For those who don’t know, one thing I love to do is read. And while the Occidental calendar of months and years are rather arbitrary, one thing I have started doing in 2023 is writing brief reviews of what I’ve been reading and sharing them on a couple social media sites. I figured I might as well share them here as well. Instead of publishing each review as its own post, I’ve decided to just do a one-off round-up of every book I’ve read this month. I have no idea if this will be a regular feature of the blog, we’ll see what next month brings.
A major reason for doing this is that along with reading books, I love talking about books. So if you’ve got thoughts on any of the books or reviews below, or have your own recommendations, please do share! I’m always looking for new reads to add to my list.
Here’s a list of the books reviewed in this post:
Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
Critique of Black Reason by Achille Mbembe
The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging by Dionne Brand
Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory by Martha Wells
The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe
Ontological Terror: Blackness, Nihilism, and Emancipation by Calvin L. Warren
Machinehood by S.B. Divya
Cannibal Metaphysics by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro
Near the end of last year, I became a father. As expected, it’s been full of ups and downs, joys and frustrations, precious moments and sleepless nights. But one thing I didn’t expect to encounter was racism. More specifically, racism in the guise of compliments.
My partner is Mexican and currently we are living here as we wait an eternity for the US immigration system to process her visa request. During this time, we’ve been inundated by visits from her family members and friends. And I’ve been consistently taken aback by how many have pointed out the color of our child’s skin and complimented us on it – as if we somehow genetically modified our baby to meet their racialized expectations. “How light-skinned he is!” or “Oh, what a good color! Congratulations!” are some of the more frequent comments.
To be certain, our child is light-skinned and at this moment can easily pass as white. But the phenomenon of an individual telling my partner that she had “chosen well” by reproducing with me and as a result was “improving the race” was not a response we had been anticipating. Nor the other range of comments, such as our child being smart because “first-world babies are more advanced.” One wonders what words would have been (un)spoken if our child had different skin pigmentation.
Above is an interview/conversation I had with Daniel for his D Report podcast. We discussed the case of Yaqui political prisoner Fidencio Aldama, the history of Yaqui resistance in defense of their territory, settler colonialism, and racialized neoliberal extractivist capitalism. For more details on the podcast, please see Daniel’s post here.
On the most recent episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, I had the opportunity to speak with Clay Colmon, who teaches in the Cultural Studies Department at Claremont Graduate University and is the Associate Director of Instructional Design at UPenn’s School of Arts and Sciences. A shorter version also aired on KPFA (Bay Area, Santa Cruz, and Fresno) on April 30. That version can be heard here.
We discussed the potential and meaning of change, the growing capaciousness of Afrofuturism, the power of Black speculative futures, the significance of vision and story in social struggle, the construction of the human, the possibilities of Black transhumanism and posthumanism, and the implications of all of the above.
As I came home from work on Thursday, I could see one of my roommates on the phone at the other end of the house, waving me towards him, a look of concern and distress in his eyes. We went outside, where he shared what had happened a few minutes prior. He, who I’ll call L, had just had a bizarre interaction with our other roommate, who I’ll call M. (I’ve changed the identities, left out specifics and received M’s permission before posting this.)
M had all of the sudden begun speaking incoherent non-sequiturs to L and locked herself in her room. He didn’t know what was going on and didn’t know what to do. What followed was a four-hour series of events where I tried to assist someone experiencing a severe mental health crisis while encountering my own unfitness to do so and the frustration at a lack of safe options available.
In a recent post – Racism, privilege, guilt and social justice – I say a couple of times that “I was racist,” in relating my process of becoming aware of white supremacy and white privilege. That realization was a powerful moment for me that I’d like to unpack a bit more. In part, I said it for effect, to put myself out there in no uncertain terms, to bring the issue home to self, because that is where it resides. Racism is not something that happens “out there” but inside of me and everyone else in this society. (This is clearly not an exact formulation and obviously racism plays out very differently internally and externally for people of color than it does white people.)
It is easy to find racism in the most heinous of acts, such as the Emanuel AME Church shooting or the burning of Black churches. To point to something outside and identify and judge it as racist also provides a false sense of separation and distance between the ordinary white person and racism. But what of the seemingly inconsequential, mundane racism that daily insinuates and reinforces itself in our society and culture? The type of racism that truly sustains the system of white supremacy and is the cornerstone upon which is based the fanaticism that leads to atrocities such as the one in Charleston? That is the racism that is reproduced societally but also impacts individually, as I encountered at age 17 and what led me to realize that I was/am racist.