The Black Man, Better As Fiction?


It is interesting to see so many outraged by the reaction to sixteen-year-old Mah’Kia Bryant’s murder.

Just after many rejoiced in Derek Chauvin’s conviction, the sixteen-year-old took her last breaths following a fatal shot from the police officers she called for assistance. Her murder illuminates a vicious cycle that promises to obliterate more black youth, parents, and loved ones to maintain the colonial imbalance of America. The reaction Bryant’s case engendered is what would have manifested had the media not sensationalized George Floyd’s murder. George Floyd, whose corpse became a canvass for Trumpism as a national sin and a platform for Biden’s hollow promise, illustrates how black death only matters when the media designates it a national interest and declares it worthy of outrage. 

This theme of black death permeated the Oscars on Sunday night. 

The third week in April had no shortage of symbolic victories for the black collective. I, of course, use the term “victory” loosely here, as symbols are hardly victories. Rather, symbolic victories afford stagnancy to an adversarial reign. The Oscars promised additional symbolic victories to the black collective and delivered, but these symbols proved an unsettling meditation on black male death.

The months leading up to the Oscars inundate the news with talk of the late Chadwick Boseman winning a posthumous award. The possibility of Boseman winning an award gifted the Oscars significant traction in the months leading up to the award ceremony. Boseman’s nomination though proved a marketing ploy. Thus, Boseman proved synonymous to George Floyd, as the celebration his absence incited became a means for the Academy to ameliorate its traditional exclusivity. 

The Academy, of course, maintained this exclusivity in awarding the best actor award to Anthony Hopkins. This gesture, mirroring what the country witnessed with Biden’s victory in 2020, delineates yet another victory for an old white man framed by black male death. 

This theme appears in perhaps a less obvious way with Daniel Kaluuya’s win for best-supporting actor. Kaluuya’s highly anticipated win followed his critically acclaimed portrayal of Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton. Hampton, a brilliant black leader, only lived 21 years before he was murdered by the police three weeks before the birth of his son. 

In life, Hampton threatened the white supremacist infrastructure. In death, he is an ornament in projecting the face of change. I’ll save my analysis on the film for a later post. Still, I will say that collaboratively, George Floyd, Chadwick Boseman, and Fred Hampton, black men that became a vehicle for white redemption in death, elucidates a new wave of white supremacy that suggests that the black man is better as fiction. 

Also, it’s something about a black man from London winning an award for his portrayal of an African in America that suggests that we, the non-migrant black, the descendants of those kidnapped from our shared home, are also somehow better in fiction. 

I say this not to discount Kaluuya as a talented actor who delivered a spellbinding performance. Instead, I say this to underscore the actions of an institution that nominated two black leads as supporting actors for the clout of being able to claim more black nominees.

This “better as fiction” suggestion also corresponds to Michael Jackson’s posthumous acquittal for allegations that stained the last decade of his life. 

This behavior proves synonymous with planting flowers at a black man’s funeral, then declaring his transition a small sacrifice for “such beauty.”

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