And hear me out on this.
But click ahead if you need to:
I. What is the role of the academy in America?
If you are one to believe in fantasies and dreams coming true then America is at a ripe time to believe. The American presidential debates this week left a lot of us wanting more or different. Maybe that is what has my mind shifted to fantasy.
In my mind, we are going to need to do a better job of educating the youth. And when I grant fantasy the right to take over, I think about the British boarding school reimagined, Hogwarts. Not a perfect education by any means, the school still provided a hearty amount of good-intentioned, talented, well-resourced & superbly supported magician-scholars.*
One of my favorites on the Harry Potter side is Professor McGonagall. She really comes off as an educator that is capable and forward-thinking.
Which brings me to the American university system. It is a testament to the will of the American scholar that the system is still functioning. (Read “House of Cards: Can the American University Be Saved?” for more information.) It is another sign that our precious country is falling into disrepair and dissension. Out of the mess that has become postdoctoral study and research in the midst of corporate and profit-driven public and private sectors we have amazingly bright scholars that write things that just make sense.
II. Ruha Benjamin Could Keep the Nazi’s Away
And today I am going to give you a little Ruha. I am hoping that a little Ruha here and there will keep the Nazis at bay. Because Lord knows we can’t keep them away, white supremacy and our precious country are synonymous after all. So, please meet Dr. Ruha Benjamin, one of many American Professor McGonagalls.
The mythic and heroic American Harry Potter that saves us from the white supremacist Voldemort and his evil cast will need to be educated in the complexities of race in this country. Because regardless of how we feel, national liberation requires participation and teamwork. That doesn’t mean black people and other subjugated folks can’t take steps to liberate our minds, souls, and habits. It’s an acknowledgment liberation of self doesn’t negate the real LEGISLATIVE and JUDICIAL policy work this country is long overdue.
So I hope the mythical American Harry Potter that is somewhere growing up right now is well-versed in the ‘forbidden’ and ‘outlawed’ critical race theory applied by some of the world’s greatest minds.
III. Again, meet Dr. Ruha, through a snippet of her work published in the Catalyst and remixed for the web by me.
In this moment of social crisis, where even the most basic assertion that black lives matter is contested, we are drowning in ‘the facts’ of inequality and injustice. Whether it is a new study on criminal justice disparities or another video of police brutality, demanding empirical evidence of systematic wrongdoing can have a kind of perverse quality — as if subjugated people must petition again and again for admission into the category of ‘human’, for which empathy is rationed and applications are routinely denied.Ruha Benjamin, 2016
The facts, alone, will not save us.
In this moment of social crisis, where even the most basic assertion that black lives matter is contested,
We are drowning in the facts of inequality & injustice.
Whether it is a new study on criminal justice disparities
Demanding empirical evidence of systematic wrongdoing can have a kind of perverse quality —
— As if subjugated people must petition again and again
[and again. And again. And again. And so many agains. Until again just never ends. Then some more agains.]
— As if subjugated people must petition again and again for admission into the category of “human”,
[human_being defined as a woman, man, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.]
— As if subjugated people must petition again for admission into the category of beings distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.
It’s as if subjugated people must petition again and again for admission into the category of beings that think, speak, and stand.
[Therefore, I [must] think, I [must] speak, and I [must] stand.]
It’s as if subjugated people must petition again and again for admission into the category of “human”,
For which empathy
[em-path-y: in path with me: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.]
and applications are routinely denied.
[even asleep in my bed. #BreonnaTaylor]
It’s as if subjugated people must petition again and again for admission into the category of “human”, for which empathy and applications are routinely denied.Ruha Benjamin, 2016
Facts alone will not save us.
[Imagine with me.]
It is 2064. A reparations initiative that allows victims of police brutality to regenerate organs is well underway. A major new component of the initiative will be unveiled for the 50th anniversary of the Ferguson uprising, but the largest biobank in the country has been repeatedly hit by raiders intent on selling stem cells on the white market. Aiyana Stanley-Jones and her team of Risers have to find a way to secure the cell depository and revitalize the movement.Ruha Benjamin, 2016
IV. What is sad about this?
Police brutality is an issue we haven’t solved by bringing the right resources to the problem. Instead, the police continue to maim. And we find ways to biologically heal and practice healing on the victims of police violence. Aiyana Mo’Nay Stanley Jones was a victim of such violence. In 2010 she was ‘accidentally’ shot in the head during a SWAT invasion. In a story eerily similar to Breonna Taylor’s, Aiyanna’s life was collateral damage. The SWAT team was looking for her father. After killing her and paying the family over $8 million in damages, Aiyanna’s father was sentenced to 10+ years behind bars. Ruha Benjamin’s reimagining of the future has brought Aiyanna back to life and into adulthood. Biology and science have truly advanced. It’s a horrific thought and one wonders whether Aiyanna had any say in her rejuvenation. She certainly did not ask to die.
