BUILT to Burn: White Supremacy, Self-Immolation, and Dylann Roof

Guest Post by Leonard Curry

Roof is a product. He is neither natural nor inevitable. He embodies both white supremacy and the failure of white supremacy–that is, like capitalism, white supremacy is self-immolating. Ask yourself, how can capitalism be the “best” system if it is always collapsing? How can white supremacy be “supreme” if a person like Roof exists? He is not Donald Trump or “shirtless Matthew McConaughey;” he is poor, unastute, unpretty, “degraded” whiteness–whiteness that is supposed to stay in the racial closet so that supremacy is believable. He is an old formation of white supremacy that is supposed to no longer exist because the elite white supremacists no longer carry this model.

It is my hope that white and black people alike are tired enough of our white supremacist culture to finally do something about it. Because, believe it or not, there are situations where cooperation and work across racial difference is actually MORE fruitful than racist notions of scarcity.

For white people–

Step one: disintegrate whiteness. Find particularity again. Know your racial histories. Learn multiple narratives. Locate your individuality within community.

Step two: abandon the logics of scarcity; invest in something other than your best interest. Invest in other people. Find a cause that you believe in that is bigger than your own purity, safety, guilt, or lonesomeness. Do explicitly racial, anti-racist work. Do it everyday.

Step three: give up power, share power, empower others, amplify their voices, only know what can be rightly known through encounter and the gift of exchange; be undone by another; learn limits.

Folks of Color–

Check your investments in whiteness. Whiteness is like Voldemort in Harry Potter; you might have to die trying to get it out of you. (Some of us believe in resurrection though.)

You might have to pull a Dave Chappelle. Just make sure you have a community to do this work in.

Finally Beloved, read:

Ladelle McWhorter, Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo America: A Genealogy; Emilie M. Townes, Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil. These are not easy books because of the content and because of the stories that they tell. But they are worth it. Read them multiple times. And let’s go to work.

Leonard Curry is a PhD candidate in Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University. He is also an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. His current research includes Black radical traditions, anti-colonial and postcolonial thought, critical race theory, and critical social theory.

Caging as a Collective Praxis of Social Death

Part Three of Carceral Dreams, Nuclear Afterthoughts

 Guest Post by Lisa Guenther

Practices of seeing and not-seeing structure our world, along with the possibilities that we imagine for ourselves and others as Being-in-the-world. In this third installment of Carceral Dreams, Nuclear Afterthoughts, I will argue that social-perceptual practices like seeing and ignoring don’t just add a layer of subjective interpretation to an already-existing objective world; they literally materialize and dematerialize the world. They make things and people appear and disappear.

Take, for example, the Hartsville Nuclear Complex. In my first blog post in this series, I mentioned that Hartsville was supposed to be the largest nuclear power plant in the world, before the project was canceled in 1984. But in local news reports about the deal to build a private prison in Hartsville, the nuclear power plant is never mentioned, despite the fact that the proposed building site is directly below the main cooling tower. It’s as if decades of avoiding the huge white elephant in their midst have made the reactor all but invisible to local residents (or at least to reporters). And yet, to outsiders and neighbors like me, the cooling tower stands out like a sore thumb. It evokes the surprise of something out of place and even absurd: a palimpsest of disaster in the midst of lush natural beauty.

Photo by Lisa Guenther

Image: Lisa Guenther

In the midst of this normalized absurdity, the nuclear fantasy of limitless power and growth has morphed into a deal with the world’s largest private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America. How is Hartsville shifting from a nuclear-industrial complex to a carceral-neoliberal complex, and what remains of the former in the latter? What role do social-perceptual practices play in this ongoing transition, and what hope is there for counter-practices of resistance and transformation beyond both the nuclear and the carceral?

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A Critical Phenomenology of the Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility

Part Two of Carceral Dreams, Nuclear Afterthoughts

 Guest Post by Lisa Guenther

The United States incarcerates more people than any other nation in the history of the world. We both know, and don’t know, that this is a disaster.

Artists like Chris Jordan have created digital images to help us imagine this disaster, to witness the mathematical sublime of 2.3 million people behind bars. Others, like Richard Ross and Taryn Simon, have used photography to give these numbers a human face.

In this second post of my three-part series on Carceral Dreams, Nuclear Afterthoughts, I will take a somewhat different approach to the visual culture of mass incarceration. Beginning with an image of the building site for the Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility, lifted from a developer’s website, I want to sift through the layers of meaning and absurdity that structure this image.

I call my method critical phenomenology, understood as a practice of critically suspending “common sense” accounts of reality in order to map and describe the structures that make these accounts possible, to analyze the way they function, and to open up new possibilities for re-imagining and re-claiming the commons. Critical phenomenology is a method for pulling up traces of what is not quite or no longer there – that which has been rubbed out or consigned to invisibility – but which still shapes the emergence of meaning, and of absurdity.[ii]

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Why We’re Not Celebrating Chief Anderson

 Guest post by Andrew Krinks

Nashville’s chief of police has garnered praise from a wide spectrum of people for his response to local protests against racist police violence. But celebrating a police chief for refraining from harming protesters and defending our right to “express” our “thoughts” only decenters the real cause for celebration: the growing coalition building power in the movement against white supremacy and economic injustice in Nashville and beyond—a coalition and a movement whose message Chief Anderson has thus far successfully refrained from acknowledging or engaging in any meaningful way. Thus, we see no reason to spend energy celebrating Chief Anderson until he concretely joins us in the struggle to dismantle white supremacy and economic injustice—which would mean significant changes in what policing looks like in our city.

In response to protests nationwide against the murder of black men, women, and children at the hands of white police officers, and against the subsequent non-indictments of those officers, chiefs of police across the U.S. have dealt with demonstrators swiftly and aggressively, in many cases with billy clubs, rubber bullets, tear gas, and jail cells. In responding in such a way to protests against racist police violence, police departments have only reinforced the point the demonstrations have sought to make: policing in the U.S. is inherently violent and inherently racist.

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The Darkest Hour: Isolation and Death Row in Texas Prisons

Documentary Film and Book Discussion with Dr. Betty Gilmore

Thursday, January 22, 2015
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Vanderbilt University, Furman Hall 114

Complimentary Pizza!

RSVP: info@goodmediapress.com
Facebook Event Page

Join us for a screening of the documentary film, “The Darkest Hour,” and a discussion with Dr. Betty Gilmore, co-author (with Nanon Williams) of the companion book.

The Darkest Hour Vanderbilt Event-1

We live in the age of racialized mass incarceration. An age in which tens of thousands of human beings are caged in solitary confinement every day. Some for decades at a time. The documentary film, “The Darkest Hour” exposes the inhumane impact of extreme isolation experienced by those incarcerated nationwide.

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Schedule of Events for Wear Orange Day, October 30

In solidarity with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Tennessee Students and Educators for Social Justice is calling on students and educators across the state to wear orange on October 30. Together with activists across the country, we endorse the following Pledge of Resistance:

What kind of society do you want to live in?

– Police brutality and police murder are daily occurrences, yet brutal murdering cops are almost never punished for their crimes;
– Black and Latino people, especially the youth, are treated like criminals, guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence;
– This criminalization has led to 2.2 million people being warehoused in prison, a 500% increase over the past 30 years;
– Tens of thousands of people in prison are subjected to the torture of long term solitary confinement;
– Alongside this has risen a program of criminalizing and incarcerating undocumented immigrants;
– The color of a person’s skin determines whether they live and how they live.

Today we pledge:

Black lives matter.
Latino lives matter.
All lives matter.

* Mass incarceration: WE SAY NO MORE!

* Police murder: WE SAY NO MORE!

* Torture in the prisons: WE SAY NO MORE!

* Criminalization of generations: WE SAY NO MORE!

* Attacks on immigrants: WE SAY NO MORE!

We will NOT be silent.

We WILL resist!

Until these shameful horrors really are… NO MORE!

