Days of Rage, the Book

Recently, I came across the book, Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence, by Bryan Burrough. Based upon a book review by David Hines that is thick with detail, Days of Rage is a definite add to my reading list.

days of rage

Political violence in the U.S. did not begin in the 1970s, or escalate in virulence during that period. America was birthed in revolutionary violence. One hundred years later there was a war between the States that capped off the previous centuries’ violence against African and indigenous people, with mass White on White violence. One hundred years after that war, the brutal violence of 1960s America included regular bombings throughout the South, including a church bombing that killed four young girls, as well as assassination of a President of the United States.

The most intriguing aspect of the violence accounted for in Days of Rage, then, is the framing of the political violence of the 1970s as violence that is not conducted by and for White people, but as organized violence in furtherance of Black liberation. According to the Hines book review, Days of Rage links the culture of violent resistance in the 1970s to the activism of Robert Williams, Malcolm X (though he died in 1965), Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Huey Newton, and Eldridge Cleaver. Black men who, no doubt influenced by the recent revolutionary struggles for liberation and decolonization in Africa, pursued Black liberation in the U.S. using the traditional American means of violence.

I would say, then, that the revolutionary anti-colonialist struggles of Black people globally was indirectly connected to the American White mainstream’s anti-imperialist opposition to the war in Vietnam in the late sixties, and was directly connected to the violent struggle for Black liberation in the U.S. in the 1970s, which was, in turn, directly related to the American Right’s doubling down on asserting dominance and control over Brown people internationally, and Black people domestically from the 1980s onward. (Evidence of this doubling down being found in the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada, which efficiently communicated the dual message of America’s behooved subjugation of both “Third World” people and Black people. This was the first iteration of Making White America Great Again, you might say.)

The unremembered history of the violence of 1970s America not only provides much needed context for the ascendancy of the Reagan Right, but helps to explain the entrenchment of pacifism that occurred among academic theologians during this time period. As Martin Luther King, Jr. points out in his Letter from Birmingham Jail of 1963, most White theologians of this era were so constrained by a culture of White supremacy that they denounced even nonviolent activism by Black people, in deference to the maintenance of White “order.” If White Theology was passively, yet adamantly, nonaligned with Black people’s nonviolent resistance during the 1960s, then the violent resistance of Black people during the 1970s could have no other effect than to elicit an actively staunch opposition from White Theology.

I am looking forward to reading Days of Rage. I think it will be instructive in many different ways, not least of which will be aiding my understanding of the limits of what Black rage will accomplish.

 

Let There Be Dinner, Dessert, and Dancing!

I had been wanting steak and was not keen on going into a restaurant and ordering a steak on my own. It is not that I have a problem eating on my own, but a steak dinner is not the kind of thing that one indulges in by oneself. Also, steak dinners are pricey.

For various reasons, I decided a few days before it occurred to attend a Conference hosted by my Department.

Gender Unit launch

At the close of the Conference one of the Profs invited me to a small dinner that the department was hosting for two of the eminent persons who had presented. I, of course, accepted the invitation.

The dinner was held at an elegant restaurant.

Big_Easy Restaurant

I marveled that I had been given the opportunity to dine with such an esteemed group. I was the only student present.

Because I was marveling at my good fortune at being included, the fact that I might be able to finally have a steak did not register. The steaks being ordered by others sounded good, but there was also a very inviting Fish of the Day on the menu.

I asked the waiter for his recommendation. He informed me that the fish was excellent, and that the steak was recognized as the second best in the entire country.  “It depends on what you have been wanting to eat. Maybe you just had steak or fish, then I would order the other.”

At these words, I knew why I found myself sharing in this dinner. The Lord was giving me steak, that I would not have to eat alone, or worry about paying for.

I returned the menu to the waiter, and ordered my steak, in that elegant restaurant, among those esteemed personages.

Big Easy. Steak

As promised, the steak was outstanding.

Dessert, my favorite part of a meal, followed. I had the strawberries and cream baked cheesecake. It, too, was perfect.

Big Easy. Cheesecake

When I was driving away from the dinner, I laughed out loud, giddy over the extravagance of the the Lord’s grace towards me.

Then, getting close to home, I saw a text on my phone reminding me that traffic might be dense in the city because the Cape Town Jazzfest was underway and a free concert was taking place on Greenmarket Square. En Vogue was performing at the free concert.

The previous year it took hours for the headline act to come to the stage, and I actually left the concert before they did. This year, I thought, still buzzing with joy as I drove into the city, it was late enough that if I went by the concert I might be just in time to catch En Vogue. I went, and I was right.

I sang and danced under the velvety night sky soaking in the jazz-infused vibe of Greenmarket Square.

Jazzfest

It was a night of utter wonderfulness.

The Lord told David the King, that though he had given David everything imaginable, including the kingdom, “if that had been too little, I would have given you even more!” (2 Sam. 12:7-8)

Let me affirm for you the truth of this statement. God has given me Cape Town. And keeps giving me even more.

P.S. This happened right around my birthday.  The Lord remembers.

