Kerouac has never been one of my literary heroes, but I confess to some magic here. Time and space—no greater gift exists for a writer, but I believe it’s this specific place. Kerouac’s Underwood typewriter sits on a built-in shelf, his books cram the bookcases. A triptych of him typing in the very same bedroom hangs above the single bed, a close-up by the washing machine. He and Neal Cassady stare down at me from above the living room mantle, the two in front of City Lights. When I work in the study, Jack is always behind my back, another large sketch of him on the wall. In short, it’s impossible to forget whose house I’m in.
The Problem With Keke Palmer's "Compassion" For Michael Brown And Other Black Victims of Modern Day Lynching

Young Black female actress Keke Palmer sent a series of tweets that she probably views as compassionate and a clear voice on the recent extrajudicial execution of Michael Brown. I do not doubt that she genuinely cares about Michael Brown and his family. Nothing about her personality has conveyed callousness at a very basic level, and believe me, I have seen some fellow Black people convey a level of callousness that reveals the true cost of internalized racism and anti-Blackness on our lives. 

However, these tweets of hers are still dangerous, even when dressed up in benevolence, mentions of love and Christian theism. Her tweets reflect a common theme (what Pharrell called “new Black”) where the experience of “old” Blackness is flattened into one of “arbitrary” rage without history or context, into “random” bitterness without the reality of oppression in our lives as a factor, and most dangerously so, one of the politics of respectability, the lie that individual emotion and positive affirmations can dismantle structural oppression and one that does not allow the space for nuanced emotions beyond benevolence and “peace” in response to the genocidal violence of anti-Blackness. It is essentially certain Black celebrities engaging in victim blaming (and on Twitter, I discussed why Black people do this, in general).

When Keke tweets "I feel bad for those that choose to believe they’re doomed. You’re doomed because you believe so." it stands in stark contrast to Michael Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden who stated this: "You know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many Black men graduate? Not many. Because you bring them down to this type of level (she lowered her hands in the video) and they feel like they don’t got nothin’ to live for anyway.” 

Keke Palmer’s affirmation that simply believing something different eradicates the fact that Black men are extrajudicially killed on a 28 hour clock is victim blaming. Even if her intent is something else. The impact is what it is. Certainly Keke is young, privileged via class status and now somewhat disconnected from some of the very same things that her fans themselves experience, even though she still would experience racism and anti-Blackness, as class status doesn’t completely eclipse these. However, the fact that Pharrell, Don Lemon, Morgan Freeman and a plethora of other Black celebrities engage in these statements/actions where protection of career means denial of Black history and current Black experiences to instead applaud everything from affirmations to exceptionalism clearly reveals that her tweets are not completely caused by youth and lack of information/connection. It’s about a calculated ignorance that some Black people have to engage in to protect their careers and sadly other Black celebrities genuinely believe. 

Since so many celebrities engage in “positive affirmation” talk (because of exceptionalism and the nature of their wealth, especially since so many Black celebrities are just one generation removed from poverty) via individualism (fostered by imperialist White supremacist capitalist patriarchy; diametrically opposed to most Black culture of community and connection) instead of acknowledging structural oppression and its impact on millions of non-famous Black lives, it’s clearly not solely about naivety and age. It’s about internalized racism, exceptionalism, and victim blaming, whether Keke Palmer does it at age 20 or Morgan Freeman does it at age 77. Consider the fact that Janelle Monae is 28 and she acknowledges the reality of racism. Consider the fact that Cicely Tyson is 80 and she acknowledges the reality of racism. This also happens. It’s possible to do so and still have a career.

When Keke tweets “If you want to end racism, you start by not generalizing/grouping people with the thought that they all believe the same things” she creates false equalization between the violence against Black bodies because of generalizations, stereotypes, archetypes and controlling images of Black people with Whites’ discomfort with benefitting from anti-Blackness, White supremacy and White privilege, whether they feel that they are “racist” or not. She sets this up as if there is a structural repercussion for generalizing Whites. Racism is not “insults” back and forth that “goes both ways.” It remains structural. And Whiteness is where that power is concentrated. When Black parents generalize the police, they want to protect their children. When the police (and even non-White cops have to uphold White supremacy and anti-Blackness as the police functions as the violent local arm of the State) generalize Black people, we die.

When Keke tweets "Why do we hate each other, harm each other, kill each other? We are brothers and sisters y’all. All colors! Peace is the answer." in response to the cops executing Michael Brown, she, like so many people alludes to the violent conflation of intraracial crime (which every race has, not solely Black people) with anti-Blackness causing extrajudicial execution as modern day lynching. When Whitesnon-Black people of colour and unfortunately some Black people who have internalized racism and believe that the politics of respectability can protect us repeat or allude to the violent lie, derailment and misnomer (“Black on Black crime” is a misnomer and epistemic violence) that Black people “don’t care about intraracial crime,” this is derailment and dehumanization via false equalization. (And we have to stop thinking about oppression in terms of “hate” anyway; it requires no such individualized thing, only power and resources to lord over those who do not have them.)

