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Race and Racism

Fighting from Inside

Fighting from Inside

Prison litigation as a conduit for resistance

On paper, legislators passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act to halt what congresspeople erroneously called an epidemic of “meritless” prisoner-initiated lawsuits clogging court dockets. But the law’s effect — crushing imprisoned people’s access to the courts and limiting the federal courts’ power to remedy heinous prison conditions, especially via population control orders — was to severely narrow a key terrain of struggle for imprisoned people fighting not only for relief from abusive treatment and inhumane conditions, but also against the expansion of an intensifying regime of racialized mass imprisonment.

Border Crises

Border Crises

Five decades of ordinary bipartisan anti-immigrant politics

In May 2018, as Trump’s family separation policy became a major scandal, former Obama speechwriter and “Pod Save America” host Jon Favreau tweeted a photo of two migrant girls sleeping on the floor of a cage. “Look at these pictures. This is happening right now, and the only debate that matters is how we force our government to get these kids back to their families as fast as humanly possible.” As a number of his replies pointed out, the photos were actually from 2014, when his boss was still President. As with Biden’s response to the recent assault on Haitians, Favreau was fixated on the image.

L’Autore Invisible

L’Autore Invisible

Ralph Ellison in Italian

Translators themselves want to seem inconspicuous, like imperial clerks toiling away in a dark garret, resolving geopolitical issues by working out the finer terms in the draft of a big treaty. The collective need for invisibility creates a language that’s even, parsed out, correct — a language that escorts books out of their country and dresses them up as responsible travelers.

Circle of Visibility

Circle of Visibility

The familiar shadow of American self-realization

What is the remedy for dropping a bomb on fellow human beings, allowing their homes and the homes of their neighbors to burn to the ground, shooting at those trying to escape the fire, giving near life sentences to the survivors, and then, covertly, keeping the bones of those who died in the attack as trophies? What is the remedy for the creation and maintenance of the carceral state?

Pictures at a Restoration

Pictures at a Restoration

On Pete Souza’s Obama

Once safely out of office, he acknowledged that “millions of Americans” had been “spooked by a black man in the White House.” An undeniable truth, but one that was miles away from the embrocations he had offered the country when he launched his national career by declaring that “there is not a black America and a white America.” That kind of thing sounds like denialism to some, a postracial utopia to others, and then, in certain places, like a threat.