Enslaved Africans Were Treated More Like Disposable Technology Than Human Beings

Like many human beings, I start my day with a cup of coffee, and like an increasing number of us, I check in with one of the four virtual assistants in my home as I do so. What’s on my calendar? Give me the news. Play NPR. What’s the weather like today? Sometimes, especially if my children are present, I say please and thank you. Often times, I don’t.

I don’t have cable and, during the coronavirus pandemic, I have found myself increasingly dependent on Alexa, Siri, Google and Bixby for basic information and access to the kind of thoughtful conversation that broadens my understanding of the world at large, mostly through public radio. This artificial intelligence has become such an integral part of my life that I often command the devices to start my curated morning broadcast subconsciously, only later realizing that I must have asked that it play. …

Movement of Thought is Just as Important as an Action

I have survived two of Life’s Great Tests in my life. I won’t go into detail about them because it doesn’t really matter what they are because no matter who you are, where you live, or what your beliefs, if any at all, you will likely encounter periods of prolonged upheaval and even sometimes physical and/or emotional pain or suffering in your life. Sometimes these Tests will come at once in the form of all three.

There are of course the usual small inconveniences and short spurts of disruption that frustrate and deter us usually temporarily from our chosen paths and are the marks of a fairly normal life. What I’m talking about here are the more significant and emotionally taxing detours that I refer to as The Great Test or Tests as the case may be. …

A few days ago it was Leonardo DiCaprio’s birthday. He deserves flowers not just for his lovely face, but for his inexhaustible efforts to save our planet from us and for his ability to embody every character he has ever played with nuance and charm. There is so much excellent DiCaprio work to choose from. But, if I could have given him accolades in the form of his well deserved first Oscar for just one, it would be in his turn as true villain, Calvin Candie, in 2012’s Django Unchained.

I have been intermittently haunted by that scene in Django where the two Black men are fighting to the death for the amusement of a small White audience (lead in epic and mesmerizing fashion by my perennial childhood crush and birthday boy, DiCaprio). The scene is still entirely unwatchable for me. The action occurs while DiCaprio whoops and coaches in a sticky southern drawl and jumps about erratically. Actors portraying enslaved Black people work stoically in the background as the men tussle violently and passionately. I find myself attempting to watch the scene from their perspective. …

An Election Day Reflection

Who are we, America?

Are we as beautiful as we claim to be or some ugly, wretched, monstrous else?

Are we the embodiment of our promises of liberty inscribed on our statue? The safe haven for the tired, poor, huddled masses, wretched refuse, homeless and tempest-tost or not?

Who are we, America?

Who are we?

Are we the words of our Declaration? The truths we hold self-evident?

Are we the bill of our rights? The First Amendment? The Second? The whole decalot?

Are we the ones who have given up trying to remedy an unpaid debt of a bitter land theft, an intrusion that hasn’t been adequately acknowledged, a nation built on land that isn’t ours, or are we ones who know the value of water and are willing to stand with those at Standing Rock? …

Word Choices are Signals to Others about What Type of Human Being You Are

On a recent episode of Lovecraft Country on HBO a female character named Hippolyta time or dimensionally travels through a machine she discovers and encounters an afro-female presenting-android-alien race that gives her the ability to name herself whatever she chooses. Using their technology, she travels the multiverse as a backup dancer for Josephine Baker, a warrior, an explorer, a wife, and finally back home to be a mother. It was an awe inspiring romp that examined the freedom power and possibility of words and self-declaration. No one and nothing exists in the space she has found who can diminutize her choices through their use of words — there is no one to say “you are,” and the entire freedom experience is rooted in the absence of contradiction to her self-naming. …

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The flag of course has always been an iconic symbol even as it has had several iterations over the history of the United States. Each variant, including the current one which has been officially flown as the flag of the United States for roughly 60 years, is a symbol of the country yes, but also of patriotism, justified revolt, freedom, and of the ideal of liberty and justice for all. For me also, as the child of immigrants, it is an enduring a symbol of hope, opportunity, and promise.

