This is something that I have been thinking about for a long time. Race, racialization, and white supremacist racism in the United States operates in a very particular & peculiar way. If you pay close attention, anti-Black racism manages to violate some of the key logics of capitalism, demonstrating how white supremacy is an alternative exchange/value system that is tethered to capitalism. In other words, both of those systems of domination/hegemony need each other & capitalism will only bend its rules for white supremacy and cishetpatriarchy.
In light of the recent pile of innocent Black bodies murdered at the hands of the necropolitical state, I decided to share some of my thoughts on the current issues of the high mortality rate of people of African descent in the U.S. at the hands of white supremacy & police brutality and the issues with regards to low quality of life in the U.S. (this also happens abroad but bear with me as I use the U.S. as a case study of sorts).
Blackness & Black bodies are magical. Black bodies function as these mysterious objects that when consumed/appropriated by White people & Non-Black People of Color (NBPoCs) it provides them with power. If you pay close attention to the history of red-lining in the U.S. and the history behind the modern Black Ghettos and the development of racial inequality in America (see “When Affirmative Action Was White” by Ira Katznelson or “Black Wealth/White” Wealth by Melvin Oliver & Thomas Shapiro) you’ll start to notice a telling trend: Black people are magical.
Now the “magical negro” is not a new ideal, its one that has been commonly seen in folklore & American cinema, the magical negro is a Black person who possesses special insight or powers & is usually the Black buddy who comes to the aid of a white protagonist. The magical negro is a form of a very particular kind of tokenism, you aren’t just the only lonely negro face in a very white place but you also possess these magical abilities that are used in service to white protagonists(e.g. The Green Mile). We commonly see this when white people proclaim that they can’t be racist because their ” (insert here)” is Black when research has shown that 75% of white Americans don’t have non-white friends. But has anybody noticed that a Black person claiming to have white friends never really does get anything from being friends with them, & it never provides them with the social, political, or economic power they need? Yeah, I noticed it too.
When Everything We Touch Turns to Fools Gold
When a Black body touches a house or neighborhood, the value PLUMMETS. Black bodies can magically clear out a predominately white neighborhood in record time, also causing the houses to mysteriously plummet below market value when nothing about the actual house has changed besides its new Black neighbor or new Black owner. A study conducted by Brookings Institute in 2001 showed that “poor white neighborhoods had more home value per income than poor minority neighborhoods.” Gentrifiers commonly take advantage of this phenomena to buy up property in predominately Black neighborhoods & pump value right back into the same area one white body, Starbucks, & Ugg boot at a time.
Another interesting phenomena is how Black women are the most educated group in the United States BUT one of the poorest globally next to First Nations women. We all know that education is supposed to improve your life chances. Well not for Black women. White women with high school diplomas have a lower prevalence of low birth weight than Black women with Bachelor degrees. Black women, no matter what their education or economic class is have a higher infant mortality rate than any other race in spite of their educational successes in the U.S. The same phenomena is found in dental health disparities. For example, in a study conducted by Jimenez et al. (2009); that aimed to look at how the influence of socioeconomic indicators on tooth loss differed between sub-populations; results indicated that low levels of education were associated with a higher mean of missing teeth among White people. There was no association between education and tooth loss among Black and Mexican Americans. Overall Jimenez et al. (2009) found that the associations between socioeconomic status factors and tooth loss were weaker for Blacks and Mexican Americans than for White people. The results suggest that some of the commonly used socioeconomic status indicators may not be associated with tooth loss among non-white racial groups. So where amassing education and money is supposed to save Black people, it simply doesn’t. Money & education do not do the same thing for Black bodies that it does for white bodies. While everything Black people touch turns into fool’s gold for Black people, Black bodies remain a magical talisman for white people and even some NBPoCs.
When Blackness is the Magical Talisman for Non-Blacks
Cultural appropriation is one of the greatest examples of where we see Blackness & Black bodies become a cash cow! We are always fascinated by it because the same Blackness that gets us shot, disproportionately arrested, or guarantees high morbidity & mortality in the U.S. makes white people a shit load of money. Recently we’ve seen how styles commonly associated with Black life such as du-rags, braids, & Timberland boots have become these big things that white people have discovered & have gotten Christopher Columbus status from.
Or how about IHOP’s recent linguistic Black face tweets?????
The use of AAVE by white corporations is always interesting because the same exact language that is called inferior & unprofessional & then used as a justification to NOT hire Black people ends up being this marketing gold that can make companies “hip” & “in the know” & “appeal to young consumers”. The same way that Iggy Azelia, Katy Perry, & Miley Cyrus are being young & hip, they are appreciating the same “Black culture” that gets Black people killed when they do the exact same thing. Trayvon Martin was a thug who deserved to die when he wore a grill but Miley Cyrus wears one & is stylish. Hmmmm…its almost like Blackness is this magical thing you can use to make money off of & get social, economic, & political privileges from.
When Black Bodies Magically Shoot Back
Research has shown that Black faces are commonly associated with a gun. Black people can transform skittles, Arizona Iced Tea, Phones, Photo IDs, & even sandwiches into AK-47s. The narrative is always of the dangerous Black youth hiding out in the bushes looking for its next white police officer victim. We’ve heard this story a thousand times.
According to Correll et al., 2006 & Payne, 2006, when people see Black bodies they assume we are not just threatening but have a gun. In the study conducted by Correll et al., 2006 study participants “shot black targets with guns more quickly than white targets with guns, and took longer to decide not to shoot unarmed blacks than unarmed whites“. If you pay close attention Black people are capable of casting a spell to turn any harmless object into a deadly weapon of mass destruction, but for some odd reason while all of the Black people are turning sandwiches into guns, their bullets that were previously pickles never actually connect & kill any police officer.
The same thing happened last night again in Shaw, only a few miles from Ferguson, MI where Vonderrick Myers, Jr. was shot down in cold blood only armed with a sandwich while the officer claimed he had a gun & shot at him after hiding in the bushes (that he whipped up the perfect spell to cast because this bush seems to have disappeared from the scene) & allegedly attacking that said officer.
We know this story. We know it by heart. White supremacy functions as this odd game of witches & warlocks where Black people are magically transformed into these dangerous villains with weapons to kill white people. Michael Dunn, George Zimmerman, Theodore Wafer, Darren Wilson, Joseph Weekly, & the many other unnamed & protected murderers all claim they were in fear for their lives. I’m tired of this magical negro narrative, cause trust me, if we could turn anything into a gun to shoot & fight for our lives, WE WOULDN’T MISS.