While “peace” sounds nice, I am sure that Michael Brown’s mother wanted her child to return home in peace. The denial of the space to grieve (and one of the five stages of grief is actually anger, by the way) means psychological warfare against Black people who remain. Because of anti-Blackness, even death is not the final act for Black people, where victims are degraded post-mortem and Black people who remain are regularly denied the ability to actually grieve while the murderers and the State rarely are held accountable. Suggesting that the response/answer to violence against Black children is simply behaving peacefully despite evidence to the contrary of this as effective, Keke and anyone who agrees with her indirectly denies the breadth of the humanity of Black people. 

Her tweets definitely hurt and angered many Black people on Twitter (though some sadly shared her non-nuanced view). However, I do worry that at times Black celebrities are positioned as the “real” problem over the White shooters. Over White supremacy. Over anti-Blackness. And while they most certainly are harming other Black people with respectability politics and affirmations/projections based on internalized racism, I never want to reach the point where I’m holding them accountable outside of the context that makes this calculated ignorance of theirs necessary in the first place. As I alluded to on Twitter: 

The stuff Keke is tweeting is short-sighted because that’s kinda common with celebs who yes, still face racism, but their reality is still a bubble. No, not every celeb is going to engage structural violence beyond citing the bible or engage oppression structurally and not via individualized affirmations. The victim blaming and facile nature of “affirmation” culture because of exceptionalism of Black celebrity has them thinking progress is boiler late. 

But let’s not be ahistorical. There were Black celebs of the past who spoke out and some said nonsense or kept their head down. Same as today. Don’t romanticize the Civil Rights Movement era as if “all” Black people spoke out. Couldn’t. Many Black people were terrified and spoke in terms of the politics of respectability, nonsense or were silent altogether. And we have to always contextualize our activism in the presence of anti-Blackness. Are we more angry at Black celebs or anti-Blackness/racism? Realize in fact it’s really the same anti-Blackness that makes us hold Black people accountable for “ending” racism and moreso than Whiteness. And it’s a slippery slope when we start holding fellow Black people responsible for racism itself. Be careful.

Also, some of the anger at Black celebs speaking nonsense on race is about White Gaze fear. How their nonsense is placed over the truth that we know. The reality is anti-Blackness aligns with any explanation that shrinks its impact, even if no Black celeb was nonsensical about it. 

It absolutely hurts when Black celebrities with massive platforms use them in ways that harms or triggers fellow Black people, especially when the violence that we experience is so fresh and raw at this moment after the execution of Michael Brown and so many other Black people, including Black women, Black LGBTQIA people in general, and especially Black trans women (who face astronomical violence) and Black sex workers. And while we easily rally behind cishet Black men when they are harmed, that same care and concern—by celebrity and non-famous Black persons alike—is needed for all Black people.

While some Black celebrities are never going to be activists, I wish they would stop trying to be “pacifists” (and regularly misspeak on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work, only taking parts that fulfill memes used to silence us and not more of the breadth of his perspective) through the flattening of Black experience with appeals to the ahistorical nature of White supremacy. They can show compassion to those who are hurt without the politics of respectability, tone policing and victim blaming. And while there may be a cost to their careers for not indulging anti-Blackness and violence, they have to be willing to draw a line to where a certain level of triggering excuses, false equalizations and ahistorical explanations won’t be used against Black people and deemed compassion.

Celebrities like Keke and all of the others I named who share her view? Maybe just reach out and connect versus trying to educate on what they either don’t know or cannot say. And maybe as they do this, non-famous Black people can both stop expecting celebrities to lead movements and examine our anger at them when in reality their behavior does not eclipse the system that usually creates the reasons why they disappoint us in the first place.

Monstrous Bodies: Feminine Power in Young Adult Horror Fiction, by June Pulliam, McFarland, 2014. Info:

"Recent works of young adult fantastic fiction such as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga have been excoriated for glamorizing feminine subordination. However, young adult horror fiction with female protagonists who have paranormal abilities suggests to female readers the possibility of resisting restrictive gender roles that are presented to them as natural and therefore immutable. In this type of fiction, the “monstrous Other” is a double with a difference, a metaphor of the adolescent girl in Western culture who is pressured to embody a doll-like feminine ideal which is untenable because it deprives her of agency. Monstrous Bodies examines three types of female monstrous Others in young adult fiction—the haunted girl, the female werewolf and the witch—and considers what each has to tell us about resistance to feminine subordination in a supposedly post-feminist world, where girls continue to be pressured to silence their voices and stifle their desires in conformity with contemporary ideas about what it means to be a good woman. June Pulliam teaches courses on horror fiction and adolescent literature at Louisiana State University and edits Dead Reckonings: A Review Magazine for the Horror Field and is the author of Encyclopedia of the Zombie. She lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana."

