The Transnational Black Imagination: The Muslim International and Sohail Daulatzai’s Black Star and Crescent Moon

In our post-Reagan, and post-Iranian Revolution moment, black and Muslim bodies have become increasingly entangled as sources of fear, nationalist narratives, and racial scapegoating. Amid the ongoing war on drugs and the war on terror, blackness and Muslimness is consistently used to mobilize consent for and support for increased state power, systemic policing, and a culture of violence. According to Vijay Prashad, “the international Muslim terrorist and the domestic black criminal stand as alibis for revanchism.  Race free criminals (read white) are free from extra detection or from pious fulminations of the political class” (Prashad 2003, p. 75).  Sohail Daulatzai similarly elucidates the dialectics and shared experiences in “Are we all Muslim now? Assata Shakur and the Terrordome,”

As scholars such as Michelle Alexander and Khalil Gibran Muhammad have noted, once the US state defined particular activities as “crime”, it then sought to crack down and control it. As the fears of the “black criminal” were stoked, the political will was generated in mainstream America to pass repressive laws that normalised “crime” and linked it almost exclusively to blackness, making all black people suspicious, and leading to state-sanctioned racial profiling, the creation of an urban police state, and the explosion of a massive prison archipelago that Michelle Alexander has called “the new Jim Crow”.

            The “war on terror” has used the face of the “Muslim terrorist” to narrow the scope of dissent, expand state control, and prevent the creation of alternatives to exploitation and war.

Similarly in the “war on terror”, the US has named particular acts as “terrorism”, delegitimising them and generating the political will through fear to normalise the figure of the “terrorist”, making Muslim-looking people, and even Muslim countries themselves, suspects under deep suspicion in their struggles for self-determination.

As a result, the need for state security created broad “anti-terrorism” measures that expanded state power, making Muslim countries subject to invasions, sanctions, bombs, and drones, and making Muslim bodies subject to indefinite detention, torture, surveillance and targeted murder, as Muslims got marked as people who don’t have the right to have rights.

While the system of mass incarceration used the face of the “black criminal” to legitimise itself and disproportionately target black men and women, the tentacles of incarceration soon expanded to include Latinos and other poor people in its orbit.

Similarly, the “war on terror” has used the face of the “Muslim terrorist” to narrow the scope of dissent, expand state control, and prevent the creation of alternatives to exploitation and war. But while the Muslim has been the face of this, the logic of “terror” is now being used to target other countries and also black and brown communities domestically, as the fluid category of the “terrorist” continues to morph.

These entrenched narratives, racializing stereotypes, and white racial framing not only impact policy, but cultural representations, public discourse, and everyday interactions. It results in stop and frisk, and racial profiling on the streets and in airports; it contributes to daily microaggressions and flattened cultural representations. Black or brown bodies and criminal are imagined as interchangeable, Muslim and terrorist are positioned as inseparable, reflecting the entrenched nature of “post-racial” hyper racial American discourse and practice.

The connection between black and Muslim subject is not limited to white supremacist discourse, state violence, and shared racialization, but is equally evident in the “political and cultural history of Black Islam, Black radicalism, and the Muslim Third World.” Herein lies the focus of Sohail Daulatzai’s Black Star, Crescent Moon: The Muslim International and Black Freedom beyond America (University of Minnesota Press 2012), a very important work that pushes readers to look at resistance, to look at a history of radicalism, and examine Diasporic challenges to white supremacy.

Black Star, Crescent Mood decenters whiteness and antiblack racism, spotlighting the shared histories and interconnections beyond policing and state violence in the everyday resistance and the ongoing struggle for justice. Challenging the conventional narratives surrounding the black freedom struggle, that centers nonviolence, the South, Christianity, and civil rights, Dr. Daulatzai centers everyday resistance, the black radical imagination, the Muslim International in an exploration of artists, activists, intellectualist, and change agents.

Black Star, Crescent Moon begins its discussion of the Muslim International subject, black internationalism, and the “Afro-Diasporic imagination” (xxxiii) with Malcolm X. Given Malcolm’s position within the Nation of Islam, given his internationalist politics, and given his symbolic meaning into present-day discourses, it is no surprise that Malcolm anchors this work. “In mapping Third World solidarity against white supremacy onto the racial terrain of the United States and arguing that the man who colonized Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Congo, and Kenya is the ‘same man’ who is in Georgia, Michigan, California, and New York, Malcolm radically challenged the sacred narrative of American exceptionalism” (29). Reflecting on the dialectics between Malcolm’s faith, his transnationalist politics, and Black Islam Dr. Daulatzai narrates a history whereupon Malcolm expanded the political imagination, foregrounding alternative freedom dreams and new methods and approaches to turning those dreams into reality.

