And when you leave take your pictures with you
By: A Writer who wishes to remain anonymous
We have witnessed a mass shedding of black blood at the hands of white supremacy in our recent past. With the slayings of Trayvon Martin, Troy Davis, the drone attacks on Libya and the mass incarceration and torture of black folks in prison, these extreme acts of violence serve as a deadly reminder of how these historic patterns of terror is a fact for us living in such a racist capitalist-imperialist world. The order of the day is no doubt a thirst for black blood and degradation. And we cannot be so naïve to think that the blatant acts of terror we face are not dialectically linked to the more subtle acts of terror survived by us daily. Our exploiters are unyielding in their fantasizing of the many ways they can slaughter and destroy our physical bodies and any hope of us having a shred of humanity in “their” world. From the inception of the capitalist nation-state, they have been taught that dehumanizing people of color is a pastime to be indulged and enjoyed. The racist “African” circumcision cake, unveiled by the Minister of Culture at the Exhibition in Sweden is yet another example of the ways Black life is used as entertainment at the hands of white capitalist supremacy. Whiteness constantly refuses to admit its thirst for Black blood. After all, Blackness is such a hated thing in need of total destruction within the White psyche.
Perhaps the image of the white women clustered around the cake will give us a peek into the minds and habits of a largely White privileged class, if we look historically at the many “cuttings” and “carvings” they have done laughing all the way to the bank.
The literal carving up and consumption of this African cake, conjures up images of the carving of Africa, the consistent rape, lynching, pillage and torture of those from African origins, spread all over the earth to work and die, build and sustain a White empire only to be further humiliated and dehumanized. It conjures up the beginnings of colonization and what we know today to be imperialism, where the greatest purveyor of violence, the U.S, continues to kill our brothers and sisters in the Global South and violently militarizes Africa, starving the continent as it further plunders its resources through the death machine called AFRICOM. Or how about the brutal mutilations and cuttings Whiteness has performed on non-white bodies for medical experimentation and its own medical advancement? Why aren’t these mutilations accounted for?
To add insult to injury, in the age of the non-profit/social justice industrial complex, Whiteness seeks to assuage its guilt by saying that they are “helping black-dark-poor-Third World” people “help themselves.” So valiantly saying that, “We are in this fight together!” and even shedding a few tears to boot! These lies have become the excuse to go into our countries, neighborhoods and communities with their “well intentions” and set up NGOs to work “with” us po’ dark folks. All of their “efforts and sacrifices” to make a real difference in this world while they willfully ignore the supremacy that pervades White communities in this country and abroad, conservatives and so called revolutionaries alike. The hard work inactively struggling to change this thinking, this thinking that reinforces that a non-white life is a little less important than a white one, that white is ultimately right and all that is just lets these violent acts happen day in and day out. When people of color begin to call out the white supremacy embedded in this sense of entitlement and the material benefits that result from the complex of wanting to help, wanting to participate in this business of profiting off our suffering, we are met with hostility and litanies of how we need “to all work together” and build “multiracial justice movements”, or how it’s “all about class anyway,” without Whiteness wanting to check its need to always run the show or even take the time to analyze how this power imbalance between who’s doing the helping and who’s being helped is unfair and keeps the current class structures in order. When I look at this cake, I see the many ways in which Whiteness is constantly nourishing itself off of the suffering of non-white folk. This is a doomed relationship indeed. And such a relationship thrives off of subordination and a hard-wired superiority complex. This historical relationship reflects the barring we face whenever we truly try to have a voice within predominantly White movements. Often, we find that to really get the work of the emancipation of all human beings done, we have to make an intentional or separate space where our voices are heard to ensure that we do not get left behind and/or betrayed.
A Time to Break the Silence
And look again at the image! The lovely smiling white “liberal” faces—in this case a majority white female—smiling, taking pictures, pristine, wine glasses and gut full of red velvet cake, encompassed in the shape of a dormant black African female body. How appropriate that the site of this exploitation is in a museum, which was a more “formal” way for the ruling classes to loot from people of color and put the markers of their labor, culture and creativity on display. Even going so far as to begin putting their actual physical bodies on display for the never-ending perverse curiosity of white supremacy to further poke and prod at its subjects. What makes this whole spectacle even more telling is that no one thought to take a political position that would act in opposition to white supremacy. Instead this behavior was protected. It was all fun and games until they realized that we were watching, and that we saw one of the many ways Whiteness constantly agrees, complies and holds on to its class power when we are not there. Because when they are in our presence we either get convoluted justifications for it not being about white supremacy and privilege, or their silence. It begs the question what they are really thinking and hoarding for themselves when the face of their fear is not there to hold them accountable.
