I genuflect at Mass, stealing fleeting glances of my sons’ hands in prayer—tender, unburdened by veins or violence, unscathed. I redirected my attention, prayed that whoever feared their black bodies would soon unlearn myth and space and threat.
I’ve come to expect offensive portrayals of blackness during Halloween, but this past year’s trend of impersonating Trayvon Martin seemed unusually cruel. I’ve never understood why certain white people love black face. I can only imagine those who love blackface or find the use of “blackface” funny enjoy dehumanizing blackness. Blackface has been used for racial parody since the early 1800s, and slowly over the years Halloween has become a season for racial parody within a larger social framework that thrives on dehumanizing blackness for its own survival. Blackness as monstrous. I’ve been thinking about this as a concept more and more, especially this Halloween as I perused photos of people who could not have possibly seen and understood Trayvon Martin as a human being.
“The crazy thing is I’ve never been called a nigger to my face” begins Issa Rae’s blogpost. Issa Rae, for all those who do not know, is the creator, writer and star of the hit web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” In her recent article,“People on The Internet Can Be Hella Racist” Rae describes how after winning the 2012 Shorty Awards, her twitter and Facebook pages were inundated with racist comments, that ranged from horrific to downright deplorable: “I nominate @awkwardblackgirl for @shortyawards in #cottonpicking.” And then “#ThingsBetterThanAwkwardBlackGirl The smell coming from Trayvon Martin.” Most times, I’m not even sure these people are fully aware of what those words truly evoke in a historical context. These are people, who I imagine, outside of the internet are perfectly respectful to people of color, might even have friends of a darker complexion, might even have voted for Obama (Yes We CAN!), but somehow they traded in their civil decorum and decency for the internet’s anonymity.