On the cover of TIME Magazine’s special February edition is a faceless white man behind bars. At first glance, I assumed this was an issue about millionaires and billionaires who deserve jail time for getting over on society, but after a double take I saw that it is actually about wrongful convictions, celebrating 25 years of the Innocence Project.
State violence does not only show up as false arrests and physical harm. State violence is also the unwillingness of the State to rehabilitate those that are impacted by it’s terrorizing reach.
Many of our Black history idols have been immortalized for their work against racism carried out by whites, from the federal government on down. They have been applauded for their magical strengths and abilities to overcome insurmountable odds. Their legacies are contextualized through brief chapters in k-12 history classes, where examples of racism are narrowed down to physical harm and explicit parameters that describe what Black people could and couldn’t do “a long time ago”. As a result, many of us were socialized to understand Black history in a way that has been whitewashed or sanitized. The stories we are fed as young people that immortalized, or mainstreamed, our Black figures of inspiration conveniently left out important details, such as the anti-capitalist leanings of their work.
We are in a time where need the full story of the experiences and perspectives of our ancestors, and we need to reclaim those radical beliefs so that we can create space for true progress not just against racism, but also against capitalism.
There are a number of things in this world we cannot measure with metrics, time, or money making it difficult to account for their effectiveness or worth – allyship has always been one of those things. When it comes to allies, there are more questions around their purpose and usefulness than there are answers. Enter the Safety Pin Box, countering everything allies thought their role actually was.
Unfortunately, we should now accept that Donald Trump will be President of the United States come January 20, 2017 (over a month later I’m still experiencing some disbelief in this truth). But what I won’t accept are his disingenuous attempts to be inclusive and to work for Black people.
“Why do we accept forms of security that are rooted in violence?” – Angela Davis, Lecture at University of Chicago November 2016
When I first learned of prison abolition it was from Angela Davis during a lecture she gave at my college campus in 2009. The concept of prison abolition seemed so large and out of reach and it wasn’t something I put much thought into until this year, but a defeatist attitude isn’t what abolished slavery – so who am I to doubt the possibilities of abolition?
I’m in a weird place as a parent and an activist; at what point do I talk to my daughter about the truth behind Thanksgiving or any other holiday draped in an ugly American truth?
“How many times do we expect Black people to build our country?” asked Samantha Bee on the episode of Full Frontal following the presidential election. I have asked this question many times and while I appreciate these sorts of sentiments from “woke” White comedians on a national level, at this point I don’t know that the jokes and the efforts to push the point carry much weight.
It is true that the Movement for Black Lives is leaderless; it is also true that Deray McKesson has been dubbed the face of this same movement, and within his time as “The Face,” many people – including Black people – have come to critique his decisions. With his name most recently in the news for his endorsement of Hillary Clinton, we are given the gentle reminder that our community is not unified in its current demands and we cannot get caught up in the headlines that so often overshadow the work.
Regardless of where you are in your political education, Ava DuVernay’s documentary The 13th was pretty well done.
Weaving the staggering numbers of rising incarceration rates with the insights of prominent activists, journalists, and academics coupled with a soundtrack that highlights the connectedness of mass incarceration to Black realities, it is a signature piece of art imitating life. The 13th brought many conversations around systematic racism that usually happen in select circles to a potentially larger audience, but I’m not sure if anyone besides the usual “woke” circle sat in on this one, and if they did – what now?