Black Lives Under Surveillance: A Review of Simone Brown's "Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness" | Brandi Thompson Summers
Book Review | December 7th, 2016
Modern capitalism has always placed an undue burden on black bodies. Slavery, forced labor, and dispossession have moved hand in hand with forces of surveillance and the power of the state. In cities like Ferguson, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Oakland-and countless others that have never reached national awareness-abysmal economic conditions have found an intimate partner in police patrols, drones, security cameras, and citizen-on-citizen reporting. Today, poor communities of color are under constant surveillance and on the receiving end of brutal market forces. Where high unemployment, inadequate public transportation, and segregation are the rule, surveillance performs the work of control. Rebellions against state-sanctioned violence are inspired by feelings of both oppression and neglect, a contradiction at the core of capitalism's relationship to black people and black bodies. The supposed freedom and equality of the marketplace depend upon the contempt of the overseer.
"How Much Do You Cost?": A Story of Sexual Neo-Colonialism | Sonasha Braxton
Commentary | December 7th, 2016
Once upon a time when I was 21 years old, I was a student at United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya. It was my first time in Africa. I had been there about for about two months, when I was out at a bar with my friends, very close to the campus. My friends and I were all college students, and dressed accordingly so. I walked myself to the bar and took 200ksh out of my pocket to buy my myself a beer. Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around. It was a Caucasian male in his late 40s with scraggly hair.
ESPN'S Journal of Black Respectability Politics: The Undefeated, and the Surrender of the Black Middle Class | Jon Jeter
Analysis | December 7th, 2016
As a work of either reportage or critical inquiry, Dyson's 2,000-word essay is an abysmal failure. Didactic, artless and populated with misshapen straw-men, it fails to identify a single African American who articulates anything resembling envy or disdain for Curry, let alone anyone whose resentment is grounded in his fair complexion. In fact, the two African Americans who Dyson quotes at length, current NBA player Kevin Durant, and the retired Hall-of-Famer Allen Iverson, are effusive in their praise of Curry.
Slavery, Democracy, and the Racialized Roots of the Electoral College | Christopher F. Petrella
History | November 23rd, 2016
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the provenance of the Electoral College, to paraphrase Ronald Takaki, is grounded in questions of racialized 'insiderism' and 'outsiderism.' To this end, the Electoral College is responsible for the fact that four of the first five U.S. presidents were white, slave-holding men from Virginia. The "Virginia" variable is key here, as Virginia held the largest population of enslaved black men, women, and children from the inception of the "peculiar institution" until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Racism is the Status Quo: Relinquishing the Reigns of White Power | Susan Anglada Bartley, M.Ed & Samuel Burnett
Commentary | July 12th, 2016
Three days after the murder of Alton Sterling, two days after the murder of Philando Castile, one day after the sniper attacks on police in Dallas, four hundred plus years after the start of the trans-continental slave trade, we come together, in the highest state of white privilege--a white male college student and his white female former teacher--at a coffee shop in Portland, Oregon, computer screens ablaze, to discuss how we might respond to the current political moment in a unified response that will help other whites to own, understand, and relinquish our white power in favor of a revolutionized society. Perhaps due to privilege, perhaps due to never being pulled over and harassed for a busted tail-light, never being followed in a store (even when I, the teacher, really was stealing at the age of 12), never being questioned and certainly never being beaten or detained for crimes we did not commit--perhaps due to these factors, or perhaps due to the tendency of our European ancestors to dream of utopian visions that we never fulfill, we have the audacity or the pretense to believe that this other society is still possible.
The Speech Heard Around the World: Jesse Williams, Hollywood, and Race | Eljeer Hawkins
Commentary | July 12th, 2016
The annual BET Awards is a star-studded affair as African-American movers and shakers congratulate one another for a successful year in music, filmmaking, sports, and other genres related to Hollywood. This year's awards were punctuated by a resounding tribute to the iconic musician and artist, Prince, throughout the night, highlighted by an earthshaking tribute by Shiela E. and former Prince collaborators over the course of his legendary career. The night witnessed the premiere of a new collaboration by two of the most famous artists in this current moment, Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar. The song 'Freedom,' an assertive anthem during this current phase of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM), which has heightened attention to racial oppression, right-wing populism, and law enforcement terror. Quite surprisingly, 'Freedom' opened with an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King's, August 28, 1963, March on Washington speech, "I Have A Dream," which added to its message and sense of urgency.
