Black Lives (Don’t) Matter

The Black Lives (Don’t) Matter syllabus by M. Shadee Malaklou, Assistant Professor of Critical Identity Studies and Mellon Faculty Fellow at Beloit College.

Course description: If the movement Black Lives Matter indexes the precarity of black life, then this course interrogates how and why black lives don’t matter or, better yet, how and why black lives, categorically excluded from human protections, can’t (epistemologically) matter. Course topics and themes examine how new media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and old media platforms like broadcast and print journalism reproduce racial spectacle and cultivate antiblack viscera, gut, and instinct in viewer-consumers. Students will learn how to read for antiblackness in global contexts but the focus will be on media production and consumption in American contexts. Born at the hour of another Black Lives Matter movement—to abolish chattel slavery—and tasked with cohering the imagined community of a broken nation, American media in the nineteenth century made blackface minstrelsy the first mass-produced popular entertainment in the United States. In minstrel shows, Negroes are excluded from the species of Man; theirs is concurrently a genre of sub- and supra-humanity in which blacks are vulnerable like chattel but dangerous like demons, and regardless, gratuitously open to receive violence. Blackface caricatures evidence racial slavery as a social good and justify antiblack violence at the precise moment in which blacks might qualify as human, or at the precise moment in which black lives might matter.

Students will consider how blackface, an alibi for routine antiblack violence, survives today to inform American media production and consumption, including its new media variations, ensuring that, irrespective of advances by black Twitter to “say her name” (and his name, and their names, and hir name), black bodies are counted in new media “without counting”.[1] Reading materials include canonical texts by black feminist authors and timely essays by lesser-known writers on blogs and online magazines. The latter are of the moment and dispense with the jargon of theory; they teach students how to navigate popular racialized discourses instructive of institutional power using feminist theories and methods as events unfold in real time. Some weeks include news clippings as well, evidencing arguments, for example, by Audre Lorde, who elegizes in her poem, “A Litany for Survival,” that blacks were “never meant to survive” their enslavement, and later, when their “stomachs [were] empty” and they were “afraid [they] may never eat again,” their emancipation.[2] Considerable time will be spent unpacking Trayvon Martin’s 2012 murder and the response his death elicited from American media and legal institutions. Trayvon’s murder incited the hashtag that birthed the movement Black Lives Matter, rephrased here as a question for feminism about black reproductive futurity and the limits of Western metaphysical philosophy: Do black lives matter? Can life matter if it is black? Media representations of Trayvon’s Hispanic assailant, George Zimmerman, also make a special appearance in this syllabus because they occasion the opportunity to extrapolate antiblack racism from non-black or “passing white” experiences of ethnic-epidermal difference.

[1]. Omar Ricks, “# (or, Counted without Counting),” The Feminist Wire 20 August 2015, http://www.thefeministwire.com/2015/08/or-counted-without-counting.

[2]. Audre Lorde, “A Litany for Survival.” The Black Unicorn: Poems (Norton Paperback, 1995) 31-32.

Cartoonist A. B. Frost for Harper’s Weekly, October 28, 1876.

Cartoonist A. B. Frost for Harper’s Weekly, October 28, 1876.

How to use this syllabus: Use reading and viewing assignments, to be completed in advance of each class meeting, to reflect on the meaning and significance of quotations.

PART 1Racial Blackness: A singular antagonism


One of the ideological obstacles hampering the recognition that Black lives don’t matter is the belief in the intrinsic redemptive quality of the supposedly democratic multiracial nation/empire-state. This belief intimates that, through struggle, popular mobilization, the voicing of grievances, and compelling political analysis, the democratic polis can be calibrated so that Black suffering is addressed and eliminated. When Blacks and non-Blacks take it to the streets, surface facts worthy of media attention, pressure their elected representatives, protest patterns of police misconduct that disproportionately victimize Blacks, and demand reform of policing tactics and sentencing laws that have filled prisons with multiple generations of Black men and women to the point where the simple biological and social maintenance of Black communities is challenged—in short, when multiracial crowds express their discontent over the expendability of Black life, they exercise their belief in, and wish to be a part of, the redeemed multiracial democratic nation. When multiracial crowds cry ‘Black Lives Matter,’ they assume or at least hope that (a) their demands are legible, and (b) the project of an integrated nation is not only worth pursuing, but practically attainable. What would render the protests against patterns of anti-Black discrimination and violence legible to members of the state and society? The Black would have to become fully recognized not only as a legal subject, but also, principally, as a fellow human. To say ‘Black Lives Matter’ is to make a plea that should be self-evident. It is also to acknowledge that full equality and recognition for Blacks before the law, within institutions, and throughout society has not been realized. To utter ‘Black Lives Matter’ is to make apparent that while some lives matter (those of the white, and to a lesser degree, the non-Black), presently Black lives don’t matter. So while the multitude’s insistence on Black lives’ immanent and indisputable value mobilizes across racial boundaries, it also reveals an immense gap between the desired and the actual. For the desired—a society with values and institutions that operate in accordance with the maxim that ‘Black Lives Matter’—is constantly negated by dominant anti-Black cultural codes and their pragmatic social consequences. Collectively, we seem anesthetized by, or willfully ignorant of, philosophical and empirical proof of the unique wretchedness of the Black condition: unique not only relative to whites, but perhaps more revealingly, to non-Blacks. Evidence of poverty, unemployment, persistent residential segregation, exposure to environmental toxins, substandard schooling, disproportionate presence of children in the foster care system, police harassment, and imprisonment: these intersecting dynamics, while also impacting vulnerable whites and non-Blacks, uniquely define the transgenerational social and physical death experience of Blacks.

