Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz - feminist, revolutionary, historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
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O u t l a w W o m a n:
A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975
by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
340pp
2002
ISBN: 0-87286-390-5
Format: Trade paperback original
Price: $17.95

 

 
   

Outlaw Woman

 

Page 5 ...

At the same time you have Jewish Americans oftentimes identifying with Israel for the wrong reasons ...

That's true. That's certainly the impulse. I just read an article by Edward Said this morning in which he analyzes why Jewish Americans are more supportive of the worst aspects of Israel than Israelis are. There's a very large peace movement there and many people opposed to Sharon's policies. American Jews have the identity thing. I think it's more harmful because of the geopolitical nature of the conflict, but technically it's no worse than many blacks I knew in the '70s who identified with Idi Amin, for instance. Obviously you're not automatically granted good political consciousness just because you identify with your own people. It doesn't do everything. It can't stop there. There has to be leadership like Malcolm X once was or Stokely Carmichael; today, a Randall Robinson or a Manning Marable or Cornel West or bell hooks, who guide and give shape to solidarity, and are able to condemn those who would exploit that identity.

Then there are boundaries to that sort of ideal ...

Well, I think you pick and choose. What I would like to see Jewish Americans do, for instance, is – not so much the Michael Lerner/Tikkun thing of insisting on peace and insisting that the Palestinians be nonviolent, too. There's so much violence there already that this is not a very effective first step. It's exactly what Sharon is calling for – that Palestinians be peaceful, with the promise that then the Israelis will do something constructive. I'd rather that American Jews identify with the forces of anti-imperialism in Israel. Those who are for solidarity, you'll almost always be identifying with a minority segment of the population. I think that I had to face that in the 1980s when the struggle in Nicaragua. Many indigenous folks here were used to support the Contras because of the Sandanistas' questionable policies toward the indigenous peoples. There were different groups among the indigenous representing different ideas on how things should change, but to pick out of that and identify with the US-sponsored Contras rather than other groups who were there is what I see as a kind of misuse of identity politics. It's sort of like having your cake and eating it too. You'll be rewarded by the United States for your support but you're still sort of expressing your own identity.

It's similar to what's going on right now in Afghanistan and Cuba where you have Bush pushing for one type of reform and drawing on supposedly "indigenous" support ...

Right. Of course Cuba's such a special case. I have a whole chapter on Cuba in Outlaw Woman, about going there. I don't think there's an analogy with anything, just the fact that it's survived, that any kind of dissidence against Cuba automatically plays into the United States' policy of isolating Cuba and overthrowing the revolution. The people opposed to Castro's government would like it to be a part of the United States. They would like to just give over sovereignty to the United States. It's so special. In Afghanistan, I think it's really interesting how the mainstream women's movement is being used to support Bush's policies under the guise of saving women. Here they've installed an equally rapacious group of people, the Northern Alliance, and the Feminist Majority Organization and Ms. Magazine editors and readers are all gung-ho about the role that they can play in supporting US policy.

In your experience, do you think it's better to specialize in one area of knowledge or activism, or to broaden and try to cover all at once as some amazing figures such as yourself or Chomsky are able to do?

Well, we can do that because we're old. You accumulate all of this stuff. I think there's something to be said for intensive, consistent work. I think it takes all kinds of people – the generalists like myself or Chomsky, but the people I most admire are people who are really involved in the actual work. I can think of a few I know like Danny Schechter who is sort of a media watchdog or Randall Robinson who has been arguing for reparations for years or a woman I know does work accumulating data and taking testimony about marriage and date rape or a woman who runs battered women's centers. I think this is really the heart of a movement. Not enough credit is given to the people who do these things, people who work away for years organizing in a progressive way. I name these particular people because within their own particular work, they also have a larger view. I'm not sure how long anyone can keep doing that type of work so intensely without having a larger vision of social justice and changing the world. It gives me a lot of confidence to know that these people exist everywhere. This isn't something new. These are people struggling in the most dire of circumstances. It's just amazing. I think our job as militant organizers is not to try to form some national organization that will force all of these people into a kind of mold, but to help with the linkages, communicating, networking, putting people together, voicing their concerns at the international level, and spreading information about international solidarity with them. I think that's happening. I think it's happening internationally. Those are building blocks for the long haul of what we're trying to do. I think the younger generation right now doesn't give itself enough credit for the organizations its members have built that are just amazing, and far more penetrative into the whole culture than even those of the '60s. At the same time, there's been a kind of diminishing of the '60s as a kind of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll era on the one hand, or else – for those who are positive to it – it was a golden age that can never be emulated or lived up to. Of course it was neither of those. I think – in fact, I'm sure – there are many more people politically conscious and knowledgeable about these issues now than there were then. Except for a few huge national demonstrations that took place then, there's really as much activism now. It's just that you can't rely on the media anymore to report that so there are other means for keeping up to date. Someone started tracking all of the demonstrations against the war in Afghanistan. They were just everywhere. Every day there were things going on in the United States and in every little hamlet of the country. When 50 people demonstrate in a town of 10,000 people, that's just extraordinary. It was not newsworthy but we don't even know yet the results of that and how important it is. I think we need to be everywhere, to be outspoken. Especially at this time, to not self-censor, to not try to soft-pedal things, but be forthright – at least those who can afford to be. I think people have to protect themselves in some ways, but many of us have nothing to lose.

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