed my sense of struggle, and by that I mean informed my sense of struggle in a constellation of people who have informed that work, certainly not alone. 


I've also spent a lot of time in feminist organizations, explicitly anti-violence organizations in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. And I think there is nothing that will, if you aren't already, that will convince you towards the necessity of abolition in the inheritance of Black feminist struggle, than being in a women's anti-violence organization, right? All of the kinds of responses about “what are we going to do without police?” “How are we going to respond to gender based violence?” “What are we going to do about the rapists?” When you're deeply in that work, day in, day out, you know that that is the work that the cops are the least concerned about. Day in and day out, that is the work that people in community are doing. And I've had the immense honor and privilege of being connected to Indigenous women and girls and Two Spirit people who've literally led the way in the Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to find their kin, day in day out, as an act of ceremony as an act of love, walk the streets every night. And that's not where the cops are, that's where community is. And so that every day abolitionist present, is an inheritance as well. And I've had the honor of being part of.


I'd say perhaps the last thing for me that I feel is really important for me in this moment, and always, is internationalist struggle. And I think oftentimes we kind of go between the local and the global in ways that don't always see how they're mutually constituted through each other. My family is - this month marks the anniversary of the Sikh genocide in India, and also six months of predominantly sick and Punjabi farmers, who have surrounded the capital of Delhi. And all these struggles are distinct, but they're made through similar legacies of violence, of imperialism, of colonialism, of extraction of racial capitalism. And so for me, internationalist struggle is part of our lives. It's part of, of course, who we are as people who move and who migrate and who are displaced. And we carry that in our lives all the time. And I think it's also a necessity of how we - in order to build a world anew, we have to see how the world is connected, right? What are the ways in which global violence binds us? And also, global kinship binds us. I don't want to live in a world where the only connection I have to someone halfway across the world is through violence, where they've literally built my clothes in a sweatshop, and that's all I know about them. And so how can we think about a world differently where instead of these networks that are soaked in deep violence, that we can build international solidarity as a legacy of resistance here, and knowing of course, that's not new. That's part of our inheritance already. But for me, I'm in this moment, very thoughtful about rekindling those and relearning those as well. Thank you.


Ian Tian: 

And thank you, everybody. It's such an honor to be with so many impressive and great minds and thoughts together. But I do want to first acknowledge the land that I'm sitting right now has been for thousands of years, the traditional land of the Huron Wendat, the Seneca and the Mississaugas of the Credit. And I'm saying this, because I came to what we know as Toronto four years ago. And I'm still learning about histories of Indigenous peoples across the Turtle Island, and feeling very humbled to be able to be on this land. And what that means for me specifically, is also that my hometown is actually part of what we know as French Indochina. So that is an intimate relationship between the French Empire in Asia and the French Empire, in what we know as Quebec or French speaking part of Canada. 


I think, like everybody, my work is also kind of all over the place. So I have a large bulk of my work has been labor and queer organizing in China. So I was raised and grew up in China. And my University years, I was organizing labor strikes and protests, specifically, in the south part of China, where a lot of electronic gadgets are produced. A lot of these workers are women. And they produce things like iPhones that we use, especially the outsourced labour in this industry are quite, quite harsh and exploitative. And this points to why I think this work is important, because I think anti-Asian racism has been global since its inception. In a way, those women who are producing these iPhones are connected with the kind of process of anti-Asian racism here in Canada. And I will tell you why. I think there is a certain kind of Asian roboticism that tends to treat Asians labor as robots in this capitalist popular culture. And in the in the case of China, especially with China's million plus populations under the communist rule that appears as the most extreme antidote of the American way of life, US and Canadian youth often portray the developing nation like China as being populated by extraordinarily mind controlled and hardworking populations, oftentimes as these mechanics and as these clocks in a system of capitalist production. And this is so intimately connected to how, I guess Chinese labor were perceived by the Canadian states in the reopening the railway constructions, which are documented by scholars like Ikyo Day. 


And the second, my interest in my work has been thinking about the question of the human, because I think white liberal humanism is not the way to save us. And in particular, and thinking about how China's 30 years of social experiences tell us about revolution, embodied freedom and other kinds of relationality and prefigurative politics. So in this sense, I'm thinking about how a situated knowledge rooted in ordinary people's experiences with state socialism between 1949 and 1979, contribute to a more transnational reworking of the question of the human, the reworking of white supremacy Eurocentrism, and a reworking of our current anti-capitalist politics. And that's, I can talk more about that, but that's what I'm more interested in. Great.


Beverly Bain: 

Thank you. Wonderful, thank you so much. As I'm listening to all of you speak, and one of the things that have become clear, and I think, Lisa Lowe, who's an Asian American scholar, and people might have heard of her, actually spoke to the fact that the colonial rulers, particularly saw those of us as dangerous, particularly in terms of meaning Blacks, enslaved Blacks, Indigenous, indentured workers who are non-white, saw us all as dangerous, particularly the sexual laboring and intellectual contacts that we've had. Which is actually where we've seen in the West, where we have been pretty much demarked off with ethnicity, and the way in which ethnic relations, multiculturalism and all of the state’s liberal policies have shaped all of us into these particular isolated groups, have changed the narrative or rewritten the narrative, to assume that there have not been contact relationships, that we have not been, that we have not shared, particular kinds of relationships with each other, sexual, intellectual, labor, culture, etc. And those things are evident. 


