On Forgiveness…

In her groundbreaking text Medical Apartheid, Harriet A. Washington underscores scientific racism as rooted in the pervasive and racist belief that blacks experience less pain. This belief remains prevalent in the apologist ideology to which the black collective remains expected to adopt and perform. The black collective is the only faction groomed to regret and repress our emotions. We are to continually endure the unimaginable but never permitted to express our frustrations. To deny our feelings is to deny our humanity. It is not weak to claim anger or upset; it takes strength to acknowledge not only that these emotions exist but that we, as a collective, remain entitled to them. The western world distorts these concepts to preclude the black collective from exuding a consciousness that eliminates mental bondage. 

Contemplating forgiveness takes me back to July 13, 2013, where an all-female jury acquitted Trayvon Martin’s murderer George Zimmerman. I was exiting the bus when the verdict surfaced, and on my walk home, screams and cries of anguish echoed in the streets. The verdict functioned as a bullet the black collective had to witness murder a seventeen-year-old child all over again. When I logged onto Facebook, I did not see posts of outrage, but I did see several posts castigating blacks in an upset over the verdict. One former friend, who is an African adjacent woman married to a black man and mother to a black child, relayed her disappointment in those she “thought she knew” who translated their anger and hurt into words that did not speak to forgiveness. It was at this moment that I realized that the black collective is not expected to “rise above,” but to exist beneath the lowness of an anti-black society. In assuming this subjugated stance, the black individual functions as a model for their collective, illustrating sub ordinance to be the only comparable option to silence in an anti-black society. 

In an anti-black society, weakness functions as strength. This is perhaps best demonstrated in the recent Botham Jean trial where the slain man’s brother and the black female judge embraced the white female murderess who shot Jean and left him to die. The media coverage painted Guyger as a victim as Jean lay cold in his grave. The gesture, combined with Jean’s brother’s pleading to hug murderess Amber Guyger, illustrates the ingrained apologist ideology that foments a performed forgiveness. The performative gesture of embracing the enemy; however, does not symbolize moral superiority; it symbolizes mental subjugation. 

Just as there are those who vehemently believe that they can sex away racism, and that the sun-kissed, kinky-haired, and full-featured black woman coddled, wed, and breeding with white men marks a racial victory, there are those who remain adamant that forgiveness paves the way to a post-racial society. 

Though Botham Jean’s murder trial, the case quickly became about murderess Amber Guyger. Guyger, smeared with a black man’s blood, epitomized white female innocence and consistently occupied central placement in the trial. Just as the lily-white liars and co-conspirators that came before her, to the white media Guyger was not wrong but wronged. Blacks, however, only attain centrality as “murderers” but never as the murdered.

Her ten-year sentence, which she will not serve in its entirety, does nothing but delineate the justice system as for and by white people. Guyger will never know what it feels like to choke on her own blood as her attacker attempts to cover their tail. Jean, like the countless slain black men who decorate history, died twice. Jean died on the night of his murder, and on the day of his trial. Guyger will only die once and will never know what it is like to reap proper consequences for her sins. For to this racist world, the only sin she experienced was that she was in such close proximity to a black man. 

Decades ago, integration functioned as progress to many, however Jean’s murder illustrates that to live among whites, as a black person, is potentially fatal. A black person is never a neighbor to the African adjacent; instead, blacks are an inconvenience, a colored body that got a little too close to a white supremacist pedestal. In these increased proximities, many blacks pay with their lives, others are sexually assaulted or economically manipulated, but so many pay with their souls. 

The seized soul conceptualizes forgiveness as reserved for their oppressors. For, in an anti-black society, blacks remain expected to forgive but are rarely deemed worthy of forgiveness. I recall speaking to a black elder a few months ago who describe Kevin Hart’s “homophobic” joke as “unforgivable.” I have seen similar language used concerning Chris Brown, R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, and other black men. Perhaps these assertions would hold more value if not shaped by the white media. Nevertheless, this behavior illustrate that America encourages black people to regard the actions of their collective as unforgivable, but dismiss any ill feelings for those who bear the systemic power to injure the black collective without consequence as angry or bitter.

If forgiveness is so essential to the African and America, why are we never encourage to forgive ourselves?

The answer is this; what the western world calls forgiveness is not forgiveness, it is an acquiescence to a social poison. Psychologists define forgiveness as:a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. 

This definition, like every other definition granted formality by its inclusion in the dictionary, remains shaped by anti-blackness. So yes, my contention is that the very definition of forgiveness, like the definitions of “white,” “black,” and “racism,” functions with regard to race relations in America. Thus, the definition of forgiveness functions to ensure black peonage and fester the remnants of what Dr. Wade Noble called a fractured consciousness and shattered identity. 

This racially distorted forgiveness ensures that the black collective remain systemically programed to forgive the unforgivable. This anti-black society has convinced the black collective that they are not worthy of emotions or feelings. As a result, blacks become reluctant and even fearful to express any emotion towards whites that deter from the expected compliance to an anti-black version of humanity.

I do not forgive Amber Guyger. She murdered Jean because she could. Subscribed to the belief that “black man” constitutes violence and rape, Guyger assumed her position of the inevitable victim of their beastial presence and untamable lust from behind a loaded gun. She, like Dylan Roof, the white woman who lied on Emmet Till, the white men who murdered him, and the white boys who stoned Eugene Williams in 1919, embody what Dr. Bobby Wright called the Racial Psychopath. The racial psychopath feels nothing and operates solely to uphold white supremacy. Words of forgiveness in themselves mean nothing, but symbolically perform a similar function to a murdered corpse as both symbolize the racial psychopath’s victory. 

 I do not forgive the flawed justice system that systemically asphyxiated Kalief Browder, or who literally asphyxiated Laura Nelson and her son in 1911. I don’t forgive the white people who have violently abducted black spaces from the black university to the black community. 

I do not forgive the sins cast against me or my people, and I am not sorry for my emotions. I will also say that I never want to get to a space where I adopt this western version of forgiveness. Forgiveness as perpetuated in the western world is yet another means of assimilation, another means to place a white mask over beautiful black skin. 

To forgive these assailants is to forgive the colonizer, murderer, and rapist who abducted my African ancestors centuries ago. It is to forgive the white man who used nomenclature to brand himself into my present. I can’t forgive in the same way I cannot forget the faces that I have never seen, but whose blood nevertheless run through my veins. 

I do not forgive because this mode of forgiveness requires that I forget my collective self. I want to point out that this does not make me angry, though I have every reason to be.

This makes me aware. 

With that being said, I am of the sort that believes it is never appropriate to hug, or even socialize, with your oppressors, because there is always someone in our collective more deserving of that attention. These words perhaps prove more resounding now that a young man is dead. It is he who should have been held close. Joshua Brown proved an integral component to putting Guyger’s away and thus was far more worthy of an embrace and attention that the murderess. Instead, he, like Jean, had to die to make headlines. 

In sharing my perspective, I acknowledge that my path to consciousness is not the sole route. There are those on a journey to consciousness who implement forgiveness as a means to survive. I accept this praxis, but I’ll never respect the gesture. 

It is true that the late Dr. King Jr. said that “if you love your enemies, you already have the victory.” Lamenting on his integrative work, Dr. King also said that he feared leading his people into a burning house. This image is one that I find myself returning to as a budding scholar and a being of black female form that does not wish or strive toward whiteness in this white world. I say this to say that this burning house assumes many forms, and the western conception of forgiveness is one of them…

Black Power ❤

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Twerking and Auction Block Culture

My first introduction to the word “twerk” was on Usher’s highly anticipated 8701 albums. The album, released in the summer of 2001, featured the song “Twerk it Out.” A melodic tune, “Twerk it Out” features a rhythm and blues flow that has largely dissipated from the contemporary sound. Though sexual in undertone, Usher’s “twerking” references a sensuality absent from its contemporary use. Nevertheless, while this song marked my introduction to the word, it hardly introduced “twerking.”

