thinking beyond


The above image is a quote from William C. Anderson’s interview with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, titled: Achieving Black Liberation: a conversation with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, in which Anderson interviews Taylor about her new book, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. Taylor’s comments really struck me, especially when she discussed the co-optation and undermining of Black political movements by the State, NGOs, funders, and other actors who are not really committed to Black liberation.

Later in the interview when speaking on what she hopes readers take away from her book, Taylor asks:

What does it mean for Black people to be free? It doesn’t mean that cops wear body cameras. It doesn’t mean that cops get sensitivity training. So, how do we think beyond the parameters of the existing society?

These questions really hit home for me because they highlight things I have been struggling with in my own political education. They remind me of Saidiya Hartman’s argument that black liberation presents us with an understanding of liberation that is “so totalizing… that it can’t be ratcheted and put into political language (Hartman in Wilderson 2014). Elsewhere, Wilderson has argued that imagining the possibilities created through Black liberation would require us to think so far beyond everything we know that it’s practically impossible. We – I – [currently] lack the vocabulary and imagination to really capture what freedom and liberation means in the contexts of the Black diaspora across the globe, and what these broad ideas can look like in practice.

I don’t want to accept this. I want to be able to dream about what freedom and liberation could mean in theory, but most importantly, in practice for my people. I mean, what is it I’m really fighting for and dreaming of when I pray Assata’s healing words: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom, it is our duty to win”? What is it exactly that I’m trying to win? What’s the point of saying these words if I have no vision of what the freedom I’m fighting for really is?

I don’t have the answers to these or any related questions. This is the current challenge I’m facing within my own political education and growth. Maybe you have some ideas or suggestions?

FYI: As mentioned in the truth-out article, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor will be in Chicago in conversation with Barbara Ransby on 6 April at Haymarket Books. Free admission, but registration is required via Eventbrite.

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