I was two days younger than I am today when I saw a self-proclaimed voter PSA with black strippers twerking. One dancer even had the word “VOTE” painted on her derriere. The advertisement delineates a clear intention to arouse a twerking generation to move from the pole to the poll. Watching this base appeal to underscore the power of the ballot was like taking a bullet to the chest. The commercial betrays the contentious disregard cast onto the black canvass, but it is more than that, isn’t it?
I want to be clear to articulate that my contentions are not directed toward black strippers as a whole, though I do take issues with the black women who took part in this particular video. The most contentious issue here is the continuous social reproduction of auction block culture. Particularly, the stripper pole paired synonymously with the voter’s poll is too easily proved by white male patriarchy’s habitual treatment of black people as commodified elements of white hegemony; however, the pole and poll illuminate auction block culture as seeking to “buy” and “sell” the black vote. This methodology is duplicitous as the strippers employed for this video depict this “bought and sold” dynamic as does a corresponding constituency bamboozled ( to borrow from the ancestor Malcolm X) into thinking a single vote will undo centuries of systemic violence.
The insult the commercial engenders has undoubtedly driven some away from the polls, as the optic pairs, a sexual dance that prompts the dollar with the political dance candidates and the government incite every four years from the black community.
Simply put, if this is what they think of us, it must change how we think of them.
By “them,” I speak to politicians, and any spokesperson of the government that seeks to patronizingly betray the black constituency as “heard” or “seen.” The optics illustrate the governmental forces as seeing and hearing blacks antithetical to the politics of respectability that enable white and non-black persons of color to attain societal importance. Specifically, neither the republican or democratic platforms have overtly solicited the vote from white exotic dancers or prostitutes (past or present.) This obscurity and blatant disregard of black intellectualism and black existence beyond the caricature of the white imaginary places black people as pole (or poll) bearers to a collective cause killed in a capitalistic country where blacks remain the capital that which is itemized at and by the poll and pole.
Twerking as a voting incentive reminds of Billy Porter’s shuck and jive at the democratic national convention after Michelle Obama’s speech. No, there was not a physical pole, but Porter’s actions displayed the same parity between the pole and poll that exposes the self-deprecated role this republic continues to assign to the black race. Furthermore, though voting is what this white settler space calls what they demand blacks do in response to domestic terrorism, the optics suggest that the vote corresponds to something far more disturbing. Voting as a remedy to racism personifies domestic terrorism as it encourages a distressed people to continue to work within a system rigged to their detriment, to continue to appeal to a social or systemic conscious that does not exist, to continue dancing in the dark to the sound of their itemization in a capitalistic space.
This is not to say that black people shouldn’t vote, but that voting is a systemic dance that an anti-black world underscores to detract the black community from seeking to change the music.
In closing, though the PSA underscores the transition from the pole to the poll, the real transition we must seek as a people is to transition from dancer to he or who she writes, and composes the songs the DJs play, to be he or she who vets, selects, and grooms candidates for the benefit of the black community. Until then, the ballot will continue to be synonymous with the bullet.