Twerking, or the sexualized gyration in which one uses their waist and upper leg to thrust the derriere and pelvic region, derived from rhythmic motions that did not originate as sexual. In its European abduction, this movement became “twerking,” an act that seemingly centralizes and celebrates the derriere. For this reason, twerking appears a badge of glory for those who have the right attributes.

Twerking, however, does not place the derriere in an exalted position. So while it appears that many curvy black girls and women have accepted their bodies, those who credit twerking with this pride do so under the oppressive gaze of white supremacist propaganda. Twerking marks a commodified culture propagated for profit. Therefore, twerking designates the black woman’s derriere as exhibition, an exhibition reminiscent of the auction block culture that compartmentalized the African foremother.

Perhaps the most referenced foremother with regards to the black female body is Saartje Baartman. Baartman, a voluptuous Khoi-Khoi woman exhibited in a French circus during the 18th century, functioned as a line of demarcation between black and white women. Particularly, the French appointed Baartman as a symbol of an exaggerated and “freakish” sexuality that aligned black woman with animals. This alignment underscored European humanity. Though she did not twerk, Baartman epitomizes what results from twerk culture— a villanized imaging that delineates the black woman as an animal to be bought and sold. Simultaneously, this depiction illustrates a line of demarcation between civilization and chastity. Thus, by twerking, black women take a place beside Baartman, not as beautiful black women, but as powerful figures rendered powerless by the white gaze.

Yet, with a psyche severely distorted by disenfranchisement, Twerking appears to walk the fine line between appreciation and exploitation. This statement, contentious in both theory and execution, proves most evident in Normani’s recent video (and reception) for her single “Motivation.”
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Motivation marks the first solo effort from Normani— the sole black woman in girl group 5th Harmony. During her time in the group known for songs like “Worth It,” and “Work from Home,” Normani was an obvious standout. Though not the first member of the group to go solo, Normani was the only member of the group to exhibit talent in both singing and dancing. Yet, while her talent made her hard to ignore, it is what Normani meant to the little black girls seeking to see themselves that proves most resonant. Normani planted a mustard seed of hope for the brown girl to see that the spotlight looks beautiful on brown skin. This evidences that we as a people still have a pertinent issue with regards to cultivating our children to see beyond the oppressive gaze. What I mean here, is that black children remain forced to look to the auction block for inspiration, to mimic our ancestor’s exploitation and not the parts of them that his story refuses to remember.

Normani’s new video “Motivation,” proves a contemporized version of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” sixteen years after the solo hit transitioned Beyonce from girl group member into a solo superstar. “Motivation,” promises the same for Normani, but this foreboding fact poses an important query:

Do we really need another Beyonce?

For clarity, by “we,” I speak specifically to those of African descent displaced in America.

I also pose this inquiry as someone who grew up loving Beyonce. While her talent, beauty, and body was not something that I necessarily looked up to—it was something that I appreciated and still appreciate. Beyonce had a similar body to the women in my family, so as young girl becoming a woman, she subconsciously aided in my body confidence. However, Beyonce’s moves, which would make her into a global superstar, itemized not only her own physique, but the black female aesthetic that has went on to consummate a beauty standard autonomous from its black female origins. So, while it may seem that Beyonce twerked her way to the top, “Crazy In Love” marks the beginning of a contemporary trajectory where America fell crazy in love with an itemized black aesthetic but not the black woman.

What’s interesting about Beyonce is that though pegged as a light-skinned black woman, her rise to the top, highlights that though not a Kelly Rowland or a Grace Jones, Beyonce does not function as a Mariah Carey, whose voice and passable appearance made it so that her voice, not her body, proved enough for her stardom. Beyonce, however, twerked her way to the allusive top, and it is her “showmanship,” not necessarily her voice, that consummated her icon-status. Perhaps, the only black woman to reach international stardom without using her body is Whitney Houston, which is a large part of her irreplaceable legacy. Nevertheless, as black bodies under the white supremacist spotlight, both Whitney Houston and Beyonce symbolize the black woman on the auction block, bought and sold millions of times as an artist and as an itemized entity.

Similarly, while the world appears to superficially celebrate Normani’s voice, body, and dance moves at the moment, this enthusiasm would greatly dissipate if she were a black woman using her mind to lead her people away from anti-blackness. Normani’s reception is just another example of how America will always have a space for the black person who uses their body. America will always have a place for the sexy black girl, whose sex appeal comes to encompass what remains a woman’s most desired and profitable asset, her beauty. This video and its reception proves another example of how America will promote the belief that Hollywood is anything other than a stage for the black woman who can solely incite a superficial pride that cannot and will not inspire true change.

As a potential “new Beyonce” that is darker-skinned, Normani suggests that things have changed. Normani resumes the distorted American story where the black woman who has twerked her way to the top proves that the country loves black people and appreciates black women.

This, of course, could not be further from the truth. For if the country truly loved and appreciated black women, there would be no Beyonce or Normani. Instead, black women would see images that encouraged them to use their minds, their creativity, not their bodies that act as a boat that continues to transition black female humanity into cargo.

Thus, the answer to my earlier query is, of course, no. The black community does not need another Beyonce, or another image engineered by white supremacy that delineates beauty and aesthetic superiority. What we do need more of are black thinkers that can appreciate the Beyonce’s and the Normani’s without the desire to imitate.

This transition is exciting to consider in juxtaposition to a rather important trend. Here, I speak to the parity between the black female twerk and phallic instruments. In the Motivation video, Normani twerks to a trumpet. Similarly, singer-rapper Lizzo adds to her tokenized presence by twerking and playing the flute. This parity garners notable media attention as black women display their physical abilities amidst simulated sex scenes. These graphic, yet celebrated, images work to subconsciously teach black women to view their beauty as consummated in provoking sexual enticement. These simulated sex scenes of course “sell,” but more problematically, they reveal black women sold to a record industry and a lusty white supremacist gaze that employs their body as a bridge to social and economic superiority.

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In considering the black body as a bridge to their oppressor’s economic franchisement, it is imperative to note that one does not have to use their body to twerk. Twerking, like enslavement, was never about the body. The body functions as a medium to obtain and exhibit cognitive control and build dependency on a pernicious oppression. The dependence manifests itself in the oppressed’s continued quest for an economic opportunity from their oppressors. So whether acquiring a recording contract, or employment at a lauded establishment, black women (and people) remain subject to the normalized expectation that they perform, or work (werk) for a price. Sometimes this price is millions, other times it is just enough to pay the rent, but regardless of what the price affords the black woman, it will never afford her the self, or esteem necessary to circumvent cognitive bondage.

The ubiquitous auction block culture propagates that, for the black woman, the road to the top begins at the bottom, or as seen in auction block culture, with their bottoms. The black woman simply cannot and will not twerk her way to the top; this behavior only secures her place at the bottom of a society that keeps her looking up.

