Hammond B-3 Church Musicians – Please Help!

Hello,

I am Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and African American and African Studies at University of Virginia. My research is in Black Religious Practice and Performance. I am researching a book project about the Hammond B-3 Organ and its use in Black Churches in the United States and internationally as well.

For one phase of my ongoing Hammond organ project and research, I am reaching out to musicians to ask to record a video or audio playing two songs – Oh Give Thanks (McAllister) and I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me (Traditional). Because musicians are known for their sound – Brooklyn or Chicago or Houston, for example – I want to document how musicians have their own styles, how they can play the same song differently, listening for chord progressions and diversions. Something like the #TwinkleTwinkleLittleStarChallenge.

If you are willing to do so, please send a video or audio recording to ashon@ashoncrawley.com … And please share with other musicians too! I am trying to collect as many samples as possible.

Thank you for your time.

Ashon Crawley

On Loneliness from The Lonely Letters (Excerpt)

Dear Moth,

[…]

I’d been lonely as a kid and teenager just trying to figure out my relation to church and life and love. I’d prayed and cried and searched and read looking for connection even when I felt the most connected to what I thought god to be. I went to church, you know, all of the time. Remember when I took you to my parents’ house and showed you that gray tape recorder? That’s the one I took with me as a teenager to churches for services and musicals. People called me the “boy with the gray tape recorder,” if they didn’t know my name. And they did this because I was always there, always praying, always fasting, always attempting a deep relationship with god.

 

I have not been altogether honest. You are not the only one that has tried asceticism, that has tried to renounce the world and the flesh for something higher and different and other. For a very long time, I thought I was to be celibate, thought my life was some sorta sacrificial example of how to move to the world without wanting, without desiring. Or, not really not wanting nor desiring but channeling want and desire into the direction of something bigger than myself. I let it put me on a pursuit to god, yes. You know that I wanted to be a preacher but you do not know that I seriously considered catholicism because of celibacy as a way of life. I’m older than you…by the time I was in college and considering seminary as a next step, you were – what? – just entering middle school?

 

I don’t talk about that time of my life much because it is so difficult to recount. I was very conservative, would tell folks that they were hell bound for being queer, would tell myself most intensely of all. I remember when the college choir was asked to sing at an event for the yearly LGBTQ celebration week and I said to the board – since I was the choir director – under no circumstances would we sing for them. “We” don’t want to give “them” the impression that we are ok with their “sinfulness” is what I said. I was serious. The board argued with me, yes, but in the end, I persuaded them and we didn’t sing. If I try to recount now the kinda faces they made at me it was likely because they were thinking, this gay ass muthafucka or something similar … but, though contradictory – I’d go home and get on AOL and chat or call the party line and have someone come over late at night – I was still convicted that queer shit was sin shit. And I was convinced, above all, of my own need to reform lest I be hellbound.

 

So maybe I was all into telling other folks about hell as an end because I was hoping to prove to god that I could be serious about my purported calling, that I could really be true and honest and pure, that I was serious about sacrificing all the shit I felt in order to be saved. And it seemed like catholic priests – even though I knew so little of catholicism – had done so much to control their flesh and I knew I needed a way too. So I started attending Saint Martin de Porres Church on Lehigh, would go there every Sunday for Mass and I’d leave there and go to Open Door. I’d arrive to Open Door late, of course, but because the service went from 11:30 until about 2 or sometimes 3, it didn’t matter much. I sat in the balcony at Open Door anyway, wanted to be anonymous as possible. They were very different kinds of churches in many ways but very black in similar ways too. One black catholic, the other blackpentecostal; one male priest, the other black female pastor. Anyway, I went to Open Door because it connected me to what I knew but Saint Martin de Porres I attended because I was seeking, seriously, another path and direction. I began talking to the priest there, going to confession and everything, hoping to get rid of what I kept feeling and desiring against desiring, what I kept dreaming for even though they were like nightmares. I tried to escape, was serious about the priesthood, so no, you’re not the only one that’s doing the thing you’re doing now. I read scripture daily, prayed the stations, lamented and praised, cried and wailed. I tried to perform what it’d mean to do this sorta serious thing that ascetics did. I wanted to retreat into my personal desert, retreat into my own catacomb. Maybe then, alone and in solitude, I’d find god and love him and do what was required and would be sheltered from my longing and desire for boys. And I thought I’d be, finally, united with someone – with god – and that would let me feel better about the world.

 

And then, sometime later, I met you. And then, sometime later, that smile.

 

Anyway, I guess I’m figuring out all over again that my search for connection with god didn’t dissipate the loneliness, that the aloneness I felt was a kind of isolation from the world, from worlds, that that isolation made me desire connection that always felt, and still today feels, thwarted. So I didn’t have to go into deserts or retreat from the world. I’d prayed alone and cried there so much, alone, for a change to come, for relief, for reprieve. And it wasn’t until I met you that I felt what I came to later read about and consider entanglement to be.

 

My life, the way I have attempted to live it, has meant choosing queerness even if that, at the same time, has meant choosing loneliness. It’s really a variation on a theme because I was alone with god and then, again, away from it. And the loneliness didn’t go away when I chose queerness. It only seemed to dissipate when I felt that quickening in my heart and butterflies that time, that first time you smiled at me, for you. And you’re right, I guess I always try with boys because I always try with my parents, with the church. And my friend Sofia kinda put a name to it, said that it’s about a kind of forgiveness. I was telling her about the art project I’m trying to do with the painting and the Hammond organ and she was all into it. this is what she said:

 

What you wrote to me about the project – really, they are projects, connected but also deeply attempting to do different registers – made me think about tarrying and being together and it made me want to ask you about forgiveness. I feel like forgiveness is pulsing so much about in the work you do … forgiveness as healing and the coming-into-being of community…but sometimes it’s just not there, and you say it too, that you know the church isn’t utopia, it participates in sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia. And yet you write, “something is there, in the aesthetic practices,” that is working for us, all of us. No matter what, the music is on our side.

 

I’m reading a lot of Mennonite missionary stories these days…stories of my family, kind of… you know my mom was a missionary in Somalia, and that’s how she met my dad. And reading what you were saying about the Sufi tradition made me think of how the missionaries viewed, and maybe still view, Somali Sufism. There’s this idea that sufism is less violent and extremist than other forms of Islam, and that for this reason, it’s a good entry point for Christian missionaries, like you can get close to a Sufi mosque, get people to talk to you, get inside. I really can’t help seeing this as imperialist! So it’s painful, you know? And it’s like—how do you tarry together with that—how to live along? I keep thinking of Jacob and the angel: “I will not let thee go unless thou bless me.” That struggle, that wrestling, that tarrying, active waiting. And what if the blessing never comes? Can we—I wonder, after reading about the kind of thing you’re attempting in the show—can we see the wrestling itself as a reconciliation? Or an analogue to reconciliation, anyway, a tarrying despite everything, a sharing of the breath. this, it seems to me, would bust the whole notion of forgiveness out of time, and maybe return it to itself. To refuse to move on, to always be in a mode of tarrying, ceaseless movement, living and wrestling along. Wrestling along, breathing along through racism, imperialism, homophobia, holding to the music. I don’t know, there are ways I don’t expect the church to bless me in this life and I don’t expect to let go either.

 

She made me cry. She made me cry because each instance of attempting relation, I know now – I feel now – has been a certain kind of forgiveness, a way to reach for connection after its having been severed, a reach and desire for a different way to exist in the world. And one of the things that moves me about Sufism, I was telling her, is that there is a search for something that is connected to the search in Black Christianity, a search that I hear and smell and touch in blackpentecostalism, a connection that is not about Christianity, though it is found there. And I’ve been thinking that bringing folks together, bringing them in contact, is what I’m attempting with the art project, a way to do something like forgiveness out of time, forgiveness against normative time. Maybe wrestling itself is the tradition, wrestling as refusal, wrestling as resistance, wrestling as being discontent with the normative world, a refusal to be done with or satisfied by it.

 

And I do want to say I wrestle with you in this kind of way, don’t wanna normalize wrestling when a lot of times what people engage is really just abusive behavior, is refusing to let go of someone that doesn’t want us and so we become violent. That’s not what I mean here, by us, at all. I just felt we were together in some spiritual and mystical way. And I don’t even know, really, what mystical and spiritual means because I’m not really a believer anymore. I just know I feel you.

 

Anyway, he doesn’t get a pass, even if he is lonely and his weirdness, his rudeness, his distance is grounded in disbelief that something beautiful could come from thinking more intentionally about me. And so I want to hold out the space to say that my choosing loneliness because of the lack of erotic relationship doesn’t seem to be the same as choosing a sorta mystical experience of the individual, of individuation, of the subject or something. And maybe I need to say I haven’t chosen loneliness at all but the possibility for an alternative to community, so many folks I’ve met and love and cherish because of choosing the sociality of queer folks. You, of course, included.

 

But I’m rambling,

A

Kim Burrell and Feeling Ugly

Tears formed in the corners of my eyes. I tell my friends that the older I get, the more emotionally raw and vulnerable and available I seem to be. It’s as if feeling were no longer worn on the sleeve but is now the very skin of flesh. Not like cloth that can be removed, emotion – the range of affective possibilities experienced through a weird simultaneity – is sensed much more expansively. It is what allows a certain entry into and perception of worlds. But also, and curiously, it seems to go unnoticed. Emotion is always there, for good or ill, but not the stuff I think about until a prick or pull or push. I am no longer protected, it seems, from a range of emotion, often sensed together in conflation but also, at times, in contradiction. Anyway.

When I begin to tear up, my face becomes hot, I have to squint a bit to fight back the waters. And so my face got hot and I began to feel a bit congested, the way the mother-in-law called her, in the story, ugly. On an episode of the television show The Real, a mother-in-law wanted to talk about how she loves her daughter-in-law.

Can I be real? They went to church together. I liked her in church because I was her Sunday School teacher and he was like nah, ‘mom she’s ugly.’ She got older and started filling out, and he says ‘mom, I want to marry Jasmine’ and I said ‘Jasmine? The one you called ugly?’ And he said, ‘she’s not an ugly duckling no more.’ But I’m happy because she is the best thing that ever happened to my son. I love her.

Posted to a friend’s page on Facebook, it caught me off guard, that word, ugly. Hearing it, the way with which the mother-in-law shared such a story with such casualness as if she were talking about the weather or the time of day, bothered me. Ugly. She said it with such a coolness and calm. The way she told such a story, intimated for me at least, that it’s not the first time she told it, that she thinks it’s funny, that she thinks it’s loving. But in the story, her son is the one with the power to evaluate, she does not interrogate his relation to concepts of the pleasing, the beautiful, the pretty. It is he who is allowed to make such a determination and the mother doesn’t once consider that perhaps his capacity for evaluation is, itself, violent. He gets to determine what does and does not belong in the domain of the ugly. This is, in other words, violence of patriarchy given through the way she talks about ugliness. It’s the construction of power through allowing him the space to evaluate.

Hers was a soft narrative, not full of vehemence and screams. Sometimes ugly shows up in the smiles and gentle kindness of muted disgust. Laminated contempt. This disgust, this contempt, is always there but the vibration is made a bit more difficult to detect, its surface area dispersed a bit. There are other times when the trumpet mute is put down, when the lamination technology is removed. In such instances, disgust and contempt are not new but are felt, experienced, enunciated with a particular clarity and force.

I’ve been thinking about ugliness ever since I saw the clip of The Real’s episode. But the hurt that ugliness is supposed to conjure sharpened when I listened to Kim Burrell and then Shirley Ceasar proselytize about queer folks, death and the supposed sin of our existence. I am of course talking about Kim Burrell and her sermonic rant about queer folks and Ceasar’s subsequent defense of the same.

Kim Burrell

What to make of such disgust and contempt preached? With such preaching, blackqueer folks are supposed to be made to endure and carry an ugliness we did not make. I want to think about the ugliness we did not make but are told to carry – that we often refuse to carry – without pathologizing those that find such ugliness impossible to bear but with no place to take it. I saw Burrell’s rant the same day I saw the episode of The Real. On the one hand, a mother-in-law pronounced that her daughter-in-law was no longer an ugly duckling. Rather than challenging her son to think more expansively, she intimates that it was the daughter’s “filling out” as the reason she is acceptable for her son. In her narrative, he maintained the capacity to choose. The video struck me as a sort of quiet heinousness, an unkindness delivered with sweetness and familiarity. But on the other hand was Kim Burrell, pronouncing to the folks gathered in the congregation of her church that homosexuality (to say nothing of transgender, gender-non-conforming, asexual or a range of other peoples) is only ever behavior and that such behavior is only ever perversion.

I came to tell you about sin. That sin nature. That perverted homosexual spirit, and the spirit of delusion and confusion, it has deceived many men and women. You as a man, you open your mouth and take a man’s penis in your face, you are perverted. You are a woman and will shake your face in another woman’s breast, you are perverted.

She also “prophesied” that for those of us that do not “come out” of our queerness, that do not abate our queer behavior, that death would visit us in 2017. To call our way of life perversion, to declare death on us. In another register, in another key, this is to call us ugly. These callings out of ugliness and perversion, to wish us death upon queer possibility, is to make explicit a spiritual and ethical failure rooted in patriarchy, misogynoir, forces aligned against blackqueer flourishing.

**

My first impulse was to have a sorta cavalier response to Kim Burrell. Though what she said, and the subsequent “apology,” are thoroughly theologically wrong, mean spirited, morally reprehensible, displaying for her a lack of integrity and consistency, I did not want to think much about what she’d said. I’m not there anymore, I thought to myself, so my first response was more about agreeing to disagree.

But a cavalier response today is made possible today because of a lot of struggling with doubt and fear and shame and sadness. I wanted to live a life that we called holiness and tried and tried and tried and prayed a lot and shed many tears and meditated and supplicated with hopes of being delivered. I felt, in so many and deeply important and existential ways, that I was – that my very existence could only be – ugly. There were moments in my life when the very fact of my existence felt like too much weight to bear, that such a weight was eclipsing my capacity to breathe. And so a cavalier response, an insouciance, is the freedom dream and imaginative impossibility of my life’s past. Some days, I still don’t know how I got here.

As part of a research project I produced in 2007, I conducted several interviews with black church folks that are queer identified. Some were living out the closet, others deeply entwined within. Some reconciled faith and sexuality, others not. One interview I remember particularly. I asked her about how she experiences her sexuality, from the time she first discovered her erotic desires through the time of the interview. She responded,

I figured if I’m not able to shake this thing, I’m going to hell, which would suck because I love the Lord and I want to see his face and I don’t want to go to hell. So…what the difference is now: I am pretty certain that I’m going to hell but I’m really hoping for a pass. I’m hoping that the Lord will look back over my life and see how much I love him and let me in for my love for him alone and so that he will not judge me for the fact that I’ve been sleeping with women. But he will more see that I love him.

I still remember the way this respondent said, “I am pretty certain that I’m going to hell.” It was, for her, an inescapable fact, something she must endure. It meant her existence was one created for the purpose of being destroyed. It was as if she were saying she were tired from a long day’s work or wanted some water to drink. Listening to Burrell’s rant and the well-worn theological and doctrinal defenses that folks have used to assert her rightness, forced me to think about ugliness. Because ugliness is about a forestalled relation, one based on the capacity to evaluate, the capacity to analyze, the capacity to deem valued or valueless. Listening to Burrell caused me again to think about this respondent, how existence was a kind of brutality. Sunshine and rain, both then, are cruel. Happiness with a partner or loved one, then, is always the capacity for terror. Because such happiness will still compel her to think eternal torment is what awaits her.

I want to think about her interview in light of Burrell’s sermon because the doctrine and theology preached is one that fundamentally does harm. Blackqueer folks ask, in varied registers because of these theologies and doctrines: Am I broken? Am I beyond repair? Who will love me? Who will touch me? What is experiential for queer people – through normative theology-philosophy – spills over into the existential, is the ontological. It’s not that some of us do not have relations – many of us do – but it’s that the relations themselves are repulsive for many, that they are that which cause family and friends to recoil in horror. At times, we recoil from our very selves. We are made to feel, because of the fact of our existence, that we are supposed to endure and carry shame others project onto us.

So though we should have conversations about what it means for Burrell – who some might presume to be a single, lonely, straight, black woman struggling with attempting to live a sacred life – to preach such things, we should have conversations about sexuality and wholeness, certainly, we must also contend with the way doctrines and theologies teach that queerness itself is brokenness, is perversion, is nasty, is ugly. So it is not that straight single cisgender black women don’t experience loneliness or despair because of theology but I do want to hold a space that, for blackqueer folks in important and fundamental ways, we are told we must inhabit the world as broken, beyond repair, as untouchable. There is no relation blackqueer folks can have that would be presumed sacred and holy according to these theologies and doctrines. And that because even for those that claim deliverance, they have to continually prove that they are living what is presumed to be holy and sanctified, they have to allow surveillance of their behaviors and they will, for many folks, always remain “suspect.” Queer possibility destabilizes the possibility for ever living into a normative straightness. But this is the prize.

Discussing Burrell’s loneliness seems to me to be a case of what Naomi Murakawa describes as displaced anxiety:

[T]he danger of the displaced anxiety thesis (that racism isn’t really racism but really just only ever a concern about economics) [is that] it purports to analyze post-1960s structural inequality, but it replicates the post-civil rights logic and language of racism as nonstructural – a misplaced emotion, an atavistic irrationality, a mere epiphenomenon of class. The vocabulary is rigged against politics: no whiteness as property, just folksy white subgroups; no interests, just ‘fear’; no black or Latino targets, just ‘scapegoats.’ […]Without attention to white interests, the anxiety induced by ‘race’ does not reach the core of structural power so explicitly valued by displaced anxiety scholarship. Displaced anxiety acknowledges race as cultural membership while eliding white interests, and this, I suspect, is its core appeal in mainstream politics: displaced anxiety attributes support for policies that target and injure people of color to anything but white racist interests.

Focusing on the supposed loneliness of figures like Kim Burrell as a possible reason for her violent rant against queer possibility is, we might call here for this short essay, the displaced loneliness thesis: that homophobia isn’t really homophobia but only a concern about not being fulfilled sexually, only a concern about not being fulfilled intimately. The displaced loneliness thesis would then attend to, by making central, the affective and emotional posture of presumably single, cisgender, black, straight women when discussing queer antagonism and violence. It places, as central to the concern about violent rhetoric and its proliferation, the feelings of those said to not belong to such an aggrieved group.

