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.

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Mourning Becomes Justice

Guest post by Michelle Brown

This is the irony or paradox. Political resistance could kill you, well actually the state could in response to your resistance, but the beloved community could save you. Not from physical death. Nothing would do that, not even god. But from meaningless death and despair. One does not negotiate with the state’s use of terror, violent and premature death (actual physical death or disappearance through incarceration). One opposes it and in that opposition finds meaning in black suffering.

– Joy James, “Black Suffering in Search of the ‘Beloved Community’”

Criminal justice in the United States is a project that intersects with race and mortality at every intersection. In laying out this claim, of course, I have the killing of Michael Brown in mind and recent events and actions in Ferguson, Missouri. I also situate this present moment within the growing historical record of patterned, racialized state killing. I mean to point to a kind of disturbance that is foundational, ordinary, routine: Mass incarceration and capital punishment are produced through a host of everyday discretionary decision-making and institutional practices that make up criminal justice, creating the conditions for premature death, like that of Michael Brown. To name only a few of these (and to engage them superficially at best), consider the following:

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Just Say No to CCA

Guest Post by Andrew Krinks

In an editorial-as-advertisement published on May 17 in the Tennessean, Blair Leibach, warden at the CCA-managed Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility, boasted what he understands to be the benefits of correctional facilities operated by the Corrections Corporations of America (CCA). In what follows, I offer a brief response to Leibach’s primary points. My argument, in short, is “No.”

To start, Leibach is writing, as would be expected, from a “crime deserves punishment” logic, which presupposes two things: first, that every person who enters a jail or prison is, in fact, guilty of an act that disrupts or harms the life of another person or a community; and second, that such acts rightly warrant that the alleged “offender” be separated from their community and subjected to various forms of violence. It is simply not true, however, in a country that incarcerates more people than any other nation on the planet, that every person who currently sits in jail or prison has, in fact, committed an act that harmed another person or a community. Thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing and the hyper-criminalization of drug use and trade, thousands and thousands of people, largely from low-income communities and communities of color, sit behind bars for years or even decades for acts that, in many instances, harmed no one. This is not to say that there aren’t people behind bars who have harmed others; the point is that a significant number of people in our correctional facilities are being made to suffer a violence that far outweighs whatever violence they may—or may not!—have committed.

Beyond this, it has been thoroughly demonstrated that that which counts as “crime” under our legal system is applied differently and disproportionately across different communities. As Kahlil Muhammad, for example, shows, non-white and poor persons have historically been associated with an inherent criminality that must be controlled through the vigilant policing and/or removal of such persons from our communities—an attribution that has not historically been applied in the same way to white persons who disrupt or harm the life of communities.

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