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REPORT Intersectionality in an Era ofGlobalization The Implications ofthe un World Conference against Racism for Transnational Feminist Practices—A Conference Report MAYLEI BLACKWELL AND NADINE NABER As we prepared this report, we struggled tojind the meaning ofthe UN World Conference against Racism (wcar) buried under the rubble ofthe first week ofthe U.S. bombing campaign against Afghanistan and the devastation and massive loss oflife at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania. Like a historic dividing line that bisects our hearts and sense oftime—before September 11, 2001 and after— activists and organizers returned home from Durban tojind that the political terrain had shifted beneath ourfeet in ways we might still be measuringjor decades to come. Despite the dijpculry ofthe times, we need the message and the lessonsgleanedJTom this historic anti-racism gathering more than ever as accounts pour injrom all over the country of the over 700 reported instances ofhate crimes committed againstArab Americans and those who have been mistakenfor them, mostly members ofSouth Asian communities. The post-September 11 political context has not only witnessed an upsurge in racist violence, it has also seen the implementation ofretrogressive policies, including indefinite detention and the renewal ofanti-immigrant policies such as "secret evidence" as a basis/or detention and deportation. Confronting Racism in the Era ofGlobalization Despite the virtual media silence, the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (wcar) was a historic meeting of the global anti-racism [Meridians:feminism, race, transnationalism 2002, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 237-48]©2002 by Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved. 237 movement in all ofits diverse manifestations. While the twenty-first century began with the UN World Conference Against Racism (August 31September 7, 2001) and the parallel Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Forum, un attention to questions of racism and the ill-fated nature ofthe U.S. government's participation have a longer history. The un General Assembly first designated 1971 as the International Year of Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, and prior to Durban, two un World Conferences against Racism were held in Geneva in 1978 and 1983.x The U.S. boycotted both ofthem. The NGO Forum in Durban attracted between 8,000-10,000 delegates from nations all over the world, the majority ofwhom were women. The conference dealt with themes such as colonialism, hate crimes and violence , ethnic cleansing, migration/refugees, slavery and slave trade, poverty and social exclusion, institutionalized racism, anti-Semitism, caste-based discrimination, gender, sexual orientation, youth, foreign occupation, environmental racism, religious intolerance, reparations, labor, trafficking, and globalization. As a venue, South Africa symbolized both a victory over apartheid and how tenacious aspects ofthis virulent form ofsystematic racism can be. In South Africa, anti-apartheid activists emphasized that, without economicjustice, their movementcontinues to be an unfinished revolution and that there is still a long road to walk in creating true racial equality in the increasingly more difficult conditions created by globalization. In fact the struggle against racism and globalization came to the fore in ways that many in the media missed or failed to report. Beyond the NGO Forum and the Governmental Conference, a third political arena emerged in the streets ofDurban, ignited by a two-daygeneral strike with mass marches led by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and an estimated one million workers marched in Johannesburg. Many ngo participants joined South African anti-globalization marchers in the streets to protest privatization. On August 31 over 30,000 people took to the streets for a march organized by the Durban Social Forum in solidarity with the landless movement, which lodged a critique ofthe anc's failure to fulfill its promise of"land for those who use it." Because the wcar was inaccessible to many South Africans, the streets were transformed into a multi-issue forum for international conference participants and local activists, where the role ofclass was front 238 MAYLEI BLACKWELL AND NADINE NABER and center in the ongoing conversations surrounding intersecting systems ofoppression that compound racism.2 The overarching nature of globalization and the conditions it creates—especially for poor people, women, and the racially marginalized-emerged as a guiding and principal...


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