[sixties-l] Thobani Speech

From: Jerry West (record@island.net)
Date: Sat Oct 06 2001 - 16:10:03 EDT

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    >From the Vancouver Sun, October 3rd, 2001

     We, and this "we" is really problematic. If we in the
     West are all Americans now, what are Third World
     women and Aboriginal women to do? If Canadians are
     Americans now, what are women of colour to do in
     this country? And I'm open to suggestions for
     changing this title, but I thought I would stick with it
     as a working title for getting my ideas together for
     making this presentation this morning.

     I'm very glad that the conference opened with Tina
     (Tina Beads, of the Vancouver Rape Relief Women's
     Shelter) and I'm very glad for the comments that she
     made, but I want to say also, just (to) add to Tina's
     words here, that living (in) a period of escalating global
     interaction now on every front, on every level. And we
     have to recognize that this level and this particular
     phase of globalization is rooted in all forms of
     globalization in the colonization of Aboriginal peoples
     and Third World people all over the world. This is the
     basis. And so globalization continues to remain
     rooted in that colonization, and I think, recognize that
     there will be no social justice, no anti-racism, no
     feminist emancipation, no liberation of any kind for
     anybody on this continent unless Aboriginal people
     demand for self-determination.

     The second point I want to make is that the global
     order that we live in, there are profound injustices in
     this global order. Profound injustices. Third World
     women...I want to say for decades, but I'm going to
     say for centuries, have been making the point that
     there can be no women's emancipation, in fact no
     liberation of any kind for women, will be successful
     unless it seeks to transform the fundamental divide
     between the north and south, between Third World
     people and those in the West who are now calling
     themselves Americans. That there will be no
     emancipation for women anywhere on this planet until
     the Western domination of this planet is ended.

     Love thy neighbour. Love thy neighbour, we need to
     heed those words. Especially as all of us are being
     hoarded into the possibility of a massive war at
     the...of the United States. We need to hear those
     words even more clearly today. Today in the world the
     United States is the most dangerous and most
     powerful global force unleashing prolific levels of
     violence all over the world.

     From Chile to El Salvador, to Nicaragua to Iraq, the
     path of U.S. foreign policy is soaked in blood. We
     have seen, and all of us have seen, felt, the dramatic
     pain of watching those attacks and trying to grasp the
     fact of the number of people who died. We feel the
     pain of that every day we have bee watching it on
     television. But do we feel any pain for the victims of
     U.S. aggression? 200,000 people killed only in the
     initial war on Iraq. That bombing of Iraq for 10 years
     now. Do we feel the pain of all the children in Iraq who
     are dying from the sanctions imposed by the United
     States? Do we feel that pain on an every-day level?
     Share it with our families and communities and talk
     about it on every platform that is available to us? Do
     we feel the pain of Palestinians who now for 50 years
     have been living in refugee camps? U.S. foreign policy
     is soaked in blood. And other countries in the West,
     including shamefully, Canada, cannot line up fast
     enough behind it. All want to sign up now as
     Americans and I think it is the responsibility of the
     women's movement to stop that, to fight against it.

     These policies are hell-bent on the West maintaining
     its control over the world's resources. At whatever
     cost to the people...Pursuing American corporate
     interest should not be Canada's national interest. This
     new fight, this new war against terrorism, that is being
     launched is very old. And it is a very old fight of the
     West against the rest. Consider the language which
     is being used...

     Calling the perpetrators evil-doers, irrational, calling
     them the forces of darkness, uncivilized, intent on
     destroying civilization, intent on destroying
     democracy...Every person of colour, and I would want
     to say every Aboriginal person, will recognize this
     language. The language of us letting civilization
     representing the forces of darkness, this language is
     rooted in the colonial legacy. It was used to justify our
     colonization by Europe...

