Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
Keenga-Yamahtta Taylor’s book, From #Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation (2016, Haymarket Books) is an in-depth analysis of the historical racial conditions that led to the #Black Lives Matter movement. Taylor present a sweeping analysis of Black history in America. She presents the history of Black liberation struggles, from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, to the Black Power Movement of the 60s and 70s, to it’s reconstruction as a movement for electoral power and economic status, culminating in the Obama Presidency, the succession of Black urban uprisings and curent eruption in the Movement for Black Lives. Taylor also covers the history of policing in the Black community, beginning in Reconstruction, through the migration of Black people to the urban North, the entrenchment of Black urban poverty as a racist national policy, to the mass incarceration under the Clinton Administration, and the police brutality and lynchings that led to the explosion of the #Black Lives Matter movement. You could be overwhelmed by such a broad historical analysis, but Taylor is a brilliant historian who carefully selects the most salient facts and themes that are critical for the narrative of Black oppression and liberation. You will not be overwhelmed, you will be informed and enlightened. If you have not read anything about the #Black Lives Matter movement thus far, this is the one book that you could read to understand it’s causes, goals and most salient features.
Taylor’s thesis is that the Movement for Black Lives is one is that unveils and connects all the issues that comprise the most oppressive conditions of American society. Taylor is a Black Socialist whose claim that the liberation for Black Lives creates conditions of liberation for all poor and working class people is highly persuasive. She asserts that the fight against police brutality is a crucial struggle for the dignity of Black people; yet the struggle must extend to a broader social and economic movement against a rapacious plutocracy that impoverishes and disempowers the entire working class, because it is so divided by white supremacy and racism. Taylor’s historical and political analysis argues for the ‘radical reconstruction’ of American capitalist society called for by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a quote that opens Taylor’s first chapter:
In these trying circumstances, the black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to fact all its interrelated flaws—racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing the evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggest that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced. . . (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “A Testament of Hope” (1969)
Keenga-Yamahtta Taylor is a Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. From #Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation (2016) is available at Haymarket Books: https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/778-from-blacklivesmatter-to-black-liberation