 

Schedule of Events in Nashville

Wear orange all day long!

11am-1pm – Imagine a World Without Prisons (Collaborative Art Project)

Outside Rand Dining Hall, Vanderbilt University

1pm – Rally and Discussion of Mass Incarceration

Outside Rand Dining Hall, Vanderbilt University

4 – 6:30pm – Nightmare on Our Street: Teach-In on Racialized Violence

Vanderbilt Divinity School, Reading Room

The Vanderbilt Divinity School in conjunction with the Graduate Department of Religion and Vanderbilt Black Seminarians will host “Nightmare on Our Street!: A Teach-in On Racialized Violence in America” on Thursday, October 30th from 4-6:30PM in the Reading Room located in the Divinity School. This teach-in seeks, through a religious lens, to analyze, critique, and respond to the racialized violence inflicted on communities of color and the systems and structures that reinforce institutionalized racism. Panelists will include Mr. Keron Blair, Campaign Strategist and Field Director at Raise IL, Ms. Darria Janéy Hudson, Multicultural Youth Organizer at Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Coalition, Rev. Dr. Christophe D. Ringer, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Christian Brothers University, Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas, Associate Professor of Ethics and Society, Rev. Mark Forrester, University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life at Vanderbilt University, and August Washington, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief of Vanderbilt Police Department. Dr. Herbert Marbury, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, will serve as moderator.

7:30 pm – “Void of Grace: Mass Incarceration in the State of TN”

Lipscomb University, Swang Business Building, Stowe Hall (Room 108 – there will be signs)

 

Photo Gallery: Nashville Teach-In, September 13

Photos from the Teach-In on Mass Incarceration and the Death Penalty at the Nashville Public Library, September 13, 2014.  Photography by Luke Myers.

Coverage of Nashville Teach-In and Rally

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Nashville Teach-In on Mass Incarceration and the Death Penalty, and the Rally to Stop Executions!  Here’s some media coverage of the two events:

Coverage of the Teach-In:

“’Teach-in’ takes on death penalty, judicial system,” The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2014/09/14/teach-takes-death-penalty-judicial-system/15606227/

“Group calling for change to prisons and death penalty,” Fox 17 News, http://www.fox17.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/group-calling-change-prisons-death-penaltymikayla-lewis-23494.shtml

Coverage of the Rally:

“Activists hold rally in downtown Nashville to protest death penalty (Live Coverage),”  WSMV Channel 4 News, http://www.wsmv.com/Clip/10585551/activists-hold-rally-in-downtown-nashville-to-protest-death-penalty?fb_action_ids=10203242480876035&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_ref=.VBg12x8AReI.like

“Rally protesting executions in TN held in downtown Nashville,”  WSMV Channel 4 News,  http://www.wsmv.com/story/26538868/rally-protesting-executions-in-tn-held-in-downtown-nashville

“Anti-death penalty protesters voice concerns on Capitol Hill,” WKRN-TV Channel 2 News, http://www.wkrn.com/story/26536945/anti-death-protesters-voice-concerns-on-tennessees-capitol-hill

Stay tuned for the follow-up to our Open Letter to Stop Executions!

#ImagineAbolition

Rally to Stop Executions – TODAY in Nashville!

Monday, Sept 15, 12 noon – 1pm

Legislative Plaza (corner of 6th and Charlotte)

Nashville, TN

As students and educators, we seek to understand the world and to share our understanding with others through a practice of critical thinking and responsible action.  Therefore, we cannot remain silent as Tennessee plans to execute people in the name of justice.

We call upon Governor Bill Haslam to suspend all scheduled executions immediately, and to commission a full and transparent review of capital punishment in Tennessee.

Today at noon, Tennessee Students and Educators for Social Justice will send a delegation to deliver our Open Letter to Governor Haslam, asking him to stop currently-scheduled executions and to conduct a full and transparent review of Tennessee’s death penalty system.

Come out and support our delegation!  Bring signs to express your views and banners to represent your school, college, community group, or congregation.

Sept 13 Teach-in Poster