Marc Lamont Hill, one of the most dynamic Black intellectuals of the 21st century, has tackled some of America’s weightiest social issues in his new book “Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond.”
Hill opens by describing the term “nobody”: “To be nobody is to be vulnerable. In the most basic sense, all of us are vulnerable; to be human is to be susceptible to misfortune, violence, illness, and death… To be nobody is to be considered disposable.”
The North Philadelphia native spoke with the AFRO about his book, which hit shelves on July 26. Hill said he was inspired to write “Nobody” after visiting Ferguson, Mo., following the death of Michael Brown.
“A deeper story needed to be told,” he said, “and for me that story had to be told in a way that it’s history; in a way talks about more than race and really the complexities of our society.”
The premise of Hill’s argument is that those marked as Black, Brown, immigrant, queer, trans or poor—but Black Americans in particular—have been deemed “Nobodies” by society, which has used its power and to increase the vulnerability of those citizens and to craft numerous policies to make their lives more unsafe than safe.
“The system, as it currently designed, does not work,” Hill said. “It simply does not work. The vulnerable in America are vulnerable because of the system and we must repair it… The goal of this book was to lay out an analysis of how we got here.”
In his book, Hill details the historical context of several recent cases involving police violence on unarmed Black victims, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner and Jordan Davis. Hill’s intent was to illustrate the deeper issues that lie within the nation’s imbalanced justice system, a failing judicial system and racist policing, among many other matters.
Speaking of the state of Baltimore in the wake of death of Freddie Gray while in police custody last year, Hill said the unrest in Baltimore was an extension of what happened in Ferguson—people had “righteous outrage against a broken system.”
“It’s not just about identity politics,” he said. “It’s not just about how you look. It’s not about what gender package you present. It’s not about what race you identify as. It’s the structure and the system you prepare. Baltimore, like most systems around the country, is broken. The system itself is engineered to marginalize and under privilege the poor. It’s also designed to reinforce White supremacy. And it is also designed to ignore the conditions and circumstances of Black women and girls. So what we have in Baltimore, just like everywhere else, is a system that is an outgrowth of the White supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”
Hill, who is a professor at Morehouse College in addition to being a CNN political contributor and award-winning journalist, also wrote about the Flint water crisis, the militarization of police, zero tolerance policing, the criminalization of the poor, the “Stand Your Ground Law” and mass incarceration. He said all of those issues validate his argument that State-sanctioned violence is “an inevitable part of life in any country where the vulnerable are considered disposable.”
Despite the plethora of issues adversely affecting America’s “Nobodies,” Hill said there is reason for optimism.
“There’s always been somebody who has asserted our ‘Somebodyness,’” he said. “That alone is an act of resistance. But we also see youth movements rising up. We see Dream Defenders rising up. We see Black Lives Matter rising up. And in those movements…you see policy changing, you see our tactics changing, you see the world changing. That’s what exciting.”
Hill is scheduled to appear at Baltimore’s Union Baptist Church for a conversation and book signing on Aug. 4.
“I’m going to talk about what it means to be nobody,” he said. “I’m going to tell this story. I’m going to bring Baltimore back into the picture. I’m going to talk about the national movement that’s going on to reimagine the world and reimagine law enforcement… I’m going to talk about what it means to really fight for freedom and justice.”