CVS on Fruitvale Ave, Dimond District, Oakland, CA.
Every time I see a Black man who appears to be in his twenties, I can’t help but wonder what would happen to him if something he did or something he was carrying in his hands (a wallet, a phone, a pair of glasses) caused a police officer to fear for his life. Is it possible that the greatest threat to the safety and survival of an unarmed Black man is a frightened police officer?
“The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions.” –James Baldwin
The power of the white world is equally destabilized whenever a Black writer or artist of any gender refuses to accept the narrow range of Black images that the white world has created.
Until Black people deliberately and consistently choose to privilege in their purchases and other forms of consumption those images of Blackness that people of African descent have created in opposition to white supremacy and in the service of our own aspirations and dreams, we remain complicit in our own marginalization and objectification.
We must vote with our wallets for those African American images that affirm our diversity, our beauty, and our strengths. I have not done enough to support those writers and musicians whose works reflect the way Black folks really live; and I have spent entirely too much of my time and my money indulging in the guilty pleasure of those movies and musical performers whose images reflect not the diversity of our experiences, but rather the narrow range of Black character types on which white supremacy depends.
I need to do better. We all need to do better. We must support those creatives whose vision–expressed in music, art, on the stage, or in print–reflects the Black lives we live, rather than the Black lives the mainstream wants to believe that we live. We must Buy Black Back.
Today I grieve the loss of Michael Brown, and I reaffirm my commitment to documenting the lives of the Black men around me.
In a society whose officers of the law too often react to young Black men as though their very existence is a crime, Black men’s simple, daily tasks are acts of resistance. When a Black man carries out the activities of his daily life with style, self-assurance, and beauty, his resistance becomes a work of art.