Three Years and A Million Lives Ago

Three years ago in a small green bubble shaded with panic, the message came: The governor is going to shut the state down.

Shut the state down? How do you shut down a state? The question came even as the panic moved my body, gearing up with shoes and rubber gloves, and a bouquet of trader Joe bags. Dozen of hours watching apocalyptic movies had my movements fluid and practiced—get food, procure medicine, food for the dog.

In the truck, the dog and I made the rounds in light fluffy snowflakes too pretty for the day. In line to get into the store I turned my face up to the flakes and wondered coolly if I would live to see spring.  

Stores were full of people, lines long, but quiet. All the bravado was gone, though just for the moment. Later people would show up with placards and slogans about masks and freedom, but in the first days, the uncertainty loomed too large, too consequential for us to respond with anything but fear. Overhead, the store speakers tinkled out Manic Monday, the irony enough to make you weep.

In the silence of the aisles, festooned with duck tape arrows and handmade signs that said one way only, shoppers shoved carts laden with months’ worth of stuff, couples tag teaming a wagon train of carts, not a child in sight. We avoided each other’s bodies, each body a potential weapon of mass destruction. We avoided each other’s eyes, each lost in the effort to keep breathing, to keep those we loved breathing, too—a task seemingly slipping from our control by the hour.

What was once solid and enduring melted into nothing. Suddenly we realized all that mattered—the grocers who fed us, the houses and apartments that would be our fiefdoms in the days to come, the people we called to whisper, “I love you, stay safe” throats tight with goodbyes.

I could go on, but I know it lives in you too. It lives in your very bones, the feeling of the first days, when we wondered together if this was how the world would end.

Do you remember? Do you skip across a million bodies back in time to the terror of the first days? Or do you keep your face steadily forward, chanting ‘time moves in only one direction’ with the fervor of prayer? 

Or, like me, do you float in between, in this new world that is neither past nor future? Not quarantined. Not free.

We love to rally. This is America, after all, and we love the story of an underdog, fierce with fight in the face of disaster. We rallied. We baked bread and banged pots and bobbed and weaved in endless zoom dance parties. When we finished, breathless on the couch as the mania faded we could feel the fear again. We would trade information to soothe the uncertainty—Lysol your groceries, two pairs of gloves are enough, take out is okay. 

  With offices and schools closed, work slowing to a crawl for many, time stretched out ripe with reflection. Conversations drifted deeper. What will happen? Will we survive this? Will life ever be the same?

The ending is always a new beginning: I rode that knowledge like a raft when it seemed like the end would be the end, faithful that we would reach another moment in time different from the empty hours inside while the virus stalked those unprivileged enough to have to face it. 

Tucked between the statistics of those hospitalized and the blossoming number of dead were glimpses of something else. A sticker on a notebook—We’re all in this together! An animated PSA with illustrated hands raised together to fight covid, field hospitals, and later vaccination stations stuffed with volunteers serious and expedient in their matching t-shirts. In the midst of so much falling apart, we were knitting together. We found bonds across the boundaries drawn the years before in sharpie by a President who would have us divided. Hope. Perhaps this unveiling was enough to push us back together.

After the plague, another apocalyptic rider appeared. Or reappeared, since the pale rider of white supremacy hasn’t stopped its night rides since 1619. Police murdered George Floyd. Only weeks before they had killed Breonna Taylor while the lynching of Ahmad Aubery was still fresh. Stuck in our houses, those inclined to ignore racism could no longer look away. And anyway, we were all eager for anything other than more numbers of COVID dead and dying. We climbed the nascent bonds formed by the virus to coalesce in protest. Black people long in the fight since Breonna and Trayvon and Tamir were joined by people of every nation and culture.

Here we could pour our fresh connections into something fiery and actionable. COVID was hard to fight—you couldn’t see it with the naked eye, but here, here we had video of the villains—surely we could capture them, that to stop police brutality felt like a winnable battle after the amorphous fight against an unknown virus.

We marched. We made signs and hashtags and black boxes. We cried and screamed our righteous rage into clouds of tear gas. They beat us while the president shook a bible at the TV camera. They used rubber bullets on the children and built a fortress around the seats of power. Still, we came. Companies made commitments, communities promised they were no place for hate. We called each other to connect, some tearfully confessing their complacency, some listening to the lament of Black people, keening across 400 years of history.

“We will be phoenixes,” I proclaimed to my friend Becky. “We will emerge from this different, reborn in fire.” 

She indulged me my optimism and met it with her own. We kindled hope together into a future we could see, the power to pivot to new ways of being leveraged for humanity and liberation.

We were not phoenixes. Nor butterflies, or any other beautiful changeling. We were just humans, hibernating until it was time to come out, hungry and angry from captivity.

Three years on and the fear and the fire are long gone, traded in for a fantasy of returning to the life we once had. To be clear, this is the life we had: our society lived swaddled in ignorance of the tenuous and fragile nature of all that we held solid. We acted as if we would move steadily forward free of the consequences of our actions, our behaviors, and our very ideas. We pasted over the world with filth and pollution and expected to live free from the pestilence bread in our cast-offs. We fed the old and the weak to the virus, we fed the Black and the Brown to the system. We manufactured fairy tales of hatred and used the ideas of white over black, and man over women as the material to build the very world we lived in, expecting this home to protect us from ourselves when we were the beast lurking in every room.

The thing about being a Phoenix is before you rise from the ashes everything you are is destroyed, and everything that you love is reduced to ash.

Before we can rise from the losses we must process all of that pain and turn it into power. Companies have turned pain into profit. The profit was enough to exacerbate income inequality, but not enough to pull us back from an economy that has teetered on the edge of collapse since the first week of the shutdown. The pain inside people hasn’t gone away either: the rising violence in our cities, continued mass shootings, violent hate groups and brutality at the hands of all our institutions are symptoms of the deep trauma, and the unhealed hurt at the heart of our country. The trauma has been compounded by the pandemic but truly started when we decided to build a country on genocide and slavery.

An apocalypse is the unveiling; it’s not the incident and it’s certainly not the healing of it, but just the ability to see things as they are. Now we have to choose what we will do with the knowledge of our imperfections now that the veil is again lifted on the sins of America. Our movies and TV shows cast us as the heroes wandering the ravaged landscape to rescue orphans and build life anew. We are superhumans, strapping on capes, and sweeping in to save the poor and downtrodden in the city. We fill our bellies with these fantasies, but outside the metaverse, we are neither caped heroes nor kind wanderers. 

