Twas an interesting night at the nation’s capital. The night was hot and humid, a minute improvement from the glaring heat that inundated the earlier hours of the day. I could not help but think about my ancestors who under the same sweltering heat, worked from sun-up to sun-down. Now, another ancestor lay amidst the heat and humidity of white hegemony.
Monday night, hundreds lined up to pay respects to the last of the big six, John Lewis. To examine this moment alongside the dismounted statues betrays Lewis’ remains as a sort of statue in death. What’s interesting is that the event engenders behavior that would otherwise be an unacceptable encounter with the dead. Particularly, as a national treasure, it is okay to photograph a boxed body dragged from state to state in the name of honor, because its contents are archived in history.
To archive a black in history is to embody the praxis of Americanizing the African. Though there were notable efforts to make this moment a black moment, the hegemonic victory proved itself in the large amounts of people who showed up to make history as such was placed interchangeably with remembering Lewis. Moreover, it becomes both interesting and necessary to consider what a page in his story costs the African descended.
Standing at the nation’s capital, chills went through my spine as I gazed upon a black corpse historically itemized beneath the American flag. Somehow this positioning illuminated what it is to be an African in America—to be six feet or more beneath the flag before you are beneath the ground. This display seems to posit that the best a black person can hope for is to exist in history at the expense of humanity, and the right to rest in peace.
There is something about the black body engaging in a kind of tour where their deceased body is carried through multiple cities that dismembers a corpse and legacy into pieces. This dismemberment affords the country a peace that it robs from the black individual and the black collective. Specifically, the country’s relentless plight to Africanize America, or to fictively display “American” as an inclusive concept, betrays resting in peace, for those not descended from Europe, as translating to resting in pieces.
As we encounter the twenty-first-century integratory fervor, John Lewis, like George Floyd, personify bodies paraded around the United States as American heroes, foreshadow what awaits the nuanced Americanism for the African descended. This nuanced Americanism promises black placement beneath a flag at an expense the black collective continues to pay in blood.
So as we bury another “American” valorized in a country that continues to hold our collective in contempt, it seems as good a time as any to consider burying laws and ideologies and tokenizing their death rather than affording pseudo “honor” to black corpses in a dishonorable nation.