Yet, I do not apologize for holding steadfastly to the notion that Black and Brown people do not need to bear witness to our skinfolk being murdered in order to truly understand our plight. As much as I want consumers of art to be particular about how they digest pop-cultural and socio-political pieces, I also want artists to think critically about who they want to consume their art. I make this call especially in an age where the pace of production far outpaces the people’s capacity to fully digest and heal from these harrowing news headlines. I fear that we are living in a time in which Black and Brown people are being forced to relive their trauma more than once; we endure the initial pain and shock that accompanies the degradation of justice and then, just a couple years later, we are reminded of our losses through a socio-political film.
The film heavily focuses on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s triumph, so much so that the other three women who ran alongside Ocasio-Cortez seem to be merely footnotes in Ocasio-Cortez’s growing political career. Ocasio-Cortez is framed as the winner of the typical American relay race; the one where countless people build upon their successes and continue to pass along the baton until one person, deemed to be exceptional, crosses the finish line. The film did a great job of highlighting the team that transpired to carry Ocasio-Cortez to the finish line, but if all the women who ran had similar campaigns, stories of struggle and triumph, and arguably the same amount of zeal, why is Ocasio-Cortez the only candidate who won a Congressional seat?
I’m learning that most people are only willing to accept the words and work of Black revolutionaries because they seem like a relic of an ancient past; as if racism no longer permeates the elaborately woven threads of this country. Yet to reduce the Black revolutionary to merely words on a page is an injustice and a violent act brought upon yet another Black body. It is disrespectful to their legacy, the risks they’ve taken, and the air they breathed into the movements we’ve inherited. To celebrate a Black revolutionary’s words and work is to know that although racism surely isn’t over, we must celebrate the Black body and mind before it is taken and martyred.
We can praise Anne Hathaway for writing a poignant Instagram caption, but we must recognize the very limited power of White solidarity. When we speak of White solidarity, we tend to forget that White Supremacy does not simply lie within an individual’s heart; that racism cannot be fixed if White people simply learn to love Black people. Rather, White supremacy is a system that protects Whiteness and leverages race to oppress anyone who delineates from its strict margins of skin color. To achieve racial equity in America, instead of changing the hearts of White Americans, it is imperative that we eradicate the country’s racial caste system. White supremacy is bigger than Anne Hathaway or any other well meaning White person; their good deeds are not going to win us the fight for racial equality.
In the wake of Nia Wilson’s death, Twitter saw a revival of the hashtag, #Sayhername. But, it is not enough to say her same. We must ensure that Nia Wilson is granted justice; we must ensure that the same circumstances that impacted her life will not be duplicated in someone else’s upbringing; we must ensure that Black lives, regardless of gender, are protected.
It has taken me three years to garner the courage to write about the harassment that I and other coworkers have experienced in the workplace. Now, imagine how many other service workers are well-acquainted with a Devonte. Then, think about all of the stories of harassment that are not being told. This is not only a commentary on the service industry but a call to action for the #MeToo Movement. I hope you hear us.