This image makes me think of the late Toni Morrison’s novel Sula where the black population occupies the top of a hill that the whites name “bottom.” The whites occupy the bottom of the hill, in which they name “top,” of course. We see parity between these concepts and the body. Notably, the top, or large breasts, which traditionally corresponded to the white female physique, consummated the “top” or apex with regards to Western beauty. A shapely derriere, on the other hand, constituted the “bottom” or a base attribute. Auction block culture reinforces this ideology, an ideology seemingly complicated by the black female physique now copied and pasted onto African-adjacent women. Here, we see that the black female body, detached from the black woman, is literally bought and sold for the benefit of a white supremacist society that has done nothing to negotiate the “top” “bottom” concepts, but have dismembered the black woman on the Hollywood auction block and sold (and continues to sell) her temple to anyone willing to pay.

Black blood continues to translate into white money, and twerking merely helps our oppressors to advertise their product. Their product, remains the commodified black body and the black mind as long as we look to the African adjacent hoping for them to accept or acknowledge what they can never be. For a black woman’s body was never a “bottom.” Rather, a black woman’s behind illustrates her cultural apex.

Here is where I should say something like, let Normani’s video be a “motivation” to fall “crazy in love” with a definition of blackness autonomous from Western influence. For this post, however, I wish to ask you a question. Twerking has become the picture that accompanies the the black female narrative, but if the black women at the “top,” be it Normani who twerks her way into a point of reference, Beyonce who twerks her way into international stardom, or Michelle Obama who socially twerks her way into American status, how is this different than the black woman who twerks in places seen to constitute society’s base, like a street corner or in a strip club?

The black female pop star is no different than the black female street walker, just as Michelle Obama is no different than the academically decorated black women seeking a seat in the corner office in a corporation founded on her ancestor’s blood. Commonly, the pop star and the corporate superstar twerk to emerge as “something,” or to be seen as “someone” in this white supremacist society. There is no “top” for us in American society. Every turn in this labyrinth is to employ black people as workers in their own destitution.

While twerking may yield different results and prices, twerkers continue to pay with their souls—an irretrievable loss for the black collective and a sustainable win for the African adjacent.

Twerking is what you do when the sound of your oppression sounds like a beat.

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Black Power ❤

The Danger of Dear White People

 Allow me to begin by stating that the characters on Dear White People remind me of people that I know, but wish I didn’t. Thus, I do not contest that Simien’s characters represent a reality. My contention is that this reality does not allow members of the black collective to critically examine what our oppressive continent has made of our collective. Rather, Dear White People illustrates a white agenda put into practice by black bodies and a black writer. 

I have written about the previous seasons of Dear White People, expressing my disappointment in what could have been an opportunity to probe black intellectual and artistic creativity in the rudimentary stages. 

However, while Dear White People proved culturally catastrophic in previous seasons, this season marks a point of no return. 

This season, creator Jason Simien tackles the #metoo movement. The series and Winchester welcome Moses Brown, a black professor and app developer, onto the historically white campus. Allegations of sexual misconduct follow Brown’s entry and emergence as a campus leader and saving grace for the black constituency. Rich, white female student “Muffy” confides in token Coco regarding an unwanted sexual advance from Moses Brown. Moses Brown, played by black Hollywood veteran Blair Underwood, means something special Reggie in particular. Reggie who, of course, was held at gunpoint at a party during the first season, finds purpose and a means to confront his trauma as Brown’s prodigy.  Moses Brown breaks ground by making it so that Reggie’s experience will not be a repeat scenario. Specifically, Brown makes it so that campus police will remain unarmed during their shifts. 

Though it is Brown who makes this initiative, his actions reflect the efforts of the black caucus who refused to be silent after a campus police officer drew his weapon on Reggie, a black male student. This is an important depiction as it illustrates using your voice as producing tangible results. It is important for young people to see that to make noise is to make a difference.

But despite Brown’s initiative, the series sullies his actions to depict Moses Brown as the media portrays black men daily. 

Dear White People molds Brown into a Bill Cosby like character—a black man initially lauded for building black people up viciously taken down by the same media who fostered his once positive portrayal.  

When Reggie first approaches Brown, Brown regards the accusations as resulting from his own naivety. The second time Reggie confronts Brown, Brown’s response consummates an admission of guilt. 

My question is: if the white media has their Bill Cosbys, their Nate Parkers, and their R. Kellys, why does Dear White People need a Moses Brown?

Specifically, of all the narratives to portray regarding black people, or even black people and sexual assault, Simien conforms to the master narrative and violently casts black people as support in a story that maintains white women as the face of sexual assault. Simien’s plot line creates a fictive narrative where white women are silenced by black male power. Though a black men hold high positions at this college, they are workers: not owners, investors, or trustees, but workers. Thus, the power dynamics are conveniently misconstrued. Universities are plantations, making the highly ranked black man, “good stock.” History tells us that even the best stock were castrated if there were even a thought that he would sexually pursue a white woman.

Thus, Simien’s series ignores the reality that allegations that speak to white female chastity as tainted or threatened by black men remains the downfall of so many who have seemingly consummated American success. Simien’s narrative ignores the reality that the African adjacent woman remains able to mend hurt feelings, or rejection, with fictitious stories that operate as fact in a country that refuses to see the black man as anything but a hyper-sexual beast.

Black men are imperfect. I say this as custom, because given all black people have had to overcome, I do think we as a people approach perfection. I am not sure one can get closer to perfection than those who have every reason to fall but keep standing. 

I say this not be egotistical, but to state that  there are many sub-narratives in the black experience that Siemen should have included. Siemen could have depicted the Carolyn Bryants as a contemporary reality, or he could have created fictionalized versions of Recy Taylor, Betsy Owens, or Tawana Brawley, bringing black girl trauma to light. Rather, his portrayal vindicates the Carolyn Bryants and leaves the dark girl and the dark man in their European imposed oblivion.

 It should be criminal to reference Emmett Till and create a discourse that casts him as an anomaly. Till is a page in a book inundated with countless stories of black male injustice induced by an accusation from an African adjacent women. Thus, Till is not the first or the last page in this narrative, but a page nonetheless. Instead, the series detaches Emmett Till from Moses Brown, just as the white media detached Claude Neal, Rubin Stacy, and countless other lynched black men from Bill Cosby, whereas they all hold hands as mockingbirds stifled by avarice hunters. 

It is both a blessing and a curse that the contemporary world gives increased access to storytelling. The blessing is that viewers witness black talent. The talent is often mis used and abused, but talent nonetheless.  The curse is that all featured stories lead to white supremacy; Siemen embodies this curse. 

This curse poses the following query: What good is a platform if one occupies the space on their knees?

In providing a discourse where a black girl overlooks her white boyfriend systemically passing as a minority, and where black students at a college where the first black people on the campus were enslaved, join forces to take down a black man because of accusations made by a white woman, Sieman illustrates that modern entertainment, for the black viewer, is nothing more than an admonishment. Specifically, black audiences are to learn that witty speech intertwined with the occasional esoteric term are fine as long you fail to actually say anything. Dear White People warns against trying to be anything other than a supporting member or peripheral partiality in America’s oppressive landscape.

In summation, Dear White People casts a dangerous discourse among the cognitive landscape of its black viewers. The series achieves said danger by inviting the black viewer to do what slain civil rights leader Malcolm X warned us against. Malcolm X once said:

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

This new season of Dear White People attacks the black subconscious, so that by its final episode, the black viewer empathizes and loves their oppressor and sees their collective selves as a rapist underserving of his education and status.

Nevertheless, this post is not to dispute Sieman’s talent or intellect, but to state that he lacks the courage we as a collective need from our writers. I am saying that we need that an Amiri Baraka-like vigor, a “S.O.S.” that “ calls all black people” not to the couch, or to a subconscious submissiveness, but to action. 