The Game Metaphor: How To Teach Racists That There Is No Such Thing As Reverse Racism | David I. Backer
Commentary | June 22nd, 2016
How do you explain to people who think there is reverse racism that reverse racism does not exist? Tim Wise has an essay about this, and you can find resources in The Daily Dot, Everyday Feminism, The Daily Kos, and Huffington Post to explain why a person of color cannot be racist towards a white person. This semester some of my students had difficulty understanding this, however. Many of the above resources (and the explanations I tried to give) rely on concepts like structure, oppression, and systematic inequality. These ideas are unfamiliar to those who have grown up with modern forms of racism, particularly colorblindness. It is difficult to guide the racially unknowing, ignorant, and fragile (read: most white people) to an understanding of these ideas, so explanations rejecting reverse racism fall short.
The 50th Anniversary of the Meredith March Against Fear | Eljeer Hawkins
History | June 9th, 2016
On October 1, 1962, James Howard Meredith became the first black student to attend the previously segregated University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), marking another great victory for the civil rights movement. James Meredith a former enlisted man in the air force, a defiant race man who walked to his beat politically and morally. Meredith had a contentious and combative relationship with the traditional civil rights leadership and organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ( NAACP) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). For years, Meredith hinted at a march from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi to provide a new type of leadership and counter balance the doctrine of non-violence and subservience to white supremacy.
Forged in Struggle: How Migration, Resistance, and Decolonization Shape Black Identities and Liberation Movements in North America | Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye and Tia Oso
Analysis | January 18th, 2016
There is a graveyard at the center of American democracy. At this late moment we are still coming to terms with how Black migration inspires anxiety for anyone concerned with the maintenance of empire, nationhood, and even the process of decolonization. "A really broad notion of who is Black America" opens a transnational dialogue that can excavate the global scale and varied manifestations of antiblackness.
"It is Better to Fight": On Martin and Malcolm | Wendell Hassan Marsh
Analysis | January 18th, 2016
The effigy of a black man, a son of Southern soil and descendant of slaves, now stands over the nation's Mall among its founding fathers, notorious slave owner in front and the so-called Great Emancipator to his back. Looking out over the placid Tidal Basin with a steely-eyed reserve and chiseled determination, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, the first monument on the Mall dedicated to a man of color, has whipped up yet another tempest of protest. Besides the same types who did not and still do not commemorate the life of this influential Civil Rights leader on the third Monday of every January, other dissenters have noted that the veined, confrontational depiction of the Brother Preacher by the Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin does not evoke the round docility associated with the open-armed love of nonviolence. For them, the image goes against what they see as King's true legacy, while others see the statute as an appropriate stance of well-grounded, stony defiance and pride.
40 Acres and a Fool: Spike Lee, Chiraq, and the Shortsighted Efforts to Address "Black-on-Black" Crime | Aja Monet
Commentary | December 7th, 2015
The war in Iraq was one of the most regrettable decisions of American military interventions. It was an example of White American policy asserting wealth, power, and domination in the Middle East. The war destabilized the entire region. It was, in fact, a war. Who supplied the weapons? As people try to reclaim humanity amidst the debris of violence, they are fleeing to countries for refuge and those who cannot leave stay behind, killing each other, or rather, surviving in what has become a battlefield of poverty and destruction. Who benefited from profitable contracts? Who supplied weapons? Who created the war? Who is cleaning up after the debris and rubble? How do humans cope with war? Who was given the weapons? Who has the license to kill and when? Who has power?
