Derecka Purnell: Kanye West keeps moving further and further to the right. Why? (The Guardian)
The problem is, Kanye behaves as if the only real and brave truth tellers today are conservatives with money. He acts as if the rich right wing holds a monopoly on criticisms of the Democratic party or liberal activists. This ignores a host of progressives and radicals – people like Cornel West, Nick Estes, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Mariame Kaba, Aja Monet, the Rev Jeremiah Wright, and too many artists and grassroots organizers to name who criticise the liberal establishment more fiercely than the right and with commitments to end oppression. In fact, entire progressive and radical traditions exist where people of all races offer vigorous critiques of the status quo with surgical precision. We need fewer “free thinkers” and more critical thinkers who ask about these traditions and find their places within them.
The question for me is whether billionaire Kanye can ever really know about these robust traditions. Not because he doesn’t already know or will never learn about them, but because to know them is to also learn their critiques of gross wealth accumulation, Black capitalism, desire for imperial leadership, and so much more of what Kanye currently represents. Supporting free thinkers with weak conservative analysis does not threaten his status, land, antisemitic views or bank account.
Lyz Lenz: Trump Is Gone, But the Era of White Grievance Isn’t Over
The great white whine continues
It’s tempting to say, “We made it.” But so many have not. 400,000 Americans are dead from a virus that is preventable with a face mask. A little cloth covering. 545 children have lost their families because of the Trump administration’s family separation policy that forced them apart. Heather Heyer isn’t here. Five people died in the violent insurrection. So many of us are alive, yes, but we are ghosts of ourselves. Hollowed out by loss and harassment and illness. How many more people were terrorized and are dead because white nationalism was catalyzed by the highest office in the land?
So, no. We didn’t make it. And it’s not over.
White grievance is one of the few renewable natural resources that Americans are willing to invest in. And why not? It’s good business. Fox News has made an empire of it. Look at all the journalists who have made a lot of money writing books about Donald Trump. Think about all the people who have made money writing about their time in the White House.
We are a country and an economy built on white grievance. Even after slavery as a practice was ended in 1865, it’s never really gone away. Segregationist policies and politicians, Jim Crow laws, redlining practices and suburban white flight have set the boundaries and borders of our country. During the 2016 election, writers like Dave Eggers and George Saunders bent over backward to describe the anger and pain of the white voter, going to Trump rallies and writing about the slavering hordes in a way that othered and fetishized them. This narrative allowed white grievance to flourish; after a takedown in the “liberal media”, white voters could crucify themselves on the cross of culture, claiming to be the victims and misunderstood, the poor forgotten minority.
Ta-Nehisi Coates: Donald Trump Is Out. Are We Ready to Talk About How He Got In? (The Atlantic)
It was said that the Trump presidency was the fruit of “economic anxiety,” of trigger warnings and the push for trans rights. We were told that it was wrong to call Trump a white supremacist, because he had merely “drawn upon their themes.”
One hopes that after four years of brown children in cages; of attempts to invalidate the will of Black voters in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Detroit; of hearing Trump tell congresswomen of color to go back where they came from; of claims that Joe Biden would turn Minnesota into “a refugee camp”; of his constant invocations of “the Chinese virus,” we can now safely conclude that Trump believes in a world where white people are—or should be—on top. It is still deeply challenging for so many people to accept the reality of what has happened—that a country has been captured by the worst of its history, while millions of Americans cheered this on.
Jamelle Bouie: Don’t Fool Yourself. Trump Is Not an Aberration. (NYT)
Many of the worst things the president has said and done were said and done by his predecessors.
For as much as it seems that Donald Trump has changed something about the character of this country, the truth is he hasn’t. What is terrible about Trump is also terrible about the United States. Everything we’ve seen in the last four years — the nativism, the racism, the corruption, the wanton exploitation of the weak and unconcealed contempt for the vulnerable — is as much a part of the American story as our highest ideals and aspirations. The line to Trump runs through the whole of American history, from the white man’s democracy of Andrew Jackson to the populist racism of George Wallace, from native expropriation to Chinese exclusion.