Chapter 1. Subversive Spirits: Resistance and the Uncanny in the Young Adult Ghost Story
Chapter 2. Blood and Bitches: Sexual Politics and the Female Lycanthrope in Young Adult Fiction
Chapter 3. “An ye harm none, do as ye will”: Magic, Gender and Agency in Young Adult Narratives of Witchcraft
Chapter Notes

NAACP Should Already Know That The Politics Of Respectability Cannot Save Black People's Lives

NAACP sent these two tweets below in reference to the extrajudicial execution of Michael Brown recycling the same two common false narratives meant to control and silence Black people in response to extrajudicial execution and State violence because of anti-Blackness: 1) the oversimplified narrative that Black people “do not care” about intraracial crime—the same type of crime that every race experiences yet no one suggests any other race of people do not care when their own harms their own, and 2) the false narrative that the politics of respectability can protect Black people from violence. I replied to both of their tweets; they have now deleted the first one; as of the time of this essay, the second one is still there.







This organization is out of touch with the experiences of Black people (especially young Black people, and some can attest to this in their own justice work) if they are willing to push the exact same narrative that racist/anti-Black White people/non-Black people push and if they are willing to harm by pushing respectability for Black people versus accountability for the State and how anti-Blackness impacts our lives. (And the NAACP has a very long history of promoting respectability politics.) 

This is reality. Extrajudicial execution of another Black person on this 28 hour clock. Leaving his body in the street for hours just as was done during lynchings of the past for White consumption/entertainment and psychological warfare on Black people. Denying the witness to the crime the ability to give an official statement to where he had to do it on camera and off the record. Forcing Black people away from gathering in prayer circles. Denying Michael Brown’s mother and the public truthful answers. Denying the people the right to congregate to pray and/or grieve and forcing the press out of the area (which both of the latter are first amendment violations). Centering stories on looting (they released looter photos to media versus the murdering cop’s name and photo and/or any truth about what happened during that execution; anti-Blackness means centering property over Black lives is standard) over stories of the police violence and murder since anti-Blackness means not examining the context by which looting (businesses that profiled and harmed people there were the ones targeted, and “your own community” doesn’t apply to people who are under constant racist profiling and terrorism) and rioting (a long history of fighting extrajudicial and State violence contributes to this and anger is a phase of grief) occur. Pretending that every expression of grief is wrong since Black people are denied the right to humanity to live or grieve in a way we see fit. Treating that area as a war zone with military grade equipment and threats. Restricting airspace over the area (as the press could capture footage), and a series of other gross violations has happened or is currently happening. 

This is not the same as every race’s intraracial crime (yes, every fucking race has intraracial crime; every race does not face anti-Blackness [or settler colonialism, which connects to this history] and this particular historic structure of violence, however) nor would be prevented by the politics of respectability. Black people in America do not have the power of the police or the State. We cannot “earn humanity" through behavior, dress, or even beliefs. We are dehumanized as Black people based on who we are, the fact that we are Black, not based on what we do. A lack of “respect” for the city (one already under investigation for profiling and racist policing long before Michael was executed) didn’t kill Michael Brown. A long legacy of anti-Blackness and violence in that city, in this country, in our history is why he is dead. 

When Whites are gleefully thanking the NAACP for these tweets and some Black people are once again harmed and triggered by fellow Black people, there is a problem. I should not see racists’ timelines and see the same type of tweets as NAACP sent. Declaring Black people as collectively non-compassionate and irresponsible are racist narratives that speak to the mythology of “arbitrary” Black “pathology” versus a response to the violence Black people endure just for existing. 

And not once is the epistemic violence involved in the phrase/misnomer "Black on Black crime" ever about intraracial abuse in terms of people who aren’t cishet Black men when those abuses are street harassment, domestic violence, rape, homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny, colourism, fat shaming, ableism, classism etc. Because see, these are areas that other races of people will ignore or downplay in their own races when they happen to people who are not cishet men. These are abuses where even the same Black people who have internalized racism and need to derail this moment to be about intraracial crime (which they feel we can control, though they ignore how structural factors impact this crime as well; it is not arbitrary) instead of what is actually at hand at the moment, the extrajudicial execution of Michael Brown. So while there is room to discuss why when a victim of crime is not a cishet Black man, the concern evaporates rapidly, both intraracially and among White/non-Black people, that has to do with how cisheteropatriarchy functions, not that Black people “only care” when it is violence that is either the function of the State or supported by the State because of anti-Blackness. 

Extrajudicial execution because of anti-Blackness is structurally not the same as intraracial crime among Black people or intraracial crime that any race experiences. The politics of respectability cannot protect Black people. Recognize these truths. Reject using them as a way to feel “distant” or “safe” from this issue. We are not safe. We never were. Nothing in Ferguson matters more than the fact that a mother and a family had their child executed in a fashion that is a part of American history and is an American pastime. And no easily disproven narrative or excuses from our own or excuses from Whites/non-Black people will change this fact.

Related Posts: The Extrajudicial Execution of Michael Brown and Its Relationship to Lynching. Past Is Present, National Moment of Silence, Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 7pm EST / 4pm PSTI Do Not Give A Fuck About Your Anti-Black Opinions…At All.

