What Blackness Can Do

We’re living in performative times. That social media enables us to offer a running commentary of our everyday lives means that much of what we do is with an eye to what looks good, will get the most likes, will go viral. But in that capturing, that life on pause, to be examined and re-examined, ‘Blackness’ performs a very specific function. 

As a creative writer/novelist, I have long despaired about what cultural activity gets funded, resourced, distributed.  And now that market forces has come round to the idea the Black lives, can be commodified, someone somewhere is making a raise. Black pain, trauma and death is still the most funded. And  Black reactions to pain and trauma and death is quickly memed or Giffed and viralised. Don’t get me wrong, all parts of life should be explored, nothing should be off the table, whether it be Black love or hate. This is one of the reasons why I write. I don’t have to defend it, it’s just what I do. 

The violent Black Male trope has been used for centuries as an excuse for violence to be perpetrated against Black men. Doing to them exactly what they are accused of doing.  Images of happy lynching party picnics come to mind. With a gleeful white crowd in awe of its own power, white men and women and children, smiling at having contained the ‘threat’ of Black men or a Black child. With each threat of violence at the hands of a lawless ‘Blackness’ there is justification now for increased militarised policing. 

But ‘Blackness’ in Europe has always been young. Even in paintings of the three kings, Balthazar is youthful, trendy, in beautiful colours and jewellery, a representation of ‘new worlds’ rather than ancient ones. And what do we assign to the modern Black youth? Moral panics, crime and drug culture, increasing knife crime. In a word ‘violence’. In the white imagination, Blackness is dangerous and in need of policing and control. Is one culture more violent than another? As we look at the historical evidence of ‘moral panics’, violence certainly seems to be ‘young’, generating a reason for the old to fear the young. And of course in recent ears violence has now been framed as ‘Black’. But no, most victims and perpetrators of violent crime are white and yet we still use phrases like ‘Black on Black Crime’ when we mean crime. 

So a cinema chain, bans a black film fearing it to be the cause of violence…more so than any of the other violent films on offer? And despite the brawl involved Asian youth, the pictures accompanying the story covered by a racist media are of young, black men. Whiteness expects them to be violent and so. The young men that started the fight were even too young to see the film. Blue Story’s writer and director, Andrew Onwubolu, said Saturday’s disturbance in Birmingham was “truly unfortunate”.

Blue Story is a film about love not violence.

I can’t be sure that that was why it was funded and distributed, because it’s about love… And this has nothing to do with the creatives who tell these stories, it’s an important story, but an industry, like hip hop, that chooses very carefully what will make it the most money, not what represents us.

And now more police are called for, more stops and searches, increase the pressure on Black and Brown communities to not act like their fellow white citizens. With every new leap in tech comes new concerns about what that means for the controlling of Blackness. The face recognition that sees only Black not a person, the Stop and Scan campaign we’ve been running about police scanners hooked up to the home office. All in an effort to contain a threat that doesn’t play out in stats, doesn’t represent a reality or lived experiences but one that exists in the minds of a whiteness with a siege mentality. No atrocity too big if you’re scared. 

Is no one gonna arrest Michael Gove for his crimes against humanity? His Twitter chat reminiscent of boarding school black face jokes, Blackness for him is comedy. And yet his coke habits are well known, he’s still not quite a criminal tho is he, not as much as a Black man taking coke. 

We can only hope that the discussion on violence includes the amount of women that are killed by partners or exes, the violence suffered by sex workers, the refugee children being beaten and filmed in schools. Violent behaviour is complex and has a myriad of reasonings, papers, books, tv, art about it. Perhaps we should ban all films with violence in it. And spend more time staring at pictures of the young, Baltizar, or better yet, make a meme or GIF  out of him, but there will be complaints, he won’t be funny or violent enough. Article by Desiree Reynolds @desreereynolds

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: