Black Lives Matter

The Stanford Sphere fully supports the protests against police violence and structural racism  catalyzed by the unjust killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department, as well as the killings of Breonna Taylor by the Louisville Metro Police Department and Tony McDade by the Tallahassee Police Department. As a publication devoted to furthering left-wing and progressive perspectives at Stanford, we are deeply indebted to America’s Black freedom movement and its legacy on the left—from the historical role of Black freedom fighters like Harry Haywood and William Patterson in organizing labor throughout the US across racial lines, to the work of groups like the Black Panther Party in showing the power of mutual aid to build a social movement. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, and we want to do all we can to help address the causes of that hurt.

This week, we have seen an upswell of action against the structural racism entrenched in the United States. And we have been heartened to see protests and solidarity all over the world, in the streets of London, Tokyo, Vancouver, Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi, and so many others. We hope that this moment of righteous anger and radical critique continues to grow until it cannot be ignored. We cannot let these protests falter or allow their radical demands to be co-opted by corporate entities that care only about profit. Instead, we must ensure that they become a long-term movement that can topple the oppressive structures under which Black Americans have suffered for centuries. 

To help build that movement, it is vital to take action to support these protests in the moment. If you are able to safely attend a physical protest in your area, we hope you can be there in solidarity. If you are not able to be physically present, we urge you to donate, as the writers of the Sphere have, to the following organizations:

And if you are new to thinking about police brutality, white supremacy, and the links between racism and capitalism, it may be useful to read the following guides, books, and essays:

    • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley and Malcolm X;
    • The Souls of Black Folk, by W. E. B. Du Bois;
    • Notes from a Native Son, by James Baldwin;
    • Women, Race, and Class, by Angela Davis;
    • Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis;
    • Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison;
    • Golden Gulag, by Ruth Wilson Gilmore;
    • The Fateful Triangle, by Stuart Hall;
    • “The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates;
    • The End of Policing, by Alex Vitale;
    • The Racial Contract, by Charles W. Mills;
    • Black Marxism, by Cedric Robinson;
    • Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression, by Robin Kelley;
    • Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America, by Barbara Fields;
    • The 1619 Project, curated by Nikole Hannah-Jones;
    • Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine.

Yet reading alone is not sufficient. Racism is a corrosive force—it warps our social relations in ways felt viscerally, in ways more immediate than what any book can teach. If you are not Black, consider how your own social circles are shaped by race: How often are you a minority in a room? How many of your Instagram photos are filled with people who look like you? How often do you encounter the police in your day-to-day life? Discuss what you learn and what you experience in this moment with your friends, your family, your neighbors. Use this moment of crisis and pain to build solidarity and empathy.

Capitalism in America has always been predicated on the exploitation of Black labor, and any attempt to break free from capitalism and build a better world must address the harms of anti-Black racism. In the same light, we must incorporate anti-capitalism into our efforts to fight racism. The Sphere remains committed to these goals.

Sphere Editorial Board

Image: George Floyd protests in San Francisco, by Mark Sebastian, Wikimedia Commons.

The Invisible Quicksand of the Market

Eight years ago, the link aggregator Digg caused an uproar: content would be ordered based on user activity. Today, we take that for granted. In 2010, it spelled the end of Digg. A commenter with the handle blue_beetle lamented, “If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” Simplistic, sure, but it got the point across: we had entered an age in which entire business models could rest on the idea of collecting your information—not something we should necessarily be comfortable with. Fast forward eight years, and the blue_beetle’s comment is as relevant as ever. We have come to accept data as the basis for every online transaction, a condition as obvious as it is easy to forget.

Continue reading “The Invisible Quicksand of the Market”

Me Too

Last week the editor asked me to write a piece on how perpetrators are victims themselves. He believed I would be the right person to write that given that I am a survivor of sexual assault and do believe that the person who raped me was a victim of certain things at certain points in his life. Nonetheless, it’s one thing to explain to a friend how you re-humanized a person you hated so you could understand why you stayed in a terrible relationship and a whole other to write a piece that feels diminishing to all the pain I experienced. My friend the editor didn’t mean to be insensitive. He understands pain and hate but in a context very different to sexual assault and harassment.

Continue reading “Me Too”