And to the extent that Americans feel a sense of loss about the Trump era, they should be grateful, because it means they’ve given up their illusions about what this country is, and what it is (and has been) capable of.
There is very little about Donald Trump or his policies that doesn’t have a direct antecedent in the American past. Despite what Joe Biden might say about its supposedly singular nature (“The way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening”), the president’s racism harkens right back to the first decades of the 20th century, when white supremacy was ascendant and the nation’s political elites, including presidents like Woodrow Wilson, were preoccupied with segregation and exclusion for the sake of preserving an “Anglo-Saxon” nation.
Jasmin Mujanović: 'Borat 2' misses the mark because it perpetuates cruel stereotypes and is a vehicle for mockery (Insider)
In an attempt to expose American prejudices about the "savage East" and the country's perceived drift toward illiberalism, Baron Cohen has actually helped repopularize an Orientalist view of what some still generically refer to as "the former communist states." His work, therefore, fails as the critical cinema it purports to be.
While the film is doubtlessly a satire of US politics, it is just as much a vehicle for the mockery of Kazakhstan and its people. Because the country that is (not actually) depicted in the film is almost entirely alien to most Americans, Baron Cohen becomes the architect of its popular image in the West. And that image is cast in brownface.
By trafficking in centuries-old anti-Romani tropes and imagery in his films, while also liberally borrowing from various anti-Muslim themes, Baron Cohen gives his audience license to indulge in these sentiments too — whether they fully understand who or what they are laughing at or not. Those who see these depictions as satire may feel they are in on the joke, but, doubtlessly, a far larger portion of the audience is laughing at Baron Cohen's portrayals of "Kazakhstan."
Accordingly, the issue with "Borat 2" is not that it's "offensive" — comedy almost always is to someone, somewhere. Nor should the intent be to "cancel" Baron Cohen. The matter is altogether more straightforward: Baron Cohen is clearly of the belief that comedy is a tool to be used to afflict the comfortable. That is an enviable objective, but only if one does not further stigmatize those who are already afflicted.
Jamelle Bouie: Why Coronavirus Is Killing African-Americans More Than Others (NYT)
To give just a few, relevant examples, black Americans are more likely to work in service sector jobs, least likely to own a car and least likely to own their homes. They are therefore more likely to be in close contact with other people, from the ways they travel to the kinds of work they do to the conditions in which they live.
Today’s disparities of health flow directly from yesterday’s disparities of wealth and opportunity. That African-Americans are overrepresented in service-sector jobs reflects a history of racially segmented labor markets that kept them at the bottom of the economic ladder; that they are less likely to own their own homes reflects a history of stark housing discrimination, government-sanctioned and government-sponsored. If black Americans are more likely to suffer the comorbidities that make coronavirus more deadly, it’s because those ailments are tied to the segregation and concentrated poverty that still mark their communities.
American capitalism did not emerge ex nihilo into the world. It grew out of existing social, political and economic arrangements, toppling some and incorporating others as it took shape in the second half of the 19th century.
White supremacy was one of those arrangements. The Civil War may have destroyed slave society, but the racial hierarchy that was central to that society survived the carnage and disruption of the conflict to shape the aftermath, especially in the absence of a sustained program to radically restructure the social and economic life of the South.
Which is to say that, as it developed in the United States, industrial capitalism retained a caste system with whites as the dominant social group. This wasn’t just a matter of prejudice. As it did under slavery, race under industrial capitalism structured one’s relationship to both production and personhood. Whiteness, the philosopher Charles W. Mills notes, underwrote “the division of labor and the allocation of resources, with correspondingly enhanced socioeconomic life chances for one’s white self and one’s white children.”
But if you look at the full picture of American society, it is clear that the structural position of black Americans isn’t so different from what it was at the advent of the industrial age. Race still shapes personhood; it still marks the boundaries of who belongs and who doesn’t; of which groups face the brunt of capitalist inequality (in all its forms) and which get some respite. Race, in other words, still answers the question of “who.” Who will live in crowded, segregated neighborhoods? Who will be exposed to lead-poisoned pipes and toxic waste? Who will live with polluted air and suffer disproportionately from maladies like asthma and heart disease? And when disease comes, who will be the first to succumb in large numbers?
