Cross-border Feminists Speak Out Against Systemic Racism

Black lives matter! That's the cry that's been ringing across the globe in response to the recent police killings in the U.S. of George Floyd, four other African American men, a Black woman, and a Black trans man. It is a cry against brutal police violence and institutionalized racism. Even during the pandemic, police forces do not stop killing people and invading houses, deepening a true genocide of Blacks in the United States. Racist and sexist violence combines with the precarious situation of those most oppressed by neoliberal capitalism, enhancing the attack on people's lives. We see it in the international war in the Middle East with the genocidal attacks on the Kurdish people and Israel's inhuman annexations of Palestine, in racism against women in Bolivia and in the violent militarization of Colombia. In Buenos Aires, in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, other large cities and in indigenous regions such as those in Mexico, deaths from coronavirus continue to increase exponentially, while governments continue to fail to adopt support efforts and intervention measures. They systematically neglect to provide relief measures, protection and quarantine in prisons and in detention centers for migrants. The few government subsidies for individuals, always too low compared to those guaranteed to companies, do not help undocumented workers or people in the informal economy.

Systemic racism has shown its most violent face even in this time of pandemic. People of color and low-paid migrants, especially women, have done the indispensable work and supported social needs during the quarantine. These include front-line nurses, caretakers, garbage collectors, sanitizing workers, factory workers who have no time off, and delivery people who ensure that goods reach people's houses. Their central role in the functioning of a global economy stricken by the virus was not accompanied by unconditional legal rights, salary increases or better contractual conditions. Some European countries have rushed to give temporary status to migrant labor to work in sectors such as agriculture or domestic work, but they will be forced back underground in a few months when their residence permits expire.

In the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and outlying regions of Brazil and in other parts of the world, governments have provided financing to corporations but not undocumented workers. The pandemic has made even more evident how institutional racism and intensified oppression of women of color is expressed globally.

Racist violence carried out by the police force is but the most brutal face of neoliberal capitalist society, which in moments of crisis fiercely reinforces its patriarchal and racist structure to maintain profits and gather support from the extreme right. Blacks, migrant women and men, other people of color, and also whites, queer and trans people are increasingly affected by the economic effects of this health crisis and have not been quietly watching. Police attacks in the midst of the quarantine, including the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the U.S., the killing of 12 Blacks and migrants in the Parisian suburbs, the rape of a woman from the Qom community in the Chaco region of Argentina, the murder of Black children and youth in Brazil, and the murder of indigenous leader Alejandro Treuquil in Chile are all attempts to silence protests against social, health and economic inequalities.

But across the world there has been an unprecedented response: Millions of people have vigorously declared that they "want to breathe" and are no longer willing to accept the violence, oppression, subordination, and exploitation that neoliberal capitalist society is based on. In the United States, oceanic multitudes across the country, demand a radical transformation of society and an end to militarized police and race, class and gender privilege. In Paris (France), hundreds of thousands of people and groups have taken to the streets to demonstrate against discrimination and racism and for a life free from racist residence permits that serve as blackmail by threatening migrants with imprisonment. In Cape Town, Nairobi and Accra, there have been mobilizations of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, which have culminated in violent clashes with the police forces.

As feminist activists, we are familiar with racist and patriarchal violence because we rebel against it on a daily basis. We are aware of the racist and authoritarian attempts by governments to give us crumbs instead of real change. Working-class women of color, especially Black women, provide crucial leadership to our movements because they experience the total brutality of the system.

The global feminist strike and mass protests have been our weapons against racism and sexism. In the past four years, we have invaded squares and streets around the world screaming that feminism must be anti-racist and that if our lives don't count, we will go on strike. In these weeks as feminists, we have joined the cry in the streets around the world, from the United States to France, from Argentina to Nairobi and even Australia. We have shouted angrily with Blacks, Latinos, indigenous people, men and women, with migrant communities and LGBTIQ+, against repression and police violence, unsafe working conditions, and unequal health protections. Against racist laws that prevent us from moving freely and that make our lives dependent on temporary documents and precarious work. Against governments that kill us for the color of our skin and only want us as obedient labor to exploit.

The bosses encourage bigotry to divide and weaken our struggles and increase their profits. But when we realize that we have a common enemy in the capitalist system, we also discover the foundations of a united movement.

We are and always will be on the side of those who fight against racism, of those who fight against employers who think they can impose hunger wages and unsustainable work quotas marked by sexual harassment and violence, racism, and discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people. We are part of the tide of workers that rises against all forms of intolerance and we will not remain silent until we bring down the institutions and the culture that legitimizes it.

The way Black Lives Matter develops is important to all of us, because Black struggle is crucial not only for Black equality, but for all movements and the entire working class. The global eruption of a Black movement calls on us to continue fighting to defeat the racist, patriarchal and capitalist organization of society, because Black liberation is the liberation of everyone. We want each other alive and free from racist violence and oppression! Power to those who struggle!

Cross-Border Feminists/Feministas Transfronterizas