America is a promise. Truly, from the beginning, it was a promise unique to the world and beautiful in its conception if it’s not its execution: we the people. America is a promise of a place where collective power becomes the pride of our community. It remains a promise unfulfilled, but for a brief and terrible moment, it wasn’t a promise forgotten. 

We have a choice to make. Will we honor all that we experienced, all the lives that were lost, and chase again the unfulfilled promise of we the people, or will we again sink into the floor resting in the cocoon of complacency? The anniversary will come and go, like every day of remembrance, but the chance to choose anew is there every day, every moment. This is how we become what we are meant to be—choosing love over fear until we are healed and whole. 

I know you are tired. Healing is hard and the siren song of the-way-things-were is strong, made stronger by capitalism’s desire for continuity. I know you cannot pour from an empty cup. But you are more than a cup. Maybe you, like me will find how much you have changed as you trace your path over the last three years. Perhaps you too will see you are so much stronger than you thought you could be. You are full of feelings because you have infinite space in you to hold the complexities of being human.  

I have a choice to make. You have a choice to make. Today. To choose kindness, even if exhausted. To choose empathy and embrace the abundance of attention for everyone. To choose love again and again. You have gone through the pain and the loss. Are you ready to merely try again? Are you ready now to rise?

Come, let’s be phoenixes.

The Buffalo Mass Shooting and the Myth of “Acting Alone”

Racism operates in heads and hearts, but also in the ideas and systems that structure our world.

Sunday Buffalo, New York experienced one of the worst attacks of racist violence in years. In the hours after the shooting all of our channels fill up with the usual scripts and snippets we drag out every time a catastrophe like this unfolds. It is hard to make sense of what can be done when the narrative pulls us first to gun control, then mental illness, neither of which leaves us with any response to racism itself.  What should—what can we do?

The Buffalo massacre is not an isolated event, but part of a trend of white extremist violence that has been growing in recent years. It is important to think about the implications of racist violence and what action we need to take to address it.   If we exchange cookie-cutter narratives for critical thinking about the complexity of the situation we can work to transform meaninglessness and lack of control into understanding and agency. It can help us find our own sphere of influence to eradicate racism and respond with something other than thoughts and prayers.

The shooter is 18, male, and white.  He is alternately described as a boy and a man.  The distinction matters.  Calling him a boy brings to mind lowered accountability for his actions: think about little scripts like boys will be boys, youthful indiscretion, and childhood innocence.  When we call him a boy, these mitigating concepts attach to this terrorist.  When someone is called a man, like Mike Brown was when he was killed by former police officer Darren Wilson, the narrative shifts—act like a man, man up, it’s a man’s world.  A man acts with power and intention, while a boy can be forgiven for acting out.

The shooter had been referred for a mental health evaluation following a threat of school violence last year.  Mental health can be a mitigating factor in legal defenses, but does it actually tell us why this happened? The vast majority of people with mental health issues are not violent. Being racist may be a moral diagnosis, but it is not a mental health diagnosis. Implying racial terror is caused by the mentally ill further stigmatizes those struggling with mental health.

Referencing his mental health also sets us up to think he may have limited culpability. Blaming his disordered thinking suggests this mass killing is an aberration instead of making connections to numerous racially motivated terror attacks—Atlanta spas, Tree of Life, Charlottesville…

What we do know for sure is that he held racist beliefs and actively advocated for violence against black people.  Sometimes we think of racists as simply misinformed, or ignorant, as if they would believe something else if only they knew they were wrong.  But he chose. His intention was to kill black people. He told anyone that would listen via the power of social media. That is racist, full stop.

 The connections we have to others help to feed us, stoke our inclination to act or not, and create —in his case literally—an audience, something that we know mass killers crave. We know he live-streamed the attack—what clique did he find that shared his ideas and was willing to watch a massacre on a gaming platform? Were the people around him calling him on his bullshit or gassing him up with their own racism, normalizing hatred of Black people? 

If there were connections in his life that tried to stop this attack, the coming days will fill in the details. When he planned to shoot the school, who was responsible for a follow-up? Was there anyone in his life to slow his radicalization? 

Traditional media narratives report on a lone wolf, someone legally not fully responsible, an outsider, or deviant. But the shooter was not alone—he is connected to many people, from family to friends to teachers and trolls. Too often with racism, white people may be uncomfortable confronting peers, friends, and family members, leaving the space for radicalization to go unchecked. 

Gun laws are notably one area where institutional intervention—from the government and the private sector—is possible and could make a difference. But they haven’t. Gun-rights lobbyists and the government work hand in hand to thwart the will of the people who overwhelmingly support sensible gun control. More recently, activity to outlaw antiracism in education seeks to undermine educational institutions’ ability to reach or affect an individual like the shooter, and the legal system, we know, is racist (if you don’t, you need some CRT—but you won’t get that in school). 

And then there’s the media, including Fox News—the number one most watched cable news network in the country—and the internet, a warren of dark rabbit holes. Created by people with their own biases, media platforms are not neutral purveyors of ideas but megaphones for the misanthropic with algorithms written to accelerate the most incendiary ideas. Social media companies profit from accelerating radicalization—hot takes and extreme content get all the clicks. Companies bet on it. 

We are creatures that exist within culture, and the ideologies espoused by those in power give shape and direction to that culture and the individuals, interpersonal relationships, and institutions within it. The United States is guided by white supremacy: this is not hyperbole but history. White Supremacy as an ideology has at its center the control and destruction of black bodies.  When the shooter ended the lives of 10 people this Sunday, he was not acting apart from white supremacy but as the living embodiment of it.   

White supremacy has always advocated violence both inside and outside the law: slavery, the rise of the Klan, Jim Crow and lynching, State resistance to civil rights activism, and police violence. Since 9/11 the majority of attacks against Americans on U.S. soil have been perpetrated by White Supremacists, including the January 6 Insurrection.  They are not lone wolves, but cells in a vast network of attackers, radicalized by right-wing media, and supported—vocally—by some politicians, law enforcement, and others with power.

White Supremacy is the ideology that connects all these attacks—it is the idea that birthed this country, and, if we do not intervene, will be the death of this country. Attacks on voting rights, the erosion of civil liberties to crack down on the Black Live Matter Movement, the militarization of the police, and greenlighting of economic inequality are things that hurt everyone in this country. These are a few of the myriad ways that White Supremacy contributes to a shitty quality of life and dreams deferred in the US. 

 After the murder of George Floyd, there were many commitments, but comfort and ennui crept into the nation, turning—again—away from supporting and securing Black lives. Like a weed, pulling the occasional leaf won’t alleviate your problem. 

