We need to talk about limiting viral effects of Black pain
There are memories of when images that captured powerful moments in history gripped me as a young girl, enthusiastically turning pages of newsmagazines before they evolved into the online portals of disarray that are currently invading the web.
When John Lennon was shot and killed in Manhattan in December 1980, the cover of Time magazine had the headline that took my breath away.
When the Music Died.
And just like that, I was swept by the current of overwhelming curiosity for someone I barely knew, but seemed worth getting to know, even if it was through what he left behind. My respect grew with each page, as the dignified imagery paid homage to a life well spent, and showcased those who were publicly celebrating what had been brutally stolen.
Fast forward decades later, and if Lennon, or any member of The Beatles had met their end in a violent fashion, there would be the instant swirling of conspiracy theories, followed by the poison of doctored YouTube videos that have been uploaded by well-positioned bystanders, who filmed the bloody footage with the dreams of viral stardom.
This happens a lot when the victims are Black, because Black pain and Black death are considered premium viewing in the era of documented violence, that demands graphic footage of the fiery seconds after the Black man in the driver’s seat was shot in the chest by the hovering White cop still brandishing his gun, as the victim moans out his last breath in the presence of his stunned girlfriend and her terrified toddler.
Rapper, entrepreneur, community activist and burgeoning film producer, Nipsey Hussle was blasted to death, multiple times, minutes after he stepped into the LA sun, after exiting his clothing store, located in the neighborhood where he grew up.
Once his passing was confirmed, it didn’t take long for videos capturing the fatally wounded father of two, lying on the ground, while receiving CPR from paramedics to hit social media platforms at a furious rate. And then of course the rage of users caused the floodgates of conspiracies to burst open, with reckless abandon, and zero consideration for those who are suffering an unfathomable loss.
The same treatment was assigned to the horrific Ethiopian Airline disaster, that occurred just a stone’s throw away from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. The doomed jetliner was headed to Nairobi when shortly after takeoff, the flight system unexpectedly stalled, and minutes later, 157 passengers and crew members had fallen from the sky.
The deadly crash was a global catastrophe due to the various nationalities on board, and the news of the tragedy spread like wildfire all over the web. The impact of the plane hitting the ground at high speed left a crater in the earth, and not much else.
And in the midst of the horror and shock that follows the aftermath of a terrible accident with massive casualties, there were the usual attempts by online bandits to capitalize on the sobering atmosphere by either scavenging non-related shots depicting the goriness of plane crashes, or simply providing footage of the frightening moments that transpired before the unthinkable happened.
It was appallingly disgusting to be given the task of exhaustively dodging the blatantly fake video that made the cut. The grainy footage featured a large plane dizzyingly trying to steady itself, but woefully failing to do so, before it terrifyingly plows into a vast field.
The robotic nature of social engagement has evidently worsened over time, when you consider that folks are so desperate to channel the currency of violence by reaping the rewards of being the auteur of trending events.
Basic human decency and common sense diminish, making room for the inhumane tendencies that are borne from over-exposure and the super-human tolerance that thrives.
It doesn’t have to be the death scene itself or the Black bodies struggling to breathe, it’s also the over-shares of brutalization against Black women and children, which was on display with rapidness during the “summer of hate.”
This season of unfiltered hate was inspired by the remarkable sight of two Black men in handcuffs, calmly leaving Starbucks with the cops that were summoned by a White woman manager. This unleashed the frenzy by media outlets who were obsessed with the non-stop footage of White fuckers harassing innocent Black citizens.
It became the daily consumption of White gawkers who couldn’t get enough of free entertainment starring Black lives that don’t matter, and the rest of the population who needed to share the shit as a way to participate in the activism of enlightening those who are tucked away in caves, and therefore stuck in the dark.
As a writer who tackles issues of police brutality and the Black victims who can simply open the front door of their apartment, and get shot up by an off-duty cop who may or may not have been intoxicated at the time of the shooting — there was the strong belief that sharing disturbing imagery of young Black women getting beatdowns from thuggish White cops would somehow convince doubters or the uninformed about the severity of racial strife in America.
But the “summer of hate” whooped me into shape, thanks to the greediness of assholish editors, who were forcing their writers to fill up daily calendars with the outbreak of White privilege attacking Black people across the nation.
