Obama, Falwell, and the Rhetoric beneath Our American Way of Life

Over the last week (and really for much longer), President of the United States Barack Obama and President of Liberty University Jerry Falwell, Jr. have offered two seemingly different approaches for curbing the rising tides of domestic and foreign threats of violence. On December 4, two days after the San Bernardino massacre, Falwell spoke to the students of Liberty and expressed frustration that President Obama’s “answer to circumstances like [the San Bernardino massacre] is more gun control.” He then encouraged the students to obtain a concealed carry gun permit, so that they could “end those Muslims before they walked in.” On December 6, President Obama spoke to the nation from the Oval Office and discussed the San Bernardino massacre, “the broader threat of terrorism, and how we can keep our country safe.” The President spoke proactively of his administration’s “strategy to destroy ISIL,” marking seven years of “confronting the evolving threat” through his “authorizing U.S. forces to take out terrorists abroad” because he knows “how real the danger is.” The speech ended with Obama jumping up onto a tightrope we’ve seen him walk before, that of distinguishing “ISIL” from “Islam,” and “Terrorists” from “Muslims.”

The Not-So-New ‘New’ Natives: Thoughts on Paris

Savagery is not descending on Europe. To suggest as much would be a misnomer, a white lie. No, it is colonialism that is once again descending onto the continent. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre concludes his 1961 Preface to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth by suggesting that Europeans have turned into the “native.” From Sartre’s perspective, Fanon helps to explain (to the European) why “it is better to be a ‘native’ in the pit of misery than an erstwhile colonist.’ 

Conversations in Black for Marginalia Review of Books: Alexander G. Weheliye

(Originally published for Marginalia Review of Books on September 1, 2015 in our Conversations in Black Series, hosted by me and Dr. Monica R. Miller. Here's a taste, but head on over to MRB for the whole interview).

MM/CD: Your scholarship is marked beautifully by a theoretical and methodological interdisciplinarity and analytical edge — thinking with discourses from diaspora studies, and from postcolonial studies to critical ethnic studies and critical theories more generally by engaging with, and forging a conversation among, a chorus of scholarly voices and sources seldom seen together in a single text. From Phonographies to Habeas Viscus, can you give us a sense of the theoretical and methodological trajectories, developments, and shifts your work has taken over the years and the importance of black feminist theories for the study of modern notions of humanity and of the human?

AGW: Thank you for the generous description of work. My training is in Black literary and cultural studies as well as critical theory, in addition to my on-going interest in popular music and social technologies. My formative encounters with Black feminism are two-fold. First, when I was a teenager I participated in the beginnings of the Black German movement, a movement initiated and led by Black women such as May Ayim and Katharina Oguntoye. And, although the movement was not framed as explicitly feminist (much in the same way as #BlackLivesMatter, by the way), it did highlight how questions of gender and sexuality need not be add-ons to think movements organized around Black Life. I doubt that I would have taken the same intellectual path without this formative exposure. Second, my mentors in graduate school were largely Black feminist writers and thinkers such as Abena Busia and Cheryl Wall, who taught me about the history of Black feminism but also exemplified the insights from Black feminist texts in their teaching and interactions with students and other faculty members.

Check out the rest of the interview here...

What's Really behind the Confederate Flag Protests?

On this year’s 4th of July holiday, many white Americans are feeling their identity encroached upon and their opinions ignored. Especially in the south, many whites feel that the recent focus on removing the confederate flag from public spaces is an attack on our heritage, our past, and our very identities. Here is the totality of what white southern identity looks like, as some would have us think:

Uncertain Humanism and the Water of Whiteness


IN 2005, one of today’s most revered American writers, David Foster Wallace (now deceased), delivered a commencement address to graduates of Kenyon College, titled “This Is Water.” The twenty-minute speech is worth a listen or read, freely available on YouTube and in Wallace’s eponymous 2009 collection, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life. Some of what he says in the address about liberal arts education is applicable to humanism. In particular, his words help to color a brand of humanism I refer to as “uncertain humanism,” a way of privileging human possibilities for flourishing that relies on an embrace of and appreciation for uncertainty—for not knowing, feeling anxious, insecure, and unsettled. Uncertain humanism is not just about how we approach “facts.” It involves how we approach our very identities and who we think we are.

Continue reading at The Humanist Magazine July/August 2015...

Humanism and Race Panel - American Humanist Association Conference - 2015

Here's a panel discussion on humanism and race from the American Humanist Association's annual conference, held in early May in Denver, CO. The conversation included Dr. Anthony Pinn, Dr. Monica R. Miller, Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, and me, Dr. Christopher Driscoll. Join the ongoing conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #ahacon15

The Ten Cracka Commandments

#BlackSpring is here. #SayHerName is here. Looks like it is going to be a long, hot summer.

What’s a white person to do?

Recently, I had the pleasure to participate in the Interplay Hip Hop Symposium at Lehigh University. The event was hosted by the inimitable hip hop theatre pioneer Kashi Johnson and keynoted by brilliant lyricist and hip hop educator Asheru. I gave a lecture about white appropriation of rap. My lecture led to a discussion about how white people fit into the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Together, we came up with these, the ten cracka commandments for 2015:

1.      #AllLivesMatter won’t matter until #BlackLivesMatter. This commandment is a litmus test and the greatest commandment.

Conversations in Black for Marginalia Review of Books: K. Merinda Simmons

(Originally published for Marginalia Review of Books on May 12, 2015 in our Conversations in Black Series, hosted by me and Dr. Monica R. Miller. Here's a taste, but head on over to MRB for the whole interview.)

K. Merinda Simmons is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. Her areas of interest include the relationship between religious expression and gender identity, Afro-Caribbean and African American Women Writers, Southern Studies, and Feminist Theory and Philosophy.

Her current research examines Afro-Caribbean and African American women’s migration narratives in the 19th and 20th centuries, giving specific focus to how travel across geographical and sociopolitical boundaries constructs notions of “gender” and “labor.” Simmons is currently at work on a book manuscript tentatively entitled The Work of Southern Womanhood: Mapping Feminine “Character” across Gender, Race, and Migration.

In this interview with Monica Miller and Christopher Driscoll, Simmons discusses the problem with post-blackness, as well as a number of issues related to discourses of authenticity and identity.

Continue reading here...

Conversations in Black for Marginalia Review of Books: Anthony B. Pinn

(Originally published for Marginalia Review of Books on February 17, 2015 in our Conversations in Black Series, hosted by me and Dr. Monica R. Miller. Here's a taste, but head on over to MRB for the whole interview.)

Dr. Anthony B. Pinn is currently Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies, and also Founding Director of The Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He is also Director of Research for the Institute for Humanist Studies in Washington, DC. In addition to these titles, while at Rice Prof. Pinn has developed a robust PhD program in African American Religious Studies recognized for its intellectual rigor and emphasis on professionalization.

Spanning a career of nearly 25 years, Pinn has published over thirty books, which have impacted a variety of fields and subfields within the academic study of religion and have made him one of the most prolific and influential scholars of religion of his generation. In February of 2014, Prometheus Books released Anthony B. Pinn’s Writing God’s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better AtheistAs this title notes, Pinn is also a well-known atheist, or non-theist (to use his own preferred moniker). His brand of theology doesn’t require “god” but emphasizes the ordinary as well as the extraordinary dimensions of life, and the cultural ingenuity humans muster in community, in particular the African American community.

Recently, we sat down with Professor Pinn to talk about Writing God’s Obituary (WGO).

Pinn can also be found on Twitter @anthony_pinn

Continue reading here...