Racism is prevalent and growing—it lives in the racist beliefs people hold and trade, and it is proliferating in social networks in the real and digital worlds of family, and friends, and remains codified in our institutions, all guided by the ideologies that shape the culture and the people in it. 

We must attack all the places where racism flourishes. Heal and decolonize your mind and body. Talk about what matters: hold the people around you accountable for their behaviors and beliefs vocally and often. Whatever institutions you are a part of—be it company, school, organization, or church—use your power there to actively embed equitable policies and practices, even when there is discomfort or resistance. 

While White Supremacy stalks our communities none of us are safe, so we all need to find space to build a better country. If you are a shaper of culture, you have added responsibility—C suite-ers, academics, politicians, and power players, stop slow-walking the change we need. You must battle with the tools you have against the root of White Supremacy.  Calling all content creators, teachers, and activists. Tell us the truth, show us the path to liberation and help us dream into reality a better future.

Let let our actions hasten the future our thoughts and prayers cannot.


The Dawn of The Matrix, Part 1: We Make Reality

If reality is what we make it then we can at any moment create change and mobilize ourselves to live in a different world.

I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to figure out what is real–and not just because of the paradoxes of the pandemic or even the completely divergent narratives of January 6. The topic of reality is hot in pop culture this year. From literary books like France’s huge hit The Anomaly to TV shows like Manifest, movies, and even nonfiction and the news, what is real seems to be the question on everyone’s mind the and the consequences of answers to this question couldn’t be more relevant.

Enter two stories that take us on an exploration of what is real. The new movie The Matrix: Resurrection brings fans on a very meta journey down the rabbit hole of the real exploring the future of our metaverse, while the weighty book The Dawn of Everything uses history to row us back to the past–and blow up everything you thought you knew about ancient history and the evolution of human civilization.

Fabulous posters for the release of Matrix Resurrections in Imax

The Matrix cannon is all about reality–what is it, who controls it, and do you really want to live in reality anyways? Questioning the nature of reality is hot in science fiction–and science–as rapid advances in technology and in scientific theory push the boundaries of what we call reality into decidedly unreal places. With billionaires colonizing the moon and planets and AI debating its own sentience, ideas from the early trilogy of the matrix have migrated into the real world.

Meanwhile, looking back can be just as trippy in reshaping our idea of who we are and what we can become. It turns out we have trouble identifying the reality of the past as well. In The Dawn of Everything, authors Graeber and Wengrow take on antiquity and blow up our ideas about the development of humans. The idea of the noble savage, the linear rise of civilization, and the progressive development of culture are myths of the present. So much of our ideas about how humans have lived oversimplifies the complex and messy many pathways that led us to this moment.

Knowing what is real is the current challenge of our time. Is the virus a threat or a weapon manufactured by jaded governments to control their sheeple? Was the insurrection a failed coup or a successful social media selfie challenge? Is the world ending or does it just feel like we are getting shaken apart by the spin cycle of climate change? Your answer will determine what side you are on–anti-vaxxers or Pfizer Puritans, crazy right or crazy left, deniers or zealots.

We think of reality as constant and stable–a real world is predictable with clear rules, constraints that guide process and change. In truth, reality is more an agreement we make with each other about what is happening, and what is possible. The fact of the matter is that no matter how many facts we have or what matter we can see feel and sense, it is we–using judgments and meaning-making–who ultimately decide what is real. Given that we have to use meaning-making processes and our own subjective judgments reality is decidedly less constant, stable, and universal than we may think.

This seems counterintuitive. We can’t just wish away the physical things that surround us, can we? Either a tree exists or it does not–if you decide it doesn’t the tree is no less real, right? But when we scratch below the surface of common sense, there is much more going on. What we perceive is a reflection of our own processing. We humans don’t all see things the same, and of course animals all have a different way of seeing.

What Different Animals Actually See - Earthly Mission

Even the tree that seems so solid is –well–not. The atoms that make up the tree are zipping about, with enough space between for particles and waves to pass through. What seems solid to our eyes is riddled with gaps. What seems constant to our mind is only a slice of all that is happening and of all that could be perceived or filtered out.

Now, this is really going to bake your noodle: what if it is all simulated? As described in The Matrix: Resurrections Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Theory asks us to choose between two statements that cannot both be true. Either you think that there is no intelligent life in the universe more advanced than ours that would be capable of creating simulated worlds or you are living in a simulation. It seems crazy: of course, you are not living in a simulation–are you? How would you know? And do you believe that there is no other intelligence in the whole universe? If there was, do you believe that they wouldn’t want to create their own worlds? That seems unlikely when we humans spend lots of time simulating worlds–from the Sims to Clash of Clans to the Metaverse, simulating the world seems to be one of our favorite pastimes. And if they could simulate realities they could make trillions of realities–all indistinguishable from the original. So can you really say that we stand alone and unique in the whole known universe?

Reality is determined by our meaning-making, and that means that we can have as many realities as we do people to perceive it. There is no one reality, but instead what we consider the real world is actually what is perceived together by us. We could have a billion realities, or we can change what we think is real in just the blink of an eye. The stability that we depend on is but an illusion. And it is an illusion that we are increasingly able to construct from the ground up.

2021 en mots-clés] Le metaverse, l'Internet du futur sur lequel misent tous  les géants

Take the Metaverse (TM)–we think no one will mistake the fake world of Zuckerberg for the real world that we live in–but we said the same things about the internet. Many of you remember life before the internet: we argued about whether speech on the internet was real, or if filtered images could be as compelling and true to us as ones in our material world. Turns out, the online world has become in many ways more real–more consequential, more able to shape our understanding of ourselves and what it means to be true, right, and beautiful, than the physical world that we live in.

Facebook Sets Up New Team To Work On The Metaverse

We stand poised on the next leg of the journey. The Metaverse endeavors to create worlds more able to fill our senses, to submerge us wholly in a sensory experience, and to make that world an important place for meaning-making. If we enter the Metaverse and it becomes a place of greater consequence and salience than our material world–which let’s face it isn’t the best place to be right now–why wouldn’t we choose to live in this place?

We don’t need to go to the outer reaches of the universe to bend reality. We like to think that our human history has been a straight line from tribes and bands to the glittering technological masterpiece that is our present world. But we couldn’t be more wrong. Humans have been on the planet for hundreds of thousands of years–much of which we know almost nothing about. What if ancient people were not simple-minded creatures marching steadily from farming to the fruits of capitalism, but instead experimented with a freedom different from the flag-waving nationalism of our present?

thedawnofeverything - Twitter Search / Twitter

Increasingly, archaeology and anthropology show evidence that humans have lived in a myriad of different ways, creating economies that were not based on exploitation, living a freedom we can barely imagine in our own ‘advanced’ world. In The Dawn of Everything, we learn more about the Indigenous Critique, where Indigenous thinkers in the Americas gasped in horror at the exploitation and abuse that Europeans took for civilization. Far from living in ignorant bliss, it appears early people had many ways of organizing that relied neither on power, not religion, nor technology. The present reality that we have created, with its freedom that isn’t free and our wealth that is not enriching is not the only way to human.

