By Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock | No one in American history has addressed more eloquently or advanced more effectively the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality than the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. With his voice, he discredited the fallacious doctrine of white supremacy; and through his activism, he changed America, liberating the sons and daughters of “former slaves” and “former slave owners” for the possibility of what he called “the beloved community.” Dr. King bequeathed to all of us a gift of love.
It’s a kneejerk reaction to imagine what James Baldwin would say about the state of things in the US when the anniversary of his death comes every December 1. Especially now. Much like how the issues that folk legend Odetta sang about are still, sadly, relevant today, so it goes for the issues Baldwin wrote about in “Notes of a Native Son.” Which is why our director, Helene Atwan, says it remains so potent a text to go back to.
By Eileen Truax | “Good afternoon, Senator Sanders. My name is Odilia Romero, Indigenous Bene Xhon.” Standing onstage at the Casa del Mexicano in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in east Los Angeles, Odilia holds a microphone in one hand and in the other her speech for Bernie Sanders, then a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. It was May 4, 2016, and in the auditorium beneath the fifty-foot-high domed ceiling, four hundred people had gathered, a mix of pro-immigrant organizations, young activists, and members of the Latina community.
By Kyle T. Mays | African Americans and Native Americans in urban districts and on reservations were major reasons why Joe Biden won the presidency. To be sure, Trump’s disastrous handling of the Coronavirus and racism were fundamental reasons why people voted him out. But the people in Detroit, Philadelphia, the Navajo Nation, and other locales put Biden in office. The importance of the Black and Indigenous vote underscores their importance to American democracy—a democracy that many, including French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville believed would never happen.
Senator Kamala Harris’s win in the 2020 presidential election is an intersectional triumph. As she expressed in her acceptance speech, she will be the first woman, first Black American, and first South Asian American to serve as vice president. She also brings interfaith cred to the Oval Office, the likes of which we last saw when Obama was commander in chief. Her success means so much to so many people, and we are anxious to see how she and President-elect Joe Biden plan to undo the damage of the reality-TV administration. Here is what some of our authors had to say.
It was not so long ago when we said goodbye to renowned poet, novelist, playwright, and performer Ntozake Shange. Two years ago, we received news that she had passed while working with her on what is now her first posthumous book, “Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance,” her tribute to those who taught her and to her passion for rhythm, movement, and dance. It’s also a personal history and celebration of Black dance, featuring stunning photos along with personal interviews with Mickey Davidson, Halifu Osumare, Camille Brown, and Dianne McIntyre.
By Paul Ortiz | The reconfiguration of racial capitalism in the early twentieth century hinged upon the exploitation of agricultural workers who were fired, deported, or driven into cities when they tried to organize in defense of their interests. Local governments, growers, and vigilantes in the Sunbelt counties stretching from Orange County, Florida, to Orange County, California, put the hammer down on agricultural laborers seeking to achieve independence. Employers and their enforcers ruthlessly suppressed Mexican, Chinese, Sikh, Japanese, Indian, Italian, white, and African American farmworkers seeking to organize.
A Discussion with Thomas Norman DeWolf and Sharon Leslie Morgan | I absolutely feel like there should be reparations. But I feel they do not have to take the form that people immediately think about, which is, “Write me a check.” Because if you write a check, you’re absconding. You’re not really engaging the process. I think that it takes many forms. The best form would be investing money in repairing the damage, not as much to individuals as to people on a societal level.
By Lori L. Tharps | In 2016 my book about colorism, “Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families” was released. In that book, I wrote about how colorism manifests in Asian American, African American, Latino, and Mixed-Race Families. While I have been tangentially writing and talking about colorism as long as I have been talking and writing about Black hair, writing “Same Family, Different Colors” forced me to deep dive into skin color politics and history on a global scale. Needless to say, I have a much deeper understanding about this insidious, discriminatory social construct we call colorism.
President Ronald Reagan won over voters with his Midwest wholesomeness, his rehearsed charisma forged from years as a B-movie actor, and more importantly, his “old-fashioned” American pride. His sense of American pride appealed massively to white conservatives, as well as converts to Republicanism, and threw obstacles in the path of civil rights legislation. His racist policies were devastating for Black and Brown Americans during his presidency, and the effects still resonate today.