     We were colonized in the name of the West bringing
     civilization, democracy, bringing freedom to us. All of
     us recognize who is being talked about when that
     language is used. The terms crusade, infinite justice,
     cowboy imagery of dead or alive posters, we all know
     what they mean. The West, people in the West also
     recognize who this fight is against. Cries heard all
     over the Western world, we are all Americans now.
     People who are saying that recognize who the fight is
     against. People who are attacking Muslims, any
     person of colour who looks like they could be from the
     Middle East, without distinguishing, recognizing who
     this fight is against. These are not just slips of the
     tongue that Bush quickly tries to reject. These are not
     slips of the tongue. They reveal a thinking, a mindset.
     And it is horrific to think that the fate of the world
     hangs on the plans of people like that. This will be a
     big mistake for us if we just accept that these are
     slips of mind, just slips of the tongue. They're not.
     They reveal the thinking, and the thinking is based on
     dominating the rest of the world in the name of
     bringing freedom and civilization to it.

     If we look also at the people who are being targeted
     for attack. A Sikh man killed? Reports of a Cherokee
     woman in the United States having been killed?
     Pakistan is attacked. Hindu temples attacked.
     Muslim mosques attacked regardless of where the
     Muslims come from. These people also recognize
     who this fight is against. And it is due to the strength
     of anti-racist organizing that Bush has been forced to
     visit mosques, that our

     prime minister has been forced also to visit mosques
     and say, no there shouldn't be this kind of attack. We
     should recognize that it is the strength of anti-racist
     organizing is forcing them to make those remarks.

     But even...but even as they visit mosques, and even
     as they make these conciliatory noises, they are
     talking out of both sides of the mouth because they
     are officially sanctioning racial profiling at the borders,
     in the United States, for entrance into training
     schools, for learning to become pilots, at every step of
     the way. On an airplane, who is suspicious, who is
     not? Racial profiling is being officially sanctioned and
     officially introduced. In Canada we know that
     guidelines, the Globe and Mail leaked, the guidelines
     were given to immigration officers at the border, who
     to step up security watch is on.

     So on the one hand, they say no, it's not all Muslims,
     on the other hand they say yes, we are going to use
     racial profiling because it is reasonable. So we have
     to see how they are perpetrating the racism against
     people of colour, at the same time that they claim to
     be speaking out against it. And these are the
     conditions, the conditions of racial profiling. These are
     the conditions within which children are being bullied
     and targeted in schools, women are being chased in
     parking lots and shopping malls, we are being
     scrutinized as we even come to conferences like that,
     extra scrutiny, you can feel the coldness when you
     enter the airport. I was quite amazed. I have been
     travelling in this country for 10 years, and I have never
     had the experience that I had flying down here for this
     conference. All of us feel it. So this racial profiling has
     to be stopped.

     Events of the last two weeks also show that the
     American people that Bush is trying to invoke,
     whoever they are these American people, just like we
     contest notions of who the Canadian people are, we
     have to recognize that there are other voices in the
     United States as well, contesting that. But the
     people, the American nation that Bush is invoking, is
     a people which is bloodthirsty, vengeful, and calling
     for blood. They don't care whose blood it is, they want
     blood. And that has to be confronted. We cannot
     keep calling this an understandable response. We
     cannot say yes, we understand that this is how
     people would respond because of the attacks. We
     have to stop condoning it and creating a climate of
     acceptability for this kind of response. We have to call
     it for what it is: Bloodthirsty vengeance.

     And people in the United State, we have seen peace
     marches all over this weekend, they also are
     contesting this. But Bush is (the) definition of the
     American nation and the American people need to be
     challenged here. How can he keep calling them a
     democracy? How can we keep saying that his
     response is understandable after Bush of all people,
     who stole the election, how can we ever accept that
     this is democracy?

     Canada's approach has been mixed, it has said yes,
     we will support the United States but with caution. It
     will be a cautionary support. We want to know what
     the actions will be before we sign on and we want to
     know this has been Canada's approach. And I have to
     say we have to go much further. Canada has to say
     we reject U.S. policy in the Middle East. We do not
     support it.

