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Written By Mesha, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Respectability politics has failed us.  Time and time again, when we see a slain black body across the internets, news screens, or social media, there is a counter-narrative that puts a justification of the murder. Sandra Bland should not have been talking back to the officer. Eric Garner should have had more sense than to sell loose squares on the corner. Trayvon Martin knows that the world doesn’t look at little Black boys as children.  Ahmaud Arbery shouldn’t have stopped (and as we find out, he didn’t stop, he was trapped). All of these slain Black bodies faced a terrorizing counter-narrative that takes away their right to live and justifies their deaths.  

But what happens when there are no justifications?  When we, as Black people, become the model, civilized citizens that white supremacy expects us to be, that America has decided for us is the only right way to live.  For the incident that occurred with Christian Cooper, he was just that.  He was the one who was the law-abiding citizen, asking for a fellow neighbor to do just take. Put your damn dog on a leash… in a public park… where leashes are required. I’ve been to Central Park a couple of times, just as beautiful as it is, it’s haunting. I think of Central Park 5 and even all of the SVU episodes knowing that being here, as a Black woman, I can be just as much of a criminal as I could be a victim.

But this ain’t even about me, personally. So, let me bag back and go over some basics.  I started out this by saying that respectability politics has failed us. And I’m sticking to it.  But let’s go over what respectability politics are.  Respectability politics are behaving, speaking, and portraying a life that is socially respectable to our hegemonic, white supremacist society. We’ve been encouraged to shame our loud cousins (the ones on the west side of any major city), get degrees and proudly exclaim “I’m Black and educated” as a banner of pride, to buy nice things that display our worth, to have the “voice” when talking to certain people, to think twice about how we wear our hair depending on what we got going on that week… all that right there, respectability politics. And the list can go on….          

For Christian Cooper, after people did their research and found out he’s a bird lover and graduated from Harvard, he surpassed any anti-Black rhetoric of just fucking with a White lady because he can… the criminalization of his character fallen short real quick. But that didn’t stop #CentralParkKaren from being Karen because anti-Blackness don’t give a damn about where you graduated from, what you do for a living, what your upbringing was because all anti-Blackness does is see a Black body and tries its hardest to erode, kill, and destroy it.  

My issue with Amy Cooper is that she clearly understands how the law is in her favor.  She’s quite aware that there is a volatile relationship with Black men and the police.  She’s quite aware of her pedestal as a white woman.  She’s quite aware that any angst that she has will be handled.  She’s quite aware of how dangerous she can be while simultaneously appear fragile.  And most importantly, she understood the power play of weaponizing her whiteness. There was absolutely nothing that Christian Cooper could have done differently. 

And praises to the most high that her plan to destroy his life because she felt discomfort did not succeed.

Someone mentioned or posted that “racism isn’t happening more often; it just being filmed more” resonated with me. I reflected back to about a decade or so ago and how we, as Black people, began to use social media as a mechanism to draw attention to racism and protest.  While social media does provide a voice, it now also gives a parallel filled with trauma. 

We watch a new violent act of racism at least once a week; it’s reshared, reposted, and retweeted countlessly. What we once used a tool of awareness has now become a tool trauma; we get to see public lynching every day. I argue that it has become a virtual weapon to make an example out of folks who appear to live out of white order and create fear for if we get to see life for another day.  Anything we do can be criminalized. We get to read the comments of white people and even some Black people and other people of color who finds a mean to justify injustice. We get to see the counter-narrative that is normalized through media outlets with no repercussions for its harm.

Per usual, I’m triggered, but I can’t find myself to be quiet as I have been before, or to only share quotes and partake in virtual protests can’t be what my resistance relies on.  I’ve decided to use my voice in a way that shares light on whatever situation that we face as a Black community.  I’m not saying that Christian Cooper has intentionally lived in a way to please white people deliberately. I don’t know him and don’t need to. But I do know that whiteness and power don’t have love for Black bodies, so we must find ways to enjoy our lives while we have them. We must love our Blackness even more than whiteness hates it. I’ll close with one of the greatest rappers alive verse, “Rich n****a, poor n***a, house n***a, field n***a… still n***a.”

Also, I know.. I couldn’t not see the murder of George Floyd. But at this moment, I have absolutely no words right now.

 

Mesha, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

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