For nearly two weeks, residents of Ferguson, MO, led a series of nightly protests over the killing of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer. The protests emerged outside the auspices of any mainstream organizations, lacked identifiable leadership, and never made clearly articulated demands of the state. This contrasted sharply with much of the black political commentary on Ferguson, which thought about these events in the still intelligible language of liberal-democratic redress: increased black electoral participation, more black elected officials in local government, more black police officers, and white recognition of black humanity. Such proposals never asked whether the Ferguson protests articulated, on a certain frequency, a refusal of the possibility of the normal processes of redress available in a liberal democratic state. I argue that Ferguson lays bare the limitations of a normative black politics, and taken together with the ontological claim underlying the Black Lives Matter (BLM), calls into question whether it is possible for black lives to matter within the colonial assemblage that is the United States. I frame this discussion through the lens of the politically unimaginable to suggest the possibilities available in viewing Ferguson through the lens of coloniality and decolonial thought.
Minkah Makalani; Black Lives Matter and the Limits of Formal Black Politics. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2017; 116 (3): 529–552. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-3961472
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