Unlearning Racism Newsletter – Week 24: Antiracism Wins of the Election

NEWSLETTER WEEK 24 – NOVEMBER 6, 2020

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Hey friends,

Holy cow, what a week!! We are agog with the power of the people. Seriously. It is impossible to separate the victories of this election from the protests this summer, the Black organizers who have been on the ground fighting voter suppression for years, and the way we all have leaned into fighting racist systems at their core. As excited as we are to see a flagrant white supremacist leave office, we wanted to commit this email to celebrating just a few of the wins you might not have heard about yet. We also, however, want to acknowledge that while we are celebrating and feeling victorious, the work is FAR from over. We want to remind ourselves that if anything, January will be the starting line, not the finish line. In fact, we’re just getting started. But for now, let’s pause and revel in just a few of the victories of this election cycle! 

Wins for the Working Families Party
The Working Families Party is an effort led by grassroots organizers within the communities where they have a presence. Working Families Party members organize outside of partisan politics but sometimes run through Democratic Party politics (and this year, got to be an alternative to Democrat straight ticket voting to augment the Dem-only Biden-Harris vote)

  • NY WFP cleared its threshold to stay on the ballot (meaning, enough people voted Biden-Harris on the WFP line to keep it as a legitimate political party for future elections in all NY elections)
  • Nithya Raman On City Council in Los Angeles – an urban planner, mom of preschoolers, and LA local, Raman won her hard-fought campaign for a more sustainable and equitable LA without any corporate money. Raman won on a platform that prioritized ending homelessness, racial equity, combating climate crisis, and keeping city hall transparent. In one of the largest and most influential cities in the nation and in the world, we love that Nithya’s in the room where decisions are being made. 

Wins for Formerly Incarcerated People

  • California Prop. 17 Passed – All formerly incarcerated Californians, including those on parole, regained their right to vote!
  • Formerly incarcerated woman Tarra Simmons was elected to Washington State’s Senate, the first formerly incarcerated person to do so.
  • Biden-Harris’s platform betrays their “tough on crime” backgrounds, and that’s a very good thing!

Massive Prosecutorial Wins

  • Okay we wrote this before the news was officially announced so this one is less exciting than we’d thought but we left it here because it was STILL a powerful race. Julie Gunnigle in Maricopa County, AZ did NOT win the race but DID come markedly closer than any other progressive prosecutor in the state’s history. Despite the loss, this is a move in the right direction, toward substantive criminal justice reform (Maricopa County used to be racist Sheriff Joe Arpaiao terrain. While this won’t solve everything, this is a small, noteworthy victory for rejecting the extremely racist and oppressive policy that controlled this portion of the country for the past decade)
  • The Georgia DA that failed to prosecute Ahmaud Arbery’s killers was voted out of office
  • George Gascon, who’s spent his career addressing inequities in the justice system, will replace Jackie Lacy, a particularly punitive figure, as Los Angeles County’s District Attorney.
  • Austin, TX elected José Garza and Orlando, FL elected Monique Worrell, two prosecutors that ran on ending mass incarceration.

Drug Wins

  • Oregon Measure 110 Passed — Oregon was the first state to decriminalize nearly all drugs. This means that the state will focus on rehabilitation, rather than incarceration, for anyone who is struggling with drug use. This is a massive win against the racist War on Drugs that convinced the nation (and many of us!) that intensely carceral policies would stop drug use; instead, these policies have made it harder to seek help, receive long term care, or incentivize any kind of recovery effort. Measure 110 will serve as a lighthouse for the nation as we navigate drug policy at a national level. 
  • Marijuana was made fully legal for adult use in NJ, AZ, and MT. It became legal for adult and medical use in SD, and legal for medical use in MS. This is a HUGE victory against the “war on drugs”, beginning with 19th century efforts to mystify the drug with anti-immigrant sentiments. Leading the charge, in 1937 Henry Ainsinger, US Narcotics Commissioner, testified before Congress and intentionally switched his vernacular from “cannabis” to “marijuana,” He quoted Floyd Baskette, an editor in a town with many Hispanic immigrants “I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigaret can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents. That’s why our problem is so great; the greatest percentage of our population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of who [sic! such an enthusiastic sic!] are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions.” His little tirade resulted in a marijuana classification as a Schedule I drug, increasing potential incarceration times, including mandatory minimum sentences, for possession of the natural, nonlethal substance. This racism even within the renaming of marijuana has translated into its enforcement as well; Black folks are 3.73 times more likely than white folks to be arrested for possession of marijuana. 
  • Win on Measure J in Los Angeles – this will reroute more than $360 million to social services such as housing, healthcare, and rehabilitation programs, which are the ultimate method to keep people out of jail.