The Erasure Of Black Women's Experiences As Victims Of State Violence Is Unacceptable

I recently read an unfortunate and to be honest, rather dangerous article on The Root titled Michael Brown’s Death Reopened My Eyes to My Privileges As A Black Woman, written by Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele. In this article, she suggests that Black women have “privilege” over Black men because Black men experience police brutality. The article is incredibly dangerous because it engages in: epistemic violence by the blatant misuse of the word “privilege” (and “ally”) in terms of violence experienced, erasure of the actual truth of police brutality and extrajudicial execution/State violence on Black women (and then for the purposes of heterosexist sentimentality as “allyship,” which is an inaccurate, limited and rather gross interpretation of intraracial structural power), and a misapplication of her personal lack of fear of “ruffling feathers” with the belief that Black women have the “privilege” of doing so in every instance and Black men do not, because of the latter being perceived as threats due to anti-Blackness and White supremacy. 

While I respect her personal experiences shared via anecdotes and respect lived experience as knowledge in general, the way it was used to conclude Black women do not experience State violence and thereby have “privilege” over Black men is painfully ahistorical to the point of erasure, which is also violence. Again, the erasure of Black women as activists beyond the heterosexual Black male gaze and erasure of Black women as victims of police brutality, extrajudicial execution (that structurally functions in the same way lynching did) and State violence, is also violence

There is no structural circumstance where Black women are privileged over Black men solely for race and gender. And throwing out college degree numbers or labor numbers when how Black women are paid compared to Black men, Black women’s net worth among the lowest in the U.S. and globally, or ignoring intricate Black labor experiences by gender, post-Civil War, is not proof of structural advantage for Black women. Ignoring the abuse Black women endure for “succeeding” and how those examples of success are regularly used to deny Black girls and Black women in need of social support and programs is proof of the lack of privilege, not of it existing. And since her article seems to solely allude to the experiences of cishet Black people (versus complicated intersections where sexual orientation, being trans/non-binary, complexion, class, size, ability etc. create more nuanced experiences of privilege and oppression intraracially and interracially), this is definitely the case; Black women do not have privilege over Black men. 

Using “privilege” as an example in that article in relation to violence, she implies there is structural power afforded to Black women that Black men do not have and such power protects Black women from State violence. However, the history of the lynching of Black women refutes this. The police brutality on Black women from the homeless such as Marlene Pinnock to the professor with the Ph.D., Dr. Ersula Ore refutes this. The sexual violence, brutality and regular abuse of Black sex workers refutes this. The sheer terrorism, violence for solely existing in the presence of police that Black trans women experience refutes this. The street harassment that Black women not only experience intraracially (though income/domestic proximity does in fact impact who street harasses Black women) but via cops who can do so with impunity refutes this. The multi-faceted criminalization (via schools and as victims of violence, yet not viewed as “victims” in the perspective of the State) of Black girls and Black women refutes this. The police killings via negligence because of anti-Blackness (i.e. Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd) and willful extrajudicial execution (i.e. Renisha McBride, where Wafer’s conviction is honestly a fluke and not a norm for any Black people killed this way) refute this. The on the spot extrajudicial execution of Shelly Frey, for the accusation of shoplifting, refutes this. The experiences and/or lives of many Black women—names barely known or not publicly known at all—refute this.   

The experiences of police brutality on Black pregnant women at their homes (especially with the use of foster care as an arm of the State because of anti-Blackness), in the streets, and within the jails/Prison Industrial Complex, (where Black women are the fasted growing female population) refute this. I mean, the article includes Michael Brown in the title, who was in fact extrajudicially executed. A Black pregnant woman in Ferguson was among the protesters thrown to the ground on her stomach by the police. Black women (like me) regularly discuss not having children because of police brutality, an aspect of reproductive justice regularly eclipsed in mainstream feminism's discussion of “pro-choice.” Where are Black women's choices here amidst such a risk because of anti-Blackness and misogynoir? Choices in this context barely exist in the face of violence, let alone “privilege.” 

Would anyone really dare speak of this “privilege” to not experience the undocumented/underreported and documented, recorded and at times (though not always; often charges are not even filed let alone go to trial/conviction) criminally tried police/State violence and extrajudicial execution to Black trans women? Would they dare look a Black trans woman in the face and suggest that her “privilege” over Black men keeps her safe from State violence? When Black trans women are regularly verbally and sexually assaulted and actively denied the start of due process by the police when they even risk calling the police in response to other violence on them? How does the astronomical level violence on Black trans women resolve itself with a claim of “privilege” for Black women over Black men? How does the absence of State violence for Black trans women as a hypothesis reconcile its existence with what happened to Islan Nettles, (the violence of the civilian killing itself and then the State violence via the police/courts), Monica Jones and CeCe McDonald?

