internalized white supremacy does not fix internalized white supremacy
March 21, 2019
Daniel Caesar quickly became the center of social media conversation because of a rant defending a popular white booking agent, YesJulz. Last week YesJulz was taken to task for making comments that directly targeted media personalities, Karen Civil and Scottie Beam, accusing them of not wanting to see her in the hip-hop industry. Quickly thereafter, Scottie Beam and Karen Civil denied ever preventing YesJulz’s success as well as pointing out the severe problem with lying and naming Black women in order to recharacterize her own narrative as someone that utilizes appropriation tactics and white supremacy in order to advance in both business and social life.
On a live video stream, Daniel Caesar said that he did not understand why Black people were being so mean to white people, particularly YesJulz. He argued that Black people should be a people that could take a joke and that should be able to play along in white supremacist capitalism in order to advance in white superemacist capitalism like white people are able to do. This logic is flawed.
The absolute truth is there are a million ways Black people can express our internalized white supremacy. Most often, no matter what, it’s a way to imagine safety and control where there is none. The trauma of having a family, and the next day having none because of chattel slavery and the disregard of Black folks as humans capable of even having a family has had its lasting effects on the global Black experience and our imaginations. The threat of death by noose, gunshot, or something more sophisticated and sinister like systemic disadvantages has lasting effects. It is expressed differently depending on the person, but it is real. There are unique experiences that inform where, how, and why this is expressed. It is our job as folks interested in transcending white supremacy to ensure our bodies, minds, and imaginations are vessels for Black liberation, not vehicles for white supremacy. This is a relentless work.
There is no drunken excuse as to why Caesar would have expressed these ideas — drunk or sober, he expressed these ideas because they were his and for whatever reason — he thought this idea would keep him safe from the noose, the gunshot, or something more sophisticated. This is many Black folks’ belief that somehow they can outsmart death via white terror through strategy or belief or a certain brand of empathy. This is an illogical belief easily disproved when we think about Dylan Roof shooting worshipping Black people in a sanctuary or Emmitt Till’s flesh, blood, and feces leaving a trail to the site of his deformed body because of a white woman. Daniel Caesar is experiencing a type of madness if we consider the amount of realities he would have to deny to believe that YesJulz is not apart of, albeit tacky and boring, a history of white supremacist cultural domination. But again, I can not honestly say what a man that looks like Daniel Caesar — beautiful, dark, big lips, bold teeth that protect and hold a beautiful voice — has gone through and what lies he must believe to imagine there is a safety he can locate by “niceness” or being able to “take a joke” in a world submerged in white supremacy.
To my disappointment, many reactions to Daniel Caesar by Black people were critiques of his looks: insulting his type of beauty, his darkness, his big lips, and his bold teeth that hold the soulful voice. These things that are most associated with the Black aesthetic were weaponized against Caesar as a way to publicly critique and hold him accountable for his public practicing of white supremacy. In this moment I remembered bell hooks once saying, “Critiques must come from love.” I could not imagine this as love. I could not imagine this as critique. I could not imagine this as pro-Blackness. I could only truly see it as some Black folks working out their own internalized white supremacy on the back of another Black man expressing his internalized white supremacy; a type of circular cannibalism that left everyone empty.
I imagine that resisting our own instincts to insult and degrade Black folks in order to protect ourselves from the white supremacy that they’ve internalized and that seeks to violate them is also a part of the work. It must be apart of the work to sit in the sadness of seeing a Black person being eaten from the inside out by white supremacy and offering the rest of themselves to be devoured on the internet, while drunk and in front of thousands of adoring fans. It must be a part of the work to sit in the melancholy and disappointment, and realize we can’t save Black folks wrestling with their internalized white supremacy with our anger or by repurposing the same language and ideas used to annihilate us. It is their work to realize they are drowning and want help, and only then can change happen after one’s own self-reflection and expression of wanting to do better. For now, I’ll be playing more Frank Ocean.
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