Making Black Lives Matter

I don’t have a lot to say in this post this week–last week was a very difficult week for the US, and for our nation’s Black citizens in particular. At this point, it seems incomprehensible that concepts like white privilege, institutional racism, and intersectionality should still be difficult concepts for anyone to understand, but we still hear shouts of “all lives matter.” We see the tears of families and friends of the victims of police murders but still hear “blue lives matter.” We watch as police are gunned down by a man who was kicked out of Afghanistan for sexually harassing female soldiers, but still ask “what was she wearing?”

If there are those who do not yet see, I don’t know what would ever convince them. After all, never forget that our courageous elected officials wept for the 5 and 6 year old victims at Sandy Hook Elementary, but still DID NOTHING about gun restrictions. Even the worst shooting in US history at the Orlando Pulse nightclub wasn’t enough to motivate the pro-gun factions to do anything. Nothing, it seems, will be enough. And that is quite terrifying.

And yet, despite this reality, I remain committed to education. To teaching African American literature. To incorporating concepts such an intersectionality into all my courses. I don’t know any other way, and I do see it as a form of activism. It is not my only outlet, but it is a significant one. Even when weeks like this make me think that nothing will ever change, I can still do my best to educate students about this world in which they live.

Melissa Harris-Perry published this piece, “My Revolutionary Suicide Note,” after performing it at a live event on July 6. I think it is simply one of the most powerful, stark, and beautiful texts about Black Lives, America, death, and education that I’ve read recently. (I also love her opening discussion of Thoreau here, since when I teach Thoreau, the issue of privilege is always a central one that requires unpacking in class.)

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