Like many people, I slept badly on the night after the 2016 U.S. election. One nightmare in particular is burned into my memory: I dreamed that Rudy Giuliani, dressed in a Nazi uniform, was smiling gleefully as he explained to me that he was going to kill me with chlorine gas. Then I felt the chlorine gas filling my lungs and I knew I was dying.
My nightmare reflects the reality that American fascism originates in (is identical to?) American anti-Black racism. I know Rudy Giuliani mainly as a passionate advocate of the NYPD’s blatantly racist stop-and-frisk policy, which began while he was mayor of New York. This is a man who seems to take positive pleasure in systematically violating the bodies of Black men and boys in particular (Black and Latinx people of all genders were also unfairly targeted). At some unconscious level, my brain made the connection: a man who supports a policy whose main effect is to physically assault Black and Latinx people is someone who would be happy – thrilled! – to run Trump’s as-yet theoretical death camps.
Nonetheless, it’s taken me weeks to fully make the conscious connection between American anti-Blackness and American fascism. I’ve been reading books and articles on German and Italian fascism, frantically trying to understand enough to effectively fight American fascism. Gradually, I’m realizing that learning about American slavery, the American Civil War, the Reconstruction Era, Jim Crow laws, American lynching, redlining, the Black Panther Party, the school-to-prison pipeline, stop-and-frisk, anti-Black police violence, our refusal as a nation to own up to our racism and atone for it, and the construction of American whiteness and the invitation of successive groups to join it – all of that is preparation for fighting fascism too. We need to learn lessons from parallel (but not identical) modern struggles as well – Russia, Turkey, France, the U.K., etc. – if we want to be up on the latest tactics of fascist regimes. And the victims of American fascism include many non-Black people. But the history and on-going expression of American anti-Blackness is crucial to understanding and fighting our own home-grown brand of fascism.
In my opinion, any group that wants to be effective in fighting American fascism must have a leadership with a broad and deep understanding of the history of American anti-Black racism.
My request to you: please leave a comment on this post suggesting your favorite anti-fascists who have this knowledge, along with a link to their work. In the mean time, here are a few of the anti-fascists I support and follow on Twitter (note that the first tweet is from *2014*):
N. K. Jemisin (@nkjemisin) May 28, 2014
Of course Trump isn't literally Hitler. They just literally have the same fan base.—
Bree Newsome (@BreeNewsome) December 07, 2016
The anti-vax movement can only exist bc few living Americans can recall what polio actually did to ppl. I fear the same is true of fascism.—
jelani cobb (@jelani9) December 10, 2016
In 1992, the media covered David Duke in a similar manner to how they're covering Trump. Fascism's friendly face: fair.org/extra-online-a…—
Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) February 28, 2016
Y-Vonne Hutchinson (@hutchamachutch) December 20, 2016
I think there's a perspective that sees tyranny and proto-fascism as alien to the American experience, when in fact it is very familiar...—
Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) December 27, 2016
Whole lot of folks are going to try to cut deals with fascism. That doesn't work. But hey why learn from history when you can repeat it?—
Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) December 05, 2016
Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisicoates) December 13, 2016