 

 

Movie Review: White People as Nocturnal Animals

nocturnal animalsFinal Grade: A

Nocturnal Animals is a film ostensibly about relationships. The fashion guy, Tom Ford (who is the designer who dressed Daniel Craig in the last three James Bond films, who caused me to want to marry Craig after watching him move in those suits… Oops! Digression…) wrote the screenplay and directed this film. It is stylish and glamorously artistic, dark, subversive, and brilliant.

The movie stars Amy Adams as gallery owner, Susan. It tracks Susan’s reflections on her life and loves. Said reflections having been triggered by her reading of the very violent soon-to-be-published novel of Susan’s ex-husband, Tony.

One of my favorite scenes involves Susan pausing before a painting of the disassembled word REVENGE in her gallery, as if seeing the painting for the first time. It is a moment of revelation of the idea of vengeance; a moment of Susan reckoning with her past. The painted work of art is deeply affecting for Susan the viewer, in the way that the filmed work of art, that is Nocturnal Animals, might be deeply affecting to viewers of the film.

nocturnal animals. revenge

This kind of multilayered messaging is what I loved about this film.

The greatest example of which, for me, has to do with race. This film is not concerned at all with overt issues of Black/White race relations. Nevertheless, the logics of race, specifically of the White race, permeate it.

In a flashback of Susan and and her ex-husband Tony’s (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) first date conversation, Susan glibly lists all of the problematics represented by her conservative, Republican parents. They are racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. It is this litany of conservative sins that is the seminal clue we are provided with that such matters are central to the operation of the narrative.

Ford soon shows us the the prophesied transformation of Susan into her Texas-rich mother, played by the hardly recognizable, and formidably talented Laura Linney.

Noctural Creatures.LauraLinney

While we are busy lamenting Susan’s understandable metamorphosis into wealthy White Womanhood, the story-within-a-story of ex-husband Tony’s novel unfolds. In the novel, a young couple and their teenage daughter are traveling at night across Texas. A car accident occurs that ultimately results in the wife and daughter meeting a grim fate–the unpardonable sin against White Womanhood. The story’s repeat references to the daughter as young, unaware, and generally innocent, has primed the audience for an, “Oh no! Not his daughter!”, reaction when the horror against her is revealed.

This is where the brilliance lies. Ford shows us the emptiness of young Susan’s grasping after the full measure of Whiteness which is her due, and then confronts us with our own collective veneration of White Womanhood, of White female youthful promise, in his flower-cut-down-before-it-has-reached-full-bloom way.

He makes this kind of subversive move again vís-a-vís White men. In Tony’s novel, the crime against White Womanhood is unconscionable and depraved, we are meant to understand. But we behold that this act of savagery is not committed by the typically (savage) Black or Brown  man, but by the (eminently/inherently humane) White man. That’s a twist. The fairy dust that Ford sprinkles on top, though, is to employ the very marks of humane White maleness–rationality, gentleness (not savagery), civility and adherence to the rule of law–to serve a White man’s masked and abject brutality.

While we are yet in the process of navigating our disorientation at the depiction of the banal evil of a White man and his friends on film, (“They must be pranksters. They aren’t really bad guys, surely,” we want to think in befuddlement), Ford confronts us with the troubling implications of our own sense of rationality and love of rules and justice. We shows us how we have been formed in the same mold as the humane White men, the “good guys,” we are watching on screen. He then contorts our law-and-order love into dimensions we never anticipated, by taking us into the mind of those who would substitute for rules, Texas-style frontier justice–over which hangs the immense and unmistakable shadow of southern lynch mobs and Klan murderers who historically pursued the same kind of justice (also in defense of White Womanhood).

As the film proceeds to its disturbing end we have no idea anymore of where we  stand, good people that we are, or of what outcome we should be hoping for.

Tom Ford has done beautiful work with this dark tale. We are all, especially we White people, this film seems to say, animals of the dark.

Words Academics Like

Here are some words. Words that I have begun to compile into a Lexicon. There are some 60+ included, thus far.

What I am learning is that a lexicon such as this, is much like a loyalty card that you get from a retailer.  Whenever you are in a place that is “academic,” you show your words, liberally and in combination, and you rack up points in the guild of Humanities scholars!

Do comment with your additions to the list!

Lexicon

Aesthetics

Always already

Alterity

Banal, banality

Baroque

Binary

Cartesian

Colonial

Commons

Contested

Contextualized, Contextual

Contingent

Decolonial, decolonize, decoloniality

Deconstruction

Desire

Dialectic

Diasporic

Discourse, discursive

Dualism

Enlightenment

Episteme

Epistemological

Essentializing, Essentialism, Essentialist

Existential

Exteriority

Feminisms

Fetish, Fetishism, Fetishization

Gaze

Geographies

Global South

Hegemony, hegemonic, hegemon

Hermeneutic

Heuristic

Humanism

Immanence

Inscribe

Interiority

Interrogate, interrogation

Late-capitalism

Liberalism

Logics

Marxist (and its hyphenated variants, e.g., Afro-Marxist)

Mimetic

Minoritized

Modernity

Narrative

Neo-colonial, Neocolonialism

Neo-liberal, neoliberalism

Normative

Ontological

Patriarchy, patriarchal

Panopticon

Performative

Post-colonial, post-coloniality, post-colonialism

Post-industrial

Post-modern, postmodernism, postmodernity

Post-racial

Poststructural

Praxis

Pre-modern

Privilege, privileging

Production

Publics

Rationalism

Reifying

Secularism, secularization

Semiotics

Sign, signify, signification

Subaltern

Subjectivity, subject

#sweetjesus & Womanist Theology

Since, unlike most people my age, I don’t have a spouse or children whose exploits I might publicly share, I have decided to share with the world the absolutely wondrous relationship that I have with Jesus. After making this decision, it seemed, I had more thoughts of things to say about my #sweetjesus than I had time to write down.

