Saturday, May 12, 2018

"This is America. Don’t catch me slipping, now."

medium |  Don’t catch me slipping. There’s always a way to make Black people’s suffering seem like our own fault, no matter how targeted or deliberate the attacks against us are. If you get got, it’s because you and your people got caught slipping. There’s a reason headlines make it seem like cops’ bullets fire themselves. Even their guns get the benefit of the doubt; Black people shot full of holes don’t.

The narrative that Black America is solely responsible for all the violence it suffers is centuries-old and extremely resilient. This is where Kanye West’s statements about slavery being a choice find their roots. It’s more palatable to blame the victims than force the perpetrators to take a posture of forgiveness, and this upside-down world is what Black Americans have to negotiate without losing their minds. As he dances through the frame, Glover goes from grimacing to grinning in split seconds, from brutal violence to almost shucking and jiving. He skillfully navigates the madness and chaos unfolding behind him. At the end, he’s sweaty, wide-eyed, and running for his life.

This is America, where Blackness is pathologized and capitalism warps ghastly incentives even further. Black people in America have been selected to be the lowest rung, the exploited class upon which the nation’s wealth is built. It’s no accident that Black entertainment has become one of the primary vehicles for masking this reality. There’s a reason the gaudy exhibitions of “new Black money” are reliably programmed.

When the choir raises their voices to sing, “Grandma told me, ‘Get your money, Black man!’” I can’t tell if it’s a cry for reparations or a call to dive headfirst into the rapacious, winner-take-all capitalism of America’s streets and boardrooms. And while I’m not convinced that this uncertainty isn’t deliberate (a slippery way of not alienating anyone), that tension is at the heart of the truth Glover is telling. Survival demands that Black people participate in an immoral, capitalist system that brutalizes them, and justice demands the wealth built on the backs of our stolen ancestors be returned to us. We try to achieve both and end up accomplishing neither.