What privilege (as in structural power which creates protection from a particular oppression based on fixed or shifting identity facets that power aligns with) does a Black mother experience when she buries her Black child, of any gender, murdered because of anti-Blackness and State violence (where unlike intraracial crime, she has very little hope of actual justice and has to face years of racist abuse and media/capitalistic exploitation on top of grieving her child’s murder)? She’s a Black woman too, so by this hypothesis, she is “privileged” over her son, if the person is a son killed. Would any Black woman, this writer or not, suggest Lesley McSpadden has “privilege” in this context? Or how about Sybrina Fulton? Perhaps Lucia McBath? If the reference to “privilege” is burying a son for the anti-Blackness—manifested as extrajudicial execution and State violence—that he faced and so many Black girls and Black women have faced, this reference is epistemic violence. It’s purposely altering the language used to describe oppression to engage in ahistorical analysis that supports oppression (in this case of Black women) or erasure of that history itself. Black women are HURT when Black men are abused and killed. Black women are ALSO abused and killed. Anti-Blackness as a manifestation of dehumanization through socially sanctioned violence harms Black people, period. Misrepresenting Black women’s experiences and lives as a way to “support” Black men commits more violence on Black women via erasure. 

And since when do Black women get to “speak out” when Black men do not? When do we have universal luxury to “ruffle feathers” in a way Black men do not when violent repercussions from everything from being denied employment as economic violence to street harassment, physical violence/beating, rape, incarceration and even death are the price? Certainly Whites have their unreasonable fears of Black men specifically and have proven it through unspeakable violence for centuries while pretending they are the ones at risk. They have media controlling images to further sanitize their violence or normalize it as an acceptable response to Black men’s existences as “inherently non-human.” But that fear of theirs does not start and end with cishet Black men in particular. And that structural impact of anti-Blackness has never spared a Black body for respectability or for gender. I mean, even making such a supposition is just a modernized version of suggesting slavery “harmed” Black men “more” since they couldn’t be equal patriarchs with White men, versus examining the impact that slavery had on Black women specifically or examining the dehumanization it created for Black people in general. Being patriarchal is not being “pro-Black.” It’s supporting the politics of erasure via non-structurally connected and/or ahistorical views that imperialist White supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy needs to thrive.

Finally, I am deeply uncomfortable with patriarchal and heterosexist framing in terms of “allyship.” She wrote: 

We Black women, too, have to be equally aware of the ways in which the privileges we enjoy might harm Black men—especially those of us who already are, or will one day become, life partners with a Black man. For me it means that I’m going to have to learn when and where I should bite my tongue, swallow that lump in my throat, and adhere to the ways in which Black men have learned to survive and thrive in this world, especially if they don’t quite jibe with my own methods.

This statement is patriarchy. It is not anti-oppression or womanism or Black feminism or anything like that. Black women are not Black men’s “allies.” We are their oppressed at worse or their partners (speaking politically, not romantically right now) at best. “Allies” implies we stand at a structurally more powerful position than them and have to facilitate the undoing of their oppression that we cause. Are Black people White people’s “allies?” Are LGBTQIA people heterosexual people’s “allies?” Using “ally” in this context in her article is also epistemic violence. It’s too gross an inaccuracy to overlook and it is dangerous as it paints Black women as oppressors who have to work to not oppress Black men. And with a heterosexual framing, this is simply not the case. (With an intersectional framing, for example, a cishet Black woman [and for the record, not all cis Black women are heterosexual or thereby “cishet”] could be homophobic to a cis gay Black man as he could simultaneously be misogynoiristic and misogynistic to her. In other words, it is not a linear supposition that Black women can never be oppressors and oppressed by Black men simultaneously, but with a heterosexual framing, the claim Black women have “privilege” over Black men is epistemically violent.) Black women are not oppressing Black men in this context. And simply because the author “ruffled feathers” in an interpersonal situation while the Black man she was with wanted her not to respond does not mean she had privilege to “ruffle feathers” while he alone had to fear violence. Black women also have to fear violence for speaking out. (I am ACUTELY experienced with this, as you know, if you’ve followed me online even for a short time.) 

I mean, just a few weeks ago I experienced extremely abusive Black men telling me to shut the fuck up about street harassment on Black women (and I included other men/cops harassing me, by the way, not just Black men) and instead focus on State violence on Black women. Now all of sudden (again) some Black men are stating that Black women’s activism against violence doesn’t exist (which connects to a long history of erasure of Black women and activism) or shouldn’t exist, and some Black men and some Black women (like the author of the referenced article) are centering Black men as the only victims of State violence? Interesting. (And I discussed this before, the nuance needed to examine why suggesting Black people “don’t care” about intraracial crime is ahistorical and violence via dehumanization, but also how “Black on Black” crime, beyond being a violent misnomer, eclipses the experiences of Black people who are not cishet Black men anyway, when used as a false equalizing silencing tactic against discussing extrajudicial execution and State violence on Black people.)