However, we want to talk about some of the antagonisms, though, in terms of our relations. How do we then talk about the antagonism that belie the kinds of relations that we experience today? And I think El, you actually gestured to some of that as capitalism, which is the underlying and white supremacy, which has underlying factors that have actually shaped the way in which our relationships have played out. The way that that anti-Black racism work, the way the anti-Asian racism work, the way that anti-Indigenous, violence, colonialism - the way that colonialism and slavery has shaped the Americas. And all of these foundational aspects have shaped our relationships, shaped our relationships in relation to capital and to white supremacy. Thus we understand that Black people in particular, in the diaspora and globally, are shaped, as those who are commodified and are owned and possessed through a form of capitalist relationship. Rinaldo Walcott talks about that in his book On Property. 


So I want to ask each of you to talk about what it means when we talk about being in relations with each other, and to seriously unpack that, and for us to really talk about the commensurability, which is the fact that we do have commonalities, but there are some antagonism that forces us apart. And part of what we're trying to do here is to untangle, disentangle some of that, and to try to start thinking about how we build otherwise worlds that actually will also be based on care, and ethical worlds. So let's talk about what it means in terms of building relations in relation to abolition, to Indigenous sovereignty, to liberation, to freedom. Let's talk about that. 


El Jones: 

Both you and Ian pointed out something that's fundamental and I think kind of obvious, but important to reiterate, which is this idea of how white supremacy is always designated as interracial roles. So when I talk to my students, I would say it's like Star Trek. Like, I know, quite literally, that is what Star Trek is founded on. Right? Vulcans are supposed to be Asians and Klingons are supposed to be Muslims. And then never shall there be anybody out in those racial groups that's different, because everybody's the same. And then in the Star Trek world, humans are the white people who may not be the best at everything, but they have imagination. It just glues everything together. And that's, of course, the racial narrative of settler colonialism, right? So you can read about the British going into India and being like, yeah, the Indians will beat us on exams, if we have free and fair exams, but just because they're nerds like not because hey, like understand the world, right? But this continues to shuffle us around in particular ways. 


And so this is what Erica was also talking about, right? That we so inevitably surrender our discourse into the discourse of whiteness, that we are all only placed and defined in relationship to white people, and never in relationship to each other. So when we talk about Indigenous solidarity, we're almost fundamentally think of it through this white lens and not what does it mean to be Black and be in solidarity with Indigenous people with our specific histories? What does it mean for Black and Asian people, Black and Indian people, Black and Chinese to go Black and Vietnamese people, like all separately? What does that mean, as we come together, and we don't have that conversation, because we've been so pushed off into these different modes. And of course one of those is the idea of the model minority. And this is where a lot of the tension comes from, of course, because Black people are almost never allowed to be That model minority, we are at the bottom, Indigenous people are at the bottom. 


And then the idea is, of course, in the settler colonial imagination, which imagines these empty worlds into which pioneers come in and all the rest of us are latecomers. So Indigenous people have been erased - I'm getting told to slow down, I'll try and talk slower. So in the settler colonial imagination, Indigenous people are erased from the land. And then all brown people are, Black people are imagined as late comers who owe generous thankfulness to Canada's generosity and benevolence, right. And so under this mode, this means people get written into the idea of being the grateful immigrant, the hard working immigrant. And of course, as Ian has highlighted, this completely occludes all the exploitation of capitalism under - as if people want to come and work in a convenience store for 20 hours a day, or serve food for 21 hours a day, as if that's some ideal. And then, of course, that keeps pushing this ideal of a particular kind of labor on us that we're never supposed to imagine ourselves beyond. We're never allowed to imagine ourselves in leisure, or having pleasant times or relaxing. We're all supposed to imagine the work and then my immigrants sort of brought in as the thing to be held up, like, what are you complaining about? Because this Chinese person has a PhD, but he's driving a cab or whatever, right? And like, this is supposed to be like something we're supposed to look at that instead of looking at the system that makes that happen, and who's excluded and who gets to come in, and why do we have a point system, and what is the racist history of that, and that all gets excluded into this idea of holding up labor. 


So yeah, in a place like Nova Scotia, where there's a historical Black population that has been here for like 400 years, obviously on top of the Mi'kmaq population on whose territory this is, which is unceded, unsurrendered - hat becomes a particularly tense dialogue, because this is one of the issues even with newer coming Black people as well, right, and that becomes this read of, “Why can’t African Nova Scotians pull themselves up? How come these people are still living in poverty? I come from a country that doesn't even have social welfare, and we work hard, and I can't believe that these people in Nova Scotia so living with this.” Instead of like, looking at the 400 plus history of white supremacy, which as the first site of Black contact in North Americas, were also the most intensely white supremacist site of contact, including, of course, Cornwallis committing genocide upon the Mi'kmaq population, through scalping proclamations, literally wiping people out to 1,200 Myanmar people at one point. 


So I think this is where we need to be attentive - because of respectability politics you want to say, okay, well these people are hardworking, these people are good, they're respectable, they do this - and then the rest of us are the embarrassments. And if we could only be harder workers and stop complaining, then we could be like those immigrants, and that's where so much of this tension comes from. 


And this is the last thing I'll say on this, because I know other people have things to put in - but this is what Noel Ignatiev and others have talked about - that whiteness is conferred on you in return for consent to state violence, right? So when we look at the history of the Irish, who are anti-colonial, anti-English, in solidarity with Africans, and then when they come to the Americas, they exchange that for whiteness, and they start committing violence upon Black workers. And we've seen this over and over again, the question of white Jewish people, and are they white or not? And like, what does that mean, and where the solidarity goes? And we're seeing this now with Asian people as well, I'm using that as a broad term, I know that's not - There's often this sense of like, how close are like Chinese to white, and can you achieve a white status if you just get enough education and work hard? And of course, who does that leave behind? Right? 


