Internalizing Black Lives Matter
A Queer Project in Loving Blackness (Part 1)
Jonathan Mathias Lassiter
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. This makes sense given that the movement was founded by three Black queer women (Casper, 2014). Black queer women live intersectionality and must often challenge a world that regards them as subordinate in androcentric, heteronormative, and ethnocentric paradigms that privilege white heterosexual males. It is also womanist in that Black women, central to the movement, are working to not only improve their lives but all Black lives. Challenging oppressive systems requires an intersectional framework that is cross cutting and examines the ways in which several oppressive forces act interdependently at the microlevel to impact people's lives structurally. We have had centuries, since the start of European colonialism, of people of color being assaulted by deadly oppressive forces. In societies structured by imperialistic, capitalist, white supremacist, and heteropatriarchal ideas, Blackness is deviance that must either result in profit or death, or both.
Schooling and Education
Indoctrination versus Empowerment
The reigning social delusion is that schooling and education are synonymous, both designed to impart knowledge, skills, and dispositions; foster critical rationality; enhance economic opportunities; and foster democratic engagement among the pupils being taught. Many critics describe the many ways in which this is not the case and that, in fact, the educational system operates to thwart those noble ideals. For example, Ivan Illich compares the school with "a global madhouse or global prison in which education, correction, and adjustment become synonymous." He goes on to discuss the social mechanisms by which this hypocrisy is camouflaged. In "rich countries" people "cannot learn much" because the cultural environment is "highly programmed." Furthermore, the media "exclude(s) those things they regard as unfit to print," "secrets are guarded by bureaucracies" and "facts that could serve them" are kept from "entire classes of people" by the political and professional structure of global society. He explicitly blames this gatekeeping function and the grotesque hypocrisy and deceit it generates on the class structure in imperialist and capitalist societies. The editors of Rethinking School Reform suggest that the power elite use the educational system to inculcate certain means, mores, and assumptions to reproduce the existing class structure of society. They blame schools that "foster narrowly self-centered notions of success" and "making it" in the context of a "me-first, dollar driven culture (that) undermines democratic values, and seems to invent daily new forms of alienation and self-destruction."
Intolerance and Totalitarianism more than Freedom of Expression
Journalists using their pencils and pens being brutally murdered with Kalashnikovs, can there be anything more despicable than that? To borrow the words of a 'common man,' a bunch of terrorists trying to apply blasphemy law with AK-47 on non-believers, can there be anything more outrageous than that? Should we let some psychopaths decide what limits we should impose on our 'freedom of expression'? All of a sudden, a large number of human beings worldwide are asking these questions to themselves. Mainstream media (MSM) all over the world have multiplied and amplified these questions to such an extent that another cohort of people with ambivalent feelings towards the issue are increasingly feeling guilty for not being as outraged by the French killings as the former cohort and thus not contributing enough to preserve the sanctity of freedom of expression in the world. So, are the Charlie Hebdo killings all about terrorists trying to apply blasphemy laws in Europe to muzzle freedom of expression worldwide? It seems so, if the whole saga is taken out of context and understood within the compromised limits of 'conventional thinking' as decided by the MSM. The reality is, however, far more complex with no easy answers to the questions. Before entering the prickly issue of freedom of expression vs sacredness of religious faiths, let me clarify this: I am a non-Muslim. A bit of quasi-journalism has made my skin thick, so I am not easily offended; even when I am, I mostly keep it to myself and it is beyond me to decipher the psyche of people who are eager to do as extreme things as blowing themselves up when offended by others.
We Are the Insurgency
An Interview with Abolition
We stuck with our refusal to compromise, turned to the tradition of abolitionists before us, and encoded this principle in our manifesto's first line: "Abolitionist politics is not about what is possible, but about making the impossible a reality." Of course, in our own lives, we are always caught up in compromises-buying commodified goods made through exploited labor, legitimating the settler colonial state through obeying its laws, etc. But why should we let our personal compromises bleed into our radical projects? The title, Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics, also signals this 'no compromises' fanaticism of our approach. We want to distinguish our form of insurgent abolitionism from other approaches that might take on the banner of 'abolition.' Obviously, we oppose its right-wing uses, such as the 'Abolish Human Abortion' campaign. But we also oppose liberal forms of abolitionism that seek mediating, reformist solutions to social problems. To distinguish our approach, we highlight the multiplicity of abolitionist movements-those seeking to end all of the different forms of oppression, exploitation, and domination, from white supremacy, patriarchy, and colonialism to ableism, hetero-and-cis-sexism, and capitalism-while emphasizing the interconnected, co-constitutive character of these institutions. Trying to hold together these goals for abolitionism-as fanatical, multiplicitous, and intersecting-is really difficult, riddled with complex tensions, and seems almost impossible to do not merely in theory but in practice. As we say in our manifesto: "we seek to understand the specific power dynamics within and between these systems so we can make the impossible possible.."