Denial of the humanity of Black folk is at the core of white supremacy, and it’s not simply a matter for the justice system; it’s been upheld through centuries of cultural propaganda. The narratives perpetuated through books, music, films and TV intentionally erase Black tenderness, cementing deep biases that foster an environment where doctors routinely withhold painkillers from Black patients, where armed police panic at the sight of a Black child. It sets up a maddening conflict between how we are perceived and who we know ourselves to be, which even affects how we relate to each other.
There is a lot more space for Black art now, but the cynic in me asks, have the power structures changed? Having a bunch of white people at the top creating the programs risks [us] becoming a new human zoo. We can tell all the stories we want and they can be as tender, as violent and as funny as whatever – but what will we achieve if something deeper systemically does not shift? So while we do take opportunities to take up more space, it is incumbent upon us to look at why we’re doing it and what we are leaving behind for two, three, seven generations to come.