On Being Named

A South African, who is Zulu, once asked me what my  name meant. I replied that my name did not have a meaning. I was named after an aunt. It had never occurred to me to wonder about the meaning of my name beyond that fact.

Recently, though, I have been considering Africanizing my middle name, in the way that the Hebrew Yeshua became the Latinized Jesus, or Mary, Italianized, becomes Maria. I would go from Anjeanette to Njaane.

To think about an African name, though, is to think about the meaning of the name. If I am going to have an African name, I must be prepared to share what my name means. Which is how I found myself looking up my  names’ meanings. What I discovered astonished and delighted me.

My first name, a re-spelling of Elise, from the Hebrew means either: “Oath of God,” or “God is my satisfaction.” The latter meaning, I thought, was highly appropriate.

It was the meaning of my name derived from the French, though, that truly arrested me.

It means, “Consecrated to God.”

I could not believe it when I read the words. My father named me, and was a Francophile, so the French derivation is certainly fitting.

I am consecrated to God. Of course I am. This is why I alone among my siblings committed to serving the Lord as a teenager. This is why I loved serving in the church much more than I ever cared about my professional life. This is why I left the practice of law to study theology. This is why I am seeking ordination in the church.

So astonished was I by the rightness of the meaning of my first name that I then looked up the meaning of my middle name, Anjeanette. This name is rare. In fact, I thought it might be something that my father came up with himself. I did not expect to find a meaning for it. But I did, and my heart was lit up by what I found.

Anjeanette means, “Gift of God’s favor.”

I don’t know if my parents understood my birth as a gift of God’s favor (seeing as how I was a bonus baby, and how they already had two little ones, born 11 months apart, at the time that I arrived 18 months after my sister, and how their marriage was coming undone at the time), but the name has proven true. My life has been a testament to the enduring gift of God’s favor. Favor that encompasses too much to list.

As I digested the significance of being named my names, I heard the voice of the Lord saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:5)

Before Alease was born, she was consecrated to God and appointed to nations.

The truth that African peoples have always known has now been revealed to me. My identity is all wrapped up in my name.

 

Movie Review: La La Land or Blah Blah Bland

La La Land

Final Grade: B

La La Land is a musical starring Emma Stone (with noticeably corrected eyes) and Ryan Gosling, which hearkens back to the musical love stories of 1940s Hollywood. Love is beautiful, dreams come true, and, in the 21st century remix, Black people exist and live together in harmony with White people.

I had two favorite scenes. First, when the main character, Seb, is on a bridge pondering in song whether the stars are smiling down and bringing love to him, he encounters a Black couple. A full-figured older woman and her husband sway lovingly together against the backdrop of the setting sun. It was a very minor moment. But there was a specialness to it for me.

Second, the scene where the leads, moving towards their attraction to one another, go to the movies. In the moments before their likely first kiss, their fingers brush on the seat armrest. Then we see their fingers gradually interlace. It was a gesture that conveyed the tenderness and tremulousness of their feelings. Lovely.

La La Land.movies

One other beautiful thing this movie gave us was jazz. Whenever there was jazz, the heart of the movie began to beat. I especially appreciated the one musical piece that repeatedly drew the lovers together. It is fittingly called, “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme.”  Listen to this 1:38 minute clip (and the unbelievable grand-piano-quality sound of the electronic keyboard being played):

“Mia and Sebastian’s Theme” is a gentle, lush, complex song, and every scene where the song appears is captivating. Jazz was unquestionably the scene-stealing star of this movie.

Another plus was the regular inclusion of Black bodies in a movie not expressly intended for Black audiences. Hooray for employed Black actors!

Overall, though, this was not a great movie.

The lead singing is meh. Everybody is on key, but the sound is soulless. The songs sung are meh. Completely forgettable. The dancing is meh. The leads were achingly lacking in grace. Watching them, one had the sense that they began filming with no prior knowledge of what it is for a body to be moved by and with and to music; that they were hard pressed to dance, while singing, and also acting.

The real problem with this movie, though, is that our lived realities in these trumptastic times are so tense with drama that the tepid plot points of La La Land could not  compete. There is a frivolity to the movie that feels inappropriate to our moment.

I can only surmise that the movie’s great appeal is due to mainstream America being desperate for this particular kind of racially-reconciled, cotton-candied, nostalgic, singing and dancing to assure them that everything will be, if not perfect, at least just fine.