Jaoa Vargas for Cultural Anthropology

Reading Assignments:

  1. “The Good, Racist People” by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The New York Times; nytimes.com/2013/03/07/opinion/coates-the-good-racist-people.html
  2. “I, racist” by John Metta; com/i-racist-538512462265
  3. “Don’t call it a comeback: racial slavery is not yet abolished” by Jared Sexton for Open Democracy; opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/jared-sexton/don%E2%80%99t-call-it-comeback-racial-slavery-is-not-yet-abolished
  4. “American Slavery, Reinvented” by Whitney Benns for The Atlantic; theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/prison-labor-in-america/406177/
  5. “What is ‘Black Privilege’?” by Omar Ricks and Gregory Caldwell; blogspot.com/2013/12/what-is-black-privilege.html
  6. “# (or, Counted without Counting)” by Omar Ricks for The Feminist Wire; thefeministwire.com/2015/08/or-counted-without-counting/
  7. “Black poverty differs from white poverty” by Emily Badger for The Washington Post; washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/08/12/black-poverty-differs-from-white-poverty
  8. “In Flint, Michigan, Overpriced Water is Causing People’s Skin to Erupt in Rashes and Hair to Fall Out” by Curt Guyette for The Nation; thenation.com/article/in-flint-michigan-overpriced-water-is-causing-peoples-skin-to-erupt-and-hair-to-fall-out/
  9. “What Happens When You Lose Your People: Hurricane Katrina Revisited 10 Years Later” by Darnell L. Moore for Mic; mic.com/articles/124144/katrina-revisited-10-years-later
  10. “If you want to understand Black Lives Matter, You Have to Understand Katrina” by Jamelle Bouie for Slate; www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/08/hurricane_katrina_10th_anniversary_how_the_black_lives_matter_movement_was.html
  11. “Paul Gilroy: What Black Means in Britain,” interview with Paul Gilroy by George Yancy for The New York Times; opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/10/01/paul-gilroy-what-black-means-in-britain
  12. “I, a black stain” by Emanuel Y. for Medium; com/aj-story-behind-the-story/i-a-black-stain-4cad93c12d56
  13. “Israeli teens dressed as KKK and in ‘black face’ for mock lynching at school Purim party” by Allison Deger for Mondoweiss; net/2014/03/israeli-dressed-lynching
  14. “Black Ethiopian Jews Ask Do their lives Matter” by KaiElz for Chicago Defender; com/2015/06/14/black-ethiopia-jews-ask-do-their-lives-matter/
  15. “10,000 Black Palestinians Struggle with Racism in Gaza” by Daniel Greenfield for Front Page Magazine; frontpagemag.com/point/209861/10000-black-palestinians-struggle-racism-gaza-daniel-greenfield
  16. “The Afro-Iranian Community: Beyond Haji Firuz Blackface, the Slave Trade, and Bandari Music” by Beeta Baghoolizadeh for Ajam Media Collective; com/2012/06/20/the-afro-iranian-community-beyond-haji-firuz-blackface-slavery-bandari-music/
  17. “Mahatma Gandhi’s racist quotes about black South Africans;” org/mahatma-gandhi-racist-quotes/
  18. “America’s 2nd Largest Indian Tribe Expels Blacks” for NPR; npr.org/2011/09/20/140630565/americas-2nd-largest-indian-tribe-expels-blacks
  19. “‘By Blood’ Tackles the Untold Legacy of Slave-Owning Cherokees” by Aura Bogado for Colorlines; colorlines.com/articles/%E2%80%98-blood%E2%80%99-tackles-untold-legacy-slave-owning-cherokees
  20. “The Dominican Republic Hates Black People” by Jemima Pierre for Black Agenda Report; com/content/dominican-republic-hates-black-people
  21. “8 Ways Haitians Have Been Severely Mistreated in the Dominican Republic” by Nick Chiles for Atlanta Black Star; com/2015/03/18/8-ways-haitians-have-been-severely-mistreated-in-the-dominican-republic/
  22. “Japan’s blackface problem: the country’s bizarre, troubled relationship with race” by Katy Lee for Vox; vox.com/2015/3/17/8230783/japan-racism-blackface
  23. “Despite Apologies from Racist [Asian] Frat, UC Irvine Black Students Stick to Demands” by Omar Ricks for The Feminist Wire; com/2013/05/despite-apologies-from-racist-frat-uc-irvine-black-students-stick-to-demands/
  24. “When You Become the Oppressive ‘Ally’: Asians, Anti-Blackness, and Accountability” by Alex-Quan Pham for Black Girl Dangerous; blackgirldangerous.org/2015/02/become-oppressive-ally-asians-anti-blackness-accountability/