As I alluded to on Twitter this morning, my activism is NOT about turning Black men into White men’s peers via patriarchy and continue the oppression of Black people. My activism is about the liberation of Black people and that cannot occur by indulging erasure and deciding that silence can replace justice. Black women’s lives matter. Them mattering does not mean Black men’s lives no longer matter. I don’t have to erase myself to support Black men. I refuse to engage in “support” that requires me to be silent and categorizes the abuse that Black women experience as a “privilege” by erasing the history and experiences altogether. 

A honest conversation on privilege as it occurs intraracially? One that speaks to the reality of male privilege that Black men, especially cishet ones have over Black women. One that speaks to the fact that even as Black women are minimized and ignored, Black trans women face this marginalization more than cis Black women do. One that takes a look at the misogynoir that cis gay Black men engage in when they demand Black women be mules and center Black men over Black women—who are not all heterosexual—who are also abused and ignored as cis gay Black men are, yet no such demand exists from them to cishet Black men, when perhaps it actually should. One that examines how respectability politics is tied into class and fellow Black people doing better than masses of impoverished Black people regularly blame Black people for our own deaths at the hands of the State, even when blamed “benevolently" or via victim blaming. One that examines how colourism shapes the myth of the “brute” for Black men because it is not a coincidence that most of the Black men who are brutalized tend to be darker Black men. One that examines this same colourism and how Black women are deemed less worth of safety and less “feminine” the darker we are. One that looks at complexities of disability (and how anti-Blackness is inherent ableism), of citizenship, of fat shaming…of many intersections. One that examines how heterosexual Black people (whose heterosexuality still doesn’t structurally engage in the way White heterosexuality does, to be clear) fail Black LGBTQIA people, and not because of White supremacist myths of Black “inherent” bigotry as if Whites do not enforce this bigotry themselves via endless structural power, but one that takes a look at how Black social structures (also influenced by White supremacy; i.e. homophobia in the Church directly connects to binary gender roles and “appropriate” sexuality to be deemed “human” in the White Gaze via “respectability” post-Civil War to current) leave them the out. One that contextualizes the fact that many Black women suffer abuse from Black men for the very reason that Black men are brutalized and do not call the police as to protect them from police brutality. How…is…that…privilege?

The erasure of the history, the experiences, the activism and the reality of Black women in relation to police brutality, extrajudicial execution and State violence is unacceptable. Erasing Black women is NOT “supporting” Black men. It is erasure of Black history, something Whites/non-Black people of colour gleefully engage in via epistemic violence, false equalization and using Black death solely as a trope to center non-Black lives. We can’t also engage in our own erasure. Love itself, as a concept and praxis, needs to be decolonized when it’s expected to be/expressed as the erasure of Black women in the service of Black men. Harm to any Black people is not “pro-Black.” Black women’s truths and lives matter. Black lives matter. And everyone, including fellow Black people, have to start actually believing this. And then start or continue acting against any oppression that seeks to confer anything different from the value of Black life.

Screen and Media Studies 209-12B – Topics of Media Representation Kanye West’s Runaway: A Visual and Affective Analysis

Kanye West’s music video Runaway (West, 2010) is one of very few examples of a music video that combines an art house film style with hip-hop music. This is presented in the work through many different discursive elements, which can be examined in depth using both visual and affect analysis. Visual analysis gives the opportunity to analyse the way features such as imagery, sound, and compositional and technical elements come together to build the work and suggest certain relationships within and outside of the text. Affect analysis makes it possible to analyse the way the viewer is affected by the work, and whether the work incited any kind of intensity or energy. However, although these discursive practices have their strengths, they also have their weaknesses, and perhaps in some places, content and gender analysis may also be applicable. It is also important to discuss the target audience of the work, as its eclectic and widespread nature has an impact on the way the work could be received. 

Visual Analysis

Visual analysis can be undertaken by looking at visual and sensory aspects of a work, such as the salient features, compositional elements, sign systems, and the relationships for the viewer suggested by these features. The first thing the viewer sees of the work, is a slightly high angle shot where we cannot fully make out anything in the shot, aside from a table on the right hand side of the frame. A man in a tuxedo (Kanye West) then gets up from this table and walks over to the object in the front, which is revealed to be a piano, and starts playing. This initial action is vital, as it establishes who is the main character of the work is, who has the commanding voice, who we should pay attention to. The musical element of the video is also brought in here, as the piano notes played by the man form part of the song. 
Other salient features are also important, such as the lighting, tone, mysterious setting and vibrant colours of the work, which all help to turn the initial unknown into intrigue, rather than confusion. Compositional elements such as framing, camera movement, colour, angles, direction of gaze, costume, pacing and soundscape are also important within the work, and suggest various relationships to the viewer. The shots and framing used are extremely artistic and well composed. There is a definite balance to every shot, and the viewer gets the impression that there has been a tremendous amount of care taken in order to make every shot perfect. The vibrant colours of the setting, and the use of contrast between black and white in the costumes, add to the artistic feel of the video. This contrast is also reflected in the setting, with the run down warehouse with its dilapidated concrete floors and corrugated iron walls playing host to a high-class dinner party and an impromptu ballet show. The movement of the camera is also important, as it gives the viewer a role, a character to play, and in this case it is the simply the viewer. The camera takes many different positions and often shows the action from a higher angle, giving the viewer an all-seeing, transcendent perspective. The action within the video is non-stop, and the camera work reflects this, rarely stopping for a still shot. Instead, it chooses to weave in and out of the ballerinas, dinner guests and West himself, cutting between various different angles and positions. When there is a still shot, it is either of West passion-filled face as he performs the song, or of the franticly dancing ballerinas towards the end, with slight slow motion accentuating the delicate movements of their own art form. The soundscape is also delicate, with the subtle echoes on the opening footsteps and piano notes placing the viewer in the exact position the camera is. 

