Supporting Actors

By Tommy Airey, above with his nephews in Southern California

The day after an 18-year-old white boy livestreamed his mass murder spree in the only supermarket of a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, I was hosting another men’s group on zoom. We were sharing early memories of when our tears and tenderness were not honored by adults in our lives. One participant said something that stoked vigorous nodding from the rest of us. “It really wasn’t what I was told,” he said, “It was what I wasn’t told.” We were forced to fill in the gaps of all those silences. We came up with our own scripts saying we were not good enough and would never really be loved unless we met a certain standard of “success.”

The silence is a slow trauma that seeds deep feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness. It tills the soil of the gun culture, the rape culture, the corporate culture, the cancel culture. The silence sustains the default dominant culture, what Dr. Willie Jennings calls “the pedagogy of the plantation.” Unless we are intentionally taught otherwise, we are trained up to possess, master and control everything we come across. In America, men are the main characters, the owners of the plantation. It’s not just the passionate men with their man caves and their big trucks and their unregulated firearms—but also the passive men who pride themselves on staying safe, stoic, nice and neutral, above the fray, hiding their feelings as they over-function to “provide for their families.”

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The Precursor to Really Deep Transformation

From an LA Times interview with author and professor Imani Perry on her new book South to America.

Wow. [laughs] I mean, there are many wonderful things about L.A., but having had family that moved from Alabama to L.A., that would be a huge mischaracterization. Everyone has gone back South. The promise of L.A. proved not to actually be as promising. I’ll say, having left Alabama young and spent most of my time coming of age in Massachusetts, one of the things that’s interesting for me is I experienced many more acts of racial aggression in Boston than in Alabama. Slurs, physical aggression of a sort I’d never experienced.

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Liberation Feminism

ImaniFrom an interview that The Nation did with professor Imani Perry, the author of Vexy Thing.

I wanted to produce a work of feminist theory, or as I call it, liberation feminism, that would speak to the particular conditions of neoliberal capitalism and the hypermedia age—this eruption of digital media, where things that look like democratic spaces are at the same time corporate platforms.

I saw so many uses of the term “patriarchy” that didn’t actually apprehend the structure of domination. Patriarchy is a project that coincided with the transatlantic slave trade and the age of conquest. It’s not just attitudes. It’s legal relations between human beings, which lead to very different encounters with violence and suffering. The book begins with where patriarchy comes from, and then morphs into the current landscape, in which conditions are different but where that foundational structure is still present. Feminism is ultimately a way of reading the world with an eye towards reducing or eliminating unjust forms of domination, violence, and exploitation.

All of Us is Still Tired

ImaniHighlights from Imani Perry’s response in a forum entitled “The Logic of Misogyny.” Perry is currently the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Her comments were originally posted on the Boston Review website on July 11, 2016:

…dismantling patriarchy seems a virtually impossible task. Its current form is rooted in the Age of Exploration and the Enlightenment and supported the conquests, geopolitics, and philosophies of those eras. It was formative to the Western legal concepts of both personhood and property, as well as to the rise of the sovereign European state, the Atlantic slave trade, the practice of settler-colonialism, the mass murder of black and brown peoples, and the exploitation of those denied legal and political recognition. The patriarch—the conceptual ideal man and citizen—was and is defined and protected by his power over intimate associations, and that power remains supported by politics, law, capital, militarism, and police power… Continue reading “All of Us is Still Tired”