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136 pages, Paperback
First published October 1, 2005
"The assumption that the placement of black people like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice in the heart of government would mean progress for the entire community was clearly fallacious...The civil rights movement demanded access, and access has been granted to some. The challenge of the twenty-first century is not to demand equal opportunity to participate in the machinery of oppression. Rather, it is to identify and dismantle those structures in which racism continues to be embedded. This is the only way the promise of freedom can be extended to masses of people."
"Today we might say that we have all been offered an equal opportunity to perpetuate male dominance and racism."[Slavery and] The Prison
"What is interesting is that slavery as an institution, during the end of the
eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth century, for example, managed to become a receptacle for all of those forms of punishment that were considered to be barbaric by the developing democracy. So rather than abolish the death penalty outright, it was offered refuge within slave law…One might say that the institution of slavery served as a receptacle for those forms of punishment considered to be too uncivilized to be inflicted on white citizens within a democratic society. With the abolition of slavery this clearly racialized form of punishment became de-racialized and persists today under the guise of color-blind justice."
"Increased punishment is most often a result of increased surveillance. Those communities that are subject to police surveillance are much more likely to produce more bodies for the punishment industry. But even more important, imprisonment is the punitive solution to a whole range of social problems that are not being addressed by those social institutions that might help people lead better, more satisfying lives."
"DuBois pointed out that in order to fully abolish the oppressive conditions produced by slavery, new democratic institutions would have to be created. Because this did not occur; black people encountered new forms of slavery—from debt peonage and the convict lease system to segregated and second-class education. The prison system continues to carry out this terrible legacy. It has become a receptacle for all of those human beings who bear the inheritance of the failure to create abolition democracy in the aftermath of slavery. And this inheritance is not only born by black prisoners, but by poor Latino, Native American, Asians, and white prisoners. Moreover, its use as such a receptacle for people who are deemed the detritus of society is on the rise throughout the world."Limits of the Law
"Capital punishment continues to be inflicted disproportionately on black people, but when the black person is sentenced to death, he/she comes under the authority of law as the abstract juridical subject, as a rights-bearing individual, not as a member of a racialized community that has been subjected to conditions that make him/her a prime candidate for legal repression. Thus the racism becomes invisible and unrecognizable. In this respect, he/she is “equal” to his/her white counterpart, who therefore is not entirely immune to the hidden racism of the law."
"[Powell] said that the military was the most democratic institution in our society and created a framework in which people could escape the constraints of race and, we can add today, gender as well. This notion of the military as a levelling institution, one that constitutes each member as equal, is frightening and dangerous, because you must eventually arrive at the conclusion that this equality is about equal opportunity to kill, to torture, to engage in sexual coercion. At the time I found it very bizarre that Powell would point to the most hierarchal institution, with its rigid chain of command, as the epitome of democracy. Today, I would say that such a conception of democracy reveals the problems and limitations of civil rights strategies and discourses."
"The grand achievement of civil rights was to purge the law of its references to specific kinds of bodies, thus enabling racial equality before the law. But at the same time this process enabled racial inequality in the sense that the law was deprived of its capacity to acknowledge people as being racialized, as coming from racialized communities. Because the person that stands before the law is an abstract, rights-bearing subject, the law is unable to apprehend the unjust social realities in which many people live."
"The law does not care whether this individual had access to good education or not, or whether he/she lives under impoverished conditions because companies in his/her communities have shut down and moved to a third world country, or whether previously available welfare payments have vanished. The law does not care about the conditions that lead some communities along a trajectory that makes prison inevitable. Even though each individual has the right to due process, what is called the blindness of justice enables underlying racism and class bias to resolve the question of who gets to go to prison and who does not."
"The prison system naturalizes the violence that is enacted against racial minorities by institutionalizing a viciously circular logic: blacks are in prisons because they are criminals; they are criminals because they are black, and if they are in prison, they deserved what they got."
"What we manage to do each time we win a victory is not so much to secure change once and for all, but rather to create new terrains for struggle."
"What I also like about Du Bois’s pan-Africanism is that it insists on Afro-Asian solidarities. This is an important feature that has been concealed in conventional narratives of pan-Africanism. Such an approach is not racially defined, but rather discovers its political identity in its struggles against racism."American Exceptionalism
"Of course, it is important to vigorously object to torture as a technique of control that militates against the ideals and promise of U.S. democracy. But when U.S. democracy becomes the barometer by which any and all political conduct is judged, it is not difficult to transform specific acts of torture into conduct that is tolerable, conduct that does not necessarily violate the community’s moral integrity."
"Consider how elections in Iraq are staged for the consumption of those in the United States. The right to vote, of course, is represented as the quintessential moment of democracy. Therefore we were asked to momentarily suspend our memory of what paved the way for these elections—the bombing, invasion and occupation that continues to cause deaths, maiming, destruction, the dismantling of institutions, and the desecration of one of the world’s oldest cultures…As the imposition of democracy is offered as primary aim of this military aggression, “democracy” loses whatever substantive meaning it might have and is confined to the formality of exercising the right to vote. This limited notion of democracy—both for the Iraq and the U.S.—forecloses notions of democracy that insist on economic, racial, gender, and sexual justice and equality."Organizing
"It seems to me that mobilization has displaced organization, so that in the contemporary moment, when we think about organizing movements, we think about bringing masses of people into the streets...I have always thought that demonstrations were supposed to demonstrate the potential power of movements. Ongoing movements at certain strategic moments need to mobilize and render visible everyone who is touched by the call for justice, equality, and peace. These days we tend to think of that process of rendering the movement visible as the very substance of the movement itself. If this is the case, then the millions who go home after the demonstration have concluded that they do not necessarily feel responsible to further build support for the cause. They are able to return to their private spaces and express their relationship to this movement in private, individual ways. If the demonstration is the monumental public moment and people return afterwards to lives they construe as private, then, in a sense, we have unwittingly acquiesced to the corporate drive for privatization."