Viewing Assignments (short clips):

  1. “How to Tell People They Sound Racist” by Jay Smooth; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc
  2. “How to Talk about Race” by Eric Deggans at TEDxBloomington; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UojLHDG_Y4w
  3. Aamer Rahman on “reverse racism”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw_mRaIHb-M
  4. “Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land” by David Sheen and Max Blumenthal for The Nation; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPxv4Aff3IA
  5. “African Nationals Talk About Racism They Faced In India. What They Said Will Shock You” by Sarjana Singh for Storypick; http://www.storypick.com/africans-talk-about-racism/
  6. “Jessica Williams Tackles Detroit’s Water Cut-Off on ‘The Daily Show’” for For Harriet; http://shine.forharriet.com/2014/11/jessica-williams-tackles-detroits-water.html#axzz3hPM2x01X
  7. “Radiated Milk Sold In Black Neighborhoods: The Art of Slow Genocide” for The MadMan Chronicles; http://themadmanchronicles.com/2014/01/26/radiated-milk-sold-in-black-neighborhoods-the-art-of-slow-genocide/

Other Assignment:       Complete two of Harvard University’s “implicit racism” tests—for RACE (black/ white) and SKIN TONE (light /dark skin); https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/.

PART 2Antiblackness in U.S. Law and Society


There is no difference between the North and South. The difference is in the way they castrate you. But the castration itself is the American fact. ~ James Baldwin

In the South they’re political wolves, in the North they’re foxes. A fox and a wolf are both canine, both belong to the dog family. Now, you take your choice. You gonna choose a Northern dog or a Southern dog. Because either dog you choose, I guarantee you, you’ll still be in the dog house. ~ Malcolm X

Reading Assignments:

  1. “Letter to My Son [on antiblack violence]” by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic; http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/tanehisi-coates-between-the-world-and-me/397619/
  2. “Police Originated From ‘Slave Catching Patrols’” for Counter Current News; http://countercurrentnews.com/2015/04/police-originated-from-slave-catching-patrols/
  3. “Putting Casual Racism on Trial” by Aura Bogado for Colorlines; http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/07/racist-without-even-knowing-it.html
  4. “Questlove: Trayvon Martin and I Ain’t Shit” by Ahmir Questlove Thompson for NY Magazine; http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/07/questlove-trayvon-martin-and-i-aint-shit.html
  5. “The Zimmerman Jury Told Young Black Men What We Already Knew” by Cord Jefferson for Gawker; http://gawker.com/the-zimmerman-jury-told-young-black-men-what-we-already-770650992
  6. “The US v. Trayvon martin: How the System Worked” by Robin D.G. Kelley for Counterpunch; http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/15/the-us-v-trayvon-martin/
  7. “Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice” by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic; http://m.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/07/trayvon-martin-and-the-irony-of-american-justice/277782/
  8. “No Justice for Trayvon: White Women in the Jury Box” by Monica J. Casper for The Feminist Wire; http://thefeministwire.com/2013/ 07/no-justice-for-trayvon-white-women-in-the-jury-box/
  9. “What Should Trayvon Martin Have Done?” by Amy Davidson for The New Yorker; http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/closeread/ 2013/07/what-should-trayvon-martin-have-done.html
  10. “America Is Not For Black People” by Greg Howard for The Concourse; http://theconcourse.deadspin.com/america-is-not-for-black-people-1620169913
  11. “Why I fear for my sons” by Kimberly Norwood for CNN; http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/25/opinion/norwood-ferguson-sons-brown-police/
  12. “Things to stop being distracted by when a black person gets murdered by police” by Mia McKenzie for Black Girl Dangerous; http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2014/08/things-stop-distracted-black-person-gets-murdered-police/
  13. “The ugly history of racist policing in America” by Dara Lind for Vox; http://www.vox.com/michael-brown-shooting-ferguson-mo/2014/8/19/6031759/ferguson-history-riots-police-brutality-civil-rights
  14. “I’m a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing” by Redditt Hudson for Vox; http://www.vox.com/2015/5/28/8661977/race-police-officer
  15. “The 13 Racist Police E-mails You Didn’t Read [+ Photos]” by David Lohr for The Huffington Post; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/09/st-tammany-parish-sheriffs-office-racist-emails_n_7027274.html
  16. “Keywords in Black Protest: A(n Anti-)Vocabulary” by Shana L. Redmond and Damien Sojoyner for Truth-out; http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31051-keywords-in-black-protest-a-n-anti-vocabulary
  17. “Two Americas: Ferguson, Missouri Versus the Bundy Ranch, Nevada” by Bob Cesca for The Daily Banter; http://thedailybanter.com/2014/08/two-americas-ferguson-missouri-versus-bundy-ranch-nevada/#qQBJ1wkwhpRiUGPB.99
  18. “Guess what happened when heavily armed white men decided to roam the streets of Ferguson” by Shaun King for Daily Kos; www.dailykos.com/story/2015/08/11/1410920/-Guess-what-happened-when-heavily-armed-white-men-decided-to-roam-the-streets-of-Ferguson
  19. “Tamir Rice Was Shot in Less Than One Second” for Truth Voice; http://truthvoice.com/2015/03/tamir-rice-was-shot-in-less-than-one-second/
  20. “The emerging trend of innocent black men and boys dying after calls to 911” by Shaun King for Daily Kos; http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/02/13/1364225/-The-emerging-national-trend-of-innocent-black-men-boys-being-killed-after-calls-to-911#
  21. “Stop Trying to Be Good — Be Black” by Jamilah Lemieux for Mic; http://mic.com/articles/121508/stop-trying-to-be-good-be-black
  22. “The American Justice System Is Not Broken” by Albert Burneko for Deadspin; http://theconcourse.deadspin.com/the-american-justice-system-is-not-broken-1666445407
  23. “Rachel Jeantel: Black Girl Misunderstood” by Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq. for Afro State of Mind; http://www.afrostateofmind.com/rachel-jeantel-black-girl-misunderstood/
  24. “Black Men In U.S. Prisons Could Fill The Prisons of 9 Countries Combined” by Antonio Morre for Your Black World; http://yourblackworld.net/2015/02/25/black-men-in-u-s-prisons-could-fill-the-prisons-of-8-countries-combined/

Viewing Assignments (documentary + short clips):

  1. “The Murder of Emmet Till” (dir. Stanley Nelson, 2003); https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-X4is9jMYk
  2. “Slavery to Mass Incarceration” by Equal Justice Initiative for YouTube; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4e_djVSag4
  3. “Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops” by Rafael Casal for Upworthy; http://www.upworthy.com/know-anyone-that-thinks-racial-profiling-is-exaggerated-watch-this-and-tell-me-when-your-jaw-drops-2?g=2
  4. “White Girl Tries To Sell Drugs To Cops, Proves White Privilege Is A Thing” by Andy McDonald for The Huffington Post; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/22/white-girl-drugs-white-privilege_n_7639342.html
  5. “Meet The 17-Year-Old Who Blew The Lid Off Racial Profiling With His iPod” by Alvin Melathe for Upworthy; http://www.upworthy.com/meet-the-17-year-old-who-blew-the-lid-off-racial-profiling-with-his-ipod
  6. “The news reminds me that bodies like mine are beaten” by national poetry champion, Amber Rose Johnson on the Melissa Harris-Perry show: http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/watch/did-you-see-the-bodies-they-are-everywhere-84493891566
  7. “Defying standards of black respectability” by Melissa Harris-Perry for MSNBC; http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/watch/defying-standards-of-black-respectability-323582531734
  8. “The Illipsis: on Ferguson, riots and human limits” by Jay Smooth; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8v-Pd62hq0w
  9. “The Illipsis: Why do they never try to save them?” by Jay Smooth; http://fusion.net/video/116296/why-do-they-never-try-to-save-them-on-walter-scott/
  10. “Marissa Janae Johnson Speaks: #BLM, Sanders & White Progressives” on Blackness TV; www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQqdNF-BHTw

PART 3Racial Colorblindness: George Zimmerman and Rachel Dolezal

I don’t know what it means to grow up with a black president, social networks, omnipresent media, and black women everywhere in their natural hair. What I know is that when they loosed the killer of Michael Brown, you said, ‘I’ve got to go.’ And that cut me because, for all our differing worlds, at your age my feeling was exactly the same. And I recalled that even then I had not yet begun to imagine the perils that tangle us. You still believe the injustice was Michael Brown. You have not yet grappled with your own myths and narratives and discovered the plunder everywhere around us. …You have seen all the wonderful life up above the tree-line, yet you understand that there is no real distance between you and Trayvon Martin, and thus Trayvon Martin must terrify you in a way that he could never terrify me.

