I came off of my blogging break just for a bit today to share some things about Nelson Mandela’s passing.
Now back on break most likely until the new year; not sure yet. I need time to think about if I am going to continue blogging at all.
No matter how restrictive the prison, some prisoners find ways to resist. Often within plain sight of their guards, people who are imprisoned devise ingenious ways to reject prison policies. Nelson Mandela recounts the numerous ways that he and his fellow prisoners outwitted, undermined, tricked, and, upon occasion, confronted their captors during the twenty-seven years that he spent as a political prisoner in South African prisons. Craving news of the political struggle outside, prisoners communicated by writing in milk on blank paper, letting it dry to invisibility and, once the note was passed on, making the words reappear with the disinfectant used to clean their cells. They smuggled messages to one another in plastic wrapped packages hidden in food drums. In the case of solitary confinement where an inmate could be locked up for twenty-three hours a day in a dark cell, just surviving constituted an act of resistance. As Mandela observes, ‘Prison is designed to break one’s spirit and destroy one’s resolve. To do this, the authorities attempt to exploit every weakness, demolish every initiative, negate all signs of individuality—all with the idea of stamping out that spark that makes each of us human and each of us who we are.’ Mandela and his fellow prisoners recognized the function of actual prisons under racial apartheid and of apartheid policies as an extension of prison. —
Patricia Hill Collins
Love this quote, an excerpt from Black Sexual Politics. RESISTANCE.
Notice that she mentions the parallel between the policies that put Nelson Mandela in prison and the policies themselves being an extension of prison. They are intrinsically connected. There is no absolute delineation between “prison” and then “free society” when Black people cannot experience freedom from racism. Slavery and Jim Crow (and its Northern and Western de facto segregation companions) here, colonialism and apartheid there. Political prisoners here. Political prisoners there. Prison Industrial Complex here, unjust imprisonment as a tool of the State there. Racism here. Racism there. White supremacy here. White supremacy there.
Though I recognize the complex, unique and specific issues particular to South Africa and Nelson Mandela’s life and experiences, I see the role of White supremacy globally and the shared burden that Black people experience, even with nuanced and differing privileges and oppressions for other facets of identity. Like he said “We are not anti-White. We are against White supremacy.”
Dear revisionists, Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes. You will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. ‘Let’s get together, and feel alright.’ Yes, you will do that. You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.
Nelson Mandela was not a god, floating elegantly above us and saving us. He was utterly, thoroughly human, and he did all he did in spite of people like you. There is no need to name you because you know who you are, we know who you are, and you know we know that too. You didn’t break him in life, and you won’t shape him in death. —
Excerpts from his brilliant essay Mandela Will Never, Ever Be Your Minstrel. I love that he included Bob Marley’s lyrics, because he too like so many very much so human yet very much so remarkable people have been turned into memes and reframed to serve White supremacy and make the status quo and the State comfortable, literally what these people were fighting or singing or marching or writing or speaking etc. against.
When sentiment doesn’t allow for complexity and seeks to serve White supremacy, it cannot respect Mandela’s legacy. It cannot respect Black lives. It cannot be truthful in relation to justice—the justice still needed today for the racism and oppression that still thrives today.
Nelson Mandela was a human being and a complex one who fought with people, not alone, for a justice that cannot be separated from both the desire for peace and the necessity of self-defense from the State, both unity and the reality of racism so virulent and so pungent that we still smell and experience that stench today. His enemies—people who wanted him imprisoned or dead—are the same ones (literally, by name, in some cases) who are desperate and thirsty to reframe his life and legacy in a way where “peaceful” means “sought White approval; didn’t believe in self-defense.” Let’s remember him for who he actually was and what he did, with all of its complicated, difficult, radical and glorious complexity.