Black Star, Crescent Moon builds upon its discussion of Malcolm to highlight the ways the Muslim International and transnational black politics are equally visible with respect to the Battle of Algiers (which would be highly influential to the activists and black cinematic imagination), Sam Greenlee’s The Spook who Sat by the Door and Baghdad Blues, and Frantz’s Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Mask all of which furthered the message of a black radical politics anchored in internationalism, decolonization, and an imagined (and real) community based in Afro-Asian (Afro-Muslim) solidarity. “Black cultural activists in the Civil Rights and Black Power era positioned themselves, their art, and their politics in relation to the anticolonial and anti-imperialist movements taking place in Asia, Africa and Latin America, writes Dr. Daulatzai. “The Cold War inaugurated a new phase in American power that simultaneously sought to contain both the anticolonial impulses emanating from the Third World and a burgeoning Civil Rights and Black Power movement domestically” (69). The power of this work rests not just with its detailed textual analysis, its examination of aesthetics, and the Diasporic context, buts its emphasis on geo-politics and the responsive utterances from black radicalism.

Black Star, Crescent Moon ends with discussions of both Muhammad Ali and hip-hop, making clear how each has used, deployed, and been influenced by the intersections of blackness, Islam, and transnational radical politics. “In reinvigorating and reshaping the already vibrant space of the Muslim International, these artists and activists force and compel the Muslim international to be a broad and inclusive space that understand the overlapping histories and interconnected struggles that not only have shaped the modern world” Their work “also shape the conscience of the Muslim International as a site for radical justice and equality” (196). Like Malcolm and the Battle of Algiers, Ali and Greenlee, Immortal Technique and Jasiri X, Black Star, Crescent Moon and Sohail Daulatzai expands our radical imagination, indexing transnational dreams and pathways to freedom, justice, and social transformation. Powerful and inspiring, this work reshapes our understanding of social movements and the ongoing struggle for black freedom.




In what ways is black internationalism not inherently radical? What sorts of examples demonstrate the liberal or conservative use of black internationalism?

How and why is Black Islam seen as a threat to post-civil rights state formation?

What are the connections between culture wars, “Islamic terrorist” and “black criminal”? How do they exist at a crossroads?

What is the significance of the connection between Killer of Sheep (and the LA Rebellion) and Battle of Algiers?

How did technological shifts impact the black radical imagination and the Muslim International?

How do we account for antiblack racism within Asia and the Middle East given these histories?

Why is the Caribbean and Latin America (or is it) not as prominent within these Diasporic and transnationalist black radical formations

How does India.Arie “ghetto” fit within this discussion?

Racism: The Most Violent Weapon in Human History – Hip-Hop and Politics

Racism: The Most Violent Weapon in Human History

by JLove Calderon and David Leonard

February 24, 2014

Originally posted at Davey D’s Hip Hop and Politics

Stop denying that race doesn’t matter.

To claim that killings of Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Darius Simmons, Garrick Hopkins, Carl Hopkins, and countless others have nothing to do with race erases generations of white-on-black violence.

And before you trot out some example from history of an African American who killed a white person, or cite some FBI statistics (deflection is a form of denial), hear us:

The history of violence directed at African Americans is grounded in a history of systemic racism; efforts to protect slavery, irrational fear, segregation, Jim Crow, stereotypes and white privilege are all part of this history. It is what binds together Emmett Till and Jordan Davis, what links together the countless incidents of lynching throughout America’s history with killings of Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride who were seen as “not belonging.”

The history of the United States is one where whites have killed with impunity; the murder of African Americans has been carried under a culture that continues to sanction this violence. Our society has refused to hold white killers accountable within the criminal justice system. On the flip side, African Americans have historically and continually experience the opposite: the unequal brunt force of the criminal justice system. Unlike their white counterparts, who have been let off the hook over and over again, blacks have been policed, locked up, lynched, and executed for s**t they didn’t do. Just as those involved with countless lynchings and Emmett Till’s killers never faced consequences for killing black people, Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman have been left off the hook.

