Arquivo da tag: Antirracismo

Some Brazilians long considered themselves White. Now many identify as Black as fight for equity inspires racial redefinition. (Washington Post)

washingtonpost.com

Terrence McCoy and Heloísa Traiano, November 15, 2020 at 5:23 p.m. GMT-3


RIO DE JANEIRO — For most of his 57 years, to the extent that he thought about his race, José Antônio Gomes used the language he was raised with. He was “pardo” — biracial — which was how his parents identified themselves. Or maybe “moreno,” as people back in his hometown called him. Perhaps “mestiço,” a blend of ethnicities.

It wasn’t until this year, when protests for racial justice erupted across the United States after George Floyd’s killing in police custody, that Gomes’s own uncertainty settled. Watching television, he saw himself in the thousands of people of color protesting amid the racially diverse crowds. He saw himself in Floyd.

Gomes realized he wasn’t mixed. He was Black.

So in September, when he announced his candidacy for city council in the southeastern city of Turmalina, Gomes officially identified himself that way. “In reality, I’ve always been Black,” he said. “But I didn’t think I was Black. But now we have more courage to see ourselves that way.”

Brazil is home to more people of African heritage than any country outside Africa. But it is rarely identified as a Black nation, or as closely identifying with any race, really. It has seen itself as simply Brazilian — a tapestry of European, African and Indigenous backgrounds that has defied the more rigid racial categories used elsewhere. Some were darker, others lighter. But almost everyone was a mix.

Now, however, as affirmative action policies diversify Brazilian institutions and the struggle for racial equality in the United States inspires a similar movement here, a growing number of people are redefining themselves. Brazilians who long considered themselves to be White are reexamining their family histories and concluding that they’re pardo. Others who thought of themselves as pardo now say they’re Black.

In Brazil, which still carries the imprint of colonization and slavery, where class and privilege are strongly associated with race, the racial reconfiguration has been striking. Over the past decade, the percentage of Brazilians who consider themselves White has dropped from 48 percent to 43 percent, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, while the number of people who identify as Black or mixed has risen from 51 percent to 56 percent.

“We are clearly seeing more Black people publicly declare themselves as Black, as they would in other countries,” said Kleber Antonio de Oliveira Amancio, a social historian at the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia. “Racial change is much more fluid here than it is in the United States.”

One of the clearest illustrations of that fluidity — and the growing movement to identify as Black — was the registration process for the 5,500 or so municipal elections held here Sunday. Candidates were required to identify as White, Black, mixed, Indigenous or Asian. And that routine bureaucratic step yielded fairly stunning results.

More than a quarter of the 168,000 candidates who also ran in 2016 have changed their race, according to a Washington Post analysis of election registration data. Nearly 17,000 who said they were White in 2016 are now mixed. Around 6,000 who said they were mixed are now Black. And more than 14,000 who said they were mixed now identify as White.

For some candidates, the jump was even further. Nearly 900 went from White to Black, and nearly 600 went from Black to White.

How to explain it?

Some say they’re simply correcting bureaucratic error: A party official charged with registering candidates saw their picture and recorded their race inaccurately. One woman joked that she’d gotten a lot less sun this year while quarantined and decided to declare herself White. Another candidate told the Brazilian newspaper O Globo that he was Black but was a “fan” of the Indigenous, and so has now joined them. Some believed candidates were taking advantage of a recent court decision that requires parties to dispense campaign funds evenly among racial categories.

And others said they didn’t see what all of the fuss was about.

“Race couldn’t exist,” reasoned Carlos Lacerda, a city council candidate in the southeastern city of Araçatuba, who described himself as White in 2016 and Black this year. “It’s nationalism, and that’s it. Race is something I’d never speak about.”

“We have way more important things to talk about than my race,” said Ribamar Antônio da Silva, a city council member seeking reelection in the southeastern city of Osasco.

But others looked at the racial registration as a chance to fulfill a long-denied identity.

Cristovam Andrade, 36, a city council candidate in the northeastern city of São Felipe, was raised on a farm in rural Bahia, where the influence of West Africa never felt far away. With limited access to information outside his community — let alone Brazil — he grew up believing he was White. That was how his parents had always described him.

“I didn’t have any idea about race in North America or in Europe,” he said. “But I knew a lot of people who were darker than me, so I saw myself as White.”

As he began to see himself as Black, Brazil did, too. For much of its history, Brazil’s intellectual elite described Latin America’s largest country as a “racial democracy,” saying its history of intermixing had spared it the racism that plagues other countries. Around 5 million enslaved Africans were shipped to Brazil — more than 10 times the number that ended up in North America — and the country was the last in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery, in 1888. Its history since has been one of profound racial inequality: White people earn nearly twice as much as Black people on average, and more than 75 percent of the 5,800 people killed by police last year were Black.

But Brazil never adopted prohibitions on intermarrying or draconian racial distinctions. Race became malleable.

The Brazilian soccer player Neymar famously said he wasn’t Black. Former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso famously said he was, at least in part. The 20th-century Brazilian sociologist Gilberto de Mello Freyre wrote in the 1930s that all Brazilians — “even the light-skinned fair-haired one” — carried Indigenous or African lineage.

“The self-declaration as Black is a very complex question in Brazilian society,” said Wlamyra Albuquerque, a historian at the Federal University of Bahia. “And one of the reasons for this is that the myth of a racial democracy is still in political culture in Brazil. The notion that we’re all mixed, and because of this, racism couldn’t exist in the country, is still dominant.”

Given the choice, many Afro-Brazilians, historians and sociologists argue, have historically chosen not to identify as Black — whether consciously or not — to distance themselves from the enduring legacy of slavery and societal inequality. Wealth and privilege allowed some to separate even further from their skin color.

“In Brazilian schools, we didn’t learn who was an African person, who was an Indigenous person,” said Bartolina Ramalho Catanante, a historian at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul. “We only learned who was a European person and how they came here. To be Black wasn’t valued.”

But over the past two decades, as diversity efforts elevated previously marginalized voices into newscasts, telenovelas and politics, people such as Andrade have begun to think of themselves differently. To Andrade’s mother, he was White. But he wasn’t so sure. His late father had been Black. His grandparents had been Black. Just because his skin color was lighter, did that make his African roots, and his family’s experience of slavery, any less a part of his history?

In 2016, when Andrade ran for office, an official with the leftist Workers’ Party asked him what race he would like to declare. He had a decision to make.

“I am going to mark Black as a way to recognize my ancestry and origin,” he thought. “Outside of Brazil, we would never be considered White. We live in a bubble in this country.”

But this year, when he ran again, no one asked him which race he preferred. Someone saw his picture and made the decision for him. He was put down as White. For Andrade, it felt like an erasure.

“It’s easy for some to say they’re Black or mixed or White, but for me it’s not easy,” he said. “And I’m not going to be someone who isn’t White all over the world but is White only in Brazil. If I’m not White elsewhere in the world, I’m not White.”

He’s Black. And if he seeks public office again in 2024, he said, he’ll make sure that’s how he will be known.