~ Ta-Nehisi Coates to his son, Between the World and Me

Reading Assignments:

  1. “How to Uphold White Supremacy by Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion” by Kyra for Model View Culture; https://modelviewculture.com/pieces/how-to-uphold-white-supremacy-by-focusing-on-diversity-and-inclusion
  2. “We are NOT all Trayvon: Challenging Anti-Black Racism in POC Communities” by Asam Ahmad for Black Girl Dangerous; http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/07/2013716we-are-not-all-trayvon-challenging-anti-black-racism-in-poc-communities/
  3. “The Curious Case of George Zimmerman’s Race” by Julianne Hing for Colorlines; http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/07/The-Curious-Case-of-George-Zimmermans-Race.html
  4. “Negro? Prieto? Moreno? A Question of Identity for Black Mexicans” by Randal C. Archibold for The New York Times; http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/world/americas/negro-prieto-moreno-a-question-of-identity-for-black-mexicans.html?nytmobile=0
  5. “What Happens When You’re a Light-Skinned Latino” by Fernando Hurtado for The Huffington Post; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fernando-hurtado/what-happens-when-youre-a-light-skinned-latino_b_6098348.html
  6. “Rachel Dolezal and the History of Passing for Black” by Yoni Applebaum for The Atlantic; http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/rachel-dolezal-and-the-history-of-passing-for-black/395882/
  7. “I Am Black. Rachel Dolezal Is Not” by Rebecca Carroll for Dame Magazine; http://www.damemagazine.com/2015/06/15/i-am-black-rachel-dolezal-not
  8. “‘Race and gender are not the same!’ is not a Good Response to the ‘Transracial’/Transgender Question OR We Can and Must Do Better” by Kai Green for The Feminist Wire; http://www.thefeministwire.com/2015/06/race-and-gender-are-not-the-same-is-not-a-good-response-to-the-transracial-transgender-question-or-we-can-and-must-do-better/
  9. “Rachel Dolezal a lesson in how racism works” by Michael P. Jeffries for The Boston Globe; https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/06/13/rachel-dolezal-story-lesson-how-racism-works/J8R27qgq2YfDRUuOVhpYGI/story.html
  10. “Dolezal Sued Black College for Anti-White Discrimination” for The Daily Beast; http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2015/06/15/dolezal-sued-for-racial-discrimination.html
  11. “The Huge Problem With the Rachel Dolezal Scandal That Everyone Needs to Know” by Darnell L. Moore for Mic; http://mic.com/articles/120574/here-s-the-most-important-thing-to-take-away-from-the-rachel-dolezal-controversy

Viewing Assignments (short clips):

  1. “The Rachel Dolezal Situation: Blackface, Appropriation and Fuckery, Oh My!” by Mia McKenzie for Black Girl Dangerous; http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2015/06/the-rachel-dolezal-situation-blackface-appropriation-and-fuckery-oh-my/
  2. “This Series of Five Rachel Dolezal 2014 Raw Interview Videos Will Absolutely Baffle You” by Aura Bogado for Colorlines; http://www.colorlines.com/articles/series-five-rachel-dolezal-2014-raw-interview-videos-will-absolutely-baffle-you

PART 4—Scenes of Subjection: Black Death + Sexual Terror


What was especially interesting to me when I was [in the U.S. in] April was how the video of Walter Scott’s death was being replayed continuously on television (and certainly shared innumerable times on the Internet) as if, by sheer repetition, it would disclose a hidden or secret detail that might make it somehow legitimate. Perhaps the iteration was a means to deaden spectators and drain the spectacle of its full horror? Perhaps there are obscure pleasures in those patterns of identification, for both black and white viewers, of this racial pornography. …I’m almost as concerned by the constant, compulsive replaying of the event as I am by the event itself. There is a complicity in that gesture which is also part of the way that racism becomes culture.