Race matters because of continued circulation of racial stereotypes. From Dunn’s views about “thug music” or Zimmerman’s profiling of Martin, or the belief from Theodore Wafer that Renisha McBride’s an intruder has everything to do with race. How many different jokes about blacks and crime do you hear each day, either from popular culture or from friends? How often do you confront media reports, video games, films, TV, or conversations that depict African Americans as dangerous, as “thugs,” as threatening criminals?

One cannot understand Michael Dunn, or George Zimmerman or countless others within a colorblind fantasy.  We must talk about racism, stereotypes and the history of criminalizing black bodies.  Research proves that whites, from college students to police officers, are more likely to misidentify a gun when in a black hand.  According to B. Keith Payne, “Race stereotypes can lead people to claim to see a weapon where there is none. Split-second decisions magnify the bias by limiting people’s ability to control responses.”  Racism thwarts many in white America from seeing how racism kills.

According Project Implicit,  “An analysis of more than 900,000 completed Implicit Association Tests (IAT) at the Project Implicit website suggested that more than 70% of test takers associated White people with good and Black people with bad…”   It is easy to dismiss race and racism but the daily consequences of American racism are real; the trauma and pain, the ongoing history of racial violence, and a culture that is more likely to see black criminality than black innocence.  Racism kills and so does denial.

Geraldo Rivera Blames TrayvonRace matters even in death.  How else can we explain the lack of concern society shows for the anguish of black parents who have lost a child?  The mantra of not speaking ill of the dead is rarely applied to black youth.  For all too many, that means routinely seeing the victims as criminals, as unworthy of sympathy and assumptions of innocence. Instead of being seen as victims, as someone’s son or daughter, someone’s friend that lost their life, they are turned into criminals deserving of death.  Writing about Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, Eric Mann highlights the longstanding history of blaming black youth for their own murders:  [D]eep in the white American psyche” rests the controlling belief and script that sees “the impossibility of Black innocence.” Efforts to convict black youth for their own murders is engrained in the American fabric, enshrined in the history books, and centuries old in the script of white supremacy.  Racism continues to turn the victims of racism into criminals who either deserved to die or did something that resulted in their own death.

Whether citing school suspensions, problems with the law, drug use, clothing choices, being drunk, loud music, whistling, not listening to authority or simply their attitude, the presumption of black guilt, black criminality, and black pathology is reason for black death.  Don’t look at the killers or a history of white supremacy since the “victim” is in fact responsible for his/her death.  The message is clear: Don’t mourn for them; don’t seek justice for them since it is they (and their parents, their “culture”, and their community) that is responsible, not the killers, not the laws, not the gun culture, not the racism, and not America. . . .

Continue reading at Racism: The Most Violent Weapon in Human History – Hip-Hop and Politics.

Broken Promises: Prisoners on strike (again)

This week at least 30,000 incarcerated men and women restarted their hunger strike to protest the inhumane conditions of California’s prison system.  Inside 2/3s of its 33 prisons (yes there are 33), along with all of its out-of-state facilities, prisoners have resumed their hunger strike that began some 2 years ago.

According to Abby Ohlheiser, “While the California prison system has a less than stellar reputation on a handful of issues — many of which trace back to its astonishing overcrowding — the striking prisoners are focusing their message on improving conditions for those locked in solitary confinement.”

This decision is especially powerful because it speaks to their collective concern (a sense of community and demand for justice for those within the community) for the horrific conditions within solidarity confinement.  Horrific might be an understatement. Shane Bauer, who spent 7 months in an Iranian prison, documented the unfathomable conditions of California prisons in his recent piece, “Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons.”  Writing about his own experience in Iran, he concludes that Iran has nothing on California when it comes to abuse, violence, and dehumanizing conditions:

IT’S BEEN SEVEN MONTHS since I’ve been inside a prison cell. Now I’m back, sort of. The experience is eerily like my dreams, where I am a prisoner in another man’s cell. Like the cell I go back to in my sleep, this one is built for solitary confinement. I’m taking intermittent, heaving breaths, like I can’t get enough air. This still happens to me from time to time, especially in tight spaces. At a little over 11 by 7 feet, this cell is smaller than any I’ve ever inhabited. You can’t pace in it.… What I want to tell Acosta is that no part of my experience—not the uncertainty of when I would be free again, not the tortured screams of other prisoners—was worse than the four months I spent in solitary confinement. What would he say if I told him I needed human contact so badly that I woke every morning hoping to be interrogated? Would he believe that I once yearned to be sat down in a padded, soundproof room, blindfolded, and questioned, just so I could talk to somebody?