His body isn’t even cold yet and the New York Times has already put out a shameful article declaring Nelson Mandela to be an ‘icon of peaceful resistance.” News outlets around the Western world are hurrying to publish obituaries that celebrate his electoral victory while erasing the protracted and fierce guerrilla struggle that he and his party were forced to fight in order to make that victory possible. Don’t let racist, imperialist liberalism co-opt the legacy of another radical. Nelson Mandela used peaceful means when he could, and violent means when he couldn’t. For this, during his life they called him a terrorist, and after his death they’ll call him a pacifist—all to neutralize the revolutionary potential of his legacy, and the lessons to be drawn from it.
Don’t fucking let them. —
BOOM! And we knew this was coming. It’s everywhere. Media outlets. Individual conversations with Whites. Even some people of colour have bought into the lies because we are not taught the truth in schools because the media, U.S. Gov and education industrial complex work together to sanitize, erase, be ahistorical and manipulate through revisionism. NO!
HARLEM REMEMBERS NELSON MANDELA - I took this picture at the Apollo Theater in Harlem tonight.
Taking a break away from the blog and Twitter for the blog for a little while, maybe some days or more; I’ll see. If you’ve been following for a while and want to support via donation, click here. Thanks. “Cya” soon.
70th Read This Week feature! Just about every week (I’ve missed some) I post articles, essays, and/or journal articles/papers that I’ve read and think you will benefit from reading based on your interest in Gradient Lair.
The MHP Black Feminism Syllabus is by Melissa Harris-Perry and includes a nice book list of resources on Black feminism. This was sparked by the disgusting anti-intersectional post in Politico that targeted Michelle Obama. The video for this though…heh. There’s a “Miss Ann” line that is EPIC. I love MHP!
The Nine Types of People You Meet When You Come Out As Asexual by Anagnori on Tumblr is so good. It’s even better than the Asexual Bingo chart. The categories included are the unbeliever, the unwanted sympathizer, the intrusive questioner, the asshole questioner, the unnecessary therapist, the angry uninformed progressive, the angry uninformed conservative, the creep and the decent person. Very informative post!
Dating White vs. Dating Light by guest writer Danielle Small on Racialicious is a good read on being a dark skinned Black woman who dated a White man, then a Black man with light skinned privilege, and experiencing similar responses from people. There’s many factors involved; racism, sexism, misogynoir, colourism, White supremacy and rigid notions of masculinity/femininity as based on dark/light. Interesting piece.
Secularism and Social Justice is an interview of Black feminist, atheist and secular humanist activist Sikivu Hutchinson by David Niose on Psychology Today. It is so illuminating, providing a nuanced portrait of secular humanism where intersectionality and social justice are relevant. Not the restrictions of theism, not the White supremacy of mainstream atheism. Further, she provides great context for The Black Church in political terms; something that evades most White atheists’ thinking since they rarely explore Black history beyond blaming Black people for being theists as if White supremacy is nowhere involved there. Very nuanced interview. Good stuff.
The Privilege of Expecting Community by Robert Reese of Still Furious and Still Brave is a good read about how White privilege produces community in spaces where Black people are alienated; major example used is graduate schools where White women leave for lack of professorial support and affirmation of their research yet most Black students can never expect that in the first place. Good read on a facet of education/employment often overlooked.
"But I Don’t Benefit From Racism! And Who Does In The Modern Age?" by skyliting on Tumblr is an amazing post that touches on the tip of the iceberg on how Whites benefit from racism TODAY; RIGHT NOW. Multiple areas are discussed including names, employment, shopping, social situations, education and more. MUST READ.
This short post (in response to an Ask Box question) by racismschool on Tumblr is great. It is about how non-Black people, which would be Whites AND non-Black people of colour CANNOT use the N word. Being a person of colour who isn’t Black is not a doorway into that term.
Stay tuned for next week’s suggestions!
Ayo and the babies are adorbs. ❤
If my life was a story (well it is—all of our lives are—but I mean as a medium) and I could have a narrator speak the story, here’s who I’d choose to narrate the story (based on how they speak and the tone and texture of their voices).
If they could sing my life, I would choose:
I stuck to living artists for this because obviously I would need Shirley Chisholm to speak my life and Whitney Houston to sing it. That’s fairly obvious. :)