Black Trauma Porn: We are Deserving of More Than Your “Hugging the Kids More Tonight” Tweets

Image:    Ben Beecher

Image: Ben Beecher

Dear well-intentioned intersectional feminists: just because you religiously-read Audre Lorde, practice “unorthodox” horticulture/astrology, and wear chrome lipstick doesn’t mean that you are the revolutionaries of tomorrow. Being smokescreen-confrontational and whining incessantly about the 2016 election on your Facebook does not make you an ally. Rather, it paints you as a perfect example of someone who avariciously-devours the epithet “LOVE is LOVE” from Instagram’s not-so-neighborly feminist conglomerate (in which the ringleader has Michelle Obama as their profile picture). This fallaciously-ubiquitous “intersectionality” is not a well-stitched quilt that is meant to cajole you or become accustomed to your self-preservation-based white savior complexes or daintily-innocuous conceptualizations of womanhood; it is meant to raise awareness for the complex underpinnings of marginalization, subjugation, and humiliation in relation to the attributes that make womxn “womxn” — sexually, mentally, physically interpersonally, and societally. You can be showered in accolades regarding your “uplifting of the minority voice”, elevated to the frontline of movements (because palatability and affectionately-demure/aesthetically-appealing depictions of “unapologetically-anarchist” white lesbian womxn with embarrassingly iridescently-colored buzzcuts will dictate how many ounces of care the public will give), and accredited as the “trailblazers” we see flashing their (bold-inked but nonchalantly-lowercased with a tomboyish insouciance ) “resilience” tattoo on the cover of TIME or quoting an Amy Schumer-approved liberal shibboleth in the Huffington Post, but no standing ovation can save you from your unrepentant exploitation of Black womxn storytelling and trauma-sharing.


Black womxn are, irrefutably and undoubtedly, multidimensional beings. We are more than your hypersexualized and salaciously-moneygrubbing “Sapphire/Jezebel” stereotypes (which are unceremoniously-regurgitated time and time again by music videos and even our own. Delusional and vainglorious light-skinned mumble-rappers, I have a statement to make on behalf of all Black womxn: do better.). We are more than your children’s nannies, “asexual Mary-Sue heroine-on-methamphetamine”s, and “self-loathing-black-teen-turns-into-reductionist-strong-protagonist”s. We are more than the pain that you so lecherously wish to penetrate the people’s minds with.


Blackness is not a depressing monolith meant to be the rudimentarily-socially-conscious well-intentioned white layman’s way to disassociate from their apologeticness. It is an ancestral tale of trials and tribulations mixed with mental recalibration, rewarding journeys, insightfulness/revelations, and wholesome reenactments of Black sisterhood, motherhood, and love. It is an equilibrium that recognizes our perseverance and susceptibility but also our uniqueness within the mundane, the trivial, and the human.


Don’t get it twisted; the increased rate of sexual exploitation and murder regarding Black trans womxn, the adultification and demonization of Black boys within the media and law enforcement, and the systemic underrepresentation and misrepresentation of Black people in our institutions, literature, and contemporary culture must continue to be documented; the Black experience is the American experience, and in order to practice social responsibility/accountability and firmly-embed anti-oppression work into White America’s subconscious, these resources should become less portentously-invisible and more universally-accessible. However, that should not be synonymous with Black people having to spoon-feed White people unseasoned sections of “White Guilt for Dummies: The Performative Activist Edition”. The Black body has long been constructed as an allure, meant to satiate the (white-supremacy-bankrolled) internalized voyeurism of apathetic, well-meaning White people. However, there is nothing pulchritudinous or self-ingratiating about seeing Black bodies up for display, the allocation of validation up to the discretion of the white person who is obsessed with Black death’s omnipresence and its conversion into miniaturized snuff films (i.e. “Orange Is the New Black). It should not take graphic videos of Black people getting gunned down in the streets to generate base empathy and awareness; your inherently-dilettantish opinions about Black womanhood and hypervisibility do not help anyone if they’re solely based off of “woke” Twitter threads or Instagram Story hot-takes. It is even more than unfortunate to say that the film industry's production of slave/abolitionist/black biopic narratives has been superseded by a new brand of un-inventiveness regarding Blackness and otherness: Black trauma.


We should not have to have our narratives — the narratives of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, the “Central Park Five”, and even Khalil from “The Hate U Give” — become the “true” depictions of Black people. I am more than your blockbuster-entertainment of John-Henryism. I am more than a reverberating cacophony of .357 Magnums and handcuffs. I am more than your objectified and sensationalized byproduct of institutionalized racism.


I am a Black queer woman. Better yet, I am a Black queer woman who recognizes that we should divest from White-sponsored pedagogics regarding the cultivation of White “empathy” and instead invest in Black Liberation. I am a Black queer woman who was not constructed by an irresponsible and paternalistic White imagination.


Neglecting the fact that our pain is not under the proprietorship of a dreadlock-wearing race apologist is malicious. Your hyper-consumption of your friendly photojournalist’s snapshots of our corpses is dehumanizing. Forgetting that beautiful, funny, and vivacious Black people exist — that they are the cashiers at your Stop&Shop, the science teacher that your eighth grader cannot stop gushing about, the cutely-inquisitive journalist who writes for your local newspaper — is an example of when impact is greater than intent. Extinguishing this mellifluous explosion of personhood, experience, and intersectionality does not lend us credence; rather, it works to show that disregard is a weapon of the comfortable and that grief and compassion are resources of the privileged.


We Black people are more than our grievances; we are our personalities, adventures, and happiness. Let that be the testament of our lives — not your Emmy-award-winning fantasies.

Zoe Rivera Comment