“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.” Ralph Ellison
I saw Get Out the other night and found myself mesmerized by the horror of it all which is funny really, because it’s not anything new… Every comment said in the terrifying garden-party scene has been said before. As for people touching you, maybe not your biceps, but definitely your hair, this has happened to those of us who have lived in the woods. And sometimes they touch your child’s hair as well, commenting on how interesting it is, all the many kinks and curls. Or the best is when they ask you, with absolute surprise, how it is possible that your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, can be so dark, or so light, or so this or so that, when you look completely different, what with your nose sharper or wider, your lips thinner or fuller, your……. When they ask this of you knowing damn well that there was a thing called slavery that generally mutated our genes into a variety of colored hues. Or they say that you don’t sound like the others… Or you speak white… Or you this.. Or you that…..
I tell you that crazy shit happens in the woods…..
How many times has someone asked me about things I have no idea about, about all those Black things I supposedly represent, simply because my melanin count is a tad bit higher than theirs? How many times have I been the recipient of shaded compliments that are rich with racial assumptions and bias? How many times have I entered a place in the woods and looked for a brother and sister, just to make sure that this is a somewhat survivable space? And also, how many times have I looked into the eyes of another brother, sometimes the only other brother in the woods with me, only to see a vacant stare looking back at me, a stare that does not so much say GET OUT, but rather says, I NO LONGER SPEAK BROTHERNESE….
When you live in the woods, there is not much that surprises you. An old lady, sweet as apple pie, all good intentions, tells you that you are extremely polite and that you don’t act anything at all like the ones on TV. You have a giant of a Ukrainian boy come up to you your first week in high school and tell you to shine his shoes. A beautiful girl, all blond hair and blue eyes, smiles at you and says the only reason you look good is because you really just look like a white guy with a tan. Your fifth grade math teacher looks directly at you, only Black kid in the room, as she goes off in class about HOW IDIOTIC IT IS TO HAVE SHOWS ON TV THAT CATER ONLY TO BLACK PEOPLE! As you train for a marathon in D.C., going for your nightly run, a car follows behind full of white guys, talking about, “Run Nigger Run….” You enter a bar in Georgetown your first year at college and a group of white boys shouts at you and your girl, “GET THE FUCK OUT NIGGERS!” You get followed around in department stores even when you are wearing your suit and tie.. leaving all hoodies behind… Black people are criminalized when we become addicts and other people are portrayed as innocent victims of a “plight on our national spirit”… when we get shot down on our streets in the thousands, the government says we need to build more prisons… when crazy kids shoot up schools in other neighborhoods, the government says we should pay more attention to mental health care….
Man, didn’t I tell you living in the woods is insane.
So when you see a horror movie where brains are transplanted, the consciousness of brothers and sisters are imprisoned in the constraints of their own dark forms, black bodies are put on modern day auction blocks, our BLACKNESS becomes no more than our skin color and has nothing to do with our collective traumas… then how can you be surprised when you see a movie like GET OUT!??
This is not science fiction nor just a horror story my friends say to me, this is a fucking documentary on what it means to be a person of color who lives in the woods…. Brains being diced and spliced, fragmented and distorted, reconfigured and replaced…. Bodies being stolen and sold for its parts.. It’s many black parts… Languages being stripped from our tongues… Brothers and sisters who look like you but are no longer acknowledging you as one of their own.. Or better yet, no longer claiming to belong to the tribe…. Liberal folks hungry to liberalize your blackness and make it into something sterile and safe and unreal….. Being worshiped for our displays of athletic splendor while being ignored for our displays of humanity…. People greeting you with I VOTED FOR OBAMA AND I WOULD DO IT AGAIN… Souls that scream to be free of the bullshit of a reality that pretends to be sane…. Mind manipulators exploiting our traumas so as to not only oppress us, but so as to feed off of us…. Our flesh being objectified, sexualized and pillaged…. Our cells extracted from us for experimentation that allows an industry to make hundreds of millions (Henrietta Lacks in case you don’t know the reference)…… ETC….
But hey it’s just a movie right….. And in the end, once the novelty of it wears off, those of us who live in the woods will have to continue to struggle through a life where there seems to be no ending in sight, where there will be no credits running at the end of the film, where the audience will not get to leave and the actors will not get to go on to their next feature films…
And as for the TSA coming to our rescue.. In this day of Donald Trump….
Well, let me put it this way, at least for the brothers and sisters they haven’t gotten to yet…
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