~ Paul Gilroy, The New York Times, October 2015

Reading Assignments:

  1. “Playing Dead: The Trayvoning Meme and the Mocking of Black Death” by Lisa Guerrero and David J. Leonard for New Black Man; http://newblackman.blogspot.com/2012/05/playing-dead-trayvoning-meme-mocking-of.html
  2. “Google Play’s ‘Angry Trayvon’ Game Ignites Fury on Twitter” by Jamilah King for Colorlines; http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/07/google_plays_angry_trayvon_game_ignites_fury_on_twitter.html
  3. “‘Sharkeisha’ Video: Tragedy Is How Many Enjoyed Watching” by Demetria L. Lucas for The Root; http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2013/12/sharkeisha_video_the_real_tragedy_is_how_many_enjoyed_watching.html
  4. “Police let their dog urinate on Michael Brown memorial, then drove over it” by Hunter for Daily Kos; http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/08/27/1325000/-Police-let-their-dog-pee-on-Brown-memorial-then-drove-over-it
  5. “Mike Brown’s shooting and Jim Crow lynchings have too much in common. It’s time for America to own up” by Isabel Wilkerson for The Guardian; http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/25/mike-brown-shooting-jim-crow-lynchings-in-common
  6. “How to encounter a black woman’s body: Politics of Mammy Sphinx” by Brittney Cooper for Salon; http://www.salon.com/2014/06/24/how_to_encounter_a_black_womans_body_the_politics_of_mammy_sphinx/
  7. “Why Do We Look? On Gazing at Dead Black Bodies” by Tara Bynum for Los Angeles Review of Books; http://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/2015/04/08/why-do-we-look-on-gazing-at-dead-black-bodies/
  8. “Kara Walker: ‘There is a moment in life where one becomes black,” interview with Kara Walker by Tim Adams for The Guardian; theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/sep/27/kara-walker-interview-victoria-miro-gallery-atlanta
  9. “An Art Exhibit Revictimizes Michael Brown” by Kristen West Savali for The Root; http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2015/07/artist_ti_rock_moore_portrays_michael_brown_s_lifeless_body_in_chicago_art.html
  10. “Artist defends art installation depicting Michael Brown’s death” by Lindsey Bever for The Washington Post; http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/07/16/artist-defends-art-installation-depicting-michael-browns-death/
  11. “White America Is Addicted to Black Death” by Stacey Patton for Dame Magazine; http://www.damemagazine.com/2015/07/19/white-america-addicted-black-death
  12. “From Lynching Photos to Michael Brown’s Body: Commodifying Black Death” by William C. Anderson for Truth-out; http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28580-from-lynching-photos-to-michael-brown-s-body-commodifying-black-death
  13. “US teens ‘had three-way sex on corpses of men they lured to their house, strangled to death and hog-tied’” for Daily Mail; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2284890/Joliet-murders-Teens-3-way-sex-bodies-men-strangled.html
  14. “Boy, 16, suffers ruptured testicle after rough ‘pat down’ by police woman and now faces infertility” by Alex Greig for Daily Mail; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2541780/Boy-16-suffers-ruptured-testicle-police-pat-infertile.html
  15. “Cop Back On Job After Squeezing Teen’s Testicle So Hard During ‘Stop And Frisk’ It Required Surgery” for Counter Current News; http://countercurrentnews.com/2014/11/cop-who-frisked-darrin-manning-back-on-job/
  16. “This Game Has You Pack Slaves Into Your Ship Like Tetris Blocks” by Brian Hamby for Indie Ruckus; indieruckus.com/pack-slaves-into-your-ship-like-tetris-blocks-in-slave-trade/
  17. “George Zimmerman Shares Trayvon Martin Death Photo, Goes On Bizarre Twitter Rant Against President Obama” by Nathan Francis for The Inquisitr; www.inquisitr.com/2455160/george-zimmerman-shares-trayvon-martin-death-photo-goes-on-bizarre-twitter-rant-against-president-obama/

PART 5—Humanism and its (Black) Others


Let us not refer to the question as ‘the negro question’. Instead, let us call it the “cow question.” …The cows are not being exploited, they are being accumulated and, if need be, killed. …Our bodies are desired, accumulated, and warehoused — like the cows.~ Frank Wilderson

I now saw in my situation, several points of similarity with that of the oxen. They were property, so was I; they were to be broken, so was I. ~ Frederick Douglass

Reading Assignments:

  1. “The Money House at the Bronx Zoological Gardens: Showcases Orangutan and African Man” by Jae Jones for Back Then; http://blackthen.com/the-monkey-house-at-the-bronx-zoological-gardens-showcases-orangutan-and-african-man/
  2. “Blackness, Animality, and the Unsovereign” by Che Gossett for Verso Blog; www.versobooks.com/blogs/2228-che-gossett-blackness-animality-and-the-unsovereign
  3. “FBI’s Letter to Martin Luther King, ‘You filthy, abnormal animal'” by Majestic for Disinformation; http://disinfo.com/2014/11/fbis-letter-martin-luther-king-filthy-abnormal-animal/
  4. “Google Apologizes for Tagging Photos of Black People as ‘Gorillas'” by Taryn Finley for The Huffington Post; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/02/google-black-people-goril_n_7717008.html
  5. “White People Think Black People Are Magical” by Jesse Singal for New York Magazine; http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/11/white-people-think-black-people-are-magical.html
  6. “Darren Wilson’s testimony: Michael Brown looked ‘like a demon,’ was as big as Hulk Hogan” by Arturo Garcia for Raw Story; http://www.rawstory.com/2014/11/darren-wilsons-testimony-michael-brown-looked-like-a-demon-was-as-big-as-hulk-hogan/
  7. “This Is What Darren Wilson Told the Grand Jury About Shooting Michael Brown” by Jaeah Lee and AJ Vicens for Mother Jones; http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/here-are-transcripts-and-audio-darren-wilsons-grand-jury-hearing
  8. “They See Us as Hulks” by Martin T. Reese for Abernathy Magazine; https://abernathymagazine.com/they-see-us-as-hulks/
  9. “Why We Need to Stop Talking About the ‘Magical Negro’” by James Braxton Peterson for Mic; http://mic.com/articles/121515/james-braxton-peterson-why-we-need-to-stop-talking-about-the-magical-negro
  10. “She Mad and She Magic” by Muna Mire for The New Inquiry; com/essays/she-mad-and-she-magic/
  11. “CPD cops posed for photo standing over black man dressed in antlers” by Frank Main and Kim Janssen for Chicago Sun Times; http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/587596/judge-wont-seal-photo-cpd-cops-posing-african-american-man-antlers
  12. “Local Homeowners Defend Texas Cops Who Brutalized Black Teens At Pool Party” by Judd Legum for Think Progress; http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/06/07/3667009/local-homeowners-defend-texas-cops-brutalized-black-teens-pool-party/
  13. “Who Gets To Hang Out At The Pool?” by Gene Demby for NPR; http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/06/09/412913702/who-gets-to-hang-out-at-the-pool
  14. “Texas radio host: Cops used force on pool party ‘jungle animals’ because whites were ‘scared to death’” by David Edwards for Raw Story; http://www.rawstory.com/2015/06/texas-radio-host-cops-used-force-on-pool-party-jungle-animals-because-whites-were-scared-to-death/
  15. “Black Kids Get Less Pain Medication Than White Kids in ER” by Maggie Fox for NBC News; nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/black-kids-get-less-pain-medication-white-kids-er-n427056

PART 6Race, Gender, and the Sports-Media Complex


The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way, because of his thighs and big thighs that [go up] into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs and he’s bred to be the better athlete because this goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trade…the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.

~ Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, Sports Commentator, 1988

Reading Assignments:  

  1. “10 Jaw-Dropping Instances of Racism in Professional Sports” by Diana Eromosele for The Root; http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/04/_10_instances_of_racism_in_professional_sports.html
  2. “Breaking the Taboo On Race and Sports” by John Entine, excerpt from Taboo (2000) for The New York Times; www.nytimes.com/books/first/e/entine-taboo.html
  3. “Exclusive: The extended Donald Sterling Tape” by Kyle Wagner for Deadspin; http://deadspin.com/exclusive-the-extended-donald-sterling-tape-1568291249
  4. “The ugly truth behind Donald Sterling’s racist comments” by Rabbi Eliyahu Fink for Haaretz; http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/the-lighthouse/.premium-1.587831
  5. “Understanding anti-Black racism as species-ism: Reflections on Richard Sherman’s affective excess and the Twitterverse’s response” by M. Shadee Malaklou for Racialicious; http://www.racialicious.com/2014/01/29/understanding-anti-black-racism-species-ism-reflections-richard-shermans-affective-excess-twitterverses-response/
  6. “Cowboys and Indians: On Football, Slurs, and the Celebration of Genocide” by Monica Teresa Ortiz for Black Girl Dangerous; http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/11/cowboys-indians-football-slurs-celebration-genocide/
  7. African players are still being viewed through the narrow prism of physicality” for Premier League Owl; http://thepremierleagueowl.com/african-players-are-still-being-viewed-through-the-narrow-prism-of-physicality/
  8. “Every Serena Williams win comes with a side of disgusting racism and sexism’ by Jenee Desmond-Harris for Vox; http://www.vox.com/2015/3/11/8189679/serena-williams-indian-wells-racism
  9. “When We Attack Serena Williams’ Body, It’s Really About Her Blackness” by Zeba Blay for The Huffington Post; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/serena-williams-policing-of-black-bodies_55a3bef4e4b0a47ac15ccc00
  10. “The world only has ugliness for black women. That’s why Serena Williams is so important” by Brittney Cooper for Salon; http://www.salon.com/2015/07/15/why_serena_williams_is_so_important_the_world_only_has_ugliness_for_black_women%E2%80%94and_she_is_the_black_womans_champion/
  11. “Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett Are Having A Serious Public Debate On Black Lives Matter” by Kevin Draper for Deadspin; com/richard-sherman-and-michael-bennett-are-having-a-seriou-1731544514

