Murder not death…
The world undoubtedly shines a little less bright with the loss of Sandra Bland and Bobbi Kristina. These fallen angels of the black diaspora, while separated in terms of fame and fortune, are united as casualties of racism. While the untimely loss of these two young ladies hurts many, white media personifies their indifference in their attempts to scorn the legacy of both women with whispers of suicide. Talk of suicide with regard to the black female body is not only blasphemy but it makes a mockery of the systematic racism that murdered both young women.
A common fact of the late and great James Brown is that he was born dead. While this fact may be medically veracious in Brown’s case, it is actually true of all persons of the Black diaspora. As the long severed children of Africa cast unto the Americas valued far beneath our worth, blacks, collectively are born dead. In fact, many of us go through life dead unless we are both gifted and cursed to stumble upon some degree of consciousness.
Bobbi Kristina and the Gift and Curse of Fame and Fortune
As the daughter of superstar Whitney Houston and R&B star Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina was born into the spotlight. While her life may seem to possess the sugar and spice to make the less famous and far less fortunate envious, the gift of such a lavish life would prove to be a curse. As the daughter of one of the best voices of all time, Bobbi watched her mom reach the height of her fame. Consequently, Bobbi also saw how Houston was discarded as her spotlight dimmed. She watched as her father battled the burden of being wed to a woman whose star burned just a little brighter.
In wake of her January tragedy, many blamed her parents for letting her down. These accusations completely casts the blame away from a society so doused in white supremacy that it failed both her and her parents. Fame fools many blacks into believing that the number of people who know your name and the amount of zeros on a check make them somehow more valuable. This fallacy is explicitly unveiled when celebrities learn that they too are pawns in racism. For they too are disenfranchised and undervalued as highly paid slaves whose value is solely based on their ability to generate money for whites.
Despite their fame and fortune Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston were still plagued with a dynamic that destroys many black unions. Dr. Frances Cress Welsing said it best in her controversial book The Isis Papers:
The first lessons to Black women were harsh and cruel ones of sexual assault and abuse, taking their children away and forcing them to watch as their men were lynched and castrated. But then the harsh lessons were followed by milder treatment of Black Women as compared to black men.
Black women, were often used as subtle pawns to emasculate the black man, thus further complicating the already complicated concept of black love. Thus, much like the black celebrity, the black family is also plagued by racism. While many black parents hope for their children to rise above their own mistakes, racism makes so much of black life circular. So just as Houston and Brown’s union deteriorated by a side effect of racism, so was Bobbi’s Kristina’s pursuit for love.
Bobbi’s attempt to find love of her own drove into the arms of the man who would physically cause her death. I say “physically cause her death” because boyfriend Nick Gordon’s actions were a direct result a racism. Lusting after the white man’s wealth present in Bobbi’s inheritance, Gordon’s greed seduced him into murder.
Now, Gordon has maintained his innocence and has yet to be brought up on murder charges. Instead, the media speculates that Bobbi Kristina’s drug use was the cause of her untimely death, but drugs, with regards to blacks is also a side effect of racism. Drugs are what are placed in the outstretched black hand that pleads for aid. Rather than equip the black community with quality schools, therapist and an abundance of jobs- drugs are placed in closer proximity than any opportunity for advancement. The accessibility of blacks, be it celebrities or the non famous and less wealthy to drugs is virtually the same. Thus, the neighborhood wino has many of the same problems as a NBA player, actor/actress, or singer, as they are equally plagued by the construct of blackness that robs us of the equity of advancement.
The destruction of blacks by a white society, be it poverty, alcoholism, drug or substance abuse stems from the lessons in hate taught by white supremacy. Everything in America is constructed for black people to hate themselves. From the images we see on television to often overtly dysfunctional and disenfranchised lives we are predisposed to, blacks are taught to think less of themselves and highly of the white race. This distorted reality seduces blacks into inferior position varying greatly in form. In lusting over the fabricated superiority of whites, whites gain their own sense of self importance and leave blacks solely responsible for cleaning up a mess they made. Almost inevitably, blacks are left to reassemble a puzzle of which many of the pieces were never given. Nevertheless, in both her life and death, Bobbi epitomized that no money or fame negates the magnitude of the black experience.
She Who is Killed Cannot Kill Herself
With a life that differed from Bobbi Kristina on the surface, Bland epitomizes the preference white society has for blacks who make a dollar, over blacks who make a difference. Bland was a young woman who lived through purpose. She understood the depth of all going on around her, and spoke out against it. See, white society can still thrive in their lies if one or two people decode their ways. However, if these people begin to talk to the masses, whites become anxious in fear of their fallacies being unveiled. Furthermore, by living through purpose, Bland epitomizes a person who is killed, not one who kills herself.
Bland’s case eerily reminds me of Emmitt Till’s murder. He too came from Chicago to a southern state and never made it back home. There seems to be an unspoken anxiety of southern states (who wish to operate as if they were their own country), against the behavior of less conservative states. In the state’s efforts to enforce that they see as “proper” behavior, Bland like Till become symbols of what happens when an equitable existence is demanded in a society that doesn’t see blacks as human.
To be black and female…
With the symbols like a Michelle Obama as the first black first lady, Oprah as a billionaire, and Gaby Douglas as an Olympic champion, society is seduced into believing that being black and female “isn’t that hard or bad.” These feats, while remarkable, represent a small minority of blacks that are able to defy overt disenfranchisement by existing in spaces previously reserved solely for whites. However, these symbols are merely individuals, or part of whole that is entirely victimized by systematic racism. So, despite their success, these individuals are still susceptible to a lack of cultural consciousness, which cripples them from helping the less franchised versions of themselves. Nevertheless, these individuals do not and should not represent the totality of the black experience as their success does not negate the racism that affects the entirety of the black diaspora. For in the face of discussing Michelle Obama and Oprah, let us not forget our sisters like Renisha McBride and Kindra Chapman who were slain by white supremacy.
Collaboratively, Sandra Bland and Bobbi Kristina depict the diversity of stress that comes with being both black and female in a world dominate by our antithesis- those who are white and male. Painting both women as suicidal is another way for white society to deflect blame away from themselves onto the victim.
Let us see Bland and Brown as the symbols contemporary society wants us to forget, the symbols that represent the actuality of the black experience. Let us mourn Bland and Brown for the tragedy they are, and not celebrate minuscule victories that are racist in their attempt to distort our understanding of racism.
Most importantly, may our reflection on Bland and Brown grant a realization of the depth and intensity of systematic racism. For the only way to overcome racism, is to truly understand it.