Below is an open letter by filmmaker Terence Nance, who is also an active member of Blackout for Human Rights. It is a poignant piece that chronicles his reaction to the recent rash of state sponsored police murders of unarmed black men.
*I was talking to a friend about the nuances and nature of our collective anger in response to the recent rash of state sponsored police murders of unarmed Black Men. I told her that my anger took many forms: retribution, depression, anxiety, worry, and a creeping fatalism fed by the feeling that my Chi is rendered inert as a result of my participation in a social system that wants me dead.
One iteration of my rage is a pitiful/contemplative sadness that I feel from time to time. It is caused by a deep knowing of the fact that state sponsored murder is, has been, and will be (till we stop it) a legal, institutionally supported tool used by the American government to sustain white supremacy, wealth supremacy, oligarchy, and patriarchy. It’s a sadness that comes on the heels of what I process as a defeat as those in power have succeeded in communicating THE MESSAGE to us, a community of marginalized people. The message is, “Obey, assimilate, accept your status as a second class citizen, or we will kill you.” The defeat? We have completely internalized this message. America has been saying this to us since the day it was born.
I’ve come to see these murders by the police as a sort of institutional show of force, a scare tactic. My aforementioned fatalism is a result of the deep knowing that this scare tactic works. To put it coarsely and in a way culturally consistent with that ’70s Blackness, a passage from The Last Poets “I Love Niggas.”
I love niggas, I love niggas
Because niggas are me
And I should only love that which is me
I love to see niggas go through changes
Love to see niggas act
Love to see niggas make them plays and shoot the shit
But there is one thing about niggas I do not love
Niggas are scared of revolution.
Suspend the urge to un-align yourself or your people with the word “nigga” and bear with me as I challenge that last line. It isn’t that we are scared of change, or even death. It’s that we don’t want to die. Having been witness to the success and failures of previous generations of artists, activists, race men and women, do-gooders, church folk, teachers, and revolutionaries; having been witness to the homeostasis of American society; having been witness to the persistence of wealth supremacy, patriarchy, white supremacy; we have concluded that the sacrifice is not worth it, whether that sacrifice is of our life itself or our way of life. We got the message. Try and change things peacefully? Bullet in the head. Violently? Same bullet, same head.
The bullets left in Mike Brown’s body were a show of force – not warning shots, but a warning murder. The non-indictment was a show of force. These are the patient movements of a smug dictator, aware of his cruelty and the power of the hegemony he propagates. It’s all a show of force — a parade of dead black bodies with which to cajole us into stasis.
The deep sadness comes from the fact that this parade of unarmed black bodies – often in the prime of their vitality, young, at the peak of their energy – works. In the face of their show of force we have in the recent past been unaware and unwilling to use our collective power. We are not willing to risk our lives, our livelihood, our comfort, in the service of dismantling white supremacy, wealth supremacy, oligarchy, and patriarchy… quickly.
In the recent past we have been unwilling to face the consequences of fighting back. The American government, the corporations that fill its coffers, and the oligarchs that benefit from it all make sure we are clear on the consequences of collective action to strip them of power, influence, and wealth.
So what is there to do? Me and mine made a few films. We’ve been organizing, trying to hit the corporations in their pockets, where it hurts, and organize our own show of force. This whole thing is much more complicated and nuanced than what I have expressed above and this show of force is just the first of many. A sustained effort is necessary.
The grave, sobering, unmovable reality is that WE must be willing, en masse, to risk our comfort, our livelihood, and our lives in order to dismantle white supremacy, wealth supremacy, oligarchy, patriarchy, and the hyper-violent, sociopathic institutions that uphold it all… quickly.
Who is WE?
The WE must be inclusive of the most visible, wealthy, connected and famous of us, the most impoverished, and anonymous of us, and everyone in between.
what are WE willing to risk?
because we gotta stop this… quickly.
Terence Nance is a filmmaker and a member of Blackout for Human Rights. Learn more at blackoutforhumanrights.com.