Last week I joined about 2000 people to attend the stand up to Trump rally in Newcastle. There were more Durham students chanting alongside me, proudly holding their homemade placards, than I had ever seen at any kind of political action in Durham. Present were the usual faces from the Durham left as well as some more apolitical and right wing acquaintances that surprisingly didn’t feel the need to respond to calls to “punch more Nazis!” with uncomfortable liberal white noise about ‘free speech’. Something about this issue clearly connected with lots of people across the political spectrum.
As delighted as I was by the big turnout and the buzzing atmosphere, I wondered why people were there and what they thought the purpose was – to disagree and feel morally superior or to fight fascism? It seems that Trump has become the villainous face of Western racism, a face that lies very far away, while racism remains very active on our door step. There are thousands of migrants and hundreds of refugees in the North East. There are also multiple active fascist groups organising in the North East, such as the North East Infidels who hold multiple actions throughout the year. Migrants and refugees are not just made to feel unwelcome in America; they are made to feel unwelcome here in the North East. There is very little we can do to better the experience of migrants and refugees in America and continually pointing out that we aren’t quite as racist as America does nothing to improve the situation here. I proudly joined in with chants condemning Trumps racism but it was notable that they were louder than most chants heard condemning the North East’s racism.
Trump is not so much a threat to the fabric of our society but more a symptom of it. Normalised everyday racism is partly responsible for Trump’s reception as a ‘legitimate’ political candidate and his rise to power. We can challenge normalised everyday racism everyday in our local communities. While we were chanting “Refugees are welcome here!” at the march, sadly this is often not what is experienced. There have been 66 racist hate crimes, which have been at least partly anti-immigrant fuelled, in Durham since the Brexit vote. Trump is an anti-hero that has galvanised a rise in antifascist resistance as well as fascism but it is imperative that this energy is also exerted locally where it can be most effective.
If you want to get involved in transformative antifascist actions consider directing your energy towards local antifascist networks and supporting the upcoming refugee week. Refugee week is a nationwide movement running from the 20th to the 24th of February to welcome refugees show that their contributions to this nation are greatly valued. Details for events throughout the week can be found on facebook and it’ll be a great way to direct newly inspired anti-fascist energy.