Moving toward annihilation and beyond accountability:
to go back follow the Queen
Shamari Reid| March 7, 2018
So, I guess they got bored. Now, posthumanism, post-identity, and post-intersectionality are all the rage. But why? Perhaps, as Black feminist scholar Brittney Cooper (2015) offers:
this need to displace intersectionality, identity, and humanity while claiming a desire to keep them intact in some greatly altered form is absolutely a function of market-driven, neoliberal forms of academic knowledge production and the sense that academics must always say something new” (p.7; italics-mine).
Look, I cannot ascertain if these scholars are bored or being pushed by the academy to move to something “new”, but what I do know for sure is that if they are bored, it is because they aren’t really fighting. If they were [really fighting], they would find themselves exhausted- too exhausted to be coming up with shit like rhizomes and appendages, which, of course, I had to read and demonstrate my comprehension of to pass my doctoral certification exam. Have they any idea about the emotional labor that comes with working to resist inequity and injustice; working to dismantle interlocking systems of oppression; working to destroy white supremacy? Like, can we do that first before we elect to move on? Yet, they’re trying to move beyond the human, beyond the subject. Could it be, hear me out, because many behind the posthumanism movement, for example, are operating under the assumption that we have all, in fact, made it to human? How are we to move beyond something that so many of us are still fighting to achieve? And once again, the erasure happens.
Or maybe it is not boredom. Maybe these folks who are pushing to move beyond human are just trying to, as Dr. Tiffany King (2017) notes, stay relevant by subscribing to a “Deleuzian brand of posthumanist and nonrepresentational theory as proof that they are critical and postmodern scholars” (p.163). They are out here trying to get chose (by the academy).
How are we to move beyond something that so many of us are still fighting to achieve??
But, perhaps it isn’t boredom or the desire to get chose, but blatant racism and this country’s inability to deal with the intimate relationship between race and power (mis)distribution and “if you make the victim disappear, there is no crime” (Alexie, 2014).
To that end, I turn once again to Cooper (2015):
For instance, there is a way in which despite the many adaptations of Western political thought, white men are never disappeared from Western intellectual traditions. Within the history of Western feminism, white women are in no danger of being disappeared as architects of feminist theory. Yet, the move toward postintersectional frames shows a resurgence of hesitancy to deal with racism (p.13).
Similarly, Dr. Tiffany King (2017) shares, “non-subject- and non-object-related Deleuzoguattarian rhizomatics are a masterful (and frankly thuggish and rude) demonstration of refusing to adapt or “repair” colonial epistemologies and geographies” (p.170). Cooper (2015) asks, how are we to move beyond intersectionality which unmasks the racism and sexism so deeply woven into our institutional fabric, when we haven’t even dealt with those systems? But, how Sway? So, we just gon’ ignore the critique? We will just leave those oppressive ass systems intact, huh? They want to move beyond and attack theories but they dare not attack the system. Imagine this. If I gave you a pair of glasses that allowed you to see danger, you just gon’ advocate for a world that is post-glasses without attending to the dangers you saw? Or, is it that those dangers aren’t a threat for you? White supremacy isn’t dangerous for you, so you can move for a world that does not identify it. However, as a Black man, my glasses don’t come off, so you can’t get me to move beyond that, because all my life I’ve seen the dangers; I’ve seen white supremacy. And it must be dealt with. Because if not, it will “deal” with me. My critique then of the “post” movements is that they want to move beyond a world in which we acknowledge subjects, but I know what that really means for me and all those who have been otherized; I know what happens to us when we go posthuman. The same thing that has happened to us all these years, we continue to be annihilated:
"Native feminist refusal and Black feminist abolitionist skepticism function as intervening comportments, dispositions, and modes of critique that expose the violent and unself- conscious ways that Western theory attempts to move beyond the human through the annihilation of the Other" (King, 2017, p.179)
When we move beyond intersectionality, humanism, and identity, we move beyond accountability. Not only does moving beyond subjects restrict protection and access from certain bodies (Cooper, 2015), outliers, but it continues to render some of us subhuman, unable to feel, not needing to breathe (#EricGarner), and unable to have real fears (#Shamarireid). As a Black man, my humanity is not honored. My basic necessities to survive are denied. My fears are illogical. My fears are illogical. So, we cannot move beyond subjects, because that will allow for us to move toward (more) annihilation and beyond accountability.
::cues up long story to make point::
The following was posted on my Facebook page on March 5th:
...But Black men have fears, too. One of my biggest fears is white women's fear and even more terrifying for me than that are white women's tears. I know that it is those tears and that fear that could result in my name circulating around social media preceded by a hashtag: #shamarireid. However, I'm not allowed to be scared. We aren't allowed to be afraid because in this country, we've all been conditioned to regard me and other dark-skinned men as monsters to be feared. Less than human. That is why my neighbor- a white woman- was allowed to be scared of me in the lobby of our apartment building yesterday evening. She was allowed to assume that I was up to no good. She was allowed to ask me if I lived there and on which floor. She was allowed me to deny my humanity.
::why I'm scared of white women, their fear and their tears::
It was a beautiful day of self-care. I'm talking my favorite foods, a haircut, a bubble bath, candles lit, and Solange on repeat. Nothing could ruin my day. And to add, I had gotten tickets to attend an event on closing jails and prisons. It was 6:01 pm and I was all dressed in a sweater and a smile and ready to engage in dialogue with other folks who were committed to social justice. My friend, another man of color, and I decided that due to the inclement weather it would be best if we called a car to take us from my Harlem apartment to the event. So, we did. We waited for our car in the lobby of my apartment building. I had waited in this lobby more times than I could count over the last 2 years as a resident.