This isn’t a world that will kill me. I am a survivor and I descend from a long line of survivors.
But, this is not the world I want my daughter to inherit. There is no indication that grace, love, fairness, and understanding have imbued the systems that infringe on so many lives.
And these are not the hopes I had for science and technology.
It is 2020.
Who and what are we becoming?
I can’t answer that. But I can say that I agree with Dr. Ruha,
The facts alone will not save us.
Credits & WildeNotes
Written & Edited By W. D. Herstun
*Updated 10/18: I initially wrote well-intentioned and talented. That is true but it is important to note the excellent leadership of Albus Dumbledore and the overwhelming support of the entire upper-class wizarding community. Why is important to write this note? Our universities and high schools need to be re-thought in terms of our support. We may not be able to provide schools with the mythical-level unity that Hogwarts presents for British wizards most of the series, but we can take notes on resourcing and leadership. How can we re-create what works in fantasy from an educational sense? What if our kids got as excited about high school acceptance and performance across all of the population as young wizards did about getting accepted to Hogwarts at 12? Why has public education resorted to ‘what’s-left’ instead of ‘what’s desired’ or ‘what’s emulated’? And how do we change that as the public? How do we vote, organize, converse, write, and challenge to change that? — This paragraph also contains a wording change.
Featuring the work of Ruha Benjamin of Princeton University. I am enjoying learning new scholars and people to admire. I firmly believe the American culture desperately needs balance in the public sphere. Scholars and artists need more air time. Here is my attempt to contribute to being the solution.
As a caveat, there will need to be dozens of Professor McGongalls in order to slay our American beasts. England is a tiny metropolis compared to the sheer acreage and humanity consumed by America. But, we definitely need the forces of magic and might behind the movement. The presidential debates are devoid of talks about humanity, culture, science, and technology. It’s almost as if we are ignoring the reality American innovation and unregulated terror continue to cause. I also want to thank the newest political writer on our squad Lucio, for nudging me away from sports. Sometimes, it’s nice to escape, but I could be better about balancing that with leaning in.
I am also very influenced by the Potter books, clearly. I was lucky enough to grow up in the middle of the heyday. This article referencing Harry is not a reflection of my politically supporting the insensitive statements of J.K. Rowling. I do love the world she created though.
Dear American Harry or Harrietta, take the country by storm. Hopefully, you have a cast of capable friends and a chip on your shoulder. Even with all the magic, study, and prayer, the world can offer, you still won’t completely vanquish Lord Voldemort of White Supremacy. As Ruha Benjamin points out it’s embedded in the structures of our information. But goddamn it, we hope you get some of the heavy-hitting bad guys. The subjugated are tired. Lol. Signed one subjugated, ‘untouchable’ class, American Black woman, a descendant of slaves. And let the record show, when I die, let me go. #ADOS
House of Cards: Can the American University System Be Saved? By Daniel Bessner — https://www.thenation.com/article/society/gig-academy-meritocracy-trap-universities-crisis/
Benjamin, R. (2016). Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience. Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, 2(2), black studies & feminist technoscience. doi:https://doi.org/10.28968/cftt.v2i2.28798 — The entire article that inspired this post is available here. So you can find out what happened to Aiyanna and her team of Risers. It has an interesting ending.
www.ruhabenjamin.com to read more about technology, culture, and the future.
The Facts of Inequality in the U.S. —https://inequality.stanford.edu/publications/20-facts-about-us-inequality-everyone-should-know
Washington Post columnist, Radley Balko has amassed a list of over 140 studies on racial disparities in the criminal justice system. — https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/04/09/more-studies-showing-racial-disparities-criminal-justice-system/
Al Jazeera’s international coverage of the last 9 minutes of George Floyd’s life — https://youtu.be/bUv46G-2W78
An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force by Roland G. Fryer, Jr., July 2017 — https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/fryer/files/empirical_analysis_tables_figures.pdf
https://www.dictionary.com/browse/homo-sapiens; also influenced by Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
BBC coverage of Breonna Taylor’s killing — https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53111709
giphy.com on the GIF beat