This summer, the uprisings for racial justice and the marches for Black lives have been heartening. And believe me, we need something to root for during our pandemic timeline. This wake-up call to reckon with systemic racism and to dismantle it—and there have been many before—is ringing loud and clear. Now we need that same momentum to carry into the classrooms—all virtual please!—with the same gusto. Because schools are part of the system, too.
A Q&A with Mark Warren by Stephen Abbott | The school-to-prison pipeline refers to a systemic problem that disproportionately affects students in low-income communities and communities of color. It often begins with zero-tolerance discipline, where children, and particularly Black and brown children, are suspended and often expelled for minor behavioral infractions. Once they’re expelled, they’re not in school learning, and they’re often out on the streets where they get caught up in the juvenile criminal-justice system—that’s the pipeline.
By Cornel West | Ida B. Wells is not only unique, but she is the exemplary figure full of prophetic fire in the face of American terrorism, which is American Jim Crow and Jane Crow, when lynching occurred every two and a half days for over fifty years in America. And this is very important, because Black people in the New World, in the Diaspora, Brazil, Jamaica, Barbados, were all enslaved, but no group of Black people were Jim Crowed other than US Negroes.
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker | Sociologist James O. Young writes that cultural appropriation happens when people from outside a particular culture take elements of another culture in a way that is objectionable to that group. According to Young’s definition, it is the objection that constitutes appropriation, as distinguished from cultural borrowing or exchange where there is no “moral baggage” attached. Native American cultural appropriation can be thought of as a broad range of behaviors, carried out by non-Natives, that mimic Indian cultures. Typically, they are based on deeply held stereotypes, with no basis at all in knowledge of real Native cultures.
By Howard Bryant | America prefers to view itself as a civilized society and, as such, the latter is the obvious, proper, and decent response. Yet judging by its obsession with law enforcement, America acts as if the former is its natural order—that violent crime is but a bad mood away and only the shield, the Glock, and the squad car stand between life and senseless death at the hands of our neighbors. Americans cling to this contrived state of emergency despite decades of research confirming that killing as a primary instinct is extremely rare, a dystopian fantasy compared to the socioeconomic factors that drive people to violent crime.
By Lori L. Tharps | I feel like celebrating! More than five years ago, I wrote a post that then led to an opinion piece in the New York Times, advocating for journalists and publishers to capitalize the B in Black when referring to Black people. On Friday—yes, Juneteenth Day—the Associated Press officially announced that they would be making the change in their stylebook, signaling a universal change as almost every single news organization in the United States follows the guidelines set by the AP. I feel like a major victory has been won.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | Twenty years ago, in the middle of historic mass protests against the World Trade Organization, police chased hundreds of peaceful protesters out of downtown, north on First Avenue and surrounded them just half a block beyond Seattle’s iconic Labor Temple, preparing for mass arrests. It was December 1, 1999. As the police roundup unfolded, a group of us meeting inside the Labor Temple spilled out into the street. Ron Judd, the head of the King County Labor Council, whom I worked for at the time, was aghast to see the protesters essentially held at gunpoint.
By Ryan Lugalia-Hollon | After forty years of mass incarceration and roughly 150 years of police brutality, we are being called to imagine a public safety system without policing. But do our minds even let us go there? Do they let us dream beyond surface-level reforms? Can we envision a wildly new and just infrastructure for peace and protection?
There is no other way to put it. The start of this year’s Pride Month was painful. We can’t stop thinking of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and of too many before and after them. Witnessing modern-day lynch mobs during a pandemic is soul-crushing. Do not be tempted to say the upheaval happening now is “unique” or “unprecedented.” Because it is not. The US has centuries of history inflicting violence and death on Black bodies. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his “The Other America” speech, “the riot is the language of the unheard.” And the US has not listened since the days of slavery and settler colonialism. So the protests and riots rage on.
We support our authors, Black communities, and all those fighting against racial injustice and police violence. We can’t stop thinking of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and of too many Black lives before and after them, and as such, we recognize this is an extremely traumatic time for many. This is exacerbated by the fact that the coronavirus pandemic rages on, disproportionately affecting communities of color. We remain committed to publishing resources to help expose and dismantle the systems of white supremacy and the carceral state. With this in mind, we put together this list of racial justice resources.