So this is where we always have to, not just from an abolitionist lens, but from a solidarity lens, we have to put state violence front and center because we understand that in the state violence, they want Black people to concede to narratives around Indigenous people, right? Like, oh Indigenous people get all this? We are Black, why don't you get that? And that's divide and rule. Right. So these are some of the sources that we really have to think about how white supremacy has, from time, operated this way. And we have to try and shift that lens for ourselves. I'll stop talking, and I'm sorry, captioner. I know I'm fast. I'm trying to slow down.


Beverly Bain: 

Harsha or Erica or Ian, who wants to go next? Erica, do you mind?


Erica Violet Lee: 

Of course. Yeah, thank you for that. That's so much to think about. So what I'm thinking about right now is what Bev gave us, the provocation that Bev started, which was thinking about relations, and the messiness of relations and the necessary, and talking about the antagonisms that occur, just by virtue of us living in the same area by like existing in the same space. And that actually being such a beautiful thing, and a thing to be embraced, I remember talking about - and I should be clear that I don't mean hate between us, I mean the difficulties we will necessarily encounter on our way to learning how to care for one another properly. 


I remember talking to an Indigenous feminist scholar, who told me, I was being critical of some other Indigenous feminist scholar’s work and thinking, well, she could have done this different than she could have done this different, I was quite young at the time. And this more senior scholar said to me, isn't it amazing that we have the luxury now of there being enough of us to critique each other's work and each other's like, each other's production and each other's viewpoints? Like isn't that magical? And that just has changed the way I thought of things forever. 


And I see that as sort of an underlying concept of treaties moving forward. And so treaty scholarship is so huge on the prairies in the land currently referred to as Canada. And so that's what I grew up in is learning about treaties, the number treaties, specifically, I should say, between Indigenous people and the Crown, between First Nations people and the Crown. And those treaties for us were the formation and the foundation of starting to consider ourselves as Indigenous people only within the context and in comparison to white folks. Like, these number treaties exist, therefore, the main relationship that matters in our lives has to be that one between us and the Crown subjects, aka white folks, white Canadian folks, specifically, because no one else really fits the bill. 


And so I think of treaty gatherings and how they're starting to come back, and treaty gatherings - well, they never disappeared, but they were definitely not allowed to happen during the eras of Indian agents, not allowing Indigenous people to gather because it was considered, like, a declaration of war, basically, if more than a few of us gathered together at a time. And so I think of those treaty gatherings and how cool it would be to have gatherings where we weren't always on display, or performing for white folks, performing reconciliation. I see this even happening now, now that Black and Indigenous solidarity is becoming sort of a trendy thing to talk about. And necessarily, it's becoming a thing to talk about. But I worry that so often the people that have the money to pay us to talk about these things are white people. And so often they're in the room, they're in control of the conversation, and therefore dictating that conversation. So yeah, that's just one one thing I'm thinking about. And then another thing, especially during COVID, those gatherings have been basically stopped altogether. And so what are we doing moving forward? And I think it gives us a great opportunity to disrupt treaty gatherings and sort of continue that framework moving forward. I'll stop there for now so someone else can talk.


Ian Tian: 

I can build on Erica's point. Yeah, I think I wanted to build that Erica's point of comparison, I think being in relation with one another means for me, is to think relationally instead of comparatively. I think it is crucial to not compare trauma or analogize different histories, experiences or oppressions. Rather, I think for me, being in relation means an acknowledgment that we come to specifically abolitionist work from different places, both literally and figuratively. But it does not suggest that it is impossible to build bridges. I think Black feminist bridge work is so crucial here. It is possible to see for example, through an analysis, that we are working against the dominant system of our times and in abolitionists’ work that hegemony is perhaps the global prison, police and security industrial complex. This complex is so intricately linked to global racial capitalism, white supremacy and modern nation state systems. 


Just to give you an example. If you all know the Blackwater, the security firm, the head of Blackwater, Eric Prince, was actually a board member of Frontier Service until 2021. Frontier Service is actually a private Chinese firm, that provides security services for South Sudan and Kenya, and all your industries. But they also provide security services to Chinese investments in Southeast Asia. So what I wanted to say is this kind of money, capital and these security industrial complex, they flow transnationally. And that means our analysis also needs to be transnationally linked. And this is, when we talk about anti-Asian racism, it's always important to situate this racism within all the other relationships that is shaping and being shaped by capitalism and all these -isms that we are trying to subvert.


Harsha Walia: 

Thank you all. This is, it's just also brilliant. And thank you, Beverly, for the question and the just the provocation there, it's just so necessary. I'll echo a lot of what's been said, and just the necessity of thinking about relationship, not as sameness, but as solidarity, which are of course two different things. We don't have to presume that we have shared experiences or similar experiences to be in solidarity with struggle. And that, in fact, finding solidarity through difference - and here difference, of course, being both socially constructed in a material reality - is so important. Because then it allows us to not flatten experiences, but to also find intimacies of connection and find those transnational relationships. And again, not in essentialist ways, but in material ways, right? Like, what are the ways in which our lives are materially written differently because of differences, and how state violence and racial capitalism treat us differently as a function of that divide and rule that El was talking about. 


