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What You Already Know about Love….

Given the considerable violence in this nation and throughout the world, we ask for justice and seek mercy. We pledge fidelity to “the people” but fear authorities distanced from and indifferent to our lives and truths. Agape permits us to stay with and advocate for each other in community even when—especially when—governments betray us. The highest form of love, agape, is rooted in political will.

As a Black woman scholar and political philosopher (a military brat and seminarian whose parents survived lynching and Jim Crow segregation in Mississippi and Texas), I study systemic state violence within US democracy. Often, I find it difficult to love. I cannot lie about that. The wars, the persecution of impoverished, racialized and queered people, along with decades of betrayals of civil rights and human rights struggles—all have led me into a long trek towards agape. I have learned on this journey, that the honorable and just sustain the highest forms of love and community, and life itself.

With agape we find the courage and honesty to acknowledge that over centuries this nation shared little to no love with the enslaved, impoverished and imprisoned. I do not love democracy’s Trojan Horses: the Three-Fifth clause of the US Constitution that enabled southern plantation owners to garner presidential electoral votes through enslaved children and families; the Thirteenth amendment that “emancipated” the enslaved who built the nation’s wealth only to debase them as “legal” slaves of the state within prisons; the manipulation of the Fourteenth amendment by the Supreme Court to transition “political personhood” from exploited emancipated people to wealthy corporations. “Liberty and justice for all” is a mandate that I can embrace but I need to see governments manifest  integrity and respect for civil and human rights.

We are survivors of racism/anti-blackness, abuse, violence and legal malfeasance. We practice our capacity to love knowing that we have the right to have rights; the right to protest injustice; the right to follow the highest standards of integrity in society and to have law without racist or political bias. I teach politics because of ethics. I maintain ethical principles because of agape. We know that ethical practices only materialize where love for community and truth telling resist the sway of bureaucracy and predatory powers.

The Ebenezer Fitch Professor of the Humanities at Williams College,* Joy James’s most recent book is In Pursuit of Revolutionary Lovehttps://divided.online/#in-pursuit-of-revolutionary-love

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