8:46

8:46

I've actively avoided engaging with so much of the media around George Floyd's death because I find it exhausting and cyclical in a way I can't handle. There's nothing I could read that would give me hope that we won't be doing this again a year from now, there's nothing I could write or watch that wouldn't just feel so familiar and kick in the sense of hopelessness and cynicism that comes around every few months when the world needs a reminder of the expendability of black lives. I don't feel comforted by the sympathy, because it starts to feel like pity; I feel suffocated and overwhelmed by the well-meaning "just checking in" texts from white friends I rarely talk to, and the plaintive heart emoji/"so powerful" responses to anything black people do as a response to simply existing through a constant cycle of public trauma. I don't feel comforted by the attempts to elevate me as a black artist in times of social panic, as it only registers as a reminder of the consistent axis of black creative insecurity: "Is my unworthy work being elevated because I'm black?" vs "Is my worthy work not being elevated because I'm black?"

The problem with all of those feelings, is that they're very personal and not universal, and much of it feels like a reflection of my own insecurities and discomforts rather than an adequate response to current events. There is no “proper” universal response to the exhaustion of living while black, and there are countless black people who would disagree with my take on it, and I wouldn't want to insist that my personal reaction should be a template for how anyone responds. So I shut down and disengage entirely in the hopes that people will simply leave me alone, because I got tired of being angry so long ago, and tired of memorizing the birthdays for young black people we'll never again know in a 3rd dimension, and tired of watching the font get smaller and smaller as we say all of their names, and tired of seeing cutesy signs in the street made for the attention of the internet, and tired of seeing political action become a foot-in-the-door negotiation between citizens and a government that will never ever be truly invested in their interests, and tired of watching the clock run down on the "white education period" where already-well-meaning white people publicly flagellate themselves in a conspicuous liberal act of solidarity.

Dave Chappelle is also tired. And he's been tired for years. He's so tired, he bursts out in anger several times in this set, on the verge of tears. You can see him quickly readjusting himself emotionally with a raunchy joke to keep himself from crying, and you can also see as it stops working. The way he frames these murders isn't anything new, but there's a catharsis to seeing him do it. Part of me thinks it's because he's always reminded me of my father. They have the same face. Watching him get angry is the first time I've felt comfortable enough to cry in the last few weeks. Seeing a photo of George Floyd that wasn't the one photo people have been using to memorialize him also made me cry.

Chappelle is such a talented storyteller and an emotive speaker (wanted to write "well-spoken" but unfortunately, white people have co-opted that as a racist dogwhistle) that there's something incredibly powerful and generationally emblematic about seeing him scream the truth of Floyd's death. But I don't know that he wants to be seen in that way. I think he just wants to tell pussy jokes without living with the heightened responsibility that exists at the strange intersection of celebrity and blackness. Who wants the pressure of having to be "powerful" or "generationally emblematic" while emotionally arguing for the basic humanity of your own life? Who wants to account for how well your existence argues for your continued existence?

But that's a peace that has never been afforded to any of us. And as heartening as it is to see the unrest last longer than it usually does, it's hard for me to see a future in which the peace ever will. So I'll take the little catharses I can get.

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