Among this week’s news headlines:
CBS News: Duke finds person responsible for hanging noose on campus, April 2, 2015
WashPost: University of South Carolina student suspended after racist photo goes viral, April 5, 2015
Guardian: Maile Hampton’s ‘lynching’ charge: an unsettling tactic to punish activism? April 5, 2015
Retro-racial not Post-racial: a noose on campus, a USC student caught snapchatting the N-word, and a 20-year old African American activist charged with felony lynching?
How is the person who hung the noose “taking responsibility,” as the CNN headline reads, by remaining nameless and faceless?
How do the official university rhetoric of intolerance of racial intolerance and quick explusions of overtly racist individual students and fraternities work together to disavow the anti-blackness that pervades American universities on a much deeper and more systematic structural level? (This includes the UC system (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), where black student enrollment in 2010 was 3.6% at the undergraduate level and 2.7% at the graduate level).
How do laws supposedly originally conceived of to protect blacks from racist white vigilante violence get re-purposed to persecute Maile Hampton, a black activist at a protest against police killing black people?
How do we, as Common urges, “forget about the past as much as we can and let’s move from where we are now,” or simply “adapt,” as actor Isiah Washington suggests, when the specters of the past remain very much present, for example, in the expressions of young (white [and honorary white]) people and in the structural dehumanization of young blacks?
How does an approach of disavowal/respectability/accommodation bring where “we are now” that much closer to the racism that is constantly being disavowed?
What is truly at stake in this ongoing disavowal?