One year ago today, August 9 2014, Michael Brown was killed by then-Officer Darren Wilson. From that minute has come a movement that has many goals and accomplishments. Its overarching tactic has been to keep our attention focused on the killing of Black people by police, which has created a new way of seeing that we might call #BlackLivesLooking. Like all other police, Wilson relied on the very brevity of the encounter to avoid indictment. #BlackLivesLooking refuses to allow these moments to pass and keeps us looking at what at first seems to be unbearable. As we stay with them, we see these moments not as “tragedies” or “mistakes” but instances of how the system of racial hierarchy known as white supremacy functions. Every day.
In both its devastation and possibility, Detroit is an outpost from our collective future. Long-term struggles on the ground throw our cities, our work, and our lives into a new light. In Detroit, racial, economic, and environmental justice are understood in the global context of empire, neoliberalism, and climate disaster. People think of revolutionary time in decades and centuries, rather than in days and months. In Detroit, it’s all about “visionary organizing.”
The city is the dreamworld of capitalist civilization; as the economic foundations of that civilization crumble, what do we do with the physical and imaginative ruins? What would it mean to bid the dream of the city farewell, and envision a different kind of collective landscape beyond the divide between urban and rural? The conditions for the Plan are ripe, and the securing of space will be essential.
Debt is an exemplary form of capital accumulation today, operating through a new regime of self-managed exploitation imposed on poor women in the South as much as student debtors in the north. Practices of commoning–mutual aid networks, pooled resources, shared caring activities–are essential to resisting debt and reproducing non-capitalist forms of living.
At a moment of movement impasse, what lessons could Occupy learn from the radical community organizing tradition pioneered by SNCC in the early sixties? Long-term, locally embedded relationship-building and leadership development at the neighborhood level were key principles that allowed SNCC to mobilize people on the ground in ways that were expansive and empowering.
Combined with more familiar forms of colonial rule, debt is a disciplinary mechanism control in the occupied territories exercised in different ways by Israel, international donors, and modernizing Palestinian elites. Boycott, divestment and sanctions can thus be a crucial supplementary frame for building global solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle. What debts does the world owe Palestinians?