And I think part of it even starts with like anti-Asian racism, right, like even the category or idea of “Asian” has to be problematized, not only because “Asian” is a deeply homogenous category, but also because the relationships of Asians between each other is so underwritten by differences across caste in the context of Asian people, and the Asian diaspora, of different Imperial relationships of different imperial powers. India as an occupying force, for example, and of course, here we can include China and Japan in various ways. And so that becomes part of that part of that interrogation and antagonism, Beverly that you put so well, right of like, how do we think about intimacies and antagonisms as being held together even as there may be a shared experience of imperialism or indentureship, for example, even the Asian experience is so widely, widely different. 


And as we know, race gets written in different ways through migration, right? People become racialized differently. And that is one of the one of the tricks really, of even state selection of migration, where say, South Asian identity gets written, as as an oppressed identity, if you will, where an upper caste Hindu person is somehow in the same multicultural category as a South Asian who's Dalit, caste oppressed, and non-Indian. Even that, just within the context of the South Asian diaspora and state selection processes, really force an ethnicize in ways that completely and deeply erase power and histories of violence. And so I think that's all part of the antagonisms. And then, of course, more and more and more in terms of, how do we think about that in relationship to anti-Blackness, in relationship to settler colonial violence, in relationship to enslavement? And all the ways in which as Lisa Lowe's works pointed out, and as you noted, Beverly, those intimacies, right, those intimacies across continents.


And I think, of course, the good immigrant, bad immigrant and the state selection process in there is such a huge, and thank you all for mentioning that - it's like literally a pillar. Because the state is selecting people and conversely expelling people in ways that entrenches those differences of Islamophobia, of anti-Blackness, of heteronormativity, of castes. Literally you get to stay or you are expelled based on the price of welcome into neoliberal citizenship, and where Indigenous nations are completely erased in that process. The Canadian settler state and whiteness determines the worth and value and ability for people to stay and not to stay. And whiteness becomes the host, right? Whiteness literally becomes the host of welcome and the price of welcome. And so I think that that underwritten kind of violence and racial capitalism in terms of who labors, and under what conditions, is so key to that. 


Of course, during COVID we'd be remiss to not mention the deaths of migrant workers, in this past year. At least 10 farm workers just in Ontario, who have died, right? Not because not because of COVID, because of COVID, but because of the conditions that manufacture vulnerability to COVID. And that keeps people as indentured laborers in this settler state and economy. 


And I think one of the antagonisms - and this will come back to me around our internationalism - is that one of the ways in which austerity in particular works in the past two decades, is the “help ourselves before we help others” ways in which politics gets articulated. And I think it's an antagonism we have to kind of contend with and as both El and Eric and Ian have noted, how one of the ways that that becomes hard to talk about is because it gets mediated by whiteness. Like, we can't speak to each other across communities and across different experiences, because it gets mediated by whiteness.


And I think one of those antagonisms is something that I've observed and tried to work through in relationship to community and struggle. Like, this idea of for example, why refugees getting housing before other people? Which really, again, belies, that internationalist spirit of like, well, first of all, refugees are not are not charitable, like, victims, right? This is a global legacy of violence. And the Canadian state is complicit. And really, how do we draw lines between who is us, who is them, who is ours, who is theirs, who's that kind of thinking? 


So internationalism, which binds us together, which both solidifies the model minority in some ways, but also challenges it by calling onto us to think about global violence, which really is part of the antagonism that we have to struggle against, the us versus them that's inherent to a lot of this. And when it comes to the piece of the pie, if you will, the questions around who gets it first, which I think is the austerity, scarcity politic that often exacerbates antagonisms, because we don't see ourselves as bound up in collective struggle or collective liberation. But we see ourselves as needing scraps from the state or needing the scraps from racial capitalism first. And I think that is one of the antagonisms, particularly in migrant justice struggles. 


And of course, a lot of this gets festered and fostered by white supremists who say, Oh, we need to help homeless people before we help refugees. And it's like, you don't give a fuck about homeless people in the first place! Or conversely, like, we need to help refugees before we help homeless people, because refugees contribute to the economy, it's like, you don't give a fuck about refugees either. And so the ways in which communities get pitted against each other, and again, completely underwritten by white supremacy, and the divide and rule that the state and racial capitalism is trying to do - I think those antagonisms that really are at the surface of what is a reality for a lot of our communities, I think it's something that we can work through, and I think has to be named in order for us to work through that together, because the state really takes advantage of those antagonisms and exacerbates them and often creates them.

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Beverly Bain: 

Well, thank you. This was great. I mean, these comments coming from everybody, so fantastic. As I'm hearing you Harsha, and I'm hearing others, let's talk about refusal. The conversation’s always been about, as you say, how much do we get? How much can we access from the state? How much can we access for our communities? How should we be navigating who gets what and how much? What about refusal? What about refusing to participate and to condone and to continue to engage with white supremacy, the state and the capital, in the way that we are engaging, that we start refusing the way in which - let's talk about Canada, particularly, and the global world is constructed here in North America, as we watch where - I’ll reference Rinaldo Walcott, in terms of property, is very central to the actual process of the carceral context that we are living in, to the prison industrial complex, to policing the way in which particular groups more than others, primarily Blacks, Indigenous, homeless, poor racialized migrants in particular, are in pulled in, tied in. 


So let's talk about refusal. Now we talk about anti-Asian racism, and Asians being identified as the model minority, how then do we talk about these relationships and how we start refusing these particular kinds of identities, these kinds of performances, these kinds of spaces, so that we can continue to disrupt, interrupt, so that we can start thinking about the kind of world we want to build, the kind of world we want to create. So I'd like to hear some conversation from you around that. So who wants to go? Okay, I'm gonna choose El.


