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February 6, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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Malcolm X Was Right About America

Chris Hedges: …until we heed Malcolm X, until we grapple with the truth about the self-destruction that lies at the heart of empire, the victims, at home and abroad, will mount. Malcolm, like James Baldwin, understood that only by facing the truth about who we are as members of an imperial power can people of color, along with whites, be liberated. This truth is bitter and painful. It requires an acknowledgment of our capacity for evil, injustice and exploitation, and it demands repentance. But we cling like giddy children to the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves. We refuse to grow up. And because of these lies, perpetrated across the cultural and political spectrum, liberation has not taken place. Empire devours us all.

February 6, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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For Colored Scholars Who Consider Suicide When Our Rainbows Are Not Enuf

Marcus Hunter: We must manifest a disciplinary and professional agenda that seeks to reconcile and repair the racial and intellectual injuries endured by Black and Brown scholars, from Du Bois to Horace Cayton to current sociologists of color subjected to the cynicism and dismissiveness similar to that which hovered Du Bois’ life and scholarship. Du Bois’ life and sociology reveal that understanding, conveying, and centering the Black experience does NOT limit our science. Rather, the intellectual and material category of ‘Black’ is a powerful tool for measuring and apprehending the social world.

I take stock in Du Bois’ personal and professional example not only because he thrived and survived in the post-Emancipation academy, but also because the patterns of mistreatment and diminishing of Black scholars and Black scholarship persists. There are still departments across our great discipline, for example, where students and professors are racial pioneers—the first of something in something somewhere where they are the token or marginal minority.

[…] Unlike Du Bois, many scholars of color cannot and are not able to endure these same racial and intellectual injuries. Nor should they have to. When we reduce the voices we include, we do damage to our profession and many scholars and students die. Many scholars of color leave the discipline in the quiet of the night, unnoticed and easily forgotten. Others perish due to the intellectual, political, economic and physical tolls of being treated in ways similar to which Du Bois experienced. This reality is the true problem for the discipline in the 21st Century. For all of the colored scholars considering suicide, our rainbows are enough for they are patterned with the blood, sweat and tears of the elders. Thank you Professor William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. We are because you are.

February 4, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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The “Bernie Bros” Narrative: a Cheap Campaign Tactic Masquerading as Journalism and Social Activism

Glenn Greenwald: As I documented last week, it is hard to overstate how identical is the script being used by American media elites against Sanders when compared to the one used by the British media elite last year to demonize Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. This exact media theme was constantly used against Corbyn: that his supporters were uniquely abusive, vitriolic and misogynistic. That’s because the British media almost unanimously hated Corbyn and monomaniacally devoted themselves to his defeat. […] If you’re a Clinton media supporter, the last thing you want to do is talk about her record in helping to construct the supremely oppressive and racist U.S. penal state. You don’t even want to acknowledge what Alexander and Coates wrote. You most certainly don’t want to talk about how she’s drowning both personally and politically in Wall Street money. You sure don’t want to talk about what her bombing campaign did to Libya, or the military risks that her no-fly-zone in Syria would entail, or the great admiration and affection she proclaimed for Egyptian despot Hosni Mubarak, or revisit her steadfast advocacy of the greatest political crime of this generation, the invasion of Iraq. You don’t want to talk about her vile condemnation of “super-predators,” or her record on jobs-destroying trade agreements, or the fact that she changed her position from vehement opposition to support for marriage equality only after polls and most Democratic politicians switched sides.

February 4, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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Mirza Ghalib’s ‘Dil hi to hai’ sung by Jagjit Singh

Ghalib, born Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan (1797-1869), was the subcontinent’s preeminent Urdu and Persian-language poet during the last years of the Mughal Empire. During his lifetime the Mughals were eclipsed and displaced by the British. They were finally deposed following the War of Independence in 1857, events that affected Ghalib and his work deeply.

My best translation (his work is impossible to translate):

Dil hii to hai na sang-o-Khisht dard se bhar na aaye kyuuN
Roenge ham hazaar baar koii hamen sataaye kyuuN

It’s only a heart, not stone or brick, why should it not run over with pain?
I shall cry a thousand times. Why should anyone trouble (with) me?

Qaid-e-hayaat-o-band-e-Gam asl men donon ek hain
Maut se pahale aadamii Gam se najaat paaye kyuuN

Life’s prison cell and the shackles of sorrow are, truthfully, one and the same
Why should one hope to escape sorrow, before one’s eventual death?

“Ghalib” e Khastaa ke baGair kaun se kaam band hain
Roiie zaar-zaar kyaa, kiijie haaye-haaye kyuuN

When this wretched Ghalib is gone, the work of the world will not stall
What’s the point of crying then? Why should anyone wail in grief?

February 4, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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A Note on Call-Out Culture

Asam Ahmad: Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and language use by others. People can be called out for statements and actions that are sexist, racist, ableist, and the list goes on. Because call-outs tend to be public, they can enable a particularly armchair and academic brand of activism: one in which the act of calling out is seen as an end in itself.

What makes call-out culture so toxic is not necessarily its frequency so much as the nature and performance of the call-out itself. Especially in online venues like Twitter and Facebook, calling someone out isn’t just a private interaction between two individuals: it’s a public performance where people can demonstrate their wit or how pure their politics are. Indeed, sometimes it can feel like the performance itself is more significant than the content of the call-out. This is why “calling in” has been proposed as an alternative to calling out: calling in means speaking privately with an individual who has done some wrong, in order to address the behaviour without making a spectacle of the address itself.

In the context of call-out culture, it is easy to forget that the individual we are calling out is a human being, and that different human beings in different social locations will be receptive to different strategies for learning and growing. For instance, most call-outs I have witnessed immediately render anyone who has committed a perceived wrong as an outsider to the community. One action becomes a reason to pass judgment on someone’s entire being, as if there is no difference between a community member or friend and a random stranger walking down the street (who is of course also someone’s friend). Call-out culture can end up mirroring what the prison industrial complex teaches us about crime and punishment: to banish and dispose of individuals rather than to engage with them as people with complicated stories and histories.

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that there is a mild totalitarian undercurrent not just in call-out culture but also in how progressive communities police and define the bounds of who’s in and who’s out. More often than not, this boundary is constructed through the use of appropriate language and terminology – a language and terminology that are forever shifting and almost impossible to keep up with. In such a context, it is impossible not to fail at least some of the time.

February 4, 2016
by mara.ahmed
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I worked on Wall Street. I am skeptical Hillary Clinton will rein it in

Chris Arnade: I owe almost my entire Wall Street career to the Clintons. I am not alone; most bankers owe their careers, and their wealth, to them. Over the last 25 years they – with the Clintons it is never just Bill or Hillary – implemented policies that placed Wall Street at the center of the Democratic economic agenda, turning it from a party against Wall Street to a party of Wall Street. That is why when I recently went to see Hillary Clinton campaign for president and speak about reforming Wall Street I was skeptical. What I heard hasn’t changed that skepticism. The policies she offers are mid-course corrections. In the Clintons’ world, Wall Street stays at the center, economically and politically. Given Wall Street’s power and influence, that is a dangerous place to leave them.