To Supplement Dr. Christina Sharpe’s essay, Black Life, Annotated, TNI asked Sharpe to create a syllabus for further reading on the subject and she graciously obliged, with help from Mariame Kaba and Dr. Tamara Nopper.
Introduction to The Prison Industrial Complex
I recommend everything on the blog Prison Culture “How the PIC Structures Our World…”
In the hours of first hearing about terrible event X, whatever moment I still can’t name. An incident, a tragedy, a violence. An event you don’t want to name after the person who perpetrated it - namely because it doesn’t feel like a one-person action. An event you don’t want to name after a place, because it happens every where.
In the minutes after I hear myself yelling at the radio, cringing at the language used by reporters - reporting just to report, not to dig deep, not to understand, not to make sense of it because who can make sense of it in the minutes hours days after such things happen - I find myself thirsting for logic. Craving a voice of rage, not of reason. Often, these come best in the form of frantic emails to close friends, stream of consciousness rambles, the raw anger that is allowed, allowed, allowed.
My way of processing these things have changed lately. I used to be tempted to do as many do: share articles the day of, the day after, the days after. To share them, as if that act of sharing lets others know you are reading about the same death(s), the same women, that you are remembering their names. Names like Loretta. Christina. And when they aren’t named, remembering their ages, the voices of their parents, their friends. Often it makes me relive the awful sinking feeling I felt the first time I heard of the awful thing, the awful thing I can’t yet name.
So, nearly a month later, after remembering to breathe, and reading to try and make sense of things, I think I can do it. Because it feels important to share these words. Because their words helped me sleep at night, to know that people are naming these things, finding the words when I and so many others still cannot.
“What is the role of settler Canadians in a relentless emergency that has become – and has long been – everyday life for so many Native people? What is our role in a situation where front-line services reinforce experiences of dispossession and trauma, where scores of Indigenous communities live without potable water or decent shelter, and where Indigenous women face unconscionable levels of abuse, violence, and humiliation?”
“Us ladies” are NOT a team… consider women in music who align themselves with charities and causes that don’t reflect their lived experience in order to seem like they’re doing great things for poor, suffering women—the Other. Look at female artists who use background dancers of other races as props… Look at women in music who publicly shame other women for exercising bodily autonomy, like Warpaint making offensive comments about Beyoncé and Rihanna’s wardrobe choices.
And look at the way articles published in the name of feminism and community end up reading like a list of ways to avoid confronting the complicated way that being surrounded by cis dudes has made you feel. We have a responsibility to support and empower each other in our fight against these damaging systems, not teach each other how to avoid punishment by mimicking the behavior of our oppressors, or staying small and quiet.
Major props to Meredith for being the only person in these interviews to call attention to the major fuck ups when talking about the challenge of being the “only girl” in an all-dude band. The original article was gross (and feeds into my general opinion of VICE) but SO FEW PEOPLE challenged the author not only its failings re: sexism, but also how it is absolutely essential to talk about how that culture of misogyny and “just suck it up” intersects with racist, heteronormative and gender essentialist bullshit.
Failing on the part of this article was only interviewing young white women on this issue (I’m making that assumption based on the photos and passing knowledge I have of these artists) but still worth a read.
The cat is out of the bag! The New York Timespreviews Kara Walker’s upcoming exhibition, which opens May 10 at the Domino Sugar Factory.
“Rising to the rafters and stretching 75 feet from paws to rump is a great sphinx, demure as her Egyptian cousin but glowing from a recent sugar coating. It is a sight so unlikely it seems Photoshopped.”
We can’t wait to share it with all of you!
“Sugar crystallizes something in our American Soul. It is emblematic of all Industrial Processes. And of the idea of becoming white. White Being equated with pure and ‘true’ it takes a lot of energy to turn brown things into white things. A lot of pressure.” — Kara Walker
“The fashion world is an industry that largely incorporates non-white people only as the labor to hem and stitch and toil and nothing else. Certain bodies belong and others do not. Anything that differs from this structure must be an affront to its natural order. In fashion, it is inherently “not good” and “not right” because it is different. It is not white.”
Ah. So basically Naomi Campbell discussed how institutional racism impacts the fashion industry and the White male interviewer wanted it to be about her personal “anger” in incidents unrelated to fashion. Naomi Campbell discussed her passion about making the industry diverse and the White male interviewer wanted to parse “good” angry versus “bad” angry. Naomi Campbell discussed how there is a systemic issue in the industry and the White male interviewer wanted to discuss how Naomi herself, individually succeeded so doesn’t that exceptionalism prove that racism in the industry isn’t an issue? Ugh.
They literally are operating from different frames of thought; hers shaped by reality of what she sees and documents (with actual numbers in some instances) and his based on White male privilege and individualism fostered by both exceptionalism and stereotypes, which will never speak to systemic issues.
This interview is a microcosm of what it is like to confront White privilege, racism and White supremacy on any issue. Even those who want to “find out” more and may even compliment us often cannot think past their own privilege. One of the key problems involved in thinking shaped by White privilege is the role individualism plays, intellectually. To them, everything at worst falls under a negative stereotype and at best can be summarized by positive exceptionalism. NEITHER of these speak to institutional, structural and systemic issues of racism.
Oh and notice how she parsed racism here. As the act that the people who work for the designers engaged in, not whether or not the designers or their people are “racist.” This is important. Because Whites love to escape “racist” as a label. Okay, fine. Let’s talk about what they DID and SAID, and intent is irrelevant, as she mentioned they may not “know” what they did with their casting etc. Her own words reveal this the chasm between the way they think…
I’m not here to talk about me, I’m here to talk about balanced diversity.
I’m not angry. And I don’t like the thing of the ‘angry Black woman’ either; this is not what this is about.
We feel passionate. Feeling passion about something doesn’t mean you have to be angry.
Naomi = brilliant.
A+ commentary, both gradientlair’s and Naomi’s
“…I’m over people not explicitly acknowledging (racism in the fashion industry). Go on. Say it. Utter the word. You can do it. It’s scary; I get it – it’s scary because as a white dude naming a thing you (consciously or not) play part in perpetuating. You’re shooting yourself in the foot.”