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Private Rage, Public Lies, and Patience

January 30, 2017

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Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region. 

1. Our cynicism will not build a movement. Collaboration will.
Alicia Garza on Mic: “I’ve been grappling with how to challenge cynicism in a moment that requires all of us to show up differently. On Saturday, I joined more than a million women in Washington, D.C., to register my opposition to the new regime. Participating in the Women’s March — if you count satellite protests around the country, the largest one-day mobilization in the history of the United States — was both symbolic and challenging. Like many other black women, I was conflicted about participating. […] I’d had enough before it even began. 53% of white women who voted in the 2016 presidential election did so for a man who aims to move society backward. Were white women now having buyer’s remorse? Where were all of these white people while our people are being killed in the streets, jobless, homeless, over incarcerated, under educated? Are you committed to freedom for everyone, or just yourselves? […] Yet as time went on and the reality of the incoming Donald Trump administration sank in, something began to gnaw at me. I decided to challenge myself to be a part of something that isn’t perfect, that doesn’t articulate my values the way that I do and still show up, clear in my commitment, open and vulnerable to people who are new in their activism. I can be critical of white women and, at the same time, seek out and join with women, white and of color, who are awakening to the fact that all lives do not, in fact, matter, without compromising my dignity, my safety and radical politics.”

2. The Myth of the Well-Behaved Women’s March
Jess Zimmerman for the New Republic: “White women’s safety has long been used as an excuse and a vehicle for oppression. […] When police strap on their body armor and batons to face black men and women, when they goad them into illegal action and dispense swift punishment, the pretext for that violence is often that the protesters are ‘dangerous.; Dangerous to what? To property, sometimes, but also to ideals like ‘community’ and ‘peace’ and ‘our children and families.’ But the people being beaten are communities, are children and families. So who is ‘us’? What is ‘ours’? Well, white men’s white wives and daughters. In other words, property again. The high-fives of cops at the Women’s March and the blows raining down on BLM are the front and back of the same hand. If you think their uncharacteristic gentleness is a testament to your good behavior, think again. It comes from the same root as their violence: from the conviction that you are a delicate, breakable, and unthreatening thing.”

3. How this group is gearing up to stop the policing of black and brown girls in Trump’s America
Tahirah Hairston for Fusion: “‘It’s more important now than ever to really, really center in on students of color,’ Nia Evans told me. Evans is a developer for The National Women’s Law Centers ‘Let Her Learn’ campaign, which debuted last December. Earlier this month, the campaign released a viral video that raised awareness about the unjust way that girls of color—especially black girls—can be treated in schools. Last June, the Department of Education released new data showing that black K-12 students were 3.8 times more likely to be suspended than white ones,with 10 percent of black girls receiving at least one or more out-of-school suspensions. In the 2015-2016 school year, black and Latinx students made up 96% of suspensions at Chicago Public Schools. In 2014, Columbia University law professor Kimberle Williams Crenshaw found that black girls were punished in school at rates even higher than black boys. ‘Let Her Learn’ is trying to halt these disproportionate rates of suspension and expulsion for black and brown girls within the education system. […] The ‘Let Her Learn’ campaign also comes with an online toolkit for students, parents and community activists. It includes statistics, a student’s civil rights guide and a step-by-step checklist with questions about school policies around punishments and dress codes. In the spring, the campaign plans to release a concrete platform with a specific policy agenda.”

4. Roxane Gay’s Masterpieces of Private Rage
Rafia Zarkaria reviews Roxane Gay’s new book Difficult Women for the New Republic: “Many analyses of the riven edges of American race relations have been astute and revelatory, exposing realities that have been for too long omitted from public debate. But the violence of exclusion is not limited to our public institutions: Racism, and reflexes learned in response to it, seep deep into our inner lives and shape our most intimate relationships. Manifestations of all of these very private American realities can be found in the pages of Difficult Women, Roxane Gay’s debut short story collection. The protagonists of her stories are not always black or brown, nor always women, but they are, all of them, complicit in the infliction or perpetration of intimate violence, racked by secret desires and seething rage. […] It takes courage to write such a book, to bank on un-likeability, on women unraveling in such a variety of ways. In reveling in this exposure of rage, Roxane Gay charts a markedly different literary course than is routinely allotted to the ‘diverse’ or ‘minority’ female author.”

5. Emmett Till’s Murder: What Really Happened That Day in the Store?
The woman who accused Emmett Till of making physical advances towards her admitted to author Timothy B. Tyson that she had lied, as he details in his new book The Blood of Emmett Till. Jason Parham reviewed the book for the New York Times: “On a Wednesday evening in August, Till allegedly flirted with and grabbed the hand of Carolyn Bryant, a white woman who worked as the cashier at a local market. […] Outside private correspondence with her attorney, trial testimony and her unpublished memoir, Bryant remained tight­lipped about her interaction with Till. In 2008, in her only interview since that fateful season of death, Bryant admitted to Tyson that a crucial piece of her testimony in court was fabricated. Till never “grabbed her around the waist and uttered obscenities,” as she had avowed on the witness stand. “You tell these stories for so long that they seem true,” she confesses early in the book, “but that part is not true.” And so we are left with a sobering certainty, one that even Bryant herself is forced to concede to Tyson, more than 50 years later: “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.” The sum of history is made up of recurring patterns. Each new decade has brought past sins to the fore. From Emmett Till and Henry Marrow to Amadou Diallo, Rekia Boyd and Alton Sterling. These deaths, old­world lynchings that have taken new shapes, are simply the mores and modes of a long­practiced American custom: white supremacy. ‘The real horror comes when your dead brain must face the fact that we as a nation don’t want it to stop,’ the novelist Chester Himes wrote to The New York Post upon hearing that Till’s murderers were acquitted. ‘If we wanted to, we would.'”