El Jones: 

Refusal, in this context. I mean, part of that is in our decolonization journeys. So I think part of the mechanism that happens, whatever age you're at - some people, I guess, do it young. But whenever we come to this point, when we start really assessing the role of white supremacy in our lives, and I think at that point, like, you become sort of hyper fixated on the workings of whiteness for a reason. You're really trying to understand these forces that have worked on you throughout your life, often unnamed, often not understood, not recognized. And there's a process you go through of naming that. And the same as when it comes to understand patriarchy, you go through a process of naming it and finding it in your life and identifying it, and then trying to think about it differently. 


But part of that process, I do think, means that yeah, we come to hyper fixate on whiteness in a particular way, because we have to, because of survival, we have no way of making sense of what it means to live in this world right now, if we do not intimately understand whiteness, and like Bell Hooks has talked about this, right? how we've always been kind of like anthropologists of whiteness, that we could go into white homes and clean them, and know exactly what is the mood? What is the tenor of this person, are they likely to lash out at me? How are they going to punish me? How might they retaliate? And we have to be just absolute geniuses in managing these, especially for Black woman who are within these domestic spaces. And this is very, of course, similar to how migrant workers nannies experienced this as well, domestic workers being brought in, and literally having to live in this oppressive space where the person controls everything about you. And so we've had a long history of breaking that down and understanding that, but I think the result of that is we ingrain whiteness into ourselves in particular ways. 


And so I think part of our conversation on decolonization, as has already been said, is learning somehow to dislodge that, that once we understand it, what does it mean to move beyond that? And so much of that is so inherent in how we think about ourselves. So I want to go back to like respectability politics here, when you're talking about the prison, this will seem sort of left field. But I was thinking about how everyone always acts like there's no like Asian people in prison, and if they are, it's probably drugs. So there's this, like reading. So we never talk about Asian people in the prison industrial complex, even though of course, it's a much broader, Ian was talking about the relationships of capital and, like, who's laboring to make the bars of the prison? So there's that piece. And then of course, there’s Asian people in prison, we just don't think about it, because it's this idea that like Black and Indigenous people naturally belong there, and like poor white people, and then what do we do with this other group of people, right? So we have a kind of even absence in our own thinking around who is where, and who belongs there, and what happens. 


So I guess I have some thoughts and refusal. So one is I always think that our best defense is the thing that infuriates people the most, which is like living our lives effortlessly. Like when white people get most annoyed at us is when we dare to live our lives outside of their gaze outside of their purview and beyond their controls. And that's a difficult space to find. But when we actually do find that space, that is always like the most infuriating space, people cannot stand if a Black woman is just like out here living life and Indigenous woman is just like, look at me over here, so I think the what we have at our disposal is our creativity and building new worlds, is our survival instinct, is our resilience. Some of which has been a curse - I don't want to like I'm just I'm complicatedly be like “our suffering is our struggle is our life,” because we don't want to struggle and we don't want to suffer. And pain is not a blessing, it's a burden. And we all wish we could get to a place in life where we didn't have to be resilient. So I don't want to do the thing where we overemphasize our resilience as though it's a good thing, because it's a forced thing. It's a compelled thing. We have compelled resilience. But because we have it, that also has given us a huge creative space to make new things, and to work in different ways. 


So I think part of our refusal is to continue to do as we do, to continue to organize, to continue to reject the job, to continue to live in the way that has integrity. Abolitionist politics is fundamentally about a kind of principled life, right. And it's one that we always fall short from, because we live in a capitalist society, we live in a society of domination, we will always fall short of our goals, because you will always be seduced. And one thing I think about a lot is like, what is desire for an abolitionist? Like, what does it mean, when we desire the homes that we see? What does it mean, when we desire the position, when we see other people getting awards? And we think, I want that, oh that person has a number one, but why can’t I have that? And those sort of questions even around like, am I doing enough, right? that we constantly have, which is very much part of this capitalist wheel, but also how our own desires, again, in a compelled way, often get in the way of our own commitment to and belief in the work we are doing. And that's something I struggle with all the time, right, even as I can say, it matters that people in prison care about what I'm doing, I still get angry and I'm like, oh, man, I like that people got this - that's human. 


So I think very much fighting against these kinds of desires, and finding new places of desire instead, right, which is our intimacy, our love for each other, our profound ability to work together in new ways, and learning to value that because I think the hardest thing in working against white supremacy is - and this is why so many of our people end up in proximity to white supremacy, doing the work of white supremacy - is because it offers you so much, right, like you can have the house, you can have the title, you can have all these things, at the end of your life, you'll get the obituary, or you'll be this person that is well loved in the places they’re known. But it's like, to fight to want that, I want to be well loved in the places I have worked, and I don't need these other things - I think that is sort of our hardest form of refusal. To put aside those desires and to find our love for each other, which is the most profound love. We all know that when you have done that work together, when you are in the struggle together, when you are fighting through oppression, you will never love and feel and fight and have all those emotions in the way that you do when we come together. It's such a powerful thing. 


I always talk about hugging Abdul in freedom after that deportation was stopped. And the physical joy, like I have never felt joy like that in my life, knowing that Abdul was free, because we had done that together, we had all done that, we had come through. And I always try to hold on to that, not just as a blessing, but as a refusal, because in that moment, we have claimed what was ours, we had claimed freedom. We have claimed that space away from everything else that people wanted from us, you should do this, you should do this. And we came together as a group of people. And because we loved each other, we fought for life. And so we always talk about abolition as a sort of “ending of,” right, like no prisons, no military, no this. And we also need to remember that it's the building of, right, is actually those foundations of love, it's actually being able to see each other is that when we strip all of that away, and we come to see each other outside of all of these other identities capitalism has put upon us, we're able to actually identify each other as humans that share something, and that are in this together in real ways. That's actually when our activism takes place. So that was my on the spot best. Sorry.