Luce, A Black Female Perspective

An expository essay sits at the core of Julius Onah and JC Lee’s drama Luce. The title character Luce, a high school senior, lauded as a scholar, athlete, and debator, tackles a new path when he writes a paper in the voice of black revolutionary Frantz Fanon. In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon asserts that decolonization is an inevitably violent event. Though Luce argues that his expository paper reflected the assignment parameters, he pursues a Fanon-like attempt to decolonize, an attempt distorted by assimilatory expectations set for him—expectations he gives into. Luce enacts a form of violence that proves counterproductive to his blackness, but necessary to consummate his status as American. Luce illustrates that to Americanize an African, is to niggerize a human. Thus, though pegged as a psychological drama, Luce illustrates niggerization as a psychosis that results from assimilating an African into America. 

The film succeeds in featuring a discourse where Fanon holds hands with Ralph Ellison and black male protagonist Luce. Luce pays the price of assimilation in a disappearing act that manifests in the patriotic speech that ends the film. The speech, delivered to an audience basking in his assimilatory performance, delineates his transition from patriot to person. I contend that the black man turned patriot, or American, inevitably becomes an invisible man.

This assimilatory tale, though somewhat nuanced in this film, is not a new narrative. Ralph Ellison delineates a similar battle in “The Battle Royal” or what would become the first chapter of his masterpiece Invisible Man. In his canonical piece, Ellison introduces readers to a nameless protagonist who, in almost all regards, proves a lot like Luce. The film evokes “The Battle Royal” in the tension Luce has with other black people seeking to make something of themselves, despite lacking Luce’s crossover appeal. This is perhaps most evidenced in a scene Luce has with a white teammate who distinguishes between Luce and his friend DeSean, where Luce’s teammate references DeSean, the caricatured inner-city youth, as “black black.” This distinction indicates that Luce’s blackness is physical, whereas DeSean’s blackness encompasses his essence. This distinction delineates that black male invisibility is pseudo visibility. The most visible black men, those lauded and celebrated for epitomizing American values, epitomizes the essence of invisibility.

To consummate his invisibility, the black male protagonist eliminates his resources. His overachiever status alienates him from his classmates who realize that they must fall so Luce can stand. Specifically, though all the members on Luce’s track team smoke marijuana, it is DeSean, a black man not coveted by white vestment, that loses funding for a collective recreational habit. DeSean comes to encompass a stereotype because the stereotype must exist for there to be a black token. The Stereotype and the token are two sides of the same coin, as both the stereotype and the token veil black identity behind a caricature. Nevertheless, while Luce and DeSean’s detachment composes a core component to his assimilatory narrative, it is Luce’s detachment from the black woman that consummates his road to invisibility. 

Harriet Wilson, who shares a name with the first black person to write a novel, occupies a similar space to her foremother in the Virginia high school where she works. Particularly, Wilson is one of few black teachers at the school, a dearth that fosters a maternal attachment to Luce. This attachment manifests in the high standards she holds him too. Wilson’s expectations for Luce are not unlike the expectations his white parents, and white teachers have for him, yet Luce’s rage, despite uttering a few harsh words to his white mother, remain anchored in Wilson.  

After learning that Ms. Wilson has informed his parents of his essay, Luce begins a series of carefully executed incidents that result in Wilson’s dismissal and Luce’s eventual rise to the top of an assimilatory mountain. Luce’s “rise” and Wilson’s fall are both rooted in their reliance on the white woman. Wilson initially reached out to Luce’s mother to report Luce’s essay and even hands her the explosives found in his locker. Her actions, while stern, reflect care, as Wilson could have easily reported Luce to the principal, as she did to his friend DeSean. Luce, however, cannot understand Wilson’s actions due the psychosis that results from being adopted by a white family and infiltrated into a white country. 

Ms. Wilson treats Luce with same regard to which white men or white boys encounter globally, when they exude similar behavior before fatal acts. This treatment enables Wilson to act as a white woman who though seemingly protecting the youth, protects her matriarchy. Through this dynamic, the film explores institutionalization as duplicitous. Specifically, Luce’s adoption into a white family and a white nation both remain contingent on an assimilation to which everyone in his life, his parents, teachers, and even his girlfriend, contribute. Harriet Wilson battles her duplicity through what the contemporary world calls intersectionality. Wilson battles her femininity and race in the interactions with her students and their parents. This intersectionality proves a farce as Wilson eventually encounters an invisibility that causes her to disappear from the institution to which she devoted her life.This invisibility, though fomented by Luce, comes full circle because of the white woman. 

The white woman occupies a similar space and place in Ralph Ellison’s “The Battle Royal.” In the short story turned introductory chapter, white female victimhood chronologically precedes the narrator’s fate, but though both occupy the same stage, the two do not hold hands. What I mean here, is that in both Ellison’s novel and the film, the white woman is an omen for what becomes of the black protagonist. 

Given that Luce the character and film derive from JC Lee, a white man, Amy Edgar, Luce’s adoptive mother, most likely exists to consummate the white savior role. Whether the result of a black director and screenwriter Julius Onah, or just how the characters manifested in relation to one another, Luce’s adoptive parents delineate white narcissism. When Luce began to fade from perfection, Mr. Edgar clearly becomes uncomfortable with his proximity to Luce’s flaws; Mrs. Edgar, however, appears unrelentlessly espoused to her maternal role. Her seemingly unwavering love for Luce, though, reflects her devotion to her investment. Amy Edgar, therefore, does not love Luce; she loves the parts of herself she has poured into him. Similarly, there is a a moment in the film where Mr. Edgar appears to choose his family, whereas he too chooses his white male vestment in his white wife and adopted son. This narcissism is most evident in the moments where Luce practices his final speech, where he laments on his parents changing his name because they “could not pronounce it.” To the casual listener, this proclamation appears innocuous, if not funny. To those who last name marks an oppressive familial link, this information illustrates the rudimentary steps in Luce’s institutionalization process. The name change, like acquiring a new language, seemingly marks Luce as a family member and an America; whereas, this process actualizes his status as captive. Thus, this “familial” dynamic reveals white narcissism as often misconstrued as white affection.

Narcissism, projected as affection from the African-adjacent woman occurs countless times throughout the film. However, the only true affection Luce does experience is from Harriet Wilson. This affection is distorted and doused in white ideals, but it is as pure as any institutionalized sentiment can be. Luce welcomes and manipulates the narcissistic affections of his African-adjacent admirers because doing so affords him a pseudo power that will not question or cure his trauma. Luce’s engagement with the African adjacent superficially fills a void resulting from his absent maternal and continental mother. 

Luce’s detachment from the black woman is perhaps most pronounced in a scene where Ms. Wilson’s younger sister has a public episode. During this episode, Ms. Wilson’s sister Rosemary strips off all her clothes in hopes to make her sister feel the shame she felt when Wilson put her out. Luce uses the footage of Rosemary’s nude body tased by police in front of numerous white students and staff to substantiate why Ms. Wilson is not to be trusted. A young black woman publicly humiliated and harmed, does nothing to Luce, a young man taken from Eritrea where he likely witnessed similar trauma firsthand. This marks Luce as mirroring a captive’s disposition toward the captured—that institutionalization is a necessary means to tame the uncivilized beast, or as he spray0painted in Ms. Wilson’s house, the “n*ggerb*tch.”. 