The ravenous appetite for never-ending fiesta with the delightfully dramatic bites of White women invading spaces where Black bodies lawfully reside, and then weaponizing their White victimhood with the nefarious assistance of cowardly police officers, who dropped by during donut breaks — became the virus that literally nobody wanted cured.
But the line was dangerously crossed when it came to the brutish threats to Black children, and how the media and the country mishandled the disgraceful episode of the menacing White witch who callously reduced a 9-year-old Black boy to a flood of tears with serious accusations of sexual assault.
That White woman should’ve been handcuffed and tossed in jail and promptly charged with the crime of falsely accusing a child of an abominable act, based on the fact that she was well aware of what she was doing and why.
It’s interesting how Empire actor Jusssie Smollett is getting pummeled by the maddened crowd who are desperately invested in the quest of securing a nationalized scapegoat.
But where was the intense rage by notables when a poor Black child was emotionally assaulted and scarred in broad daylight by the weaponry of White feminism?
The media needs Black pain to flourish without hindrance because our suffering provides the clicks, traffic and ratings that can’t be replaced with a worthier contender, once the solutions are manifested into proactiveness.
And that’s why the week night the video of the Black woman being brutalized by a White bartender in a parking lot made it’s viral debut — I made the firm decision to honor the sentiment behind the tweet by a passionate Black woman filmmaker, that summed up the feelings — festering since those harrowing months of relentless viewing and sharing that led to nowhere.
Black pain is not for sale, and if the general consensus is to aid blood-thirsty outlets with their monthly expenses by indulging in the emptiness of gross exposure, that produces nothing positive or progressive, then I will have to steadfastly remain the exception to the rule.
We really need to talk about limiting the viral effects of Black pain and Black death, which can only happen when we stop devaluing Black lives with the constant shares, reposts, retweets, and all the other methods of desensitization.
No more downgrading the instinctual need to be horrified by the avalanche of graphic content that signal the ills of society, and how we’ve endorsed the normalcy of animalistic rituals against actual human beings and their offspring.
The cavalier way that even some of our own deposit the violence, and then moments later tweet about the boxed shoes that need to be revived for the spring that’s never on time — is quite telling of how our handiwork ultimately works against supposed best intentions.
We can’t be connived messengers of the faulty messaging, seducing us into believing that obediently sharing video of the elderly Black woman on the train being kicked multiple times by a deranged male, or other offerings that present acts of violence against Black bodies, will somehow touch enough souls and possibly enhance the mission statements of movements, that are fighting to keep Black people alive despite life-threatening chaos.
The motives behind the urgency of providing concrete proof of why racism in America isn’t just a myth or a rallying cry with no tangibility might seem like the noble act of defiance or a meaningful contribution to an activated cause, but sadly, for those who can’t relate to the debilitating aspects of our nightmare, it only serves as the backdrop to a classic movie that keeps playing out over and over again.
There’s also the emotional trauma that’s rarely addressed, and perhaps that’s due to how well we’ve mastered managing our fear, pain and anguish, and why that makes it so easy to keep Blackness as the reliable target, that provides interludes of bloody mayhem, that trend long enough to either establish a newly-minted hashtag or the winning numbers that once again prove the viability of #survivingwhileblack.
It’s about time that this nationalized assault that utilizes our very clear and present danger as leverage — comes to a screeching halt.
We can’t continue to foster a deadly climate that highlights how effortlessly expendable we are, and how our vulnerability as Black women don’t match the fragility of our White counterparts, who never have to sit through videos that illustrate the worthlessness of their femininity against the men who blow them kisses after traffic stops end with the civilized warning.
It’s time to end the era of commodifying Black pain by scaling back on the multitude of shares, by reclaiming the narrative of why Black lives matter, and how the viral content no longer achieve what they were never meant to garner in the first place.
No ultra-violent footage is ever going to be bloody or vile enough to elicit the level of empathy that’s required for the reassurance of our humanness without the mandated reservations of White America.
The pain of being Black in America is a reality that needs to be treated with the reverence that accumulates from the past into the unbearable present.
That’s why the buck stops here!