But I’ve been lonely. Sometimes, very much, still today. I came out the closet thinking I’d have all this availability for relationship and dating but that’s not been the case. I’ve failed, utterly, with an erotic life. In all my thirty six years, I’ve been single. I’ve dated here and or there but nothing sustaining at all. No relationship life to speak of, really. So it’s not an erotic life, an intimate relational life, that has sustained my ability to remain, to have joy, to have peace of mind. There has been loneliness and sadness on both sides of the closet, on both sides of attempting to speak more precisely about who I am without fear or shame or loathing. Loneliness, then, cannot be a reason that we accept for folks to espouse rhetoric that is violent and dangerous.

But this is another problem with the displaced loneliness thesis: it reduces sexuality and intimacy to sex acts in ways that Kim Burrell’s sermon demonstrate, it thinks queerness as only action and not longing, not desire, not the possibility of making something new, something otherwise. It cannot contend with choosing queer possibility even if that means choosing loneliness.

The displaced loneliness thesis cannot contend with the loneliness of blackqueer folks, the way loneliness is what we are to endure not as a temporal feature of living but as queer temporality itself. What I mean is that loneliness, through doctrines and theologies like those of Burrell, is what creates a life for queer folks, it is a temporal measure that engulfs time itself. Loneliness would not then be a momentary experience but would be the grounds for queer existence according to these theologies and doctrines. And the disgust and worry, the nastiness and ugliness, of queer possibility is the refusal of such theologies and doctrines and, as Stevphen Shukaitis might say, the courage and wisdom to make worlds.

One of the things I love about Instagram videos of @notkarltonbanks is that he shows, with stunning precision, that the black church is cultural territory for black women, that they are the ones that carry the tradition. But these women are not only straight, are not only cisgender. And I love James Baldwin because he shows that the black church is cultural domain for queer possibility too. But what this then means is that we have to think more about the textures between black and presumably straight ciswomen and the violence of homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia that emerges from these spaces. It is the antagonism to queer possibility of the quotidian, of the mundane, of the ordinary to which we must attend.

The first sermon I recall that lampooned queer folks with a sorta desired precision was Frances Kelly at the Church of God in Christ annual Holy Convocation, talking about “I’m sick of sissies…fanning over somebody’s choir,” about “bulldaggers,” and the so-called separation between holy and unholy. Kim Burrell, in other words, is not novel. We learn that patriarchy is an aspiration and the bodies that materialize such aspiration can be, and are, varied. To pretend that this rhetoric is only about black women and loneliness flattens a far too textured and much more complex set of circumstances.

The displaced loneliness thesis, in other words, cannot contend with the agential possibility and desires for power for people that are marginalized within certain contexts. Such a hypothesis also participates in the settler logic of ongoing displacement from the heart of matters – placing into the conversation, onto the ground, into the central space – the ones that cause harm and violence perpetually. Such a thesis, in other words, is a general displacement, it does not operate against the structures of inequity that produce gendered, racialized and classed violence but, by displacement, only ever revise and refresh such a practice. It cannot contend with the pleasure gained, as Amaryah Armstrong argues, by participating in the sociality of antagonism.

Such a displacement, with the settler logic that is its hydraulics, confuses through conflation specific performances emerging out of specific occasions – the celebration of Moonlight or saying “yaaasss, hunty!,” for example – with a theological-philosophical ideology made evident through a general relation, which is often a general antagonism, to worlds. In the particular instance of this writing, I seek to interrogate the ongoing, quotidian, mundane antagonism against the force of queer possibility and relationality and imaginative worldmaking capacities. Such imaginative worldmaking is not simply about “accepting” queer people through doctrinal and theological argumentation but about destabilizing and disrupting the very possibility of a normative world.

There is a quiet, smiley-faced delivery system – a nice-nasty way of being – that provides lamination for a general antagonism to queer worldmaking. This is made evident by failing to rise to the occasion to think more broadly about the relation between the spectacular and the quotidian performances of queer antagonistic rhetoric and its attendant violence. Confused through conflation is the idea that the occasion, which is another way to say the event, of speaking against such antagonism is conspiring with, is allyship of, the force of queer possibility. But, as Saidiya Hartman so deftly taught and continues to teach, attending to the spectacular performances of the event misses the quotidian and mundane performances of a general antagonism, of which a displacement thesis of loneliness might serve as, for blackqueer people, tear-inducing evidence.

There are, in other words, no natural allyships, there are no natural comrades, but each relation is possible through engaged, sustained labor, each is sustained by remaining committed to each other. It is not enough that folks don’t think queer possibility is any longer ugly, what is necessary is contending with the desire to evaluate and analyze and judge if something is or is not ugly – which is to say doctrinally sound, theologically correct – in the first place.

#FreeBresha: Anti-black Racism and Anethical Blackness

**The following brief notes were delivered at the Anti-blackness and Christian Ethics Roundtable at Boston College, September 14, 2016. I reproduce the remarks here, particularly, to be in solidarity with Bresha Meadows and to urge against her ongoing incarceration. If you would like to learn more about Bresha Meadows, click here and here. May we all pursue justice.** 

Three Things.

            ONE

August 8, 2016, The Gospel Coalition website published a blog post titled “When God Sends Your White Daughter a Black Husband,” written by a white woman, Gaye Clarke. The piece began:

For years I prayed for a young man I had yet to meet: my daughter’s husband. I asked the Lord to make him godly, kind, a great dad, and a good provider. I was proud of a wish list void of unrealistic expectations. After all, I knew not to ask for a college football quarterback who loved puppies, majored in nuclear rocket science, and wanted to take his expertise to the mission field. I was an open-minded mom.

But God called my bluff.

This white, 53-year-old mother hadn’t counted on God sending an African American with dreads named Glenn.

She continued:

It wasn’t long ago that interracial marriage—particularly a black man like Glenn marrying a white girl like Anna—was considered the ultimate taboo in American white society…Though I never shared this prejudice, I never expected the issue to enter my life.

The entire piece is cringe worthy. There was lots said on social media, particularly Twitter – a website I frequent – that had lots of commentary, jokes, memes and criticisms of the writing and the theological-philosophical thrust undergirding Clarke’s desires, both before and after Glenn. After a brief description of her daughter’s love for her Glenn, Clarke gives eight suggestions for white parents that do not expect their daughters to engage interracial relationships and marriage.

The first suggestion was to “Remember your theology,” and when explained, Clarke included that the theology to remember is about creation, that we are all descendants of Adam and Eve. What this meant, in practical terms for Clarke, is that, “Glenn moved from being a black man to beloved son when I saw his true identity as an image bearer of God, a brother in Christ, and a fellow heir to God’s promises.”

This movement from black man to beloved son is not a little bit problematic. For Clarke to see Glenn’s worth and value, his blackness had to be erased, had to be liquidated, had to be transformed into an acceptable modality through which love could occur. His true identity was not his blackness but his commitment to Christ; this is what bell hooks describes as white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, it is an ordering of flesh through racialization. It was not Clarke’s daughter that needs to move from white woman to beloved daughter; it is the person racialized as Other. As if whiteness itself is not also a racialization, the racialization of the modern world. This desire to move from black man to beloved son and for that to be the true identity of the black is supercessionist logic. But supersessionism is a core value of modern problems of racialization, the creation and maintenance of purity through whiteness and vulgarization through blackness. The only zone wherein this move could be effectuated is not the material world but the spiritual, invisible, intangible one of salvific condition. So police brutality, systemic and structural inequity, antiblack racism are then the problem of individuals not living into the cause of Christ rightly, are not allowing their lives to be moved from blackness to beloveds.

Of note to me is the way it is the white parents that should be surprised, that they have to change their thinking in order to be accepting. And not because changing one’s thinking isn’t a good thing but because with Clarke’s framing, what she calls on white parents to do is to allow black people entry into their fold. But this entry is conditioned upon the movement from blackness to beloved, from racialized problem to true identification in Christ. I don’t want to pick on Gaye Clarke. I am sure she had the best of intentions. But as Imani Perry offers, we are in a moment of post-intentional racism, and so Clarke’s intentions, ultimately, are not important. Rather, I want to offer that this short blog is an example of a much longer history of the figuration of blackness as completely non-convergent with Christianity in the west because Christianity in the west is fundamentally about articulating whiteness, or a relation to whiteness. Such that for non-whites to be or become Christian is to trade out blackness.

Christians often presume that salvation, life in Christ, takes away racial distinction. We can look to Paul asserting that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female but because of salvation, all are one. My research is primarily in Blackpentecostalism and Gaye Clarke’s explication of what white parents should do in the case of possible interracial marriage is not disconnected from the early twentieth century Pentecostal movement’s figuration of race and racism, and its relation to salvation. So here, I’m thinking about Frank Bartleman, an important figure in early twentieth century Pentecostalism, arguing that the color line had been washed away in the blood of Jesus. The line that was popularized, though not created, by WEB Du Bois, the color line, according to Bartleman, was no longer a problem because of the performance of the flesh at the Azusa Street Revival. But this, of course, was never the case. Members of the Ku Klux Klan began pressuring white congregants of the Azusa Revival, causing what would eventually be splits from several organizations. For example, from the Church of God in Christ – a predominantly Blackpentecostal organization – emerged the Assemblies of God.

There is a misapplication of modern racialization to ancient text in order to enact a post-racial fantasy, a fantasy that leaves intact the hierarchal inequities in the service of Christian witness. In Bartleman’s case, it is important to note that the black people of the early twentieth century Pentecostal movement simply did not see the color line as inconsequential because of speaking in tongues, that they detected the way racialization was occurring on the wooden floors and in between the pews soon after Spirit baptism became a prominent feature of the movement. William Seymour, founder of the Azusa Street Mission, eventually disallowed white leadership after the beginning years of the Revival because he was worried about the ways whiteness remained uninterrogated, how whiteness was, in the name of Spirit baptism, the production and proliferation of antiblack racism.