This detachment from the physical and continental mother maintains an integral role in Luce’s assimilation. It is only a motherless child that becomes what Richard Wright called a Native Son and what Ellison called an Invisible Man. Bigger Thomas, separated from his family and displaced into the Dalton home, becomes what the white world always destined him to be. The invisible man marks this detachment in his nameless state. His unnamed state mirrors the African abductee, stripped from his name, and ripped from his physical and continental mother, becomes subjected to his colonizer’s plans. Though perfected in literature, his story delineates this narrative with the George Stinney’s and the Emmett Till’s, the native sons turned invisible men by a white supremacist wrath. 

Luce encompasses a different form of invisibility, not consummated in a jail cell, in a wooden box, or in an electric chair. Rather, Luce consummates his invisibility at a podium delivering his highly anticipated final speech. It is not, however, Luce that delivers this speech; rather, it is an invisible man who delivers this speech.

As an invisible man, Luce’s abduction is an adoption, Mrs. Edgar is “Mom” and not “Amy,” and his “favor,” speech, and ways mark assimilation, not the assassination of a culture.

To place Luce in conversation with the pivotal novels that archive a similar experience, the following phrase comes to mind: “He who has never been born can never die, and he who was never born, does not truly exist.” Detached from the black mother and mother continent, Luce is a native son to white narcissism, or an invisible man.

To embrace the black woman, or Ms. Wilson, as a maternal figure and not a “n*gger- bitch,” is to acknowledge the psychosis that results from a child ripped from both his mother and nation. To put it bluntly,  this psychosis imbues an invisibility that makes Luce a canvass for white ideals. A canvass for white ideals, Luce personifies what the Invisible Man’s grandfather says to him in a dream: “Keep that n*gger boy running.” The final moments of the film capture Luce doing just that, except he is not guided or haunted by a forefather. Thus, Luce’s final act symbolizes him running away from blackness, towards whiteness, and into a bottomless invisibility veiled by the applause and accolades that accompany assimilation.

It may be too easy to deem the moral of the film as follows: white parents should not adopt black children. Rather, the film provides cause to question the ways in which all black people have been viciously adopted into a white culture, and made into Luce-like beings. The film provides cause to question the ways in which all black people are forced to forget their mothers and embrace an invisibility hidden behind the word “American.” 

Cyntoia Brown’s Release & Contemplating a “Free” yet Forgetful Culture

This week, countless media outlets celebrated what they called Cyntoia Brown’s freedom. The term “free” was probably always privy to a violent banality, but it’s use seems particularly violent with regards to Brown’s case. 

Cyntoia Brown was just a teenager when she was sentenced to life in prison. A pigtailed Brown made the news, but her image did nothing to alter her fate. A girl that looked as young as Brown sexually pursued by a man more than three times her age, revealed that though someone died, this someone was not the victim. However, upon seeing Brown, all the jury saw was a murderer. 

The details of the case, paired with the overturned outcome, only festers my ambivalence. It is a unique feeling to envision a once imprisoned person beyond an orange jumpsuit and shackles, yet doing so only evokes the Emancipation Proclamation, a document which marked transition not resolution.

Brown’s release promises something similar–a physical transition complicated by a psychological stagnancy aided by her release. By this, I mean that Brown’s release is not for her, or us, it’s for them. Brown’s release reflects a violent tokenism that enables the masses to focus on an individual and look away from a collective issue.

The collective issue is freedom.

Brown’s physical freedom, a state thoroughly compromised by the reality that her body was not her own prior to or following her incarceration, will likely reveal a psychological damage not reversed by the turn of a cell key. Brown is now to start her life from a place she should have never inhabited. Just like her ancestors, Brown’s life is marked by a disruption she is now to resolve under her oppressor’s searing gaze.

Yet, while Brown’s case illustrates the detriment of the dark race, it delineates that crime still has a color. 

Specifically, Brown’s case and it’s traction among popular recording artists and socialites, illustrates a pervasive preference for fairer-skinned women. Brown’s case illustrates that fairer-skinned women, while black enough for conviction, remain eligible for redemption. Globally, fairer-skin, or the presumed presence of white ancestry, functions as a redeeming trait.

My intentions are not to demonize Brown for what exists to her benefit but remains beyond her control. My contention remains with a systemized perception of black people that mirrors the dynamics put forth in the Willie Lynch letter. The Willie Lynch letter, where slave owner Willie Lynch broke down black enslavement to a divisive science which divided black people by white-induced distractions like skin color and gender. The sensationalized Cyntoia Brown case mirrors Lynch’s white supremacist methodology, as it functions to imply a changing, or different, America while distracting the black collective from a larger truth.  

The truth is that for every Cyntoia there is a darker-skinned woman that cannot maintain her innocence because of her skin color. Consider, for example, Assata Shakur, who remains on America’s most wanted list decades after her conviction. Shakur is female, but she is not fair-skinned or fine featured, so she was not only guilty, she was guilty and beyond the means of rehabilitation. Shakur took a freedom she actualized in her ideology. This type of “freedom” is the only kind of freedom there is, for all things given are never truly owned by the recipient.

As I write this piece, forty-five year old Ronald Sanford sits in a six by nine Indiana Jail Cell. He’s been incarcerated since the age of 13, meaning that he has been in jail longer than most millennials been alive. For over three decades, he’s been caged twenty three hours a day. Unlike Brown, Sanford is not a light-skinned woman, yet like Brown, his upbringing reflects a collective disenfranchisement designed to clip his wings. 

Yet, the white world uses cases like Brown and Sanford  as a discourse on choices, despite the too-often ignored reality that those born black do not choose the circumstances that placed them in a systemic chokehold. To be clear, my assertions do not function to victimize black people but to assert that we are not a collective plagued by villainy.

Collaboratively, Brown and Sanford illustrate that justice is not just at all.  Similarly, they illustrate that the penitentiary system is not a rehabilitation source for black people, it is cage used to control population, destroy black families, and injure the collective black psyche. To incarcerate an individuals is to wound a collective; we will never be free in a world where a teenager is to serve life in prison, but not given a life to live.

The physical and psychological sacrifice that becomes of our black children, black fathers, black mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles, friends, protectors, and griots, marks a global effort to ensure that the black collective remains shattered. I want to encourage those of the diaspora to write to those of us incarcerated, or even volunteer to teach, if you can, but more so, I’d like to humbly request something far more simple, in theory anyway.

My request is that you don’t forget about people like Ronald Sanford. Sanford will probably never get clemency, as his story delineates that to be black is to be criminal, to be forgotten, to be the “darkness” cast out by lightened sentences and the lighter-skinned. To remember Mr. Sanford in lieu of Cyntoia Brown, Alice Johnson, and all the cultural distractions to follow, is to remember that “darkness” to black people remains anchored in what functions as “the light.”

It is refusing to forget this truth, that we take the necessary strides toward freedom.

Assaulting the Archive: The Cultural Damage of The Black Biopic and “Historical” Film

The eighties were a turbulent period. The crack era personified a violent wrath that intentionally tore apart black families. The multi-talented Jackie Wilson, a trailblazer in black entertainment, lay robbed, abused, and neglected in a nursing home. Tawana Brawley, a fifteen-year-old black teen from Upstate New York, was raped and systemically lynched, and five young men were falsely accused of rape simply because they were young, black, and male. Yet despite these milestone moments, much of the eighties archive remains shunned to silence. These moments compose the portion of black life that does not warrant popular reference; rather, the eighties encompassed aspects of black life that an anti-black world needs black people to forget, and what, in this selective amnesia, we are destined to repeat.