Salt in the Wounded Knee: Psychopathy in the Commemoration of Genocide | Sonasha Braxton
Analysis | November 24th, 2015
Many of us may be familiar with this poem. I remember learning it at some point in my actually quite progressive elementary school. Columbus's first voyage had about 90 men. Some men probably snored. It is possible they dreamed of sand. It is more than likely they were quite happy when they reached land. They were not in India. The indigenous Arawak population gave them gifts and Columbus did come back. I deny none of the veracity of the poem. But I do have questions, like why it exists. Why is it taught to children in an educative setting? While it is only a children's rhyme, it is the omissions, and the implied "happily ever after" that beyond problematic, are in fact quite insidious.
Missing a Million: The Million Man March, the Media, and Representation | Sean Posey
Commentary | November 10th, 2015
Bus loads of people from cities all across America arrived in the midst of waiving Pan African Flags and Nation of Islam drill teams on a sun-drenched fall day in the nation's capital. Those hundreds of thousands of black women, men, and children-along with Indigenous peoples and some whites-gathered on the National Mall for the twentieth anniversary of the Million Man March on October 10, 2015. For some, it marked their second march; for others, it was their first chance to participate in history in the making. Celebrities from Dave Chappelle to Russell Simmons appeared in the crowd, and much like the original march in 1995, a peaceful atmosphere pervaded throughout the event. But for those not at the march, news of the day proved hard to come by. Major papers carried stores of the event way below the fold-if at all. In a move that outraged many, BET failed to provide live coverage of the march. It fell to CSPAN, a public service network, to carry the day's events in their entirety. This is not a coincidence, for much has changed since the original march in 1995.
Black Against Empire: Joshua Bloom Interview (Part 1) | The Occupied Times
Interview | November 10th, 2015
The Party didn't kowtow to anybody. And at the same time it was very ecumenical, in a funny sort of way. So if you think about moderate black political leaders - and you could make similar statements for other kinds of alliances - but think about moderate black political leaders, think about the kinds of people that supported the Panthers in San Francisco like Willie Brown, who was an assemblyman in California, or Cecil Williams who had a big black church, or think about people like…even Whitney Young, the head of the Urban League - I mean you don't get much more moderate than that, in terms of black politics at that time - these were the people who led the charge against the most vicious repression of the Party. You know, the book that was done that led to the Senate investigations into the killing of Fred Hampton - who pushed that?
From #BlackLivesMatter to Anti-Austerity: Women of Color and the Politics of Solidarity | Akwugo Emejulu
Analysis | October 29th, 2015
The experiences of women of colour in left-wing anti-austerity movements in Britain and the Black Lives Matter movements in the United States highlight the persistent problem of our erasure in these supposedly radical democratic spaces. Women of colour's struggles to have our intersectional social justice claims taken seriously by 'allies' exposes the fragility, and in some cases, the impossibility, of building solidarity across race, class, gender, sexuality and other categories of difference in protest movements. In Minority Women and Austerity, the research project I co-direct with Leah Bassel on women of colour's anti-austerity activism in Scotland, England and France, we found that some white radicals actively excluded women of colour activists from anti-austerity protest spaces. Under the guise of class solidarity and racist constructions of 'belonging' in neighbourhoods, many white activists failed to see women of colour as comrades and refused to recognise the legitimacy of both their intersectional analyses of austerity and their grassroots activism against cuts to public services. As one of our participants, a West African migrant woman in Glasgow, observed: 'How do you link with the local people, the indigenous people? It's almost impossible… You don't seem to find an avenue to join in when people are doing their thing… It's just so segregated'.
The Black Lives Matter Schism: Towards a Vision for Black Autonomy | Joel Northam
Analysis | September 30th, 2015
The Black Lives Matter movement exhibited a schism since the first few days following the first Ferguson rebellion. I remember watching live streams of the rebellion early on as Ferguson's youth waged small scale urban combat armed with little more than rubble and glass bottles. The heroic resistance to state power, against all odds of victory in forcing a retreat of the occupying militarized police, and in the face of material consequences in the form of a brutal crackdown, was a demonstration of courage that we all should aspire to.