In our own present, shared reality is a slippery concept. We are nestled inside realities like nesting dolls–some of us live wholly in man-made worlds–the present and future Metaverse, while some of us have to go out here on planet earth and battle the very real viruses from COVID to Trumpism to climate change. Most of us move between reality bubbles, our world a complex mash-up of made-up realities that clash in a million ways. But, don’t let the complexity of our present make you hopeless for the future.

If we accept that there is no reality, it might seem alarming at first. Everything that you know, all that you took to be solid and unchanging, is all of a sudden set in motion. What we accept as universal truth becomes mere guesses as to what is and what can be. On the other side of that free fall, though, is freedom.

The Matrix 4, Metaverse, Descartes, Social Construction and Free Will -  iNEWS

If reality is what we make it then we can at any moment create change and mobilize ourselves to live in a different world. Sci-fi has long imagined what worlds there might be in the future. Abolition movements, which came to mainstream notice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd amidst calls to abolish the police, point to a doorway where–free from systems that no longer serve us–we can step into a new world that we can build together.

To build a new reality what we need is a shared consciousness of what we know and what we don’t and the willingness to engage in crafting a new agreement about what it means to live in this world and be fully human. Luckily for us, both The Matrix: Resurrection and The Dawn of Everything share the same lesson for us. Tune in to part 2 to learn the answer to life the universe and everything (spoiler: it is not 42).

Is America “Racist”?

The institutions and systems in this country have, since its inception, used a belief that races were different to enable disparate treatment  running the gamut from segregation and separation to slavery and death.  This is what puts the —ist in racist. 

This week Tim Scott set back the fight for racial justice by doubling down on the deniers favorite song—America is not a racist country.  Despite the fact that he shared a story about his family experiencing systemic racism two sentences before, he looked straight to camera and declared on behalf of the GOP that the United States in not a racist country.

Blink twice if you need help, Tim.

The country woke from its usual slumber of silence around race last summer to admit that given the failures of the justice system, the disparate support structures of the health care system and continued economic inequality we are looking like a pretty racist place, and that was without even adding Trumpism to the mix. We had a moment when many Americans were ready to recognize and reconcile America’s shitty record on race. And then came the racism deniers.  Trump and his 78 million supporters fought back hard against those that would identify and address racism. The White House put out communications attacking the schools of thought that spearheaded structures for studying race. The right wing media beats now a daily drum of misinformation and ad hominem attacks on anyone who dares to call out systemic racism, calling them whiners and haters instead of scientists and historians.

Saying the United States is racist doesn’t mean that this country is full of big meanies or that America is intrinsically bad—that’s a different argument.  Too often resistance mistakes feelings for facts—people criticize those critiquing the country by saying they hate America. They claim any desire to identify racism is born of emotion and aims to taint history.  In fact the reality is the opposite—the feelings and experiences that we have are a function of the systems of power and privilege that we use to organize our society, not the cause of it.

Race is a social construct that organizes humans into sub-categories according to but not bound by factors like ancestry, heritage, culture, and color.  We should note that the lines of race are fuzzy.  We are not simple sweet peas where mixing a red and a white give you a pink.  The categories of race fall along clear lines—white black asian latinx and indigenous—that fail not infrequently to truly capture the human tapestry of a nation of colonizers and immigrants.  The lines themselves are apples and oranges, comparing color, to country of origin, to continent to who was here first. The categories of race adhere much more to the needs of those in power than they do to any natural or biological grouping. Funny, not funny, how that happens.  

We used to be more science-y about proving race was a real thing.  Scientists in the 19th and 20th century spent oodles of scienc-ing measuring heads and casting questionable and ahistorical aspersions as fact.  Science, shaped by scientists who were “people of their time (aka racist), sought out to prove that white people were smarter and more moral than other grouping of people. And prove it they did with junk science like phrenology and demonstrably false theories riddled with bias like the bell curve or broken window policing. These theories supported decades of disparate treatment in education, employment and every other aspect of American life.

At the turn of the century, scientists finished mapping the human genome and proved once and for all there is no gene connected to race.  Yeah, race is not a real biological thing. Period, full stop. Tracing mitochondrial DNA shows the all humans share common ancestry—African ancestry for those of you who are unsure about who the original OGs were.  Even skin color is created by a set of eight genes that do not break neatly along racial lines.  The truth is race is not a biological fact, it is a social construct, made up by humans.

History shows us that race isn’t an ancient concept but is in fact a more modern invention.   Sure the human has always been obsessed with the boundaries between tribes, territories and nation states, but race as we currently conceive of it along its white-at-the-top framework was born alongside the United States. Yes, Europeans had all kinds of intergroup hate in the middle ages—they were tough times for Jewish people, or Roma—but the concept of ‘white” didn’t show up in language or thinking until 1400’s just in time to spin a story that Africans are not humans, and therefore ripe for the picking of an exploitable labor force to build the “new world.” Apparently, slaughtering indigenous people and creating the economic engine to catapult American onto the world stage was too much work.

In order to build the United States from a few colonies to the powerhouse it soon became, there was a need for lots and lots of labor that the fledgling country could ill afford to pay competitive wages for. The US trafficked nearly 400,000 humans from Africa, and over the next century, kidnapped, enslaved and trafficked 1.2 million African Americans within our borders for 8 or more generations.  These enslaved people built the very foundation of American, creating an economic engine as well as the literal buildings themselves.  Enslaved people brought craftsmanship, artistry, cooking and in exchange were tortured, raped, murdered, their children sold off generation after generation all supported by the lie that White people are human and black people are not.

The One drop rule, the 3/5ths clause. Dred Scott, Jim Crow, redlining, the prison industrial complex—for hundreds of years America has created laws, practices and policies to control Black bodies and Black freedom.  Even today the plaintive cry to stop killing Black people is met with a no. The institutions and systems in this country have, since its inception, used a belief that races were different to enable disparate treatment  running the gamut from segregation and separation to slavery and death.  This is what puts the —ist in racist. 

