Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Overcoming Racists Imagery: A Trip Inside The Mind

Who else is tired of their social media feeds being flooded with viral videos of Black people being harassed and/or questioned by overly concerned white people? I’m not saying we shouldn’t watch and share these videos. Ignoring this issue won’t make it go away. These videos serve a purpose, but I’m tired of seeing them. I’m tired of anti-Blackness. I’m tired of people deputizing themselves to police us. I’m tired of people assuming our presence needs to be explained.

This kind of harassment is the child of ignorance and hatred. Unnecessarily following, questioning, or calling the cops on anyone can create a potentially dangerous situation. Not everyone is going to pull out a phone and start recording. There are people capable of going from calm to pissed off before their antagonist can dial 911, but even if the person being harassed keeps their cool they are put in the ominous position of having to explain themselves to law enforcement.

These videos are new, but this behavior isn’t. Black bodies have been monitored and surveilled since the first slave ships dropped anchor. The moment Black bodies are “out of place” our patriotic friends spring into action. Their fear and unarticulated assumptions create drama where none exists.
I know Black people who are policing themselves. I know people who have decided that eating at certain restaurants or shopping in some malls isn’t worth risking a potential confrontation. This is psychologically exhausting and emotionally damaging.

We don’t have to be prisoners to this madness. Self-exploration, self-awareness, and ultimately, self-knowledge is our way out. Finding yourself doesn’t mean you won’t be victimized by racism, but it can keep you from internalizing the experience. We should be upset by racist behavior, we should confront racists tropes, but we shouldn’t allow the mania of others to limit our freedom. We can train our minds and strengthen our spirits.

Plato thought there were three components to the soul: the logical, the spirited, and the appetite; Sigmund Freud lectured about the three parts of the personality: the id, the ego, and the superego; Frantz Fanon wrote extensively about decolonializing the mind; The Nation of Gods and Earths have been teaching about self-actualization since the 60’s. There’s a lot of information across a variety of disciplines readily available for anyone serious about overcoming the psychological effects of trauma.

What works for me (if it is working) may not work for you. I’ve found that fighting the urge to reject objectification helped me understand they way people look at me and how I react to their reactions. I think of myself as an object, a subject, and an agent. This allows me to focus on the things I can control. I define my personal trinity in the terms of me, myself, and I.


  • Me: (object) a canvas where society projects its understanding (and misunderstandings) about language, culture, gender, race, sex, and class.
  • Myself: (subject) The internal battleground where assumptions, prejudices, and preconceived notions are either internalized and accepted, or confronted and defeated.
  • I: (agent) The external being whose actions reflect the conscious and unconscious struggles I face.

We are constantly objectified: all of us. Every interaction we have starts with a look that attempts to understand us or place us in a category. At any given time, we have a number of character traits projected onto us. Those initial judgments are part of life; they will always be there, but we don't define us. We will never know freedom if we don’t find a way around social stigma. One can be bound without physical shackles.

Our challenge is to diminish the power judgment holds over us while simultaneously elevating our self-worth. The phobias and “isms” plaguing our society flourish because of intellectual laziness. Ignorance and hatred aren’t going anywhere, but we have to remember that the hateful and ignorant aren’t the majority. We can’t fall into the trap of trying to refute every negative stereotype about Blackness. Ultimately, the most important judgment we face lives on the other side of a mirror.

No comments:

Post a Comment