            TWO

Mary. In Blackpentecostalism, it is rare to talk about Mary. In other traditions, she is much more fleshed out, so to speak. But from within Blackpentecostalism, she is often described as a “poor, unknown, uneducated Palestinian woman” and that God’s choice for her to be the theotokos, to carry the logos, the word, to hold the child in womb through gestation, is praiseworthy. Isn’t it great, they say, that God used this poor, unknown, uneducated woman, that God used this Palestinian woman who had no renown, who was not royalty, to bring for Jesus. It is said that through God, Mary transcends the categorization of social victimization, that she transcends the categorization of degradation, that she transcends the categorization of stigmatization because of the sovereignty of the deity.

And this began to bother me deeply. Because what is assumed about Mary is what we assume Mary must have believed about herself in order to glory in the fact of her being chosen. Such declarations have to assume the valuelessness of the persons in question as the grounds from which to make assertions about the choices of deities. That is, we have to believe that Mary believed her station in life was valueless, that she was without virtue or honor, in order for the narratives we tell about her to make sense, in order for the theology and philosophy of Mary as chosen to cohere. We do not think with Mary but our thinking is supersessionist, it supersedes the very possibility for Mary to think herself valued without being chosen, without Mary being harnessed and used as the anchoring point for our theological-philosophical projects. None of the markers ascribed to Mary in this normative narrativity are, in and of themselves, markers of valuelessness. It cannot be assumed, in other words, that Mary internalized the inequity of a political economy as a personal moral failure such that only after such an internalization could she glory in the fact of her being chosen.

And this is the key for me: I think this is so precisely because I keep thinking with the ways blackness is narrativized in various modalities: from the juridical to the medical, from popular culture to the interpersonal. It is what I think about as paternalistic benevolence, a narrativizing occurring from the position of the ones that have been Othered in order to declare the relative value or valuelessness of said Others. This is what Gaye Clarke performed in her writing, implying that Glenn could not be valued or think himself of worth until his transformation from black man to beloved through Christ.

Blackness in western theological-philosophical discourse is the antithesis of the holy, the sacred, the set apart, the hallowed. Blackness is narrativized as the bestial, as the burdened, as the problem for purity. Blackness is the wretched, the worm, the worrisome station. But this from the position that assumed – attempted to grasp and hold, to harness and abuse – black flesh, this from the position of whiteness. Black performance, however, illustrates the ways that such narrativity is always in the service of the propping up of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, not its undoing.

And we see this with sharp intensity and focus with Black Lives Matter protests; with the demands for the abolition from police, the carceral state, the end of the Prison Industrial Complex; we detect this refusal of narrativity with the solidarity work between Indigenous people fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline or between Palestinians and the Movement for Black Lives; and we detect this refusal of narrativity in the protests of NFL players, Colin Kaepernick as an explicit example. The stories told about us, in other words, we do not have to internalize. And the ways we inhabit the world are often against such narrativity. This refused narrativity, the refusal to accept the narrative of whiteness, of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, the refusal to assent to anti-black racism and its contents is what I think of as a non-ethical or an-ethical project.

            THREE

Bresha Meadows

Bresha Meadows’s father, Jonathan, was abusive to her mother, Brandi. He was verbally and physically abusive to Brandi, and emotionally and psychologically manipulative. Jonathan was also emotionally and manipulatively abusive to the children, Bresha inclusive. They existed under the rule of thread and terrorism and Bresha sought relief from the constant barrage of violence and violation in the home. She decided to kill her father. Bresha was arrested for murder though there are calls from social justice activists for her release. Brandi Meadows calls Bresha a hero, giving her and her family the space to breathe again with ease and comfort.

Jamall Calloway says the following: “instead of criminal charges, what Bresha Meadows needs now, desperately, as opposed to incarceration, is productive psychological counseling and treatment for severe post-traumatic stress. Bresha (and her family) need psychological attention and help, not a conviction from the courts. In fact, it is the courts, it is our law and authorities who need convicting for such a callous response to this ordeal and every ordeal like it.”

But how can one come to such a conclusion? I think it is because what Bresha’s actions did is obliterate the question of the ethical in ways that are consistent with how blackness exists as a critique of the terrain of the ethical, of ethical being. Frederick Douglass is famous to have delivered the speech, “What to the slave is the fourth of July?” What Douglass was interrogating was the ethical terrain upon which celebration of warfare and liberation emerges since the emergence of such celebration and warfare was produced through the violent exclusion – through brutality – of black people. Another way to ask the question Douglass lodged, the animating force of black performance, is what, to the target of antiblack racism, is ethical responsibility, what – to the target of gendered, racialized, classed, sexed violence and violation – is ethics itself?

To appraise Bresha’s behaviors through the normative rules and regulations of the juridical is to assume a normative ethics. But what I detect is that Bresha enacted the critique of ethics, she enacted a non-ethics, an an­ethical performance. And I consider antiblackness and Christian ethics through a similar thinking, through a similar sorta analytics, that asks first what is the relation of blackness to ethics, and blackness to Christianity, such that we can have something along the line of an ethics, a black Christian ethics that responds to, and anticipates, antiblack racism. And I think to get there is to think more with renouncing the terrain of the ethical because such a terrain is produced through the exclusion of what Denise Ferreira da Silva calls the others of Europe. Perhaps we are after a mode of thinking equity and justice from the position of the excluded.

**

In the filmic version of The Color Purple, Celie said: “I’m poor, black; I may even be ugly. But dear god, I’m here!” And with that, she rode off with friends into the sunset and away from the man that abused her. Celie did not need to be chosen or shown favor because at that instance, she refused to internalize what the world said about her, about her capacity for life. It was the declaration of being “here” – which is to say, existing, breathing – that was of radical importance. Her being here is what distressed Albert, it’s what distressed and disturbed him because he spent so much time and energy wanting to disallow the possibility for such a declaration. To riff on my friend Fred Moten, the consent to being shamed she could not resist she could still, importantly, withhold. Withhold, withheld, as in breath, as in the possibility for existence, as in life.

#BlackpentecostalBreath: The Aesthetics of Possibility is Now Available

Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility

 

“In this profoundly innovative book, Ashon T. Crawley engages a wide range of critical paradigms from black studies, queer theory, and sound studies to theology, continental philosophy, and performance studies to theorize the ways in which alternative or ‘otherwise’ modes of existence can serve as disruptions against the marginalization of and violence against minoritarian lifeworlds and possibilities for flourishing.

Examining the whooping, shouting, noise-making, and speaking in tongues of Black Pentecostalism–a multi-racial, multi-class, multi-national Christian sect with one strand of its modern genesis in 1906 Los Angeles–Blackpentecostal Breath reveals how these aesthetic practices allow for the emergence of alternative modes of social organization. As Crawley deftly reveals, these choreographic, sonic, and visual practices and the sensual experiences they create are not only important for imagining what Crawley identifies as ‘otherwise worlds of possibility,’ they also yield a general hermeneutics, a methodology for reading culture in an era when such expressions are increasingly under siege.”

You can get it at:

 

#NotYourMule Thoughts

[this is a really brief note, some ideas, that i’ve been thinking about for some time. i’m not interested in it being right nor wrong as much as i’m after a way to think about things.]

 

I think organizing against the current and pernicious systems of domination cannot have us saying that race belongs to us in any sorta easy way. [I have not talked about this publicly but] one of the things that fascinated me about Rachel Doležal last year was how quickly and intensely ideas about blackness and whiteness were resolved in the biological in ways that were just really confusing to me. I think a lot was unsettled about seemingly settled concepts of race and racialization. This was seen, for example, in the memes that jokingly “questioned” light skinned black people, saying they were now – because of RD – “suspect,” that their blackness was under interrogation. It was so quick and easy and intense for things to turn into old concepts regarding race, color and authentic black flesh. I learned a great deal about how – or, really, had the idea confirmed and verified that – many consider blackness to be defined by the history of violence that has happened to black people, that the history of middle passage, enslavement, jim crow and mass incarceration themselves are the bounds, the borders of blackness. If you and your ancestry did not experience “it,” then you are are not black. That is simply not what I think creates blackness at all, I do not think that violent encounter is the determining factor. (I’m also tryna think a lot more about what it means to do blackness rather than possess it and I’ve been thinking about this for some time now; I’ve been thinking with James Cone, for example, when he opines in his theological writings that the white church must become black; I’m thinking of blackness as abolition, indigeneity as decolonial and, as such, not an identity but a modality of existence.)
 
Anyway, the RD affair last year really made me wary because it seems to me to be a problem to use violence – or the capacity to have violence visited upon you – because we all, not all, experience the same violence. Think, for example, of the violence that black transwomen experience as a particular instance. Using violence as a method for thinking our relation to one another in order to contend against white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (WSCP) is a serious delimitation that just as often is broken down by tautology. (Palestinians have the same teargas thrown at them as black people had in Ferguson; what does the “same vilolence” mean in such a world where weapons manufactured for use over there are used domestically? What does it mean that violence – in the form of surveillance, infiltration, incarceration, terrorism, murder – visited upon the Black Panther Party for Self Defense became the architecture for future projects of surveillance, infiltration, incarceration, terrorism, murder both domestically and abroad?) We have to find other methods for thinking our relation to one another.
 