Beverly Bain:

Thank you so much, El. Oh, that's wonderful. Wow. Erica?


Erica Violet Lee: 

Yeah, thank you so much for that, I was tearing up. That's exactly the antidote that we need to capitalism, to the violence structures of white supremacy is, and it feels too simple, sometimes like to just live your life. But really, that's the dream. And so I wanted to take off on the provocation that l offered us, which is what is desire for an abolitionist? I was thinking about the question, how - because I was talking about gathering and I thought, but how do we gather and organize when like 85 to 90% of the Indigenous population on the priorities that is in jail right now? How do we begin to organize and repair from that position and in response to that, as folks we're talking about, respectability starts to take hold, and we think if we appeal to respectability, and this is happening a ton in the Indigenous communities, if we appeal to whiteness, if we appeal to respectability, and be a good Indian who wants to play the roles and get the job and I don't know, sell everyone else out, and especially Black folks while they're doing it in universities and beyond - that somehow that will exempt us from violence. But that's just not the case. 


I really suggest reading Frank Wilderson’s Red, White and Black, it’s a book that really changed my perspective on how how these perceptions of Indigenous folks and the performance of individual Indigenous folks come to really settle in foundational anti-Blackness, and how we need to disrupt those those false desires for things like capital in order to actually be in any meaningful solidarity with Black folks, with Asian folks. And the thing is, we already have a blueprint for this. I'm so tired. I've been on so many panels, like El and I have been on like six panels together, like the past year. And so often it feels like we're asked to start at the beginning again, and we don't have to start at the beginning, there are blueprints for - like, Black feminists have written the blueprints for respective anti-respectability since like, forever ago. We have those blueprints, we have those maps as Dionne Brand would talk about. And I think that Rinaldo Walcott's On Property, which has been mentioned, like seven times in this chat as well, is another one of those blueprints for me, one of those maps, because so much of our oppression is based in false desire and desires that are based on capital. 


As Ian talked about the way that Asian folks, certain Asian folks are perceived to be robots, and good for nothing but production, that really came to light for me when I was reading about Xu Lizhi, who was a 24-year old poet who jumped to his death from a Foxconn factory to avoid the monotony and the soul-crushingness of that work and Foxconn, for those of you who don't know, it's one of those factories that makes iPhones. And so like, I don't want that to be my only relationality to people who are in that part of the world. I can't live with that. 


I think of the past few days, I've been just a mess and today I was like, I don't know if I can do this panel because of the news that came out of Kamloops, about the children that were found at the residential school, or the residential prison, or death camp, whatever you want to call it, because it wasn't a school. Or maybe schools are just prisons. You could also say that. Yeah, maybe I will call it a school. Yeah. And I think about that, and so few people know the story about how a lot of kids at residential schools and prisons and death camps in this country were actually forced to work at sugar beet farms on the prairies. So one of my knowledge keepers Sylvia McAdam Saysewahum, who is nēhīyaw, who helped start Idle No More, she actually was forced to work in a sugar beet farm when she was younger, and she talks about that. And Rinaldo Walcott has talked about his experience with disrupting like a sugarcane farm I think it was in Barbados and going in like stealing little bits of sugarcane at nighttime and the guards chasing him away and him and his friends away and I thought, what a beautiful active resistance and refusal stealing that sugarcane, thieving sweetness Yes. So yeah, just joy and living our everyday lives and you thieving sweetness.


El Jones: 

Just wanted to jump in here to say that Erica’s shaming me on chat because I'm drinking from a Tim Hortons. Just don’t claim it as anti-colonial resistance, but it was this straight consumer environmental disruption farm worker - all of it. (laughter)


Ian Tian: 

Yeah, I think everybody has been so, so great. I one thing I would say is, in social movements, especially what I was just talking about there is this affective embodied feelings that we have, that we feel that we, it's us who protect each other, we have to turn away from the state and turn towards each other. And that feeling is so crucial. It's so crucial, but sometimes, and often, it gets elided as, to add surplus to the organized court protests or action. That feeling that relationship, it's something that we already have. And I think that's already a kind of refusal to the state and turning towards each other. And I think that's what I would add.


Beverly Bain: 

I love this conversation and the the conversation on intimacy, warmth, care, the tuning towards each other, that we that is actually being expressed here, and obviously, is the kind of ethics that we want to create in terms of creating another word or otherwise world, who knows how many other words we want to create with those kinds of principles, right, those kinds of features that are attached to it. Harsha. Sorry, I'm losing my voice. So Harsha.


Harsha Walia: 

Thank you all. I just love the the question around refusal, because I think maybe amongst us perhaps even take for granted that refusal is illegitimate when we're just constantly in a swamp of people who are just the status quo, right, like either accept the world as it is and normalize it and accept it or be apathetic to it, or at best accept reform. And refusal is just seen as so wildly utopic and impossible and often infantilized, and I just want to affirm how important that refusal is, and just how much it calls on us to just keep our imagination alive, right, like to just keep our consciousness and our imagination and our hope. Of course, as Mariama Kaba would remind us, hope is a discipline, it can be very - it takes discipline to keep up the hope and the spirit of our imaginations and in other worlds. It's not only that it's possible, the cliché of another world is possible, but that really it is amongst us in so many ways. That resistance is in the present. 