The suffix —ist means holding an ideological belief in something, in this case an ideological belief in the social construct of race. So yes, America has taken an ideological position that there are different races and has organized power, practice and policy to that end.  That makes America a racist country. Now you can look at the evidence yourself and judge if that is good or bad(spolier alert: not great), but what you cannot argue is that race is not a primary organizing ideological and social structure in this country.

You can’t fix what you can’t recognize. The utter denial of what is historical record, the cynical position declaring there is no racism here without reconciling what we can see with our eyes, what we can know through research and excavation of the historical record, what is evident in the data tracking of our justice, education and financial systems even today: this is what is blocking this country’s ability to evolve.  Without acknowledging how power is structured, we run the risk of enshrining for yet another generation harmful—and yes, racist—practices.

Tim Scott got some surprising support from the first Black and Asian Woman to hold the office of Vie President. Vice President Harris likes to remind us that she was that little girl so I gently remind her that that little girl was being victimized by systemic racism right here in America.  The impetus for the VP to fight for justice is born from the racism of the US. I hope she remembers that now that she is in an elevated position of power to fight the system that tried to stop that little girl. Tim Scott also seems to hold the power of his family overcoming racism injustice in one hand and the power to deny it on the other. Anyone of either party or any race can deny racism, but those with power have added responsibility to take the side of justice.

It’s time to stop attacking the messengers and open up the letter America has written to itself in the blood of generations of black and brown people. Let’s name it so that we can see it. Let’s look at the truth of our history in all its splendor and shame so that we can reconcile the horrors of our past and present with who we want to be tomorrow.  

COVID is the Battle; White Supremacy is the War

Black people make up a mere 14% of the American population but they make up 60% of cases and fatalities under COVID. Heat maps of the virus’s attack clearly outline working-class communities packed with black and brown people who cannot afford the luxury of staying home. Instead, workers on the front lines in health and service industries are pushed by a homicidal federal government to staff the reopening of the economy knowing the cost this will have, knowing that cost will be born by communities that Trump says have nothing to lose, and who, in fact, have everything to lose, balanced precariously at the edge of American safety nets not designed to catch them.

And still that’s not enough.

Black people are 14% of the population but make up 100 percent of the videos I’ve seen of people hunted down by klansmen and their modern boss-hog-hat-wearing descendants,  assailants who go uncharged and are ultimately unconvicted, avoiding altogether the prisons where COVID spreads among unadjudicated people awaiting trial, people who are overwhelmingly poor, and, you guessed it, POC.  And as soon as one killer walks free there is another and another. Some assailants wear uniforms are are paid by the communities they terrorize. Sometimes they laugh over the still-warm bodies they hunt down; they laugh about killing people they are sworn to protect on video broadcast live and return to work the next day.

And still that’s not enough.

Science says that we are months, perhaps a year or two away from vanquishing this virus. Any story that we can rapidly return to our already bubblicious economy of 2019 is a lie.  Already we’re seeing 20% unemployment.  The old adage says when White America catches a cold, Black America catches Coronavirus. The economic inequity, set up in antiquity is scheduled to continue, the next tsunami on an already ominous horizon. 

Death by health inequities and by cop,  and by hunger by the heartbreak of racism: where does the overlap of COVID and death at the hands of white supremacit systems add up to genocide? We are there; we are living in the time of the black death and if I didn’t know we had survived the violence of white supremacy before I might think it impossible to survive this moment.

The counter-narrative to the Black Lives Matter protests said that if only black people would respect the law, the law would respect us.  That is a lie that only those willfully ignoring white supremacy can believe. Obeying the law is only mandatory for some Americans. No face of our government is smiling on us. There is no system that reciprocates our compliance. There is no social contract enforcing the empty promise of all of us being created equal. 

So no we’re not #AloneTogether, unless you’re in your house watching this horrible spectacle of Black death in every corner and wondering which flavor of death your country will serve you. We can’t all #StayHomeStaySafe. We can’t all get some exercise while social distancing. We can’t all expect the law or the leadership to protect us. 

Coronavirus US: Why have there been protests against the lockdown ...

How about a new motto, or perhaps we can just repurpose a great American motto for our new time: Live Free or Die.  A two-part motto for our tiered and racist society.  Let this be the clarion call for 2020, a moment of honesty where the world no longer allows us the comfort of ignorance of who we are, or who we have always been.   

Some Americans are free to carry assault rifles while marching on our statehouses.  Some Americans are free to sunbathe in the park while flouting recommendations to stem the virus. Some Americans can shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and get away with it.

But not you, Black America. Die but deliver my Instacart first, Die, but do it quickly so my hair doesn’t grow in the meantime. Die but make the hunt thrilling. Die, but make it fun.

The officer in the video has been placed on modified desk duty and stripped of his gun and badge, according to police sources.

Fuck that.

People showed up this week to call for justice and run in memory of Ahmud Abery. Many people recognize, thanks to the efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement, the injustice involved in the justice system, and are ready to step in when we need the community to show up and demand justice.  The trickier part is demanding racial justice when doing so requires more skin in the game.  As states lift stay at home orders knowing that black and brown communities are being decimated by the disease, will the same Americans who ran for Ahmud demand that black people be protected from calls to return to unsafe workplaces, overwhelmingly staffed by people of color?  When the economy pits us against each other will we fight for ways to lift all boats?

Being in this together requires real solidarity. We all must stand up and demand better testing and tracing. We all must support access to vital support services in the communities of color and poverty hit hardest by this disease.  You can contribute in big or small ways to the economic support and recovery that will be needed in the weeks, months, and years ahead in communities that will face unemployment at the highest rates.  Be where you are, help where you can, don’t stop.  

We continue the 400-year-old war.  This is the war that we’ve always been in in America, and COVID is the battle, lynching is the battle, economic harvesting is the battle, and still, there are battles yet to come.  But we’re fighting back better, we’re masking up and dapping with feet to protect each other.  We’re all we got and we refuse to live free or die.  We are the truth in #StayTogether.  It is the only way we can live.

Victim Blaming: COVID-19 Edition

The Rona is getting real: on Friday the U.S. Surgeon general warned that Black people are “socially predisposed” to catching and dying of the Coronavirus, going on to name preexisting health conditions, whipping out his own inhaler, and finishing up by telling us to stay off drugs and alcohol.  TL;Dr–stop getting fat, breathing hard and getting high, Black America, or expect to die. Don’t let the messenger fool you: this is classic Trump racism coming from a Black mouth right into America’s living rooms, conflating complex aspects of systemic racism into bite-size blame of the black community.

