Category: Social justice

Serially Wrong: Examining the ridiculous identitarian backlash to Serial.

(This has spoilers. Obviously. If you are nitpicky about that kind of thing, probably best not to read this just yet.)

MAJOR CONFESSION HERE: I like Serial. I think that it is, without question, one of the best podcasts I’ve listened to in recent memory.

I am not alone in that, and I think there’s two big reasons why that is: drama by the ton and great storytelling. Additionally, it has something for everybody: people who enjoy the hardcore sleuthing can find communities of people dedicated to sifting through the evidence and drawing conclusions on their own; casual listeners can let Sarah Koenig, the journalist relaying the story, do all the work and listen in while she ruminates, agonizes, and waffles over every piece of evidence that she and her team uncovers. Koenig is a key part of the story not simply because we are seeing all of this through her eyes, but because she does not allow herself to be edited into some perfect figure who is “just about the facts, ma’am”. There are moments where her naïveté gets completely blown up, and she just sits back and says, “damn, I really screwed up on that one”.

It is a complete story and podcast, even if it is not perfect. But what does perfection look like when you are revisiting a fifteen-year old murder where the individuals who are involved are still alive and actively dealing with those memories…and their consequences? How do you tell a perfect story about a murder when the victim’s family refuses to be a part of the production? And most importantly, how do you tell a perfect story about a judicial process that was far from that standard? The defense did not interview key alibis in addition to engaging in some of the most unhelpful cross-examination I have ever heard, and the prosecution and police force put together a case that relied on barely tenuous evidence and racial priming against this seventeen-year old kid from an immigrant community. Where can you make a perfect story out of all that?

And yet, Serial still manages to tell a very compelling story about teenagers who were caught up (justly or unjustly, depending on your view of Adnan Syed) in a horrific murder, in a city that is no stranger to that particular crime, be it real or fiction. But in a world where instant reaction to incomplete events and social media-driven journalism has become the rule rather than the exception, the backlash was bound to come eventually.

I just thought that it would be more….substantive.

As The Sky Hook Turns: A Response To Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

(Today, we have a guest post from Robert Reece at The South Lawn. Robert is a PhD student in sociology at Duke University where he takes an intersectional critical race approach to research on the American South, black popular culture, gender/sex/sexuality, and digital technology. He is from Leland, MS, a small town in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, and obtained BA and MA degrees in sociology from The University of Mississippi.)

Last week, the former professional basketball player (6-time NBA champion and 6-time NBA MVP), activist, and filmmaker, wrote an article for Time entitled “The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race,” where he argues, in true Marxist fashion, that race is not the real issue in Ferguson, or anywhere else for that matter. The real issue is class and how the poor are systematically disadvantaged by the wealthy elite, and race is just an ideological division perpetuated by the mainstream media to impede the organization of the 50 million impoverished Americans. He writes, “Ferguson is not just about systemic racism—it’s about class warfare and how America’s poor are held back…” Well, the truth is: it’s about both.

The tragic shooting of Mike Brown is certainly not limited to economically disadvantaged black communities, but the aftermath: the curfew, the police presence, the National Guard presence, almost certainly wouldn’t have manifested in a well-to-do community full of black decision makers. But it is equally, or less, likely to occur in a white community, even a poor white community. Only the confluence of poverty and racial otherness elicits such a violence police response to a violence police response. Eliminating either factor changes the game entirely. Neither can be subsumed by the other.

On rhetoric and strategy in social justice and leftist spaces.

I happened upon a piece of rhetorical analysis by Stephen D’Arcy written in January that examined the differences between social justice activists in what people call the New Left era (1960s through the early 1970s) and today. The gist of the article is that the language used by contemporary leftists departs from that used in the New Left era in three ways: the shift from the systemic to the interpersonal; the shift from the collective/community to the specific; and the shift from the quest for an ultimate victory over oppressive ideologies and behaviors to the challenge of mitigating everyday impacts, or microaggressions in today’s parlance, of those ideologies. It is an amazing piece of writing and I suggest that folks check it out for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

D’Arcy invites the reader to do just that, and in that spirit, I have some relatively brief observations (a brief blog post from me; shocking, I know!):

Bodies That Matter: Moral Mondays Promote Visibility and Momentum

“Such collective disidentifications can facilitate a reconceptualization of which bodies matter, and which bodies are yet to emerge as critical matters of concern”  

-Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter (xiv).

 Which bodies “matter,” and which bodies will emerge as a “critical concern” in North Carolina? While theorist Judith Butler was referring to disidentifications regarding people’s sex and gender with society, these words resonate with me when thinking of Moral Mondays in North Carolina. We are a collection of “disidentifications,” people who do not fit tightly into a box woven with society’s notions of various privileges. The variety of political signs present at Moral Mondays evidences this reality. Increasingly more people are fighting silence and gaining visibility through physically occupying a space. This collaboration between people with various issues has reiterated the importance of physical visibility and voice in organizing for southern progressivism, as well as making visible bodies that matter.

Image