What We Mean By ‘Criminal.’

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Monica has written here before about her days as investigator for the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the NYC agency that looks into allegations from civilians about police misconduct.

She dropped by NPR’s Code Switch — my day job — to talk about what it’s been like to watch all these videos of police officers choking people to death and stomping on their heads as they confront them for petty crimes.

But I no longer watch these videos like an investigator would; the questions that they inspire are deeper. Is there anything else we can and should do to stop jaywalkers? The Garner video also starts out minor, but after he pulls his hands back away from the officers who are trying to handcuff him, it escalates quickly, with a swarm of officers and a chokehold Garner doesn’t live through. Why was it so important to arrest him in the first place? Adding police officers to any situation is going to increase the likelihood of violence, and there’s nothing we can do to change that except reconsider the conditions under which we add police. That’s because, in any situation, we’ve given police officers extraordinary powers and wide latitude to “stop criminals,” without spending a lot of time considering what we mean by “criminals,” and how far we’re willing to go to stop them.

Random Midday Hot(m)ess: And I’m Telling You…

Ms. Lake Dardanelle, Naomi Shure, really wanted to go in here…

…but those bouncers were no joke, I guess.

The Eternal Recurrence Of “Black Pathology” Arguments.

  The Brewster-Douglas Housing Projects were built by the city of Detroit between 1935 and 1955 and were intended for the "working poor". In the 1960s and 1970s, crime in the projects became prevalent and they fell into disrepair. (via Juan N Only, CC 2.0)


The Brewster-Douglas Housing Projects were built by the city of Detroit between 1935 and 1955 and were intended for the “working poor.” In the 1960s and 1970s, crime in the projects became prevalent and they fell into disrepair. (via Juan N Only, CC 2.0)

There’s very little new in American politics, and that’s especially true in our debates over racial inequality. For example, here’s the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley in an editorial from July 31, 2014:

People often lament the quality of black leadership in America today, but in some ways it’s a sign of progress. If blacks were still facing legitimate civil rights issues—like legal racial discrimination and voter disenfranchisement—that would attract the best and brightest of black America to the cause. But serious people like Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King and others fought and won those battles a half-century ago. What we have left today as civil-rights leaders are second- and third-tier types striving for relevance in an era when the biggest barrier to black progress is no longer white racism but black anti-social behavior and counterproductive attitudes toward work, school, marriage and so forth.

And here’s conservative economist George Stigler, as quoted by Geoffrey Kabaservice in Rule and Ruin, in the December 1965 issue of New Guard, the official publication of Young Americans for Freedom:

[C]onservative economist and later Nobel Prize winner George Stigler claimed that the basic problem of the black American was that “on average he lacks a desire to improve himself, and lacks a willingness to discipline himself to this end.” The African-American male’s lack of employment owed not to discrimination but to “his own inferiority as a worker.” Residential segregation existed because “the Negro family is, on average, a loose, morally lax group, and brings with its presence a rapid rise in crime and vandalism.” Equality for African-Americans would arrive only when they imitated the virtues of an earlier generation of Jewish immigrants: “a veneration and irrepressible desire for learning; frugality; and respect for the civilization of the western world.”

It’s fine if conservatives oppose color-conscious policy. But I think it’s time for new arguments.

PB Everywhere: Bellow – Webcast #1.

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In today’s edition of #PostBourgieEverywhere, I started an online literary reading series called Bellow, and it launched this week with my fellow PB-ers Joshunda Sanders and Nichole Perkins as guests. Joshunda opens the set reading from her fantastic short story, “Sirens,” which follows a young girl’s experience coping with bullying at school and at home. Nichole followed with four elegant poems (now available on her blog) and I finished things off with an excerpt from my untitled novel-in-perpetual-progress about conjoined sisters named Wonder and Radiance.

Bellow aims to connect writers who may be separated by geography, financial constraints, or personal obligations. It gives those creatives who can’t freely travel to readings a chance to obtain or expand a following, amplify their voices, and strengthen their sense of artistic community.

I’d love it if you’d check out the first webcast, follow Bellow on Twitter, like us on FB, check out the website and, if you’re a writer of color looking for community or exposure, apply to appear on future webcasts using this form.