Screen Shot 2020-04-11 at 3.02.38 PM

When we see large disparities in the outcomes between people of different races for diseases that do not biologically discriminate, we are seeing the shadow of structural and institutional policies practices and procedures pulling the puppet strings of individual behavior.  If this virus is to be an apocalypse revealing truth, then one truth is that racism kills black people.  Let the virus map out structural inequality:


Who gets the Rona? Biologically, the virus does not discriminate, going more places than Kim K nudes and will rock with anyone on any continent. The disease spread first in environments that aided its spread–lots of people in close contact.  Cities have been hit the hardest, particularly on the East Coast, as well as Chicago, New Orleans, and Detroit.  All of these places have high concentrations of black people living in densely populated areas.  Further from work and services, Black people are consigned to using public transit at higher rates, increasing risk on their way to jobs or shopping. These areas have living arrangements shaped by years of systemic racism.  From Jim Crow to redlining, to gentrification, and regentrification, and re-regentrification, Black communities have been forcibly corraled by both government and economic policy into densely populated spaces lacking the same access to daily needs, health centers and hospitals as wealthier communities.

While there are plenty of white people in communities affected by the virus, stay-at-home orders have allowed many middle-class and professional people to move their life indoors, empowered in their ability to stop the virus by doing nothing all while ordering delivery of everything from meals to merch. Who is out fulfilling those orders, delivering those packages and dropping off food?  Front line workers are working class, working poor and poor people–a disproportionate number of whom are black and brown. Decades of policies around education, job force discrimination and old fashioned bias and interpersonal racism have economically disenfranchised black people, corralling them economically.

drake raise their

It seems almost patriotic–ordering take-out and keeping your local restaurant alive.  We certainly need to support local businesses.  Where other countries have stepped in to prop up business during national shut-downs, American small biz is left to the hunger games of the SBA relief funds. And it would have been lovely before all this started to have a more equitable economy so the people in your neighborhood didn’t have to choose between risking a quick death by COVID-19 or a slow death from hunger and poverty. In the short run, it would be great if the federal government we pay for would step in to prioritize providing wages and grants to our local peeps instead of paying Boeing to buy back stock. This could support our fav restaurants and their workers.  But if we support restaurant and delivery workers to stay home, then you can’t have delivery. Or, we could just make videos about our everyday heroes with slow fades between poignant pictures of smiling UPS drivers and speedy delivery guys. Yeah, that.

Testing and Treatment

While Trump is still downplaying the seriousness of the disease, we knew because Dr. Cardi B told us on March 11 that, and I quote, “this shit is really real.” While there were plenty of memes about the Rona circulating on Black Twitter and social media before most states shut down, Corona tests are more difficult to come by in communities of color.  Longstanding inequities in the distribution of health care services and resources have affected health outcomes forever in the Black community, and this age of COVID-19 is no different.

Interestingly, even though the government has been slow to roll out widespread testing in black and brown communities, they have been quick to suggest going to black communities to test experimental drug treatments.  A drug that has a high incidence of heart-related side effects is being tested in Detroit.  African leaders are reportedly resisting pressure to be guinea pigs for emerging vaccines.  Treatment for the virus should be proportionate to the problem, ensuring that the communities of color who are hardest hit get the resources they need stat.  The burden of testing should be shared by all communities, spreading the risk of side effects among the groups who stand to benefit.

Preexisting Conditions

Large numbers of people in the black community have underlying health conditions that contribute to bad outcomes for those who contract COVID-19.  An uninformed (cough cough Fox cough) news viewer may be left with the familiar stereotype that black people don’t take care of themselves, instead of understanding the complex structural and historic factors that have created such high numbers of poor health conditions. There is a lot of subtle blame in repeating the narrative that obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes are factors without acknowledging that health care disparities, food deserts in urban areas and hereditary factors contribute to these underlying conditions.  In addition to environmental and biological factors, studies have shown that being black in America is itself a preexisting condition.  The stress of racism is not just psychological, but also physical.  Racism is quite literally heartbreaking for Black people. Preexisting conditions matter, but so does putting the prevalence of them in context.

One for the Road

Speaking of dog whistles, the Surgeon general threw a parting shot in asking Black people to refrain from drinking and doing drugs.  This is pretty rich since he is well aware that America is currently ravaged by the opioid crisis, largely affecting white people.  He also knows that white people use drugs at higher rates than Black people.  I didn’t hear him ask white people to lay off the wine and gallon-sized cosmopolitans.  In fact, drinking away the pandemic is a laughable trope for the well to do in meme after meme.

ina drinks

The Surgeon Generals comments on race and COVID-19 seemed designed to sound the old racist dog whistles of blame and attack to Donald Trump’s supporters, rather than to help the American public understand the risk faced by Black people.  The factors that make Black people “socially predisposed” to COVID-19 can be addressed not pithy by reminders for Pop-pop, but though racial justice.  Coronavirus has revealed anew racial health inequities, and we don’t need to return to a normal that perpetuates them.





Life with Coronovirus: Come Together, Stay Apart

Sure you’ve seen every virus movie known to man, but now its time to truly prepare for the new normal

In the matter of a few short weeks, life, as we know it, has ground to a halt, the world is going into lockdown, markets have flipped from bull to bear as mother nature issues her own correction in the form of Covid 19.  Millions of Americans are stuck in the house binge-eating, binge-watching and trying not to kill family–Like an endless Thanksgiving without the turkey and colonization.

Welcome to the apocalypse.  Yup, you are officially here–though for readers of this blog we know the signs of the times have been on full display for quite a while.  That doesn’t mean its time to dig your Mad Max uniform out of the trunk and ride out.  Apocalypse comes from the Greek, translating loosely to an unveiling.  It is the end of the illusion, not the end of time. Apocalypses are the moments where the truth of our world is revealed beneath the shiny bullshit veneer of the simulation we’ve been living in.  Welcome to the desert of the real.

The Covid crisis is revealing the limitations of capitalism to sustain people in a world increasingly marked by crisis, just a single symptom of climate change.  In a matter of months, a virus has shown us what we have willfully ignored for too long:  we are one, a human organism connected globally, a mass of cells moving in solidarity whether we want to or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. Your latte-drinking lash-wearing tik tok dancing life has been rendered obsolete.  There is no star status that will protect you from the virus, but we see too, that our systems of inequality are already making the crisis worse.  Unequal distribution of resources and racism, xenophobia, and sexism will mean those traditionally marginalized will be the hardest hit.

How can you shelter in place if you have no shelter?  How can you call your health care provider if you don’t have one? When we have to choose who gets what they need and who doesn’t who will stand up for those without a seat at the table?