If there was anything you could predict about this pandemic — anything you could be certain about once it reached America’s shores — it was that some communities would weather the storm while others would sink under the waves, and that the distribution of this suffering would have everything to do with patterns inscribed by the past.
As long as those patterns remain, there is no path to a better society. We have to break them, before they break us.
whentheycamedown is a project documenting the removal of statues representing white supremacy, oppression, genocide, colonialism, and racism throughout the world. This is a collaborative effort started by Emily Gorcenski, although the intention of the project is to open source contribution in the style of open knowledge.
This project takes the stance that the removal of statues represents an important and inextricable part of the history of the people, groups, and moments that those statues represent. Removing of statues, renaming of parks, and similar actions is not an act of erasing history, but an act of adding to history by capturing the spirit, beliefs, motivations, and actions of the people who lived during the times those statues stood. It is the goal of this project to document the people who aimed to remove the monuments more than the people represented by the monuments. The project seeks to document the history of the activists, their efforts to remove statues through proper and improper channels, and the history of the people oppressed by those who the statues represent.
Jeremy Stahl: Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups (Slate)
In describing the shooting of two protesters, Miskinis also declined to call it a homicide and instead referred to it by various euphemisms often used to describe killings by a police officer, which Rittenhouse is not. He said that the shooter “was involved in the use of firearms to resolve whatever conflict was in place” and that there was a “disturbance that led to the use of deadly force.”
Additionally, Miskinis refused to comment on the video of Blake’s shooting, but offered that there may have been a reasonable explanation for the man being shot seven times in the back, which has reportedly left him paralyzed and in critical condition. (The officer has been put on administrative leave and has not been fired or arrested.)
Miskinis’ views of the gathering of vigilante groups that reportedly led to the killing of two local men appears to be very much in line with those of his department. Before the shooting, officers in armored vehicles could be seen giving water to armed men gathered with the alleged shooter and telling them, “We appreciate you guys, we really do.” After the killings, the alleged shooter walked slowly past a series of police vehicles with his arms raised and was allowed to simply walk away. (It’s not yet clear what the officers knew about the shooting at the time, but the shots were audible in nearby footage.)
Sam Levin: White supremacists and militias have infiltrated police across US, report says (The Guardian)
A former FBI agent has documented links between serving officers and racist militant activities in more than a dozen states
Michael German, a former FBI special agent who has written extensively on the ways that US law enforcement have failed to respond to far-right domestic terror threats, concludes that US law enforcement officials have been tied to racist militant activities in more than a dozen states since 2000, and hundreds of police officers have been caught posting racist and bigoted social media content.
Activists in Kenosha say police there have responded aggressively and violently to Black Lives Matter demonstrators, while doing little to stop armed white vigilantes. Supporting their claims is at least one video taken before the shooting that showed police tossing bottled water to what appeared to be armed civilians, including one who appeared to be the shooter, the AP noted: “We appreciate you being here,” an officer said on loudspeaker.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have directly identified white supremacists as the most lethal domestic terrorist threat in the country. According to German’s report, the FBI’s own internal documents have directly warned that the militia groups the agency is investigating often have “active links” to law enforcement.
And yet US agencies lack a national strategy to identify white supremacist police and root out this problem, German warned. Meanwhile, popular police reform efforts to address “implicit bias” have done nothing to confront explicit racism.
Rebecca Ellis: Portland’s protests: 3 months in, no end in sight (OPB)
Mayor Ted Wheeler says the city is "considering all options” to end nightly clashes between police, protesters, but he lacks a clear plan.
The worst nights follow the same script: A large group takes to the streets calling for an end to police violence and systemic racism. A small fraction commits low-level crimes — often lighting small fires, graffiti-ing buildings and throwing fireworks or water bottles at officers. The police respond with force against the entire crowd.