His experiences are that of all too many in California prisons and elsewhere; in his estimation Pelican Bay and other prisons are worse.  It is no wonder that 30,000 people are refusing to eat.

Their demands (see below; they remain virtually the same) are for basic human rights. Yet, two years after this strike began, little has changed.  As a result the intransigence of the California Department of Corrections and the societal acceptance of abuse and torture directed at prisoners, the conditions remain abysmal. Broken promises; national acceptance of abuse and torture.  So the strike continues.

In a week where Yasiin Bey made visible the horrific practice of forced feeding prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, where it was announced that “Force Feeding At Gitmo Will ‘Synchronize’ With Ramadan,” the ongoing protest in California (ground zero of America’s prison nation) is a sobering reminder of the injustices within and beyond our borders.

What appears below is from a piece in 2011, which sadly demonstrates that in almost two years, despite promises, the conditions facing California prisoners and those in Guantanamo Bay remain just as horrific and just as inhumane.

On July 1, 2011, hundreds of prisoners initiated a hunger strike in California. While the strike began inside of the Special Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison, where human beings are locked away inside of soundproof cells for 22 1/2 hours each and every day, the strike has spread to prisons throughout the state, reaching as many as 6,600 prisoners in 13 locations. Their protest sought to “draw attention to, and to peacefully protest, twenty-five years of torture via [California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation]‘s arbitrary, illegal, and progressively more punitive policies and practices.” More specifically, the strike began as an effort to change the inhumane treatment facing prisoners in California (and elsewhere). Colorlines Magazine succinctly summarizes the demands as follows (the demands remain the same):

  •  “End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse” would end group punishment as a means to address an individual inmates rule violations.
  • “Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria” The practice of “debriefing,” or offering up information about fellow prisoners particularly regarding gang status, is often demanded in return for better food or release from the SHU. Prisoners demand the end to debriefing because it puts the safety of prisoners and their families at risk, because they are then viewed as “snitches.”
  • Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement” Prisoners demand a more productive form of confinement in the areas of allowing inmates in SHU and Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation] the opportunity to engage in meaningful self-help treatment, work, education, religious, and other productive activities. This demand includes access to adequate natural sunlight and health care treatment.
  • “Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food” Prisoners’ demands include the end to the practice of denying adequate food as a means of punishment, asking for wholesome nutritional meals
  • “Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates” demands include a weekly phone call, permission to keep wall calendars and craft items – art paper, colored pens, small pieces of colored pencils, watercolors, chalk, etc.

The courageous stance of these incarcerated individuals, and the widespread support from those outside the prison walls did not lead to fruitful negotiations, with 400 individuals surpassing 20 days without food. According to reports in The Los Angeles Times, 49 people lost more than 10 pounds with one individual having lost almost 30 pounds during the 2011 hunger strike. Dorsey Nunn, an activist who co-founded All of us or None of us, described the situation as dire:

Prisoners in Pelican Bay have not eaten in 18 days. I have been told that the prison hospital is full with prisoners who are being hydrated intravenously because some have started to refuse water. Others are having a problem just keeping their water down at this point. Members of the prisoner negotiation team have lost between 20 and 35 pounds. It is truly a matter of luck and or untiring spirit that nobody has died so far.

The dire circumstances facing these hungers strikers symbolizes the daily mistreatment endured by prisoners throughout the United States. From neglect, abuse and sexual violence, to abysmal living conditions and unimaginable health “care,” prisons are spaces of obscene denied humanity. In California, at Kern Valley State prison, prisoners have long been forced to drink water contaminated with arsenic. In Georgia, prisoners “report . . . harsh conditions and inadequate nutrition and health care. Prisoners were constantly hit with fines ranging from $5 to $20 . . . sometimes for even just ‘looking at a guard.’” In Arizona, those in incarcerated in Sherriff Joe Arpaio’s jails have routinely been served rotten food and denied basic health care. In Louisiana, at Angola State Prison, America’s largest prison, reports have documented abuse, violence, politically motivated punishments, and a culture of accepted torture.

On May 23, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Plata, affirmed “the constitutional right of prisoners to be free of cruel and unusual conditions of confinement and the government’s responsibility to provide a remedy for violations of that right.” In this case, the Court upheld a three-judge panel ruling that California’s mental health care and medical care fell beneath the constitutional standard required under the law. Yet, the conditions of abuse and cruel and unusual punishment continue to this day. One has to wonder if the legal decision coupled with the moral spotlight shining from hundreds of prisoners will lead to humane treatment of America’s prisoners.

