Be Careful what You Wish For, Re-Presentation and 2020

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2020 began with the devastating death of Kobe Bryant and his teenage daughter Gianna. What still permeates my memory is how Bryant’s parents attended his public memorial to no acknowledgment. Their omission delineated a poignant truth: that the black optic attains its status following a complete uprooting from its origins.

Then, we watched COVID birth a new world that we have yet to emerge from. A world unkind to the same groups disenfranchised in a COVID-free world. A world that created new millionaires in a waning economy. We watched as our collective began to die in record numbers as things began to slowly reopen.

We watched as “protests” exposed the reality of a performative culture ornamented by twerking, kneeling, and yoga. George Floyd’s corpse, like the late John Lewis, toured an abundance of cities, delineating that the black optic acts as a white nationalist bibelot with no regard or respect for their soul’s earthly depature.

We watched Kamala Harris, who not even a year ago exposed Joe Biden as a racist, take a place beside him as his political hype- (wo) man. We watched the anti-black world draw a nuanced portrait of black femininity that sought to assassinate the African in America by shifting the narrative from one of abduction to migration. This shift, once again, alleviates anti-black agents from any accountability and obscures America as a hyper-site for holocaust and hegemony.

Then we watched as the media curated the changing faces of white supremacy as a victory for all of America. Despite the theme of loss that permeated most discussions of this year, white supremacy found new ways to win and subsequently implemented new ways for the black collective to lose. Though antithetical to what the white media propagates as truth, the reality remains that victory for the oppressed remains mutually exclusive from those whose very existence remains rooted in their systematic and social disenfranchisement.

Moreover, this loss was perhaps most conspicuously demonstrated by and through the Breonna Taylor case. Sensationalized as a posthumous cover girl and symbol for universal systemic terror, Taylor’s murder elucidates that those who built this country remain more likely to be murdered than to become their own advocates or representatives.

This year, perhaps even moreso than the years that precede it, underscores the media as a platform for anti-blackness. The influx of black faces in front of and behind the media lens posits that the worse may be yet to come.

For these reasons, in many ways, this year proves in correspondence with the cliche saying: Be careful what you wish for. So many wished for representation, to see themselves in a world inundated in overt and covert whiteness. This wish engendered pervasive re-presentations of white supremacy by physically black faces, delineating a resonant distinction between representation and autonomy. Autonomy continues to evoke fear in a space circumscribed by the white gaze; thus, it is the uncomfortable and the unarchived where we must seek to find and actualize our liberation.

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