‘Our Demand Is Simple: Stop Killing Us’
June 2, 2015 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Since Aug. 9, 2014, when Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department shot and killed Michael Brown, Mckesson and a core group of other activists have built the most formidable American protest movement of the 21st century to date. Their innovation has been to marry the strengths of social media — the swift, morally blunt consensus that can be created by hashtags; the personal connection that a charismatic online persona can make with followers; the broad networks that allow for the easy distribution of documentary photos and videos — with an effort to quickly mobilize protests in each new city where a police shooting occurs.

#blacklivesmatter: How three friends turned a spontaneous Facebook post into a global phenomenon
Cullors had also been watching Facebook for news of the Zimmerman verdict. When she learned of his acquittal, she says, “The first thing I did was literally drop my jaw. And then I felt intense amounts of heat in my chest.” She started crying and, like Garza, posting on Facebook. “I start loving on black people, saying, ‘I hope y’all are loving on yourselves today.’” Cullors was moved by Garza’s post and, on a whim, decided to hashtag her sentiments “#blacklivesmatter.” She began hashtagging the phrase onto the walls of close friends and allies, some of whom also began using it. Before long, she and Garza were on the phone commiserating, and, by the next day, Cullors wrote on Garza’s wall with a proposition: “twin, #blacklivesmatter campaign? can we discuss this? i have ideas. i am thinking we can do a whole social media/all out in the streets organizing effort. let me know.”
The Fight For The Soul Of The Black Lives Matter Movement

Black America’s Lost Generation Speaks Up - "The teens of the Baltimore riot have never known a reality without crisis. That comes with consequences."

meanwhile,
Have black protests helped or hurt the Democratic Party?

Don't Be Like That - Does black culture need to be reformed?
Sociologists who study black America have a name for these camps: those who emphasize the role of institutional racism and economic circumstances are known as structuralists, while those who emphasize the importance of self-perpetuating norms and behaviors are known as culturalists. Mainstream politicians are culturalists by nature, because in America you seldom lose an election by talking up the virtues of hard work and good conduct. But in many sociology departments structuralism holds sway—no one who studies African-American communities wants to be accused, as the Times was, of “victim-blaming.” Orlando Patterson, a Jamaica-born sociologist at Harvard with an appetite for intellectual combat, wants to redeem the culturalist tradition, thereby redeeming sociology itself. In a manifesto published in December, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he argued that “fearful” sociologists had abandoned “studies of the cultural dimensions of poverty, particularly black poverty,” and that the discipline had become “largely irrelevant.” Now Patterson and Ethan Fosse, a Harvard doctoral student in sociology, are publishing an ambitious new anthology called “The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth” (Harvard), which is meant to show that the culturalist tradition still has something to teach us.
Color-Blind Policy, Color-Conscious Morality
This affliction is not solely Obama’s. Consider that in a conversation about poverty, featuring America’s first black president, one of its most accomplished progressive political scientists, and one of its most important liberal columnists, the word “racism” does not appear in the transcript once. That is because the progressive approach to policy which directly addresses the effects of white supremacy is simple—talk about class and hope no one notices.

This is not a “both/and.” It is a bait and switch. The moral failings of black people are directly addressed. The centuries-old failings of their local, state, and federal government, less so. One need not imagine what a “both/and” approach might sound like, to understand why a president of the United States can’t actually offer one. At best, one can hope for reference to “past injustice.” But in a country where Walter Scott was shot in the back, where Eric Garner was choked to death, where whole municipalities are—at this very hour—funding themselves through racist plunder, fleeting references to “past injustice” will not do.
Who Will Pay Reparations On My Soul?
In German, the word schuld means both guilt and debt. In the context of the American debate about race relations, “reparations” likewise reflects both sides of the coin. The principal difficulty with reparations, as with black history in America more generally, is that guilt is an unpleasant feeling, susceptible of clouding judgment. Guilt colors the whole conversation. Today nobody can deny that being charged with racism is one of the most incendiary charges one can levy in public life. People are genuinely mortified by the accusation; many fear to even approach racial topics, or tread though them like a minefield. This legacy of political correctness has proved double-edged. On the one hand, a certain kind of public discourse is far less poisonous and injurious than it was a few decades ago. On the other hand, we have made race a relentlessly personal issue, one that often shields and distracts us from the harder questions of structural inequality, racial hierarchy and social control.
posted by the man of twists and turns (20 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
 


That "Don't Be Like That" article was so intensely frustrating when I first read it . Sanneh completely fails to comes to grips with the entire argument around structural changes in economic mobility that's been getting more and more attention over the past few years. Reading him, you'd never know that there was any attention being paid to income inequality in other areas. (And lest I be misunderstood, my point is that the structuralists are clearly, manifestly in the right.)
posted by asterix at 9:41 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


My previous workplace just won an award for the Ferguson coverage I contributed to, and the experiences of this past fall, from Michael Brown's death on, were life-altering for me. I know I haven't spoken about this as much recently—other things in my life have intervened—but as Mckesson says, the movement lives, and I still follow it closely. I'm looking forward to finding some time to read these soon.
posted by limeonaire at 10:18 PM on June 2, 2015 [14 favorites]


Structuralists vs culturalists strikes me as one of those nature/nurture false dichotomies. I don't think you need to deny the importance of structural factors at all in order to make the complementary observation that cultural phenomena like "stop snitchin" and "police brotherhood" are impediments to achieving positive change in those structures.
posted by flabdablet at 10:23 PM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


From "Don't Be Like That":

'In his view, a program of compulsory cultural reform “robs the ghetto poor of a choice that should be theirs alone—namely, whether the improved prospects for ending or ameliorating ghetto poverty are worth the loss of moral pride they would incur by conceding the insulting view that they have not shown themselves to be deserving of better treatment.” For Shelby, opposing hypothetical future government programs is also a way of registering frustration with past government action, and inaction. “Given its failure to secure just social conditions,” he writes, “the state lacks the moral standing to act as an agent of moral reform.”'