Nobody in the video looks straight down the camera, suggesting that those within it are in a naturalistic environment, and that we are merely voyeurs – this is not for us but we can watch. The pacing of the video works in tandem with the pacing and structure of the song. It is slow paced overall, but in a meticulous fashion rather than a boring one, and this meticulous approach emphasizes the meaning and feeling of the song. While there is no narrative, the images and sound are a perfect match aesthetically, and the use of the ballet as a physical representation of the song’s content creates a symbolic connection between sound and imagery. These elements all combine to suggest that although we as the viewer have a transcendental point of view, West is still completely in control. He is the authoritative voice. What he see and hear are his facts. This is a guided tour of Kanye West, and even to someone unfamiliar with him, it is clear that the man at the piano has complete control of everything we see and hear.
Affect Analysis

Affect analysis involves looking at, the felt movement in our bodies that can shape how we decide to act in terms of what we have perceived, which is also known as affect or the intensity affect. By looking at the emotional and physical responses triggered by the elements and energies of the work, we can come to a conclusion about what the affect of the work is. An important part of affect is what the first impression was that caused a response in the viewer, and whether or not there is a salient intensity generated by the elements of the work. In the case of Runaway, the opening shot of a man walking to a piano gives you a sense of expectation, that something is about to happen. And naturally, the viewer keeps watching in order to find out what exactly is going to happen. The first piano melody, the salient engagement with the soundscape, is stirring and creates an intensity and feeling that what is happening is important, and that as viewers we should listen to what this man has to say. 

Once the drums and bass kick in, West starts singing, and the ballerinas start dancing, the expectant energy of the work changes. It becomes more laid back and relaxed, but retains its intensity due to the reflective and personal nature of the lyrics “I always find something wrong” and “I’m addicted to finding what I don’t like the most”, before West tells us to “have a toast for the douchebags” and gives the advice of “runaway as fast as you can”. The ballerinas also add to this intensity, as their movements and the way they are captured on camera, in contrast to the music and setting, is mesmerizing. 

The energy changes once again when the guest verse comes in, delivered by Pusha T. The lyrical content is the complete inverse of West’s, and this is done on purpose. The character that Pusha T portrays in the song is the exact “douchebag” that West urges us to have a toast for, in stark contrast to the regretful nature of West’s segments. The way Pusha T delivers lines like “I did it, alright alright I admit, now pick your next move you can leave or live with it” gives the viewer the perspective that West is trying to show. Despite the fact that it is delivered by somebody completely different, the message still feels very much like it is coming from West, as if the two characters are simply two sides of the same coin.  The intensity continues to build throughout the course of the video, reaching a climax as the ballerinas dancing becomes more frantic, linking in with West’s auto-tuned wails becoming more desperate. This combination crafts an immensely powerful combination of image and sound. Due to the nature of the song, it encourages introspection and reflection, which is a type of productive affect, and when the music and imagery are expressed so well through the cinematography, those with a technical understanding would also be positively affected, along with those who simply enjoy the music and the video. Identification, attachment and pleasure are all encouraged due to the relatable and truthful register of the song, and the simplistic yet powerful construction of the imagery and the music. For those watching from a context more familiar with West and his actions, the video may have more relevance, and understand the point that he is trying to make (as relates to the aftermath of the infamous “Swift-gate” fiasco), but this may also distract from taking the work at face value and analyzing it as an audio-visual work rather than a statement within pop-culture. However, knowledge of this context can also enhance the experience, as knowing the context of the video and the song can help understand the message behind it, and understand why West is calling for a “toast for the douchebags”. 

Target Audience

Runaway’s target audience is an eclectic audience to describe, as it covers many different demographics. The most basic target audience for Runaway would be prior fans of Kanye West’s music. They would likely listen to the song anyway, and with Runaway being his first venture into film; the short film the video is a part of would also interest them (Kanye West, 2010). Fans and followers of pop music and pop culture in 2010 would also be a basic target audience, as Kanye West is a widely known and important, although not always popular, name in popular culture and modern media. This is shown through the significant commercial performance of the song Runaway and its respective album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Billboard, 2012). However, Runaway also appeals to a more alternative and critical audience too, with it garnering excellent reviews (notoriously harsh indie website Pitchfork gave My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a 10.0, the first non-reissued album to receive that score since 2002 (Ringerud, 2010) and Time magazine listing it as one of the greatest music videos of all time (Browne, 2010). West’s music and forays into other art forms such as film and fashion are known to push boundaries and blur genre distinctions, and the direction of West’s film may also attract fans of art house and independent film. The hip-hop art film Runaway is a perfect example of this, with its clashing images of ballerinas, phoenixes, Lamborghinis and abandoned warehouses, set to a soundtrack that takes influences from hardcore hip hop group Mobb Deep and pioneers of progressive music Pink Floyd – at the same time. These contrasts and combinations creating a work that is accessible to people from both extremes, leaving Runaway with a vast and varied audience.