The conditions that have led to hunger strike are commonplace throughout the United States and the acceptance of these human rights violence illustrates the power of race and class in America. Do we really think that abuse, sexual violence, rotten food, denied health care and a culture of torture would be acceptable if directed at the sons and daughters of white suburban America? The reaction to the Pelican Bay Hunger strike provides us with the sad answer [The reaction to the Hunger Strike in 2013, from California to Guantanamo Bay provides us with yet another sad answer].

White People Are Not Victims

White People Are Not Victims

Originally posted at Washington Spectator


Narratives of white victimhood are the rage these days.

From Abigail Fisher v. the University of Texas to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, from Paula Deen’s claim of being a victim of the “PC police” to a material witness’s use of the phrase “creepy-ass cracker” in the criminal trial of George Zimmerman—there has been ample effort to imagine white people as the real victims in contemporary America.

David Sirota says, “hysterical white people are all over the media screaming to whomever is listening that white people are under attack.”

Tim Wise notes this is in keeping with history. “The cult of white victimhood has long had its charter members,” he says. “Nowadays the cult has the attention of the media and a white public already anxious about changing demographics, the presence of a black president and economic insecurity.”

I call it WDD—”White Delusional Disorder.”

People suffering from WDD experience intense and wild distortions of and deviations from empirical reality. They believe white people are not benefiting from a racially stratified society. They are, instead, its true victims.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case weighing the affirmative-action policies of the University of Texas. The court punted by sending the case back to a lower court. But in doing so, it left unaddressed claims of Abigail Fisher’s victimization.

The plaintiff claimed: “There were people in my class with lower grades who weren’t in all the activities I was in, who were being accepted into UT, and the only other difference between us was the color of our skins. I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong. And for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me. What kind of example does it set for others?”

Yet court documents show that Fisher’s high school grades and SAT scores would not have qualified her for admittance to Texas’s flagship institution in Austin. Even so, she is a victim , she says. Meanwhile, the school admitted five students of color with lower scores as well as 42 white applicants whose scores were equal to or lower than Fisher’s.

Not surprisingly Fisher and her supporters have shown no concern for the 168 students of color who did not receive admission, though their scores were equal to or higher than hers. Nor have they expressed outrage at the number of students denied admittance though they presumably enrolled in costly SAT prep courses. Yet Justice Anthony Kennedy and the court’s conservative bloc failed to account for white privilege.

This was equally evident in the Supreme Court’s gutting of Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act. During oral arguments last spring, Justice Antonin Scalia memorably described the VRA as a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Thus the Voting Rights Act victimizes white America. Despite claims of racial progress, and despite fantasies that the VRA is punishment for the sins of white grandfathers (it isn’t), the VRA was about protecting every person’s right to vote.

But this is the logic that governs the cult of white victimhood.

Only in America can inequality, voter suppression, and societal condemnation of racial slurs become a moment to lament white victimhood.

My opening statement: Trayvon and the fight for justice

Ladies of the Jury,

I am angry; I am angry at how Trayvon Martin is being portrayed in this court; I am outraged by the disrespect directed at him within the news.  I am saddened that the defense seems based on racial stereotypes and racist appeals rather than facts.  I am outraged that the defense seems to be: he’s black.  Not surprising given that facts we know.

Can you imagine a defense attorney standing before the court and showing pictures of your white child in an effort to demonize and victim blame?  What do you think the reaction would be if an attorney or a news station consistently put out images of guns, smoke, marijuana and other photos that sought to turn your child into a “thug” who deserved it.  What do you think the reaction would be from white America?

Can you imagine the outcry if dozens of white youths were being gunned down by police and security guards in a matter of months?

Can you imagine the extensive political discussions; the media stories that would saturate the airwaves?

If a white youth was killed on the way to buying skittles for a friend, would he be recast as the assailant; as a person to hate

Can you imagine Fox News or any number of newspapers reporting about a school suspension for one of the victims or doctoring pictures in an attempt to make these victims less sympathetic?

Can you imagine a person holding up a sign calling these victims “thugs” and “hoodlums.” Just think about the media frenzy, the concern from politicians, and the national horror every time a school shooting happens in suburbia or every time a White woman goes missing…can you imagine if women routinely went missing from your community and the news and police department simply couldn’t be bothered?