But before we can parse the dissembling power structures, we have to survive the collapse. Now this, my Apocalyptic America fans, is something we have been preparing for.  Time for all the lessons of all those movies of the end time to guide your pandemic plays.  Let’s start with these to get you through the weekend:

 No Gas, All Break

Daily White House Press briefings are important sources of news, but if you’re not careful you might forget that this is the president with over 15,000 recorded lies during his time in office.  Avoid the gaslighting that everything is okay, nothing to see here. Gaslighting is a real and dangerous communication dynamic.  After months of the Trump Administration telling us that truth isn’t truth, you may find your ability to trust your own sense of what is real is not as strong as the pandemic coverage requires.  Trust scientists.  Trust the data.  Err on the side of caution.

Take regular news breaks with credible sources.  The New York Times has comprehensive and well-researched coverage, and have removed their paywall, giving everyone access to their up to date reporting.  The Washington Post, likewise, is using its big newsroom resources to provide coverage.  Local press is likely to be telling the stories no one else is and to give you the skinny on what is happening in your area. Check out your hometown paper and look for independent reporting on twitter and online.  Spread your news sources around, but avoid opinion pieces that lack evidence and conspiracy posts with fear-inducing clickbait titles.  As always, and are good places to vet what you’re reading before you decide to share.

Pace Your Panic

Okay, you have enough toilet paper. With over a week of panic shopping behind us, its time to stop freaking out and settle in for the long haul.  Early reports that prepared us for just a couple of weeks without school are giving way to warnings that this pandemic could lead to 12 to 18 months of disruption.  Even when the threat of the virus passes, we know that we will be returning to an economy in shambles, and many people in dire need of support. You cannot keep up toilet-paper-hoarding levels of panic for months: your mental and physical health simply cannot sustain that.  We need you healthy for the recovery, so please, pace your panic.  Yes, shit is scary as fuck so set aside a little time to let it all in so you are rooted in the seriousness of the moment. Balance that awareness with healthy levels of self-care, seclusion, and emotional management.  Read- draw- create- play- eat- move- drink- dance- this mess around on the daily, and keep your mind sharp and body ready for the long term challenges ahead.

Connect Without Commerce

Shelter in place orders and social distancing mean stores, bars, restaurants, and other public gathering spots are closed. Don’t let capitalism’s pause keep you from getting the social connection you need so much in this stressful time.   This is a chance for us to make space in our lives for connection without commerce.  This is the time when we can leverage the very best of social media to bring us together, lift us up, and find new ways of spending time together apart.  Internet–do you meme thing to keep us laughing; video chat apps, time to show us the lovely faces of our people in virtual family visits, work yoga groups, happy hour hangouts for singles, or mommy homeschool wine and support groups; Text, talk, post and crosspost to build a net of connection across the physical distance between us.

Since everything–or nearly everything–is closed, many of us suddenly have the time we haven’t been able to give to our loved ones.  Yeah, your kids may be yelling or your spouse underfoot or your dog barking nonstop, but if they are driving you crazy, that means they are still here, and that is a blessing you will be all too grateful for in the days ahead. Schedules are a little clearer, our time together more dear than ever.  Have that conversation you’ve been meaning to have.  Reach out and tell those you love what they mean to you.   We will need more love than facemasks or hospital beds, so make love in every way you can-in cookies and games and hugs and words and kisses and kisses and kisses if you are lucky enough to have your loved one in your containment zone.

We will survive as an organism but not without damage to the very fabric of our lives.  Things will not be the same, and that may be okay.  It is time to build a new world anyways. Hunker down for the hard road ahead. Build your resilience to support your people and your community. Connect, connect, connect.  Now more than ever, it is solidarity or nothing.

Black History, Black Present


I am in the New South in a building that was once used as the cotton warehouse for the local plantations.  The host tells us that in the 1840s farmers brought cotton here to be sold and shipped.  I wonder what the enslaved who farmed the cotton would have thought of this benign title–farmers.  I wonder where in this town they were brought to be sold and shipped.

There is healing happening.  Young and old people are coming together to face the racism that persists in the schools.  They are swapping stories, trying to piece together a picture of the place they live in. Verbal violence and exclusion, rules about which door you could use and texts in the group chat about killing niggers. They struggle with making meaning of the broken things, of the silences and the southern hospitality.

What is this? Are the jagged edges of my world racist? Is my suspicion correct? Is my pain justified?

“Sure we had segregation, but that doesn’t mean it was racism.” That’s a quote.

We are a circle of black folk asking if the violence and oppression we experience is racism in a room where they stored cotton picked by our enslaved ancestors. 

That night I see a story on the local news.  A white boy uses an iPhone app to make whipping noises at a black classmate. They are not friends.

The year is 2020.


The lesson Black History has to teach an America trembling on the edge of dictatorship is that history is not over.  The same white supremacy battled by all the heroes and sheroes of black history still burns hot at the heart of America.

It is both original sin and existential threat.

The last person who toiled in antebellum slavery died in my lifetime.  The last person likely to be caught in the school to prison pipeline hasn’t been born yet.

Not past, but a continuous line that leads to me, to you, and to our current state of affairs.


Trump rolls out a line of hats and t-shirts for Black Trump supporters.  The word WOKE is stitched in huge black letters across the front of a white hat.  The man who rode a wave of racism into office and installed known white supremacists as his close advisors is taking the word used to describe the increased consciousness of racism and the need to fight for black liberation as his slogan to attract black people to support his election.

I used to end my blog posts with stay woke.  It was a whisper, a call to action, a reminder to look closely at the levers of power working around you.

He took my words.


Power never rests. Black history can attest to the kind of work needed to change systemic racism. Pull the chain of Black history and you will find a long line of people who remained unbowed under the behemoth system of racism designed to break them.  Those people still live today amongst us.  Malcolm’s fire burns in Alicia Garza.  Rosa sat, Colin knelt, and the conversation has changed little in the meantime. Those people are us. On the streets of Ferguson and dozens of other cities, hundreds of young people picked up history’s chain to move it forward into political office and sustained action.  Pick a day and hit twitter to see still people calling out the Oscars, the Democratic leadership and all the Karens of the world. Resistance takes sustained coordinated effort in the big and small places, hammering at the levers of power. And time. Like, glacial time.


I am in the liberal north, black and free and buying expensive dog food on a Sunday.  A large black Ford F450 has parked next to me, the kind of truck that makes me feel like a rabbit seeing a hound.  He has backed into this spot and we come face to face as I get in my little truck.  I call my mini-SUV Panther because it is black and small and fierce and fast. His window is open and I can hear LL Cool J bumping out of his stereo.  I relax a little, I make eye contact and smile, laughing at my own stereotyping of him.

