A while back I asked some of the writers previously featured here to recommend some other Black anti-racism writers they loved. Nina Monei’s name came up (though, as you’ll see, she doesn’t call herself an anti-racism writer). I knew right away she’d be a great person to feature, and I learned a lot from this interview. Please, meet Nina.
Nina, I know you don't consider yourself an anti-racism writer. How would you describe yourself instead, and what is your focus?
This is honestly a question I’m still asking myself and still coming into my own understanding of how to answer. I think the most complete answer that I can give at this time is that I’m an abolitionist with a focus on Black self-determination and the liberation of Black childhood.
How did you get into covering this area?
I always say I’ve been a children’s rights activist since I was 11 years old. Growing up in a home where my siblings and I were severely abused, I was constantly challenging the adults in my life who excused it and told us it was necessary. Even as a child, I knew it was wrong and would tell my abusers and their apologists why and how, regardless of consequences.
A few years ago, I started reading “Spare the Kids” by Dr. Stacey Patton and learning about “childism” as a concept and things started clicking. I was able to make sense of the relationship between the subjugation of children and the subjugation of Black people - between childism and anti-Black racism - and develop an understanding that Black liberation necessitates freedom for Black children.
What response have you had?
The responses have honestly been all over the place, a mix of good and bad. I’ve been harassed online by people who feel that my criticism of spanking children is “attacking parents.” I’ve been sent death threats from white people who claim my calling out anti-Blackness and anti-Black childism and advocating for Black self determination is “the real racism.” But I’ve also had people tell me that my work helped them understand their abuse wasn’t their fault, that it’s the reason that they will never spank their kids, and that I’ve helped them understand the need to see and treat Black children as people, not property.
What is your vision for the future in relation to these issues?
My vision for Black people is always freedom. I see a world beyond the limitations of our imagination in which whiteness, capitalism, colonialism, imperialism and patriarchy no longer function as power systems that use anti-Blackness to subjugate, disempower and disenfranchise Black people, globally. This requires destroying the reproduction of these systems and the resulting hierarchies that deny whole groups of us humanity and protection within our communities. Childism is the basis for all of this so my work starts there.
What are the top three articles you have written about this topic?
My top three articles about this haven’t been written yet. I am learning and growing in my politics, working to expand the framework around anti-Black childism, sharing knowledge and improving my personal understanding. As I learn and grow, my politics improve, my writing improves, my voice gets stronger… and I find myself hating my earlier work. So often, I reread things I wrote years ago and cringe at how bad my writing was. But I still love it and appreciate it for what it is, because I had something to say and I said it and people read it, learned from it, and someone, somewhere, had the way they love and show up for Black children and Black people shaped by it.
That said, I wrote a piece about the film “Cuties” and the harm I feel it does to Black girls, Black girlhood, and understanding autonomy and agency as essential components of personhood. It’s significant to me because it speaks to the importance of oppressed people being voices on our own experiences, and how the paternalism and chauvinism of assuming that adults are more qualified to tell children’s stories functions in the same way whiteness empowers itself to tell Black stories and decide what is truth and valid of our experiences.
The piece nearest and dearest to me that I’ve written as of now, I wrote in response to Breonna Taylor’s murder by police and conversations claiming that “no one’s talking about” her murder and that “no one protects” Black women and girls. In the midst of global uprisings against policing, with protests for Breonna Taylor occurring throughout her hometown and across the US - led largely by women organizers - the claim that “no one” cared devalued the labor and work by Black women and Black people as insignificant without white allyship, something I wholly reject.
Another is the first piece of writing I ever published professionally. It’s an important piece to me that shows how the compounded relationship of anti-Black childism produces some of the worst outcomes for Black boys in education, incarceration, and mortality. It was my first attempt at analyzing the ways that the childism harms Black children both through systemic violence produced by white supremacist, capitalist power systems and the reproduction of these systems and values intercommunally.
Share one anti-racism article you've read written by someone else that resonated with you.
This may be a little controversial - it certainly has been in the spaces I’ve previously shared and discussed this piece - but my favorite piece of antiracist writing is “White People Have No Place In Black Liberation” by Kevin Rigby and Hari Ziyad. It emphasizes Black collectivism, radical Black love and care-work and dream-work, Black people loving and fighting and organizing together and in our own interests as the work of Black liberation. It rejects the idea that we need white people to “use their whiteness” and their power within institutions - which still means them retaining that institutional power over us, to our detriment - to “save” us, when what is actually needed is for whiteness to be removed as a barrier to our own self-determination.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.