Essay Archive

Of Matriarchs and Misinformation: Fact-Checking Conservative Lies About Black Women

In the wake of recent police killings of young black men — John Crawford, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice most prominently — there has been much discussion about the way in which large numbers of white Americans, and especially white police, view African American males. The criminalization of the black male body has [...]

We Don’t Need Nice, We Need Justice: Racism and the Moral Blindness of White America

This past week, Chris Rock noted in an interview that in his estimation, America is producing the nicest white people in its history. Perhaps. But if so, this only suggests the pitiable limits of niceness and its utter irrelevance for the production of something approaching justice, or for that matter even insight. And if so, [...]

Far More Than Anecdote: Quantifying Racism and White Privilege in the Criminal Justice System

“Personal anecdotes don’t prove anything. The justice system isn’t racist. Black people are arrested more often because they commit more crime. Period. End of story.” So read the message in my inbox this morning, sent by someone who had happened across my essay about Ferguson, the grand jury decision in the Darren Wilson case, and [...]

Of Gods and Monsters: Valorizing the Rich in a Culture of Cruelty

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, The Culture of Cruelty: How America’s Elite Demonize the Poor, Valorize the Rich and Jeopardize the Future (San Francisco: City Lights, 2015) This section explores the way that many (especially on the right) valorize the wealthy and insist that unlike the poor — the so-called “takers” [...]

I Was No Angel Either: Crime, Deviance and White Privilege in America

He was no angel. That’s the refrain, repeated for over two months on social media by defenders of Officer Darren Wilson, convinced that Michael Brown was little more than a violent and dangerous thug, worthy of death that August day in Ferguson. From the beginning, Brown’s strong-arm theft of cigars from a local market was [...]

Repetitive Motion Disorder: Black Reality and White Denial in America

I suppose there is no longer much point in debating the facts surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown. First, because Officer Darren Wilson has been cleared by a grand jury, and even the collective brilliance of a thousand bloggers pointing out the glaring inconsistencies in his version of events that August day won’t result in [...]

Poverty Denialism in a Culture of Cruelty: Bashing the Poor as Right-Wing Amusement

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, The Culture of Cruelty: How America’s Elite Demonize the Poor, Valorize the Rich and Jeopardize the Future (San Francisco: City Lights, 2015) This section explores the way that many (especially on the right) downplay or dismiss the problem of poverty and the hardship faced by the [...]

Your Bumper Sticker is Not a Philosophy: Reflections on Voting and the Limits of Radical Purity

You hear it often when you reside on the left of the political spectrum in America, especially around election time. Sometimes it’s discussed and debated in whispers, other times in rather bombastic tones. It’s a debate about whether truly progressive folks, let alone radicals, should be willing to vote for clearly compromised Democrats, despite how [...]

Hard on Systems, Soft on People: Fighting for Social Change as If People Matter

“Be hard on systems, but soft on people.” I’m sure this nugget of wisdom has been around for more than a while, but it was only about a year or so ago that I heard it: spoken into the room where several were gathered — parents and faculty at our daughters’ school — to discuss [...]

Resurrecting Apartheid: White Police and Politicians are Waging War on Black America

It seems like no exaggeration to suggest that at this moment, a half-century after the greatest victories of the civil rights movement, America is drifting backwards towards apartheid. It’s not a word I use lightly, nor one we are accustomed to using when describing our current condition. Indeed, its not even a word that most [...]