blacklivesmatter Essay by Jay-Marie J. Hill

Culture: Blacklivesmatter Essay

ESSAY: Racism by Another Name

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by guest contributor Jay-Marie J. Hill
Published February 2015 | Community Issue

There is a sickness in the air. It is one with deep roots that a large percentage of Americans either can’t fathom or aren’t willing to admit…or both. To most, it’s as if the ears and nose are stuffed up from a mere cold, while others not in denial know the nervous system is in an intense stand-off with something rooted in the body’s innermost parts. To put it simply, America is sick with a devious illness of state violence that is entrenched in our national body’s marrow.

The instances of police brutality that ignited this moment is our national sore throat - but a symptom of a deep-seated infirmity. We must look deeper and broaden our commitment to the national body by sending healing resources to our most ravaged parts in order to truly heal the whole.

The founding of the United States was based on the promise of freedom, but application has varied. Bodies in alignment with the founding gentlemen’s norm of straight, rich, white, and male have always been most easily deemed worthy, while bodies outside of that norm deemed Other. As Other, you are simply an object to further an economic system built on competition - and no one flinches at violence against objects. The term - state violence - includes any acts committed or allowed by the institutions meant to protect us, the citizens of the State. We all suffer in some way from its different iterations. An undocumented queer person fighting for citizenship; a white father without the money to pay a mortgage due to underemployment; a South Asian domestic worker laboring for 80 hours a week to keep their family fed: these are all examples of living under state violence.

 Though painful to admit, America’s use of Blackness as target practice for extreme state violence is well documented. From historical and legal (and thus, legitimized) offenses of state violence: building a country’s economy on the backs of slaves and Jim Crow laws; to the less overt, contemporary forms of villainizing Black Queer and Trans people for their deviance and a Prison Industrial Complex filled with unconscionable numbers of incarcerated Black bodies, state violence against all things Black is impossible to ignore.

 Surely as the types of state violence transform, the fights against it must as well. With roots in the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s, #BlackBrunch is one such matured tactic. A Black-led direct action, Black Brunch exists to disrupt the status quo by interrupting business-as-usual for [often, white] patrons of high-end restaurants, who by and large have the ability to disconnect from the realities of state violence as perpetuated against others. In 2015, we are not fighting for the right to sit at the lunch counter; rather, we are shouting from blocked freeways, gentrified corners and policy board rooms: We deserve to be regarded as human no matter what excuses for violence or “crimes” are pushed against us.

 Protests— by way of inconvenience—are meant to remind us that everyone is needed to make change. Indeed, this work must push along with those moments of inconvenience—it must also range from patronizing Black businesses to resourcing Black youth and trans people to diversifying media consumption. 

This movement is an urgent call: our future as a national body depends on us proving that all things said, done and created by Black Lives are valuable. We must evidence the belief that #BlackLivesMatter by supporting, patronizing, and priming Black Lives for success. This intentional effort is necessary to counteract our historic trauma and will inevitably lead to Liberation for all inside of this, our war-torn, diseased American body.

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