Alicia Garza: The First Step to Ending Violence
In June, Black Lives Matter co-founder and Special Projects Director for National Domestic Workers Alliance, Alicia Garza sat down with NoVo Foundation Program Officer Jesenia Santana for a conversation about what is needed to end violence against girls and women. From discussing the practice of intersectionality to uplifting examples of successful community-based models, Alicia Garza provided tremendous insight into what she believes creates powerful and inclusive social movements. Through this 5-part blog series, we will be sharing with you the movement building lessons we’ve learned from our conversation. For the complete audio of our interview with Alicia Garza, click here.
Orlando. Nice. Kabul. Baton Rouge. Munich. St. Paul. Dallas. Until a few weeks ago, this collection of cities might have seemed random but the violence that has marred these past few weeks has brought these cities into tragic association. Adding to the despair following the killings of black men, gay club goers, French civilians, and public servants, is the response of political figures and pundits who advocate answering violence with more violence. This response is particularly prevalent in the United States, and our country’s affinity for using violence as tool to fix our problems has only continued this seemingly endless cycle.
So why do we as a country meet violence with violence? Alicia Garza has a theory:
“It’s woven into the DNA of this country that we use violence to solve problems. We use violence to create problems, we use violence to control, use violence to surveil, we use violence to keep people in line, and we use violence as a way to build this [nation building] project at the expense of everyone else in the world.”
As Alicia points out, violence has been a part of this country’s history, even before its founding. From this history, we have created a culture and society that continues to use violence both as a tool and as a solution. By first acknowledging our country’s violent past, we can begin to address how violence manifests in our society today.
Using the shooting in Orlando as an example, it is tempting to view the massacre as an isolated incident carried out by a deeply troubled individual. By interpreting Orlando through this lens, we fail to recognize that this act of violence is yet another iteration of our society’s patriarchal culture. Patriarchy devalues people who don’t fit the mold of a heterosexual, male-dominated social structure and uses violence, in its many forms, to punish them.
However, understanding the shooter’s actions as a product of patriarchy is only one step in ending violence overall. In our conversation with her, Alicia called on us to also acknowledge all the ways we ourselves have been shaped by a violent and patriarchal culture. Following the Orlando massacre, the airwaves were abuzz with calls to destroy ISIS and to imprison the shooter’s wife for her complicity. We must question our own tendencies to fight violence with further violence and continuously ask ourselves what are we contributing to.
So what does this mean for you? How can you contribute to the creation of a world without violence? To start, our Movement Makers have some ideas that you can read about that include a call for a shared vision and a plan for collective action. They put out this call almost three years ago exactly, in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin, and, as these past few weeks, months, years have proven, it is just as relevant today.