“the state lacks the moral standing to act as an agent of moral reform.”

...a program of compulsory cultural reform “robs the ghetto poor of a choice that should be theirs alone--

that should be theirs alone

How many people in the United States are able to begin to understand that, let alone accept it. This is a rift in civilization that goes far beyond black and white.
posted by carping demon at 10:34 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


If one is raised in, say, a cult, is it really true that as an adult the individual can choose to leave the cult? Or is it more likely that as adults, they will be so brainwashed that only the truly exceptional will break free?

If children are raised in a war zone, taught to hate the other and to seek violence against them, is it reasonable to expect them to reject their upbringing as an adult? Again, I think the world is full of examples that point toward nurture being a huge impediment to reformation.

And so I think it is probably unfair to say that people who grow up in ghettoized communities have a viable "choice" in reforming their communities. Some extremely exceptional people will be able to do so — but by far the majority of humanity does as adults what they learned to do as children.

Putting all the responsibility for change on people who were raised in the circumstances that demand change is facile abandonment of our responsibility to help one another build a better future for all.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:04 PM on June 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


whether the improved prospects for ending or ameliorating ghetto poverty are worth the loss of moral pride they would incur by conceding the insulting view that they have not shown themselves to be deserving of better treatment

It is a matter of observable fact that there is a strong correlation between neighbourhood poverty and visible neighbourhood crime.

In my view, the most likely cause of this is that people who have the means and opportunity to move out of high-crime neighbourhoods will naturally tend to do so, taking their wealth with them.

Those who remain stuck in high-crime neighbourhoods while doing nothing criminal themselves should be treated far better by police than they currently are. There should not exist any requirement, explicit or implied, for such people to "show themselves to be deserving" of such treatment. What a crock.
posted by flabdablet at 11:36 PM on June 2, 2015 [14 favorites]


Again, I think the world is full of examples that point toward nurture being a huge impediment to reformation.

This is a well observed, and deeply sad, point.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:07 AM on June 3, 2015


Putting all the responsibility for change on people who were raised in the circumstances that demand change is facile abandonment of our responsibility to help one another build a better future for all.

This is so, so true: the police need our help to change their racist and abusive practices. We can't abandon them behind the Blue Wall.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:46 AM on June 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Those who remain stuck in high-crime neighbourhoods while doing nothing criminal themselves should be treated far better by police than they currently are."

And how do you know this is not the case even with your implied preferential service observation. There are many programs in many cities that specifically address this issue, to help the more vunerable as they more likely to be a victim of crime then police brutality. Our sheriffs department has a special unit for elderly abuse and it's effective.
posted by clavdivs at 3:58 AM on June 3, 2015


Great post! There's a lot to read here. Much more nuance than the usual POLICE GOOD POLICE BAD backandforth. I'll be digging in now but want to confirm that you should follow @Deray on Twitter not only for his amazing Beyoncé vines but also because he is the most cogent persuasive stirring political voice on the left that I've heard in a long long time. Let's replace Al Shapton, Bill Marr or martin omalley with him somehow.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:49 AM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hashtags present a consensus? Mmmkay.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:26 AM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the way that structuralists win is that culturalists seem to argue that structures don't matter, whereas structuralists argue that structures produce a lit of things, including cultural and behavioral patterns. They just subsume the arguments of culturalists underneath structuralism. And that lets both exist, sort of, but with structuralism as the much more intuitive and determinant idea.
posted by entropone at 5:59 AM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]




There are many programs in many cities that specifically address this issue

And that's an excellent thing. Successful ones need replication.
posted by flabdablet at 8:36 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the acknowledgement. These programs and other community/police resources do help. One important factor is more police which is part of the focus of this thread. Any resource that creates and aids awareness to crime, especially police committing crimes, is important. Any replication has to modeled on various programs that work and adapt them to other communities.
posted by clavdivs at 10:37 AM on June 3, 2015


I'm so excited to see Deray and Johnetta (or Nettaaaa, as I know her from twitter) getting the acknowledgement they deserve for all the absolutely amazing work they've been doing. I've honestly never been as excited about young leadership as I am about them.
posted by dialetheia at 1:27 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]




After Ferguson
The Ferguson eruption and the movement that arose in its aftermath are only the most spectacular evidence that these factors appear to be less constraining on African-American politics than at any time since Obama’s ascendancy. For a rising number of African-Americans and their racially egalitarian allies, the reactions to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner—and the non-indictments of those responsible—dramatized the need for another path. That the protestors in Ferguson were met with such an enthusiastic and imitative response across the country signals the thawing out of the black protest tradition and a rejection of more conciliatory and consensus-oriented conceptions of black politics. Once again, extraordinary effort is being devoted to building militant, independent social movements with organized African-American participation, capable of transcending the limits of conventional electoral politics and effectively channeling black rage and resentment.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:35 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Video (SFW) released by order of Judge showing Chicago cop firing repeatedly into a car filled with six unarmed black teenagers.
posted by Rumple at 4:15 PM on June 19, 2015


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