Boldly Going Nowhere. Star Trek and the Limits of Hollywood’s Imagination

(Spoilers for the new film abound)

For me, Star Trek has always represented a very specific future. A future that had potentially outrun so many of the ills of present day society and, in specific, the ill of white supremacy. I won’t lie and pretend that this is an ideal that any of the series’ presents in a very strong manner — Deep Space 9 perhaps came the closest to presenting this by showcasing a complex Black captain/father/partner as the lead — but it was an ideal that I allowed myself to fantasize as living just beyond the screen.

And so as Chris Pine, Karl Urban, and Zachary Quinto stood triumphant near the end of the most recent installation to the Star Trek macrocosm, Star Trek Beyond, I realized that while the universe I had conjured in my head was potentially beyond white supremacy, the one that was depicted on-screen in front of me most definitely was not. In fact, this future seemed worse than the present — it felt almost like a dystopia. (more…)

The Civil Tube: Jon Stewart Takes Over Colbert’s Late Show Desk

The Republican national convention wrapped up last night, and while we’ll be hearing plenty of serious political analysis of the convention in the days to come, it’s also important to put it all into context with some levity and a few laughs.

And that’s exactly what Jon Stewart did in a recent appearance on the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. We’ve missed you Jon. Watch below.

Thoughts From The Past Few Days

For a few days now, I’ve been trying to assemble my words into a coherent narrative to help make sense of the last few days. I still have nothing entirely complete (and certainly nothing profound). I have shards of thoughts — bits and pieces of emotions and ideas that rise to the surface and then recede. I’ve tried to grab a few of them to share here. Be gentle.


“We feel powerless.”

Something I’ve known for a long time (but never completely verbalized) finally cemented itself in my mind this past week. To be African-American in this country is to feel — and often to actually be — nearly powerless. In a recent piece Michael Eric Dyson summed up this feeling:

Day in and day out, we feel powerless to make our black lives matter. We feel powerless to make you believe that our black lives should matter. We feel powerless to keep you from killing black people in front of their loved ones. We feel powerless to keep you from shooting hate inside our muscles with well-choreographed white rage.

This powerlessness is nothing new. Throughout history, be it through police shootings, lynch mobs, the chain gang or the chains of slavery, black bodies have always been subject to the fear, anger and disgust of white people.

At all times we know that our achievements live under the ominous cloud of white supremacy. That despite our best efforts to build strong families, strong communities, viable businesses and stable wealth, when the rain comes — and the rain always comes — our works, our livelihoods, indeed our lives are at risk of being washed away. No umbrella has ever protected us, no amount of prayer or patience or respectability has spared us. There has only ever been the flood.


The Marshall Project: A Lull in Executions

A few weeks ago we told the story of Vernon Madison and his long-winding journey on death row in Alabama. While his execution has been stayed momentarily, the United States finds itself in an interesting lull. As of yesterday, according to the Marshall Project, we’re in the middle of one of the longest gaps between executions in the past quarter century.



SOURCE: Tom Meagher, “It’s Been Almost Two Months Since the U.S. Executed Someone,” June 30, 2016. The Marshall Project/The Next to Die

According to journalist Tom Meagher, the next set of executions are slated for July 14 — one in Texas and another in Georgia. Missouri conducted the most recent execution back on May 11 when the state killed Earl Forrest by lethal injection. That break in time will constitute a gap of 64 days. That’s a fairly long stoppage considering that executions had been happening at a pace of around two a month since the start of the year.

Private Prisons are Expensive, Dangerous and Bad Public Policy. We Should Abolish Them.

A recent undercover investigation by online news site Mother Jones uncovered horrific conditions at a private prison facility located in Winnfield, Louisiana. Over the course of four months, journalist Shane Bauer posed as a correctional officer at the Winn Correctional Facility and saw firsthand how an overcrowded and understaffed correctional facility coped with stabbings, mental illness, and constant stress.

It’s an amazingly extensive piece of reporting. Bauer was able to record audio and video footage inside the prison and filed nightly video reports sharing his thoughts and feelings from the day. Between his written article, a podcast episode and a video series pulled together by Mother Jones (see below) you get a wide glimpse into the world of private prisons and their deadly shortcomings.

Bauer’s investigation is simply another confirmation of what criminal justice reform advocates have been saying for some time. The benefits private prisons often claim when vying for state contracts are near non-existent: (more…)