How does Black Lives Matter cross borders?

From: Joshua Guild
To: Focus
Date: September 24, 2015, 11:12am

Thanks to all of you for these thoughtful and challenging opening provocations. There are many directions the conversation could go from here, and a host of themes/topics I hope we can delve into more deeply as we continue. But one of the things that strikes me the most in reading back over the contributions thus far are the multiple invocations of the international, the global, and the imperial.

Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post

Charlene characterized BLM as being at once “hyper-local and internationalist,” which I think is a useful framing and one that demands our further attention. Rinaldo and Joy both asked us to think about how BLM has been shaped by Obama’s role as the black face of the American Empire. Though I think she was making a slightly different point, Imani invoked Hall to ask, “What is this ‘Black’ in Black Lives Matter?”

One entry point into trying to answer that question, it seems to me, is to think more expansively about BLM in relation to non-U.S. blacks, both inside and outside the nation. Jessica argues that, “#BlackLivesMatter demands a radical seeing of each other — intra-black, infrared, diasporic, futuristic, historic, archived and unimaginable.” If this is so, how might we reflect on the ongoing violent expulsions of Dominicans of Haitian descent from the D.R. in this context? Or consider the human rights crisis of migrant deaths, detention, and marginalization occasioned by “Fortress Europe?” Or the global response to epidemics in West Africa and Haiti and what Peter James Hudson and Jemima Pierre refer to as “the epidemiology of anti-blackness?”

This is the challenge of black studies, as Christina Sharpe puts it, “in the wake.”

So, as the movement enters into what Keeanga refers to as its “second phase,” how might it balance local, national, and transnational concerns simultaneously? What manifestations of BLM are best suited for this work? Are there risks to the movement — and whatever successes it has achieved thus far — in broadening its primary focus beyond systemic anti-black state violence in the U.S.? What are the consequences of not doing so? What does history offer in this regard, either in terms of cautionary tales or models of organizing?

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