Eleição tem recorde de mulheres candidatas e, pela 1ª vez, mais negros que brancos (Folha de S.Paulo)

www1.folha.uol.com.br

Ranier Bragon, Guilherme Garcia e Flávia Faria – 27 de setembro de 2020


Os 526 mil pedidos de registro de candidatura computados até o momento para as eleições municipais de novembro já representam um recorde no número total de candidatos, de postulantes do sexo feminino e, pela primeira vez na história, uma maioria autodeclarada negra (preta ou parda) em relação aos que se identificam como brancos.

O crescimentos de negros e mulheres na disputa às prefeituras e Câmaras Municipais tem como pano de fundo o estabelecimento das cotas de gênero a partir dos anos 90 e as mais recentes cotas de distribuição da verba de campanha e da propaganda eleitoral, decisões essas tomadas pelos tribunais superiores em 2018, no caso das mulheres, e em 2020, no caso dos negros.

A cota eleitoral racial ainda depende de confirmação pelo plenário do STF (Supremo Tribunal Federal), o que deve ocorrer nesta semana.

Em relação à maior presença de negros, especialistas falam também no impacto do aumento de pessoas que se reconhecem como pretas e pardas após ações de combate ao racismo.

Apesar de o prazo de registro de candidatos ter se encerrado neste sábado (26), o Tribunal Superior eleitoral informou que um residual de registros feitos de forma presencial ainda levará alguns dias para ser absorvido pelo sistema.

Além disso, candidatos que não tiveram seu nome inscrito pelos partidos têm até quinta-feira (1º) para fazê-lo, mas isso normalmente diz respeito a um percentual ínfimo de concorrentes.

Os 526 mil pedidos computados até agora já representam 47 mil a mais do total de 2016 e 82% do que o tribunal espera receber este ano, com base nas convenções partidárias —cerca de 645 mil postulantes.

Até a noite deste domingo (27), o percentual de candidatas mulheres era de 34%, 177 mil concorrentes. Nas últimas três eleições, esse índice não passou de 32%. Pelas regras atuais, os partidos devem reservar ao menos 30% das vagas de candidatos e da verba pública de campanha para elas.

Em 2018, a Folha revelou em diversas reportagens que partidos, entre eles o PSL, lançaram candidatas laranjas com o intuito de simular o cumprimento da exigência, mas acabaram desviando os recursos para candidatos homens.

No caso dos negros, o TSE decidiu instituir a partir de 2022 a divisão equânime das verbas de campanha e da propaganda eleitoral entre candidatos negros e brancos.

O ministro Ricardo Lewandowski, do Supremo Tribunal Federal, porém, determinou a aplicação imediata da medida. Sua decisão, que é liminar, está sendo analisada pelo plenário da corte, com tendência de confirmação.

Até noite deste domingo, os autodeclarados pretos e pardos somavam 51% dos candidatos (264 mil) contra 48% dos brancos (249 mil). Entre os negros, 208 mil se declaravam pardos e 56 mil, pretos.

O TSE passou a perguntar a cor dos candidatos a partir de 2014. Nas três eleições ocorridas até agora, os brancos sempre foram superiores aos negros, ocupando mais de 50% das vagas de candidatos, apesar de pretos e pardos serem maioria na população brasileira (56%). Em 2016, brancos eram 51%.

Embora o TSE não tenha registrado cor ou raça dos candidatos nos pleitos anteriores, é muitíssimo improvável ter havido eleição anterior com maioria de candidatos negros.

Assim como no recenseamento da população feita pelo IBGE, os candidatos devem declarar a cor ou raça com base em cinco identificações: preta, parda (que formam a população negra do país), branca, amarela ou indígena.

Mais de 42 mil candidatos de todo o país que disputarão as eleições deste ano mudaram a declaração de cor e raça que deram em 2016.

O número equivale a 27% dos cerca de 154 mil que concorreram no último pleito e disputam novamente em 2020. Pouco mais de um terço (36%) alterou a cor de branca para parda. Outros 30% se declaravam pardos e agora se dizem brancos.

Apesar da possibilidade de fraude, especialistas falam no impacto do aumento de pessoas que se reconhecem como pretas e pardas após ações de combate ao racismo.

A decisão de adoção imediata das cotas raciais colocou em posições opostas os núcleos afros dos partidos políticos, favoráveis à decisão, e os dirigentes das siglas, majoritariamente brancos, que em reunião nesta semana com o presidente do TSE (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral), Luís Roberto Barroso, chegaram a dizer ser inexequível o cumprimento da medida ainda neste ano.

Também há receio de fraudes em relação às candidaturas negras. E há de se ressaltar que, assim como a cota feminina não resultou até agora em uma presença nos postos de comando de Executivo e Legislativo de mulheres na proporção que elas representam da população, a cota racial também não é garantia, por si só, de que haverá expressivo aumento da participação de negros na política, hoje relegados a pequenas fatias de poder, principalmente nos cargos mais importantes. ​

Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ and the Pitfalls of African Consciousness (Black Perspectives)

By Russell Rickford

Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ (Photo: Disney)

African American imaginings of Africa often intermingle with–and help illuminate–intimate hopes and desires for Black life in the United States. So when an African American pop star offers an extended meditation on Africa, the resulting work reflects not just her particular visions of the continent and its diaspora, but also larger aspirations for a collective Black future.

Black is King, Beyoncé’s elaborate, new marriage of music video and movie, is a finely-textured collage of cultural meaning. Though it is not possible, in the scope of this essay, to interpret the film’s full array of metaphors, one may highlight certain motifs and attempt to grasp their social implications.

An extravagant technical composition, Black is King is also a pastiche of symbols and ideologies. It belongs to a venerable African American tradition of crafting images of Africa that are designed to redeem the entire Black world. The film’s depiction of luminous, dignified Black bodies and lush landscapes is a retort to the contemptuous West and to its condescending discourses of African danger, disease and degeneration.

Black is King rebukes those tattered, colonialist tropes while evoking the spirit of Pan African unity. It falls short, however, as a portrait of popular liberation. In a sense, the picture is a sophisticated work of political deception. Its aesthetic of African majesty seems especially emancipatory in a time of coronavirus, murderous cops and vulgar Black death. One is almost tempted to view the film as another iteration of the principles of mass solidarity and resistance that galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.

But Black is King is neither radical nor fundamentally liberatory. Its vision of Africa as a site of splendor and spiritual renewal draws on both postcolonial ideals of modernity and mystical notions of a premodern past. Yet for all its ingenuity, the movie remains trapped within the framework of capitalist decadence that has fabulously enriched its producer and principal performer, Beyoncé herself. Far from exotic, the film’s celebration of aristocracy and its equation of power and status with the consumption of luxury goods exalts the system of class exploitation that continues to degrade Black life on both sides of the Atlantic.

That said, the politics of Black is King are complicated. The picture is compelling precisely because it appears to subvert the logic of global white supremacy. Its affirming representations of Blackness and its themes of ebony kinship will resonate with many viewers, but will hold special significance for African Americans, for whom Africa remains an abiding source of inspiration and identity. Indeed, Black is King seems purposefully designed to appeal to diasporic sensibilities within African American culture.

