Today, we will be decoding some elements in a video that I came across on Instagram. Take a look:
Before I start to decode, I wish to acknowledge that there are multiple issues at play in these clips in addition to anti-blackness (such as sexism and classism). However, since this site focuses mostly on race issues (ex. white supremacy and racism), or closely related issues (such as anti-blackness and afrophobia), that's what I'll focus on here.
First, we begin with the two co-workers (William and Gary), one Black (with dark skin and very African features) and one white one. They have made a sport of sexually harassing a fellow (Black female) employee.
After her exasperated outburst, and an explanation of the hostile work environment that their behavior has created for her, we witness a stinging rebuke by the boss. He shouts at the Black employee, Gary: "...SHUT UP, YOU BLACK SHIT!!! If not for the prison program you will not even be here!!! I'm disappointed in you! What rubbish! How dare you?!! How dare you to do that???"
Likening brown skin to feces is deeply anti-black. Historically, it is rooted in how white psychologists and sociologists rationalized the self-hate (that they largely caused) in Blacks.
Then something interesting happens: the boss, who was just a wildfire while insulting a fellow Black person, now becomes mere smoldering embers when it's time to chastise his equally culpable white subordinate. The best he can muster to insult him with is:
'William! William!!! You're behaving like you've never seen woman before??? Shame on you!!!"
As a matter of fact, there was no explicit insult at all.
Instead, we see a very low-key invocation of white innocence, for the rhetoric in the boss' comments towards the white man is that: only ignorance/naivete would excuse how he was acting. You could hear in how he said it, that the boss did not expect the white man (William) to be any kind of virgin. You could hear that he expected more. This is odd. Because it is quite different from how the Black employee Gary was seen. Gary's guilt was never a question. When Gary was chastised, his name wasn't even used.
To go further in describing this scene, I will invoke the term "gratuitous violence". Gratuitous violence is is a term that's just a way of saying: "extra, extra violence". (Need literal examples? Think how white males mutilated the body of Emmett Till after murdering him. Need figurative examples? Recall how the white-controlled mainstream media demonized the Central Park Five and Assata Shakur during their respective trials.)
The boss goes on:
"Stephanie...I'm apologizings for them. Eh, you know what, just to make up for it, you are immune from the next three meetings!" At protests from his other employees, the boss engages the violent Black male troupe with a thundering threat: "I WILL SLAP YOUR FACES!!!" Everyone becomes quiet. He then tells the Black woman (Stephanie) to wait outside his office, and that he will be there soon.
In this case, the violence isn't physical (yet) it's figurative--psychological. This video clip is an example of the figurative gratuitous violence that Black people often face in different aspects of their lives. The rhetoric in this clip was:
To Black (Male) Employee:
"You are as worthless as the excrements we cast out of our bodies. You are dark-skinned. Black man, you do not have the credentials to be here. You should be an outcast languishing somewhere! However, you were lucky, and society showed you charity! And this is the thanks we get, that I get, for putting up with your presence??? How can you have the audacity to be ungrateful when you are already worthless?"
The Black (Female) Employee:
"You make a lot of noise. You seem to have an attitude. You are complaining about men touching you? I think I can perceive why you are upset. You are upset that they are sexually transgressing because they are not the type of men who should do so right? Such a man should have power and/or money. Such a man should have a means to pay for you. To pay you. You are a prostitute. I know you wouldn't want respect just because. Come to my office. Maybe we can work something out."
The Black Boss:
"You are hypocritical. You should not be a leader, your behavior is antithetical to what leadership should be. You are an oxymoron: a Black man in charge? You are oblivious where you should be observant. You don't even know what's on the agenda for you own meeting. You are stupid: look at how you speak English. eNgLiSh Is ThE lAnGuAgE oF iNtElEct. You are just what we expected you to be: a living stereotype. You are loud, because you are Black, have anger management issues because you are Black, are willing to be get physical (violent) because you are Black, you are a sex fiend because you are Black. We've seen that you have two (dark-skinned) women already. Now you need a third (lighter-skinned) one for enjoyment? What insatiable lust! But then again, what can we expect? Instead of running your company properly, you're a predator looking to take advantage of that woman for sex."
I laughed at first too when I saw this.
But it hurt right after.
All these thoughts came right after...
How did you respond?