As we waited, my friend decided to step outside. A white man-a neighbor- entered, gave me a strange look, and continued to the elevator. A white woman entered....now, I was not blocking her path. In fact, I was intentional about positioning myself out of the way so that my neighbors could get by easily. She entered. She walked over to me. Now, we had seen each other probably about 15 times before. She's always inside looking at me fumble for my kids to unlock the door. She could open the door for me, but she never does. I know she lives in the building and I thought she knew I did too. She entered. She walked over to me:
:Can I help you?
I live here (continue tracking driver on map):
:Which floor? (she doesn't believe me)
Are you the landlord? (I know she's not, the landlord's name is Eric and he lives on the first floor. I know this because I do, in fact, live here):
Thank you! (continue tracking driver on map):
She doesn't leave. She doesn't know what to do. She doesn't believe me. She just stands there waiting for something. She wants to continue engaging me, but I've just ended the conversation after making it clear that she has no right to ask me if I am a resident and which floor I stay on.
My friend's heard the whole exchange.
Would you have asked him that if he were White?:
:ummm..yes...I'm a (white) woman.
I knew that. She knew that. She's a white woman. And as angry as I was, I couldn't do anything. I couldn't pop off. I couldn't give her any reason to call the police and claim to feel threatened or fearful for her life. I knew that no matter the actual events, the police (and the country) would side with her. White women's fear is powerful; their tears are even more powerful. I knew that. So, I couldn't unleash my rage. I had to hold it all inside, triggering as it was. I would not give anyone a reason to call my mother and share with her that she had lost another child. I wasn't even allowed to be mad.
I'm a Black man. Actually, I'm a chocolate man. 6 feet tall. Facial hair. I was dressed in a sweater and smile. I'm to be feared. Whether I'm on a college campus and a white female student screams and tells me I look scary or in my apartment building and my white female neighbor is scared that I'm up to no good in the lobby, I'm not allowed to be angry. My rage will get me killed. White women and their fear....and their tears..them fearing for their lives is enough for mine to be taken. Black men have fears, too. I am afraid of white women, their fear, and their tears. But, though I am scared, I would never be justified in asking my white female neighbor if she lived in the building and on which floor. Surely, if I did that, she would call the cops and I would be accused of .....something.
And let me be clear, the woman wasn't actually scared, she was racist. If she were genuinely afraid, she wouldn't have approached me asking if she could help. People who are scared don't approach people they're afraid of to ask if they can help. She's racist and she knew that she could use her fear as justification for being racist. White women know what we all know: their fear is powerful.
I shared my personal encounter with racial profiling above publicly on to share with the world how my fears are illogical. And sure enough, a white woman public responded to my post and tacitly expressed that not only are my fears illogical but that my humanity does not exist (for her either). I guess, she had already gone posthuman…
Shamari, I know you as a very nice person but I can’t figure out why you didn’t just answer the question in a friendly manner. You could have started a polite conversation with that lady and by that show her how nice black people are. You know, it happens to me too that strangers ask me questions about my daughter and I always answer politely. These people usually just want to talk and see a smile from the child to get positive energy. So think about this: what might have happened if you answered the woman and maybe gave her some details about you were doing on your phone or something else? Maybe you would have comforted her and won her on your side, showing her your humanity and making at least a small positive change in the white/black relationship. I think that’s actually the only way to go: one on one.
Anna, the “work” is always placed upon those of us who are oppressed to “win people over” and prove our humanity. We are always asked to forget or check our emotions, ignore history,put our lives at risk, and be friendly. We are always asked to “not feel” and just explain. It’s exhausting. And you assuming that I wasn’t polite or nice in my response to her is part of the problem. She wasn’t seeking to make conversation or befriend me. This is the same woman who on multiple occasions has watched me fumble with my keys to unlock the door to our building but never let me in. She approached me with a rude tone and asked if she could help me. Help me do what? And let’s be clear, it wasn’t a genuine attempt to help me. She didn’t feel that I belonged in the lobby. Point. Blank. Period. So, what I wasn’t going to do was strike up a nice conversation with her to show her how nice Black people can be; show her that we are humans, too. That’s ridiculous! Black people are humans and we should always be regarded as such. Why do we have to prove that? Why do we have to prove that we can be kind? You can miss me with that BS! And to suggest that I should offer her details as to what I was doing on my phone? And lastly, you state that I could have won her over to my side, but my question for you is this: why was she not already on my side? Why didn't’ she already see me as human? Oh, and I’m sorry but people asking you about your child is not the same as people asking me in the lobby of my own home if I really live there.
---after reading my response, Anna deleted her comments and unfriended me---
The point is this: We are still in the fight for our humanity, so until that is honored we can’t move beyond it because quite frankly, there’s nothing to move beyond. Whiteness needs to be held accountable for the annihilation of so many people, ideas, energies, and cultures, but that accountability will not happen in a post-human world. And I won’t apologize for this argument not being philosophical. Unlike those purporting to move beyond the human, I do not have the privilege of keeping it philosophical because the annihilation happens and has always happened to us--so, yeah, this is personal.
The event shared above happened Friday, March 2nd and on Saturday, March 3rd I wrote a letter to the board of directors that oversees my building. On Sunday, March 4th, I received a reply that revealed that the white racist woman was a board member; And on March 16th my cousin was stopped in the lobby of my building by another board member and asked if he lived in the building, as well......
Alexie, S. (2014). What I've stolen, what I've earned. New York, NY: Hanging Loose Press.
Cooper, B. (2015). Intersectionality. In Disch, L., & Hawkesworth, M (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
King, T.L. (2017). Humans involved: Lurking the lines of post humanist thought. Critical Ethnic Studies, 3(1), 162-185.
King, J. (2017). Who will make America great again? ‘Black people, of course…’. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 30(10), 946-956.