News ID: 322317
Published: 0707 GMT June 15, 2022

Significance of Afrofuturism

Significance of Afrofuturism

By Mohammad Memarian

The British art institution Tate offers a good enough definition for Afrofuturism: “A cultural aesthetic that combines science-fiction, history and fantasy to explore the African-American experience and aims to connect those from the black diaspora with their forgotten African ancestry.”

Or, in other words, it opens the door to personal and collective imagination in regards to the lived experiences of America’s black community. As a tool of fantasy, it also invites us to imagine many possible futures with a special focus on matters of significance to that community – perhaps most importantly, how a more egalitarian future might look like for them, in which the burden of injustices, institutional or otherwise, which they currently face would be taken off their shoulders.

Imagining such a future for people of color in the U.S. is not wishful thinking. In fact, numbers do add up. As Bennet Capers, law professor at Fordham University, argues in his exciting paper, ‘Afrofuturism, Critical Race Theory, and Policing in the Year 2044’, which first appeared in New York University Law Review in 2019, the U.S. “is projected to become a ‘majority-minority’ country” in 2044, “with people of color making up more than half of the population.”

Pointing to that projection, Capers asks us to think the contours of the social and the political in 2044, “when people of color make up the majority in terms of numbers, or in the ensuing years, when they also wield the majority of political and economic power?” And more specifically, he speculates about what the policing might look like then. The article, serialized in Iran Daily over the past few days, is an attempt to answer such questions.

In a short exchange with us about his article, Capers touched upon a few key points about his article, including how envisioning a more just society, or having a dream about it, might actually lead to good things happening for people of color in the U.S.

 

*****

Fordham law professor Bennet Capers:

U.S. demographic shifts are in favor of people of color

 

 

 

IRAN DAILY: You argue that in the years following 2044, the people of color will “wield the majority of political and economic power” because they are projected to make up more than half of the American population. But there seems not to be a straightforward relationship between demographics on the one hand, and political and, perhaps more importantly, economic influence, on the other. Why do you think that, in that specific context, the strength in numbers would automatically translate into having the upper political and economic hand?

 

BENNET CAPERS: It certainly won’t happen automatically. And because whiteness itself is malleable, it is entirely possible that some people we think of as racial minorities today will in the future “become” white, much in the way that Italian, Irish, and Jewish immigrants in the United States eventually “became” white. That said, my hope is that the shift in demographics will result in a shift in political power when people of color become the majority of the electorate. Once people of color wield political power, as they already do in some U.S. cities, I’m hopeful that economic power and social capital power will follow. One thing I try to communicate when I talk about 2044 and the ensuing years is “the possible.” Race scholarship, since it is so often focused on the present, tends towards the pessimistic. There is even the term “Afro-pessimism.” I’m trying to shift the conversation by reminding people that a demographic shift can herald positive change. And if that’s possible, shouldn’t we start preparing for it now?


IRAN DAILY: Imagining a better social alternative, “a racially egalitarian” one in your case, or a post-racial society, if you will, is a potent tool in persuading people that the status quo is not something to be taken for granted, that change, and a radical one for that matter, is possible. And in your article, you’ve provided a vision of the future, leaving the task of charting a route for resistance and devising “the long game” to another time. But mobilizing people around a noble cause only to see the route ending up to a dystopian future has happened more often than not throughout history. How can that outcome be avoided?

 

BENNET CAPERS: This is the million-dollar question. I take it for granted that power corrupts. But I’m also impressed by the young people I teach, who seem eager for a better, more egalitarian world. I’m also heartened by how CRT (Critical Race Theory) has captured the imagination of so many people. There are opponents who dislike it without understanding it because they know it will disrupt the status quo and their privilege. But there are now so many others who are suddenly curious, and interested in CRT’s vision of equality. The task, then, is to do everything we can to keep our eyes on the prize. Which is why I think it’s important for us to envision the future we want, and be intentional about mapping a way there.


IRAN DAILY: A contrarian might argue that imagining a “good” future that’s bound to happen (in your case, a better future for the people of color in the US due to demographic inevitabilities) might serve as an opium for the masses. What’s your take on that?

 

BENNET CAPERS: As my answers above hopefully make clear, it’s not "bound to happen." The science fiction writer Octavia Butler once said, “There’s nothing new under the sun. But there are new suns.” For me, there’s not one inevitable future, but many possible futures. Demographic shifts are in our favor. But even with those demographic shifts, nothing’s inevitable. Nothing is certain. An Afrofuturist and CRT future will still take hard work. But there are a lot of us willing to roll up our sleeves and begin the work it takes to get there.


IRAN DAILY: Finally, I wonder, do various peoples of color experience different versions of racial inequality in the US?

 

BENNET CAPERS: Yes, yes, yes. For example, we tend to group Asian Americans together in this country, but how someone of Japanese descent experiences racism may be very different from how a Hmong person experiences racism or a Filipino experiences racism. And of course geography matters. Being Black in NY is very different from being Black in Alabama. And then there’s colorism, which means a lighter-skinned Black may have advantages that a darker-skinned Black will not. Similarly, what it means to be Native American depends on where one is. So, it’s definitely very complicated.

 

 

   
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