It’s only the second week of July, and I’m already worn out by racism.
The month definitely started with a bang when Disney announced Halle Bailey, of Chloe X Halle, would play Ariel in the live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.” You would’ve thought pigs were flying because people (i.e. white people) acted as if a Black girl portraying a fictional character who is another fictional character (i.e. a mermaid) meant the world was coming to an end. Ariel isn’t real. Mermaids aren’t real. Therefore, Ariel and mermaids can look however one wants. The uproar was laughable, but indicative of how white Americans truly feel about Black people. It’s not OK for Bailey to play a fictional character, but it’s OK for Angelina Jolie to portray Mariane Pearl or Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson. Both of whom, I might add, are real people. When African Americans call out Hollywood for misrepresenting these real life people — and, in turn, not employing real Black actors, we’re told it’s acting and it’s about the art and the story, so get over it.
This outrage over Bailey’s casting is just another instance of white Americans being uncomfortable with seeing African Americans in spaces they deem as theirs. If it were only as innocuous as typewriter tough guys swiftly posting racist rants on social media.
Unfortunately, those thoughts don’t just stay on the keyboard. Two days later we had two real-life situations where someone’s Blackness made a white American uncomfortable. In one situation, the police were called. In the other, someone died.
On July 4, Wesly Michel waited on a friend at the friend’s apartment building in San Francisco. Christopher Cukor saw Michel enter the building by “tailgating,” or entering the door after someone else opened it, and took it upon himself to ask if Michel belonged. I get wanting to make sure your building is safe and the people who enter the door should be there. But, I’m supposed to believe Cukor knows every single person in his building and their company? I guess people don’t move in, or make new friends without his knowledge. He’s omniscient when it comes to his apartment building. Where Cukor’s actions take a left turn is that they seem to be motivated by race.
His son pleads with him to let it go and move on. His son starts crying. Cukor ignores his son’s pleas and instead decides he’s security for the building and wants to know who Michel is, who his friend is and where he’s going. Thing is, that’s none of his business, and Michel is under no obligation to tell Cukor anything. But he is because he’s Black. I can pretty much guarantee if someone treated Cukor this way, he would be offended just as Michel was. Since Michel didn’t comply with this fake flashlight security officer, Cukor called the police. Thankfully, Michel’s friend arrived, (several media outlets have pointed out his friend came from outside the building, and I’m not sure what significance this has) ending the confrontation and phone call. Had the police arrived, this incident could’ve gone another way: tragically.
This brings me to the next situation, which also happened on July 4. Elijah El-Amin, 17, Peioria, Arizona, was killed by Michael Adams over rap music (i.e. Black music). It seems the boy’s music made Adams fear for his safety so much so that he stabbed El-Amin in the back and slit his throat with a pocketknife. I’m sorry, but Adams sounds like the person El-Amin should’ve been in fear of. Now a family has lost their son over absolutely nothing, and the media is trotting out the same tired trope of mental illness for the white person.
These incidents are different levels of the same fear of Blackness. I’m not saying everyone who is uncomfortable by Blackness will murder them, but it’s the fear that fuels the discomfort. That fear and discomfort leads to the belief that white Americans can police Black bodies whenever they feel those bodies are in a space they don’t belong — whether it’s onscreen, in an apartment building or a Circle K.