And because of the need for other methods that do not rely on the well worn tropes of racialism, I was in awe – but totally unsurprised – by the #NotYourMule conversations happening since Sunday night. I was in awe and saddened because, really, lots of the conversation appears to reproduce the logic of racial hierarchy as a given, as a good. How is it given and good? Well, we know that WSCP creates for us a hierarchy along the bias of white-black binary logic and folks that are “not” either of the two (and really, no one is, but…) have to figure a relation to race within the binary. WSCP is a settler colonial logic that necessitates property as private. That’s what it is and does. So to presume that race belongs to us as a form of property, as a good, only harnesses the current ordering of knowledge regarding race, it does not fundamentally disrupt that logic.
 
How, then, is this a good? It is a good because we constantly have to name our relation to what is presumed to create the binary logic: violence. And so violence becomes the thing that people constantly rely on to assert the coherence of a racial-gendered-sexed-classed group, violence rhetorical and physical, violence symbolic and material. Violence becomes property. It’s all about violence that has been done to a group, or the possibility of violence – that makes a group. (Think, for example, of middle passage; and though middle passage may have been the occasion to create affinity and group resistance, it did not create blackness.) So the logic of racial hierarchy is produced as a good when it can disallow critical engagement. Of course (and this is not a sorta vulgar, discardable, non-serious “of course” either), antiblackness happens and we must be attuned to not reproduce the logic of such violence. But the charge of antiblackness should not itself become a kind of property of which certain people can own and exchange and trade as a means to thwart engagement altogether.
 
So Chris Rock. He was not protesting and his monologue was fully terrible. The jokes were misplaced aggression full of sexism, ahistoricism and ridiculously unfounded parallelism. But let us also be clear: his work on the stage was not a protest but a paycheck. Chris Rock is not, nor should he be, a mule for others to build platforms for racial justice. But we must acknowledge that he was not doing justice work; it was flagrantly sexist and misogynoiristic and hyper capitalist, all for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Watching #NotYourMule was intriguing because it missed the fact of Rock’s labor for the Academy, labor that summarily dismissed Jada Pinkett-Smith, victims of lynching racial violence and current struggles for justice against police violence. Perhaps not a mule, then, but what will we call such exploitive labor and the celebration of it?

Young Bernie Images

bernie

I’ve been pretty weirded out by the search to show Bernie Sanders was a progressive youth, particularly through images. I was hella self-hating, hyper conservative, homophobic and transphobic, pro-capitalist and imperialist right through college, until I started being confronted with the wrongheadedness of those claims. Many of us that claim a leftist politic testify likewise. And many of us now are at least a bit concerned by how folks have used, exploited really, “being there on the ground” contemporarily as a means to self promotion with vests and twitter t-shirts. That is, the search for images does not immediately demonstrate a commitment to justice. Advocating strongly for the privatization of public resources while being fully resistant to critique should make us a bit more leery about attempting to use the image of a young Bernie, a young anyone really, as proof of a politic, progressive, regressive or otherwise.

One of the problems with trying to find images of Bernie resistance as a young person seems to be a problem of thinking progressivism, radicalism, can be stable, coherent identities. And this is particularly acute in a society that assumes certain racial categories, of themselves, confer a progressive politics on the basis of identity itself (such that white people must find something to append in order to make identity radical or progressive or in any way meaningful). But as the old adage goes, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” or its more contemporary version, the proof is in the pudding. It is the search for identity grounded in a misrecognition of blackness. The search for the images that would have him intimate with antiblack police violence wants to, it seems to me, relate him to blackness through the capacity to be victim of violence. That he was there is supposed to charge our imaginations: he was there and, thus, a victim of that violence, a violence that confers to him a certain value and identity. But no thanks. Blackness is not created by violence, though blackness is excluded from the zone of the proper. We need to think differently about who we are as people committed to justice.

And I just don’t understand the deep need to say, “even as a youth, Bernie was right!” because I suspect such a claim having more to do with the fetishizing of youthfulness that Yasmin Nair compellingly writes about than such a claim is about a sense of justice. Like, Clarence Thomas – the conservative, terribly right wing, terribly loathsome Supreme Court justice – was at one time in his life a left leaning Black Panther Parter for Self Defense sympathizer, a supporter of Black Nationalism, Malcolm X and general Black radical politics. This as a young person. So I find these arguments – about the rightness of certain folks as youth – only obtain their force when their politics as youth coalesce with a politics we hold today. We still fetishize the politics of youth. So it’s not very useful to me because we all change. Some of us commit more to justice, some of us less.

And what do such images have to do with Vermont? And justice? And rhetoric? And progressiveness? It’s like we’ve thrown away research that shows people hold a more progressive politics in the abstract; when there are less people of color in a city, state, municipality, it is easier to assert progressive stances. We learned this in 2008 Iowa with the hella disproportionate incarceration rates: for a state with 3% blacks, blacks make up 23% of the incarcerated; 5% hispanic, 8% of the incarcerated. Vermont should, perhaps, be thought about through the way progressivism plays out for the folks living there. Vermont is ~95% white. Blacks make up 1% of the population but disproportionately roughly 11% of the incarcerated; hispanics make up 2% of the population but 5% of the incarcerated. It’s easy to advocate progressive policies but things like incarceration rates, because of the huge disparities along the lines of race, should give us pause.

So I’d love to think that the senator, had he settled in Michigan or Alabama, would’ve advocated for the same things he has as a Vermonter but his stance on Israel/Palestine and the seeming inability to attack racialized disparities in any real way in Vermont makes me wary. What is the proof in the pudding of the disparity between saying the names of wrongfully, prematurely dead black folks and hiring a black woman press secretary on the one hand and policy positions that would continue support for the ongoing violent assault of Palestinians, policy positions in his own state that do not ameliorate racial disparities in terms of incarceration? We have verified images, there are old speeches…but what of actions taken in his own state, his own domain of influence? I do wonder.

Deformation, Information, On Formation

beyformation

Noise matters. Ever tried to have a conversation on a phone with poor reception, snaps, crackles and pops interrupting your ability to hear? It’s a Wednesday and you’re waiting for a friend to arrive. This friend is on a train or a subway or bus. And each time you almost hear there was perhaps an incident. But you are unsure because the noise made itself intensely felt in the conversation, it announced itself as a deformation to smooth conversation. So it is this Wednesday, or that other one – no matter, really – but the noise frustrates. Such frustration is the matter, the material, of conversation. So you end up hearing your phone partner – or perhaps it is you that is saying it – “Can you hear me? Hello! Are you there?”

Noise matters. The conversation between friends or lovers or business partners on this or that Wednesday has to be about the noise, about the antagonism in order to have clarity. Noise interrupts flow. So the conversation ends up being about the interruptive. Once clarity gained, once signal clear, “Oh, I didn’t hear you.” “Repeat what you said.” “I was going through a tunnel.” “You were muffled” “I couldn’t hear.” Noise. I have been thinking about noise a lot lately, its texture and weight, its meaning for black performance in churches, on film, across stages. There is noise. Like D’angelo’s “The Line,” in which Dino Palladrino keeps the same bass line throughout the entire song except for moment 4’52” with a noticeable alternation, noise is that which seems most off but can perhaps be the foundation that transforms everything that comes before and after it.

So yes, there is noise in Beyoncé’s latest offering “Formation.” And such noise matters. It is noise that begs our attention. It is a Saturday and someone posted a link to a internet breaking video. There is praise and joy and thinkpieces and laughter. But at my viewing, there is also noise.

Look at the brilliant energy Beyoncé caused to erupt since the weekend of February 6, 2016. An energy brilliant and bright that has within it the possibility for transformation. I seriously did not want to write about Beyoncé mostly because I already have. I think the furor and intensity of the responses compel us all to think. And I believe deeply in the pleasure and joy that emanates from her work and that people find within it. As a cisgay black dude, one that misses going to No Parking and Secret and Escuelita in New York now that I’m a Los Angeles resident, I know the transformative power of the beat drop with a Beyoncé song. Don’t let the bass lick of “Deja Vu” slide in the middle of a set, don’t let “drop down low, sweep the floor with it” be rehearsed publicly. Life will be got and that’s all good. So I’m all about joy and pleasure and being happy and free. And the way Black women’s joy and pleasure has been scrutinized and sanitized and made almost impossible – certainly always criticized and problematized and dismissed and discarded – in this writing about “Formation” I want to say up front that I am in favor of pleasure and joy. It is what I write about and research generally.

But joy and pleasure do not emerge ex nihilo, which is why we have to be extremely intentional about what we praise and why. At first I thought it unfair to analyze the video because right wing folks are ridiculous. This engagement is just not that. They dismiss Beyoncé because they are terrible. But because “Formation” aspires toward radicalism, Beyoncé and team invite us to critically engage it. Her continued movements within the currents and flows of the conversation, the necessary and urgent noise making, of black feminisms, womanist thought and the Black Radical Tradition, it seems to me, begs us to engage her on the terrain upon which she stands.

The berets at the super bowl, the faux black panther outfits? The afros and pumped fists? We are called upon by the production of “Formation” itself as something revolutionary and radical, which means it should be held to such a standard. Holding it to such a standard does not presume that any of us stands there, has achieved there, because “there” is not a space to obtain or possess but a movement, a flow – like the gathering of waters – in whose currents we must maneuver. And it seems to me to be the case that the refusal to engage and interrogate the class politics of the video – a class politics that shows up through consumerism, materialism and benevolent capitalism – emerges out of a belief that she can’t handle the conversation, that it is too difficult.