The problem is that so much of our country's history has been marred with legally allowed policies and actions that undermine these ideals and so the flag inextricably carries that history also. Most can acknowledge the white hot mark of slavery, but the country has also been shaped by the genocide of Native Americans, the internment of Japanese during WWII, the absence of a non-cisgendered male president who doesn’t have some degree of White ancestry, problematic relationships with the District of Puerto Rico and other holdings, police brutality, the locking of children in cages at the Mexican-American border, and countless foreign wars that have resulted in harm here and abroad, and on, and on. …

Mr. Graham, Stop Trying to Make Identity Politics Happen

I am listening to Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings streaming on the local public radio station with a distinct tension in my jaw. I don’t consciously realize how stressed out it is making me until my son asks me to hand him something over breakfast. The disruption makes me acutely aware of the tightness. I unclench my mouth. I roll the bottom half of my face around and try to unpack what I’m feeling. I’m awkwardly conscious of my teeth and press my tongue against the roof of my mouth to calm myself.

I recognize the country is being presented with a test case in the form of this saccharin voiced ‘Amy’ woman. The right has argued for so long that anyone left of center is playing ‘identity’ politics when we vote for women and people of color, and not, you know — intelligently and sentient beings voting for people who we think will adequately represent us regardless of who they are. I know this instinctively to be true as someone who was asked repeatedly if I voted so enthusiastically for Barack Obama because he was Black and who can point to countless older Black relatives who are themselves enthusiastic about voting for Joe Biden even though he isn’t. I understand the fundamental implication and my voting choices still don’t feel paradoxical for me. I know Black America, especially Black women, will vote in force for Joe Biden in a few weeks as we did for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in the two elections before that. I know when people like me vote, by and large we vote for our best option even when the choices are limited. While that isn’t always true for White women, it is almost universally true for Black women, but I digress. …

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The recent revelation that Donald J. Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes for two recent years, and zero for another ten might help Biden among Biden’s own followers, but odds are it won’t actually help Biden at all among the deeply loyal followers of the current occupant of the White House. Donald Trump has cultivated a base so loyal, so trusting of his word, so willing to imbibe whatever he tweets, that at last he may be right about one thing: he probably could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters.

If you’ve watched the first six episodes of The Vow on HBO Max about the self help group NXIVM or followed the legal struggles of their embattled leader Keith Raniere and his most inner circle of followers which include actor Allison Mack, two Bronfmans, and a spattering of Hollywood B listers, you know how dangerous personality can be. It’s a cycle that seems to repeat itself over and over throughout history. Charismatic people, usually displaying extreme forms of telltale narcissism, are able to convince other people to follow them without question even in the face of concrete evidence of their fallibility. Like with most cults, detractors of NXIVM were ostracized and attacked — some are even thought to have ended up dead. Cults of personality can be very difficult to crack, hard to leave, and sometimes, in the worse case scenario, when maniacal leaders demand it, impossible to survive. …

How the proliferation of subscription based services may be repackaging old problems

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Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

From tangible to intangible things, from our music and television, to our news, to our transportation, to our food, to our cloud data storage, to our Amazon prime delivery, to our photo editing software, to our cell phone and cell phone plan, to our cars, to our internet service, nearly everything we use regularly seems to be moving towards this model of unlimited or tiered usage tied to seemingly affordable monthly payments ranging from a few dollars upward, that remain on a consumers balance sheets indefinitely.

It seems everything consumable from the food we eat, to the art we enjoy, to the services we rely on these days comes with a subscription and we don’t own any of it outright. As of two years ago, “[N]early half of American online shoppers pay for streaming-media services.” Many people now lease their phones from the big carriers instead of buying them. The result being that consumers don’t own something as potentially intimate as their own cell phones, and they will never pay them off, and therefore can’t sell them for cash should they wish or need to. …

Ruth Bader Ginsburg reminds me of the resolve that lies in all women

Closeup photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Closeup photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Photo: Ron Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images

It’s a magical and empowering thing seeing a strong woman in action. I knew this from the time I was a small child. I watched my mother and grandmother nurse my grandfather through the final days of his cancer beyond the point that he had any fight left in him. He was 87 when he died, just like Justice Ginsburg.

I know my Papa was facing the fight of his life, but what endures for me is the women around him while he did. I have vivid memories of his frail body leaning forward on the hospital bed that had been moved into my house for his hospice as my Mama fed him soup. My mother worked full time, too, and if she took any time off from work, I don’t remember it. …


Bridgette L. Hylton

I write stuff. Published in Human Parts, Zora, AnInjustice!, AOA. #BLM http://www.Instagram.com/BridgetteWrites https://www.facebook.com/BridgetteHWrites

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