At the heart of the production lies the idea of a fertile and welcoming homeland. Black is King presents Africa as a realm of possibility. It plays on the African American impulse to sentimentalize the continent as a sanctuary from racial strife and as a source of purity and regeneration. Though the movie does not explicitly address the prospect of African American return or “repatriation” to Africa, allusions to such a reunion shape many of its scenes. No doubt some African American viewers will discover in the film the allure of a psychological escape to a glorious mother continent, a place where lost bonds of ancestry and culture are magically restored.

The problem is not just that such an Africa does not exist. All historically displaced groups romanticize “the old country.” African Americans who idealize “the Motherland” are no different in this respect. But by portraying Africa as the site of essentially harmonious civilizations, Black is King becomes the latest cultural product to erase the realities of class relations on the continent. That deletion, which few viewers are likely to notice, robs the picture of whatever potential it may have had to inspire a concrete Pan African solidarity based on recognition of the shared conditions of dispossession that mark Black populations at home and abroad.

To understand the contradictions of Black is King, one must examine the class dynamics hidden beneath its spectacles of African nobility. The movie, which depicts a young boy’s circuitous journey to the throne, embodies Afrocentrism’s fascination with monarchical authority. It is not surprising that African Americans should embrace regal images of Africa, a continent that is consistently misrepresented and denigrated in the West. Throughout their experience of subjugation in the New World, Black people have sought to construct meaningful paradigms of African affinity. Not infrequently, they have done so by claiming royal lineage or by associating themselves with dynastic Egypt, Ethiopia and other imperial civilizations.

The danger of such vindicationist narratives is that they mask the repressive character of highly stratified societies. Ebony royals are still royals. They exercise the prerogatives of hereditary rule. And invariably, the subjects over whom they reign, and whose lives they control, are Black. African Americans, one should recall, also hail from the ranks of a service class. They have good cause to eschew models of rigid social hierarchy and to pursue democratic themes in art and politics. Black is King hardly empowers them by portraying monarchy as a symbol of grandeur rather than as a system of coercion.

There are other troubling allusions in the film. One scene casts Beyoncé and her family members as African oligarchs. The characters signal their opulence by inhabiting a sprawling mansion complete with servants, marble statues and manicured lawns. Refinement is the intended message. Yet the conspicuous consumption, the taste for imported luxury products, the mimicry of European high culture and the overall display of ostentation call to mind the lifestyles of a notorious generation of postcolonial African dictators. Many of these Cold War rulers amassed vast personal wealth while their compatriots wallowed in poverty. Rising to power amid the drama of African independence, they nevertheless facilitated the reconquest of the continent by Western financial interests.

Black is King does not depict any particular historical figures from this stratum of African elites. (Some of the movie’s costumes pair leopard skin prints with finely tailored suits in a style that is reminiscent of flamboyant statesmen such as Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo.) However, by presenting the African leisure class as an object of adulation, the film glamorizes private accumulation and the kind of empty materialism that defined the comprador officials who oversaw Africa’s descent into neocolonial dependency.

Black is King is, of course, a Disney venture. One would hardly expect a multinational corporation to sponsor a radical critique of social relations in the Global South. (It is worth mentioning that in recent years the Disney Company has come under fire for allowing some of its merchandise to be produced in Chinese sweatshops.) Small wonder that Disney and Beyoncé, herself a stupendously rich mogul, have combined to sell western audiences a lavishly fabricated Africa—one that is entirely devoid of class conflict.

Anticolonial theorist Frantz Fanon once warned, in a chapter titled “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness,” that the African postcolonial bourgeoisie would manipulate the symbols of Black cultural and political autonomy to advance its own narrow agenda. Black is King adds a new twist to the scenario. This time an African American megastar and entrepreneur has appropriated African nationalist and Pan Africanist imagery to promote the spirit of global capitalism.

In the end, Black is King must be read as a distinctly African American fantasy of Africa. It is a compendium of popular ideas about the continent as seen by Black westerners. The Africa of this evocation is natural and largely unspoiled. It is unabashedly Black. It is diverse but not especially complex, for an aura of camaraderie supersedes its ethnic, national and religious distinctions. This Africa is a tableau. It is a repository for the Black diaspora’s psychosocial ambitions and dreams of transnational belonging.

What the Africa of Black is King is not is ontologically African. Perhaps the African characters and dancers who populate its scenes are more than just props. But Beyoncé is the picture’s essential subject, and it is largely through her eyes—which is to say, western eyes—that we observe the people of the continent. If the extras in the film are elegant, they are also socially subordinate. Their role is to adorn the mostly African American elites to whom the viewer is expected to relate.

There are reasons to relish the pageantry of Black is King, especially in a time of acute racial trauma. Yet the movie’s mystique of cultural authenticity and benevolent monarchy should not obscure the material realities of everyday life. Neoliberal governance, extractive capitalism and militarism continue to spawn social and ecological devastation in parts of Africa, the Americas and beyond. Confronting those interwoven realities means developing a concrete, global analysis while resisting metaphysical visions of the world.

Copyright © AAIHS. May not be reprinted without permission.

Russell Rickford

Russell Rickford is an associate professor of history at Cornell University. He is the author of ‘We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination.’ A specialist on the Black Radical Tradition, he teaches about social movements, black transnationalism, and African-American political culture after World War Two. Follow him on Twitter @RickfordRussell.

Neutralidade é um lugar que não existe (Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil)

Acervo Online | Brasil por Carla Rodrigues 19 de agosto de 2020

A história da minha educação para o racismo me diz que fui racializada como branca para ser racista.

Sou branca e fui criada como branca. Mais do que isso, fui educada para saber identificar os fenótipos das pessoas negras, de modo a estabelecer rigorosas distinções entre pessoas brancas, pessoas então chamadas de “mulatas” e pessoas negras. Cresci aprendendo que pessoas negras são sujas e que a cor preta estava associada ao nojo, ao abjeto. Na escola progressista em que estudei, havia apenas duas pessoas negras, ambas filhas de funcionários. Durante décadas, escutei a exaltação dos ancestrais portugueses e italianos, que nos legaram pele branca, cabelos lisos e, no meu caso, olhos azuis, joia rara na família e objeto de disputa como  signo da herança materna portuguesa ou da herança paterna italiana.

Fui ensinada a ser superior porque branca, embora a superioridade de uma mulher branca de família pequeno burguesa estivesse fundamentada na cor, não em privilégios de classe ou gênero. Quando analiso para a minha educação para ser racista, vejo retrospectivamente que as pessoas brancas da minha família de imigrantes pobres talvez precisassem afirmar o privilégio de cor para escapar da subalternidade justo por não terem o privilégio de classe.

