“We began discussions of this special issue on “Hacking the Black/White Binary,” less than one week after George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old, unarmed Black teenager from Florida.
The duration of our editorial process for the issue has been undertaken in the midst of another police killing of an unarmed Black teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown from Missouri. And now, we complete this introduction upon the announcement in the wake of the failure of a St. Louis County grand jury to bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson for Michael Brown’s murder. A few days after the announcement for Michael Brown’s case, we are pressed to return to this introduction to include another failure by a grand jury to bring charges for another incident of police brutality: the chokehold death of unarmed, father of six, Eric Garner in New York City. In a tragic viral video of the incident, Garner can be heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe,” as a police officer applies a chokehold.
“These killings, the grand jury’s repetitive failures to bring charges, and the frequency of police brutality against Black men have sparked protests around the country. Most of these protests have been peaceful, even as they have been met with severe tactics of police repression, including the use of tanks, stun grenades, and tear gas. The protests have relied on digital and social media, viral videos, and hacking to bring visibility to these injustices and to mobilize protesters not only in the United States but also in Britain, Germany, Japan, and Palestine. The optics of this moment, engaged uncritically, might lead us to conclude that America had revisited the severe racial politics of the 1960s, an era characterized by overt suppression of the rights of Black people by White people. It is this narrative of racial suppression – that of Whites oppressing Blacks – that inheres in our easy recourse to binary racial logics. Indeed, Ferguson reminds us of all the ways in which we as a nation have not “hacked” the White/Black binary.”
– Brittney Cooper and Margaret Rhee for ada