What Time Is It?: Black Lives Matter, The Gary Convention, and Electoral Politics | Sean Posey
Analysis | September 21st, 2015
The social media presence of Black Lives Matter (founded by three black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi) quickly spread to the streets during the community response to the murder of another black man, Michael Brown, in the distressed suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. At least five hundred activists, all drawn by the idea of manifesting the importance of Black Lives Matter in the real world, cut their teeth during the Ferguson actions. This new freedom ride brought together a wide variety of men and women who would carry the lessons of Ferguson on as the tide of police killings of African Americans continued to garner national attention.
Term of Endearment: Why the Word 'Nigger' Must Go | Michelle Black Smith
Commentary | July 8th, 2015
The word nigger has a long and complex history. Rooted in American slavery, it has travelled and transgressed through Reconstruction and Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Movement to present day. That the use of the word nigger currently resides in the same place and time as #BlackLivesMatter is a historical phenomenon that is ironic at best and oxymoronic at worst. To whom or what do we credit this phenomenon? Anecdotally, sub-genres of post 1980s rap music are widely responsible for the proliferation and normalization of the word nigger and its reintroduction into popular American language. From rap lyrics to rap crew names, the embrace of the word nigger has created its globalization in present day speech.
On the Roots of American Racism: An Interview with Noam Chomsky | George Yancy
Interview | April 22nd, 2015
The America that "black people have always known" is not an attractive one. The first black slaves were brought to the colonies 400 years ago. We cannot allow ourselves to forget that during this long period there have been only a few decades when African-Americans, apart from a few, had some limited possibilities for entering the mainstream of American society. We also cannot allow ourselves to forget that the hideous slave labor camps of the new "empire of liberty" were a primary source for the wealth and privilege of American society, as well as England and the continent. The industrial revolution was based on cotton, produced primarily in the slave labor camps of the United States.
Patchouli Oil or, Maybe, Weed: Black Women's Hair and the Politics of Resistance | Sonasha Braxton
Analysis | April 10th, 2015
E!'s, Fashion Police may not carry service pistols or be under intense global scrutiny for their chronic casualty infliction on innocent Black and Brown bodies, but they have brought attention to themselves recently for engaging in behaviors that, like the US's Police Force's actions, appear to be founded in prejudice and racial bias. Dr. Jason Williams, The Hampton Institute's Criminal Justice Chair states, "policing in America has always been one of color/class-consciousness…American policing at its foundation is inherently protective of the status quo". Even the most apolitical offerings of dictionary.com are happy to include amongst its definitions of policing, "regulation and control of a community". Arguably, both of these definitions are also applicable to the Fashion Police. However, to enforce and maintain the color and class status quo, their weapons of choice are not Glock 19s, but microaggressions.
Race as Phenomenon: Critical Philosophy and Dr. Robert Sussman's The Myth of Race | Jeremy Brunger
Theory | March 24th, 2015
Racism remains one of the great social ills confronting modern civilization. The Enlightenment did not originally produce it, but it solidified its categories: the hierarchical logic of the Medieval scala natura transformed under Enlightenment secularization into the hierarchy of races. In the modern scientific literature, race is mostly a bygone concept, consigned to the rubbish bin of intellectual history. In philosophy and the humanities at large, it is largely considered a mere social construct, an interpolative faculty linked not to human identity but to human exploitation. Nevertheless, despite race's abolition from the intellects of reputable scientists and philosophers, race continues to prove a formidable topic of debate in the popular public sphere. One recent counterpart to this popular discourse is Dr. Robert Sussman's 2014 book The Myth of Race, which outlines the intellectual history of racism beginning with the 16th century and leading into the 21st century.
Kind of Blue, Part II: The Racialization of Ebola, Media Misrepresentations, and What We Can Learn from Chris Brown - #DoAllBlacklivesmatter? | Sonasha Braxton
Analysis | January 27th, 2015
Have you ever wondered where the deflated egos of unrealized epidemics go when they've concluded their U.S. tour? They pack their bags and Black Star Line it back to Africa, without leaving a trace. Ebola was the Bobby Shmurda of 2014, a likely one hit wonder "so last year" that I hesitated even writing this article. I was concerned, since it is now unfashionable to a fickle media, that its relevance had been defeated, and that its fate, not unlike a dream deferred, was now drying up like a raisin in the West African sun. Yet it is for this very reason, it's Houdini-like appearance and disappearance in the U.S., that it is significant.
