Tag Archives: visibility

In Times Like These (Ferguson)

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I never feel more black than in times like these.

My natural human inclination to see myself from the inside out flips in reverse and my double-consciousness becomes more tangible than ever.

I can always expect that white American tragedies will be met with a collective understanding of the oppressors and the victims, with justifiable rage, sympathy, and concern.

But not in times like these.

In the wake of the Ferguson Grand Jury decision, my interior life as a black person is highly juxtapositional with the white American consciousness.

Black people in America pour over media coverage in anguish, (names of dead kids scrolling across news tickers) which for whites is merely a “special report”, an interruption to the usual programming.

We perform activism in violent social media spaces while they upload cat pics to Instagram.

We vocalize radical outrage while White Liberals derail with colorblind indignation.

We endure the subsequent waves of white hostility at the same time they call for non-violence and respectable lawfulness.

We grapple with the cognitive dissonance of black American “citizenship”; of being forcibly complicit in a state that is allowed to kill us with impunity.

And we do this all while occupying the very same physical space as whiteness. A space of interpersonal relationships; white people as friends and colleagues and romantic partners who live and work around us and yet are hopelessly disconnected from the realities that plague us.

For too long ,blackness has been the invisible/hypervisible subset of the world, removed from anything vaguely human. Yet as multiculturalism thrives, so does the pervasiveness of anti-blackness; the more accessible racial proximity becomes, the more paradoxically isolated we feel.

It’s as if we’re always brushing past one another in opposite directions, close enough to feel the friction of skin without ever actually touching.

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In times like these I never feel more like a black woman, either.

Never more ostracized from an anti-racist narrative that continues to be cis, heterosexual, and male centered. The sons and fathers and husbands who are inexplicably bound in our racialized struggles yet push us to the margins of visibility. The black men who still subject us to acts of violence, even as we stand on the front lines for their victimhood.

The way a Hoodie or hands-up /”dont shoot” now evokes the image of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, or Mike Brown, and yet we have no iconography that embodies black girl pain or the cultural lexicon to even describe it.

They way we can never talk about the vilification of black male hood without undermining the ways in which our bodies are also systematic prey. That patriarchy still leads racial discourse, shapes organizational strategy, and catalyzes movements.

The more marginalized my lived experiences, the more Othered I become. And on the scale that is Ferguson–a global media platform where in blackness is seen but not tolerated (and black womanhood is invisible altogether)–where my powerlessness can be objectively realized but still subjectively interpreted–otherness is magnified by the tenfold.

I’m not suggesting an “empathy gap”, surely we can empathize with people who are not like us. And to attempt to appeal to the moral sense of the oppressor is futile when they do not believe they are acting to the contrary, when the structural and social circle of humanity is so small that anyone outside of it cannot be justifiably harmed. But I am articulating a dilemma between power and the self, and the formers’ ability to remain detached, even as you engage with it in the most intimate ways. How it is terrifyingly oblivious, even when you have its full attention.

So when black men fail to be inclusive in their politics, I am still not surprised. And when Darren Wilson says that he does not regret killing Michael Brown, I believe him. I never expected Ferguson to make black lives matter, I just forgot how lonely it would feel.

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