Giving Thanks for Racial Justice Victories. Yes, We’ve Got Some!

Tammy Johnson remembers there are reasons to celebrate, too.

By Tammy Johnson Nov 24, 2010

I’m doing my best to keep my blood pressure in check these days. So this Thanksgiving, I’ve decided forgo my usual rant about the revisionist prattle involving wide-eyed pilgrims (read, undocumented immigrants) and docile natives. This year, I’m focusing my Turkey Day energies instead on giving thanks to the people who, despite these tough political and economic times, have put the move back into the movement in 2010.

Thanks to the artists, who with great meaning added a bit of color, an infectious beat or choice words to the struggle. The reemergence of griots like Gil Scott-Heron, the "Be brave!" solidarity of Nicki Minaj, the defiant screen prints of Melanie Cervantes and the SB 1070 challenge of rapper Talib Kweli’s "Papers Please." You inspired us all.

Thanks to representatives who truly represent. Elected officials like Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and Arizona’s Rep. Raul Grijalva–who fought hard and kept his seat in the brutal midterms–are a rare breed. Ellison stood up against racial profiling and for true religious freedom in the face of blatant racist scapegoating directed at him and other Muslim Americans. Grijalva faced down death threats to declare SB 1070 to be the crime that it is. That has got to be nerve-racking. But it’s their job and they are doing it. Thanks.

Thanks to freedom fighters who are in it for the long haul. Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma spent 15 years under house arrest in her quest to achieve a political voice for the people of Myanmar. Freedom isn’t free, so I send thanks to the Aung San Suu Kyis of the world who pay the price.

I’ve got to tip my hat to New York gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan for making it plain. The rent is just too damn high! McMillan proved that you don’t necessarily need a multi-million dollar advertisement campaign to speak the truth and be heard.

Muchas gracias to Latino voters for reminding us all that people power and the vote is one hell of a combination. Flexing their political muscle in several pivotal races during the midterm elections, these voters signaled to Democrats and Republicans that they are not to be ignored or underestimated.

As the granddaughter of a former maid, I am hella thankful for the perseverance of the Domestic Workers United and the New York Domestic Worker Justice Coalition. They kept on keeping on and eventually passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in New York, the first of its kind in the nation.

And you know what else, we’re thankful at ColorLines and the Applied Research Center for the community that’s building around our own work. We met many of you for the first time at Facing Race 2010 this September, and we’re hearing from more and more of you everyday here on the site, on our Facebook page and in the Twitter feed. Thanks for joining the conversation. 

Come to think of it, the racial justice movement has a lot to be thankful for. Our victories may not be the lead story of the evening news, but they make a big difference in the lives of many in our communities. I’ve named a precious few here. Here’s your opportunity to add to the list and pass the gravy. Chime in to the comments below with your own thanks to the racial justice movement. We’ll cull the best when we’re back from stuffing our faces next week.