Watch below and let us know what you think!

Random Midday Hotness: ‘Cups’ x ‘Monster’

Nicki Minaj’s filthy verse on Kanye West’s “Monster” — the crazy-ass voicess, the breath control — was the first moment a lot of people started to take her seriously as an MC.

“Cups” was a many-lived ditty that achieved ubiquity after Anna Kendrick covered it in Pitch Perfect and used a plastic cup (and her hands) for percussion.

Then my boo-in-my-head Akilah made this mashup, and you get this. Which is, you know, pretty dope.

Dating, Children, And Black Culture.

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The latest entry in Gawker’s series on interracial dating is the most interesting one, as it grapples clearly with one facet of interracial dating: Family. And specifically, starting a new one:

I know that many white people also grapple with the Negro Problem, and have an acute understanding of the myriad ways that being black affects people’s lived experiences. But there’s a tangibility divide between sympathy and empathy. This matters to me in some parts of my life and not in others. For some reason, it matters to me in dating.

I date black men in part because I’d like for my partner to understand the perpetual contradiction of the black experience. The older I get the more important this is to me, as my children, once nebulous balls of brain fuzz, inch closer to reality. I want my children to have the experience of being black in America, and because of my skin color, their chances diminish significantly if I don’t marry someone black.

Not surprisingly, this angered a few of the commenters, who wondered why race or “skin color” should have anything to do with who you marry and have children with. And it shouldn’t. Which is why it’s good that the author doesn’t disagree.

What’s important to understand about black culture—and what’s lost in a racial dialogue that equates race with skin color[1]—is that membership has less to do with what you look like and more to do with your experience of American racism. This is’t precise, obviously, but broadly, “black people” are those whose ancestors formed the bottom of the American racial hierarchy, and who as a result are linked to the racist oppression of the past and present. “Blackness,” put simply, is marked by skin color but defined by common experience. It’s the difference between an African immigrant—who might resist the bond to black Americans—and her child, who might embrace it, having been raised in the hierarchy.

What the author wants, it seems, is a partner who has the black experience and can pass it on to their children. She doesn’t want visibly black children for the sake of their phenotypical blackness, she wants them because she wants to guarantee a connection to a culture that defines her and millions of other Americans.


  1. One thing I will stress here, and always, is that “racism” isn’t just treating someone differently because of their skin color. “Racism” is assigning value and hierarchies to skin color, and thus groups, for the sake of oppression. Affirmative action is differential treatment. Redlining is racism.  ↩

Random Midday Hotness: On A Day Like Today.

If the Foreign Exchange is coming to your town, you sorta gotta see them. They are one of the best live shows I’ve seen in years. (Seriously: during the encore, Phonte led the crowd at the Williamsburg Music Hall in a rousing rendition of Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack.”) Somehow I missed them when they dropped by the day job for the Tiny Desk concert above.

Also, FE’s”Nic’s Groove” has been the theme song for the PB podcast for some time. (The podcast is coming back. Promise.)

When Afrocentric Art Goes [Right]: Tim Howard Enters the Pantheon.

 

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Tim Howard replaces Bob Marley in the Freedom Riders, because AMERICA. You’re all: “But, G.D., what about Nelson Mandela there in the back? He wasn’t American neither!” But that’s not Nelson Mandela. It’s Uncle Ben. Nice try, troll.

Just as the foundations of the American hegemon rest upon the fruitless toil of the Negro, so too did the World Cup hopes of the U.S. Men’s National Team. Shot after shot after gotdamn shot from the Belgians came  flying in at goal, only to be rebuffed and turned away by Tim Howard. It was a Herculean effort – the most saves in a World Cup match since they started tallying these stats in 1966, in fact — but Belgium was giving the U.S. back line that work. It was a match the Americans had no business winning, and, well…they didn’t. But Howard almost saved the game like memory cards. It was amazing to watch.

That is why Howard, and his mighty steed, Garvey, are more than deserving of entry into the pantheon of Greatest Negroes Who Ever Lived. Fannie Lou Hamer still has plenty of support on the Veterans Committee, and Beyonce probably is a safe bet to make it before it’s all said and done. But today is about celebrating Tim Howard. Godspeed, you Black Emperor!