That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.  – Malcolm X

"We must never, ever give up. We must be brave. We must be courageous." John Lewis, activist, congressman. 1940-2020 

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~ Dalai Lama

"Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public."  Professor Cornel West.

"Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat."  Audre Lorde

"The serious function of racism is distraction". 1995, Toni Morrison; Portland lecture, Playing in The Dark

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.” Nora Ephron

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

"We are more alike than we are different" ~ Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singe


It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain


You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore


 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:


"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.


De Tocqueville in Algeria Revisited


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

“DeTocqueville in Algeria Revisited”. In the coming days I will be convening a panel of this title. Americans revere this 19th Century French lawyer aristocrat for what is referred to as a “visionary work” on US governance in the 19th century. Journalists, political scientists, theorists, politicians comment on our (USA) form of governance by quoting widely from the 1835 two volume masterpiece Democracy in America

In Algeria, the Frenchman is viewed rather differently. Alarmingly so.

Following on of his visit to the US and publication of his Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville was assigned to the recently invaded, richly endowed landmass on the northern coast of Africa--Algeria. His mission there? Assigned by France as a ‘membre d’une commission extraordinaire charge d’etudier le problem de la colonisation algerienne”, he was given the task of observing conditions in the newly occupied land and making recommendations to his government regarding its long term imperial interests in Algeria.

Based on his observations of the US during a relatively brief stay here, we know that Tocqueville was an extraordinarily astute observer of society and governance, also a prolific recorder. He applied these same faculties in two relatively brief visits to Algeria, in 1841 and 1846.

His remarks, in a series of letters, are available in an important 2003 (publisher GF Flammariaon, Paris) publication Tocquevulle Sur L’Algerie, compiled by Ms Selouna Luste Boulbina.

I received a copy of this book in 2007 during the early stage of my Fulbright professorship year in the North African state. I was startled of course, because the author’s view of Algeria was that of an avid colonist; such a contrast to what I believed was a humanistic “liberal” view of American society, a system praised for its egalitarianism, tolerance, etc.

Rather puzzled, I showed this book to a colleague, Hassane Sobhi, historian and sociologist at the University of Oran. Although I had seen no mention of Tocqueville among the numerous articles and seminars on French colonial experience I came across during my year in Algeria, Tocqueville is well known there. He is also despised.

“Le technicen du colonization”, spat my colleague when I made my first timid inquiry. He went on to elaborate on Tocqueville’s role in helping the French government devise their scorched earth and settlement policy in his country. He blamed Tocqueville for the depth of pain Algeria endured, and the atrocities executed by the French occupiers. Remember this man worked in Algeria barely 13 years after the arrival there of French troops, a presence with would become a 134 year occupation. So the policies that shaped the next 120 years of French rule in Algeria were fundamental. Algerians hold Tocqueville as responsible as the military generals for the crimes committed by their rulers over that period.

The coming conference (Middle East Studies Association, Boston Nov 21-24) panel will bring together Simone Fattal who has closely followed Tocqueville’s work and who sent me the collected letters Tocqueville sur L’Algerie, Professor Hassane Sobhi who elaborated on the French author’s work, and two other scholars who examine his writings more fully.

Such a critical examination in an American academic context is promising. It can lead to are reading of Democracy in America as part myth, since this French visitor was describing a system of government which clearly applied to only white European settlers. It can also lead us to identify how he applied his understanding of a “successful” colonization of America, to the French colonial policy.

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