This isn’t simply a trial about George Zimmerman and justice for Trayvon; it is trial about who’s life matters; who is entitled to justice. It’s a trial about race in America

I want you to close your eyes for a second, and imagine that your son or daughter, sister or brother, granddaughter or grandson, ventured to the corner store for some Skittles and tea but never returned? Can you imagine if Peter or Jan was gunned down right around the corner from your house and the police didn’t notify you right away? Can you imagine if little Cindy or Bobby sat in the morgue for days as you searched to find out what happened them? Can you even imagine the police letting the perpetrator go or the news media remaining silent? Can you even fathom learning about background and drug tests on your child? Can you imagine the news media demonizing your child, blaming your child for his own death?

I have listened to Don West for many hours (or many minutes) and have to say I am not surprised.  In the 4 long hours, he continued the defense strategy to dehumanize, mock, and disrespect Trayvon Martin, and his family.   With this statement he showed little concern for the black community and the nation as a whole, playing the racism card with precision.

Trayvon Martin was killed; he lost his life. His parents, family, and friends are devastated. Their lives have been changed forever.

Yet, he starts with a joke: “Knock knock. Who’s there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? Good, you’re on the jury,” Really, levity? Can you imagine the outrage had he made a joke at a trial involving the killing of a white youth; probably not which tell us everything we need to know about this case and a society that consistently doesn’t show itself not to value black life.

Can you imagine of Johnnie Cochran opened America’s last trial of century with a knock knock joke? In a country where racial profiling, stop and frisk, and #every28hours are almost daily realities; your attempt at levity is yet another moment of disrespect.  His “joke” is causing a lot of anger and pain.   It is yet another example where black life is pushed into the background; where black pain and trauma is neither seen nor felt. Can you feel his parents pain; is it “legible.”

But that is no concern of the defense since it thinks George is the true victim.  That is what we have been told today; that George was victim of Trayvon, armed with “sidewalk,” on that fateful night.  While Trayvon lost his life, the defense wants to paint POOR Georgie as the victim. This version seems to be as much of a fantasy as other nursery rhymes.

While Trayvon parents lost their child, their future, they want us to feel sorry for George because he is depressed, because he gained weight, and because his life has forever changed.  Trayvon life was ended; George Zimmerman is not a victim, he is the defendant.

I have heard that “we are all Trayvon Martin,” yet we are not Trayvon Martin – and we never could be. White America is never suspicious. White America can walk to the store without fear of being hunted down. White America can count on justice and a nation grieving at the loss of White life. We aren’t Trayvon Martin, we are George Zimmerman: presumed innocent until proven innocent.  If we were all Trayvon Martin, if the jury and the judge, the media and society as a whole, was Trayvon Martin, we wouldn’t have been subjected to the joke, forced to listen to more lamenting of George the victim, and most certain forced to sit through another effort turn Trayvon into the assailant.  I hope that you, a jury, clearly not of Trayvon’s peers, can see behind the white colored glasses to see this vicious defense strategy in our march toward justice.

The defense strategy to dehumanize Trayvon, to paint him as a gangsta who deserved to be killed, is reprehensible.  It is beyond the pale.  I hope we see that; I hope we denounce that here and everywhere.  The decision to make a joke at this trial is sad reminder of what’s a stake here: justice and saying Trayvon’s life matters.  If it does, lets take a stand for justice.  Let us stand together to life up Trayvon in the name of equal justice building toward the fulfillment of our freedom dreams.

In a week where the Supreme Court of the United States concluded that diversity isn’t a compelling issue, where this same group of justices decided that voting discrimination was no longer an issue worthy of governmental oversight, you have the potential to say “no.”

No to the perpetuation of racist stereotypes;

No to the pandering to white racism;

No to a society that rarely sees or hears black suffering.

Yes to justice;

No to hatred;

Yes to a future, no to a racist past.

With  disenfranchisement making a sad return, spaces of change and justice are becoming and more scarce within these halls.  The power to lead us on a different path sits not just with you but those of us who must organize, who must demand justice for Tryavon, for Rekia, for Jordan, for those being pushed out of school and into prisons, and for those being denied the right to vote from D.C. to Mississippi.  Yes, this is 1 case but it is a moment where we can open up the windows justice toward a new tomorrow.


This piece includes previously published material from

Faux News: Lies, Deception, & the demonization of Salamishah Tillet

The summer of 2013 has mirrored the summer of 2012 or 2011 in many ways, especially as it relates to the assault on women’s bodies.  Enacting countless pieces of legislation and working overtime to silence critical voices, the GOP and their faux news allies have continued their march backwards toward a retrenchment of patriarchy and misogyny.

