Monday, July 11, 2016


"Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be." -- James Baldwin (No name in the street, 1972)
Pres. Barack Obama
"When people say black lives matter, it does not mean blue lives don't matter. All lives matter," Obama said in Warsaw. "But the big concern is that the data shows that black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives, this is recognizing that there is a particular burden is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens and we should care about that. We can’t dismiss it.” -- Washington Post
Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow"
This nation was founded on the idea that some lives don’t matter. Freedom and justice for some, not all. That’s the foundation. Yes, progress has been made in some respects, but it hasn’t come easy. There’s an unfinished revolution waiting to be won. -- Something more is required of us now.
Lester Spence, professor of political science at John Hopkins University
"Over the past few decades cities have turned to policing to fulfill two functions: to surveil and discipline black populations hardest hit by economic shifts and to collect revenue in the form of fines… The black men most likely to be left out of the formal economy — who have to engage in various illegal hustles to make ends meet — are far more likely to suffer from police violence than other black men.” -- Salon
Troy LaRaviere reporting from the Dem Platform Committee
The Clinton people just voted down an amendment to ban fracking. The reaction of the amendment supporters is strong--perhaps the strongest negative reaction of the day, along with the earlier reaction against the Clinton vote not to acknowledge the occupation of Palestine. -- Facebook post
Serena Williams
Reporter: "You are one of the greatest women athletes of all time."Serena: "I am one of the greatest athletes of all time." -- Bustle


  1. "...and people are as free as they want to be."

    Really? It surprises me that someone like Baldwin would say that. I mean, I get his point about freedom being something that has to be taken, not given. But is he really saying that slaves and blacks who were lynched and otherwise victimized by Jim Crow laws and groups like the KKK simply didn't want to be free? Frankly that sounds like something you'd hear in a touchy-feely, feel good motivational speech.

  2. Dienne,

    It should be obvious that is not what Baldwin means. He's not talking here about freedom from an outside force (ie. the KKK or Jim Crow). But rather, freedom from fear, self-doubt and mental slavery.

    Like some many of our radical intellectuals and philosophers, Baldwin was examining the concept of "freedom" on many levels, not just on the physical level.

    For example, John Dewey in "Experience and Education". writes about freedom of the intellect and freedom of the slavery of impulse. Any teacher should easily understand this as so many of our young students are slaves to their own impulses.

    "It may be a loss rather than a gain to escape from the control of another person only to find one's conduct dictated by immediate whim and caprice; that is, at the mercy of impulses into whose formation intelligent judgment has not entered."

    Or how about Bob Marley quoting Marcus Garvey: Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!

    Or Hannah Arendt to whom freedom Arendt meant the capacity to begin, to start something new, to do the unexpected, with which all human beings are endowed by virtue of being born.

    And so it goes. When your reading Baldwin, which I hope you are, it's good to respond critically (habits of the mind) but we should be able and willing to explore concepts like freedom and justice on multi-levels.

    If you're interested, here's more on Baldwin's conception of "freedom".

  3. Adrienne Rich observed in her writings on capitalism, and freedom, “in the vocabulary kidnapped from liberatory politics, no word has been so pimped as freedom.”

  4. Yes, Baldwin was talking about the habitual ways in which we imprison ourselves and relinquish our own freedom.

  5. Great piece by Michelle Alexander. Thanks for posting.


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