Merrriam-Webster online defines abolition as:
Abolition (noun): (1) The act of officially ending or stopping something: the act of abolishing something, (2) the act of officially ending slavery.
This simple dictionary definition cannot possibly cover the nuanced and complex importance of the word, nor can it begin to scratch the surface of the endless historical fight for a better world. Of all the figures throughout history that have committed to the lifelong resistance against seemingly insurmountable systems of power. Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and so many others spanning from the early American colonies all the way up to our own lives. Such a simple definition cannot begin to elaborate on a cultural and worldwide struggle that has encompassed the lives of every person to exist under the assumed power of another. Yet, we must start somewhere.
Abolition. A word that brings images of a worse America when chattel slavery was sanctioned by law and upheld by a twisted form of religious morality that enforced racial superiority; an America when Indigenious rights were nonexistant and the rightful people of this land were systematically and violently cleansed in holocaustal horror; an America where women had little place to exist outside of the confines of traditional and silenced gender roles; a place where there was no room for any individual who did not fit the homogenous nature of white male supremacy. Abolition. A word that many ignore as an idea of the past when racially fueled violence was more transparent than today’s concealed systems of oppression. While this country has come a long ways from the days of chattel slavery and witch burning, thanks to those many countless sacrifices by those written into history, we are in need of abolition just as much as ever.
In this edition of the Sentinel, we seek to offer our explicit solidarity for systemic liberation while unpacking some of these concealed forms of oppression. From Alex Aldridge’s dive into deep chasms of the prison industrial complex, to experiencing the power of contemporary indigenious art by Ashley Leap, to a powerful interview between our Associate Editor and Portland State’s own Walidah Imarisha on the complex meanings of abolition, and other powerful essays centered around liberation and our place in it, we hope to contribute to the most important fight of all: the fight for equality, equity, and justice.
Yet, it appears that there is a deep-seated irony throughout Portland, Portland State, and the Pacific Sentinel itself. In considering our place in this fight and the last few years of civil unrest, it’s difficult to ignore the staggering demographic of Portland’s 75% white population; PSU’s student demographic itself is over 50% white. And while the color of your skin is not the only indicator of privilege or oppression, racial lines in this country run wide and cut deep. While we seek to do our part in deconstructing and unveiling systems of oppression, it’s important that we also recognize our place within the paradigm of white America. We are in this fight, but we are not its leaders. Rather, the leaders we should be looking to are those communities and individuals who have been fighting this fight for far longer than most white folks, especially those living in our historically exclusionary state, where lashing laws were a form of lawful racial violence to maintain Oregon’s whiteness until very recently. We must do the work to deconstruct, abolish, and rebuild systems both physical and mental. And in all this we must remember our place in the fight for abolition.
Thank you for your support of our magazine and we hope that something here motivates you to continue the work for a better world.
The Pacific Sentinel