And of course, we are not there to tell our own story, or to redefine ourselves in a more emancipatory way. It is better to have us maimed and disfigured than heard. It is even better if we get to sit there and quietly watch while it is done.
This point of having people of color, specifically women of color, seen but not heard is further reflected in “This Bridge Called my Back.” in the chapter, And when you leave take your pictures with you, the failures of our white sisters to ever truly stand in solidarity with us and relate to us as true equals is called out: “Within cultural and academic circles, Third World women have become the subject matter of many literary and artistic endeavors by white women, and yet we are refused access to the pen, the publishing house, the galleries and the classrooms” (Barbara Smith). The suffering of our lives at the hands of this system is something to be laughed at, consumed and even pre-determined as a fact of our existence. White supremacy has named the order of the day: we must serve as targets for White rage and its entertainment. We are met with these disdainful and hateful images that continue to kill us en mass, as these coddled women in all their privilege and galore go on in happy oblivion partaking in this festivity.
And yes, these supposed white progressive allies will shriek and shrill convincing themselves that they preach a platform of humanitarianism and even radical politics. Their stance gives insight into the types of individualist excuses we are given daily from our white brothers and sisters when they are met with their inadequacy to interrupt the white racism rampant amongst their peers. Instead we get carefully crafted excuses, fragmented sentences that carefully leave out exactly who is doing what to whom and the most asinine arguments ranging from: Well the Swedes did not oppress black people so I don’t think it’s racism-Well, she’s just backwards in her thinking I mean that was one incident-well it’s ruling class ideology anyway… but we certainly don’t perpetuate it. After all “comrade” look at this historical moment here when blacks took a reactionary stance on this working class position and blah blah blah…! Or the most sugar-water retort of them all. Well we had good intentions! We’re good people. Isn’t there anything to say for that?! No. There really isn’t. And It doesn’t matter. A professor of mine said, once you put something out into the world it becomes a social force, and that social force does not exist within a vacuum, it is interpreted through the eyes of history and experience. You are not exempt from history and the legacy it has left for us, to think so is an individualist-arrogant stance.
And I don’t care if the person who made this cake is Black and does artwork to question stereotypes about Blackness, nor do I care if Barack Obama is Black, nor do I care if Trayvon Martin’s killer is half Latino. If you don’t understand how people of color have been used as an effective tool to sustain white supremacy and this capitalist system then we do not have much to talk about. Such a thought is a more liberal racist slant and a way to absolve Whiteness of any accountability in what is has spent centuries so carefully cultivating. Good intentions without thinking of its impact on the lives and daily terrors done to people of color is a selfish position, especially when your darker brothers and sisters have been pleading with you to stop the harm you cause. We cannot quantify your good intentions alone, it can only be measured by the impacts your actions have, and if your actions keep creating destruction then your very thoughts are destructive, plain and simple. We have suffered your feelings long enough.
Moving through Betrayal
This article is far too short to cover the historic and deep betrayals of white supremacy, specifically in our struggles for liberation from a largely white ruling class. Perhaps, by taking a look at the initial divisions among labor lines and its resulting class struggles in the United States we can look closely at the types of agreements, complicities and ultimately the peace gained from taking the few nuggets that the ruling class so begrudgingly offered to subdue and buy off the white middle and working classes. This sets the foundation for why it has been so difficult for white folks who should be aligned with us to not idly stand by and watch as we are destroyed by the overt and covert manifestations of white supremacy. Perhaps this is why we always get tears and excuses from white folks when trying to talk about this. I personally am convinced it is the hesitance to not divest oneself of this power and desperately try to stall long enough to find an argument that supports your position and absolves you of any responsibility, or at least lets you somewhat off the hook by blaming everything on the white ruling class or even better yet, putting the onus of this work back on us. After all, they create it, its divide and conquer you say. But people of color have been trying to tell you that for some time now, so you can remember not to do harm and constantly see the struggle from your eyes. Inherent in the word system is reproduction, and it is not only done through war and physical violence, it is also done through soft power, ideology, which allows us to uphold these values though even we are not the ones physically pulling the trigger. Standing in solidarity has to be a disciplined effort that is done concurrently in the world and in ourselves and there are a lot of sacrifices to be made and truths to be spoken. There really are no shortcuts. And what I see in this image is a complete blood bath and happy forgetfulness at the expense of your darker brothers and sisters. There is much to atone for.
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