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MSU Guest Speaker: White Supremacy “is in the Water”

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Contributor: Bri Saroli

Dr. Savannah Shange, author of Progressive Dystopia: Abolition, Anti-Blackness + Schooling in San Francisco, came to Michigan State to speak about “Abolition as a Black Feminist.”

She is a black feminist scholar and an assistant professor of anthropology at UC Santa Cruz.

Her discussion included topics from her book, centered about the Robeson Justice Academy in San Francisco. In the book, the school was designed for social justice, but began to exhibit anti-blackness.

[RELATED STORY: MSU Event Highlights "The Black Tax" Language Barrier and "Linguistic Racism"]

Shange opened with her focus on low-income “youth of color" having issues with equity, by the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Further, she shared, progressive dystopia, “a real-life mirror where diversity is king, settlers keep settling and slavery never stops." She explained the dystopia is an attempt to “engage anthropology as a practice of abolition and an ethnography of the afterlife of slavery.”

The word abolition, she went on, is not “a synonym for resistance…black people and our accomplices work within, against and beyond the state in a service of collectivity." Shange argued throughout her speech for “abolition not revolution” or “progressive reform” to fix the issue of “black freedom."

She talked about the importance of the “black girl magic,” the power and beauty of black women. The #Blackgirlmagic movement began in 2013 by CaShawn Thompson.

In addition, she highlighted the term “black girl ordinary.'' It demonstrates “the ways in people live black girlhood and black womanhood is all magical,” as well as how it is a way of “valuing and loving…black Americanness without the language of exception."

Shange then targeted charter schools and school discipline. The “zero-tolerance charter schools” are not doing anything good for the black community. Due to the black students’ conduct, and how it gets out of hand at times, Shange describes how the discipline used creates a “mode of racial solidarity, cannibaliz[ing] black suffering.”

[RELATED STORY: "Blacks...set up to fail" Says MSU Guest Speaker, Calls for "Disruptors"]

She describes that both boys and girls were asked, almost the same amount of times, to leave classrooms for their “unruly blackness” behavior.

Shange ended her speech by stating that white supremacy is “happening everywhere and is in the water.”

The event was sponsored by the College of Arts & Letters on January 30, 2020, in Wells Hall.

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