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Showing posts from August, 2015

Racism's circular dance goes round and round

The history of race and racism in America is beautifully summarized in the PBS miniseries Race: The Power of an Illusion. I highly recommend it. I watched the series with the Banneker Institute this summer. In fact, on the day that we watched the first episode, we were visited by one of the stars of the series, Dr. Evelynn Hammonds, a Professor of the History of Science and a Professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard. 
Truth be told, I didn't plan this wonderful confluence of events. I met with Prof. Hammonds before the summer started and we happened to have scheduled her to visit on the same day that the students were going to watch Episode 1. She came into the room, asked what we were going to do on our Social Justice Friday, and when I told her we were watching the first of the series, she launched into a beautiful 10-minute summary and history of the documentary. I said, "Wow, that was a lovely summary. I can't believe you had that info right at yo…

"Colorbindness" and the Cruel Non Sequitur "all lives matter"

Dear "colorblind" white people:

Imagine that your house and the houses of your neighbors were broken into repeatedly over the course of a month. Further, imagine that there was no response from law enforcement. If you and your neighbors complained, "Our houses are being broken into and no one is protecting us!" would it be appropriate for the police to respond, "All houses matter" and then do nothing about it?
This is analogous* to responding to #BlackLivesMatter with "all lives matter." It's easy to say when your house isn't being broken into, and saying it reveals a profound lack of empathy for other human beings. So if you're not going to do anything about the destruction of Black lives by the very people sworn to protect those lives, please keep your tin-eared responses to yourself. It's saying nothing, which is literally the least you can do.

This insult of "all lives matter" thinking is another painful example of…

Thoughts, Take 1: On Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me

I just finished Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, Between the World and Me, and I'm moved to meditate and write. Coates' writing is direct, concise, and...hard. There are no soft edges because he doesn't seek to offer a salve. What he has on offer is truth distilled. His writing is to Seeing White as David Simon's The Wire is to CSI: Miami. There's no exposition. Rather, the reader is dropped directly into the fray and left to scramble to catch up. 
The book spans a dense 176 pages and follows in the spiritual, if not structural, path forged by James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, a book that has forever changed me (many thanks to Nia for lending me her copy). In 1963 Baldwin wrote a letter to his nephew and told a story of race and America that could've been told yesterday. Coates directs his message to his 14-year-old son, Samori, saying things that could've been told just as accurately and poignantly 50 years ago. In a world in which the stories of Bla…

The Banneker Institute at Harvard: Summer of 2015

Looking back at my blog this Summer I was both surprised and not surprised that the last post dates back to the beginning of July, more than a month ago! It's surprising in the way that time often seems to fly, especially during the summer months in contrast to, say, late February during a snow storm. But I digress. It was not surprising because I was giving all of my available energy, along with some of my reserves, to my latest "Moonshot" initiative, the Banneker Institute (our new website is now live! Ups to Erin Johnson for the pro bono web design work. Also, follow @TheBanneker Institute on Twitter).
I'm proud to report that this summer was a smashing success, thanks in no small part to the brilliance of my students. Make no mistake, #BlackExcellence and #BrownExcellence were on full display this summer, f'real. This is not surprising give that race is a social construct, completely divorced from scientific reality. This is surprising given our nation's…