Over the last month, demonstrators have been battered with batons as they left protests. Police have charged at crowds until they’re pushed deep into residential neighborhoods. Journalists have been shoved and arrested. Tear gas, while used more sparingly than in the early days of the protests, is threatened near nightly. And police regularly shut down protests by declaring them riots. That happened twice over the weekend, though police declined to intervene as far-right activists, some brandishing firearms, brawled with counter-protesters for hours on Saturday afternoon.
“They’ve tried everything from not showing up to preemptively dispersing crowds, and some of those strategies, in my opinion, have worked well. Others have not worked well,” he said. “My expectation is the police bureau will evolve, and as they see a need for change, they’ll change.”
There are serious questions, however, over whether the city’s police oversight agency, which many including the mayor have called toothless, will be able to sort through the mounting reports of police violence. The office has been flooded by complaints since protests began. The director says they’ve received more than a year’s worth of new work.
Meanwhile, Hardesty has proposed an entirely new accountability system, which voters will weigh in on in November. If passed, the ballot measure would scrap the review agency completely and create a system with more independence and new powers.
Zipporah Osei, Mollie Simon, Moiz Syed, Lucas Waldron: We Are Tracking What Happens to Police After They Use Force on Protestors (ProPublica)
These 68 videos show clear apparent instances of police officers escalating violence during protests. Most departments refused to share details about investigations and discipline or even officers’ names. Here’s what we learned about each case.
Rebecca Solnit: As the George Floyd protests continue, let's be clear where the violence is coming from (Guardian)
Using damage to property as cover, US police have meted out shocking, indiscriminate brutality in the wake of the uprising.
The distinction between damaging or destroying human beings and inanimate objects matters. But it’s not simple. People trapped inside a burning building break down the doors to escape; an estranged husband with a restraining order breaks down a door to further terrorise his ex-wife. The same actions mean different things in different situations. Martin Luther King famously called riots “the voice of the unheard” – and as the outcry of people who have tried absolutely everything else for centuries, property damage means something very different from merely malicious or recreational destruction. When they riot, the black people most impacted by police brutality and by four centuries of poverty, dehumanisation and deprivation of basic rights and equality, are more like people trapped inside that burning house trying to break out.
There is no easy way to distinguish between ardent white supporters of a black uprising and black bloc-style white people who revel in property destruction, taunting the police and escalating situations (before often slipping away before the police crack down). They are anti-authoritarians opposed to police brutality and the overreach of the state, and should not be confused with the rightwing authoritarians who many fear will use the pandemonium as cover for their own agenda, which could include creating more chaos.
The story of activist violence is often used to justify police violence, but damage to property is not a justification for wholesale violence against children, passersby, journalists, protesters, or anyone at all. It is the police who should have lost their legitimacy, over and over, after the many individual killings from Eric Garner to Walter Scott to Breonna Taylor to George Floyd. And after reckless, entitled, out-of-control violence in police riots like that on Saturday night. Perhaps the point of their action this week is that they don’t need legitimacy, just power.
There’s one more kind of violence to talk about, and that’s structural violence. That’s the way that institutions and societies are organised to oppress a group of people, and for black Americans, that’s included slavery, the long terrorism of Jim Crow and lynching, voter suppression from the 19th century to the present, redlining (denying or charging more for necessary services) and subprime mortgages, discrimination in housing, education, and employment and far more.
Right now, several forms of structural violence that particularly matter are the chronic stress and lack of access to healthcare, housing issues, and work situations that have made black Americans die of Covid-19 at far higher rates than other races.
Ryan Haas, Sergio Olmos, Bradley W. Parks: Protesters fight using pepper spray, baseball bats in Portland on Saturday (OPB)
Protesters at Portland rallies to support police and show support for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign engaged in physical combat repeatedly with counterprotesters Saturday without police intervention. Members of the chaotic crowd used an array of weapons, including baseball bats and firearms to beat and threaten those they opposed.