It appeared an act of remembrance when Ava Duvernay debuted her Netflix series When They See Us in the Spring of 2019. Many rejoiced that the unsung stories of the Central Park 5 were finally being told. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise, who were previously all marked by four words: The Central Park Five, composed the core of Duvernay’s series which presented a telling and realistic portrait of the American (in) justice system. Though many credited the talented Duvernay with vindicating those those who remained guilty in the court of public opinion, the series proved hard to watch.

I cringed and crawled through the series. My attempts to Netflix and chill proved challenging, because I felt as though I should have been doing something. I felt as though I should be creating a solution rather than consuming a fictionalized version of a very real struggle—and this truth is, this sentiment does not reflect sanctimony, but what should be a reality. The Central Park 5, a testament to the low regard America holds black people, illustrates the low of a so called “elevated” or “civilized” society. The story of these young men delineate a shared experience of what it means to be black America. Specifically, the story of the Central Park five illustrates that black is synonymous with criminal. Yet, what appears most criminal about the docu-series is its destiny. Specifically, the series is destined to become the means of reference to this critical period in the black narrative. 

This illustrates a persistent problem with regards to the black collective and the black archive, because contrary to popular belief, films about the black experience, or notable black figures, do not constitute the black archive. Those of the black collective should only attend the movies to learn as a means of survival, and by learn, I mean learn the ways of white folk, not to meet an oppressor-approved version of our ancestors and elders.

Unfortunately, for many, Malcolm X remains confined to a Spike Lee caricature, and the Africans abducted centuries ago, reduced to images suitable for White America. The new Harriet Tubman film promises to fulfill a similar function. The controversial, yet highly anticipated, film resurrects the slave film that functions to appease white guilt and satiate white leisure. While 12 Years a Slave (2013) garnered rave reviews for its “accurate” portrayal of America’s forgotten past, it was its white savior figure, played by Hollywod-hearthrob Brad Pitt, that warranted its positive reception. Aside from transitioning pain into entertainment, the slave narrative remains the sole means many will come to know the ancestors and elders that enable present possibility. These films, however, encompass a neutered story where truth remains optional. The slave-film genre, therefore, assumes misplacement as the black archive.  

It is worth mentioning the subjects and topics that remain too contentious for exclusion into the visual archive. Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation, for example, debuted amidst personal scandal to deflect from the film’s potential power. This delineates that slave films are fine as long as black people are portrayed comically, homely, or helpless, but not hopeful or rebellious. Similarly, I have yet to see any films about the Tawana Brawley story, an omission that illustrates that the white world wants to make sure the black woman says #metoo to a westernized femininity and not to black female systemic asphyxiation.

These omissions underscore just how important archives remain to the collective African experience. The archives do not encompass entertainment, but exist as an integral component to emerging from the margins of our own mind into the center. 

I recently heard of filmmaker Ava Duverney’s plans to make a film for activist and self-proclaimed contemporary runaway slave, Assata Shakur. The news, much like the news of of the upcoming Harriet Tubman film, incited a generally positive response, marking those who feel vindicated in the visibility aligned with a big-screen feature. This desire to be seen, marks those irretrievably wounded by a world whose narcissism engenders the marginalized to search for their reflection in their oppressor’s eyes. The word narcissism, of course, derives from Narcissus, who in the ancient myth, drowns after attempting to kiss his own reflection. This is the exact future that awaits black people who view their reflection in the visual medium presented as the archive. 

Just like the river that became Narcissus’s acquatic grave, the visual archive enables vanity not value. To drown pursuing excellence is a worthwhile cause, but to drown in disenfranchisement, which is the fate of the visual black archive, marks yet another win for whiteness at the expense of the black collective. 

Everything should not be a movie. Movies only exist to create an idle consumerism in a collective the United States works tirelessly to convince of their cultural deficit. This truth substantiates that it is not art to compartmentalize vital components of the black narrative to a film, but cultural assasination. The “historical” film or black biopic constitutes “his” story not our story. Therefore, these genres do not encompass black culture; the historical films or black biopics are what colonizers want the black collective to see so that we do not see ourselves.

Productive consumerism remains consummated by reading books and in the oral archives that transcribes what time or racism cannot take away. Books, letters, notes, and word-of-mouth represent the stories that will not become films because they teach black people a potency American culture incites them to unlearn.

The visual medium is another way to stall the black collective. Now, instead of saying “wait,” our oppressors tell us to watch, watch as our truth becomes mutilated in who and what this country needs us to be–misinformed, dazed, and distorted.

Remembering Toni Morrison

Though I met Morrison as a child, I did not understand her until I was an adult. I was an adolescent who pursued her text perilously. Like Beloved protagonist Sethe, I journeyed to the unknown knowing that what lied ahead was better than what I was leaving behind. Reading Beloved change me, delineating the full extent to which the literary world encompassed a realm of its own. Beloved, like The Bluest Eye, God Help the Child, and Sula, archived the black female narrative in a way that only a black woman could. As a writer, Morrison archived portions of herself and her experience that provided a new way for the black woman and the black writer to see herself and embrace how central she remains to her community. As a black woman who spent her entire life studying English as a discipline, Morrison provided a special means for me to see myself. Specifically, it is because I started my journey to literary scholarship at Howard University that English equated to blackness. Morrison took the terms “novelist,” English,” “professor,” and “editor,” terms that previously marked linearity to white men, and occasionally white women, and adorned them in black.

Additionally, Morrison’s prose proved consistently pedagogical. The Bluest Eye taught me that “self-hatred” is a process too often passed down, or inherited. The text introduced readers to a generational genocide that functioned as though genetic. During this a process, one ultimately loses a part of themselves that they never really had to begin with.

Yet, despite Morrison’s literary genuis, a common contention that followed her in her lifetime was that she was unnecessarily hard on black men. I came into reading Morrison with this in the back of my mind. I even encountered those who enjoyed Morrison’s work because they felt comforted by what they considered negative portrayals of black men. I, however, could not disagree more with these contentions. Specifically, in reference to Cholly Breedlove of The Bluest Eye and Halle Suggs of Beloved, Morrison does not paint a blissful or idealistic portrait; rather, she depicts black men as wounded by the white ideal. To be clear, by wounded, I don’t mean weak. Instead, Morrison takes black male portrayal past a single dimension and illustrates the black man as he is, complicated and layered, a challenge she endured with love.

Morrison created a world where the black people could not only be, but a world where the black man was not violently placed into a box and caricatured as a hero, super-negro, or hoodlum, but human.

Morrison, notably through Beloved, taught me that through fiction we can create fact. Through literature, Morrison showed the black community that we have the power to fill in the gaps in our story. Her prose taught readers that genre enables us to meet our ancestors and to archive, a world, a truth, a story that we were told did not exist. From her works, we, as black women and black people, learned parts of ourselves that we were either taught to suppress, or that remained buried in caricature. Morrison’s essays, novels, and speeches illustrated the humanity this country tried to strip from black people, and her language mastery delineated our severed tongue as a weapon.

Yet, in remembering our greats, it is imperative that we not forget what their lives teach us. Particularly, attaining placement as a prominent black author in America, does not come without a cost. Recently, the white community ignited an uproar upon learning that there was to be a street posthumously named for prolific black intellect Dr. Ben. The African adjacent listed numerous reasons why the street naming should not take place. The most reasont reason would have to be the resentment engendered from Dr. Ben’s refusal to have his word revieved by the African adjacent.

