Cherrell Brown

Community Engagement Director at the African American Policy Forum, community organizer and educator 

 

 


Kimberle Crenshaw:

What are some of the strategic points of disruption in this moment, particularly for millennial activists? What are the implications of this moment, this Trump presidency, for how we do that, where we do that? What capacity do we need to do that?

 

Cherrell Brown:

I first want to say that, earlier on in the conversation [discussion], we talked a lot about white women and their overwhelming support of Trump. I think one of the things that I haven't heard offered yet is that white women voted for him for the same reasons why so many decided to reelect Bush for his second term after 9/11- because of fear.

It is a fear against the unknown, against looters and rioters, against BLM protesters. It's in support of, of course, Blue Lives Matter. A large part of what we have to do now is doing this visioning work. Imagining a world where safety is something else, outside of militarized police, and borders erected out of xenophobia, and tough, brass-knuckled leaders. I think it's important to name that, because we now have this white nationalist demagogue in office for the next four years someone who has both a majority in the House and the Senate. The last time this happened, we were in a recession. Then before that, a depression.

There lies I think a meaningful point of intervention for activists and the millennials, especially those who haven't yet fully been activated, but understand that they can no longer opt out. We have a number of important local races coming up. In 2018, there are, I think 435 seats in the House, I think 33 seats in the Senate, and about 38 governorships. In 2008, after Obama won his first election, we saw the GOP pour every ounce of energy and resources into these local elections—resulting in this sort of “redwashing” that happened in 2010.

Also, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we can’t talk about voter apathy without talking about the prison industrial complex system, and how our carceral state disenfranchises folks from participating. I think we have to really interrogate the idea around that we can just talk about electoral organizing, and getting us to vote, without talking about the system in place that disenfranchise entire populations from participating fully in the electoral process.

It’s also important to name that—with the divide of white women between Trump and Hillary—that Black women right now aren’t only the soul and the future of the Democratic Party, but they’re really what’s going to save this country from itself. I think it’s important to remember that, and to invest into Black women and Black leadership.

Now, to the international piece, there’s been really a lot of comparisons between Trump’s election and the sort of ethnic nationalism that allowed Brexit to happen.

I think it’s important to remember that these global events don't happen in a vacuum. Trump won harping on the same white nativist ideals that made it safe for Brexit to happen. We have to think through now how do we build a multi-racial, multi-class alliance across national borders? I think a part of that is getting really uncomfortable with ourselves, and really naming the ways in which we ourselves are implicit in white supremacy. Being really rigorous in our critiques around not only race, but also imperialism and classism and capitalism. I think that's the only way that we get free.

I do want to end this on a happy note though. I think that the reason why this is happening is because we are winning. White supremacy has its way of reorganizing itself historically, every couple of years. What we're seeing now is a mobilization, a response to the movement for Black lives, and the great work that we're already doing. How we respond now is our next job.

I think it’s important to organize. We hear this word “organizing” being used a lot by elected officials and politicians. Not to create this hierarchy, but I think organizing demands a certain level of skill that we have to be really intentional about. It’s about that door-knocking and those knee-to-knee conversations. I’m from North Carolina, where the KKK are rallying right now over this victory of Trump. I think it’s important that we not only look at the South and the Midwest when it comes to election time. We think about swing states, but it’s important to invest resources in areas that aren’t usually sexy to fund. Outside of New York or California or DC.