tressiemc

some of us are brave

Allies, Friends, and the Value of Utopian Visions

I am fortunate to claim economist Sandy Darity as a friend and mentor. I asked him once, after a barn burner of an academic lecture on reparations, why in God’s name would he go all in on something that doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of ever happening. “That’s what they once said about abolishing slavery,” he said.

I shut up.

And, I got to thinking.

For about six years now, I’ve been thinking about what it means to go all in on the improbable.

Ta-Nehisi Coates reintroduced the subject of reparations to public debate recently. I’m no Coates or Darity but I’ve been around just long enough to know how these debates are often truncated and misconstrued by the well-meaning and nefarious alike. I saw it happening in the responses. I jotted off a thing about how education is the exact wrong prescription for cumulative denial and violent extraction of capital from black lives. The Washington Post ran that thing. I stand by it.

I stand by it knowing that tomorrow I will read the latest scholarship and policy on education and access and inequality and I will do my damn job. I will see us moving the same ball and I will do my job. I will even, most days, enjoy my job. I will read supposedly sober critiques from disciplined conservatives that pull every slight of hand to look serious while avoiding taking any real stance. I will ignore the emails, social media taunts and thinly-veiled threats.

I will do it knowing that no one is about to go all in on reparations legislation this week or even this lifetime.

This is how these things work. Until they don’t.

Sometimes, all of the Times that have mattered actually, a conversation will meet a moment will meet a movement. And, our collective social evolution relies on the zealots who took a stand from time to time.

I’m not saying I’ll be one of them. But I am saying I won’t stand in their way.

Can we say that for our allies? The ones who are fine with reparations in theory but cannot go so far as to deal with its practical application for living victims of apartheid. They, the ones who are happy to talk about slavery given the comfort of space, time, and probability statistics but go silent when reminded that there are living victims of Jim Crow or new victims being made in places like New Orleans as we speak? Can we say the same for friends of equality who cannot imagine justice for people “like you”  in an alternate reality even when the stakes are so very low? I mean, if its so ridiculous, so improbable this idea of reparations why can so few allies and friends and progressives and liberals be bothered to even venture utopian futures where black folks have something akin to justice?

It is not unlike creative geniuses who, with the power of CGI and a billion dollars, can imagine green extraterrestrials and shimmering vampires but not black people.

Anyway, I wrote a thing about reparations. I know it won’t matter but that is why I wrote it.

In the meantime, I’m headed to New England to bump up against some bright brains as I work on the here and now of inequality regimes, social media, digital geographies and credentials. It’s my job. I like it.

You can catch me at the Berkman Center in July and mostly here on the blog as I hand a book over to my publisher, usher some pubs through brutal revise and resubmits, and dream of allies and friends.

 

 

 

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2 comments on “Allies, Friends, and the Value of Utopian Visions

  1. katherinejlegry
    May 31, 2014

    I’m not sure why you think what you write about reparations won’t matter. It only matters that you keep refining, expanding on, and clarifying what you mean. I gathered from what you wrote, you’re not set on fighting on the front lines of the reparation battle, but do encounter heat from where you stand nevertheless, and will not block those radicals that should succeed if all went according to “Utopia”.
    So it feels like you are embracing and distancing yourself from the reparations Thing simultaneously. Wondering if it’s worth the time if it doesn’t promise to end up “fruitful”. Admitting you’d have to give up the very teaching job you love doing sometimes, as it embodies the institutional racism you need to debunk, in order to achieve that Utopia…
    So, I think Coates speaking about reparations can only manifest a sloppy discourse among the allies and friends and peers as each individual comes to terms with their own particular “piece of the pie” and what sacrifice looks like when required to go on a diet.
    I actually loved the Coates article. It is refreshing and vital. I’m glad it mattered enough to you to share.

  2. VanessaVaile
    May 30, 2014

    Reblogged this on Vanessa's Blogueria.

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This entry was posted on May 30, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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