Viewing Assignments (short clips):

  1. “Three Things About the Donald Sterling Tape” by Jay Smooth; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhhKQ0P9x9A#t=29
  2. “FIFA and the World Cup” on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver for HBO; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlJEt2KU33I

PART 7Racial Economies of Sex and Desire


How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more. I tried not to believe his foul words, but they were already said, and it was hard to erase from my mind. If this is actually true, if this ugly black filth was able to have sex with a blonde white girl at the age of thirteen while I’ve had to suffer virginity all my life, then this just proves how ridiculous the female gender is. They would give themselves to this filthy scum, but they reject ME? The injustice!

~ Elliot Rodger, Isla Vista Shooter, UC Santa Barbara

Reading Assignments:

  1. “Sex Stereotypes of African Americans Have Long History” – Interview with Mireille Miller-Young for NPR; http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10057104
  2. “No, NY Times, Enslaved African Women Could Not Be The Mistresses Of Those Who Claimed To Own Them” by Shaun King for Daily Kos; www.dailykos.com/story/2015/08/17/1412858/-No-NY-Times-enslaved-African-women-could-not-be-the-mistresses-of-those-who-claimed-to-own-them#
  3. “Sweetness” by Toni Morrison for The New Yorker; http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/09/sweetness-2
  4. “Rules of Attraction” by Vesko Cholakov; http://cholakovv.com/en/blog/2450
  5. “Who we decide to lay with and love is political: An Interview with ‘No Fats, No Femmes’ director Jamal T. Lewis” on RaceBaitR; http://racebaitr.com/2015/12/03/whom-we-decide-to-lay-with-and-love-is-political-an-interview-no-fats-no-femmes-director-jamal-t-lewis/
  6. “Fuck Me Like An Animal: An intimate politics of racialization” by Alok Vaid-Menon; http://diariesofadesigirl.tumblr.com/post/93864801515/fuck-me-like-an-animal-an-intimate-politics-of
  7. “Michael Sam’s White Boyfriend Made Me Sigh” by blogger, Owning My Truth; http://owning-my-truth.com/post/86313796582/why-michael-sams-white-boyfriend-made-me-sigh
  8. “Dylann Roof ‘Went Over the Edge’ When His Girl Crush Started to Date a Black Guy” by Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele for The Root; http://www.theroot.com/articles/news/2015/06/dylann_roof_s_cousin_says_dylann_went_over_the_edge_when_his_girl_crush.html
  9. “How To Resist White Supremacy In Your Love Life: A 5-Step Guide” by Cathy Chen for Black Girl Dangerous; blackgirldangerous.org/2015/09/how-to-resist-white-supremacy-in-your-love-life-a-5-step-guide/
  10. “Growing up as a Brown Girl: Aesthetics” by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez for Huffington Post; huffingtonpost.com/prisca-dorcas-mojica-rodriguez/growing-up-as-a-brown-girl-aesthetics_b_8120358.html
  11. “Miss America and the Indian Beauty Myth” by Asha Rangappa; huffingtonpost.com/asha-rangappa/miss-america-and-the-indian-beauty-myth_b_3941524.html
  12. “My Body Belongs To Me: Navigating Racial Body Politics as a Fat Black Girl” by Anitra Winder for For Harriet; forharriet.com/2015/08/my-body-belongs-to-me-navigating-racial.html#axzz3nUPyVKCe

Viewing Assignments (documentary + short clips):

  1. Dark Girls (dir. Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry, 2011); available through Netflix or online: http://www.disclose.tv/action/viewvideo/195707/Dark_Girls__A_Look_At_Colorism_and_Internalized_Racism_In_The_Black_CommunityFull_Documentary/
  2. “Because you’re brown honey gurl: ‘Tryna’” by Alok Vaid-Menon; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX2Cs15E1MY
  3. “White Fetish” by DarkMatter; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02Fhg0sltks

7 thoughts on “Black Lives (Don’t) Matter

  1. Pingback: RESSOURCES – badassafrofem

  2. Pingback: Black Lives (Don’t) Matter | VN Press

    • This is an open-source syllabus that anyone can use to curate their own class. The nature of online coursework is not conducive to the conversations this syllabus prompts. Thank you for your interest.

  3. Pingback: Summer Session – Syllabus: Black Lives (Don’t) Matter | Bloggsom

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