Por isso, inclusive, além de racistas, eram também classistas e repetiam os estereótipos que o racismo usa ainda hoje: pessoas pretas e pobres são igualmente perigosas, eventualmente preguiçosas, embora as mulheres negras tenham sido sempre alocadas nos trabalhos braçais do cuidado da casa e no cuidado de crianças. Esta divisão marcou a minha infância. Quando criança, nunca entendi a divisão subjetiva entre não poder gostar de pessoas pretas e adorar a mulher preta que cuidava de mim quando minha mãe não estava.

Há muito tempo quero escrever sobre minha experiência pessoal de ter sido educada para ser racista e, portanto, ter chegado à vida adulta naturalizando a desigualdade racial. Do debate que se seguiu ao artigo de Lilia Schwarcz a respeito do novo vídeo da Beyoncé, foi o texto de Lia Vainer Schucman que me motivou a escrever. Isso porque considero o argumento dela irrefutável: “nossa racialidade está sendo marcada, algo que acontece há alguns séculos com negros e indígenas no Brasil, ou seja: é quando o grupo antecede o indivíduo (o que nomeamos de processo de racialização).” A história da minha educação para o racismo me diz que fui racializada como branca para ser racista. Já Schucman defende uma racialização que, como reconhecimento de que todas as pessoas são marcadas, poderia nos levar ao fim do racismo. Parece contraditório, eu sei, mas vamos lá.

Há muitos anos tenho trabalhado para desconstruir as camadas de racismo que me foram sobrepostas. Aqui, uso o verbo descontruir como foi proposto pelo filósofo franco-argelino Jacques Derrida, a quem dediquei minhas pesquisas de mestrado e doutorado e com quem comecei a aprender que quem fala, o faz a partir de algum lugar. Isso porque um dos objetivos da desconstrução é a crítica à suposição da neutralidade dos discursos, que serve como anteparo a todas as premissas ocultas que os discursos de saber-poder contém.

Como mulher, experimentei inúmeras vezes – e infelizmente ainda experimento – a diferença de poder entre o discurso masculino de autoridade e o meu. Como pesquisadora, fui aprendendo a perceber e denunciar que esse discurso masculino obtém sua autoridade de uma suposição de neutralidade do saber. Daí para a leitura da filósofa Donna Haraway e seu clássico “Saberes localizados” foi um passo curto. No ensaio, Haraway desconstrói a suposição de neutralidade do discurso da ciência e confere às feministas a responsabilidade de produzir conhecimento como saber situado. É o que venho tentando fazer há algum tempo, tanto na minha escrita quanto no meu trabalho de orientadora de pesquisas acadêmicas que, muitas vezes, procuram a neutralidade em busca de autoridade, mesmo que para isso acabe abrindo mão da autoria do texto.

Neste processo, ainda em curso, precisei aprender que branco também é cor. Enxergar-se branca é enxergar-se marcada pela própria branquitude. É este aspecto que me mobiliza no debate sobre lugar de fala: a desconstrução da suposição de neutralidade de qualquer discurso. Quem continua pretendendo se ver como neutro ou neutra é quem, por acreditar que não tem cor, pode continuar oprimindo – seja as pessoas negras, seja as pessoas brancas subalternizadas – por uma suposta neutralidade do saber.

Não por acaso, o livro de Djamila Ribeiro (“O que é lugar de fala”, editora Letramento, 2017) tem como epígrafe trecho de um artigo de Lélia Gonzalez: “Exatamente porque temos sido falados, infantilizados (infans é aquele que não tem fala própria, é a criança que se fala na terceira pessoa, porque falada pelos adultos) que neste trabalho assumimos nossa própria fala. Ou seja, o lixo vai falar, e numa boa.”

Aqui posso fazer Djamila e Lélia conversarem com Achille Mbembe de “Crítica da razão negra” (N-1 Edições, 2019), em que ele divide a razão negra em dois momentos: o primeiro, o da consciência ocidental do negro, orientando pela interpelação do colonizador com perguntas como “quem é ele?; como o reconhecemos?; o que o diferencia de nós? poderá ele tornar-se nosso semelhante? como governá-lo e a que fins?”. No segundo momento, Mbembe percebe que as perguntas são as mesmas, a mudança está em quem as enuncia: “Quem sou eu?; serei eu, de verdade, quem dizem que eu sou?;  Será verdade que não sou nada além disto – minha aparência, aquilo que se diz de mim?; Qual o meu verdadeiro estado civil e histórico?”.

Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona/ Unsplash

Quando me reconheço portadora de uma cor – branca – também posso enunciar estas perguntas, de tal modo a não precisar mais sustentar a posição de ter que repetir ao outro as perguntas do colonizador. Eu sou branca, e quanto a isso não há opção. Mas quanto a continuar sendo herdeira da violência da tradição colonizadora, acredito que haja escolha possível e que esta passa pelo desejo de cura da ferida colonial.

Retomo então minha experiência. Foi o racismo que me ensinou que sou branca. Fui marcada como branca a fim de que esta marcação funcionasse como signo de superioridade. Mas a mim hoje parece fácil perceber que a necessidade de marcação de superioridade só existe para aquele que se sente inferior, que se sabe fora do lugar de superioridade que almeja. Numa formação social marcada pela violência colonial, sobreviver é, entre tantas outras coisas, escapar do lugar de subalternidade.

Refletir sobre a experiência de ter sido marcada com a cor branca me ajudou a fazer a distinção que estou propondo aqui entre suposição de neutralidade do branco – a “branquitude” que não pretende se assumir como tal – e a admissão de que branco também é uma cor, uma marcação ou, para falar em termos interseccionais, um marcador que, se existe negativamente para a pessoa negra no racismo estrutural da sociedade brasileira, existe positivamente para a pessoa branca.

Com essa diferença, esboço uma hipótese: a maior rejeição à ideia de que todo discurso é situado, e que certos discursos estão autorizados por estarem situados a partir de um lugar de poder, e outros estão desautorizados por estarem situados fora desses lugares, a maior reação vem de quem ainda não vê a sua branquitude por se acreditar “neutra”. Para isso, é preciso negar que branco seja cor. É desse lugar de neutro que intelectuais, mesmos os/as mais respeitados/as, parecem não poder abrir mão. E aí caem na pior armadilha: “sou branco/a mas sou legal” (uma espécie de versão atualizada de “tenho até amigo gay”).

Fui racializada como branca porque fui educada para ser racista, o que me obrigou a assumir a minha cor e a carregar com ela o peso do racismo estrutural brasileiro. Se hoje penso, escrevo, pesquiso e ensino contra o racismo é por não suportar mais o sofrimento de viver num país em que pessoas negras são brutalmente excluídas, violentadas e exterminadas em nome da minha suposta superioridade branca. Esta é a cor da minha pele. Já o meu desejo tem sido destruir o racismo que me impôs uma suposição de superioridade branca na qual não me reconheço.

Carla Rodrigues é professora de Ética no Departamento de Filosofia da UFRJ, pesquisadora do Programa de Pós-Graduação em Filosofia e bolsista de produtividade da Faperj.

Marxista negro tem palestra cancelada ao colocar classe acima de raça e enfurecer socialistas americanos (O Globo)

Michael Powell, no New York Times. 18 de agosto de 2020

Artigo fonte.

