By Nikima Jagudajev
December 2014. A peaceful protest—my first in New York City—until four protestors were brutally taken from the crowd. Tackled, handcuffed and carried “away”…
I witnessed two infuriated, manic people (women) yelling at a line of stone faced cops (men)—pure emotion met by pure indifference; no mercy. In all my attempts to hold them back, tears came because of “the injustice of it all.” An immediate reaction to the desolate horror that is our law enforcement—the perpetuation of white supremacist patriarchy. Here to serve and protect? Who exactly?
This confrontation—stone face vs. manic—happened mere seconds after the four arrests. The NYPD pouncing on their innocent pray, tackling the struggling protesters to the ground. They are trained to become extremely precise and accurate beasts at any given second; the dinner bell rings and the trained body takes over, full force. The goal: dominate another human into submission. In this particular situation the performance of control was in response to our blatant refuse to comply when asked to clear the streets in Time Square. We—the collective we, meaning the protesters—did not immediately abide to a forceful demand given to us by overly armed, brainwashed human beings with a badge to prove it.
The manic outrage of a single black woman yelling at a single black cop, yelling that it could have been his son shot in the streets as opposed to Michael Brown, is the epitome of a complete lack of communication. The unheard words and the unspoken words leave a desolate aftertaste. But her words are true, and she should be heard loud and clear. Racism is our reality. Racism is a safe word that as a non-black woman I can use without completely understanding the first hand experience of it. An all encompassing word that does not perpetuate or recycle a privileged voice. I am not black. I do not experience racism first hand. But I am fighting for social justice, and the fundamentals of social justice begin with life, an equal right for all to experience life #blacklivesmatter.
When we walk the streets peacefully, masses coming together with voices and bodies, we are heard. And when I look to either side and see cops walking peacefully beside us, with their guard down (to an extent)… there is something beautiful about that too.
To protest is to fulfill a necessary role within our capitalist structure. We are the 99%. When we walk together, we are unified as the proletariat. Regardless of Erykah Badu walking next to me, personal identity is insignificant—no wonder she was in her pajamas—how liberating. We are the masses that unite to fight against those in power. Scuttling across the surface of the earth—or rather, a simulation of the earths surface—like swarms of Desert Locusts. A rhizome shutting down the general city activity, kicking up dust but never staying for long.
This kind of revolt is built into capitalism, a necessary part of the structure… Pawns following the rules of the game. Why then do we protest? Why fill the streets with thousands of vaguely unified people, chanting and walking for hours? Because it is our responsibility. To protest is to fight against precisely the structure (capitalism) that instigates and necessitates the uprising. Recognizing this allows for an upper hand, opening doors to reappropriation. Can we play with the expectations, can we make them ours?
Protesting against police brutality is to fight a desolate, uncontrollable reality. A structure that is so beyond the grasp and control of those fighting. However, to fight for justice—for life—is to fight for something that is inherently our right. I walk the streets because I feel strongly that every human, regardless of their race, has an inherent right to life. This is a unifying force, a unified paradigm that plagues the masses.
Walking in unity with an overarching intention day after day is a ritual. We walk together, in constant transit, with intention but without a complete understanding of the affects of our actions. We are action bodies walking together, unified in a state of demand. Necessity. Anger. Whatever this state may be, we are a force, partaking in ritual.
Individual identity is trivial in this ritualistic practice. Aspects of everyday life are eliminated due to a collective need. Food becomes an afterthought. Mindless chatter and obsessive use of electronic devices (smartphones) become banal. Walking together puts the active body in use. There is something powerfully meditative and sacred about the monotonous, repetitive action of unified walking and chanting. The rhythm of the footsteps and the words being spoken clearly, with force, repeated almost mindlessly but with intention that is embodied through repetitive, clear action.
Rebecca Solnit recently exclaimed in an article on climate change, “Americans are skilled at that combination of complacency and despair that assumes things cannot change and that we, the people, do not have the power to change them.” She goes on to say that you have to be so “abysmally ignorant of history” to believe this… Such a lack of confidence in collective strength is a result of egoism. Focusing on self interest perpetuates a belief that one must be in control of any given situation (including one’s self). I am not arguing that self-worth is unimportant, this is groundwork in the pursuit of change. However, taking action and being heard—large scale—requires a disregard for personal identity and instead, an embracing of the collective. Complete control is ingrained in patriarchy, to think this way is to perpetuate a structure that must be adamantly dismantled.
Greed for control is detrimental—a constant nagging fear—as these encompassing forms of control are often unattainable or at least quite fleeting. The result is complacency, despair, and submission. Contrarily we must embrace the fluidity of thought and action to avoid stagnation.
Control is a stagnant position. In Pelgia Goulimari’s essay on Minoritarian Feminism, she discusses the Deleuzo-Guattarian term “becoming minoritarian”. This concept focuses on a constant state of becoming other, a non-totalizing and de-centered approach with a collective constitution that builds “lines of flight”, a mobile system that allows for movement through subdivisions. Subdivisions are related to a common root created by those in power, they are dominating ideals of power that force stagnation in our approach at confronting these particular power structures (i.e. capitalism, patriarchy, white-supremacy). A minoritarian approach, according to Luce Irigaray, has the potential of building “alliances across boundaries of race”, among other social constructs.
Walking and chanting together while focusing on a uniting need is to act within a collective constitution. As we walk we physically cross boundaries—a rhizome traveling through streets and sidewalks—from the Upper East Side to Chinatown, demanding attention. When I protest, I experience a lack of control . There is a fluidity to this transitional space that allows me to focus on a greater omnipresent need. Social constructs are temporarily dissolved and I find myself in a collective ambiguity. There is strength in this ambiguity, and there is strength in ritual.