He scowls and winds up his window.

Disengage.  Don’t act nervous. Is he getting out? Don’t turn around. He’s behind me. I put my dog food in the back next to my big dog. He is waiting for me.  The dog, and the man.

I have to close my door to let him pass. For a moment we stand next to each other.

We appraise each other.

He is wearing a camo Baseball cap and a sweatshirt emblazoned with Trump 2020 The Sequel Make Liberals Cry Again.  I am wearing a Malcolm X t-shirt and a Dashiki jacket with a pair of shiny white Adidas. Wrapped in ideology ordered from online t-shirt shops we don’t have to say a word. We exchange a million ideas in a single glare. 

Fuck your LL Cool J listening Trump-supporting self.

If I had to guess he probably only thought one word. And it ended with an er.

We go our separate ways; it is dinnertime and we have hungry dogs to feed.

#OscarsSoWhite (Again)

The Oscars are here: another year, another chance at a handful of firsts for diversity in the 92-year-old institution.  Parasite could be the first film to win both Best Picture and Best Foreign Film; Cynthia Erivo, star of Harriet, could be the youngest person to ever win an EGOT; and in a double first the first black president and forever-in-our-hearts-President Obama may be the first President to win an Oscar for the documentary American Factory.image.jpg

It seems odd that we should still be having firsts in an institution that started in the last century’s roaring ’20’s. The Oscars have been dragged for years now over their lack of diversity.  #Oscarssowhite has become an annual trending tag, highlighting the continued need for diversity in the Academy and in Hollywood writ large. The hackneyed excuses that there aren’t enough actors of color, movies featuring stories focused on people of color, or female directors can no longer deflect criticism: the stories and the talent are in evidence everywhere.


The Academy has put a number of programs in place to increase diversity in nominees and awardees.  Since the creation of #OscarsSoWhite by April Reign in 2015, the Academy has invited hundreds of new members across underrepresented groups of race, gender and nationality into the voting body. Even so, the Academy membership is still overwhelmingly made up of white males.  Only 31% of Academy members are women and 16% minorities.

Efforts to diversify the voting body notwithstanding, the whiteness of Oscar has not changed much in 92 years.  Despite a wealth of amazing work by women and creators of color, the winners’ circle has remained largely the same—white males acting in stories that center white narratives. Last year’s top picture prize went to Green Book, a white savior movie a-la The Help with less pie, over cultural touchstone Black Panther or quietly powerful Roma.

We can’t go back to a time when diversity can totally be ignored by movie studios—people of color and women make up a significant portion of the ticket-buying public—but movies can try to transport us back to manifest American’s mythical destiny, letting the less-than-woke rest a little longer in Lala land. This year’s most likely winners represent an America that might be comfortable in a red hat, stories of white men from the twentieth century where they are untouched by today’s cultural complexity. These stories evoke nostalgia for a time when the voices of the oppressed and othered didn’t get heard, a dog-whistle to people who long to silence today’s resistance.

The Oscars are not the only awards show with diversity issues. This award season there has been plenty of criticism all around: the Golden Globes snubbed Ava DuVernay’s powerful When They See Us, and women directors have been shut out of Best Director awards. Even the Joker had to call out the unbearable whiteness of the awards. Joaquin Phoenix, widely hailed for his role as a white man in white face acting out his white rage with no accountability had to pause to ask for less racism in Hollywood during his BAFTA acceptance speech.

It’s tempting to just write off award shows altogether—who cares what trophies the rich and famous give to each other?  Movies, remember, are both art and investment vehicle. Studios spend big to promote Oscar-nominated movies in the hopes of earning box office revenue and clout for future productions. Prestigious awards can have an impact on the kind of stories we are likely to see in the future. Continuing to award only stories that center white men exercising their privilege and power works against the efforts to create robust diverse representation. 

In order to really move the needle in diversity in media, we need to do more than crack open the door for diverse voices.  We need to uplift stories that weave a new world—a place where black people win on and off the screen. Here’s looking forward to the first #OscarsSoDiverseForReal.

Ricky Was Right

Ricky Gervais delivered on the promise of a no holds barred takedown of Hollywood in his opening monologue for the Golden Globes but one joke got the most attention.

The left called him out for being another white man silencing the voices of people trying to make change.  The right loved him for calling out the hypocrisy of Hollywood (without, of course, addressing their own hypocrisy on the right).

Truly the headline on this joke should have read Gervais Compares Disney to ISIS, but our celebrity-obsessed culture, we were more concerned with arguing over who should talk and who shouldn’t talk to get the meta-joke that was more shocking and important than another round in who’s speech matters. Because whose speech can matter when large corporations are not listening to the cries of people for equality and justice, no matter how beautiful that voice for change may be?


Even the most powerful producers and brightest stars in Hollywood, even Bey and Jay are beholden to large corporations who regularly deplete the environment and abuse human rights to get into the black on their books.  There is a through-line from children mining Colton to your iPhone to the Apple TV+ platform where your favorite star is employed.  There is a direct connection between Disney and the propagation of racism, antisemitism, and sexism that can’t be disconnected from The Lion King or Queen Bey.

is-dumbo-racist.jpgAnd you.   Nestled in between the mining of Cobalt and the mining of profit is you–your eyeballs turn the mining of Cobalt into the mining of cash. Your eyeballs are part of that chain of production.

Yes, stars have amazing lives of privilege and pleasure secluded from the daily reality of most people, and they too live within the systems that you do. Powerful celebrities are also negatively affected by the systems we live in, even if in profoundly different ways from the most harmed. Despite having the power and platform to address issues they care about, they still are not free from drinking at the trough of global capitalism.

No matter how luminous your favorite star looks in that pricey Haute Coture, even they have a hand that signs their checks.  Their freedom to meaningfully engage in real systemic change is hampered by the very corporations that pay them the money they donate.  In this way, like gossip, mags like to proclaim: stars are just like us!

Who holds the power to attack headless snakes, organizations where the power is concentrated but the blame is diffused?  There is not King of the North, no Thanos to vanquish.  All our superhero stories, funded by corporations that are not people, don’t teach us how to dismantle complex and powerful systems.  Infinity stones won’t help us, but neither, Rickey, will telling people to shut up.

We need, instead, solidarity.  We need to acknowledge that systems of power and privilege don’t grant full freedom even to the privileged.  Using privilege to attack the system that confers it won’t save the rich when we come to eat them.  From the most marginalized to the lionized we need to dismantle the systems of power and privilege that keep all of us silenced in a burning world.