I want to talk about and think through the openings created and the delimitations of dancing and singing over consumerist class culture that makes the noise of a desired “Black Bill Gates” and “the best revenge is getting paper” audible. These two statements are seeming aberrations, they are noise that needs cancelation – so far, it seems, unfortunately through refusing to engage it – that we need to feel its vibration in and on and through us. It is a noise that the lyricism of “Formation” couldn’t leave alone, Beyoncé had to get it out. And since it was offered to us, let us consider it.

Let’s take seriously all of our capacities to think…considering the possibilities and limitations of consumerism, materialism and capitalism are not mere academic worries or trifles. The water crisis in Flint, the school crisis in Detroit and Philadelphia and Atlanta, the policing crisis nationwide, the suffering of black, brown, indigenous, poor worldwide, are not disconnected from representation and images. We cannot on the one hand desire to say that the cultural production – always an endeavor, intellectual – is important for thinking with then balk at the occasion for thinking if it entails pushback or disagreement or dissent. That to ask, or to offer really, that perhaps many of us don’t believe in Beyoncé’s intellectual capacity when she herself makes clear that she wants to be taken seriously on the grounds of her aesthetic projects – her dance formations and sartorial choices and lyricism – as practices of the intellect. Can we be joyful about the lyrics that praise Jackson 5 noses, the dual register and play of “baby hair” in its Black English Vernacular force only to dismiss the lyrics that praise unabashed, unfettered capitalist consumption? They exist within the same delimitation, within the same song. We can deal with the complexity, the contradiction. And it seems we have been invited to converse about such complexity and contradiction because the visually stunning images and bass line were offered to us for our engagement.

There is noise. The noise of the desire for a Black Bill Gates, for revenge being best served as getting paper – and paper could be degrees, sure, but also monetary – presents for us a disjoint and disjuncture. The disjoint between image and sound would be cool because black performance is always more than double, is always irreducibly plural. Black performance occurs on multiple registers, is multimodal, arrhythmic, polyrhythmic. Like the young folks say, there’s levels to this shit. But what when rather than an intentional disjoint and disjunction, one desired coherence, one desired consistency? What when one does not imagine that messages about capitalist consumption as a moral good is inconsistent with a message about loving your black flesh, your baby hair and your baby hair?

**

Sometimes I like Paul. You know Paul, the Apostle, the one that told slaves to obey their masters, the Paul that said in his flesh was no good thing. But he said more. I do dig the fact that he did say, “be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” And I like that he said that he lived his life in such a way that caused him to write that we should continue to move towards – what I will say here is – justice, equity. He said it was not that as though he had already attained that which he sought but that he would relinquish those things that had hindered him in times past and would continue, and would press toward the mark in the cause of justice. So I like Paul not for what he at all times said. There was noise that inflect how he should be heard, that should compel us to think about his contradictions. Through attention to those contradictions we can know that none of us is exempt and each must be diligent to contend against injustice. I like Paul because in him one really gets a sense that he was trying to figure out how to do justice in his world.

So with the release of “Formation” has been a very intense response from all kinds of people. Twitter was aflutter and Facebook debates have caused rifts between friends and strangers. One thing said about Beyoncé in defense of her is “it’s never enough!” And what is meant by that is some of us want to continually criticize and analyze and scrutinize what she does. But it seems to me to be the case that, yes, for those of us concerned with justice, “it” never is enough. Nor should it be. And I think the perniciousness of the inequity of the economy is discounted when it’s said that “Formation” is just a video, that it is not that deep. Because it is more than a video: it provided jobs to workers in the film and music industries, it is an advertisement for merchandise on her website and for her upcoming tour, it is what colonial states like Israel will use as cultural capital to justify their existence against Palestinian life.

So we do not have the luxury for time off. We have to push each other. Yet as anyone versed in black feminism and womanist thought would know, critique is not neutral and has a context of emergence. So the critique, the pressure and weight to be anti-capitalist, decolonial, anti-imperialist, a prison abolitionist, against privatized education should not befall as the burden of the individual. So insofar as we want to have more than simply a conversation about the political economy but an interrogation of it that is produced through and produces inequity, it is not the burden of the individual.

I work for a university. Universities are currently bastions of neoliberal theory and practice. What I mean is that universities are privatizing education, exploiting local and state resources, are primary exponents of displacement of financially poor communities. Universities currently seem to be more interested in private wealth management and real estate building projects than they are about the work of education, especially teaching and education for the cause of justice, in the cause of alleviating the suffering of people in the world. Lots of universities have senior administration from banking and military industries, folks that have little vested interest in the production of truth and making a more just society. That to say I work within an institutional practice that produces and is produced by racial capitalism, that digs its heels into the privatizing of public resources, an institution that promotes inequity under the guise of multiculturalism and diversity. There is a reason why universities and colleges have pamphlets of smiling young folks of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Under the guise of diversity and multiculturalism is the fact of the political economy of inequity.

Yet, I must press. My colleagues must press. We all press. We cannot be comfortable. We have to figure out ways to inhabit these spaces while pressing for justice. This is an ethical demand that gurantees discomfort and to be a challenge. And the call to press is not just made to celebrities but to us all. We all share the load. We all have to speak forcefully against capitalism and the way the political economy moralizes against the poor and working class.

I wonder who celebrities are to us, why we invest so much time and energy into their worlds. I understand being moved by music, a play, the sound of a sermon, a guitar lick, a drum solo, a textured voice. I understand being moved by the dynamism of a Jordan dunk, the gravity of a Nina Simone arpeggio, the weight and texture of a Kim Burrell riff, the joy and frivolity of a Cam dab, the lightness and sweetness of Whitney’s timbre. But at times we invest something terribly overwrought in these figures which disfigures them – many lament having to be everything for everyone – and disfigures us in kind. Such investment is largely about the ways they come to be powerful, and this within a political economy of inequity. Such investment is largely about what they have attained financially, about their capacity for benevolence because of such acquisition, about gettin’ that paper.

Being a Black Bill Gates, getting paper all, on face value, seem to be ok. But is revenge what we most desire? Is choreographic reversal – wherein the police have their hands up – most desired? That is perhaps true for some of us. But that is not the force of one strain of the Black Radical Tradition. How does one get paper in a fundamentally inequitable economy? And though some argue that one has to attain wealth to speak truthfully, to produce revolution, I fear a misunderstanding of the tradition. Do we wanna rearrange the pieces on the board or blow up the game altogether?

We are all drowning. We need a way out, a way of escape. This isn’t a demand for a politics of purity but for pressing. Pressing each and all of us forces us all to consider how our complicity to the workings of the political economy is demanded of us in order to live. We have to be able to imagine that we can do and live and be otherwise than through the organization of wealth as is the status quo, through the organization of resources through inequity. We cannot let the fact that each of us has our complicity demanded of us be a reason to disengage from the necessity of critical analysis and, hopefully, a lot of imagining and in such imagining, bringing into being otherwise possibilities. We who are abolitionists come from a tradition, a rich and long tradition, wherein liberation was not conferred by Lincoln or others. The enslaved in the United States emancipated themselves through a general strike. We come from that tradition, one that saw the necessity of thinking and living and imagining otherwise.

We are contending against nothing short of empire and its rapacious violence. It is good and right and ethical to ask of Beyoncé to boycott her upcoming performances in Tel Aviv to stand in solidarity with Palestinians who are victim of ongoing violent occupation. It is good and right and ethical to ask Beyoncé to think more about the violence that grounds capitalism, the sorta violence and violation that produces the wealth of a Bill Gates and the violence of benevolent capitalism that is the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation is responsible for pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the privatization of public education, a process that has dispossessed lots of black women teachers, lots of students from neighborhood schools and, yes, lots of black, brown and indigenous people from neighborhoods. It seems our imaginations have become constrained by the political economy, by the current order of things, the contemporary neoliberal organization of knowledge.

Think, for example, of schools in Pennsylvania and New Orleans. There have been huge disinvestments in local and state funds for public education, contributing to the crumbling of buildings, the breakup of teacher unions, the lack of capital investment for the futures of black, brown, indigenous, poor educational possibilities. After such disinvestment, the promise of state of the art facilities and teachers that can train students from programs like Teach for America, this after the disinvestment and disenfranchisement. Only after disinvestment is the possibility for profit, which prompts certain organizations to show so-called care and concern. This care and concern obtains only because there is a profit to be made by those that have been marginalized because of the political economy.

And consider the city of Cleveland filing a claim against Tamir Rice’s estate for $500. That is not a lot of money for a city at all. So let me opine: it’s not about the money at all, it’s not about the desire to further humiliate, to further demonstrate power, to further cause the family turmoil. The city could sue for $1 or $10 or $100K and I suspect the reasoning behind it would be the same. Yes, the claim is about the ambulance ride for Tamir. But the state murdered Tamir through an incompetent officer then lied about the event. This lawsuit is legal but is it ethical? The lawsuit is the demonstration of the ways the political economy conspires with the law to produce unethical behavior, to produce violence. So perhaps getting paper, perhaps benevolent capitalism, is not what we need to alleviate suffering. We really need a way out, a way otherwise.

There is no, there cannot ever be, a revolutionary nor radical capitalism. The system of economics is fundamentally exploitive. We have to attend to the alleviation of suffering. It is our task.

