Principle 4: Abolition Is a Long-Term Strategy
Enslaved Africans arrived in this nation in 1619, and as you read these words today, Black folx are still in pursuit of the ideals of freedom, equity, and justice. Four hundred-plus years after the beginning of the Middle Passage, one-hundred and fifty-eight years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and fifty-six years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, abolition is still an active process. That's why it is of the utmost importance that our communication prioritizes a long-term strategy to the pursuit of freedom. When we utilize short-term wins and immediate actions, we must not do so in sacrifice of the more tedious work of systemic, structural, and sustainable change. Is it a balancing act? Of course, it is. Are both fundamental? Of course, they are. But if we are deeply guided by our freedom framework where "slavery and prejudice, sin and sorrow in every form [individual and institutional], are unfelt and unknown," then we must recognize that our communication today lays groundwork for future revolution. Contemporary, history-changing protest movements like Black Lives Matter, DACA/Dreamers, #MeToo, climate change, and gun control are broadenings of a long-term, movement-building strategy of the sociocultural and sociopolitical protests in the 1960s and the enslaved rebellions of the 1800s. As such, short-term decisions in our teaching and learning community like organizational structures, title changes, salary adjustments, uniform policies, and racial equity statements must be situated within a more expansive, long-term strategy that abolishes systemic structures of oppression within teaching and learning.
For sixty-eight years following the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision when the Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" facilities for Blacks and whites were, in fact, constitutional, Black and white folx remained diametrically unequal in the context of democratic participation and the fulfillment of American ideals. Even after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision in Topeka, Kansas, when the Supreme Court ruled that "separate" was constitutionally and inherently unequal, Black folx maintained our status as unequal in this nation. It is why the civil rights movement for comprehensive reconstruction through legislation was critical, because it would serve as a long-term strategy for moving Black folx in the direction of freedom. From 1957 with the Eisenhower administration's first framing of civil right legislation, until congressional passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which prohibits civil discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, including prohibiting job description on the basis of race and sex—civil rights leaders and organizations like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) recognized that short-term would not suffice. Pervasive and systemic oppression against Black folx would only be changed through long-term, sustainable legislative strategies. As abolitionist communicators, our burden is to lead our teaching and learning communities to disallow the sensationalism of immediacy, particularly in crises, to neglect our steadfast devotion to a comprehensive, long-term strategy inspired by an imagination that removes the limits of possibility in order to see freedom in a new way.