Written at such an opportune momentin history, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s From#BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, delivers a clear and rigorous historicalanalysis of race and class in the United States dating from the days of theCold War and Jim Crow to Generation O, the generation of President Obama’slegacy.
Through her analysis, she explores the social, political and economicwell-being of African Americans and the policies that were implemented in the20th century that created the culture of racism and poverty amongthe Black community as it exists today. Additionally, Taylor’s book offersinsight into how the challenges of police brutality, mass incarceration andeconomic suppression has reinforced how sometimes simply being Black makes onethe victim of a crime. She further explains how the racial criminalization of Blacksand modes of modern policing endured by society incited the birth of the BlackLives Matter movement, under the leadership of the nation’s first Blackpresident. Taylor profoundly helps to examine the relationship between blackpolitics, black poverty and the movement against police violence by declaringthe potential that millennials have to take the lessons learned from the civilrights leaders to create a broad anti-capitalist movement with the ability totransform the entire United States. At the beginning of the book Tayloroffer insight on “ideology” and how “an ideology must be constantly created andverified in social life; if it is not, it dies, even though it may seem to besafely embodied in a form that can be handed down” (Taylor, 2016, p. 24). Whenit comes to race and poverty, Taylor asserts how notions of colorblindness andAmerican exceptionalism allows people the refusal to acknowledge causes andconsequences of racial stratification and instead blames blacks for their ownoppression.
However, Taylor’s perspective is unique in that she not onlycriticizes Whites and Republicans for thinking this way, but really scrutinizesBlack elected officials for engaging in such demeaning behavior. While somescholars criticize President Obama for running a race neutral presidency,Taylor sharply contends that his failure to address the real issues of theBlack community and playing the blame game has contributed to the growing protestculture of the United States. President Obama and many other black electedofficials, “use their perches to articulate the worst stereotypes of Blacks inorder to shift blame away from their own incompetence” (p.
78). Instead ofacknowledging the systemic and institutional racism that has given these issuesroot, President Obama blames black fathers and families for their unhealthyeating habits, failure to spend time with their children reading and lack of astable home life. These politicians have become such machines and slaves to thecorporations and organizations that support their campaign that they arereluctant to even effectively intervene on behalf of poor and working classAfrican Americans.
They use theiridentities to project to the public that they have unique capabilities in theevent of public unrest but usually obscure their actions under a cloak ofimagined racial solidarity.One of the major themes presentedin the book is “law and order”, politicians plea to ramp up officers policingthe streets and make prison sentences more stringent in an attempt to tighten upon crime. While Taylor acknowledges the effect that this has had on the blackcommunity, she credits the Truman presidency for its initial start.
However,the notion of “law and order” is not a phenomenon started by Truman, but onethat has existed since the days of colonialism and imperialism. The harshtreatment that natives and the indigenous people had to endure from Europeanswas an example of “law and order.” Throughout history this idea of patrollingthe Black community and asserting racial dominance over them existed even with Blackcodes and laws such as Jim Crow. Taylor fails to connect the dots andacknowledge that this mindset existed way before President Truman was electedto office. Taylor does do a wonderful job withthe organization of the book tracing how the new wave of protesters presents adifferent approach to fighting racial injustices than their predecessors. Whilereceiving sharp criticism from Civil Rights leaders such as Rev. Al Sharpton,Taylor recognizes that the generational divide amongst the pioneers of the newcivil rights movement isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Even though Sharpton,Obama and other leaders encourage black youth to protest peacefully andrespectfully Taylor commends them for taking a more holistic approach andfighting against the norms. She recognizes that the previous generation’s pleato just accept laws based on specific requests has also influenced the currentBlack Lives Matter movement and the direction in which it is headed. Contraryto the work of other scholars who believe that Black Lives Matter is a moment,Taylor insists that it is a movement. She admits that there is no centralleader and no financial support, but the movement has created a sense of prideand combativeness among millennials that has rallied people of all ages fromacross the country.
Taylor’s staunch perspective thatthe plea to freedom, social justice and equality can be reached through humanliberation and social transformation highlights her ability to chronicle theneed for a new civil rights movement. We, Black America, cannot be integratedinto a burning house as King warns, but Taylor proposes strategically planningtheoretical and political clarity to confront challenges in the real world.Taylor stresses the importance of solidarity and relentless efforts to rise upagainst capitalism which she suggests is a major factor of racism.
Capitalisticpractices have allowed for the unequal distribution of wealth and resources aswell as the controlling source behind many elected officials who depend onausterity budgets and donations to increase their own wealth. Taylor’s mainargument is to encourage the millennials to create a worldview to end policeterror and transform the United States in a way that the police is not neededto respond to the consequences of inequality. Her work gives the currentgeneration hope that political, social, and economic liberation for Blacks canbe achieved if they continue to stand together and be unyielding in theirpursuit of equality and justice.