Millions of people, not just in the US, woke up on 9 November to a new world as it became clear that the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth was Donald Trump, a self-professed sexual harasser whose successful presidential campaign was fueled by appeals to racist fears, anxieties about immigration, xenophobia, and class resentment. In the wake of post-election unrest in the streets of many major US cities, communities across the nation and the world, people came together to discuss how to resist the policies he has promised to implement. The first major act of public resistance was the Women’s March on Washington on 21 January 2017. Despite a contentious start marked by arguments about inclusion, the date saw a diverse crowd of half a million in the streets of the nation’s capital; 750,000 in Los Angeles, and mind-boggling numbers in smaller communities around the US–7,000 in the conservative small city where I live; 10,000 in Maine’s tiny state capital. The movement became unpredictably international—on the same day from Mexico City to Munich, Barcelona to Sydney, hundreds of thousands marched to protest President Trump’s campaign promises and hateful rhetoric that are already impacting millions of people’s lives around the world.
As pundits wondered if the energy of resistance could develop an agenda or evolve into an organized movement, President Trump issued his Executive Order “PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES,” otherwise known as “the Muslim ban.” As hundreds of visa and green-card holders were detained in US international airports as security personnel and immigration officials tried to comply with a confusing and hastily written order, spontaneous demonstrations erupted in the arrival halls of several international airports across the United States. These were followed by more demonstrations in the streets of major cities around the world, drawing hundreds of thousands.
Several of the CAAR board members around the world have taken part in these demonstrations: I, myself, was in Washington, D.C., with my daughter (who was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words, “BLACK LAWYERS MATTER”), her husband and my two pre-school aged granddaughters. Many of our membership also continue to do work with local community organizations that we were already engaged with, as well as the critical pedagogy we practice in our classrooms and in our scholarship. But we are still figuring out, within our institutions and our professional lives, what our responsibilities are as scholars to respond not only to the Trump presidency, but the rise of nationalist, so-called “populist” movements that are in resurgence around the world, especially Europe. I put “populist” in quotes because the people these partiesclaim to represent are not “the people” of these Western nations broadly and accurately construed: people of a variety of cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, sexual orientations, and classes; citizens and noncitizens of all races. Instead, “the people” are mostly white citizens who are feeling culturally and economically threatened by the refugee crisis that has seen a cruel increase in the numbers of people forcibly displaced by war and civil violence (over 65.3 million people according to the most recent UNHCR count), the forces of globalization that make multiculturalism a fact of daily life not only in the larger cities, and economic uncertainty.
Just last month, Germany’s new and increasingly popular Alternative fur Deutschland Party (AfD) convened a summit of far-rightEuropean parties. Their guest of honor was the far-right French Front National leader and presidential hopeful Marine LePen, who declared that “Clearly Donald Trump’s victory is an additional stone in a new world.” Geert Wilders, of the Dutch anti-immigration, anti-Muslim Freedom Party declared that, “The people of the West are awakening. They are throwing off the yoke of political correctness.”
The values and work of the Collegium for African American Research are needed now more than ever. Our commitment to international dialogue and collaboration, respect for and interest in the diversity of human experiences, and rejection of white supremacist ideologies informs all that we do. As we gather this June in Málaga for our 12th conference, to discuss the theme of DiasporicEncounters, Subjectivities in Transit: Race, Gender, Religion and Sexualities in the African Diaspora, I hope that we will also have conversations about our response as scholars and teachers to the global political climate that is marked by violence, disrespect, and exclusionary nationalisms that cause the most vulnerable and marginalized among us to suffer. Over the coming months, I invite you to share your stories of resistance in the comments section of this blog post, and I look forward to seeing you all in Spain in June!
Claire Oberon Garcia