Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"I must distance myself from this complicity with racism": Judith Butler Refuses Award at Berlin Pride

This story has been making rounds in academic circles (check out Jasbir Puar and Tavia Nyong'o on Butler's refusal over at Bully Bloggers).  Queer Theorist Judith Butler refused the Prize for Civic Courage being awarded to her at this year's Berlin Pride and instead offered the Prize to local feminist and queer anti-racist groups including Gays and Lesbians From Turkey (GLADT), LesMigraS, SUSPECT, and ReachOut.  

Here is the translated full text of Butler's speech (h/t The European Graduate School):
When I consider what it means today, to accept such an award, then I believe, that I would actually lose my courage, if i would simply accept the price under the present political conditions. ... For instance: Some of the organizers explicitly made racist statements or did not dissociate themselves from them. The host organizations refuse to understand antiracist politics as an essential part of their work. Having said this, I must distance myself from this complicity with racism, including anti-Muslim racism.

We all have noticed that gay, bisexual, lesbian, trans and queer people can be instrumentalized by those who want to wage wars, i.e. cultural wars against migrants by means of forced islamophobia and military wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. In these times and by these means, we are recruited for nationalism and militarism. Currently, many European governments claim that our gay, lesbian, queer rights must be protected and we are made to believe that the new hatred of immigrants is necessary to protect us. Therefore we must say no to such a deal. To be able to say no under these circumstances is what I call courage. But who says no? And who experiences this racism? Who are the queers who really fight against such politics?

If I were to accept an award for courage, I would have to pass this award on to those that really demonstrate courage. If I were able to, I would pass it on the following groups that are courageous, here and now:

1) GLADT: Gays and Lesbians from Turkey. This is a queer migrant self-organization. This group works very successfully within the fields of multiple discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and racism.

2) LesMigraS: Lesbian Migrants and Black Lesbians, is an anti-violence and anti-discrimination division of Lesbenberatung Berlin. It has worked with success for ten years. They work in the fields of multiple discrimination, self-empowerment, and antiracist labor.

3) SUSPECT: A small group of queers that established an anti-violence movement. They assert that it is not possible to fight against homophobia without also fighting against racism.
4) ReachOut is a councelling center for victims of rightwing extremist, racist, anti-Semitic , homophobic, and transphobic violence in Berlin. It is critical of structural and governmental violence.

Yes, and these are all groups that work in the Transgeniale CSD, that shape it, that fight against homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, and militarism, and that - as opposed to the commercial CSD - did not change the date of their event because of the Soccer World Cup.

I would like to congratulate these groups for their courage, and I am sorry that, under these circumstances, I am unable to accept this award.