All the things that North Philly Peace Park is, and will become, are part of a continuum of collective dreaming, striving, and will toward self-determination: the heart of all Black struggle. The life of Black people in this country has always been defined by the tension between our demand for sovereignty, and the violent refusal by the State at every juncture to entertain the mere idea. From the murder of Octavius Catto, situated at the center of a relentless campaign of anti-Black violence against our attempts to vote, to the institutionalized violence of the police, carceral system and the courts, any whiff of Black mobility or agency is met with full-throttled resistance by the State and its proxies.
Even as Bill Gates writes books laying out the "solutions we have and the breakthroughs we need", his cynicism prevents him from actually believing any of it. Not only does he have no faith in people to muster the collective will to prevent climate catastrophe, he has neither faith in corporations to abandon their centuries-long commitment to extraction and exploitation, nor in his own ability to "innovate" a way out. In light of this, he would seem to be preparing for inevitable disaster, and in his arrogance, would situate himself as an arbiter of life and death.
The moment demands a mass mobilization of people and collective will. Which means bridging gaps: in knowledge, resources, understanding, and empathy. In our conversations, and in our work around sustainability, we have to integrate those things which support and affirm our rights to healthy, dignified lives, so we even have the capacity to take on something so grandiose as “saving the planet”.
At the end of last year, I published an article in the journal Transcontinental Human Trajectories, my first “official” publication. It is mostly a personal narrative — and I do mean personal — but it also lays out much of my educational philosophy, and sketches my initial trajectory from a school teacher to more of an activist. Although I didn’t use the term “school abolitionist” at the time, you can see the first inklings of that identity starting to crystallize.
The constraining of ideas to the "median" seems to be rooted in white USAmerican norms of white upper/middle class "decorum", specifically the pressure to avoid conflict, or rather, to avoid any public appearance of conflict. Those who benefit from the status quo (and those who aspire to) — by virtue of social, economic, or political power and privilege — would really quite like it, if the rest of you wouldn't much mind, if we could just keep things "civil". A premium is placed on preserving the appearance, not just of civility, but of the fundamental "goodness" of those in power.
This whole Virginia drama is revealing something important about the current Democratic establishment, something which has implications for both past and future, including the election of Donald Trump. That something is that Democrats are symbolic politicians, concerned more with the image of doing the right thing, than actually doing it. Where they effect policies that actually make a positive difference in people's lives, it is usually reactive, a case of them "holding the line" against the worst abuses of the Republicans.
There has undoubtedly been one person, or ten, or even one thousand black people who have gone through their lives with little to no observable experience with racism, don't consciously feel its impact, and for that manage to gain some degree of success or wealth or high quality of life. Their experiences do not invalidate the very real existence of systems that make such outcomes more unlikely for the rest of us. Systems that privilege white people at the expense of people of color.
The recent accusations against Quantic Dream founder David Cage do not exist in a vacuum, nor without precedent. He wants to be judged by his work, and indeed if one looks critically at his games, a theme emerges. People of color are reduced to caricatures, invoke harmful stereotypes, and should remain at the margins, if they appear at all. Even if that means literally erasing them from settings where they predominate. This is not the cross-burning of the past or the anger-marching racism so en vogue these days, but the more deeply entrenched racism underlying all of our media institutions.
Diverse representations of black people in media has nothing to do with "political correctness". It has little to do with fairness, either. This is not a zero-sum game by which black gain equals white loss. What it concerns, most significantly, is the acceptance of this proposal that Black Lives Matter. That Black People Matter. Black representations are a matter of survival. Of casting us as fully-realized human beings with thoughts, feelings, dreams, aspirations, complexity, agency — against a backdrop that explicitly shows and tells us (everyone) that the opposite is true.
The truth of the matter is that these revelations haven’t tarnished the image of Cliff Huxtable, and changed him into a monster. Rather, the image of Cliff Huxtable was built around an actual monster. A monster playing his best role yet, as a beloved family icon and upstanding public figure.