The woke black celebrity is a rare thing these days, so its nice to have those black celebrities who are woke and aren't constantly yipping about respectability politics. We've written about Amandla Stenberg in a previous post, but she's further cemented our love for her. Celebrity idolatry is a dangerous thing, but we're going to just allow ourselves to bask in the woke warmth of Jessie Williams and Amandla Stenberg.
We've unashamedly revealed ourselves as Jesse Williams fans many a time, but his latest series of tweets about the history of rioting is on point. We are just going to sit here, sip our tea, and vigorously nod in approval to every tweet.
Today, a fellow graduate student analyzed this passage of Toni Morrison's Beloved. She said that the kind of radical self love called for here is a way to push back against power being exerted physically against the black body. I can't think of a more relevant message for this moment.
"In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don't love your eyes; they'd just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face 'cause they don't love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain't in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don't love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I'm talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I'm telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they'd just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver--love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize."
We are not here for those who try to use Martin Luther King and his legacy as some sort of prop to make "thugs" and "criminals" act right. It is a tired argument and it is a tired discussion. People need to stop appropriating Martin Luther King's legacy in order to justify their white supremacist viewpoints and their refusal to recognize the fact that we are living in a militarized police state in which African American men and women are inordinately subjected to police brutality. A country where it is ok for a police officer to shoot a black person down in the street and then plant a weapon on them. A country where any white person (or white presenting person) with a gun can engage in a little vigilante justice and murder a "thug" (code word for nigger) in cold blood. We ache for our sisters and brothers who have lost their lives to police brutality and institutional racism. We are sick and fed up with the decision of many to either ignore the problem that is occurring or pat themselves on the back for their upholding of a racist and militarized police state. We are also fed up with those individuals within this fight who are more than willing to go out and protest for our murdered brothers, but are not willing to do the same for our sisters. And as we have written before, we are fed up with those who refuse to fight for or recognize the contributions of queer and trans people of color. We are suspicious of any black liberation ideology that is not encompassing of all peoples of the African diaspora in this country, and view it as collusion in white supremacy. Let it be known.
We don't support violence. At the end of the day, the violence of the protesters in Baltimore is minuscule compared to the violence white supremacy and the criminalization of black people has wrought against black bodies. The scope of the violence against our community is almost unfathomable. Remember that as you see the images out of Baltimore. Remember what violence looks like as you see the images of Freddie Gray and other black people killed by police or by people pretending to be in line with the state's interests. Remember that centuries of systemic oppression is violence. Remember that riots are the language of the unheard. And then ask yourself what kind of violence we should be centering in our discussions today.
This article over at For Harriet about the tiny crowd that gathered to protest the dropped charges against Rekia Boyd's killer, my fears about Black Lives Matter were fully realized.
What does it mean for #BlackLivesMatter, a movement created by three queer black women and supported largely by female and queer black people, that it is being coded as "Black men matter"? This is a chance for members of our community to take a critical inward look at erasure of Black women, black trans folks, and black queer folks in conversations about black pain and black death. How is it possible to mourn for Tamir without mourning for Aiyana? How can we show up for Trayvon and not for Renisha? Which black lives seem to matter more?
Amandla Stenberg (who played Rue in The Hunger Games) brings certain individuals to task for being willing to co-opt black culture, but refusing to raise their voices in protest of the police brutality against black men and women (and institutionalized racism in general).
Welcome to Womanist Expressions, brainchild of Caitlin Gunn and Kidiocus Carroll.