Police said they did not declare a riot because they didn’t have the resources to handle one. After pro-Trump demonstrators left and counterprotesters returned to Terry Schrunk Plaza, federal officials declared an unlawful assembly.
Aja Romano: Just how racist was H.P. Lovecraft? (Vox)
H.P. Lovecraft was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He was also one of its most racist.
Still, there’s an extent to which all of this discussion has been taking place within Lovecraft’s niche community of genre writers — still well below the mainstream radar, away from the broader influence of his work. (As late as 2014, it was possible to read Lovecraft explainers in media outlets that made no mention of his racism.) That might finally be changing with HBO’s Lovecraft Country now spotlighting the conversation around the author’s racist legacy — but it also inevitably yields frustration because Lovecraftian imagery and themes are so embedded within the pop culture landscape.
[Victor LaValle] also stressed capitalizing on Lovecraft’s love of fanfiction of his own stories to overwrite that legacy into newer, more progressive visions of horror. For instance, his award-winning Lovecraftian horror novel The Ballad of Black Tom largely revolves around the underlying premise that much of Lovecraft’s horror is predicated on ridiculous white privilege. That horrific realization that all Lovecraft’s characters undergo that the universe doesn’t revolve around them? That’s not a problem any Black character would ever have.
Tamara K. Nopper: Abolition is Not a Suburb (The New Inquiry)
If anything, what Ocasio-Cortez is actually describing is the way that affluence and whiteness provide these communities the means to avoid consistent targeting by the police, to ignore laws, or to evade punishment. To be able to be the target of less policing, as well as to hire attorneys and use money and networks when accused, is a thing that white affluence provides — an affluence tied up in and made possible by the racist-classist financial infrastructure concealed by the suggestion that affluent, white suburbanites just have different budgeting priorities. In cases where harm might be perpetrated, using one’s resources in terms of money and connections to avoid criminalization and incarceration can be more an evasion of accountability than abolition.
I would never confuse captivity with the privacy, money, and racial status shielding an affluent, white suburbanite. But a shared dimension is that each approach tries to make people, when they have committed harm, be disappeared from public view and consciousness while the structural roots of harm go unaddressed and society operates as normal. Again, abolition involves figuring out what nonpunitive accountability looks like in public. Affluent, white suburbanites being shielded from the violence of carceral systems while others are not offered the same opportunity is not a model of abolition. It is just an expression of relative power and racism.
The racist double standard Ocasio-Cortez speaks of is not simply an issue of different budget priorities or treatment. The disparity in punishment is relational. When it happens, the different treatment of white people — even when they are found guilty — involves rescuing them from forms of carceral control and violent punishment deemed racially appropriate for others.
This is not a call for parity in punishment. An abolitionist project would never consider this justice, since punishment itself is at the heart of carcerality, and equal punishment means Black people — who, as Jared Sexton notes, are the “prototypical targets of the panoply of police practices and the juridical infrastructure” — will never be free. But what we get from the affluent, white suburb is less a model of abolition and more an evasion of accountability, which can rely on racialized tropes of innocence to avoid punishment — which only enforces carcerality against those who serve as the raced specter of criminality.
While discussing abolition during the Rising Majority panel, Ocasio-Cortez proclaimed, “And to say, you know, we not actually wanting anything different, the world that we’re fighting for already exists, it just exists for some people, and we want it to exist for all of us.” The world that already exists, according to Ocasio-Cortez, is the affluent, white suburb. Yet these suburbs are part of a spatialized racial-class design in which capitalism and anti-Blackness structure public finance. Affluent, white suburbanites may seek protection for their children in ways that legitimate carcerality for others who serve as the specter of criminality and “deserving” harsh punishment, and often use their money, power, influence, and racial status to evade accountability for real harms they commit. Taken together, this cannot be what abolition looks like. While we are told the suburb gives us a model of the world we’re fighting for, looking to the affluent, white suburb for quick inspiration can only work if we ignore the logic and design of racial capitalism and carcerality we seek to undo. Ultimately, the suburban frame, even when employed with the best intentions, works against what is required of abolition. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore tells us, “Abolition requires that we change one thing: everything.”