How to speak to and against these disinvestments that have ruptured the lives of black, brown, indigenous, working class life? How to speak to and against it in the cause of justice? This is demanded of us. That the black political elite have been at the helm of the privatized education movement should not deter us from speaking truthfully. We cannot allow the articulation of our marginalization to allow us to have a neoliberal political horizon, one of profitability and convenience. Is this not what we learn from black feminists pressing against black patriarchy and misogynoir, against those that would marginalize black women from leadership positions and organizing because they are women? Is this not what we learn from black queer folks pressing against the heteronormative impulses that serve as the basis for much rhetoric regarding black community and its disruption of family through racial capital, Middle Passage, enslavement? We learn, in other words, that we who believe in freedom cannot rest because freedom is not a place but a practice, liberation is not something we can possess but only something in which we participate. We can never be satisfied, we can never obtain, we have to keep living and being and striving to do otherwise.

**

It’s ok to have pleasure. And this is not me giving permission because, seriously, I am in no position to give or withhold. And as homie would say, who are me to judge? That is, it is not within my purview nor desire to make a claim on pleasure as a possibility. I write lovingly about my upbringing in the Blackpentecostal church, and this though I know and speak passionately and explicitly against its sexism, homophobia, classism and militarism and desires for empire. In each object is the capacity for multiplicity and sometimes what is in the object is the antidote, the corrective, to the way it can oppress and marginalize.

So it appears to me that the desire to policitize “Formation” as a sort of pure performance or as one that can only be analyzed on some of what it gives, does the work of placing the pleasure gained from it in the zone of the political. Pure insofar as class becomes a category that is not under scrutiny nor is it analyzed. This placement into the zone of the political can occur because of the assumption that the political and the pleasurable are distinct categories that only sometimes criss-cross. The will to make Beyoncé malleable through placing her into already predetermined political projects simply instrumentalizes her as an object for our political theorizing, an instrumentalizing that is used in the service – rather than the disruption – of the neoliberal making of herself into a private, consumable product, good and service. And there is also the disappearance made audible through voices with flesh that is never seen. Queer presence is heard but not seen. It is not a disembodied experience but a removal of the flesh, a defleshing. Isn’t the defleshing of queerness on screen similar to a normative longing that produce resistance against, for example, queer folks leading in Black Lives Matter protests? That we should be seen but not heard or heard – that is, showing up – but not seen? It seems to me to be the case that we are afraid of being moved by aesthetics, that we cannot rest with the way she says – dual frequency – “baby hair” – with the color palette, with the dance formations. And it seems we cannot rest there because we think aesthetics lack intellectual content, that aesthetics are not a collective intellectual practice. So we force the pleasure and aesthetics into an already predetermined political project. And because we are radical and enjoy the content then, yes, the content itself must be radical too.

Perhaps it aspires towards such a radicalism, perhaps it moves towards it. And in that, we should celebrate. But there is more required of us all, yes. The reversal isn’t what we desire but a dismantling of the capacity to compel us to raise hands. Because, and this is also key, police are also exploited by the state though producing violence for it. We are all drowning.

The people called black demonstrate that blackness is an orientation, a way of life. Black people are insofar as the flesh is performance. This performance is decolonial and abolitionist as its ground of being. Blackness cannot be possessed because it is not, but is the antagonism to, property. And, attendant to this, radical and revolutionary are not identities one can claim. Rather, radical and revolutionary are ways to be in the world, are orientations, are dispossessive in how such ways of life compel us to interrogation and reflection and collective, improvisational organizing. None of us is radical nor revolutionary. Rather, what we do can contribute to or take away from the work of radicalism and revolution. We can put our hands to the plow or take them off. But the work must, will, continue.

The work of radicalism and revolution, currents and flows of the work, need us all, we all can and need to participate. These ways of life are not possessive and aren’t property. Rather, people that have come in its name – people in the Black Radical Tradition, for example – enact the tradition rather than identify as the tradition. So, sure, some of us may not get every cue and marker in “Formation” immediately but that just impresses upon us the necessity for community and study as a way to think together. That we do not get the cues does not mean something is not for us, not if those things are made available to us, to the world.

The context of emergence of our practices, given the white supremacist capitalist patriarchal ordering of the world, should force us to be diligent to act against it. That ordering is violent. I always wonder what we would do, say, wear, how we would behave, in absence of that ordering, in absence of that violence. So the celebration of identity, one’s race, ethnicity, gender, religion, of itself isn’t a radical or revolutionary thing. And that’s true even if you are from a historically and contemporarily marginalized group. The question, the challenge, is this: how does this celebration contribute to the work of justice and equity, to the alleviating of suffering?

Noise matters. So perhaps we can ask in that ways does “Formation” prompt the imaginations of some to live more deliberately in such a way that does justice against inequity and violence. And we can ask while also experiencing the materiality of the noise, the noise we must engage and through engagement use as a platform for seeking to think and do and be otherwise. Because otherwise is possible. And that’s the beauty of and the dissent about the video: that it opens a space of articulation for imagination and collective thought.

Against Islamophobia (A Black Christian* Response)

Silence will not protect…
There are times of laughter and frivolity. There are times of tears and melancholy. But these are not those times, or not those times only. These times demand that we stand up for what is good and right and just. The times, our times, are indeed urgent. We cannot sit idly by as brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles — kith and kin alike — are beholden to all forms of violence. Not in our names. There is no one way to be, perform nor live out Christianity. There are conservative, moderate and liberal Christianities, there are apocalyptic eschatologies and agnostic ideologies. Christianity varies, has texture and weight, has difference internal to its logic.

We speak desiring a modality of Christianity to be heard that is restive, that is resistant, to Islamophobia as against our ethical and moral worldview. Though we identify as Christian (*or have deep roots in Christian traditions), which informs the ways we exist, which informs our pursuit of justice, we will not allow Islamophobia to be perpetuated in the name of Christians, particularly Black Christians and those of us with deep roots from within — even if we have left — this tradition. Targets of Islamophobia are kith and kin alike. But even if they were not, what is good and right and just is to demand that Islamophobia, fear mongering that targets Muslims and Islam, cease with certain swiftness.

What is Islamophobia?
Islamophobia is fear, hatred and prejudice as the precursor to the proliferation of violence against people that identify as — or are perceived to be — Muslim, and against the religion of Islam itself. Islamophobia precipitates violence and violation based not in truth nor justice but in a politics of difference, in a politics that assumes difference is likewise deficiency. Islamophobia allows for Islam and for people that are, or are perceived to be, Muslim to be stereotyped as inherently violent, as inherently anti-woman (we do not say anti-feminist, since many promoting fear of Islam and its adherents are also against feminisms in their many varieties), as inherently against technological, philosophical and moral progress. Islam and Muslims are figured, through the political economic imagination, as a thwarting to the flourishing of Western civil society. Islamophobia includes a range of attitudes and behaviors that target Islam and those believed to be Muslim as in need of remediation. It is important to note that through the public discourse, Islam and those perceived to be Muslims are racialized as different, as deficient. That is, Islamophobia cannot but share in the general Western tendency to identity difference-as-deficit, and such deficit as deficiency is always part of the project of racial logic.

Islamophobia targets those that are are, or are perceived to be Muslim, and women are very often the victims of such violence because of the religious practices of covering, because of the apparentness of religious conviction worn on the flesh. In a world that targets flesh based on real or perceived race, on ethnic and religious background, it is important to stand against Islamophobia as it shares in a general targeting of difference worn on and as the flesh. As such, standing against Islamophobia is a feminist, Black feminist, womanist and Black queer theoretical and material practice, it is a feminist, Black feminist, womanist and Black queer ethical charge of which those committed to justice must take up.  

Why do we care?
This summer, Muslims lead a campaign to raise money for Black churches that experienced arson at the hands of racist ideology and white supremacist thinking, they demonstrated a commitment to justice that modeled for us what it means to live out one’s conviction and practice of justice in the flesh, as a way of life. The raising of money for Black churches was not necessarily about shared theologies and worship practices but about constituting a way of life that honors the personhood of all, that honors all without regard to theologies and worship practices. Such living out is a model and must be returned. One cannot be content with the current political moment. Calls from Christian university presidents, from politicians, and from “ordinary Americans” have allowed us to listen into the ways Islam and Muslims are becoming the scapegoat for a range of political behaviors that produce violence globally. It is time, it seems, to really live out the ethics of the Christian Testament’s “Good Samaritan,” it is time to step up and support those that are being targeted by the pernicious evils of the political economy, an uncontrolled white heterosexist capitalist patriarchy run amok that has as its grounding violence against difference.

We do not have to wonder how violence, of Nazism or Middle Passage as examples, occurs. We look at Donald Trump and we laugh and think it’s all a joke while his words are used as fuel for violence. People listening and responding favorably to such messages of violence do so because they are gravely afraid of losing their so-called “culture,” because of the blacks and the latinx and the indigenous and the gays and the the trans* and the muslims and the feminists. People listen to such messages of violence and respond in kind because the messages name the anger felt towards a political economy but place, wrongfully so, on the ones that are most marginalized by the political economy. It is this that we resist, that we stand against.

This is no mere call for interfaith dialogue that leaves intact structural inequity. This is not a call for  crass multiculturalism that does not get to the root of structural inequity and violence. This is not a call to hold hands and sing as the end goal, though holding hands and singing together celebrates the flesh of one another as worthy of being touched, held, loved. Rather, this is a call for a direct confrontation with the evils of xenophobia, racism and violent cultural nationalism that produces violence against those our political economy, with mainstream media as its agent, choose to misunderstand and misrepresent. This is a call to seek and do justice as a way of life, celebrating that our differences do not have to separate us but can present otherwise possibilities for organizing, for being with each other in way to, together, confront the evils of this world. Our Black Muslim kith and kin modeled for us what that kind of love looks like in the face of adversity. And the love and concern shown emerges from a religious commitment and feeling not dissimilar to a Christian commitment and feeling. Such love and concern is not about the safety from harm as the raising of money this summer demonstrated that such is not the case. Rather, the love and concern is about an ethical life, a moral life, a way that antagonizes the normative way of living as separated, as segregated, as categorically distinct.

