An Exquisite Lesson in Creating Ideology

TaylorAn excerpt from KEEANGA-YAMAHTTA TAYLOR’s review of Becoming by Michelle Obama (re-posted from Boston Review, March 2019).  

In Becoming, Obama describes the value of telling one’s story this way: “Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.” For Obama, a person’s story is an affirmation of their space in the world, the right to be and belong. “In sharing my story,” she says, “I hope to help create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why. . . . Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us.” The root of discrimination, Obama implies, including the ugly discrimination she faced as first lady, is misunderstanding. Sharing personal narratives, then, offers a way for people to fully see each other and to overcome our differences. Continue reading

The Failed Attempts That Lead to Bigger Successes

keeyanaAn excerpt from Jacobin’s recent interview with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, professor of African-American studies at Princeton University.

…a lot of people who are unfamiliar with organizing, through no fault of their own, have little idea that it’s often the failed attempts that lead to the bigger successes. Big, successful marches that are connected to social movements — especially in the 1960s — don’t come from heaven. They have to be built and organized. And sometimes that lesson today can be distorted, because you can have lots of money from foundations that swoop in and make all of these resources available, but you still have the same problem: if it’s not connected to ongoing organization or organizing, then it’s a flash in a pan that can bring attention to a particular issue but doesn’t create the means to actually do anything about it.

A Mass Movement

keeangaAn excerpt from Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s “How to Build a Mass Movement,” originally posted at SocialistWorker.org.  Dr. Taylor is an assistant professor in Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies and the author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.

The issue for the Left is how we get from where we are today to where we want to be in terms of making our marches blacker, browner, and more working class. Simply complaining about it changes nothing.

There will no effective movement against Trump that doesn’t directly confront the issue of racism. It has to be front and center, and it seemed to me that the march organizers took that question seriously and made genuine efforts to shift shortcomings in their original approach. Continue reading