Intro/Conclusion to Abolition’s Elections 2016 Blog Series

[image: Oshun’s fan]

by Joy James


“The American people have this to learn: that where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither person nor property is safe.” —Frederick Douglass[1]


Welcome to the party.

So, we “lost.” That is the refrain and the grief cue for those seeking justice or peace or freedom, or all of the above in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States.

In losing the election, which was not a referendum on justice or peace or freedom, we gained increasing clarity (and, from late night comics, more hilarity laced with obscenities).

To be clear, we wanted to share free land and labor, love, and sacred nature—what we’ve never had. To be certain, those who wield disciplinary and predatory powers were not and will never be our protectors, allies or benevolent governors.

So, after the inaugural balls (and all the jokes about B-list entertainers and boredom), after the flurry of presidential repressive edicts and threats through twitter and twits (“alternative facts”; “we never called it a ‘ban’”; “bad hombres”; “I believe in accountability”; “the Bowling Green massacre”), instructions to give the incoming president “a chance” have been eclipsed by his fervent lies,  propaganda, edicts, attacks which distill governance into one moment and concept: domination through deception, chaos, deprivation and violence.

So, here we are; aka: We are still here, and we have been somewhere similar before.

An admirable woman caught between a rock and a hard place instructed us during the DNC in July 2016: “When they go low, we go high.” After the defeat of Clinton, and Obama’s legacy, the facial expressions of the FLOTUS Michelle Obama (the only one who has spoken to us so far) cycle through social media juxtaposed with current FLOTUS Melania Trump’s inaugural smile-turned-scowl when her husband briefly speaks to her before turning back to his crowd of debated size. Girded by an alt-right Steve Bannon speech, likely written for the Valkyrie, Trump’s January 20, 2017, inauguration saw and was seen by a public splintered within a repressive republic, and as is the case with an empire, viewed by the world. Michelle’s inauguration face registered the moral meaning of public contempt, she expressed what she saw. Melania’s Euro-visage (never to be compared by whites to that of a primate) reflected private disgust, she inadvertently revealed what she lived. We have more choices than those presented by ladies whose veils slip when they recoil.

To go so low as to share the space of the predator, as the former FLOTUS maintains, is not an ethical choice; for one has to smile deceptively, stand passively, retreat silently. Boring to the core, however, to crack the platform of bigotry, greed, supremacy, rape, torture, and militarism is perhaps not what any FLOTUS or POTUS advocates for the citizenry. But now is a compelling time to explore that option.

“When they go low,” those with financial, ideological, racial, familial dependencies towards the Commander in Chief may choose to be passive and grimace when they think themselves off camera. However, protests and economic boycotts might compel some to leave the entourage.[2] That ability to incite such departures might alter democracy built from a peculiar institution.

“When they go low,” others might try to steady and enlarge a moral compass that might (or might not) be adequate by itself to stop plunder. There is the legal strategy.[3] There is the journalistic exposé of corruption.[4] Citizens, of course, continue to pressure their representatives to represent them (thus the House Republicans stopped trying to gut the ethics committee).[5] Finally, there is what makes us rise—Art. In the early 2017 flood of political protests, I Am Not Your Negro and “I Can’t Keep Quiet” appeared.[6]

“When they go low,” some— perhaps a few— soar high enough to orbit, embrace the gravity of their needs and those of their communities and loved ones, and plummet. Instead of crashing and burning on superficial politics, their accelerated descent (in mind, spirit, action) allows them to tunnel beneath the foundation of reactionary warmongers and captors. Having gone so high, the fall is not into a target, it is towards what is beneath: the base that sustains the movements to colonize, enslave, imprison. Below the “low” is the launch into a trajectory for the next flight up after undermining the foundation of those who stalk and deplete us. But it is hard to find that depth from the standpoint of the surface.

Whatever the outcomes of destabilizing repression’s base (and its fault lines on the ground or in the gutter), discerning facts and meanings, publicizing and resisting violations (such as those that led to the uprising by prisoners and their killing a guard in Delaware’s James T. Vaughn prison) means that we protect the living while mourning and conversing with the dead. This is the necessary work “in the wake,” as Christina Sharpe points out.[7]

We can grieve as we labor and/or celebrate. We will likely do both. Whether we go high or below low, having run out of time, we all face, with whatever strategies, the fact that the party is upon us and we didn’t pick the time for the encounter. . . .


