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Racial Protest as a Form of Mourning

Racial Protest as a Form of Mourning

George Yancey, author and Duquesne University professor of philosophy, has been interviewing philosophers on the subject of race for a series in The New York Times.

In “What’s Wrong With ‘All Lives Matter’?” Yancey’s fifth interview subject, Judith Butler (a professor at University of California, Berkeley) makes the point that the protest “All Lives Matter” states a given – that no life is worth less than another – that has not been “historically realized,” and that the recent deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and similar incidents stem from racist perceptions of threats where there are none:

“When we are taking about racism, and anti-black racism in the United States, we have to remember that under slavery black lives were considered only a fraction of a human life, so the prevailing way of valuing lives assumed that some lives mattered more, were more human, more worthy, more deserving of life and freedom, where freedom meant minimally the freedom to move and thrive without being subjected to coercive force. But when and where did black lives ever really get free of coercive force?”

Butler says that the lives lost to police aggression “belong to the increasing number of those who are understood as ungrievable, whose lives are thought not to be worth preserving,” but as a result, “what we are also seeing in the recent and continuing assemblies, rallies and vigils is an open mourning for those whose lives were cut short and without cause, brutally extinguished.”

Previous interviews in this series:
Black Lives: Between Grief and Action,” with Williams College professor Joy James
White Anxiety and the Futility of Black Hope,” with University of North Carolina, Charlotte professor Shannon Sullivan
Lost in Rawlsland,” with Northwestern University professor Charles Mills
What ‘White Privilege’ Really Means,” with University of Oregon professor Naomi Zack


Posted by Cara Modisett


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Nancy Bennett

I’m almost positive you can grasp what I’m saying. If not…maybe there’s a bigger problem than I think.

Mark Kozielec

And, again… What?

Nancy Bennett

All lives matter — except when they are in utero. Particularly if they are black lives in utero. If you are a black child gestating in your mother’s womb in New York City, for example, you are more likely to be killed than born.

Philip B. Spivey


Nancy Bennett

I’m not sure what part of my comment is confusing.

This is a long angst-ridden article parsing the difference between “black lives matter” and “all lives matter” which completely ignores at least 2 massive elephants in the room when it comes to loss of black life. One of which is the extremely high black abortion rate which in some areas of the country exceeds the birth rate. But this is not a matter of concern for liberals because unborn lives do not matter.

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