From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.

Author:Williams, Dana
Position:From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation - Book review

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2016; 288pp; ISBN 9781608465620

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has written a powerful political history about African Americans' struggle for freedom, tracing waves of liberation movements over multiple generations. The analytical depth is impressive and even people with a good grasp of US critical history will be impressed by the narrative. Her analysis is rooted in the Black, anti-capitalist Left, and while not consciously anarchist, it offers an anarchistic critique of major forces whose intersectional effects result in racial domination. In particular, white supremacist ideology interacts with the state and capital--along with 'culture of poverty' and Black criminality stereotypes--to repress African Americans.

The resilient culture of poverty argument emerged after the Civil War to explain why Black Americans could not overcome centuries of enslavement and immiseration, dodging the structural sources of Black poverty and the historical legacies of slavery, settler-colonialism, and Jim Crow. Without reparation for its past crimes, the US simply blames Blacks for their circumstances, seeking cultural justifications for endemic Black poverty. Colourblindness arose in the post-civil rights period--prominently adopted by Nixon--to target the Black Power movement and to initiate the War on Drugs. By claiming that social problems like decaying cities, crime, and drug abuse 'couldn't possibly be due to racial inequality', racist stereotypes were left to fester, arguing Blacks possess inferior culture, poor values, unstable families, and criminal and violent tendencies.

The book's strongest anarchist critique is found in a chapter focused on 'Black faces in high places', particularly the colourblind argument that Obama's election ended white supremacy and racist discrimination (claims raised earlier regarding Black officials, like Cleveland mayor Carl Stokes). Instead, Taylor shows how Black politicians sold-out the Black liberation movement repeatedly, like when the Congressional Black Caucus spurn their Black constituents' demands. Black mayors took over shrinking, bankrupt, and decaying cities, and those leaders parroted the same racist arguments for their city's problems: blaming Black culture, rather than capitalism and its resultant inequalities.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement emerged partially due to Obama's silence on racial injustice. Many...

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