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Fractured Lives

Fractured Lives, Fractured Movements: Reimagining Truth in Our Lifetime—Janaya Khan

My partner left me. She had no choice.

Three days ago my very pregnant partner and I attempted to cross the border into the States at Pearson Airport in Toronto. She has an American citizenship; I have a Canadian one. We decided to leave somewhat urgently due to her feeling pain. While not abnormal, she has been experiencing the extreme forms of discomfort associated with pregnancy. A sit down with our Black and brilliant midwives, a check in with our OB-GYN, and a spell at home was meant to ground us before continuing on our speaking tour.

We headed to customs. I carried our bags while an attendant pushed her in a wheelchair. The US border waved her through. The officer looked at my passport, asked questions in a hostile manner, then asked for my fingerprints and photographed me. It felt as if there was a red flag on my file before I had arrived. He then handed me the dreaded yellow folder and sent me to the further investigation area. I handed the file to another officer once there and waited, no phones allowed.

I knew my partner was waiting outside the door, on the other side. I just couldn’t get to her.

After over an hour of waiting and interrogation, and experiencing the absolute worst in people, I was abruptly informed that they were denying me entry into the US. I was not informed as to why I was denied. They gave me an exhaustive list of requirements almost impossible to fulfill in order to even be considered for re-entry again. Security escorted me out, in the opposite direction of the green arrow on the door leading to my partner and soon to be little one.

I called her. I told her they denied me entry. We cried. She was in so much pain. We had mustered up just enough courage to dare the 5 hour flight in her condition, and in the end the decision was made for us. We felt defeated.

We regrouped and planned again. She left.

I do not know when I will be able to see my partner again, or if I will be able to enter the US, but we are determined and committed to the struggle. One way or another, that commitment will bring us back together. We will not only feel a sense of outrage at our condition, but also a deep sense of responsibility for those very conditions, and a commitment to changing them beyond our identities and beyond our circumstance, rooted in our politic.

While it would be so easy to say this unspeakable pain in my chest at her absence is unprecedented in the history of the world, that would be untrue. There is nothing unique about our experience. The reality of borders, the enforcement of nationstates and the allowance of national security to literally determine whether people are illegal or not, desirable or not, means this and much worse happens.

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Fractured Lives

ICE raids rip entire lives and families apart, with little to no translation available to explain the atrocity taking place, a farce of due process is offered and detainment and deportation are the end result of your body being stolen in the night.

This is the first time having a Canadian passport did not benefit me. My Blackness and Muslim name trumped my Western pass in this moment in history. Bill C51, Canada’s Anti Terror Bill, now allows for information sharing between Canadian and US borders to track specific people, their movements and movement building.

And yet, we were still able to create the opportunity to regroup, to change our plan. We both have citizenships from Western countries whose colonizing and imperialist histories allow, for the most part, international mobility. This is just not the reality for the vast majority of people in the world.

Both my partner and I are time tested organizers, but we both had a bit of shock that this could happen to us. It felt like my first experience of transphobia, my first experience of racism, where though I recognized what was happening, I didn’t yet have the tools to confront and contend with the reality of systemic oppression. I felt powerless.

Fractured Lives

I have been fighting for liberation, and dedicated to social justice for a long time. I am committed to the movement Black Lives Matter. I have been solid in struggles that do not directly impact me consistently and without hesitation.
But it’s not enough. Solidarity is no longer enough. The very framing of solidarity is inherently flawed, where lack of capacity justifies the continual failure to support the same communities over and over again.

This moment is important, it brings home the need to truly recognize that our struggles are interlocking struggles. Abuse of migrants, Islamophobia, trans and queerphobia, anti-Black racism, poverty, ableism, anti-indigeneity, all of our struggles are connected. It is imperative that we make these connections, because whether or not we do, the imperialist, white supremacist, christian, capitalist hetero-patriarchy does. Black Lives Matter must care about ICE raids and indigenous rights as it cares about anti-Black racism.

Climate justice movements, migrant justice movements, pro-Palestinian movements, disability justice, anti-Islamophobia and every other movement must recognize the need to build a Black liberation politic in its framework.

The model of selective struggles, largely informed by how we self-identify, is hugely fracturing the movement. Our personal morality determines the political reality. Fighting for an equitable minimum wage because you identify as working class, but believing all Muslims are terrorists, battling poverty because that was your personal experience, but believing that Tamir Rice deserved to be publicly indicted, fighting for migrant justice but caring not for sex workers, these contradictions are literally informing what is true and what is real in our lifetime. If we do not name these contradictions that we harbour, root them out and confront them, we will continue to be complicit in creating a political reality that just reimagines colonialism in a way that is more convenient for us. We have to be the generation that creates another way. Someone imagined shackles on Black wrists, and enough people believed it to make it true. Someone imagined borders, and enough people believed it to make it true.

Be the disrupters of truth, the diviners of change.


Imagine differently, and make it true.

Janaya Khan
Educator, Organizer, Cyborg