Foto da Universidade da Pensilvânia mostra Adolph Reed dando aula em abril de 2019 Foto: ERIC SUCAR/UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA / NYT
Foto da Universidade da Pensilvânia mostra Adolph Reed dando aula em abril de 2019 Foto: ERIC SUCAR/UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA / NYT

NOVA YORK – Adolph Reed é filho do Sul segregado. Nascido em Nova Orleans, ele organizou negros pobres e soldados contra a guerra nos anos 1960 e se tornou um intelectual socialista em universidades de prestígio. Ao longo do tempo, ele se convenceu de que a esquerda está muito focada em raça e pouco em classe. Vitórias duradouras foram alcançadas, ele acredita, quando trabalhadores de todas as raças lutaram ombro a ombro por seus direitos.

Em maio, Reed, de 73 anos, professor emérito da Universidade da Pensilvânia, foi convidado para falar aos Democratas Socialistas da América (DSA), em Nova York. O homem que fez campanha para Bernie Sanders e acusou Barack Obama de promover uma “política neoliberal vazia e repressiva” discursaria à maior seção dos DSA, que formou a deputada Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez e uma nova geração de ativistas de esquerda.

Ele planejava argumentar que o foco da esquerda no impacto desproporcional do coronavírus na população negra minava a organização de uma frente multirracial, o que ele via como chave para a luta por saúde e a justiça econômica.

Como puderam convidar, perguntaram os membros do DSA, um palestrante que minimizava o racismo em tempos de peste e protestos? Deixá-lo falar, afirmava os afrossocialistas, seria “reacionário e reducionista”. “Não podemos ter medo de discutir o racismo só porque o tema pode ser manipulado pelos racistas”, afirmaram. “Isso é covardia e fortalece o capitalismo racial.”

Em meio a boatos de que os opositores interromperiam sua palestra via Zoom, Reed e os líderes do DAS concordaram em cancelar a palestra. A organização socialista mais poderosa do país rejeitou um marxista negro por suas opiniões sobre raça.

– Adolph é o maior teórico democrático de sua geração – disse Cornel West, professor de filosofia de Harvard (e socialista). – Ele assumiu posições impopulares sobre política identitária, mas tem uma trajetória de meio século. Se desistirmos da discussão, o movimento vai ficar mais estreito.

A decisão de silenciar Reed veio num momento que os americanos debatem o racismo na política, no sistema de saúde, na mídia e nas empresas. Esquerdistas que, como Reed, argumentam que há muito foco em raça e pouco em classe numa sociedade profundamente desigual são frequentemente postos de lado. O debate é particularmente caloroso porque os ativistas enxergam, agora, uma oportunidade única de avançar em pautas como violência policial, encarceramento em massa e desigualdade, e em que o socialismo – um movimento predominantemente branco – atrai jovens de diversas origens.

Intelectuais de esquerda argumentam que as desigualdades de renda e de acesso à saúde e também a brutalidade policial são frutos do racismo, a principal ferida americana. Depois de séculos de escravidão e segregação, os negros deveriam lidera a luta antirracista. Colocar essa luta de lado em nome da solidariedade de classe é absurdo, dizem eles.

– Adolph Reed e sua turma acreditam que se falarmos muito sobre raça, vamos alienar muita gente e não conseguiremos construir um movimento – disse Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, professora de estudos afroamericanos na Universidade Princeton e socialista que já palestrou aos DSA e está familiarizada com esses debates. – Não queremos isso, queremos que os brancos entendam como seu racismo prejudicou a vida dos negros.

Reed e outros intelectuais e ativistas proeminentes, muitos deles negros, têm outra visão. Eles veem a ênfase em políticas raciais como um beco sem saída. Entre eles estão West; a historiadora Barbara Fields, da Universidade Columbia; Toure Reed, filho de Adolph, da Universidade Estadual de Illinois; e Bhaskar Sunkara, fundador da revista socialista “Jacobin”.

Eles aceitam a realidade brutal do racismo americano. No entanto, argumentam que os problemas que atormentam os Estados Unidos hoje – desigualdade, violência policial e encarceramento em massa – afetam negros e pardos, mas também os pobres e a classe trabalhadora brancos.

Risco de ‘dividir coalizão’

Os movimentos progressistas mais poderosos, dizem eles, estão enraizados na luta por políticas universais, como as leis que fortaleceram os sindicatos e os programas de incentivo ao emprego do New Deal, e as lutas atuais por educação superior gratuita, valorização do salário mínimo, reforma da polícia e acesso à saúde. Programas como esses ajudariam mais os negros, os latinos e os indígenas, que, em média, têm renda familiar menor e mais problemas de saúde do que os brancos, argumentam Reed e seus aliados. Insistir na questão racial pode dividir uma coalizão potencialmente forte e beneficiar os conservadores.

– Uma obsessão com desigualdade racial colonizou o pensamento da esquerda – disse Reed. – Há uma insistência de que raça e racismo são os determinantes fundamentais da existência dos negros.

Essas batalhas não são novas: no final do século XIX, socialistas enfrentaram seu próprio racismo e debateram a construção de uma organização multirracial. Eugene Debs, que concorreu à presidência cinco vezes, insistiu na defesa da igualdade racial. Questões similares incomodaram o movimento pelos direitos civis nos anos 1960.

A disseminação do vírus mortal e o assassinato de George Floyd por um policial, em Minneapolis, reacenderam o debate, que ganhou um tom geracional à medida que o socialismo atrai jovens dispostos a reformular organizações como os Democratas Socialistas da América, que existe desde os anos 1920. (Uma pesquisa da Gallup indicou que o socialismo é tão popular quanto o capitalismo entre pessoas de 18 a 39 anos.)

O DSA tem mais de 70 mil membros no país e 5,8 mil em Nova York – a média de idade está em torno de 30 e poucos anos. A organização ajudou a eleger candidatos como Ocasio-Cortez e Jamaal Bowman, que venceu um conhecido candidato democrata nas primárias de junho.

Em anos recentes, o DSA já havia recebido Reed como palestrante. No entanto, membros mais jovens, irritados com o isolamento provocado pela Covid-19 e engajados nos protestos contra a violência policial e contra Donald Trump, irritaram-se ao saber que ele havia sido novamente convidado.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, de Princeton, disse que Reed deveria saber que sua palestra sobre Covid-19 e os perigos da obsessão com desigualdade racial soaria como uma “provocação”.

Nada disso surpreendeu Reed, que, ironicamente, descreveu o ocorrido como uma “tempestade em uma xícara de café”. Alguns esquerdistas, disse ele, têm uma “recusa militante a pensar analiticamente”. Reed gosta de duelos intelectuais e, especialmente, de criticar progressistas que ele enxerga como muito amigáveis aos interesses do mercado. Ele escreveu que Bill Clinton e seus seguidores estavam dispostos a “sacrificar os pobres fingindo compaixão” e descreveu o ex-vice-presidente Joe Biden como um homem cujas “misericórdias estavam reservadas aos banqueiros”. Ele acha engraçado ser atacado pela questão racial.

