William Barber

Abagond

Rev. Barber in 2016.

Reverend William J. Barber II (1963- ), a US civil rights leader, is a Disciples of Christ pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is best known for the Moral Monday protests in his state (2013-17). Now in 2018 he is going nationwide, picking up where Martin Luther King Jr left off in 1968, helping to lead a new Poor People’s Campaign.

Influences:

  • political: Martin Luther King, Ella Baker, Robert F. Williams, the populist movement of the 1890s.
  • theological: Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, James Cone.

Endorsements:

  • Cornel West: “That brother is the real thing.”
  • Bernie Sanders: “[Barber] is doing some of the most important work in the country.”

Barber’s view of US history is much like mine, informed by Howard Zinn, Nell Painter, and the Black counter-frame: a call-and-response between Black Reconstruction and White backlash. In its finer moments…

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Dear White People

Abagond

“Dear White People” (2014) is a US film about White racism. It follows four Black students at the fictional Winchester University, a predominately White institution (PWI) where rich White people send their children. It has since become a television series on Netflix. This post is only about the film.

The film now seems dated – even though it is only three and a half years old. It came out in October 2014, just in time for Halloween. But as it showed in cinemas, protesters were marching in Ferguson, already making the film seem out-of-date and quaint. The rise of Trump in 2016 and the Neo-Nazi violence of the Charlottesville riot in 2017 have made it seem quainter still. It now seems so 2013.

It starts with Samantha White, one of the main characters, calling out White racism on the university radio station. Even that now seems dated: in the Trump…

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Us and Them

Abagond

Us and Them (by -400,000,000) is where we divide the world into those who are like us – the Us, the in-group – and those who are not like us – the Them, the out-group. It seems to go back at least hundreds of millions of years, back to when we were fish. Upon it is built racism, religious bigotry, genocide and all the rest.

It is universal, it is deep, it is instant. It is as automatic as breathing. Which is why in the United States a White police officer can gun down a Black person and yet honestly say it had nothing to do with race. Because it took place too quick for his conscious mind to take part.

Implicit bias: The Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures, among other things, how much you favour Whites over Blacks (or the other way round). It measures reaction times that…

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net neutrality

Abagond

(Illustration: The Verge)

Net neutrality (2002-2018?) is the idea that the companies which run the Internet – companies like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast – should not play favourites but should treat all websites equally. They should not be able to block, slow down, or charge you extra for a website like Netflix, YouTube or Twitter.

Before net neutrality, police brutality was never a nationwide issue in the US, even when it led to riots that got nationwide attention, like Detroit in 1967 or Los Angeles in 1992. Because Whites controlled the media.

Without net neutrality the Internet in the US will likely go the way of the rest of the media: controlled by a handful of big companies which determine in effect what you see and hear. The Internet was the one ray of democratic sunshine in a plutocratic world.

For and against net neutrality:

  • For: Internet content…

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Ambedkar

Abagond

Dr B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956) was the Dalit (untouchable) who helped write the constitution of India. He is a hero to Dalits and Sudras, who live at the bottom of the Indian caste system.

He has no US counterpart: no Black man or Native helped to write the US constitution – it was White men all the way.

Reservations (affirmative action) was something he wrote into the constitution. It requires the government to reserve places in government employment and at universities for “backward” groups like the Dalits. It was only meant to last ten years (till 1960), but everyone wanted to be “backward”, so it became a way to win elections: count more people as “backward” and promise more places.

“Dalits” was a term he pushed. It means “broken men” in his native Marathi. He thought it was better than calling oneself “untouchable”.

Growing up Dalit, he was not allowed…

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Childish Gambino: This Is America

“It is a world where guns are valued more than people. This is America.” -Abagond

Abagond

“This Is America” (2018) is a song and music video by Childish Gambino, the nom de rap of US actor Donald Glover, he of “Atlanta” (2016- ). The video has gone viral, getting 33 million views on YouTube in the first 48 hours. It is now past 60 million.

Spoilers: If you have not seen it yet, I do not want to ruin it for you. Try this link (might not work in all countries or after five years or so):

Warning: graphic gun violence:

The video features a Charleston-style church massacre, schoolchildren who are up on the latest dance moves, a Ferguson-style uprising, a burning police car, even the White Horse of the Apocalypse (which is a sign of the end of the world in the Bible). It is a world where guns are valued more than people. This is America.

My interpretation: Gambino did not provide…

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Janet Mock: Redefining Realness

Abagond

“Redefining Realness” (2014) by Janet Mock is her coming of age story as a transgender woman of colour in the US, the book she wishes she could have read growing up.

On page 4:

“I had yearned for true love ever since my junior year of high school, when I read Their Eyes Were Watching God in Mrs Chun’s English class. Zora Neale Hurston wrote that Janie’s ‘soul crawled out from its hiding place’ when she met Tea Cake. I wanted to come out of my hiding place. I wanted a love that could open me up to the world and to myself. I wanted my own Tea Cake who wanted all of me.”

From that moment I was hooked – and then found myself on a harrowing roller coaster ride. I had read her May 2011 Marie Claire article about her trans story, and wrote a post about her…

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I Am Not Your Negro

Abagond

“I Am Not Your Negro” (2017), by Haitian film-maker Raoul Peck, sets the words of James Baldwin to images and videos of that “glittering republic”, the US, in the 1960s and the 2010s.

It is an excellent introductionto James Baldwin if you have never read him. And even if you have, there is probably stuff you have never seen or heard.

Medgar, Malcolm and Martin: It is based in part on a book that Baldwin could not finish: about Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. They were his friends and one after another they were gunned down before the age of 40: 1963, 1965, 1968. The linchpins of the film.

Lorraine Hansberry, another friend, also appears – and then is taken from us too soon. Also dead before 40.

The film cannot match the power or depth of his essays, but it hits the main…

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Statue of Liberty

Abagond

Liberty Enlightening the World (1886- ), better known since 1924 as the Statue of Liberty, also called Lady Liberty, is a huge green statue of Libertas, a Roman goddess, that stands in New York harbour. With chains of slavery and tyranny broken at her feet, she holds up a torch lighting the way to liberty.

  • Location: 40.689 N, 74.044 W, on Liberty Island (formerly known as Bedloe’s Island), 1 km south of Ellis Island.
  • Orientation: faces south-east
  • Height: 93 metres (305 feet)
  • Shoe size: 879 (US)
  • Colour: copper, started turning green in 1900, mostly green by the 1930s, all green by the 1960s.
  • Inspired by:
    • the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and
    • the freeing of US slaves.
  • Visitors: 4 million a year

The electrically-lit torch used to be a wonder, but now we take it…

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#MLKalsoSaid

Abagond

The Google Doodle for January 15th 2018, for Martin Luther King Day in the US.

#MLKalsoSaid (2015- ) is a hashtag on Twitter where people quote Martin Luther King, Jr to show that he said more than just that one thing that White people love to quote:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Some of what has been tweeted under #MLKalsoSaid:

“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society.”

“A riot is the language of the unheard,”

“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring…

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