When writing or speaking about race, there are so many expectations by the dominant narrative regarding tone, appearance, postering, etc. As one can see in the comments, even on a website run by a Black person, there is a need to control how Black people speak about our experience. If we have any response to the demand for control, we are told that we are “crazy,” “angry,” “bitter,” or any other number of adjectives–all while we are expected to adulate those who come into Black communities and wreak havoc. Thus, the need for hyping our negative reputations stems from the overall need to see us as subhumans for others to extract resources.
There are countless examples of how we are hyped for control. Obviously, during the slave era, people needed to believe that we were violent and unruly so that slavery could be justified. However, I feel that always going back to slavery gives the emotionally immature a reason to whine about not ever owning slaves, which is why I tend to take more examples from the current eras. When Brown v. Board was decided in 1954, people were furious, and made several declarations about what would happen if Black people were allowed to be educated along within the dominant narrative. In fact, in Austin, there was a bond passed even in 2017 to further attack predominantly BIPOCQ schools while enriching West Austin schools and privatizing any schools that remained despite knowing that low schools populations were due to displacement, not a lack of interest in public schools. To counter Brown v. Board, another Supreme Court case was created to begin the process of moving Black people from areas that were desirable to the dominant narrative, and displacement began before urban renewal under the guise of making neighborhoods “more attractive,” since any place that we are not is both worth more money and more attractive.
One of our responses to being taken out of our communities by governments and private entities was the creation of rap music, in which we detail numerous elements of our communities while mostly posturing violence for effect–almost like standing our ground, some might say. We are constantly watched, so when rap became super popular, people used our creative response to claim that we were all violent, and this was why we needed to be controlled. These days, so many anti-Black figures froth at the bit to talk about the violence of Chicago as the reason why Black people all over the country need to be controlled, despite the constant displacement that has destroyed many Black neighborhoods in Chicago. To add insult to injury, when our music was appropriated by the dominant narrative, all of a sudden, rap became creative expression and Black people were told that we should “get over” the fact that markets approved of a different image.
People have many reasons for hyping the negative actions of Black people as a means for control within the built environment, but the main one is guilt. After all, if we are simply human beings living our boring little lives the best we can, what does that say about people who need to constantly attack us and take from us? Only now are people actually questioning the reporting on what Black people were doing to be brutalized by the police or the constant surveillance during innocuous activities–mostly by white women, the preferred recipients of affirmative action. As I have been admonished for not having solutions, this one is relatively easy: leave Black people alone, and if certain people cannot operate without depriving Black people, stop giving those people platforms. The dominant narrative refuses to acknowledge that no one asked for all of this, and as the violence continues to escalate, it will be doing its level best to keep everyone ignorant of that fact.
* Cover image taken from the Brute Caricature collection in the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University.