– Eu nunca falo a partir de minha biografia, como se isso fosse um gesto de autenticidade – disse. – Quando meus oponentes dizem que eu não acredito que o racismo seja real, eu penso “OK, isso está estranho”.

Reed e seus camaradas acreditam que a esquerda muitas vezes prefere se envolver em batalhas raciais simbólicas, de estátuas à linguagem, em vez de ficar de olho em mudanças econômicas fundamentais. Melhor seria, eles argumentam, falar do que une brancos e negros. Enquanto há uma vasta disparidade entre americanos brancos e negros no geral, os trabalhadores pobres brancos são muito parecidos com trabalhadores pobres negros no que se refere à renda. Segundo Reed e seus aliados, os políticos do Partido Democrata usam a raça para se esquivar de questões econômicas, como distribuição de renda, o que incomodaria seus doadores ricos.

– Os progressistas usam a política identitária e a raça para conter os apelos por políticas redistributivas – disse Toure Reed, cujo livro “Toward Freedom: The Case Against Race Reductionism” (“Rumo à liberdade: o argumento contra o reducionismo racial”) trata desses assuntos.

Filho de intelectuais itinerantes e radicais, Reed passou sua infância em Nova Orleans e desenvolveu um “ódio especial” pela segregação que havia no Sul. Ainda que ele tenha sentido algum prazer quando Nova Orleans removeu homenagens a personagens históricos racistas, ele prefere um outro tipo de simbolismo. Ele se lembra de, ainda menino, viajar por pequenas cidades do nordeste americano e ver lápides, cobertas de musgo, de soldados brancos que morreram lutando pelos Estados do Norte contra o Sul escravocrata na Guerra Civil.

– Ler aquelas lápides me dava uma sensação calorosa. “Então fulano morreu para que outros homens pudessem ser livres” – disse. – Há algo de muito comovente nisso.

How a Famous Harvard Professor Became a Target Over His Tweets (New York Times)

nytimes.com

By Michael Powell, July 15, 2020

The outcry over free speech and race takes aim at Steven Pinker, the best-selling author and well-known scholar.

Professor Steven Pinker, in his office in Cambridge, Mass., in 2018. He has been accused of racial insensitivity by people he describes as “speech police.”
Credit…Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

Steven Pinker occupies a role that is rare in American life: the celebrity intellectual. The Harvard professor pops up on outlets from PBS to the Joe Rogan podcast, translating dense subjects into accessible ideas with enthusiasm. Bill Gates called his most recent book “my new favorite book of all time.”

So when more than 550 academics recently signed a letter seeking to remove him from the list of “distinguished fellows” of the Linguistic Society of America, it drew attention to their provocative charge: that Professor Pinker minimizes racial injustices and drowns out the voices of those who suffer sexist and racist indignities.

But the letter was striking for another reason: It took aim not at Professor Pinker’s scholarly work but at six of his tweets dating back to 2014, and at a two-word phrase he used in a 2011 book about a centuries-long decline in violence.

“Dr. Pinker has a history of speaking over genuine grievances and downplaying injustices, frequently by misrepresenting facts, and at the exact moments when Black and Brown people are mobilizing against systemic racism and for crucial changes,” their letter stated.

The linguists demanded that the society revoke Professor Pinker’s status as a “distinguished fellow” and strike his name from its list of media experts. The society’s executive committee declined to do so last week, stating: “It is not the mission of the society to control the opinions of its members, nor their expression.”

But a charge of racial insensitivity carries power in the current climate, and the letter sounded another shot in the fraught cultural battles now erupting in academia and publishing.

Also this month, 153 intellectuals and writers — many of them political liberals — signed a letter in Harper’s Magazine that criticized the current intellectual climate as “constricted” and “intolerant.” That led to a fiery response from opposing liberal and leftist writers, who accused the Harper’s letter writers of elitism and hypocrisy.

In an era of polarizing ideologies, Professor Pinker, a linguist and social psychologist, is tough to pin down. He is a big supporter of Democrats, and donated heavily to former President Barack Obama, but he has denounced what he sees as the close-mindedness of heavily liberal American universities. He likes to publicly entertain ideas outside the academic mainstream, including the question of innate differences between the sexes and among different ethnic and racial groups. And he has suggested that the political left’s insistence that certain subjects are off limits contributed to the rise of the alt-right.

Reached at his home on Cape Cod, Professor Pinker, 65, noted that as a tenured faculty member and established author, he could weather the campaign against him. But he said it could chill junior faculty who hold views counter to prevailing intellectual currents.

“I have a mind-set that the world is a complex place we are trying to understand,” he said. “There is an inherent value to free speech, because no one knows the solution to problems a priori.”

He described his critics as “speech police” who “have trolled through my writings to find offensive lines and adjectives.”

The letter against him focuses mainly on his activity on Twitter, where he has some 600,000 followers. It points to his 2015 tweet of an article from The Upshot, the data and analysis-focused team at The New York Times, which suggested that the high number of police shootings of Black people may not have been caused by racial bias of individual police officers, but rather by the larger structural and economic realities that result in the police having disproportionately high numbers of encounters with Black residents.

“Data: Police don’t shoot blacks disproportionately,” Professor Pinker tweeted with a link to the article. “Problem: Not race, but too many police shootings.”

The linguists’ letter noted that the article made plain that police killings are a racial problem, and accused Professor Pinker of making “dishonest claims in order to obfuscate the role of systemic racism in police violence.”

But the article also suggested that, because every encounter with the police carries danger of escalation, any racial group interacting with the police frequently risked becoming victims of police violence, due to poorly trained officers, armed suspects or overreaction. That appeared to be the point of Professor Pinker’s tweet.

The linguists’ letter also accused the professor of engaging in racial dog whistles when he used the words “urban crime” and “urban violence” in other tweets.

But in those tweets, Professor Pinker had linked to the work of scholars who are widely described as experts on urban crime and urban violence and its decline.

“‘Urban’ appears to be a usual terminological choice in work in sociology, political science, law and criminology,” wrote Jason Merchant, vice provost and a linguistics professor at the University of Chicago, who defended Professor Pinker.

Another issue, Professor Pinker’s critics say, is contained in his 2011 book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.” In a wide-ranging description of crime and urban decay and its effect on the culture of the 1970s and 1980s, he wrote that “Bernhard Goetz, a mild-mannered engineer, became a folk hero for shooting four young muggers in a New York subway car.”

The linguists’ letter took strong issue with the words “mild-mannered,” noting that a neighbor later said that Goetz had spoken in racist terms of Latinos and Black people. He was not “mild-mannered” but rather intent on confrontation, they said.

The origin of the letter remains a mystery. Of 10 signers contacted by The Times, only one hinted that she knew the identity of the authors. Many of the linguists proved shy about talking, and since the letter first surfaced on Twitter on July 3, several prominent linguists have said their names had been included without their knowledge.

Several department chairs in linguistics and philosophy signed the letter, including Professor Barry Smith of the University at Buffalo and Professor Lisa Davidson of New York University. Professor Smith did not return calls and an email and Professor Davidson declined to comment when The Times reached out.

