Michael Brown Cannot Be Defined by the Politics of Respectability or the Politics of Backlash


I am continuing to do magic for the people of Ferguson.

Magic comes in many forms. I find magic in the words of Michael Twitty, a historian who studies, enacts, and writes about the foods of the African American South. If you haven’t yet read Mr. Twitty’s amazing post on Ferguson, you owe it to yourself to do so. I read it not only as a human being who loves social justice, but also as an American who has African American family members and friends and as the mother of a son and the Nonna of a grandson.

May America find healing for its deeply racists wounds.

Mr. Twitty writes, inter alia, that:

I received a nasty tweet last night; a tweet with a food theme in fact.  Michael Brown’s bleeding corpse with pictures of food transposed around it—fried chicken, bananas, watermelon, with Kool-Aid to wash it down.  My chest hurt and then I stared into space and before I knew it, I vomited.  It was not nausea—it was anger mixed with revulsion and memories from lives only my cells know.
I want you to understand something—I’ve been on multiple plantations and urban sites dealing with slavery. I’ve felt the Ancestors in the fields. I’ve seen the auction block and the whipping post and the hanging tree.  I embrace it, I own it, and I live it through food so I can say “Never Again,” with confidence.  I do the work that I do to educate people about the genesis of America’s original sin—I consider myself steeled. This however, was different—this was personal; that body could have been me.
Swirling around us are accusations, whispers and rumors about a “gentle giant,” named Michael Brown.  Michael Brown cannot be defined by the politics of respectability or the politics of backlash.

Later, he explains:

I am trying to be hopeful. I see Americans of all colors putting their hands up saying “Don’t shoot.”  Solidarity is spreading from rally to rally; there are new kids on the block—and they don’t want the bitter fruit of the past. The old canards that this is a race war a la Mo Brooks have no truth here—we are embracing anyone who will embrace us, loving anyone who will love us, respecting anyone who will respect us, and we want desperately to believe that we—in our protest, in our pursuit of justice through the courts of law, in our demands for information—are the epitome of what it means to be American.
To my foodie friends: throw your hands up!  Listen, we do ourselves no favors when we pretend that food is a respite from the matters of the day.  Where do we go when we want to feel better and hash out our grievances and vent?  We go to the table.  Given that I am often the only Black guy, or one of five Black people period at many food events, I want you to know what this harassment means when you see me/us encounter it.  I want you to step out of the fantasy that food is freedom from socio-cultural politics and just remember to be aware of the cues and clues that injustice and inequality are ever close and we must all be vigilant.
But I ask, as James Baldwin once asked, “How much time do you want, for your progress?”
Please don’t shoot!

Please go read the entire post. I’d love to read your reactions.

May Columbia guard us and enlighten us. May we learn to live together in justice and in peace. This is my will. So mote it be.

Picture found here.


One response to “Michael Brown Cannot Be Defined by the Politics of Respectability or the Politics of Backlash

  1. There’s a really scary aspect to this that people are overlooking. How did all these weapons get into the hands of police officers? Someone in the one percent is getting hella wealthy from the manufacture and sale of firearms. Our citizens have guns not because they need them for food/protection, but because they are a consumer item that has been advertised, protected by politics, and embraced by paranoid people of all ethnic origins. “Production for use” applies in this case. When I think about the 1950s and 1960s, I try to imagine what it would have been like with the weapons in use now. Guess I’m going to find out, and I’m really not happy about it. A curse upon the head of anyone reaping wealth from the manufacture of firearms!

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