AE6. "White people need cultural receivership"
Conversation with "Funky Academic" Irami Osei-Frimpong, recurring guest on The Hill TV's Rising with Krystal & Saagar
“White people need cultural receivership. I need to take over white culture with respect to their churches, families and schools for a generation.”
Like Hill TV’s Rising co-host Krystal Ball, I also discovered the YouTuber (~20k subscribers) known as The Funky Academic at an opportune moment. Born to a Ghanaian dad and South Carolinian mom, Irami Osei-Frimpong is a philosophy doctoral student in Athens, Georgia, who engages with questions of liberation, which as he explains in our conversation, stems from squaring African and African-American heritages. On a similar trip myself for the past couple of years, I’ve contended with Michel Foucault’s conception of “practices of freedom” as self-determined activities that individuals as “entrepreneurs of self” authentically undertake in an economy in which the state minimally interferes. But individual activities aren’t authentic in a scalable way and neither does the state only “minimally” interfere, so honoring Foucault’s non-prescriptive approach, I took my own decision to read scholars such as Daniel Zamora and Mitchell Dean, listen to Irami, and observe that a meaningful “practice of freedom” paradoxically involves revolutionary struggle.
And what does that “revolutionary struggle” involve? Irami wants to “institute justice,” which means enacting a federal job guarantee, single-payer healthcare, and a suite of transparency initiatives to hold elected members of Congress to campaign promises. Alongside large-scale government restructuring, Irami also wants a cultural revolution that he sees as having not taken place thanks to the many counter-revolutions of the post-civil-rights era. While the current paradigm offers illusion of choice as liberation to political subjects newly seeking emancipation, Irami diagnoses this choice as one between willfully engaging in conquistadorian bloodlust or a more reluctant imperialism, which the explosive philosopher who talks a lot of Hegel stylizes as a choice between “being a psychopath or a sociopath.”
Here, Irami struck a chord with me in a way I speculate he might have with Krystal Ball as well—per his model, liberal Democrat politicians such as 44th POTUS Barack Obama, current VP Kamala Harris and former Georgia gubernatorial runner-up Stacey Abrams, would all fit the “sociopath” description, simply because their politics is one of self-serving pragmatism rather than commitment to justice (“social justice” itself is a term that’s been so tainted as to now always evoke its caricature). Spearheading a cultural narrative that celebrates capitalistic success of individuals from marginalized communities, these Democrats’ pursuit of their own empire-building projects is constantly justified by a media apparatus populated by similarly-interested individuals, from marginalized community or not.
As an artist, I’m first interested in liberating myself from this narrative of valuing capital accumulation over precious earthly life, after which I want to imagine, depict and hopefully evoke in my audience the experience of an alternative paradigm. As an intellectual, educator and self-proclaimed revolutionary propagandist, Irami shares in this vision, which he plans to carry out through hostile takeovers of capitalist cultural institutions. Case in point, watch him do it on The Hill TV’s Rising every other week, talking to the show’s anchors like Ryan Gosling springing dialectics on sleepy eighth-graders in an inner-city school district in Half Nelson, conducting a radical political philosophy class on a morning news program.