It’s hard to know where to start with the news of George Floyd’s murder last week. Anger certainly, deep sadness for me definitely. A sense of spreading distrust and suspicion of every white person, yes that too. Honestly, I think a kernal of this suspicion has always been there. Most of us black people have it buried down deep. I told my housemate last week when we saw the footage of Floyd’s murder that there were going to be riots over this. I didn’t want to prophesy death and destruction then but there’s a lot of pent up anger in the black community and things like this don’t go unnoticed.
Here’s an AP photo I found of the riots in Minniapolis last week that I thought nicely encapsulated black rage.
I really think that many white people have cognitive dilemma when it’s comes to seeing people of color as fully human. It’s sort of like they want to have it both ways. Both to “other” black and brown people and see us as less-than-human, and also to insist that we are all the same and deserve no special treatment for past indignities. I’m reminded of this kid I once knew from growing up who I played with all the time. He was white and lived in the subdivision behind the apartment complex my family lived in. This is during the 80’s in Dallas. This kid and I played daily for a year or so until all of a sudden he told me his parents said we couldn’t play anymore because I was black. I didn’t know anything about race at the time. I was maybe 7, which is for the life of me why I’m drawing a blank on his name. Anyway, those who know me know I usually don’t take no for an answer when there’s something I want and I wanted to play with this kid so I went to his house knocked on the door and was refused entry by the mother. I was of course sad, and could see my friend down the hall beginning to cry, but then something extraordinary and painful happened. I somehow got my thumb wedges into the door as she attempted to close it in my face and of course by thumb began gushing blood. All of a sudden, seeing that I was indeed flesh and blood my friends mother brought me into the house, bandaged me up, and for the rest of the time we lived in that apartment complex I had no problem seeing him. This was probably my first realization of how deep race goes in this country. How for some white people your not human until you bleed right in front of them. Later on in life I became more properly inoculated to this realization.
I think one of the most important things to remember when I see the protests out there proclaiming that black lives matter is that it’s as much an affirmation as it is a declaration. I can distinctly remember growing up being told to fear my own race. Being taught not to sit with “those” people in the lunchroom. I didn’t go outside at all as a child because I was afraid of my comunity. I had an aunt who I adored and still love dearly who told me to actively seek advanced and gifted classes with mostly white because those were the smart classes and classes with mostly black kids were the dumb classes. I saw a meme on Facebook making fun of George Floyd’s big lips and nose saying something to the extent of “How can this Nigga’ not breath” and it made me so mad because that could be me or so many black and brown people I know and it so reinforces stereotypes of beauty. Being an artist you better believe I’m paying attention to how every picture of Floyd’s face overemphasizes his facial features to drive the message home that this is a non-normative human, right down to how they crop the pictures taken of him.
I don’t know what was going through Derek Chauvin’s head when he pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck. I have to think he really didn’t expect all this to go down, there’s something about the casual nature of what he did. Like he did it so many times before. Apparently he had a rough hand with patrons at a club he did security at as well so he seemed to be a bad seed all around. Well, let me not say that because I think one of the things this murder highlights is that there’s more than just a couple bad apples or seeds running around in police departments or even in white people in general. I’m not the most eloquent when expressing these thoughts I have to say, and I feel obliged in these moments to defer to others whose words are deeper and more profound than my own so I refer you to Kareem Abdul-Jabaar who wrote a very nice editorial in the LA Times on May 30th. Additionally, here’s a photo of a nice pyramid of white-supremacist tropes I found on Facebook that my friend Renee Reed posted last week that I think sums up white racism in this country pretty well.
Last night while eating dinner we had Ray Charles on and while he gets a little to maudlin and country in his later years, some of his earlier stuff is still awesome. I still remember Keshia Knight Pulliam lip-singing the Margie Hendrix wail from “The Night Time is the Right Time”, from The Cosby Show back in the 80’s. That was my favorite episode for years. Here’s that song and “I’ve Gotta Woman”, for your listening pleasure.
Next week it’s off to work for a spell as summer gets into full swing. I hope to get my Pluto painting at least halfway done so I can begin the Earth by the end of the month. I’m simultaneously working on Gnostic Confessions 3 and a duo of flower bouquet paintings so it’s going to be an exciting painting month for me. Let’s hope there’s no more sparks to explode any power kegs out there, some of us have work to do. Be well and safe everyone!