During a recent segment on MSNBC, Dr. Salamishah Tillet spoke out about the continued war on women from the GOP. She provided an important historic context for understanding the “abortion debate” and more importantly the GOP’s assault on women:

So I think that there’s a kind of moral panic, a fear of the end of whiteness that we’ve been seeing a long time and I think Obama’s ascension as president kind of symbolizes to a certain degree and I think that this is why one response to that sense that there is a decreasing white majority in the country and that women’s bodies and white women’s bodies, in particular, are obviously a crucial way of reproducing whiteness, white supremacy, white privilege.

She points to the sad truth of history.  From Eugenics to forced sterilization, from America’s immigration policies to slavery, the connections between reproduction, systemic efforts to control women’s bodies, and race are clear.  American as apple pie.

In the aftermath of the 2008 election of Barack Obama, in light of Census reports about demographic shifts that point to end of white majority, and media accounts on how “Most Babies Born in America Are Not White” there is a growing unease or anxiety from segments of white America.

Context matters – that was Dr. Tillet’s message. 

Fears about lost power and privilege, and anxiety about becoming “the minority” are wrapped up in discussions about birth rates and population size.  To ignore this context when discussing abortion is myopic and short-sided – FOXish.  And that is exactly what happened shortly after Dr. Tillet’s appearance last weekend.  Bill O’Reilly took to the airwaves to denounce Dr. Tillet’s comments as a racist attack on whites. He offered the following “assessment:”

If you oppose late term abortion and you’re white, you might be supporting white supremacy.

An amazing display of bigotry and insensitivity to the abortion issue.

An incredible display of racial hatred on national television.

If you oppose late term abortion and you’re white, you might be supporting white supremacy.

Clearly, the “F” in Fox stands for failure, because O’Reilly, Megyn Kelley and others continuously demonstrated poor reading or listening comprehension skills. I can only imagine the historiography in O’Reilly’s books.

Notwithstanding the systematic mischaracterization of Dr. Tillet’s analysis, O’Reilly fails to account for the anxiety and fear resulting from “not enough white babies.”  Instead he denies this reality, and not surprisingly FACTS.  Because for Fox, the “F” is silent when talking about facts, leaving us with a channel that merely acts or pretends to be a source of news.  This is why rather than engaging Dr. Tillet’s analysis, O’Reilly chose a path defined by bullying, disengagement, distortions, and an overall dismissal of the real issue at hand: white anxiety and its impact on the abortion debate.

Maybe he doesn’t watch his own network. In 2006, John Gibson made clear the connection between race (white anxiety), demographics, and reproduction:

Do your duty. Make more babies. That’s a lesson drawn out of two interesting stories over the last couple of days.

First, a story yesterday that half of the kids in this country under five years old are minorities. By far, the greatest number are Hispanic. You know what that means? Twenty-five years and the majority of the population is Hispanic. Why is that? Well, Hispanics are having more kids than others. Notably, the ones Hispanics call “gabachos” — white people — are having fewer.

Now, in this country, European ancestry people, white people, are having kids at the rate that does sustain the population. It grows a bit. That compares to Europe where the birth rate is in the negative zone. They are not having enough babies to sustain their population. Consequently, they are inviting in more and more immigrants every year to take care of things and those immigrants are having way more babies than the native population, hence Eurabia.

Why aren’t they having babies? Because babies get in the way of a prosperous and comfortable modern life. Peanut butter fingerprints on the leather seats in the BMW. The Euros are particular — in particular can’t be bothered with kids. Underscore that second point….

To put it bluntly, we need more babies. Forget about that zero population growth stuff that my poor generation was misled on. Why is this important? Because civilizations need population to survive. So far, we are doing our part here in America but Hispanics can’t carry the whole load. The rest of you, get busy. Make babies, or put another way — a slogan for our times: “procreation not recreation.”

Misery loves company. In the aftermath of reports about death of whites exceeding its birthrate, Pat Buchannan penned a panic induced treatise on the end of civilization

In demographic terms, more white Americans died in 2012 than were born. Never before — not during the Civil War bloodletting, not during the influenza epidemic after World War I, not during the Great Depression and birth dearth of the 1930s — has this happened?

In ethnic terms, it means that Americans whose forebears came from Great Britain, Ireland and Germany, Southern and Eastern Europe — the European tribes of North America — have begun to die.

The demographic winter of white America is at hand, even as it began years ago for the native-born of old Europe.

