#10: How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?
The political neglect and exploitation of Black people
Welcome to the tenth issue of Blaxplaining, a weekly newsletter examining the nuances of Black contemporary life and current affairs. If you like this newsletter, please follow @blaxplaining on Twitter, and share it with everybody and their momma, and then some.
Do you know what grinds my gears? How disrespectful the political discourse surrounding Black people is. I’ve known how crucial the Black vote was for the Democratic Party since Obama’s 2008 election, but I did not notice how infantilizing and myopic the discourse was until the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Most of the conversations have centered around Black people’s unwavering support for the Democratic Party, and the need for legislation to protect Black men from police brutality. At first glance, none of that seems problematic; however, these statements disregard the intersectional experiences of Black Americans and it makes it seem like African-Americans are a monolithic voting block that is dedicated to the Democratic Party, despite getting nothing in return. What it is is soft bigotry for low expectations, but let me break it down for y’all:
Black people are not a monolith and have never been. It is true that African-Americans overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party, but it isn’t out of unwavering loyalty, but rather than voting for the lesser of two evils. We know that the Democratic party has placated us and has contributed to the over-policing of Black bodies. But to put this more simply, I rather vote for the party who is willing to give us a seat at the table and listen to our demands than voting for a party that embraces white nationalism and exclusionary politics. So in a two-party system, it’s common sense to vote for a party that will at least hear you out. Also, voting for one party is not an entire representation of one’s political ideology. Within the Democratic Black community, there are conservatives and progressives, so voting for a party that allows for a diversity of political ideology allows for us to be someone better off than I don’t know, Trump as President for four more years. And this brings me to my second point...
Black people are not slaves to Democrats. Oh my god, if I hear this statement come out of another Black person’s mouth, I’m going to lose my marbles. First of all, the words African-Americans and Slaves in the same sentence don’t need to be coming from anybody’s mouth, especially from Black people. I’ve already explained why Black people generally vote for Democrats, but what disturbs me about this viewpoint is that it is rooted in anti-blackness. It reaffirms the white supremacist thought that Black people are mindless, incompetent followers that lack self-determination. It also doesn’t help that Black people like Herschel Walker, Daniel Cameron, and Kanye West are saying this and denigrating their own to ascribe to whiteness and power. Let it be a reminder that Blackness is not a barrier, white supremacy is.
My last point is rather a critique of language rather than a specific mindset. In the discourse surrounding police brutality, the conversations always center Black men and often leave out Black women and Transpeople who have been brutalized or killed by Police. I understand that George Floyd is now a household name, and his murder set off this year’s protests, but so did Breonna Taylor’s. Some politicians on the left have been guilty of this, and it’s extremely harmful and exclusionary to label Black men as the only victims of police brutality. All black people need to be protected not just black men.
And that’s that on that.
The New Reconstruction by Adam Sewer
In this brilliant article featured in The Atlantic, writer Adam Sewer correlates this year’s racial reckoning with the Reconstruction period, rather than the 1960s Civil Rights Era to which it is often compared. Trump’s election and racist bullhorns as well as an uptick of police brutality rooted in retaliation are not unique to this year, but rather part of a pattern of actions that occur when there is a political and cultural shift towards Black equality. But as the Black Lives Matter movement is becoming a household talking point, and as more white people are supporting the movement, could this be the tipping point of the white supremacy and a move towards an anti-racist majority in America? I am skeptical, as history has repeatedly shown us otherwise. Ironically, those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it, and Americans do a great job of being hard-headed.
Trump’s Fear of Black Competence by Charles Blow
Trump’s fear and anger towards Black competence has been known for years. He started his political career due to his hatred for an Ivy-league educated Black man who happened to be elected President twice; he loudly expressed his disdain for Black governance, from his attack on Democratic and mostly Black cities to African “shithole” countries; and he is already attacking Kamala Harris and saying that her leadership will ruin this country. His thinking is that Black competence results in doom and despair. It also contributes to the white supremacist discourse that the Black struggle is due to Black incompetence. Charles Blow explores this nonsensical belief that many hold, but he also touches on the irony that Black people are blamed for the conditions we face by the very same people who have created the laws that disenfranchise us. But when Black people exceed these low expectations, that’s when the irrational fear sets in -- the fear that the Black leader will assault their way of life and dismantle the privileges of white supremacy. I’m sorry, but did white people really lose anything during Obama’s presidency, besides their damn minds? Sigh.
The Whitewashing of Black Music on TikTok by Sheldon Pearce
In this piece featured in The New Yorker, Sheldon Pearce explores the cultural phenomenon that is wrapped up in cultural appropriation. Ah yes, TikTok, that dancing app for the young whippersnappers that introduced me to bops from Megan the Stallion, K Camp, and Doja Cat (😬). Although I’m too old and boring to be on the app, I noticed that the most visible and popular influencers are white and have built their popularity by co-opting Black music and African-American English for clout. It also hasn’t passed me that the most popular dances are often created by Black people who rarely receive credit for it. It appears that this app, like gentrification, music, and fashion, is another vehicle for cultural appropriation and the erasure of Black creativity.
The Argument of Afro-pessimism by Vinson Cunningham
In a revisit of Frank B. Wilderson III’s “Afro-pessimism”, writer Vinson Cunningham explores Wilderson’s structural map of the Black human experience which is rooted in Pessimism. Wilderson argues that nothing has changed and Black people still occupy the position of slaves in the American caste system. He also argues that progress is individual, and Black people as a whole have a more linear experience: that what happened to us yesterday is what will happen to us today. Cunningham also touches upon Wilderson’s view on Black internationalism and how his American citizenship gave him privilege abroad, and molded his view that Blackness was normative. What took me aback was Wilderson’s argument that the only way to cure the condition of all Black people is the end of the world. Albeit sad and disheartening, I wholeheartedly agree.
That’s all for this week. If you like this issue, please forward it to your friends (or enemies if you like being petty), and leave a heart. And if you’re not a subscriber, go ahead and subscribe. Remember to wear your mask, partake in some self-care, and make sure you’re registered to vote. Thanks for reading and until next week!