The linguists’ letter touched only lightly on questions that have proved storm-tossed for Professor Pinker in the past. In the debate over whether nature or nurture shapes human behavior, he has leaned toward nature, arguing that characteristics like psychological traits and intelligence are to some degree heritable.

He has also suggested that underrepresentation in the sciences could be rooted in part in biological differences between men and women. (He defended Lawrence Summers, the former Harvard president who in 2005 speculated that innate differences between the sexes might in part explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers. Mr. Summers’s remark infuriated some female scientists and was among several controversies that led to his resignation the following year.)

And Professor Pinker has made high-profile blunders, such as when he provided his expertise on language for the 2007 defense of the financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges. He has said he did so free of charge and at the request of a friend, the Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, and regrets it.

The clash may also reflect the fact that Professor Pinker’s rosy outlook — he argues that the world is becoming a better place, by almost any measure, from poverty to literacy — sounds discordant during this painful moment of national reckoning with the still-ugly scars of racism and inequality.

The linguists’ society, like many academic and nonprofit organizations, recently released a wide-ranging statement calling for greater diversity in the field. It also urged linguists to confront how their research “might reproduce or work against racism.”

John McWhorter, a Columbia University professor of English and linguistics, cast the Pinker controversy within a moment when, he said, progressives look suspiciously at anyone who does not embrace the politics of racial and cultural identity.

“Steve is too big for this kerfuffle to affect him,” Professor McWhorter said. “But it’s depressing that an erudite and reasonable scholar is seen by a lot of intelligent people as an undercover monster.”

Because this is a fight involving linguists, it features some expected elements: intense arguments about imprecise wording and sly intellectual put-downs. Professor Pinker may have inflamed matters when he suggested in response to the letter that its signers lacked stature. “I recognize only one name among the signatories,’’ he tweeted. Such an argument, Byron T. Ahn, a linguistics professor at Princeton, wrote in a tweet of his own, amounted to “a kind of indirect ad hominem attack.”

The linguists insisted they were not attempting to censor Professor Pinker. Rather, they were intent on showing that he had been deceitful and used racial dog whistles, and thus, was a disreputable representative for linguistics.

“Any resulting action from this letter may make it clear to Black scholars that the L.S.A. is sensitive to the impact that tweets of this sort have on maintaining structures that we should be attempting to dismantle,” wrote Professor David Adger of Queen Mary University of London on his website.

That line of argument left Professor McWhorter, a signer of the letter in Harper’s, exasperated.

“We’re in this moment that’s like a collective mic drop, and civility and common sense go out the window,” he said. “It’s enough to cry racism or sexism, and that’s that.”

This Year Will End Eventually. Document It While You Can (New York Times)

nytimes.com

Lesley M. M. Blume

Museums are working overtime to collect artifacts and ephemera from the pandemic and the racial justice movement — and they need your help.

A journal submitted to the Autry Museum by Tanya Gibb, who came down with Covid-19 symptoms on March 5. The donor thought the canceled plans were also representative of the pandemic.
Credit…The Autry Museum of the American West

July 14, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET

A few weeks ago, a nerdy joke went viral on Twitter: Future historians will be asked which quarter of 2020 they specialize in.

As museum curators and archivists stare down one of the most daunting challenges of their careers — telling the story of the pandemic; followed by severe economic collapse and a nationwide social justice movement — they are imploring individuals across the country to preserve personal materials for posterity, and for possible inclusion in museum archives. It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort, they say.

“Our cultural seismology is being revealed,” said Anthea M. Hartig, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History of the events. Of these three earth-shaking events, she said, “The confluence is unlike mostanything we’ve seen.”

Museums, she said, are grappling “with the need to comprehend multiple pandemics at once.”

Last August, Dr. Erik Blutinger joined the staff of Mt. Sinai Queens as an emergency medicine physician. He knew that his first year after residency would be intense, but nothing could have prepared him for the trial-by-fire that was Covid-19.

Aware that he was at the epicenter not only of a global pandemic, but of history, Dr. Blutinger, 34, began to take iPhone videos of the scenes in his hospital, which was one of New York City’s hardest hit during the early days of the crisis.

“Everyone is Covid positive in these hallways,” he told the camera in one April 9 recording which has since been posted on the Mount Sinai YouTube channel, showing the emergency room hallways filled with hissing oxygen tanks, and the surge tents set up outside the building. “All you hear is oxygen. I’m seeing young patients, old patients, people of all age ranges, who are just incredibly sick.”

He estimated that he has recorded over 50 video diaries in total.

In Louisville, Ky., during the protests and unrest that followed the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a Louisville resident, filmmaker named Milas Norris rushed to the streets to shoot footage using a Sony camera and a drone.

“It was pretty chaotic,” said Mr. Norris, 24, describing police in riot gear, explosions, and gas and pepper bullets. He said thatat first he didn’t know what he would do with the footage; he has since edited and posted some of it on his Instagram and Facebook accounts. “I just knew that I had to document and see what exactly was happening on the front lines.”

NPR producer Nina Gregory collects "personal ambi," or ambient noise from her home in Hollywood, Calif. "It's another form of diary," she said.
Credit…Kemper Bates

About 2,000 miles west, in Los Angeles, NPR producer Nina Gregory, 45, had set up recording equipment on the front patio of her Hollywood home. In March and April, she recorded the absence of city noise. “The sound of birds was so loud it was pinging red on my levels,” she said.

Soon the sounds of nature were replaced by the sounds of helicopters from the Los Angeles Police Department hovering overhead, and the sounds of protesters and police convoys moving through her neighborhood. She recorded all this for her personal records.

“It’s another form of diary,” she said.

Museums have indicated that these kinds of private recordings have critical value as public historical materials. All of us, curators say, are field collectors now.

In the spirit of preservation, Ms. Hartig from the National Museum of American History — along with museum collectors across the country — have begun avid campaigns to “collect the moment.”

“I do think it’s a national reckoning project,” she said. There are “a multitude of ways in which we need to document and understand — and make history a service. This is one of our highest callings.”

Some museums have assembled rapid response field collecting teams to identify and secure storytelling objects and materials. Perhaps the most widely-publicized task force, assembled by three Smithsonian museums working in a coalition, dispatched curators to Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., to identify protest signs for eventual possible collection.

A demonstrator who was photographed by Jason Spear of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Lafayette Square in June. Mr. Spear is part of the rapid response team working to identify protest signs for possible future collection.
Credit…Jason Spear/NMAAHC Public Affairs Specialist

The collecting task force went into action after June 1, when President Trump ordered Lafayette Square cleared of protesters so he could pose for photos in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, clutching a bible. Shield-bearing officers and mounted police assailed peaceful protesters there with smoke canisters, pepper bullets, flash grenades and chemical spray. The White House subsequently ordered the construction of an 8-foot-high chain link fence around the perimeter, which protesters covered in art and artifacts.

Taking immediate moves to preserve these materials — much of which was made of paper and was vulnerable to the elements — amounted to a curatorial emergency for the Smithsonian’s archivists.