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It’s not easy being a girl. No it’s not. We need to comb our long freezy tangled hair everyday. We spend a lot of time just staring in our closet and a lot more time trying to find the perfect clothing for the day. We waste time in front of the mirror to a least look normal. We make a lot of effort to at least look decent. And no, the dirty look does not apply to us. If we do dirty look, we look like a trash. It’s not hot. It’s trashy. 

It’s even harder to be notice. I mean if guys are complaining about how hard it is to court a girl, dafuq! Do you even have an idea how hard it is just to wait around for you to be noticed by someone. It’s like you are waiting to rain burgers. You don’t know if you’ll be notice or not. We can’t always approach or start a conversation because we will look flirty. Even how much we wanted to talk to that someone, we need to embody the principles of being a woman. We wanted to look good and sexy but it’s hard. It’s hard to look sexy without being tagged as slutty. We even need to be careful to the words we say, because we are born naturally talkative, we say a lot even those words that improper for us (According to the society). 

And on relationships, most guys complain about not appreciating their efforts. But the hell, do you even know how effort we make each day. We always strive to look good for you and we always try to understand almost everything. Do you even have an idea how hard it is to walk on high heels just to look presentable in your eyes? How we try to make our smile perfect just for you to believe that we are happy. And how awkward it is to wear dresses on dates just so you can say that we are beautiful. Even just preparing ourselves for you is hard but we don’t mind. Why? Because even how hard it is to look good, it’s nothing as long as it’s for you.

Dafuq is that monthly period! We have to suffer that monthly. Like we are literally dying constantly. It’s no fun being bipolar you know. It’s no fun changing moods. It hurts like hell. It even hurts more than our first heart break and we have that every month. That cramps. Those weird bruises that appears everywhere and the effort of being hygienic no matter how lazy we are. These were the times when we really hate being a girl. Of course other than being the damsel in distress whenever or boyfriends cheat on us. But seriously. Just seriously.

Guys gets annoyed with clingy, noisy, unpredictable, complicated and too jelous girls. But dude, it’s even harder for us to be that. It’s not easy being clingy. What’s fun of getting paranoid all the time whenever the person we love won’t text us or won’t see us. Do you even have an idea how much we hate ourselves for being so mushy. Yes. We also don’t like to get mushy and cheesy all the time but how can we help it. WE ARE IN LOVE. We tend to be different when we are in love. We lose our normal self. It’s not fun to be noisy tho. Or we don’t meant to be noisy. We just don’t want you to get bored and think that we are not exciting. It’s hard to talk a lot of none sense and look stupid. And being unpredictable and complicated. That’s the thing about girls, we don’t know what we want. We easily switch emotions. But we are not happy about being complicated. It’s hard for us too. Not knowing what we really want. We have a lot of fears and we are always afraid to get hurt. That’s why even how much we want to trust someone, we always have this second guessing. It’s hard being a girl and being weak. It’s hard getting hurt. It’s even hard getting jelous like we are always afraid that guys will find someone better than us. And all of the sudden, will leave us. We always have the fear of being left.

It’s not easy being a girl. We have to deal with these stuffs constantly everyday for the rest of our lives. And at the end of the day, we just really need someone who will love us no matter how hard it is. At the end, we really just wan’t someone who will understand each and every imperfections we have. Because it might not be easy being a girl and being a girl might suck most if the time. But if we find the one, that’s when we thank God that he created us this way.

Will you let yourself die without any contribution to the human race, leaving nothing but a gravestone for people to step on? Will your name be said and heard in future generations or will your name be gone forever when your great, great grandchild asks about their great, great grandparent for their homework? I think not. Everybody wants to be remembered, but not in an identical sense. Some are artists and their greatest pursuit on happiness is for people to recognise their work and in the same way to understand it. Others would want to be known for speaking for the rights of the citizens, for the people who can’t speak for themselves. Then there are millions of people in the worlds, who are like stars. They work in secret ways to help their friends and loved ones. Stars that still dazzle even if the moon outshines them. We can be something else, but that ‘something else’ starts with a choice. Ninoy Aquino had his mind completely set to fight for the Filipino nation. Anne Frank’s choice to think of goodness in people, no matter how harsh they can be. Every legendary person were in your same exact position. They had choices, and they picked one. Let yourself be a revolution, because there is already one happening in your mind. Let it out. Start with one choice.
—  adine santos, an essay about choices