THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE COLORBLIND: BLACKNESS, INDIGENEITY, AND STRUGGLES FOR FREEDOM
EDITED BY LEONARD CORTANA
In 2020, the global wave of protests following George Floyd’s assassination became a wake-up call for organizations to amplify Black voices and denounce systemic racism and police brutality. Academic institutions have launched various calls for applications to hire Black and Africana studies scholars to help incorporate Black cultural frames of reference into curricula, while the corporate sector has developed ‘creative strategies’ to signal their willingness to enhance access to equal rights. In this sudden wave of racial awakening, racial justice advocates have expressed their concerns that these changes function largely as ‘performative allyship,’ favoring illusory colorblind ideologies or non-threatening diversity and inclusion policies over substantive change. In 2022, a couple of years after the Floyd protests, their worries resonate more than ever: with the resurgence of a right-wing and illiberal populism that seeks to ban critical race theory and restrict transgender rights, we as a society have ample evidence that further work needs to be done.
In an interview for Revolutionary Feminisms: Conversations on Collective Action and Radical Thought (Brenna Bhandar, Rafeef Ziadah, 2020), scholar and activist Angela Davis points out “a consistent theme in my life has been the convergence of academic knowledge and knowledge generated in the course of actively struggling for radical change.” The convergence she refers to is a crucial point of the array of texts that shape this section, “The Revolution Will Not Be Colorblind: Blackness, Indigeneity, and Struggles for Freedom.” These reviews aim to show that to articulate a successful agenda against multilayered racial and social systems of oppression, the search for a contemporary radical praxis must embrace a methodology both rooted in intellectual traditions and contemporary anti-racist practices. By extension, this approach will demonstrate how decades of intellectual and artistic productions can be leveraged by a new generation of anti-racist advocates and scholars to enhance their political commitment.
In her poem “Coherence in Consequence” (2001), Black American poet with Jamaican roots Claudia Rankine provides a powerful visual metaphor that could guide the reader in this section “. . . and their sharpest aches will wrap experience until knowledge is translucent” (Claudia Rankine, 2001) From reediting canonical volumes to re-centering Blackness in emerging fields such as food and anti-fatness studies, authors of this section remind readers that the fight for racial and social justice must investigate the multilayered processes of erasure that have only further cemented extant colonial and anti-black narratives. As an archeologist, one should dive into the significant absences to shed light on today’s challenges while actively amplifying marginalized voices.
The section opens with the reedition of two canonical writings. First, Lindsey Holmes describes how Paul Gilroy and Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s Stuart Hall: Selected Writings on Race and Difference (2021) interrogates British Marxist Stuart Hall’s conceptualization of racial identity formation and the shaping of popular anti-racist movements throughout the 1950s to the early 2000s. Navigating an analysis of several cultural producers who belong to the Black diaspora, Holmes highlights how Stuart’s reading of Fanon shed light on an “opened methodology.” She explains, “Likewise, the essay on Fanon argues for any theoretical text—and indeed, any engagement with a text—to be always “fundamentally an open text, and hence a text we are obliged to go on working on, working with.”
The second review further supports the importance of re-investigating the contributions of landmark texts, in this case, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color – Fortieth Anniversary Edition (2021). Ricardo Delgado Solis highlights how Cherrie Moraga, in her preface to the new edition, invites readers to be inspired by the process of compiling diverse voices exploring a large set of intersected identities to call for more unconditional revolutionary solidarity in order to fight the spread of normalized neocolonial and neoliberal practices. Self-labeled as a feminist “revolutionary tool and a consciousness-raiser” who resonates with the deep inequalities revealed by the current pandemic, Delgado Solis invites readers to expand their imaginary of the Chicanx studies field as a source of inspiration for radical feminists.
The following review interacts well with the prior. Reviewer Silvana Scott looks at Ariana Brown’s autobiographical, poetic exploration of her Mexican roots in relation to Blackness. In We Are Owed (2020), Scott notes that Brown dissociates herself from the anti-black narrative and Black erasure that have fed a large corpus of the Chicano intellectual production. By exploring her own upbringing, they use their poetics to expand a cultural citizenship toward their Black roots. As Scott powerfully suggests, “Brown calls for a reimagining of belonging that pushes forth a new reading of history to create a somewhere else, where kinship and relationality amongst Black people are not tethered to settler-colonial forms of subjugation.”
The last two reviews focus on two recent publications well informed by the emerging Black food studies and anti-black fatness scholarships. In her review of Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington (2019), Lindsey Holmes highlights author Ashanté M. Reese’s gesture to re-center Black agency in food spatialities such as community markets and gardens to fight racial capitalism and re-connect with nostalgic and poetic Black foodways. While conducting interviews and participant observation, Holmes suggests “Reese’s Black feminist methodological approach that foregrounds Black agency does not work to ignore racism but rather better reveals the structural constraints by better addressing what is structurally and materially important to the residents.” Therefore, Reese’s radical praxis expands an imaginary of a Black community of care that would benefit scholars across a number of academic disciplines.
The last review of this section looks at Da’Shaun L. Harrison’s Belly of The Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness (2021), which breaks down several forms of structural violence imposed onto Black fat bodies while drawing upon historical genealogies of Black fatness. Silvana Scott highlights Harrison’s claim that Black people are not dehumanized but instead become the ‘Beast of Humanity’ where the Black fat is always already criminalized and policed. From health and sexuality to police violence, Harrison denounces the deeply rooted obstacles that encage the ‘Beast’ and searches for a Black fat collective liberation that would benefit all.
The reviews of this section call to investigate historic and transmediatic legacies to re-envision and successfully re-center Black and People of color’s agency in the search for translucid knowledge, to return to Rankine’s visual metaphor. These texts exist to be completed, criticized, enriched, and to influence a new generation of scholars (+activists) in their search for a successful convergence between academic knowledge and radical praxis. The multiple methodologies displayed in these publications (textual analysis, archival exploration, interviews with local communities, and others) reveal the hybrid approaches necessary to speak truth to power and develop a powerful poetics for collective liberation.