Transparency alert: We know many of our readers will be uncomfortable reading about Oregon’s Measure 110 and all the marijuana decriminalization laws across the nation, and, perhaps more uncomfortable with our celebration of their passage. We want to be clear: we are not celebrating drug use, but rather the opportunity for drug users to stay safe, be supported, and have the resources they need to thrive. We are celebrating harm reduction. We also want to remind ourselves: discomfort is not the same as danger. We are celebrating moves away from mass incarceration. We are celebrating a public health victory and second (or third or hundredth) chances for people who are fighting substance use disorders. We will have a whole miniseries about the War on Drugs in the spring but for now, we encourage you to lean in to your initial discomfort here. This is a great place to start. 

Other Noteworthy Wins!

And the massive, massive wins of the Biden-Harris campaign and their platform. Kamala Harris, the first woman and first person of color in the White House, is an enormous win for representation for young girls, particularly young Black and South Asian girls, across the nation. It has given us goosebumps on goosebumps to see our friends’ children gleeful to see someone who looks like them in the White House. On top of that, we are so excited about some of the potential leaders that this ticket will take on in its cabinet. 

NONE OF THESE WINS WOULD BE POSSIBLE WITHOUT BLACK LEADERS

As we celebrate the wins of the past week, we want to be very clear that none of this would be possible without the tireless work of Black organizers, particularly Black organizers across the south. While we are thanking Black voterstoday, we have to be sure to continue to commit to antiracism in our daily lives. A few ways we can support movements led by Black leaders in the next few months are:

  • Supporting Fair Fight Action, Stacey Abrams’s organization to fight voter suppression across the South 
  • Supporting New Georgia Project as they register and prepare voters for the state’s Senate runoff January 5th

MANY STATES’ WINS WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE WITHOUT NATIVE VOTERS

We also want to note that Native voters played a particularly important role in this election. In Wisconsin, the Red Cliff Ojibwe Nation is said to have been crucial to Biden’s victory. In Arizona, the Navajo and Hopi Nations were said to have been imperative to the national and local election results. 

We know our newsletters have been largely political for the past month and if that makes you uncomfortable, well, seems like a good time to explore why. Our email addresses and DMs are always open to process the sticky feelings that come with processing elections and race (and how they are inextricably linked). However, we encourage you to ask yourself, from where is your discomfort coming? What is it about “talking about politics” that is uncomfortable for you? How might it be a privilege to be more uncomfortable with conversations about politics than by the outcomes of political changes? Antiracism is political

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: MONUMENTS TO HATE

This Sunday, November 15, at 7PM EST/5PM MDT, we will be hosting a conversation with Clemson University Professor Jonathan Beecher Field about racism, statues, and who we honor. We’ll send more information in Friday’s news roundup!

Signing off today with some Revolutionary Letters from Diane Di Prima that we’re encouraging ourselves to keep in mind. We love you, we’re rooting for you, we’re so damn proud of you.

Be careful 
With what relief we do fall back
On the tale, so often told in revolutions that
Now we must organize, obey the rules, so that later we
Can be free. It is the point
At which revolution stops. To be carried
Forward later & in another country, this is
The pattern, but we can break the pattern

– Revolutionary Letter, #48

But don’t kid yourself, government
Is not where its at, it’s only
A good place to start

 Revolutionary Letter #9 

In Solidarity,
Ellie, Emily, and Hayden

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