We are all? I am not?

 

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This week, we were asked to evaluate three phenomena with regard to identification (i.e. feeling a personal affinity for a position ) and interpellation (i.e. feeling we have been, or could be  ‘hailed as one’ by others.)

Today, I think it’s probably fair to say I  identify most heavily with the “I am not Trayvon Martin” campaign. Interestingly, I might not have said that  when the verdict of the Treyvon Martin case came out. I remember feeling shocked and angered that night. I remember that in protest, I changed my Facebook icon to a simple black square. Then I changed it to a picture  of Travyvon’s face. Originally, my intention was to show my support for those seeking justice, much like those around the world who watched the murder of Neda Agha Soltan in Iraq, and then claimed, “We are all Neda.”

I changed the icon back to my own after a few Black friends of mine began writing on their own pages about the fact that they now feared for their own safety, or the safety of their children. That’s when it hit me: although I identified with the fight for justice in the Trayvon case, I would never be interpellated as a “threatening” or “thug” or any of the other incendiary language used by the defendant in that trail.  Of course, I could be interpellated in other ways linked to sexism, rape culture and so forth. But I think it is safe to say that nobody is ever going to shoot me on sight because they feel threatened by my presence in a hoodie on a dark night.

According to theorists of  racism, both desire and fear for the “other” is predicated on a series of beliefs regarding what that “other” is–and by logical extension, what we believe we are not. Today, I still find the images and stories in “I am not Trayvon Martin” to be emotionally moving and politically galvanizing. Is this because I identify as not-Black and not-male? Probably. Is it because I also identify as committed to learning to undo racist behavior at conscious and unconscious levels? Definitely.

I would love to hear your thoughts about the projects listed above, or another one you think speaks more to you.

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I teach global media at New York University, and write about digital culture, gender, sexuality, race, celebrity, branding, ethics, and aesthetics.

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