Bafflement and Outrage…
We will not allow the voices of hatred to drown out and overwhelm, we will not allow for those voices to be the only ones felt in this moment of crisis. Our ability to be baffled and outraged is a gift, it lets us know that we have not submitted to nor accepted the current loud discourse of Islamophobia. We transform this bafflement and outrage into otherwise ways to sense each other, to be in affinity with each other. We do not use the perniciousness of our times to create our relationality but simply use the capacity for relationality to rise to the occasion of our current antiblack, Islamophobic political economic moment. We recognize that our relationality is not created by the violence and violation of hate and fear mongering because we will not and will no longer be lulled to the sleep of comfort and satisfaction when it is not “our” group that is targeted for violence and violation. Our relationality exists previous to the situation, we simply must live and love our way to it. Bafflement and outrage are what animated James Baldwin’s ethical and moral demand to the world — in response to Angela Davis’s having been incarcerated — an injunction he made on himself demands of us now:

If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own — which it is — and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.

We, Black Christians and Christian adjacent persons (I describe myself as Agnostic and Pentecostal, Agnosticostal) must fight for the lives of our kith and kin as if they are our own, because they are our own.

Finally, [sisters and brothers], whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

We hold each other, love each other, work with and struggle in joy to produce otherwise possibilities for world making with each other. Our flesh is your flesh. Our lives are your lives. We seek, together, to do otherwise than this.

Learn More:
#BlackIslamSyllabus
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Muslim Advocates
Muslim Anti-Racist Collaborative
Sapelo Square

[If there are other organizations, local or national, that you want included, the list can be updated; simply comment.]

(What I Mean When I Say) Neoliberalism

Remember Blackplanet? Remember how you wanted to add swag to your page by animations and images, changing the background from the standard selections to personalized HTML possibilities? Remember the animated dollar signs that some users would place on their pages, animated dollar signs that would be placed at varied intervals?

dollar-sign-symbol-27

Those dollar signs were supposed to show us that, yes, this person indeed cared about gettin that coin, about saving, about wealth. But if you ever tried to grasp it, you’d see that you’d just be putting fingerprints on a screen. To grasp at a dollar sign as a form of something you can own, can hold in hand, while the material of it withers away? There is no content of the HTLM code, no content that is itself the creation or sustenance of wealth. It is just the appearance of a sign that is supposed to mean, supposed to register, a range of ideas. And neoliberalism is all about the appearance of signs without the change to structures and institutions of inequity.

I use the terms neoliberalism and neoliberal pretty frequently and felt it necessary to explicate the concept, or at least how I think the terms. What do I mean when I talk about neoliberalism? When I discuss it, I am primarily talking about the structure of the economy through policy measures that include making private public goods and opening up such goods to the private sector, austerity measures, the reduction of regulation practices that allowed for unfettered economic exploitation, openings to international markets that produce economic crises abroad while limiting job opportunities domestically, the reduction in the spending of governments. When I use it, I hone in on the making private of public goods and services by subjecting such goods and services subject to market forces and trends, allowing such goods and services to be subject to Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.” Such measures produce the occasion where profit on what should be things available to all for free like healthcare, education, housing is made. Importantly, reductions in government spending do not occur in uniform fashion, it is not applied to all sectors equally. For example, in military operations there is not a decrease but an increase in governmental expenditures; monies that could be used for the greater good, to create equity are siphoned off for measures — a mix of government and private sector spending — that further destabilizes the world, creates more violence and produces the occasion for ongoing “intervention” and the monies such so-called interventions require.

Along with such inequitable spending, with the making private public goods and services subjecting them to market forces and trends, is the degradation of and moralizing against those who then cannot afford what were or should be readily available to all without controversy. The degradation of and moralizing against persons that cannot afford now profitable goods and services is about transforming inherent inequity into a seeming moral failure for groups negatively impacted, about making them responsible for their purported personal, private behaviors that are supposedly the reasons obstructing their clear path to success. It is an economic system that requires an internalization of fear and shame, though such is an affect of inequity masquerading as its cause.  And this because neoliberalism is grounded in hiding in plain sight the perniciousness of its enactment.

What are examples of neoliberalism?

Neoliberal policy doesn’t simply appear with measures that many would, or could, immediately dismiss as bad. Prisons that are run by private corporations are one, though minuscule — though certainly problematic and in need of remediation — example. That prisons can be produced through the logic of profit, for many, makes absolutely no sense because such corporations would need to guarantee that each “bed” is “occupied,” which runs counter to the very idea of rehabilitation that prison, many presume, is supposed to produce. And that incarcerated persons’ labors can be exploited in both publicly and privately held prisons, that they can work for so many hours for so little pay, is in need of interrogation. And many were rightfully angry at the exorbitant, rapid increase in cost — 5000% increase — for medicine for people living with HIV. Yet this is the end result of making goods and services that should be available to all subject to market forces. Should incarceration allow for profitability? Should quality healthcare only be available to those that can afford expensive hospital bills? Should healthcare lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal debt and bankruptcy? These policies — prison and healthcare — many readily understand as problematic. But there are others that almost feel too good and warm hearts that are equally in need of interrogation and that because the logics of economic inequity are what ground the very forces that produce these things.

Yet, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, state colleges and universities and even the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative all follow the same patterns of neoliberalism: each promote privatization of public goods and services, goods and services that should be available collectively. NCLB and RTTT each pressured local government, through the promise of federal funding, to privatize public schools. This happened, for example, by offering incentives for chartering parts (to varying degrees) of local public school districts. These charters would allow for public funding to be used in private organizations, making of public schooling a private market. And in the case of RTTT, school districts were quite literally subject to competition, following the logics of capitalist economics, that competition creates opportunity. Schools, in other words, are offered up to the logic of business administration and education is no longer primarily about the possibility of liberation. Instead, a problem of resource allocation because of competition is the result. But these educational institutions are also decidedly against teacher unions. Teacher unions are the organization of collectivities in the service of bargaining for better pay and work conditions, for better healthcare and training. To the degree that teacher unions are the targets for elimination of school privatization proponents is the degree to which collectivity, as a concept itself, is targeted by neoliberalism itself.

Colleges and universities are especially guilty of neoliberalism with their transformation from spaces of education, questions, learning into spaces of private wealth management and real estate investment as the chief concerns. Colleges and universities have colluded with local municipalities in “redevelopment” efforts that have been nothing short of the displacement of communities, particularly low income, people of color, women. The lofts and condos and reclaimed wood, the coffee shops and walkable neighborhoods, are all good for individuals but have negative impacts on communities that are displaced.

gentrification

Questions, no doubt, linger: What about the increase in people that are able to get medical care through the Affordable Care Act? Aren’t prisons about protecting communities? Aren’t charter schools giving parents in under resourced areas urgently needed options?  Certainly, more people accessing doctors is a net good and protecting communities from violence and harm — when it does happen (and too much research demonstrates that the opposite is, in fact, the case, with regard to incarceration) — and certainly, kids learning at schools are commendable. But there remains the question of structural inequity that neoliberalism discards and, thus, leaves materially intact. What these various measures do, to varying degrees, is demonstrate the limits of the current political economy itself, the limits of the structural forces of capitalism to produce something along the line of justice. And in each case, these measures make citizenship an explicit case of indebtedness to the nation through financialization, through putting at remove the case and cause of justice by focusing on the so-thought urgency of now. So I think about the debt that college students are supposed to accrue in order to attain educations. But the debt accrued makes them — us — indebted financially, making our relation to the nation one of financial obligation to pay back. So our work, our labor, our practice, is in the service of us paying back to the nation the very possibility of being educated. It is a pernicious cycle.

Neoliberalism, for me, is a structural relation grounded in a presumption of individualism, of property as conferring worth and value, and a necessary degradation of publicly available, collectively held, socially sustained ways of providing care, for collectively held, socially sustained modes of relationality. Just like the degradation of collective organizing and bargaining of teacher unions, neoliberalism itself requires of us to be individuals against collectivities. This works itself out as caring about me and mine, of course, at the expense — unhappily, even — of others. Neoliberalism is a metaphysical relationship between the capacity to own private property and to be a private citizen, all effects of John Locke’s possessive individualism. Neoliberalization is about possessive possibility, about making goods and services subject to being owned and, thus, sold and exchanged for profit. Neoliberalism is a labor issue, an exploitation of labor and collectivity. Those of us doing its work, those of us producing its patterns without resistance have our labor exploited in ways that are structurally similar to — even if the material results and conditions of our lives differ  — those that actively resist.

The point is not simply to name the relation but to change it, to imagine otherwise possibilities, to consider alternative modes of organizing. The point is not to individualize and internalize the critique of the political economy, it is not to individualize and internalize the critique of neoliberal policy. Such individualizing and internalizing produces the occasion for thinking that our personal, private work is important — and no doubt it is — but trades the personal as a disruption to the systemic and institutional. And that is the flaw. Surely, people have, do and will continue to produce work from within the zones of inequity, myself inclusive (since I work for a university). The point is to think about the forces that structure the political economy and find ways to collectively resist these forces, to work against them.