The Violence of the Visual


In her text The Invention of Woman, Oyeronke Oyewumi critically interrogates a visual American culture and its perpetual effect on identity markers that encompass many at birth. Engaging with Oyeyemi’s work elucidates that the visual, in many instances, is the beginning and end to understanding for many. The power of the visual is perhaps most pronounced in the recent administration when the world watched as Donald Trump became the optic for a global evil: white supremacy. White supremacy, though conspicuous in circumstance and horrific gestures, proves most sinister and even deadly as an intangible evil that is at once amorphous and embedded in every structure and space that ornaments this country. Donald Trump as an optic oversimplifies a ubiquitous truth much larger than the smallness he exudes.

The insurrection of January 6, 2021, acquires a similar effect.

Whether captioned by Malcolm X’s not famous phrase “the chickens have come home to roost,” or referenced as domestic terrorists burning down their own house, the insurrection of 2021 performed in a cycle of racial violence imposed when those deemed “extremists” perceive domestic relations as deviating from the nation’s anti-black promise.

The Trump Administration and the insurrection of 2021, for many unwilling to accept what now cannot function without question, elucidate what a minority has always known to be true: that white superiority is a farce.

For far too many, this reality was callously unconsidered until the Trump administration and the recent insurrection that will leave an indelible mark on an administration already stained in sin. Particularly, it was not until whiteness proved villainous to whites that its inherent toxicity becomes relevant to those oppressed by its wrath before they were even conceived. Whiteness as harmful only when it appears that whiteness is not only problematic but indicative of cognitive genocide.

While there are countless effects to the cognitive genocide incited by an espousal to a visual culture informed by white nationalism, I’ve outlined three.

  1. It privileges the neoliberal ideology: Let me begin by stating what I hope is obvious: Neoliberalism, like what the media calls “Trumpism,” is racism. White supremacists see that they can more deeply embed and actualize terror by convincing the oppressed of a dichotomy between themselves and overt white supremacy. Thus, their creation of a white supremacist optic does not “unite” the peoples of the world, but draws in the oppressed caste by belying global awareness. What the black collective witnesses here is not the enlightenment of the neo-liberal, it’s the evil of white nationalism masked by a patronizing performance and label.
  2. It veils a white agenda with what functions as awareness. The white media does not showcase white terror as a means to raise awareness; rather as a means to conceal white supremacy as a global weapon.
  3. It makes a complex issue appear manageable by facile acts. Thus, “controlling” the situation becomes commiserate to suspending Trump’s Twitter account and launching a social media war on he who is symptomatic of a systemic issue. The bottom line: presenting a superficial solution to a complex issue enables the issue to fester. An equivalent would be suggesting that a fire had been put out in a six-bedroom house but only extinguishing the flames in a single room. One can incite re-entry and obtain an underserving trust by minimizing a problem they need to exist to secure their own identity.

Confining a nation to the visual, engenders a cognitive genocide where the visual takes on an epistemological role. This is exceedingly detrimental in a space where anti-black agents control the media. Moreover, what they show becomes what we know and this simply cannot be the case, especially when the cruelest crime against humanity has become a footnote in a history where white fiction becomes fact. Though not captured on film, “we” constitute the visual for the crimes of this nation. We, who still lack presentation that has not been neutered or caricatured remain buried in an anti-blackness that tells us anything but the truth and shows us everything but our “selves” without distortion.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Well stated! And completely accurate!!

  2. Kat says:

    One can assert that the audible can be just as problematic if it obfuscates or engages in the horizonal transferences of blame. Indeed the objective should be to etch out and eradicate systemic root causes. Case in point, Milwaukee is heralding the arrival of a new black radio talk show courtesy of “Good Karma Brands”.

    On the surface i think this works as a evolutionary move, which invariably tends to most benefit the cream of the crop or top. What remains to be seen is if this platform will address deep rooted factors that necessitate something more revolutionary in posture that ensures a bottom up paradigm for uplifting.

    The late black playwriter Lorraine Hansberry once postulated something to the effect that any form of resistance was better than none at all. I too embrace this model while still recognizing that this correlates to some extent with the Neo liberal and old guard affinity for incremental changes as opposed to a move toward radical transformation.

    The late Audre Lorde, a black lesbian writer informed, “You can not dismantle the masters house with the masters tools”. To be sure, the safe zone dichotomous treatment of wolf vs Fox is more indicative of “controlled opposition”, the same old, which deflects from the prevailing need for the deployment of 3rd eye scrutiny.

    The unmasking of the latest chapter in white terrorism is instructive. With that said, what’s the point in engaging beeming racial war pych ops and tension if we all might be about to be subject to more marshal law initiatives and or vaccinated in ways that threaten our dna and innate right to human cohesiveness.

    Could it be that the melaninated are paticularly posed to be eliminated precisely because of the dawning of our awakened frequencies that could make us almost immune to the onslaught of 5g technology, new age colonial invasions etc.

    Alkebulan/Africa and the black diaspora would stand to loose more than the continued usurping of our resources if our mind, body and soul don’t remain intact and around to continue the good fight above and underneath the surface. It’s been correctly estimated that this entails tackling the underlying issues which require not just thinking out the box but eviscerating the box altogether.

    The late Steven Cokely, a black political researcher once proclaimed that the objective should not be to just hit the tree but to have the withall to cut out the cancer. I too know this is how real truth and change is embarked upon and ultimately realized. Otherwise insidious control mechanisms will continue to have the upper hand. It’s time to go the distance. Again thank you for helping to mind the evolution and revolution of the store with a birds eye view.

  3. I actually have less of a problem with Trump than I have with ALL of the racist presidents who have gone before him because he has always been forthright about who he is. He has not tried to hide behind a polite facade of racism. His actions speak for him. Biden knows that he is racist and yet for the sake of the ‘visual’, went on what amounted to an ‘apology tour’ that was as fake as it was phony and meaningless to try and get black people to understand that he is more ‘woke’ now, than he was back in his ‘salad days’ when he was foaming at the mouth over a crime bill aimed at locking black men up by the millions. We ALL should know better, but it would seem, we never do.

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