This is interesting to consider with regards to the late and great Toni Morrison, who wrote black narratives that only went out to the public after edited by a white male publisher. This affiliation provides cause to question whether Morrison’s national reverie reflects her true greatness, or whether Morrison’s acclaim reflects a means for white media to Americanize black achievement. For those who regard Morrison’s national acclaim, it is imperative to note that Morrison’s high regard does not encompass what she meant nd will continue to mean for black people.

Nevertheless, this truth compliments the legacy Morrison leaves behind. Morrison’s Americanized legacy illustrates the danger that lies in valuing our greats by American standards. Morrison is not great because of her publisher, her inclusion in the literary canon, or because of her American and European accolades. Morrison is great due to the publsher she was, and because of the new standard and canon she helped created for black readers and writers. Morrison consummated greatness because she used her platform to nurture other black writers. Thus, her life and literary presence teaches the black community what remains foundational in restoring our collective; that it is not about recognition, it is about responsibility.

Literary Mother Morrison, may you rest in peace.

Though absent in presence, your spirit remains between every line, and on every page. For tis’ the legacy of every writer ❤

Oh Marianne, The Great White Hope Ain’t the GOAT

This country has an obsession with aesthetical emotion. By aesthetical emotion, I speak to the appearance of emotion being far more valuable than the feeling itself. America, specifically contemporary media, encourages performance but curses action.

In that regard, 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson immerses herself in the contemporary racial fervor by pandering to those seeking feel-good commentary, those who feel vindicated when white people speak on black lives, and those who vehemently oppose Williamson but will employ her as a reference to delineate that all white people are not racists.

In juxtaposition to Marianne Williams, African adjacent candidates who root their policies in anti-trumpism appear as apples who fail to fall far from the white supremacist tree. This same comparison exposes the melanated candidates as black in legality only. The media, however, portrays Marianne Williamson as a loony whose grand ideas present an unrealistic diagnosis to very real American problems, and as a writer whose ideas, not initiatives, guide her into an abstract stupor that appear grand solely to the under-represented.

Williamson however, is not a loony; she a sorceress of strategy. Williamson encompasses what the late professor and literary critic Arthur P. Davis considered the idealistic fool, but she isn’t however, fooling me.

Williamson set twitter ablaze last week when she assessed the damage of slavery. She spoke confidently and assertively to the financial debt the United States owes those once considered cargo. To many, Marianne Williamson’s words spoke truth to power. Williamson’s words, however, revealed the persistent power of the great white hope.

With all the issues that continue to haunt the black community, the 2020 presidential race, though featuring two melanated candidates, still features a dearth in black representation. Black candidates are to be only black in theory, but be “American” when answering questions about race. Williamson only exposes this truth in the access she has to a public pro-blackness, to use the term loosely, that the African abductee cannot.

Specifically, Williamson made the news for speaking about reparations because she is a white woman. She garnered traction as a progressive and even radical candidate because she is a white woman. Williamson illustrates that black lives matter when white people say so, for this is the American way. Additionally, Williamson illustrates the white woman, who says what America murders black people for even thinking, who wins her way into melanated hearts and to the top of black institutions. News that Williamson will speak at the upcoming #ADOS conference in Kentucky acts as an omen for the American leaders that await the African in American seeking the valor of the red, white, and blue. Williamson is the omen of what awaits the black person satiated by aesthetical emotion. Specifically, Williamson articulates a sentiment, a national act of retribution, that she cannot feel. Her words imbue her visibility as a white woman at the expense of black invisibility.

Social and political invisibility continues to haunt black identity, an invisibility that is perhaps most prevalent in presidential debates. Bernie Sanders, uses the word “revolutionary” but fails to distance himself from white conservatism, Elizabeth Warren’s reparation policy casts reparation as a cake that must serve everyone, even herself, and the other politicians mask their anti-black ideologies with “race-neutral” speech.

Commonly, the 2020 candidates illustrate that white supremacy has not died, it has only diversified. This is systemically terrifying, as politicians speak of diversity only to diversify their appeal. Employing this approach, politicians ensure that America remains the same,particularly, that America continues to benefit and oppress the same people.

Simply put, you cannot solve a problem in whcih you are a part. Waiting for white people to solve a problem is the same thing as ceasing to act in anticipation of new problems. True change cannot and will not happen until black people unapologetically speak truth to their own power.

It is not progressive to have any African-adjacent person as an authority on black issues. To put it bluntly, Marianne Williamson does not speak for black people or the black experience because she cannot. She is not the portrait of progress. Williamson illustrates that “President” remains a derogatory word for those of the black collective.

Perhaps most importantly, Williamson illustrates that the “great white hope” continues to embody a portrait of progress to an oppressed people. Many people will read this pose, render me another angry black womab, and castigate me for critiquing the sole candidate who put my issues on the table. To these contentions, I say that to support Williamson is to ceer on the master’s wife as she takes a seat at the table my ancestors built. What does it matter what she says when she’s at the table if me or my people do not have seat?

I understand that many of my skinfolk still view whitness, or the white ally, as essential for black liberation. Kinfolk, however, understand that the great white hope does not embody hope at all. Instead, this fixation on hope, which imbues an aesthetical emotion that borderlines despair, reveals that what we need as a collective is more than hope and far more than a president.

The Black Mother and The Plight For Humanity

In a climate where women’s issues maintain central placement, it is imperative that black women take note of their treatment in American society. Particularly, the illusion of progress, seduces many to believe that black women are part of the #metoo era that, summoned by another feminist wave, started with a chain of sexual assault victims and transitioned into abortion and reproductive rights. This #metoo era exposes white women and the non-black woman of color as saying #metoo to white male supremacy rather than to one another. For clarity, what I mean is that the hashtag, despite seeming to delineate the white woman and non-black woman of color as victims of white supremacy, the reveals the African adjacent’s desire to mimic their white male oppressors. 

This praxis proves pedagogical to the black woman. Specifically, the masked intentions and functionality of white supremacy often manifest through gender politics. For this reason, the black woman must say #mefirst before she says #metoo. 

We live in a world that values white women and the non black woman of color in a way that it refuses to value the black woman. Reproductive laws exist to ensure that the white population remains the majority. This reproductive hierarchy is perhaps best illustrated by egg donor industries. Egg donor industries offer thousands of dollars to African adjacent women to ensure their presence among the growing population remains lucrative despite black fertility. I say this to emphasize that the black woman who says #metoo signs on to a gradual genocide guised as girl power. 

The case for black women as #mefirst practitioners is perhaps best delineated in how America treats black mothers, who lie on the mutated margins of female reproductive politics.  

*****

On the last Saturday in June, The New York Times published an article entitled: “A bullet, a miscarriage and an unthinkable question: Who’s the victim, and who is to blame?” The article addressed twenty-seven year old Marshae Jones’s indictment in the murder of her fetus. Jones, who was allegedly involved in a quarrel with her co-worker, suffered a shot to the abdomen that resulted in her fetus’s death. Though Jones’s adversary cast the fatal bullet into Jones’s abdomen, the fetus’s death is apparently her fault. The charges against Jones were eventually dropped, but the question remains: why was Jones even placed in this predicament to begin with? Thus, while the case, article title, and article content place victimhood at it core, its subject engenders something far more deviant. 

The case’s media perpetuation proves parallel to Margaret Garner who in the 19th century gained notoriety for her infant child’s death. Though inciting many contemporary discussions surrounding black femininity and victimhood, the case pondered whether Garner, an enslaved woman, could even commit murder. Garner of course would be charged with destroying property, but to many, Garner remains remembered as a murderer. In this case, Garner is not a mother, or a woman cognitively wounded by enslavement, but a menace to an anti-black society. Similar to Garner, Jones is not a mother, but a criminal. Both women illustrate how the white media twists the black narrative to depict the black woman as unfit for motherhood. To villanize the black mother is no small feat; it is a conspiracy to attack a culture at its roots. 

