It’s no credit to this enormously rich country that there are more oppressive, less decent governments elsewhere. We claim superiority of our institutions. We ought to live up to our own standards, not use misery elsewhere as an endless source of self-gratification and justification. Of course, people tell me all the time in the West that they are trying, they are trying hard. Some have tears in their eyes and let me know how awful they feel about the way our poor live, our blacks, or those in dozens of other countries. People can cry much easier than they can change, a rule of psychology people like me picked up as kids on the street.
James Baldwin, "James Baldwin Back Home" by Robert Coles in The New York Times (31 July 1977)
Clearly white Americans see the broader significance of Michael Brown’s death through radically different lenses than black Americans. There are myriad reasons for this divergence, from political ideologies—which, for example, place different emphases on law and order versus citizens’ rights—to fears based in racist stereotypes of young black men. But the chief obstacle to having an intelligent, or even intelligible, conversation across the racial divide is that on average white Americans live in communities that face far fewer problems and talk mostly to other white people.
I have borrowed the term “appropriation” from Marxist theory. Marx (for instance, in Capital) used the word for the process through which capitalists, owners of the means of production, collect the value of the work of the workers, who do not control these means. The term appropriation has been borrowed into cultural studies and cultural anthropology, where it has been productively generalized from material appropriation to the case of symbolic appropriation. Examples have been identified especially in the arts and in music. Perhaps the best-known illustration is the theft by White impresarios and musicians of musical styles and even specific compositions by African Americans. This tradition of symbolic appropriation created some of the most important symbolic wealth of “American” – that is, White American – culture, from nineteenth-century minstrelsy to ragtime and jazz, through rhythm and blues and rock and roll to the current international fad for hip-hop music (Hall 1997). This appropriation had, of course, important material economic consequences, generating immense wealth for White entrepreneurs and artists who interpreted African American compositions, while leaving their creators in poverty and obscurity. This was possible because Whites controlled the institutions within which the symbolic resources of African American music could be converted into material resources: media markets, distribution networks, and legal and governmental institutions that enforce contracts, copyrights, and trademarks. African American musicians were marginal to these systems, and kept there by Jim Crow racism.
Jane H. Hill, “Linguistic Appropriation: The History of White Racism is Embedded in American English” (via thenegrotude)
But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?
This is honestly my favorite quote. It’s changed how I look at life and religion.
Democracy has become Empire’s euphemism for neo-liberal capitalism.
Arundhati Roy, An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire (via thenegrotude)