Allen Presents at Washington and Lee University School of Law


On November 14th, Professor Renee Nicole Allen presented her work-in-progress, Colonial White Supremacy, Anti-Blackness, and Afro-Pessimist Implications for Black Liberation Movements in Italy and the United States, as part of the Faculty Workshop Series at Washington and Lee University School of Law. From the abstract:

In May 2020, no one in the United States could avoid video of George Floyd’s life leaving his body as he was murdered by officer Derek Chauvin who kneeled on his neck and back while he professed that he could not breathe and called for his mother. The world, somewhat paralyzed by the Covid-19 pandemic, took notice. A resounding demand that “Black lives matter” filled the streets. Demonstrators in the United States and Italy took to the streets to “say their names.” Less than six months later in September 2020, Italians could not ignore reports of the fatal civilian beating of Willy Monteiro Duarte. Yet, Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Italy and the United States revealed a cognitive dissonance among White people who made “Black Lives Matter” their rally cry, while also sanitizing the intentionality of anti-Black racism and failing to acknowledge entrenched White supremacy. It also revealed challenges in global conceptions of the Black Lives Matter movement. Two years removed from the racial justice awakening of 2020, questions remain about the next stage of activism in worldwide movements for Black lives. 

This article employs a critical comparative framework to analyze anti-Black origin and entrenchment in the United States and Italy. Thinking about who law serves, two questions are central to this analysis: How did colonists become White? How has law been used to project anti-Blackness and protect Whiteness? The answers to these questions reveal the ways colonial laws and practices established Whiteness as civil, moral, and powerful. After comparing colonialism in the United States and Italy and finding similarities in post-colonial collective amnesia, this article demonstrates how blood narratives and phenotypical characteristics perpetuate anti-Blackness in both countries by legally limiting the rights of Black people. Finally, with an understanding of the ways the colonial mindset of White supremacy influences law, the article examines geographically disparate Black liberation movements and reveals historical connections in the Black diasporas in Italy and the United States. With these connections in mind, it concludes by theorizing implications for the next steps in global movements for Black lives from an Afro-pessimist point of view.