And really, if we think expansively, refusal as an everyday practice is around us all the time, and so find ways to uplift that, because we're not meant to see that refusal. We're not meant to think that refusal is possible. And of course, Margaret Thatcher, the horrible evil Margaret Thatcher, when she said, TINA - there is no other alternative. There's a political purpose to making us believe that refusal is not possible. And I think some of the ways in which I think that refusal is necessary, is - and here, of course, as Erica pointed out, like the maps that we've already inherited around how important it is in refusal to reject criminalization. Like I think that's just so central and all of our work, right. So for me that work is in the context of work, like No One is Illegal. And of course, it expands in so many other realms as well, but to refuse the divisions between who is worthy and who is not when it comes to Canada's immigration system, and refuse to throw under the bus people who are criminalized single mothers, Black folks, people on social assistance, people who use substances, sex workers. And that should really be part of all of our work, which is the refusal to buy into respectability politics, the model minority, who's deserving, who's undeserving, all of that. 


And then of course, abolitionists, politics calls on us to refuse the politics not only respectability, but also of innocence. As Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore would remind us, innocence is like a very limiting political stance, right? It doesn't take us anywhere. It doesn't focus our lens on racial capitalism or state violence. So in some ways, like how do we do the work of seeing each other, of seeing each other's humanity but not getting caught up in whether our humanity is innocent, I think that is the fundamental work of refusal, being able to see each other and being able to see each other in each other’s individuality, and who we are, and who we are meant to be, and who we want to be, but refusing that in the framework of innocence or not right, and knowing that we are complicated people, that we have multiple desires, that we're not meant to be squared into, like these boxes of who we are and how we're read. And so I think that really is at the crux of refusal, of like a deep witnessing, a really deep witnessing. And so I think that's a big part of it. 


And I'd say maybe the last piece, and again I'll come back to internationalism as well, is like, just refusing the nimbyism of what it means to be in Canada. And by that I don't mean the myth of Canada, but we're in an era of global vaccine apartheid, what does that mean for the world? What does it mean for Palestine? What does it mean for Kashmir? What does it mean for us in Canada, as differently positioned as we are to understand our relationship to the world, and to refuse the exceptionalism of Canada and another kind of way. The right has Canada as this exceptionalist liberal peacekeeper, and I think our refusal to accept that is to embrace internationalism, and to embrace our relations to the world, and to really to refuse the death scape of this moment on so many communities around the world.


Beverly Bain: 

And I just want to acknowledge that. Thank you. Harsha, that's great. I want to acknowledge that El Jones has to leave. She came in at the last minute. Our former speaker fell ill and l Jones came in the last moment.


El Jones: 

Sorry to drop out, this is an amazing conversation. Thank you so much. Bye, love you all.


Beverly Bain: 

Harsha, and I don't want us not to mention this - you’ve been talking about internationalism, and I think we need to draw that out in terms of what's happening now, and what has been happening is with seeing. This is part of the proximity, this is part of the the intimacy of the worlds, particularly of the South - if we want to use that term, just for purposes of political language, the political South - and we've seen in the last year and a half, not that this wasn't happening before, but we have seen an even a heightened sense of solidarity between Indigenous, Black and Palestinians. I think it's really critical for us to identify that so in terms, so, there is that sense of refusal from all of us who are saying, we will not not stand with our sisters or brothers or friends are children in struggle at this moment. Even though we are in oppression too. 


We see that Palestine is not allowed to be spoken in the media, in public, in universities, people are being punished for speaking out on Palestine, yet we are seeing the ongoing solidarity, and intimacy and connection in terms of the global struggle, all the way from South Africa, to the Americas, to Palestine, of Blacks, Indigenous and, and Palestinians. And I just wanted to say that it's critical for us to also point that out in terms of what is happening right now, in terms of our struggles. 


To end I want to actually ask all of you to volunteer what we need to invest and to divest in order to create, to imagine these otherwise worlds, these wills that are that are built on this ethical caring, understanding of what it is to live together, to be with each other, and to be able to divest from particular kinds of - the carceral the prison capitalism, property. I'd like to hear you all talk about what it is you think we need to divest of and invest, to move to move forward? What we need to give up and what we need to embrace at this moment.


Erica Violet Lee: 

I can start. I think that we need to divest from - that provocation that El offered about desire is going to be one of those things that sticks with me for a long time. Desire in the context of capitalism, and how we long for so many things that really are not meant for us in the sense that they cannot coexist with our freedom. And so I think of that, and I struggle with that, and since this is a Scholar Strike event, I struggle with that, being someone who's in in the middle of my graduate education and thinking, I see so many folks in academia who I know are brilliant and kind folks, who struggle with it every day, and struggle with the contradictions of being in spaces that are so, so restrictive and so hateful and so violent and anti-Black. I associate it with universities that are occupying Indigenous lands, that exploit the labor of workers. So I think that divesting from that system would be a great start, whatever that looks like. I know a lot of people are building more bush universities, and spaces of learning that do not rely on capitalism. 


And I think we need to invest in one of my favorite Twitter accounts right now is - you know I had to mention Twitter - is the nap ministry. And she talks about the power of naps. And it's self care, but it's also community care, in the most radical sense. And embracing that joy and embracing the rest, and being thankful for what we have as folks who are not at this moment incarcerated, even though we live under occupation, even though we live under police violence, like, I hear a siren, every 13 seconds in my neighborhood, I hear the police helicopter over me right now. Like, we live under these severe constraints of police violence, but there is still that inch of freedom to be found no matter what. And I think of all the workers throughout history who have managed to find that inch of freedom, and taken it and used it for a spark for so much more. So I believe in taking care of each other.


