Having worked out how to manage governments, political parties, elections, courts, the media and liberal opinion, the neoliberal establishment faced one more challenge: how to deal with the growing unrest, the threat of ’people’s power.’ How do you domesticate it? How do you turn protesters into pets? How do you vacuum up people’s fury and redirect it into a blind alley?
Here too, foundations and their allied organizations have a long and illustrious history. A revealing example is their role in defusing and deradicalizing the Black Civil Rights movement in the United States in the 1960s and the successful transformation of Black Power into Black Capitalism.
The Rockefeller Foundation, in keeping with J.D. Rockefeller’s ideals, had worked closely with Martin Luther King Sr. (father of Martin Luther King Jr). But his influence waned with the rise of the more militant organizations—the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panthers. The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations moved in. In 1970, they donated $15 million to ‘moderate’ black organizations, giving people grants, fellowships, scholarships, job training programs for dropouts and seed money for black-owned businesses. Repression, infighting and the honey trap of funding led to the gradual atrophying of the radical black organizations.
Martin Luther King made the forbidden connections between Capitalism, Imperialism, Racism and the Vietnam War. As a result, after he was assassinated, even his memory became toxic to them, a threat to public order. Foundations and Corporations worked hard to remodel his legacy to fit a market-friendly format. The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, with an operational grant of $2 million, was set up by, among others, the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Mobil, Western Electric, Procter & Gamble, U.S. Steel and Monsanto. The Center maintains the King Library and Archives of the Civil Rights Movement. Among the many programs the King Center runs have been projects that work — quote, ‘work closely with the United States Department of Defense, the Armed Forces Chaplains Board and others,’ unquote. It co-sponsored the Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture Series called—and I quote — ’The Free Enterprise System: An Agent for Non-violent Social Change.’
We do live in end-times, of a sort. Not the end of the world — the planet will carry on with or without us — but the end of the human systems that structure our politics, economics, and social life… If all this seems like more than one can bear, it’s because it is. We are facing new, more expansive challenges. Never in human history have potential catastrophes been so global; never have social and ecological crises of this scale threatened at the same time; never have we had so much information about the threats we must come to terms with.
It’s easy to cover up our inability to face this by projecting it onto others. When someone tells me “I agree with your assessment, but people can’t handle it,” I assume what that person really means is, “I can’t handle it.” But handling it is, in the end, the only sensible choice.
…I’m not interested in empty rhetoric drawn from past revolutionary moments. Yes, we need a revolution — many revolutions — but a strategy is not yet clear. So, as we work patiently on reformist projects, we can continue to offer a radical analysis and experiment with new ways of working together. While engaged in education and community organizing with modest immediate goals, we can contribute to the strengthening of networks and institutions that can be the base for the more radical change we need. In these spaces today we can articulate, and live, the values of solidarity and equity that are always essential.
To adopt an apocalyptic worldview is not to abandon hope but to affirm life. As James Baldwin put it decades ago, we must remember “that life is the only touchstone and that life is dangerous, and that without the joyful acceptance of this danger, there can never be any safety for anyone, ever, anywhere.” By avoiding the stark reality of our moment in history we don’t make ourselves safe, we undermine the potential of struggles for justice and sustainability.
As Baldwin put it so poignantly in that same 1962 essay, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
There are pervasive stereotypes about masculinity and femininity that deﬁne how we are all supposed to act, dress and speak. They serve no one. Anyone who deﬁes these so-called ‘norms’ becomes worthy of comment and scrutiny. The LGBT community knows this all too well.
…I’m inspired to be in this room because every single one of you is here for the same reason. You’re here because you’ve adopted as a core motivation the simple fact that this world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another. If we took just 5 minutes to recognize each other’s beauty, instead of attacking each other for our differences. That’s not hard. It’s really an easier and better way to live…
Then again, it’s not easy at all. It can be the hardest thing, because loving other people starts with loving ourselves and accepting ourselves.
It’s not enough that Zimmerman killed Trayvon in cold blood, not enough that he walked away from it without being arrested immediately, not enough that it took thousands of people across the country marching and protesting to bring charges against him, not enough that he was acquitted and not enough that he remains free to accumulate more domestic violence charges. No, he has to also become a celebrity, built on his “career” of killing black children and abusing women.
Shame on the organizers and promoters [of Zimmerman fighting a celebrity]. Shame on the thousands who e-mailed wanting to fight him and legitimize this. Shame on anyone who pays money to see it. Shame on all of us for allowing Trayvon’s life and death to turned into a spectacle.
And fuck George Zimmerman. Fuck him and everything he represents. Fuck the culture that supports his existence. But a sincere “thank you” for reminding us what black life is worth in this country. As if we didn’t already know.
…I’m wondering what “thug” really means.
White supremacist culture dictates who and who does not get to be human. In order for people of color to receive a Human Card, they must assimilate: they must not use slang. They must be quiet. They must not wear hoodies. They must not curse. They must be gracious at all times. They must enunciate. They must not talk about racism. They must not listen to rap music. They must not sag. They must not brag. They must not laugh in public. They must not take up more than one seat on the bus. They must not ever ask for more. In short, you must be perfect. Robotic. Even if you are a professional athlete who performs for millions of Americans, playing a game in which aggression, testosterone, and energy are rewarded (demanded)…you must be quiet, gracious, calm, unassuming. Unscary. To be black and also be regarded as human, you must never make a mistake in your entire life, ever—ever—or you are a thug. Ghetto. Other. Your Human Card is denied.
Richard Sherman was Salutatorian: second in his class in high school. Richard Sherman went to Stanford. Richard Sherman launched a charity organization called Blanket Coverage to help children in need receive school supplies and clothing. Richard Sherman makes more money than anyone I know. But with all the reaction, both on Twitter and on television, to Richard Sherman’s interview, I’m forced to call upon Kanye West’s famous lyric:
Even if you in a Benz, you still a n*gga in a coupe.
I think that’s what the word “thug” really means. The n-word, arguably the most dehumanizing word in history, has been decried. It is considered inappropriate to speak it in public, and while that doesn’t stop everyone, hate will find a way. “Thug” is that way. Lately, it is a word used when we want to revoke humanity. Trayvon Martin, murdered only a few blocks from his home, was called a thug during his murderer’s trial. The jury needed to be convinced that this boy’s humanity could not possibly exist if he was “a thug.” Police put a toddler’s “thuggery” on display as if to say, “This is why we police them.” And now Richard Sherman, an athlete wealthier than most of us can possibly imagine, dares to step outside the box that a racist culture demands he live inside…and he’s a thug too.
If it weren’t for prisons, we would know that we are all already in prison.