Karina Brown: Black People Nearly Twice as Likely as Whites to Be Arrested at Portland Protests (Courthouse News)
State and local police in Portland have arrested over 550 protesters since mass protests began in Portland on May 29, sparked by outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Black people make up 11% of those arrested — almost double the rate of Portland’s Black population.
“It is highly unlikely that a disparity this high is a result of composition of the protestors or criminal activity,” Dr. Mark Leymon, professor of criminology at Portland State University, said in an interview. “Research shows that people of color are not more likely to commit crime, especially in this context.”
Black people are 4.4 times more likely to be arrested in Multnomah County than white people, according to a 2014 study, and 4.1 times more likely to have their charges prosecuted by the district attorney.
The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission found in January that Portland police are twice as likely to search Black pedestrians and Black drivers during traffic stops than their white counterparts.
And arrest numbers are just the first step in a series of racially biased procedures that end up with Black people being six times more likely than white people to go to prison in Multnomah County.
“Everyone in the criminal justice system likes to point the finger at someone else for racial disparities,” Leymon said. “Cops say ‘We’re just arresting people who break the law.’ District attorneys say ‘We’re just prosecuting the cases you bring us.’ And judges say ‘We’re just sentencing the people you prosecute. But if you’re Black, every step through the criminal justice system increases your likelihood of going to prison.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also the city’s police commissioner, refused multiple requests to comment on the racial disparity in arrests at protests calling for an end to that very problem.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell have increasingly joined Trump in claiming the nightly protests are the work of a small group of white people bent on violence and destruction — and that they are no longer part of a movement against systemic racism.
“Enough is enough,” Lovell told reporters Aug. 5. “This is not forwarding the goals” of a movement against racism.
“If this isn’t about racial injustice issues, why are so many people being arrested who are Black?” Leymon asked.
Free PDFs of anti-racist posters, pamphlets, flyers, organizing material, and zines that provide information about the fight for racial equality and the movement to protect Black lives.
See the downloadable ones here: https://www.printedmatter.org/catalog/digital-downloads/free
This series is dedicated to the many black people that were robbed of their lives at the hands of the police. In addition to using markers and pencil, I use time as a medium to define how long each portrait is colored in. 1 year of life = 1 minute of color. Tamir Rice was 12 when he was murdered, so I colored his portrait for 12 minutes. As a person of color, I know that my future can be stolen from me if I’m driving with a broken taillight, or playing my music too loud, or reaching for my phone at the wrong time. So for each of these portraits I played with the harsh relationship between time and death. I want the viewer to see how much empty space is left in these lives, stories that will never be told, space that can never be filled. This emptiness represents holes in their families and our community, who will be forever stuck with the question, “who were they becoming?” This series touches on grief and the unknown.
Mariame Kaba: Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police (NYT)
Because reform won’t happen.
Congressional Democrats want to make it easier to identify and prosecute police misconduct; Joe Biden wants to give police departments $300 million. But efforts to solve police violence through liberal reforms like these have failed for nearly a century.
Enough. We can’t reform the police. The only way to diminish police violence is to reduce contact between the public and the police.
There is not a single era in United States history in which the police were not a force of violence against black people. Policing in the South emerged from the slave patrols in the 1700 and 1800s that caught and returned runaway slaves. In the North, the first municipal police departments in the mid-1800s helped quash labor strikes and riots against the rich. Everywhere, they have suppressed marginalized populations to protect the status quo.
Why on earth would we think the same reforms would work now? We need to change our demands. The surest way of reducing police violence is to reduce the power of the police, by cutting budgets and the number of officers.
We can build other ways of responding to harms in our society. Trained “community care workers” could do mental-health checks if someone needs help. Towns could use restorative-justice models instead of throwing people in prison.
When people, especially white people, consider a world without the police, they envision a society as violent as our current one, merely without law enforcement — and they shudder. As a society, we have been so indoctrinated with the idea that we solve problems by policing and caging people that many cannot imagine anything other than prisons and the police as solutions to violence and harm.
