Blackness

On oppressing people of color while appropriating our cultures.

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Blackface. An example of cultural appropriation from a 1900 William H. West minstrel show poster.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to study oppression, and to participate in movements that fight against it, in many forms. I am not speaking simply of oppression along white-black lines, since my own life has led me to supporting struggles of people of color in the broader sense—Native Americans and other indigenous peoples, Asian-Americans and Latinos along with issues around gender and sexual identity.

Not all these issues are focused on the direct violence of genocide, slavery, lynching, rape and police violence. We are no longer limited to simple discussions of racism, or sexism after several decades developing critical race and gender theory. We have moved into exploring “intersectionality” as a way to bring race, class, ethnicity and gender together. Our dialogues now include thoughts on “privilege”, but also on “microaggressions“, and examinations of “cultural appropriation.” The push-back, both academic and popular (as always) has been swift, and loud. We are labelled “PC” as an insult and to shut-down discussion, as if there is something wrong with pointing out inequity and exploitation.

RIP Brother Bond

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It was difficult reading this announcement from Morris Dees, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

We’ve lost a champion

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of legendary civil rights activist Julian Bond, SPLC’s first president. He was 75 years old and died last evening, August 15, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

From his days as the co-founder and communications director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s to his chairmanship of the NAACP in the 21st century, Julian was a visionary and tireless champion for civil and human rights. He served as the SPLC’s president from our founding in 1971 to 1979, and later as a member of its board of directors.

With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice. He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.

Julian is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney, and his five children.

Not only has the country lost a hero today, we’ve lost a great friend.

For those of us of a certain age, Julian Bond was always a part of our civil rights landscape of struggle. Tributes have poured in from many people around the globe who have been touched by his activism, including one from President Obama.

The Bernie Sanders campaign: Connecting with black voters is a work in progress.

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The Bernie Sanders campaign: Connecting with black voters is a work in progress.

After taking a look at the campaign staff and advisers for Hillary Clinton, looking specifically at people of color in major positions, I promised I would do the same for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

As it stands to date, there is not a lot to report, but there has been some progress since his initial announcement. Based on examining his campaign staffing page, and searching to identify the people currently listed there, he needs to step up the hires of people who can assist him with networking in the all important segment of the base that votes for Democrats, specifically women of color, and black women in particular.

“…Only Black ‘Deaths’ Matter.” Rev. William Barber

I received this from Rev. William Barber, and have permission to share it with you all:

Our Nation Is In Need of Prophetic Pastoral Counseling Because It Is Sending the Message —- Only Black Deaths Matter
By Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, Pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church, Goldsboro, N.C., Architect of the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement, and an Auburn Senior Fellow.

During my meditation on the messages being sent out from South Carolina this week, three scriptures came to me:
Jeremiah 31:15This is what the LORD says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
John 8:32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Isaiah 58:1-3Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. “Why have we fasted,” they say, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?”
Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.”

When the Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse Friday morning, Gov. Nikki Haley spoke solemnly of the nine Black churchgoers who were shot to death less than a month ago at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “We have all been struck by what was a tragedy we didn’t think we would ever encounter,” Haley said of the horrifying massacre. Before signing the bill with nine pens that will go to the families of the victims, she called those who were murdered during Bible Study at the historic church, “Nine amazing people that forever changed South Carolina’s history.” The Governor referenced the “grace” shown by the nine families, when they forgave the white gunman. She said their grace helped usher the state toward this long overdue decision.  

The assassinations at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, followed by the public forgiveness from the grieving families, were similarly cited by several South Carolina lawmakers as their reason for voting to remove the flag. What they are really saying is that Black Deaths Matter, not our lives. Black people in the US are only deemed worthy of action in their death, not in their life. In a year that has seen thousands in the streets, young and old, black white and brown, saying to the nation, “Black Lives Matter”, the painful and dangerous message coming from South Carolina this week is: Black Deaths Matter.  That’s the painful and dangerous narrative being developed out of South Carolina; it’s a narrative that the oppressed of this land have known for a long time: Only Black Deaths Matter.  Our nation is capable of doing the right thing – such as taking down the Confederate flag in the year 2015, a flag that represents the racist, immoral, unconstitutional defense of slavery and Jim Crow – but only when Black deaths happen and are met by a response deemed acceptable by those in power. Ever since this flag was raised in 1961, to send the message that South Carolina would not honor equal protection under the law, tens of thousands of small and large protests have not been enough to move the power brokers to take it down.

Behind the scenes. A look at the people of color in the Hillary Clinton campaign

Maya Harris, senior policy senior policy adviser for Hillary Clinton with her sister Kamala Harris, CA Attorney General.

Behind the scenes.  A look at the people of color in the Hillary Clinton campaign

Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez

Though much attention is being focused on the top two candidates running for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, it behooves us here in Black Kos to examine the actual people who are both adviser’s to the candidates and running their national campaigns, because this is a political blog, and campaigns are one of the key elements on the road to electoral success or failure. I don’t believe that a candidate in 2016 can win—the nomination and the general election—without significant backing and turnout from the large portion of the Democratic base that is comprised of people of color.

The beautiful quilt of blackness

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I look at Romare Bearden’s “Patchwork Quilt” and I see blackness that is a beautiful collage, a fabric stitched together made up of many parts which have a deep spiritual meaning that many people want to see erased and torn asunder.

During times of pain and suffering it is too easy to forget that beauty, and to focus on all the negatives with which we are portrayed. When confronted by things racial in America, there are those who tell me they are colorblind. They attempt to negate me and mine and destroy all the meaning of my existence…to rob me of the joy of my being black.

Yes—joy.