Built-In Oppression

America’s Cities Were Designed to Oppress (Bryan Lee Jr.)

For nearly every injustice in the world, there is an architecture that has been planned and designed to perpetuate it.

Rebellion is a response to a prolonged dehumanization of a people unwilling to be participants in their own demise; it is often the soft power of the built environment that provides the preconditions for that dehumanization and the atrocities that follow.

Is Prison Necessary?

Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind (Rachel Kushner)

Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.”

For Gilmore, to “never forget” means you don’t solve a problem with state violence or with personal violence. Instead, you change the conditions under which violence prevailed. Among liberals, a kind of quasi-Christian idea about empathy circulates, the idea that we have to find a way to care about the people who’ve done bad. To Gilmore this is unconvincing. When she encountered the kids in Fresno who hassled her about prison abolition, she did not ask them to empathize with the people who might hurt them, or had. She instead asked them why, as individuals, and as a society, we believe that the way to solve a problem is by “killing it.” She was asking if punishment is logical, and if it works. She let the kids find their own way to answer.

Abolish the Police

Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police (Mariame Kaba)

When people, especially white people, consider a world without the police, they envision a society as violent as our current one, merely without law enforcement — and they shudder. As a society, we have been so indoctrinated with the idea that we solve problems by policing and caging people that many cannot imagine anything other than prisons and the police as solutions to violence and harm.

The Authoritarian Stamp of Jim Crow

The Authoritarian Stamp of Jim Crow (Jamelle Bouie)

Southern conservatives beat back Populism and biracial democracy to build a one-party state and ensure cheap labor, low taxes, white supremacy and a starkly unequal distribution of wealth. It took two decades of disruption — the Great Depression, the Great Migration and the Second World War — to even make change possible, and then another decade of fierce struggle to bring democracy back to the South.

If we look at the actions of the political party and president now in power, if we think of how they would behave with even more control over the levers of the state, then we might be on a path that ends in something that is familiar from our past — authoritarian government with a democratic facade.

Canada is Fake

Canada is Fake (Alex Verman)

The state itself is the best evidence we have for the claim that something can be both socially constructed and also terribly consequential — a border is an utterly unnatural thing, something that is so flimsy and nonsensical that states spend billions of dollars maintaining the illusion of their reality every year.

The eventual formation of Canada as “Canada” came about in the late 1800s for nakedly economic reasons, primarily to benefit the companies and conglomerates that were trading Canadian natural resources with the British, but also to facilitate railroad construction (using slave labor) in which civic leaders had investments.

The lands in question are technically unceded, meaning that they lie fully outside of the jurisdiction of the Canadian state — this land was never officially incorporated into the Canadian state, and the people there never entered into formal treaties with Canadian colonists.

Reading Colonialism in Parasite

Reading Colonialism in Parasite (Ju-Hyun Park)

Division and war are not Korea’s destiny, and the path to reunification and peace will only become clearer the further we walk it. If we take anything from Parasite, it should be that the liberation of Korea flows through the liberation of all peoples from capitalism and colonialism. For settlers, this especially means struggling with Indigenous peoples for the decolonization of the land beneath our feet.

The First Drag Queen was a Former Slave

The First Drag Queen Was a Former Slave (Channing Gerard Joseph)

Coming of age at a time when an entirely new form of freedom and self-​determination was developing for African Americans, Swann and his house of butlers, coachmen, and cooks—the first Americans to regularly hold cross-dressing balls and the first to fight for the right to do so—arguably laid the foundations of contemporary queer celebration and protest.

What is Whiteness?

What is Whiteness? (Nell Irvin Painter)

The useful part of white identity’s vagueness is that whites don’t have to shoulder the burden of race in America, which, at the least, is utterly exhausting. A neutral racial identity is blandly uninteresting.

We lack more meaningful senses of white identity, even though some whites, throughout history, have been committed to fighting racism and advocating for social justice.

Eliminating the binary definition of whiteness — the toggle between nothingness and awfulness — is essential for a new racial vision that ethical people can share across the color line.