Race and Racism

Out Here

Out Here

An interview with photographer Nicole Buchanan

Every way we’re photographing Black men, and women, and children, whoever, needs to be humanizing. Photography has always dehumanized African and other African-descendent people. Early photographers documented slaves, so if they ran away, you’d have a photograph to know what your slave looked like. That’s the history, and as photographers now we have a duty to show Black life in a positive light. If we take that humanity away, we’re back at the beginning.

Community Defense in Minneapolis

Community Defense in Minneapolis

We are not yet after a revolution

Abolition—the notion that prisons and policing are directly linked to slavery and thus antithetical to human liberation—is not new, but it is to some people. That is lamentable, and not unrelated to the challenges associated with social transformation, but it is not avoidable. We need to prepare the ground, look for nascent and emerging practices and nourish them.

Such Things Have Done Harm

Such Things Have Done Harm

The only people I ever hear saying the world needs stories are the people involved in telling them

We should be willing to demand more than fellow feeling. The New York City Council crowed about its progressivism in passing a billion-dollar reduction in the NYPD’s budget. That number would just about return the department budget to the levels it was under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration. It is indicative of a dangerous lack of imagination if the best we can do is make a tacit admission that it was unwise to give the police more resources in the years after the rise of Black Lives Matter.

The Bail Fund Moment

The Bail Fund Moment

Reclaim the neighborhood, reclaim community, reclaim public safety

Every donation to a bail fund contributes to an alternative vision of justice by treating bail not as a neutral threshold an incarcerated person has to meet before they’re allowed to return to their community, but as an obstacle to justice that can only be resisted collectively. When a fund pays bail, it declares that pretrial detention is cruel and immoral, and that keeping someone locked up doesn’t automatically make their neighbors “safer.”

Free the Horses, Cage the Pigs!

Free the Horses, Cage the Pigs!

The officials who had endorsed reform would only cede the state’s unique power to kill, to ruin, under incredible pressure

On Friday, during the protest, it became apparent that the State House and the mall were looking out for each other, government and business close collaborators in urban fortification. The mall is one of a handful of grotesqueries visited upon the city’s historic downtown as part of mayor Buddy Cianci’s urban renaissance. It is most notable today for being America’s largest carpeted indoor shopping center, and—suddenly relevant—for the abundance of windows along its facade.

Ground Zero

Ground Zero

Melanin and accents are ineffective binding substances 

No matter how far away you were from New York that day, no matter how distant your connection to that day was, no matter how much lower than zero the count of the people you lost on that day was, if you were white, 9/11 happened to you personally, with blunt and scalding force. Because the antithesis of an American is an immigrant and because we could not be victims in the public eye, we became suspects. And so September 11 changed the immigration landscape forever. Muslims and Sikhs became the targets of hate crimes. ICE was the creation of 9/11 paranoia.

Everything Could Be Free

Everything Could Be Free

The cops called us “bodies”

Each additional arrestee meant more strain on the NYPD’s capacity, another extended shift for an arresting officer, another public embarrassment. Lacking speed, strength, or tactical skill, and having nothing better to do for the moment than sit in a jail cell, I resolved to attend protests with the goal of protecting other people from the violence of the cops—and if that meant being arrested, so be it.

We Had a Shakespeare

We Had a Shakespeare

People called her Toni

But people do such horrifying things in the name of love and in such violent contexts in her novels. The Bluest Eye is the source of the quote that’s been circulating since she passed: “Love is never any better than the lover.” In a novel in which intimate partner violence and child abuse take center stage, it’s hard not to read this sentence as a claim about love’s uselessness. Because of her dedication to chronicling the fallibilities of lovers under assault by the state and by their communities, her work seems quite ambivalent about love.

Predatory Inclusion

Predatory Inclusion

Placing homeownership at the heart of the nation’s low-income housing policies ceded outsize influence and control to the real estate industry over dwellings intended to serve a disproportionately African American market. Real estate’s wealth was largely generated through racial discrimination. Its profitability was contingent on “best practices” that actively encouraged racial segregation, and the public policies that grew from the partnership between property assessors, brokers, bankers, and federal policymakers reflected the logic of the housing market.