Internalizing Black Lives Matter: A Queer Project in Loving Blackness (Part 1) | Jonathan Mathias Lassiter
Analysis | January 27th, 2015
Black lives matter. And #BlackLivesMatter, a movement founded after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, is bringing this fundamental truth to the masses. As cited on the movement's website, "Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement." #BlackLivesMatter's mission is a radical one. The mission takes seriously the plight of the "least of these" to which Jesus often referred.
How Black Women Have Been Erased from America's Race Debate | Candace Simpson
Commentary | December 31st, 2014
Myriad thoughtful articles have been published about the invisibility of black women and girls in the context of police brutality. We now have sufficient resources to correct anyone who forgets black women are also killed by police. We've also learned that black women have led and organized solidarity actions across the country. Yet, if you read most signs at any protest or scroll through most Facebook timelines, you get the impression that black men are the only ones in the community who've been persecuted.
Teaching Ferguson, Teaching Capital: Slavery and the "Terrorist Energy" of Capital | Curry Malott and Derek R. Ford
Analysis | December 19th, 2014
Critical education harnesses the present moment, looks to history to grasp the forces determining the present, and links it with social struggles in an effort to push the configuration of the present beyond its breaking point. Given the recent non-indictments of killer cops Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, critical educators across the U.S. and the globe are bringing the pressing topics of police brutality, state violence, and people's resistance movements into the classroom. In this essay, we contribute to these efforts by arguing that the deadly and unpunished police violence against African Americans requires not only an awareness of slavery, but an analysis of the relationship between capitalism and slavery, and the subsequent subsumption of racism and white supremacy within capitalism.
Ferguson Revolts and Beyond: Is Property Worth More than Black Life? | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Commentary | December 11th, 2014
On a deeper level, this is where capitalism and racism intersect. One of capitalism's main tenets is the dominance of private property and how it must be protected. We can see that this has been transcribed in law, such as with the Stand Your Ground laws. Yet, also within the larger society, there is a lack of caring for black life. In any situation, the media and general public regularly engage in victim blaming and look for anything - anything at all - to assassinate the character of those who died at the hand of the police. This can be seen even today, when the media brings up Akai Gurley's criminal record when discussing his death at the hands of a police officer. These two ideas have come together in Ferguson, creating a situation where people are more concerned about private property destruction than they are about the death of Michael Brown.
Consumed in Flames: A Genealogy of African-American Avengers | Darryl Barthe
History | December 5th, 2014
A 2013 report published by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement called "Every 28 Hours" details 313 individual instances of black men and women killed in 2012 by police, private security guards or lone vigilantes, who typically avoid state sanction for such violence. Such a culture of violence has a long, storied tradition in the United States, particularly with regards to the history of metropolitan police forces. It is my aim to briefly examine three separate incidents, two in New Orleans and one in Los Angeles, separated by a period of more than 100 years, to identify common elements of this narrative of state-sanctioned violence against black people and also common elements of radical black resistance to the same.
Kind of Blue: Contextualizing the Ebola Crisis, Humanitarian Imperatives, and Structural Deficits | Sonasha Braxton
Analysis | December 3rd, 2014
Miles Davis's 1959 record release describes my passport perfectly. It's Kind of Blue. It's a bit faded from passing between fingers, under plastic windows, held in teeth as I've adjusted backpack straps, or tipped ungracefully into the Nile. It is so well traveled that it has begun to pale but definitely distinctly navy enough to be considered "blue". To be specific, this blue passport is not Mercosur. It is not Brazilian, Argentinian, Paraguayan or Uruguayan. Nor is it Libyan, Botswanan, or Yemeni. I wasn't born in Canada or Australia, nor Kenya, or Belarus. It's that impervious kind of blue of "vigilance and justice" that comes with the red and white stripes connoting U.S. citizenship. I would argue, that along with a few of its Western European counterparts, this is possibly one of the most benefit bearing items in the world.