     And it's really interesting to hear all this talk about
     Afghani women. Those of us who have been colonized
     know what this saving means. For a long time now,
     Afghani women, and the struggles they were engaged
     in, were known here in the West. Afghani women
     became almost the poster child for women's
     oppression in the Third World. And, rightfully so,
     many of us were in solidarity. Afghani women of that
     time were fighting against and struggling against the
     Taliban. They were condemning their particular
     interpretation of Islam. Afghani women, Afghanistan
     women's organizations were on the front line of this.
     But what (did) they become in the West? In the West
     they became nothing but poor victims of this bad, bad
     religion, and of (these) backward, backward men. The
     same old colonial construction. They were in the
     frontline, we did not take the lead from them then,
     where we could see them more as victims, only
     worthy of our pity and today, even in the United
     States, people are ready to bomb those women,
     seeing them as nothing more than collateral damage.
     You see how quickly the world can change. And I say
     that we take the lead from Afghani women. They
     fought back against the Taliban, and when they were
     fighting back they said that it is the United States
     putting this regime in power. That's what they were
     saying. They were saying, look at U.S. foreign policy!

     They were trying to draw out attention to who was
     responsible for this state of affairs, to who was
     actually supporting regimes as women all over the
     Middle East had been doing. Sorry, just two more
     minutes and I'll be done. So I say we take the lead
     from them and even if there is no American bombing
     of Afghanistan, which is what all of us should be
     working right now to do, is to stop any move to bomb
     Afghanistan, even if there is no bombing of
     Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of
     people have already been displaced, fleeing the threat
     of war--you see the power of America here, right? One
     word in Washington and millions of people are forced
     to flee their houses, their communities, right? So,
     even if there is no bombing, we have to bear in mind
     how many women's lives have already been disrupted,
     destroyed, and will take generations for them to put
     back together again.

     Inevitably, and very depressing in Canada is of
     course, turning to the enemy within--immigrants and
     refugees, right? Scapegoating of refugees, tighter
     immigration laws, all the right-wing forces in this
     community, in this country, calling for that kind of
     approach. This is depressing for women of colour,
     immigrant and refugee women, anything happens,
     even if George Bush was to get a cold, we know
     somehow it'll be the fault of immigrants and refugees
     in Canada, and our quote-unquote lax border policies.
     So I'm not going to say much about it, but I just want
     to expose you to how, this...continues to be
     resurrected anytime over anything in the world.

     In terms of any kind of military action, Angela Davis
     (an American activist) asked in the '70s, she said, "do
     you think the men who are going to fight in Vietnam,
     who are going to kill Vietnamese women and children,
     who are raping Vietnamese women, do you think they
     will come home and there will be no effect of all of
     this? One women in the United States?" she was
     asking this in the 70s.

     That question is relevant today. All these fighters that
     are going to be sent there, we think there will be no
     effect? For our women, when they come back here?
     So I think that that is something that we need to think
     about, as we talk about the responses, as we talk
     this kind of jingoistic military-ism. And recognize that,
     as the most heinous form of patriarchal, racist
     violence that we're seeing on the globe today. The
     women's movement, we have to stand up to this.
     There is no option. There's no option for us, we have
     to fight back against this militarization, we have to
     break the support that is being built in our countries
     for this kind of attack. We have to recognize that the
     fight is for control of the vast oil and gas resources in
     central Asia, for which Afghanistan is a key, strategic

     There's nothing new about this, this is more of the
     same that we have been now fighting for so many
     decades. And we want to recognize, we have to
     recognize that the calls that are coming from
     progressive groups in the Third World, and in their
     supporters, in their allies, in the rest of the world, the
     three key demands they are asking for: End the
     bombing of Iraq, lift the sanctions on Iraq, who in this
     room will not support that demand? Resolve the
     Palestinian question, that's the second one. And
     remove the American military bases, anywhere in the
     Middle East. Who will not demand, support these

     We have to recognize that these demands are rooted
     in anti-imperialist struggle and that we have to support
     these demands. We need to end the racist
     colonization of Aboriginal peoples in this country,
     certainly, but we need to make common calls with
     women across the world who are fighting to do this.
     Only then can we talk about anti-racist, feminist
     politics, only then can we talk about international
     solidarity in women's movements across the world.
     And in closing, just one word--the lesson we have
     learned, and the lesson that our politicians should
     have learned, is that you cannot slaughter people into
     submission, for 500 years they have tried that
     strategy, the West for 500 years has believed that it
     can slaughter people into submission and it has not
     been able to do so, and it will not able to do so this
     time either.

     Thank you very much.

     Prof. Sunera Thobani

     Transcript provided by the Cable Public Affairs

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