The #metoo movement functions to ensure that the African adjacent maternal figure remains chaste and sacred, a move the African adjacent pursue through victimhood. This road to chastity, paved in victimhood, occurs at the expense of the black woman who remains demonized. Thus, in order for the black collective to actualize #mefirst, we must collectively uphold the black woman as queen. 

Unlike white and non-black collectives, the black plight is not about claiming victimhood. Rather, our plight is to claim our humanity. The African adjacent claim victimhood as a testament to their humanity. Yet for the black collective, to claim our humanity is to acknowledge that our mothers have been victimized by a poisonous system, but that our ability to survive and thrive in the face of adversity, bears a testament to our pre-humane status. By pre-humane status, I assert that black humanity births general humanity. In short, there would be no “humanity” without black people.

In this anti-black society, black people remain criminalized for “human” behavior.  Garner was a human being seeking to counter inhuman conditions, yet punished like an animal for seeking to inact personification. Humans are contentious creatures, but the conflicts of those born black remain portrayed as idiosyncratic of innate criminality. In the instances of Margaret Garner and Marshae Jones, their lack of humanity proves contentious to their roles as mothers. Mothers are human, and an anti-black society thrives on its ability to counter black maternity by insistently infringing on black rights consistent with their status as human. 

This post is not to make an “All lives matter” comparison between human rights and the rights of black people, nor are my claims to encourage black women say #metoo to humanity. I do, however, wish to assert that we as collective seize our humanity by acknowledging our exclusion. I contend that our response be not to demand inclusion but to prioritize ourselves amongst ourselves. 

Black mothers matter because black people matter. Black women are the roots of black culture and identity; as a collective, we must protect the mother of humanity by honing her deserved but deprived centrality. 


How The Lion King Shows Us Who’s Still King

Claims that reference Disney’s The Lion King as visually and thematically violent, will prompt many to see King Mufasa hanging off a cliff before falling to his death as his young son Simba watches in a youthful confusion. However, to assign the film’s violence to one fictional scene would be a grave oversight. The Lion King is anti-black, and therefore potentially fatal for black viewers and detrimental to repairing the perception of black people. Repairing the black collective, or dare I say reparations, is, of course, not an American or Disney objective.  

The film’s violence stems from its racist and colorist discourse. Scar, the film’s villain, and the Hyenas, who maintain consistent and literal placement in the film’s shadows, prove particularly problematic. Their physical blackness, Scar’s trademark dark hair, the hyena’s dark skin, full features, and dialect often paired with those relegated to the societal margins and the inner city, reflect the very qualities and presumed inferiority that corresponds to the black collective. 

Similarly, Pride Rock, the story’s core, proves identical to nearly any suburban environment. Though white people do not inhabit all suburbs, all suburban environments maintain a proximity to whiteness and are often inundated with white versions of success and achievement. Pride Rock’s literal and figurative placement away from the literal shadows  that Scar and the hyenas occupy, encompass the very binaries that separate the suburbs from the “slums,” the affluent from the impoverished, and the black from the white. The film’s conflict, therefore, lies in its subtleties. Viewers who consume the film’s content as children, consume its racialized discourse and subconsciously compartmentalize it’s content as an ideology. Thus, by the time black Lion King viewers who first visually consumed the film in childhood approach adolescence, they will be ready to take their place in the shadows of a society that hates them. 

While the story remains the same, Lion King, like many contemporary adaptations of Disney films, have overtly embraced physical diversity to display its contempt for the black collective in color. Specifically, the 2019 adaptation of the Lion King employs pop-superstar Beyonce to play the film’s heroine and to sing the film’s soundtrack into the minds of its targets. Beyonce’s placement on Pride Rock as Nahla seems a testament to her popularity and vocal ability, yet Beyonce’s film placement mirrors her function and positionality with regard to the black community. Specifically, the white media casts Beyonce as a heroine for the black race who must fight the hyenas, or avert black stereotypes, to assume a position “in the light.” She is suburbia and all other symbols of whiteness, masked behind physical blackness, or politicized diversity. Beyonce as Nahla, a lioness who emerges from the shadows into the “light” associated with Pride Rock, symbolized Beyonce’s emergence from a niggerized blackness into a larger than life figure that speaks to the black collective using her oppressor’s language. This language is not only in songs, a point I will return to momentarily, but in the long blonde hair and light brown skin, that remain the apex of a black female beauty written in whiteness. 

Beyonce’s strategic casting is perhaps most evident in her song “Brown Skin Girl,” a reggae-inspired song that features daughter Blue Ivy Carter. The song quickly became an anthem for black women who, like Destiny Child member Kelly Rowland, are too often rendered invisible when juxtaposed to their fairer-skinned counterparts. The song proves a testament to the beauty of those born with the kiss of the sun. Admittedly, the song has a catchy rhythm, and Blue Ivy’s closing solo, which embodies the goal of generations to come, would bring even a racially neutral black person to tears. However, the very brown celebrated in this popular tune, proves a catalyst for the film’s evil villain whose darkness must be overcome to restore light back to the kingdom. The song’s irony is multiplicious, as Beyonce would not be “Beyonce” without the “brown skinned” woman of whom she sings. Specifically, the brown skinned girl, or who Alice Walker calls the “black black woman” who sits at the start of Beyonce’s genetic lineage, literally birthed the superstar, as did the black black woman’s generational disenfranchisement. Beyonce’s serenade also delineate another continuous conflict cast onto the browner-skinned black woman. 

Fairer-skinned black women are often cast to tell their more sun-kissed counterpart’s narrative, an arragement that has become normalized in anti-black culture. As seen with the recent Nina Simone movie that starred Zoe Saldana, and series like GreanleafGrownish, or the new Netflix series Family Reunion, the sun-kissed black woman with full, African features is too often excluded from her own story. These examples, along with Beyonce’s serenade to her sun-kissed sisters, illustrate that the black woman cannot play herself in her own story, nor sing her own glory.

Thus, the cognitive dissonance Beyonce imbues in her Lion King role remains lost to many who seek only superficial representation. This superficial representation grants a vile inclusion to the progression of oppressed peoples. Specifically, Disney’s diversity is not about including black people in that self-esteem surge that white viewers experience when consuming media, but including black people in their own detrimental portrayal to ensure the fate of the darker-hued in the Lion King becomes real life. 

So while Simba, played by Donald Glover, resumes his throne as “king” by the film’s end, the Lion King is not a black man, nor does the film mark a black victory. The white man remains king with the sometimes-victim white woman beside him on a throne build by black bones. 

The Lion King, much like beauty standards and the perception of the black collective, remains unchanged.  Though black faces occupy positions behind computer-generated lions and even assume seemingly central placement in beauty campaigns, this does not negotiate the anti-black power structure. Casting black bodies in an anti-black powerplay, the white world has festered the wound of anti-blackness. This casting encompasses what the mainstream world calls diversity, but this”diversity” translates to variety in appearance only and proves disastrous to the black collective.  

In conclusion, the magic of Disney, as seen in The Lion King and the upcoming Little Mermaid film, illustrates the magic of white supremacy in a constituency that believes in the possibility of a good oppressor more than they believe in their collective good. Therefore, The Lion King delineates whiteness as the reigning monarchy presiding over a constituency bound to an inevitable obliteration masked by faulty inclusion.