From #BlackLivesMatter To Black Liberation rejects any false ideas of post-racialism with purposeful conclusions from the start. It invites you to think because an important question is being asked: Where do we go from here? I’ve got too much to say about the book but will condense! Undeniably, BLM as a movement has had a massive positive impact on my generation and (maybe even more so) Gen Z. I realised BLM has a very present place in my consciousness but I didn’t know enough about it’s place in the bigger picture of progressing Black civil rights. This is a perfect book for that placement. Context.
From #BlackLivesMatter To Black Liberation isn’t just about what we’ve seen since Ferguson
Far from focusing on the BLM movement in isolation, From #BlackLivesMatter To Black Liberation delves into the movements it evolved or diverged from. The movement, the disenfranchisement, the frustration existed well before it was hashtagged. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor draws on similarities with protests and urban Black rebellions since 60s. She contrasts BLM’s revolutionary core with the tampered, electoral focused efforts of a failing Black political class. She discusses this point from Al Sharpton to Obama and further. In the past I would have argued simply that both electoral and rebellion efforts are needed- I still see the truth to that. More recently, it’s become so much plainer to see that the electoral route means we stay rooted in a failing system. We are trying to play within the confines of a failing system. It’s almost the anti thesis of the radicalism Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor is discussing. As well as this, glimpses at the flaws in previous rebellious movements show that even radical movements can be susceptible to the whims of financiers.
In all of this, there are very clear, urgent conclusions. BLM cannot be a moment, needs to be a continued movement. Despite it’s being decentralised ( a feature it shares with the Occupy movement), it needs to be organised at grassroots for favourable outcomes. It can’t be divorced from anti- capitalism, which racism and police brutality- at the very least- operate to to sustain. In that sense, successful Black uprising will be a huge step toward liberating everyone. All of these aspects come with their own challenges.
All the chapters are equally important
I can’t pick a favourite. Particularly interesting were the explanations of how Nixon pushed the idea of colour blindness to shift liability for Black poverty’s roots away from state and back to individual. The effect was to move the focus from structural and institutional failings to Black individual moral failings. That phrase and ‘colour-blind’ outlook has remained prominent today. Sometimes even said with good intentions- but really claiming not to see colour means ignoring the associated systemic and socio economic issues. Nixon went as far as to characterise Blacks in uprisings as thugs. A term we are seeing used again by 44 and 10 Downing Street in an attempt to yield the exact same results
The Black Faces In High Places chapter was also great to read. It was interesting to begin to see how some of the Black middle class was created, what part the government played, and how it affected protest.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has receipts for days
Everything is backed up. Taylor is very economical with her words, there is no waffling (for such a weighty subject, the work comes in at a slight 219 pages) and she is very direct in her points. There’s no flair but the objective of the text doesn’t really lend itself to that. Perhaps one of the book’s strongest points is the sheer breadth and variety of references. References bounce from the Moynihan Report to Ta Na Hasi Coates to James Baldwin to president Lyndon Johnson . One of few books that made me want to pick up quite a few of the works in the reference list! The sources are used well. This is far from an attempt to barrage the reader with facts and figures, its a conversation
I learned a lot from reading this book, it did a very important thing- it reminded me of how much more I need to learn
Other stuff to read: New York Times: The End Of Black Politics; Of Course There Are Protests, The State is Failing Black People Both written by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in her capacity as an NYT contributor
From #BlackLivesMatter To Black Liberation, Published by Haymarket Books 2016