Options Magazine profiled Red Ink last November. Jackie Goldman, a Queer Jewish member of Red Ink's board, and a candidate for Providence city council in Ward 5 shares their thoughts on the recent Nazis attack on the library.
Red Ink is a unique place that stands out in the community, both because of its physical appearance and also because there are not many other socialist libraries in the country, let alone Rhode Island. Sadly, it makes sense to me that our library became the target of a Nazi attack.
February 21 was the 174th anniversary of the publishing of the Communist Manifesto. The annual date has become Red Books Day and Red Ink marked the occasion with a reading of the pamphlet Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel’s wrote that outlined many of the main Leftist views for generations. During the event, a gang of Nazis waving an SS flag disrupted the reading, banged on the windows, and trapped participants inside. Video of the event is chilling to watch.
Nothing about this attack is surprising to me. My family came to the United States because we were driven from our homes by Nazis. As a Jewish kid, I was raised with so much Holocaust education that my nightmares constantly featured my family and me being killed because we were Jewish. I always had a slight sense of fear walking into Jewish spaces fully knowing that anti-Semitic attacks were never that far away.
When I came out, I had similar fears. I knew that as a Queer person, there were certain states and cities I would never move to. I routinely experience different shades of transphobia. These fears are generally something that sit in the back of my mind and feel like something that exists in the abstract. Seeing an attack at Red Ink, a library that I helped found and filled with people that I care about, makes all of these fears feel much more real and visceral.
No one should have to walk around with trepidation because of who they are. Yet, coverage of this attack in no way addressed the fact that in Providence, a city that is very diverse, these Nazis pose a real and immediate threat to so many residents. We have also seen the response from elected leaders and candidates put Nazism and Leftist politics on the same level. These people do not acknowledge that using violent tactics rooted in white supremacy is completely different from talking about Leftist ideas. This trend is incredibly harmful and should scare the people of Providence.
Of course I am angered and saddened by the attack on Red Ink, but even more so, I am angered by the level of violence that the Left routinely faces. Over the last 6 years, we have seen an increasing rise in participation in Nazi and other right-wing fascist groups. These people feel emboldened to enforce concepts of White Supremacist hegemony and the Left has not dealt with this in a concerted way. One thing that the Left does not talk about enough – and I am not talking about corporate Democrats, who clearly do not value our lives, but rather real progressives and Leftists – is that we have all come to normalize violence in our communities.
Today, violence is tacitly understood to be a consequence of being visible within the Left, being openly Queer, being non-white, or being in a working-class job. In Rhode Island and America at large, protesters know that they are at risk of being brutalized. Queer and Trans people and People of Color are routinely attacked. Every day, workers face threats of violence just for having a job dealing with customers. I knew that as someone running for office as a visibly Queer and non-binary person I would experience violence too.
The Left does not commit this kind of violence as a norm, whereas I do think that violence is inherent to far-right extremism (though there may be individuals on the left who are violent –– but even groups such as the John Brown Gun Club exist as a defense mechanism and not for offense). Many alt-right groups center violence in their mission statements. All you need to do is look at their chants which call for the ends of Jews, People of Color, and Queer people. Compare that to Socialist movements whose chants focus on giving power to the people, uplifting Black and Brown voices, and center calls for unity. I think that Socialist movements are borne from love of community and, unlike the alt-right, are not created in hatred of the other.
The coverage of this attack has often minimized the threat society faces from Nazis and fascists. So far, the coverage has been about Red Ink (which makes sense). What is being missed is the fact that Queer people, Jewish people, People of Color, and working-class people face these kinds of threats all the time, especially if they take up space in the progressive movement. As long as our elected leaders, our government, and we as individuals continue to allow far-right violence to be acceptable and normal, we will keep seeing these attacks on the Left and on anyone else who doesn’t fit within the far-right’s mindset of acceptability.