My tutorial on Friday was terrible, but for the right reasons. I presented myself as a babbling wreck, the racially obsessed black student that I wished not to be. I don’t know how I reached this level of immaturity but it was embarrassing. I feel this embarrassment reviewing my previous work, and have arrived at some telling conclusions.
Dealing with racism has almost been a smoke screen; using a generic term and proclaiming that my work is about me because I am black. It was that superficial, but I managed to pull off this act through diligence and a slick tongue. I still feel a duty to deal with racial identity politics because I still experience the racialising of my identity, but shouldn’t respond at the same such face-value level.
I have other interests that perhaps interlink with my wider racial guise. I probably more critical of black people than racists as I spend more time thinking through identity, so I should be able to delve deeper into identity politics than stopping at ‘black=bad’ and such folly. My research revealed this and a lack of analysis given to my subject matters.
I wanted to communicate my emotional experience of racism, and realised that was actually impossible. I have begun to move on myself and lose memory of the events, and also can never be sure if my audience truly understands. What I can do is raise a critical and evaluative argument that provides a stronger basis for discussion, removed of parochial emotion and whilst based on me, not solely dependent on my experiences.
I’ve also realised the importance of context. Along with a more critical analysis of racism, I must analyse the context of this critique. If I am concerned with a racialised narrative of black inferiority, I must consider that these concerns are relative to individual characteristics, other social determinates such as class, gender, etc. and also the historical context. I therefore cannot provide a response to racism that is representative of a whole black population, as in analysing this term, it reveals a diverse group of people. My work doesn’t then necessarily address all black people, so when considering audiences, I cannot stop at simply consider race as a demographic.
I should be concerned with context also as my research reveals the weakness of my responses to racial identity politics. I must admit my middle-class, English rural, university educated background, and stop trying to defend a counter politic from a perspective that I can scarce comprehend. I am not the archetype of the underprivileged, struggling and victimised young black male that is normally expected to have something to say about racism. I have never been stopped and search, nor interacted in any way with the police, so my comments on police brutality, racial profiling, and poverty are disingenuous.
I cannot meaningfully produce work about experience of racism from an unlived experience. I was proposing to find these experiences online, or attract it somehow. But in attempting these ideas, they revealed not exciting work but truths about my own identity. I must consider that I am not in the same position as my grandparents as immigrants in this country; I don’t deal with constant racism and so my work needs to reflect my current experience.
I am beginning to understand ideas of post-blackness more clearly now. I am by my own admission post-black, if black is to be taken as the described experience of my grandparents as African-Caribbean immigrants in 1960’s Britain. Whilst we shared some experiences, a lot has changed both positively and negatively. A more diverse population in Britain as a whole and even within the British black population constituted by multiple routes in Diaspora (not just African-Caribbean), has resulted in multiple experiences and by extension, multiple critiques of racism from multiple perspectives.
This for is me makes British identity politics problematic as ideas of fixed blackness (once centred around Afro-Caribbean culture) have been forcibly altered by new geographical compositions and make ups. It provokes a competition between dialogues that fracture and unearth rooted concepts used to identify. Black, among other social changes, by reason cannot be the same as it was in the 60’s; treating the term as a description of African-Caribbean migrants, cannot be wholly ascribed to other racially black groups in contemporary British society.
This for me makes racism of the 60’s seemingly irrelevant when repeated in the present day. Whilst it is still hurtful, it reveals idiocy, and the ignorance and backwardness of the offender. Their hate campaign is not up to date! Responding to these people is a futile task as trying to get them to catch up with the world is a waste of energy. It actually distracts from more pressing attention that should be paid to new forms of racism. In the same way the term black must be altered to consider change, the term racism in reference to contemporary forms of racism mustn’t shared the exact same meanings of the 1960’s and previous eras. I experience forms of racism in the present day that is only more subtle because they aren’t as brutal as their previous forms. But unobvious present day racism is socially crippling none-the-less.
Stating My Case
As previously mentioned, the competing discourses centred on a claim of the fixed identity, fixed blackness, suggest to me a polemical and aggressive form of discrimination. I will simply call it black-on-black racism; different ideas of blackness fighting against each other. New forms of racism aren’t exclusive to black groups, but I would suggest what I notice to be a white class war as a similar evolution of racism in 2012 Britain. From my own experience, I would assume that in some instances, money prejudice could supersede racial prejudice for certain white people.
If I’m to really face facts and deal with racism today, the stated changes must reflected. I am primarily concerned with black-on-black racism and the fight for blackness, and where I fit into the battle. What characteristics can secure my place in the new black archetype? I don’t want to conflate black-on-black crime with the issue, but merely suggest that fractures in as supposed black community are reflective divisions in identity the work cross-latterly in society, such as class, gender, sexuality etc.
Back To the Drawing Board
So I am back in the game when it comes with my ideas. My mind feels razor sharp. But my technical skills are still very dull. I have lost a lot of my creativity throughout the course, and want to get back to what I was good at: digital manipulation, graphic design and drawing. As it is my last year, I want after being urged to explore new terrain, use this year to develop the skills that I so desperately want to 2 years ago. I am grateful for exploring photography amongst other things, but resent certain kinds of practice and will not engage in them to please other people.
New Media, do I care?
I do actually, and wished I had explored this area earlier in the course. I am glad however that my negative experiences have fired me up so much to tackle this area with fire and aggression. I would have at one time mapped out all my limitations but of yet have done no such thing in the new media group. I am quietly ambitious, work independently and relentless in achieving my best, and know that my project will be completed successfully if not for the hard work alone.
In the tutorial on Friday however I was asked how much this project has to be about the internet. I can probably answer that now more honestly, and say that it doesn’t. I am not going to dismiss completely ideas of participation, but really don’t like these concepts in themselves. I would be more inclined to explore the interactive, and have no desire at this point to try to create an app, platform or service.
I have decided that my audience will be primarily my mum, and by extension my dad and my brother and wider family. Also my work will be for my boss and colleagues at my place of work at the Stuart Hall Library. These are the people who have developed my ideas, and perhaps this work should be a dedication to them.
Upon exploring with my concepts, I will be able define an audience more categorically, as I do want my work to be accessible to other people who don’t know me. I intend for my work to be for researchers into identity politics. I am not being pretentious in this, but hopeful that as someone who myself is interest in identity politics, would produce a piece of work that is interesting to other people that share my interests.
I cannot explain everything that I would like to justify my choice in subject matter. My experiences growing up are a main source of inspiration, and I feel confident enough at the moment to speak about these topics without concrete theory to back me up.
I am developing on contemporary black-on-black competing discourses, and contextualising them within ideas of beauty and fashion. My aesthetic approach will be developed later, but I love hair, and as strange as that sounds, will become the focus of my work. Hair for me at least, and within my social networks have been a site for discussion, particularly within the battle for black identity. Should hair be textured or straight? Fake or natty? These ideas of classification, linked with class, authenticity, gender and sexuality, open up a can of worms that potentially provides an interesting project.
Immediate feedback has been about this question of how I make a project based upon hair interesting, which is something I will have to explore further. I am intrigued how it can work as a system of classification and a source for identification also.