Global Racial Justice and and the Everyday Politics of Crisis and Hope
We are in a moment of intersecting global crises. Overt racial discrimination, police brutality and structural racism – all longstanding features of the global landscape – have been given renewed license by the resurgence of nationalisms, xenophobia, and white supremacy in countries around the world.
The intensification of the climate crisis in recent years – most visible in the growing frequency and intensity of droughts, floods, fires, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events – is already causing immediate suffering for many and driving new waves of forced displacement and migration within the South and from South to North.
All this has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has deepened existing socio-economic inequalities and fostered political instability within and between countries.
While some of this pain has been offset in wealthy countries by massive stimulus spending, many low-income countries are dealing with increasing poverty even as rising debt levels pressure governments towards new rounds of austerity. Meanwhile, vaccine nationalism has hampered global efforts to rein in the virus, abandoning poor countries to devastating loss of lives and continued economic disruption, while allowing new variants to spread in both North and South.
At the same time, there is cause for hope, as people around the world mobilize in support of action and cooperation on all these threats. Most strikingly, the brutal murder of George Floyd in May 2020 sparked the largest and longest-lasting protests for racial justice in the United States since the 1960s. These protests not only demonstrated the courage and commitment of Black people and allies in the US, but were joined by anti-racist protests all over the world, from Mexico, to South Korea, to France, to Australia, to Pakistan.
Under the rallying call “Stop AAPI Hate,” the movement to quell violent attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the context of the ongoing COVID pandemic and vitriolic expressions of white nationalism has served as yet another reminder of the intersecting spheres of domestic and geopolitical racism. In all these places, people not only demonstrated the importance of multi-racial solidarity, but drew global attention to deeply rooted struggles against racism in their own societies and across transnational coalitions. These movements for the dignity and freedom of all people show us what it means to build a world that is abolitionist at heart.
In the spirit of standing in solidarity with vibrant movements for racial justice, the Institute organized a series of talks in 2020-21 on “Black Lives Matter: Global Perspectives.” The series provided a platform for scholars, students and activists to deepen our collective understanding of the structure and experience of racial oppression and the long struggle for racial justice, as well as to draw connections among unique, but interlinked anti-racist struggles in the context of global histories of colonialism, imperialism and internationalism.
In these fantastic talks, scholars from across the US and elsewhere addressed urgent issues, from how we contextualize Black Lives Matter in the long US and global history of slavery, segregation, and dispossession; to the similarities, differences and connections among racial justice movements around the world; to the ways the pandemic has shaped and been compounded by racial inequalities, political violence, and predatory ecologies; and how struggles over trauma, memory, and representation have played out in different countries.
Building on the momentum of this successful series, the Institute is organizing a new series of quarterly talks in 2021-22. This series seeks to extend our engagement on questions of racial justice by continuing to explore global and comparative perspectives on the interconnected histories of structural violence and racial oppression. We will direct attention to the global scale of refugee migration, connecting recent events in Afghanistan to the long history of displacement and destruction under global wars of extraction and empire-building. We will discuss the costs and consequences of the pandemic on deepening inequalities between and among nations, communities and ecologies, whether in the form of vaccine nationalism or the ongoing climate crisis.
All these topics draw attention to questions of global responsibility, and to the importance of interconnected historical and relational analyses for resisting the politics of (in)visibility and abandonment that characterizes so much of the response to these global crises today.
The quarterly events in the series, as well as individual Center-led and -organized events on related topics, will highlight these key cross-cutting themes and also serve as classroom/teaching resources for the International Institute's hundreds of undergraduate students in conjunction with the Institute’s Interdepartmental Programs (IDPs) in Global Studies, International Development Studies and Global Health.
For more information, see our website: https://www.international.ucla.edu/institute/blm