Political Activism and Expression in Today’s NBA

The Steve Mills ’81 Sports, Race and Society Lecture is presented by Princeton African American Studies and the Princeton Department of Athletics.

 

Overview from the Princeton Alumni Weekly – 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told a Princeton audience that when a handful of the league’s stars wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts during warmups last year, following a Staten Island, N.Y., grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, he appreciated their effort to express their point of view.

Speaking about Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, the first player to wear the shirt, Silver said, “Credit to him — he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew how much more effective that would be than making a statement to a reporter after a game.” But Silver cautioned that too many political statements on the court would be “a disservice to the fans, who come to see a basketball game.”

Steve Mills ’81, general manager of the New York Knicks, and Craig Robinson ’83, an ESPN commentator and former college coach, joined Silver for the March 24 discussion of “Political Expression and Activism in Today’s NBA,” moderated by Professor Eddie Glaude *97.

The Souls of Black Folk (Audio and ePub)

Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.

W.E.B. Du Bois

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  The Forethought
I.   Of Our Spiritual Strivings
II.   Of the Dawn of Freedom
III.   Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others
IV.   Of the Meaning of Progress
V.   Of the Wings of Atalanta
VI.   Of the Training of Black Men
VII.   Of the Black Belt
VIII.   Of the Quest of the Golden Fleece
IX.   Of the Sons of Master and Man
X.   Of the Faith of the Fathers
XI.   Of the Passing of the First-Born
XII.   Of Alexander Crummell
XIII.   Of the Coming of John
XIV.   Of the Sorrow Songs
  The Afterthought


LISTEN

 

 

Mike Brown’s Body: Meditations on War, Race and Democracy

The Ferguson protests provide an occasion to meditate on the relationship between war, race, freedom and democracy, especially in light of several events: the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the 13th amendment; the 100th anniversary of World War I and the U.S. occupation of Haiti; the 50th anniversary of SNCC’s Freedom Summer, the March on Selma and the Voting Rights Act, the assassination of Malcolm X, and the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act; and the latest “Freedom Summer” of 2014, from the #BlackLivesMatter movement and anti-police violence protests to the war on Gaza.  Taken together, these three lectures performs something of a political autopsy on Mike Brown to reveal both the history of the racial regimes that ultimately left him dead in the streets for four and a half hours, but more importantly, reveal the alternative possibilities for creating democracy rooted in freedom, justice, and decolonization.


John Brown’s Body: Abolition Democracy Against Perpetual War

This talk opens with the killing of Mike Brown and the wave of anti-police protests, and suggests that the struggle for justice for Brown and other victims is not new, nor is it merely a consequence of the militarization of police.  Instead, Brown—like Tanisha Anderson and others—is a casualty of a war originating over 500 years ago, a war to colonize, dispossess, enslave, deny rights of citizenship; a war to decolonize, repossess, emancipate, democratize.  What we’re witnessing, in other words, is part of a much longer struggle not just against enslavement, colonialism, and state violence, but for democracy itself—a struggle on the part of racialized subjects to end racial capitalism’s brutal war, to bring peace and a new democratic, just, order to the world.


Other Brown Bodies: World War on Working Class

Kelley makes at least three central arguments: 1) that World War I was both a war for colonies and a war on the working class, and that the U.S. opened the real “Western Front” with the occupation of Vera Cruz (1914), Haiti (1915), Dominican Republic (1916), etc. 2) that this moment marked the criminalization of Other Brown bodies–the “immigrant”–which in turn masked the war’s character. Examining the consequences of immigration policy rooted in race, empire, militarization, and class war, Kelley shows how mass immigration and immiseration are produced and reproduced, how such policies laid the basis for the national security state in the U.S., and generated massive inequality on a world scale. 3) Suggest that this modern racial regime shored up white support for U.S. imperial power and succeeded in defeating the global working-class, foreclosing (yet again) a radically different future.


Ending War?: Decolonial Democracy Against Neoliberalism

The final lecture circles around 1965 but extends back to Bandung (1955) and decolonization and moves well into the next five decades in order to explain the consolidation of neoliberalism as not just a response to economic crisis but global and national struggles to decolonize, dismantle racism, patriarchy, the rule of capital, and an expanding national security state.  Again, Kelley will discuss both the alternative futures born of this moment, and their defeat.   The so-called Cold War was hardly “cold”: the deployment of U.S. combat operations, state violence, and interventions actually escalated, but the main theaters of war were the Third World and America’s ghettoes and barrios.  The massive expansion of U.S. military and commercial hegemony coincides with successful multiracial struggles for democracy that ultimately achieve the universal franchise for the first time in the U.S.

Life Finds A Way: Bodies, Futures, Embodied Futures

Professor Ruha Benjamin presented at Future Perfect, a conference sponsored by the New York City based research group, Data & Society.

Full conference summary.

Future Perfect resumed with a presentation by Ruha Benjamin, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Benjamin used speculative ethnographic field notes to deliver her talk, entitled “Designer and discarded genomes: Experimenting with sociological imagination through speculative methods.” In order to “explore the antecedents and implications of the current era of genetic engineering,” Benjamin read a series of field notes from the Human Genome Project-Write initiative, a 2016 convening at Harvard for discussing the implications and logistics of producing synthetic human genomes. Benjamin subsequently read fictional field notes from 1816 and 2216 — 200 years into the past and future, respectively.

Benjamin drew attention to the changing standards of what constitutes “human life,” using her notes from 1816 to explore ideas of “humanity” as applied to enslaved peoples during the Middle Passage. Her 2216 notes explored speculative divisions between beings modified so that they no longer have to eat, and unmodified beings which still used food as an energy source. By doing so, Benjamin had the audience consider what part of “humanity” was discarded in the context of slavery. In the future, she asked, when we have the power to design “‘ideal’ genomes, what versions of humanity are discarded?” Benjamin concluded by observing that “fictions are not falsehoods, but re-fashionings.”