People like me who want to abolish prisons and police, however, have a vision of a different society, built on cooperation instead of individualism, on mutual aid instead of self-preservation. What would the country look like if it had billions of extra dollars to spend on housing, food and education for all? This change in society wouldn’t happen immediately, but the protests show that many people are ready to embrace a different vision of safety and justice.
Steven W. Thrasher: An Uprising Comes From the Viral Underclass (Slate)
And the Black Lives Matter movement could be the vaccine the country needs.
But both Floyd and Taylor are part of the viral underclass—a population harmed not simply by microscopic organisms but by the societal structures that make viral transmission possible. Viruses directly affect the lives of people who become infected. But the bodies of the viral underclass are made needlessly vulnerable, and that vulnerability shapes their lives and their communities, even if individual people ultimately don’t become infected or killed.
When we follow a virus—HIV, SARS-CoV-2, hepatitis B or C—we find all the fault lines of the society it is infecting.
Where you’d find policing, you’d find poverty, and Black people, and new cases of HIV, and untreated cases of HIV—which, untreated, proceeded to AIDS, and to AIDS deaths.
As Black people have organized against the connected crises of the virus and policing, they’re giving the viral underclass a map toward liberation. Facing the contagion of financial ruin and with time at home, many white people have realized (perhaps for the first time) that they have far more in common with other members of the viral underclass than they do with the ruling class.
We are roughly 5 percent of Earth’s population but account for 25 percent of the world’s prisoners and COVID-19 deaths. That the wealthiest nation on Earth has the most coronavirus deaths is because we put resources into policing, militarism, and punishment that we haven’t (yet) put into public health.
U.S. citizens have a hard time understanding that—while there’s a viral underclass within the country, the country might be the underclass of the world. We are a “failed social experiment,” as Cornel West put it. Other countries may treat the U.S. as pariahs for years because our society allowed for uncontrolled community spread, staggering unemployment, and horrific levels of death. The nation’s massive wealth was not used to provide prophylaxis from this virus for the many; it just concentrated upward.
Understanding and embracing this can lead us away from selfish politics and toward a new politics of communal care and understanding—to create the kind of multiracial, multinational uprising we have been seeing in the past few weeks.
In the past, when I’ve thought about what a world without AIDS would look like, I’ve thought about the words of the 1977 Combahee River Collective statement, which coined the concept of identity politics.* In writing about working in coalition, they wrote, “We might use our position at the bottom, however, to make a clear leap into revolutionary action.” This could benefit everyone, because, “[i]f Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” A world without AIDS would mean everyone had gotten the food, medicine, and shelter they needed and would, thus, be free.
Tiara Darnell: Can White Portland's Fragility Handle a Megaquake? (PDX Monthly)
Nope. But here we are anyway.
Collectively, your “allyship” of convenience hasn’t served Black America. Even if you see yourself apart from them, you are cut from the same cloth as Amy Cooper, Tom Cotton, and the folks who stand on the 1st amendment to provide platforms for their voices without thinking through the consequences of your actions. Your silence because you’re afraid of what your family, colleagues, or regular group of brunch friends will say is your complicity. Your quiet, gullible optimism that if you work to “fix” racism then the discomfort you feel in being confronted about it will go away is your tacit consent to targets put on Black lives everywhere.
Acknowledge it away—your white privilege—but it will always be a tool you can employ at will as a weapon against Black people or a tool to shield your own transgressions. Defund the police? Yes and defund and disinvest in yourselves. Liberal, conservative—whatever. You are superspreaders of a sickening power none of us can wholly break free from.
Your greatest challenge as individuals is, and in perpetuity will be, to hold yourself accountable and to teach your children to do the same. Your everyday actions and inactions are threads in the larger narrative playing out right now in cities and towns here and around the world.
Whether you’re a white Portlander or a white person anywhere else (yes, even those of you with Black partners, children, or other family members), start on the most granular level. To borrow a term from the lexicon of pandemic, be your own contact tracer: investigate how your inner thoughts and your past and present interactions with the Black people you encounter in your everyday life upholds the values of white supremacy and the white dominant status quo.
