Connecting to racial justice while living rurally

Hello from the farm. Things are ramping up around here, and we are all knee deep in peaches, cucumbers, and even some mid-summer apples. The past few weeks we’ve gotten into a rhythm of hosting friends and hanging out with guests. It’s been sweet to have more energy on the farm, especially when people are down to jump in and work– the more hands on deck, the more time we have to pile in the truck and go to our local lake to swim, float, and bask in the sun.

That said, the world continues to feel heavy. I’ve been listening to the news and following social media around the recent murders of Black folks along with the surge of Black Lives Matter protests. Police are committing unacceptable and heartbreaking genocide against Black and brown people in America. The continued resistance and community-led actions against this violence are inspiring. When I travel to the Bay Area weekly to work at the farmers’ market, I almost never see or hear acknowledgement of either the murders or the resistance. That’s not okay. Yes, we are all going about our lives, some of which are impacted significantly more or less than others by systemic violence. But how can we go about our lives to the degrees we need to, while also acknowledging violence and supporting resistance against it?

 

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Black Lives Matter protestor Iesha Evans being arrested by Baton Rouge riot cops on July 10th.

A frequent conversation Eli and I had with hosts on our road trip was about the level and type of political awareness and engagement in rural spaces and on land projects, particularly around white supremacy. People had many different perspectives on living rurally in community, and how that relates to oppression in the rest of the world. A note of clarification: most of rural white America’s families have been working class for generations. The majority of people Eli and I met living rurally in community don’t share that background, but instead have class privilege and often had migrated from cities.

On one community’s shared bulletin board, we saw several people write that they felt the community was devoid of racism. (“Sidenote,” the ~90 person community was almost entirely white). In another, we spoke to a couple young people who felt concerned about racial struggles and issues centralized in urban areas, but weren’t quite sure how to connect with the issues while living so geographically separately. One of them said he saw the micro-culture he was helping to create through permaculture as his connection to movement work for justice — that he hoped his work could be part of the foundation for the post-revolution world.

A part of me rolls my eyes at the aforementioned young man’s hope of laying the foundation for a better world. But in humility I remind myself that I am among abundant white leftists who have at least once taken up residence in a gentrifying city and promptly jumped into activist communities to oppose gentrification. Contradictions are real and they don’t delegitimize a cause or the work around it. The mass migration of young white people (queers especially) to gentrifying cities doesn’t feel quite right, but neither does the growing sentiment of escaping to utopian white communities in the countryside. Of course, POC-led land projects and rural organizing spaces exist — I had the privilege of visiting a couple including Soul Fire Farm, and was inspired and humbled by the integrity and resilience of their work and presence on land.

Our lives are connected, our struggles are connected, our liberation is connected. How can those of us living rurally or otherwise in insulated communities stay engaged and support movement work? In what ways do our “alternative” communities enforce systems of oppression and in what ways do they challenge them? What would it mean to create communities that aren’t just insulated alternatives, but rather, communities that are inclusive of populations most vulnerable to capitalism’s harms? And what does it mean to challenge systems of oppression while occupying indigenous land?

I appreciate the questions my friends, community, and networks ask, and the support they offer to push me beyond my comfort zone. I continue to think and feel a lot about state violence, institutional racism, and the avoidable loss of black lives. I am grateful to be able to struggle in connection with others, and share support in the ways I am able.

In solidarity and in connection,

xo freddie

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