Such feelings are widespread. Erin Gloria Ryan, at Jezeel, highlights the anger, disappointment, and outrage resulting from reports about the number of non-white babies:

Readers of Fox Nation, that reliable bastion of whackadoodlery, rated the story of the nonwhite birth rate surpassing the white birth rate as “Scary.” And commenters are frightened, but resigned. One said, “It was bound to happen.. with anchor babies and pay raises for more chillrin…” Others, who clearly still don’t understand the concept of “structural racism” having nothing to do with sheer numbers and everything to do with power, wondered if they’d get special consideration for entering “government school” now. You know, like all those Mexican children of undocumented farm workers who are applying for admission to Harvard, unseating deserving white applicants. Another said, “Not hard to believe. Los Angeles in the 1970’s was overwhelmingly white. Now it’s overwhelmingly latino. The latinos took over. Just look at the school demographics. That pretty much tells the story. This country is slowly being returned to Mexico with the help of politicians.” Hard to argue with that!

Over at the Washington Post, one commenter can’t wait to cash in on anticipated white minority status: “I’m been trying to get my white college age sons recognized as a minority at their college, because they are a minority – white – male – and enrolled in college — but the institution laughs at me and says I am misinformed. My grandchildren and great grandchildren will have to work very hard to organize in order to be recognized as a minority, and I believe this needs to be jump started ASAP in order to protect their rights.”   

While O’Reilly and Leslie Marshall (the “liberal” who discussed Dr. Tillet’s appearance) want to locate these viewpoints as those of “extremists and skinheads,” they are central to American history; they are evident within a myriad of contemporary spaces, from FOX to the GOP. The truth hurts (there clearly is no “T” in Fox).

But why bother with truth when you can just be a bully.  Yes, I said it.  Bill O’Reilly is a bully.  Why else would he put Dr. Tillet’s picture on the screen several times but to arouse his audience? To spark vitriol; to intimidate.   Does it surprise anyone that she received hundreds of hateful messages?  With a huge platform, Billy and his faux news minions are a threat to democracy and substantive conversations.  That is neither a controversial statement nor anything new, but a threat nonetheless.  Fox being Fox cannot be a defense.

The combination of miss characterizations – LIES – and their play to emotionality, white resentment (their race card), and ignorance are all essential to the playbook of a bully – a  dangerous bully.  One can only hope that by 2014, we see an end to the GOP’s assault on women, and faux news assault on reason, facts, and honest debate.  Sadly, I am not holding my breath for either.

Hocus Pocus From Potus and Flotus – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Hocus Pocus From Potus and Flotus - The Conversation - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Hocus Pocus From Potus and Flotus

By David J. Leonard

It’s commencement season. Yet amid conservative complaints about liberal dominance of the commencement industry, some speeches have reverberated with conservative ideas. That was no more evident than when Michelle Obama took the opportunity to reiterate more of her husband’s politics of black respectability at Bowie State University.

She told the audience at the historically black college’s graduation last week that the focus on education had been lost by a community with a history in which slaves had risked their lives to learn to read. She spoke of the struggles to integrate America’s schools. But those words were a mere setup to yet again demonizing and pathologizing today’s black youth. “Instead of walking miles every day to school,” she said, “they’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.”

Reducing educational success to choices and blaming dropout rates on false dreams, such claims are a disservice to struggles for justice. Worse, the presumption is that one choice is good and rational, and the other pathological and irrational. The idea that dreaming of a career in hip-hop or athletics doesn’t prepare one to succeed in law or politics is problematic.

The first lady’s shaming message, praising the power of educational bootstraps, echoed her husband’s. At a 2009 speech before the NAACP, President Obama urged the African-American community to take better advantage of education’s equalizing potential. Irrespective of racism, inequality, or segregation, education was the ticket to freedom and prosperity. Urging students to stay in school and keep up their grades, he said, “No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands, and don’t you forget that.” He wanted students “aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers.”

If only it were that easy.

While the path to colleges is littered with school closures, the hegemony of the testing culture, and divestment from public education—pushing youth of color into the school-to-prison pipeline—the percentage of African-Americans attending colleges and universities is on the rise. That’s no thanks to President Obama, whose administration’s educational policy has done little to rectify persistent inequalities. The rising costs of higher education and the administration’s position on student loans have made it more difficult for African-American families, disproportionately hurt by the recession, to send their kids to college. Still, African-Americans are attending colleges and universities at record levels. Why not celebrate this reality?

Continue reading at Hocus Pocus From Potus and Flotus – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education.