In the last couple of days the country has witnessed an incredible showing of solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters. Black Lives Matter Cincinnati is fully behind the hundreds of thousands who have taken the streets and flooded airports across the country against the racist and xenophobic ban proposed by the Trump administration. We unequivocally support the right of religious freedom, reject in the strongest terms any form of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, and welcome positively the recent declaration by the City administration to deem Cincinnati a sanctuary city. This came thanks to ground swell of popular pressure. However, we simultaneously point out the political shortfalls of what has happened in the recent days.

First and foremost we must stop spreading the idea that  so called “American values” are somehow historically tied to justice. We firmly believe that the majority of US citizens are in  solidarity with their fellow human beings, including with those that cross borders, but what are the values of the United States government? This nation was founded on the genocide of Native Americans, built on the backs of millions of African slaves and Chinese labor captives, establishing itself as a superpower through 223 years of wars out of 240 years of existence. A nation which has dropped 26,000 bombs just in 2016, deported over 3 million of immigrants in the last decade, has the largest prison population in the history of humanity (50 % of them are black), keeps nearly a sixth of its population in poverty and a fifth without any health coverage, is NOT a nation of compassionate values. Stating the opposite perpetuates US exceptionalism which needs instead to be rejected and de-constructed by our movement.

As we lock arms with our immigrant brothers and sisters, it is essential that we understand why people immigrate to the US in the first place. It is not because of freedom or democracy, but to escape conditions of poverty and war created by the US and Western governments. If we sympathize with the plight of refugees we must even more so sympathize with those left behind and that are still under such conditions. If we sympathize with the plight of immigrants we must radically oppose United States imperialism and their outrageous accumulation of wealth at the expenses of the impoverishment of other nations.

We can also not ignore differences amongst the immigrant experience across nationality and race.  Black immigrants who are not yet U.S. citizens are disproportionately more likely to be deported if they interact with the criminal justice system than their non-Black counterparts.  Any encounter with the police can potentially lead to deportation and, according to a 2016 study by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, “more than one out of every five (>20%) noncitizens facing deportation on criminal grounds before the Executive Office for Immigration Review is Black,…while Black immigrants represent only 5.4 percent of the undocumented population.”   If we fail to recognize the way  anti-blackness impacts the immigrant experience in the US,  we will replicate the very systems that we are working to eradicate.

It is also imperative for our movement to fight for something better than the status quo which preceded Trump. The United States had one of the strictest immigration systems in the world, even under Obama. Non US-citizens are regularly fingerprinted and harassed upon entrance into the country. Immigrants are cut off from many federal programs (including Medicaid and Medicare), many end up working jobs at an abysmal minimum wage and are constantly harassed by police forces. Supporting immigrants cannot stop in lifting the ban or opposing the completion of the US-Mexico wall. It is about granting universal healthcare, supporting the fight for a $15 minimum wage, demilitarizing the police and fighting against police brutality.

Finally, we offer no thanks to the mayor of Cincinnati, nor will we provide a podium for him at any our events and neither should you. One positive press conference — no doubt partially motivated by his re-election desires —, does not change the character of this City administration. An administration that has steadfastly stood on the side of cops murdering our people, and harassing the immigrant population. An administration that did not wait 24 hours, let alone for an in-depth independent investigation, to claim the execution of Paul Gaston justified. An administration that pushed for the gentrification of Over-The-Rhine, selling its public properties to developers. An administration that despite a bold announcement, has done too little to welcome our immigrants and actively fight against deportations. An administration that “supports women” but has done nothing to defend and secure safe and affordable reproductive health access for women nor has taken a stand against the recent anti-abortion campaign.

In these last days, we have realized where our power lies. Not in the City offices, nor even in the White House, It is among us. It might not happen overnight, but it can only happen only if we, the people, come together and continue to build an independent, radical political program and movement. We will win!

Hasta la Victoria Siempre! (Until victory, always!)

To join Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, check us on facebook, email us at blacklivescincy@gmail.com or come to our General Body Meeting on Monday Feb. 6th at 6:15 p.m. at Peaslee Neighborhood Center, 215 E 14th st., Cincinnati, OH.