And to echo Harsha’s point on internationalism, something I learned while working with Idle No More and that movement back in the early 2010s is that community based - starting on a community level, because thinking about internationalism can be so overwhelming. But starting on a community based level, we've been struggling in inner city, Saskatoon to get a grocery store for like a decade. So even just those little wins, those little things make a huge difference to people's lives tangibly materially right now, and make it possible for us to consider things that were once impossible. 


And so one of the projects that we're working on right now that I want to leave you with is we call it Kookum’s House. And it's just like a drop in house or center for people. Whether they're in gangs or in dealing with substance use, or dealing with sex work or dealing with abuse or any of the things that come with impoverished situations we're forced to live in They can come and have a safe space, leave all of your shit at the door is the rule. And there's no police involved because we all know that they will do nothing but criminalize and put our lives at risk. And just work out our issues. And that's the only way we're going to get things done in our community. That's what works for our community. So if you're watching this and wondering what to do in your own community, have conversations and think about what works best in your community, and then link that to struggles abroad, link that to struggles that other communities in your area are facing, because we aren't alone. And we have people before us who have been doing this work. And we have so much to learn from the work that's coming before and the work that's taking place. Not alone.


Ian Tian: 

Yeah, I think we need to invest, just as Erica was saying these life-making programs in mutual aid, which a lot of the speakers in the previous programs have talked about, also in communities, also at the underside of racial capitalism, we know for a fact that police and prisons are one of the manifestations of the worst of capitalism, and our abolitionist work starts from there. It is also important also to note that getting rid of police does not mean the end of oppression and exploitation. So we need to understand police, prison as both reproducing and constituted by all these oppressions and interpolations. So this investment in this is also a belief in these improvised life-making, that I see everyday in when I was working as a labor organizer. People write beautiful poems. They communicate with each other after work. And these initiatives they produced are just amazing. And these are the things we need to invest in, that inventfullness, this life vitalities. It is always criminalized wherever you go. This inventfulness, it's always criminalized if it does not align with the white middle class, possessive personhood. And that's where we actually need to invest in and yeah, that's what I would say. Great. Thank you. 


Harsha Walia: 

Thank you, Ian, Erica, and Beverly. I don’t know if this is maybe off side, but I was just doing laundry before this panel started, and one of the shirts that I folded was called “Talk to plants, not cops.” So that's part of my what do we invest in? What do we divest from? We divest from cops and we invest in the earth? But yeah, as we've said, in terms of divesting from capitalism, and it's all its structures, and also the ways in which it structures us, and it structures our relationships to each other. And the state, and I think here, also echoing, as Ian and Erica were talking here, divesting from the state and the the overt carceral institutions, like the police and the prisons, and the military and the border and the sweatshop is not enough, like, also thinking about how the so-called care institutions of the state, like social workers, like hospitals, the school, as Erica said, the school is a prison, and all the ways in which the so-called care sector is also bound up in carcereality right. And that really implicates the state which is important because a lot of abolitionist thought is exploding and expanding, as it should, in some ways, it can also get appropriated or limited, right, where it becomes focused on the police and prisons, and not the ways in which abolition calls on us to rethink, and decolonization calls on us to dismantle more than just certain institutions, but our worldviews and our entire structures.


And so in that way, I think we can't call on the state to abolish the police and then turn on the state to give us more carceral social workers who are apprehending Indigenous and Black and migrant children every day, or putting their their families into prisons and detention centers. And so I think that's part of what we divest from, is that when we're saying we are reinvesting in community, we're really talking about community, we're not talking about the state parading itself as community. And so I think that's a big part of that. And I think in terms of that freedom-making that world-making, and divesting from capital - so much of capitalism and colonialism, as we know, is carceral, is containment, is exploitation, is extraction. And there are many opposites to that in terms of freedom. And I really think about mobility in the truest way and not here, not just thinking about migration as mobility, but mobility, like the freedom to move - and not the freedom to move up in your career, not the freedom to move in terms of like, accruing capital, but the freedom to move in, in free ways, right? Like, that's, that's what freedom is, is the freedom to be the freedom to move, the freedom to take space, the freedom to be in space, and to not feel surveilled or hidden, or all of the things that that comes with, and so I really think about the freedom to be and the freedom to move and the freedom to take up space and take up joy and take up desire and take up laughter, and all of that fullness of freedom and mobility as they in terms of how they work together and safety, to be able to feel safe to move in the world is a big part of what we have to invest in like in that in the full sense of the word. 


And I'll close with the words of the late great Eduardo Galliano, who I think of often. I think of so much. And he in an interview, said that the world was born yearning to be a home for everyone. The world was born yearning to be a home for everyone. And when I think of what might we invest in it’s like, how do we invest in a world where everyone is at home? Where everyone has a home, everyone is at home, everyone is at home in their bodies and their sexualities, and their desires. Where non-human beings have a home, we're not plunging the earth into climate catastrophe, but really, the world as a home. And so I think of that expansive idea of what we might invest in.


Beverly Bain: 

Thank you. And on that note, this brings us to the end of our panel. Thank you all, Ian, Erica, and Harsha and El who had to leave us earlier. Thank you all for this amazing, invigorating panel and conversation. Thank you for joining us here on Scholar Strike at the Anti-Asian Racism Undone series on reating otherwise worlds, thank you so much.

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