Thank you, to the contributors to the 2016 Elections Blog. (Below is our contents list for your review.) Thanks to Jallicia and Eli for co-editing and co-curating; and to Eli, for the technical work and skill that developed this blog from an October 2016 collective brainstorm (when Clinton was presumed president-in-waiting before the electoral college chose) to a focused intervention within a global awakening of passionate, imperfect thought and acts—all in movement.  Happy 2017. —Joy

Abolition Collective 2016 Elections Blog (Oct 2016-Feb 2017):

  1. Abolitionist Democracy: Fear, Loathing and Violence in the 2016 Campaign

by Joy James – October 24, 2016

  1. Hillary’s Baby, Donald’s Maybe? Reproductive Injustice in the Era of Electoral Politricks

by Jallicia Jolly – October 25, 2016

  1. ‘White Privilege’ Defanged: From Class War Analysis to Electoral Cynicism

by Zach Schwartz-Weinstein – October 27, 2016

  1. The Pitfalls of Being the Best Black Surrogate a White Woman Could Hope For

by Janine Jones – November 3, 2016

  1. Campaign Cover Stories & Fungible Blackness, Part 1

by Tryon P. Woods – November 7, 2016

  1. Campaign Cover Stories & Fungible Blackness, Part 2

by Tryon P. Woods – November 8, 2016

  1. Authoritarianism in America: A Call for Resistance

by Henry A. Giroux – November 13, 2016

  1. America’s Electoral Apartheid: 30-40 million US residents excluded from voting

by Konstantin Kilibarda – November 14, 2016

  1. The Pitfalls of (White) Liberal Panic

by Dylan Rodríguez – November 18, 2016

  1. Trump, Bannon, and Israel’s Anti-Semitism Problem

by Zaina Alsous – November 20, 2016

  1. The Fools of National Socialism: Thoughts on Antisemitism and the Fight Against Trumpism

by Dan Berger – November 22, 2016

  1. A Failure of Imagination: Donald Trump, the US-Brazil’s White Nationalism and the Need for an African Diasporic Abolitionist Program

by Jaime Amparo Alves – November 23, 2016

  1. Stranger Things and the Upside Down Dawn of Donald Trump

by Heath Pearson – November 27, 2016

  1. Donald J. Trump: Racist, Alleged Child Rapist, and President-Elect

by Ahmad Greene-Hayes – November 28, 2016

  1. Lively Up the Dead Zone: Remembering democracy’s racist state crimes (Ashe)

by Janine Jones – December 6, 2016

  1. Trump: The Neo-Authoritarian Tendency & the Epochal Crisis of Capitalism

by Luis Arizmendi – January 4, 2017

  1. Is Marxism Relevant? Some Uses and Misuses – Part 2: Revolutionary Vision

by David Gilbert, political prisoner –  January 16, 2017

  1. The Inauguration of Fascism? Thinking Violence and Resistance in the Age of Trump

by David Langstaff –  January 28, 2017

  1. In the Time of Trump: Housing, Whiteness, and Abolition

by Manissa M Maharawal and Erin McElroy (The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project) –  February 4, 2017 

  1. What a Trump Administration Means for Health in the Black Caribbean

by Jallicia Jolly and Veronique Ignace – February 9, 2017



[1] It is not clear that President Trump knew on February 1, 2017, during the White House public recognition of Black History Month, that Frederick Douglass died in 1895. It should be quite clear that Trump did not know what Douglass did as a political actor, fugitive, refugee, and radical abolitionist: physically fight and defeat a white supremacist overseer who beat him; steal (himself-as-black) property from enslavement profiteers; codify political rebellion against captivity through intellectualism and activism; pioneer independent and courageous press; advocate women’s rights and freedoms. What Douglass risked his life and freedom for, the 45th president castigates and criminalizes.

[2] The NY Taxi Alliance and others have led some CEOs to reconsider their relationship with the administration, Uber is a prime example.

[3] Over three decades more than 4000 law suits have been filed against Donald Trump. In January 2017 over 50 lawsuits were filed against his refugee order targeting seven countries with majority Muslim populations but none of the Muslim majority countries (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, etc.) which are US allies and whose citizens are connected to terrorism against US citizens.

[4] See the Guardian reporting on the Panama Papers:

[5] The Washington Post focused coverage on politicians:

[6] Art performance in early 2017 that caught the attention of a politicized public opposing the administration included: Raoul Peck, I Am Not Your Negro James Baldwin documentary: Milck, “I Can’t Keep Quiet.”

[7] Christina Sharpe, In the Wake, Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 2016. See John Murillo III’s review of Sharpe’s brilliant volume here: