In Solidarity: DAP Supports the People of Ukraine and Condemns War

Ukrainian flags wave in Trafalgar Square as people descend to attend a protest, in London, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says street fighting has broken out in Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

This past Monday (June 20, 2022) was World Refugee Day. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, 7.1 million people have been internally displaced in Ukraine, 5 million refugees have fled, and at least 4000 people have been killed. As the Design as Protest (DAP) collective, we organize to dismantle oppressive systems and powers that, by design, result in the violent loss of life, land, and futures. As designers committed to design justice, we cannot ignore military aggression and acts of war.

War is the product of a system that sees people and their cultures as disposable, especially in relation to Black, Indigenous, Brown, and Asian people. War prioritizes the acquisition of resources and power above all, and harms people on all sides. We support the people of Ukraine and all peoples fighting against and witnessing militarization, war, and occupation in their homes, including the people of Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Colombia, India, Ethiopia, and more. We are in solidarity with those who are refugees and survivors of war, witnessing and reliving continuous loss and destruction.

As a collective primarily living on occupied Indigenous land in North America, we would be remiss if we condemned Russian military aggression without also acknowledging the responsibility of the US government and other members of NATO in militarization on this land and around the globe. While touted as a “defensive alliance,” NATO’s actions show that it is a military-industrial alliance that prioritizes the acquisition of land and resources in the name of western imperialism. The US government continues to deny responsibility for the imperialistic destruction that has been an integral to foreign and domestic policy since the nation’s inception. In 2020 to 2021 alone, the US has dropped 4,174 bombs and missles on Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. The 750 bases that the US has in at least 80 countries as of July 2021 (and $768 billion dollar budget) show its commitment to war and profits over peace and people, and we condemn the US government’s pattern of global military aggression and lack of accountability. These actions (or lack thereof) reinforce that Black, Indigenous, Brown, and Asian bodies are considered disposable, whereas their white body counterparts are not.

This pattern of global white supremacy is also making itself known in the ways that governments and civil society have responded to the war in Ukraine as well as resistance within Russia. We have witnessed racist treatment of African, Caribbean, and Indian refugees trying to flee war zones in Ukraine. We have seen Buryats (Indigenous to Siberia) suffer disproportionately from the war. We have seen neighboring European countries view white Ukrainian refugees as worthy of compassion and material support, in contrast to their treatment of African and Asian migrants and refugees even over 100 days in. But this is nothing new. As people of the global majority and friends/relatives of those who have constantly had their wars and struggles ignored and minimized by western media, being in solidarity with Ukraine and against war is a given — it is not even a question or a choice to make especially when actively discriminated against both globally and domestically and even detained during this crisis — people have been fighting against such violence every day for generations. Solidarity must come from a place that acknowledges all those who have suffered — not just those with white faces. Condemn war in Ukraine. Condemn war everywhere.

DAP organizes around nine Design Justice Demands. The first demand is to divest and reallocate police funding. We cannot divest from the police without also divesting from the military. The military state is an extension of the system of policing, responsible for upholding structures of oppression and harm on global scales. This demand calls to end militarization and surveillance in communities on all scales — from streets to entire countries. Over the past months, designers have acknowledged the connection between design, labor, and militarization. Multiple firms released statements in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and ceased work in Russia. Firms highlighted that war violates people’s right to a healthy and safe environment, therefore violating core values of architecture and planning. Some have started fundraising campaigns, built refugee shelters, and even helped in finding architectural work and jobs. In these actions, designers demonstrated their ability to act boldly by providing direct support and refusing complicity with governments that engage in human rights abuses.

We respect bold action, but also recognize that we have been told over and over that this type of action is not possible in our field, or that it is not the responsibility of designers to take a stance against the prison-industrial complex, pipelines on indigenous land, or design and construction on occupied land. Designers, engineers, and defense contractors are all implicated in the global military-industrial complex (MIC), which exists to produce war, and prioritize profit over people and peace. By participating in the design of military architecture, which includes military bases, weapons facilities, and training centers, we reinforce, expand, and maintain the MIC.

We call on designers, especially the 253 signatories of the DAP Demands and those who spoke out about Ukraine, to act boldly and refuse to design in collaboration with authorities that continue to be violent and destructive, including designing for the military. We demand that architects turn away from participating in disaster capitalism, such as treating the destruction of Kharkiv as “an extraordinary opportunity” to rebuild, and redirect their energy towards uplifting local efforts and dismantling the forces that caused the destruction in the first place. This requires us to examine the ways in which our workplaces, institutions, or design practices are complicit in violence, organize as a community, and make decisions to act in accordance with our core beliefs. Violence happening globally and harm in our own communities are connected in intimate and sometimes surprising ways. We do not have all the answers, but challenge designers to make these connections and think about their work beyond the immediate payout from projects. We challenge designers to understand what violence looks like at different scales and how they may find themselves as complicit bystander or even perpetrators. Finally, we challenge designers to ask what it means to make decisions about land that doesn’t “belong” to us in the first place.

ACTIONS

  1. Organize and Hold Discussions starting with your local network to determine the ways in which your work is connected to militarism and build collective power to resist complicity and hold one another accountable.
  2. Boycott destructive projects, often euphamized as “infrastructure,” “justice centers,” or “defense”, including but not limited to prisons, pipelines, and military bases.
  3. Divest from banks, mutual funds, stocks, and ETFs within your company’s 401k that fund the military (use Weapon Free Funds to determine which funds give money to arms manufacturers and military contractors and this list of banks to determine which banks support pipeline construction)
  4. Donate to and Support local organizations supporting refugees, including Black Women for Black Lives, Fight For Right, Africans Rising, Africans In Ukraine Education Fund (AIUEF) and Insight, who are helping Afro-Caribbean people, Disabled people, and LGBTQIA+ people in Ukraine.

RESOURCES

  1. AIUEF Share Resources & Opportunities
  2. Weapon Free Funds
  3. Mazaska Talks: Divest Your Community

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Design As Protest Collective

Design As Protest Collective

Design as Protest is a coalition of designers organizing to dismantle the privilege + power structures that use architecture and design as tools of oppression.