Spencer Dew is the author of The Aliites: Race and Law in the Religions of Noble Drew Ali (University of Chicago Press, 2019), winner of the 2020 Albert J. Raboteau Price for Best Book in Africana Religions. Dew is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Kenyon College and Associated Faculty at the Ohio State University.
Just outside Boston on the Independence Day weekend, a stand-off between the Rise of the Moors group and the police was, in so many ways, quintessentially American—offering a dramatic tableau of religious claims about race, about guns, about law, about the state, and, finally, about another classical American concern: the power of the press and the need to control one’s own narrative.
Rather than worry about whether other people will come to the table, whether other people will listen, we must, first, come to the table ourselves, be willing to do the revolutionary work of “listening and talking,” proceeding into the real risk of such encounter with likewise real openness to the experience and its transformative effect. This is, to risk profound understatement, a difficult talk.
MOVE, while an illiberal religion characterized by abrasive rhetoric, is nonetheless an example of the religification of law and the legal system. MOVE activists refused to surrender the court to the state, seeing the legal system as a potential tool against the state, rightly beyond state control.