Amidst the scorching flames of white nationalism in America, writer, director, and actor Tyler Perry became a billionaire. This timing is, of course, not a coincidence. This news surfaced to reduce the fanned flames for those beaten, shot, and repeatedly failed by the system of laws cultivated when their ancestors were in bondage.
Perry’s billionaire status functions to pacify black rage and systemic disappointment by positing billionaire status as what happens when blacks work hard and play by the rules. Perry’s status is yet another optic that the white supremacist world implements to capitalize on the sale of black people. To this, I impose the following as a gentle reminder: a billion dollars represents Perry’s price—his auction block value. To sell for a high price is not autonomy or ownership, it embodies what it means to be owned by the oppressive forces that take the form of superficial freedom and pseudo achievement.
Specifically, Tyler Perry’s American accolade appears to depict ownership, but betrays white ownership projected as black success. Moreover, while the white nationalist world wants the black collective to perceive Perry as consummating the apex of black achievement, what Perry actually evidences is what an anti-black world yields he, she, or (they) who are for sale.
One of the most irksome, and omnipresent components to Perry’s status as mogul or icon is the credit many give Perry for depicting the obscured. Specifically, many credit Perry with showing the matters of black life omitted from mainstream re-presentations of American stories. I often wonder if those singing Perry’s praises are at all familiar with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stepin’ Fetchit, Hattie McDaniel as “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind, amongst other inaugural images that evidence the white imaginary as projected onto black caricature. These images, whether Topsy or Tom from Stowe’s racist novel, Fetchit, or Mammy, delineate earlier versions of the characters that dominated the plays that made Perry famous, the Madea character in particular. These images espouse black people to the white imaginary and project what only becomes true in a re-presentation of said imaginary. Thus, the true detriment of Perry’s rise is that he both performs and engenders others to accept what I call the broken clock syndrome.
Depending on the circumstances to which one encounters a broken clock, its status may not be immediately noticeable. To some, a broken clock is “right” twice a day. These people prove synonymous with those vested in caricature and feel that these images are not caricatures at all, but are presentations of what this white world has informed them is a “black” reality. A broken clock is not right twice a day, it just has moments that reflect a reality to which it is no longer apart. A broken is no longer in the world of time, it is just an object of a world to which its dysfunctionality precludes its active participation. Caricature proves synonymous to a broken clock because it fixates on one space, one spot in a perennial landscape.
This analogy proves a metaphor for the white imaginary as projected on the black collective— a fixture on a space that does not exist beyond the white imaginary. Perry, as a vessel for the white imaginary, invents, re-imagines the white imaginary in color and resurrects what must exist to embed a white nationalist ideology into a caste that becomes cognitively oppressed in the process.
Once espoused to the broken clock syndrome, it is always time to be commodified and itemized by what this white nationalist republic masks as a “diverse” democracy. See, Tyler Perry didn’t just sell his soul, he sold the souls of black folks by providing the white media a means to access the black mind through the false promises of visibility. Furthermore, while this racist world posits Tyler Perry as what we as a collective must run towards, now more than ever we must look beyond the white imaginary veiled by Perry’s caricature. We must cease trying to fix a broken clock and decide it’s time to be free. The black collective will never find freedom in money; rather, the only kind of freedom is he, she or (they) that cannot and could never be bought.