Intro – #blackonblack

In #blackonblack, Features, HOME, LIFE by Sam Prance

#blackonblack is a feature in which black people discuss black culture/black experiences/black everything.

To all who prance,

PTL have got some plans for February. We want you to watch this space – with a pretty (angry) please. There’s going to be a shift in the focus, and most importantly the voice, of our website this week.

We’re following up and following through with the convictions we made in December’s Ferguson: Literature in Technology article, which was in direct response to the non-indictment of Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown. This in itself was the culmination, if you like, the explosion in the bottleneck of the busted screwtop, that is the farce of America’s race relations. We – as a website, along with most of the people we spoke to, listened to, messaged, marched with – wanted to Do Something.

I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate, but for the record, this non-indictment is, among other things, the microcosm of a recurring and scandalous contextual backdrop to an issue (and a nation) that affects everybody in all walks of life. The superpower whose presidential election is followed as avidly by every other nation as it is by its own citizens; whose culture of wealth, security and appeal is based so fundamentally and effectually on image; whose monopoly of influence includes the UN, Wall Street and, like, all media ever, cannot place a black person and a white person side by side and speak/look/act towards them as if they are equally intelligent, adept, and deserving of, well, being alive and that. It’s devastating that the coined catchphrase of the post-Ferguson movement has to be so obvious, so simple: #blacklivesmatter.

Well, yeah. Duh.

So we’re out of the bottleneck, and the pressure has dissipated, following the ever-stoic pattern of such high-profile and social media-driven affairs. The actions of people from all over, black and white, adult and children, across classes and countries, who have marched, spoken out, carried signs, and held events, rallied in physical spaces, have been truly amazing to watch. Edinburgh had its own.

Yet Christmas has come and gone and the Garners have been without a father, and the Rices have been without a son. And in the coming weeks, the officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice (a matter of two seconds after having exited his police car, and matched against a BB-gunned twelve-year-old), will face the Grand Jury. Rice’s death has already been ruled a homicide – but then so was Eric Garner’s. And Mike Brown’s. And Akai Gurley’s (shot in his stairwell two days before by an accidental ‘ricocheting bullet). And John Crawford’s (carrying a BB rifle through the store in which he had just bought it, in August). In the face of this evidence, if evidence counts for shit – sorry, would a non-expletive be less offensive? More appropriate? More professional? – which apparently it does not, it would be fair to assume Tamir Rice’s killer will not have to entertain the notion that his actions may have been criminal. It is highly unlikely he will be indicted. So what now? Have the statistics changed?

No. This is a problem that pans centuries. It is happening on our own turf, too. Just five weeks ago, three guards were acquitted of the manslaughter of Jimmy Mubenga, who in 2010 paid with his life for struggling against deportation to Angola from the UK, which meant separation from his wife and children. He was restrained, and went into cardiac arrest by suffocation after thirty minutes of having his head forced underneath the aeroplane seat in front of his own.

Apparently, the racist texts found on the guards’ phones, which numbered more than 100, and included such sentiments as ‘fuck off and go home you free-loading, benefit grabbing, kid producing, violent, non-English speaking cock suckers and take those hairy faced, sandal wearing, bomb making, goat fucking, smelly rag head bastards with you’, were not relevant in the guards’ treatment of Mubenga, and were not permitted by the judge to be used as evidence during their trial. Ironically, more than one passenger witness has testified that they heard Jimmy Mubenga utter in the minutes before he lost consciousness, ‘I can’t breathe’.

We’re in the new year now, and the news is old. And a like and a share still ain’t cutting it. As we said in our last article on these race relations, liking and sharing are not actions, they’re not political, they’re not engaged. Fox News, a supposedly viable, middle-American “news” channel, is airing reports of Muslim police squads attacking people in London, of the “no-go” Muslim city of Birmingham within the first week of 2015. And Greta Van Susteren is accusing anybody who questions the absolute verisimilitude of the police force, of being an ingratiate befouling the honour of any policeman or woman who has ever died doing their duty (she has since removed the video from her Facebook page). 140 characters on Twitter; a hashtag symbol – they’re not enough to combat or explain or negotiate these subtle, ill-informed, hypocritical campaigns.

Time, investment, conversation – progress. Prancing Through LIFE is launching a feature this week to keep the conversation going. We’re shifting the minority voice into the majority voice, to make our agenda clear. Combating ‘news’ forums such as Fox News with accounts of concrete, gut-level experience of discrimination and racism, as well as discussing the daily actualities of life in a minority category, we’re bringing it into the fields of Art, Fashion, Literature, Film, Theatre, Television and Music. We’re doing it in America’s ever-important, ever-topical Black History Month. We want this issue to permeate through the layers of culture that hide yet harbour problematic relations so well.

We’re calling it #blackonblack, and this is not exclusionary but exclusive. Do I have to say #allvoicesmatter to make this clear? I hope not. We want everyone to be talking about race.

So watch this space.

Hannah Oliver

Hannah O is the Editor of FILM, THEATRE & TV at PTL. She really likes camera equipment, long words, and anything she can deep fat fry. Do not approach Hannah when she is eating fried food in the early hours; she will be drunk and convinced she knows everything. Elsewise, these days she may be found in Edinburgh University Library with her head in a book – probably Facebook.

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(Header image sourced from: here)