Resistance in 2020

My mother was thrilled when she learned she was pregnant with me. When her relationship went sour, she realized that she would have to raise me on her own.

My earliest memories of my mother are that she worked a myriad of jobs during the day. She was a manicurist, worked at a laundromat, and she cleaned homes. She worked in stockrooms. She drove delivery trucks. She did anything she needed to do to take care of the baby girl that she never planned to have on her own. She was only able to pursue her own dreams at night.

My grandmother was a domestic worker, working for the same family for nearly two decades. My grandfather (where my mom said I got my activism) was a long-distance truck driver. Their work allowed them to provide for themselves and their three children.

Mom was born in 1954, the same year that Brown v. Board of Education was decided. The Supreme Court told the Board of Education in Topeka, Kan., that it was violating the 14th Amendment by keeping education segregated, where Black students had separate and unequal accommodations.

My mother was born into this tumultuous period of integration. By the time I was born, important desegregation efforts had been successful, and new civil and human rights had been established for Black people.

While there were more rights for Black people, incomes and access had increased for Black people, representation increased for Black people, the same problems plaguing Black communities persisted. The resistance to Black progress was strong.

It was committed to re-entrenching a White power structure that had been severely weakened during the last period of Civil Rights struggle. That re-entrenchment took the form of a laser- sharp focus to change the balance of power at every level of government. It also took the form of racial violence, meant to terrorize Black communities and to discourage them from continuing to fight for change.

My mother was driving trucks for a delivery company in the early 1990s, but she suddenly quit when she encountered White supremacists trying to run her off the road. More than 20 years later, I, along with my sisters Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, created the Black Lives Matter Global Network to address the ongoing epidemic of state-sanctioned violence that continues to impact Black communities.

From police violence to the racial wealth gap to Medicaid expansion, Black communities continue to operate at a deficit as it relates to White communities. As the gap widens, Black communities must make key choices about how to respond.

Our country is facing one of the most important elections in my lifetime — one that will decide the future of this nation for at least the next decade.

Elections are a site of struggle, as Black life has been since we were brought to this country. Each moment is an opportunity to shape what Black life should look like. Many of the issues today are the same as when my mother was coming of age.

We must vote for those who can make sure that the single mother who stays up at night worrying about how to make it all work has everything she needs to thrive, and that her child does too. We get to decide whether the person who represents us understands how to hold police officers accountable when they commit crimes in our communities, or whether we will continue to allow police departments to regulate themselves. We get to decide whether our homes and workplaces, schools and places of worship will be safe and inclusive, or whether they will continue to be sites of terror and trepidation for some of us.

The candidates running for president in 2020 will all have stories about who they think we are, and they hope their stories will secure votes. Some hopefuls will say that you are too homophobic to support the first openly gay candidate in the race, but we know that we too are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, or someone we love is. Some candidates will tell us that when encountering police, it is best to just hope that our respectful treatment of them will keep us alive. They would do that rather than helping to implement stronger rules for more oversight of the police.

My mother told me that she left her home of Toledo, Ohio, because she wanted to be somewhere where people were more forward thinking. She raised me in Oakland, Calif., one of the most progressive places in the nation, where Black people are sparse because in practice we are unwanted here.

It was my mother’s completely understandable choice to turn away from the people in her community whom she felt had shallow perspectives on the world. It has been my choice to face it — to look squarely in the face where we are our own worst enemy and to view the places where we defy expectations.

In 2020, Black communities have a chance to tell our own stories. We also have a chance to change the story that has been decided for us, and to create a new story of what Black people being powerful means for all of us and for everyone else.

The legacy of our resistance has always been that we have dared each other to stand for something. The reality is that we have also pushed each other along, pushed to change each other’s minds about who else deserves their humanity, as we have dared to demand our own. It has allowed us to talk to each other about issues that we once feared. Whether it was from HIV/AIDS to homophobia and trans phobia, to sexual violence to poverty, our dehumanization has, in part, been dependent upon the stories that were told to us and that we repeated. That repetition dampens the fires of our resistance.

Resistance in 2020 can take many forms. It can take the form of voting to vow to never return to the past. It can take the form of resistance to stories about us that were not created by us. And it can also take stock of the stories meant to keep us from what our resistance can accomplish.

In 2020, Black communities have a chance to tell our own stories. We also have a chance to change the story that has been decided for us, and to create a new story of what Black people being powerful means for all of us and for everyone else. We have a chance to change the generation that my child will be born into, and, perhaps someday, that generation will be able to write about how they finally got it right.

— Alicia Garza is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and principal of Black Futures Lab.

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