Since 2015, The Post has created a database cataloging every fatal shooting nationwide by a police officer in the line of duty.
Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.
Lois Beckett: Anti-fascists linked to zero murders in the US in 25 years (The Guardian)
As Trump rails against ‘far-left’ fascism, new database shows leftwing attacks have left far fewer people dead than violence by rightwing extremists.
American white supremacists and other rightwing extremists have carried out attacks that left at least 329 victims dead, according to the database.
Daily interpersonal violence and state violence pose a much greater threat to Americans than any kind of extremist terror attack. More than 100,000 people have been killed in gun homicides in the United States in the past decade, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US police officers shoot nearly 1,000 Americans to death each year. Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be shot by the police as white Americans, according to analysis by the Washington Post and the Guardian.
Eder Campuzano: Feds, right-wing media paint Portland as ‘city under siege.’ A tour of town shows otherwise (The Oregonian)
Critics say the government’s slow response to requests for transparency and the national media’s focus on the most salacious moments of the city’s demonstrations prove both federal officials and national reporters care more about property damage than the physical injuries protesters sustain on the streets.
Portland officials’ claims that demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism cost downtown businesses upward of $23 million and video of protesters toppling a statue of Thomas Jefferson at a high school in North Portland drew headlines across the country.
But follow-up reporting of a faulty business association survey that mischaracterized sales losses due to coronavirus-related closures as protest-related or the school district’s push to rename many of its buildings in a nod to the movement that led to the statue’s toppling haven’t spread beyond local media.
Neither have stories about the protesters volunteering to feed houseless Portlanders in downtown parks, a group local police removed from the parks in front of the federal courthouse ahead of Wolf’s visit.
John McWhorter: The Dehumanizing Condescension of ‘White Fragility’ (The Atlantic)
And herein is the real problem with White Fragility. DiAngelo does not see fit to address why all of this agonizing soul-searching is necessary to forging change in society. One might ask just how a people can be poised for making change when they have been taught that pretty much anything they say or think is racist and thus antithetical to the good. What end does all this self-mortification serve? Impatient with such questions, DiAngelo insists that “wanting to jump over the hard, personal work and get to ‘solutions’” is a “foundation of white fragility.” In other words, for DiAngelo, the whole point is the suffering. And note the scare quotes around solutions, as if wanting such a thing were somehow ridiculous.
A corollary question is why Black people need to be treated the way DiAngelo assumes we do. The very assumption is deeply condescending to all proud Black people. In my life, racism has affected me now and then at the margins, in very occasional social ways, but has had no effect on my access to societal resources; if anything, it has made them more available to me than they would have been otherwise. Nor should anyone dismiss me as a rara avis. Being middle class, upwardly mobile, and Black has been quite common during my existence since the mid-1960s, and to deny this is to assert that affirmative action for Black people did not work.
In 2020—as opposed to 1920—I neither need nor want anyone to muse on how whiteness privileges them over me. Nor do I need wider society to undergo teachings in how to be exquisitely sensitive about my feelings. I see no connection between DiAngelo’s brand of reeducation and vigorous, constructive activism in the real world on issues of import to the Black community. And I cannot imagine that any Black readers could willingly submit themselves to DiAngelo’s ideas while considering themselves adults of ordinary self-regard and strength. Few books about race have more openly infantilized Black people than this supposedly authoritative tome.
White Fragility is, in the end, a book about how to make certain educated white readers feel better about themselves. DiAngelo’s outlook rests upon a depiction of Black people as endlessly delicate poster children within this self-gratifying fantasy about how white America needs to think—or, better, stop thinking. Her answer to white fragility, in other words, entails an elaborate and pitilessly dehumanizing condescension toward Black people. The sad truth is that anyone falling under the sway of this blinkered, self-satisfied, punitive stunt of a primer has been taught, by a well-intentioned but tragically misguided pastor, how to be racist in a whole new way.