Yet with many museums still closed, or in the earliest stages of reopening, curatorial teams largely cannot yet bring most objects into their facilities. It isfalling to individuals to become their own interim museums and archives.

While some curators are loath to suggest a laundry list of items that we should be saving — they say that they don’t want to manipulate the documentation of history, but take their cues from the communities they document — many are imploring us to see historical value in the everyday objects of right now.

“Whatever we’re taking to be ordinary within this abnormal moment can, in fact, serve as an extraordinary artifact to our children’s children,” said Tyree Boyd-Pates, an associate curator at the Autry Museum of the American West, which is asking the public to consider submitting materials such as journal entries, selfies and even sign-of-the times social media posts (say, a tweet about someone’s quest for toilet paper — screengrab those, he said)

Credit…Lisa Herndon/The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

To this end, curators said, don’t be so quick to edit and delete your cellphone photos right now. “Snapshots are valuable,” said Kevin Young, the director of New York City’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. “We might look back at one and say, ‘This picture tells more than we thought at the time.’”

At the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, the curatorial team will be evaluating and collecting protest materials such as placards, photos, videos and personalized masks — and the personal stories behind them.

“One activist found a tear-gas canister, and he gave it to us,” said Noelle Trent, a director at the museum. “We’re going to have to figure out how to collect items from the opposing side: We have to have theracist posters, the ‘Make America Great’ stuff. We’re going to need that at some point. The danger is that if we don’t have somebody preserving it, they will say this situation was notas bad.”

And there is perhaps no article more representative of this year than the mask, which has “become a really powerful visual symbol,” said Margaret K. Hofer, the vice president and museum director of the New-York Historical Society, which has identified around 25 masks that the museum will collect, including an N95 mask worn by a nurse in the Samaritan’s Purse emergency field hospital set up in New York’s Central Park in the spring. (The museum also collected a set of field hospital scrubs, and a cowbell that the medical team rang whenever they discharged a patient.)

A cowbell that was rung at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital in Central Park each time a Covid patient was discharged is now in the archives of the New-York Historical Society.
Credit…New-York Historical Society

“The meaning of masks has shifted over the course of these past several months,” Ms. Hofer said. “Early on, the ones we were collecting were being sewn by people who were trying to aid medical workers, when there were all those fears about shortage of P.P.E. — last resort masks.And they’ve more recentlybecome a political statement.”

Curators say that recording the personal stories behind photos, videos and objects are just as crucial as the objects themselves — and the more personal, the better. Museums rely on objects to elicit an emotional reaction from visitors, and that sort of personal connection requires knowing the object’s back story.

“For us, really the artifact is just a metaphor, and behind that artifact are these voices, and this humanity,” said Aaron Bryant, who curates photography and visual culture at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and who isleading the Smithsonian’s ongoing collection response in Lafayette Square.

Curatorial teams from many museums are offering to interview donors about their materials and experiences,and encourage donors to include detailed descriptions and back stories when submitting objects and records for consideration. Many are also collecting oral histories of the moment.

Many museums have put out calls for submissions on social media and are directing would-be donors to submission forms to their websites. The National Museum of African American History and Culture site has a thorough form that covers items’ significance, dimensions, condition and materials. The Civil Rights Museum is looking for “archival materials, books, photographs, clothing/textiles, audio visual materials, fine art and historic objects” that share civil rights history. The New-York Historical Society is seeking Black Lives Matter protest materials.

“We review material, we talk about it, and we respond to everyone,” said William S. Pretzer, a senior curator of history at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “We can’t collect everything, but we’re not limiting ourselves to anything.”

Gathering materials from some communities is proving challenging, and curators are strategizing collection from individuals who may be unlikely to offer materials to historical institutions.

An anti-racism poster by 14-year-old Kyra Yip. It will be on display at New York’s Museum of Chinese in America when they reopen.
Credit…Kyra Yip

“A lot of our critical collecting and gathering of diverse stories we’ve been able to do because of directed outreach,” said Ms. Hofer of the New-York Historical Society. “We’re trying to capture the experience of all aspects of all populations in the city, including people experiencing homelessness and the incarcerated.”

“We want to make the barrier to entry on this very low,” said Nancy Yao Maasbach, the president of New York’s Museum of Chinese in America, which began collecting materials relating to pandemic-related racist attacks on Asians and Asian-Americans in late winter, and personal testimonies about experiences during the pandemic and protests. Because museums may not necessarily be obvious repositories for many immigrant communities, Ms. Maasbach said, the museum is making translators available to those who want to tell their stories.

“We’re trying to make sure we’re being accessible in creating this record,” Ms. Maasbach said.

Curators recognize that their story-of-2020 collecting will continue for years; we are in the midst of ongoing events. They are asking us to continue to document the subsequent chapters — and to be as posterity-minded as one can be when it comes to ephemera.

“We don’t know what the puzzle looks like yet,” said Ms. Hartig of the National Museum of American History. “Yet we know that each of these pieces might be an important one.”

Some museums are exhibiting submitted and accepted items right away on websites or on social media; others are planning virtual and physical exhibits for as early as this autumn. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, for example, is collecting masks and oral history testimonies from Native American communities and is considering the creation of a “rapid response gallery,” said the museum’s vice president and chief curator Elisa G. Phelps.

“If art is being sparked by something very timely, we want to have a place where we can showcase works and photos,” she said, adding that this process differed from “the elaborate, formal exhibit development process.”

Some donors, however, may not be among those to view their materials once they become part of institutionalized history — at least not right away. Even though Dr. Blutinger said that he sees the historical value of his emergency room video diaries,he has yet to revisit the peak-crisis videos himself.

“I’m almost scared to look back at them,” he said. “I’m worried that they’ll reignite a set of emotions that I’ve managed to tuck away. I’m sure one day I’ll look back and perhaps open up one or two clips, but I have never watched any of them all the way through.”

Lesley M.M. Blume is a journalist, historian andthe author of “Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-Up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World,” which will be published on August 4.

Donna Haraway: We are living in dangerous but also generative transformational times

Facebook, 24 June 2020

We are living in dangerous but also generative transformational times at the confluence of (at least) 3 emergencies:

1) covid 19 pandemic (not to mention other diseases of both humans and nonhumans rampaging through the living world), but also in the midst of powerful emergent practices of collective care and refusal of death-denial and transcendentalism

2) racial capitalism/neofascism run rampant, but also anti-racist & indigenous justice&care movements surging in the context of world wide economic & environmental crises

3) multispecies extermination/extinction/genocide in the web of climate injustice, extractionism, and catastrophe capitalism, but also widespread revulsion at human exceptionalism and growing affirmation of the earth & earthlings of powerful kinds

Science and technology matter in all of these. “Science for the People” has never been more relevant (especially if the “people” are both human and more than human).
No more business as usual. These times are more dangerous than ever, but maybe, just maybe, there is a chance for something better. So, the old question for the left, what is to be done?

That’s what I want to talk about. What is it like to live in times of possibilities, when just a year ago many of us thought nothing was possible?