One Fist, Two Fist, Red Fist, Blue Fist (2020)
Ivan DelSol (b. 1971) and Jeremy Roth (b. 1979)
Stain and acrylic on plywood. Visible above the South side of Main Street between 5th and 6th in Cottage Grove, Oregon.
This art piece is a declaration of radical solidarity. It is explicitly revolutionary and a call to all people to examine their loyalties and prejudices, find common ground, and stand up to the madness of the status quo. We believe that ultimately we will find our way through these desperate times through togetherness, not division. The soul of our country hangs in the balance, and we will not save it by violence or hatred of one another. Speaking our piece in the streets, on the other hand, is our right, whether we are standing for Black lives or against counter-productive responses to a global pandemic.
We must stand together as a people, because both political parties in the United States are run by crooks that offer nothing but empty slogans. Politicians on both sides of the aisle line their own pockets and the pockets of their rich donors, to the detriment of increasingly struggling citizens. Using Covid-19 as an excuse, Democrats and Republicans recently worked together to enact the greatest upward transfer of wealth in America’s history. Even worse, these so-called political leaders play the population against each other, just when our only hope is to stand as one against an overreaching, corrupt government. The sensationalist media, full of conflicting messages and owned by the same elite that control politics, are also instrumental in this divisive messaging.
The situation has come to a head in the Movement For Black Lives. While White artists like us cannot speak for that movement, we can say with no ifs, ands, or buts that Black Lives Matter. Sadly, many of our neighbors have been misled to believe that this movement places Black lives above other lives. It does not. Black Lives Matter is a movement for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people. There is no argument that all lives should matter. The Movement For Black Lives exists because Black people are treated as if their lives don’t matter. It bears repeating: nothing about this movement seeks to devalue any other lives.
In addition to the black fist, we have constructed red, white, and blue fists as a call for American revolution or, if you will, evolution. We stand at a crossroads. Will we raise each other up, acknowledge our inherent value as human beings, and resist the outrageous corruption of the powers that be? Or will we let them divide us so that we fight amongst ourselves while they loot our economy and make a mockery of freedom and democracy?
Black people were instrumental in building the United States. Although they were ultimately emancipated from slavery, they were never recognized for their labor or suffering in the birth of this nation. Instead they faced racism and obstruction at every turn and even now live in massive economic inequality. To this day, we study scientific theories and philosophies that for centuries did not consider Black people to be human beings. This idea must be undone. The lingering racism in our institutions must be undone. While we may never be able to truly compensate Black Americans for their part in creating this country, the very least we can do is fully support their demands for justice and an end to violence against them.
This is for all people of color, especially our Indigenous relations. As Europeans spread across America, Indigenous people here suffered unthinkable genocide and erasure. Even now, treaties made in good faith with those people are ignored and broken. All around the world, Indigenous people continue to suffer at the hands of government greed and violence. Today, on American soil, children native to this continent and guilty of no crime are torn from their families and held in cages in outrageously inhuman conditions. Similarly, we have waged a decades-long international war that devastates the lives of people of color across the globe. We may never be able to atone for these atrocities, but we can stand together to stop them from continuing, and we can respect people and cultures of color in our communities.
The tide is turning for White people in America, as more and more of us recognize and seek to undo the injustices perpetrated by our ancestors. While White people of today cannot be held responsible for Black slavery or Indigenous genocide, there is still so much work to do. We must deconstruct the ongoing racist offenses born of a past that has yet to be reckoned with. This past must be faced on both systemic and personal levels. To begin with, we must demand that all people are treated with dignity and respect and that no race is treated better than another.
This is not to suggest that White people do not have hardships. That said, White people do have an advantage in that they are not subject to violence, prejudice and oppression simply because of the color of their skin. That advantage is also an opportunity; only when we use it to stand in solidarity with all people do we begin to live up to the demands of our history, of these times, and of the future we want for our children.
As we call for a revolution of solidarity and respect for all people, we must always recognize and honor the humanity of those in uniform. Even while we unequivocally oppose systemic violence, mass incarceration, and wars of aggression, we must not turn soldiers and police into faceless enemies. When we call for defunding the police and ending war in favor of needed social programs, we do not seek to harm the people in those institutions. To the contrary, we think they deserve better; there are ways to serve and protect that are far safer and more humane than our current system.
We recognize that government forces are made up of individuals with their own struggles and histories, and while we stand firmly against obsolete and violent systems of control, we must never dehumanize the people in those systems. Police do not make the laws and soldiers do not start the wars. They too will be instrumental if we are to stand as one against the crushing bipartisan corruption that has taken root in this country. To this end, we call on all agents of the state to refuse orders to harm anyone exercising their constitutional right to protest a government that has failed us all.