If any of the presidential candidates wants to be taken seriously, I need to hear them commit to instituting federal reforms that abolish the relationship between the prison system and private companies. If the more people getting arrested means that powerful private corporations make more profits, then powerful corporate lobbyists are going to remain committed to ensuring that more blacks continue to be imprisoned. They will continue to resist any presidential candidate, politician, prosecutor, or institution that goes after the prison system.
And on this issue, I am not going to say people of color, because it is black people who comprise the largest percentage of the prison population. Additionally, as Obama said recently, blacks get longer sentences than whites for the same crime. It’s wise to consider that there is a time and place to lump marginalized and racialized bodies as people of color. But the effectiveness of such a categorical lumping must be seriously evaluated before utilized and prioritized as the most inclusive and effective activist strategy.
More than any group on the American continent and across the world, darker-skinned bodies are the most racially oppressed. My experience here in Panama and recently in Brazil has made it clearer that there exists a nurtured global assault on bodies based upon hierarchical structures of pigmentation. This reason grounds my support for emerging viewpoints in the Black Lives Matter movement that resist calls to frame their slogan as “All Lives Matter.”
If any other group—Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, and Poor White people—wants to start its own anti-racist movement, I will support it. But each needs to tap into its own creativity and produce a slogan that differentiates existing specifics of its struggles while it still amplifies the reality that shared racism hurts multiple groups. That shouldn’t be so hard to creatively accomplish; should it?
Neither should it be impossible to understand that blacks deserve the right to cultivate and occupy singular activist names and spaces that speak as black people because they are marginalized as black people across continents that continue to globalize diverse modes of anti-blackness.
Certainly, I often (and still do) valorize a united, inclusive, front, especially since I know that “blackness” as a social construct is very problematic and is often hijacked by civil rights and academic careerists. In those careerist situations, the utility of “blackness” bothers me when persons really consider it as a wholesome representation of their ontological selves.
As I see it, identities are hybrid–ethnically and geographically intersectional–rather than singular. But when “blackness” is understood and utilized as a political constituency needed to shift governmental paradigms, my argument changes to positions such as here–where my main point is that racial singularity also has its usefulness in varied activists contexts such as the Black Lives Matter movement.