Op-Ed

No Longer Will I Partake in Black Trauma Porn

Zanta Nkumane on why he can't watch another video of black suffering.

The recent killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in the U.S. sparked outrage from across the world, and rightfully so. In typical fashion, thanks to the digital age we live in, these horrific killings were caught on camera. But as I watched the footage of Philando Castile, I had a sudden realisation: I can’t watch another one of these videos.


I understand the motive behind sharing visual evidence of American society’s undeclared pandemic, the murder of black people – mainly at the hands of law enforcement. The world deserves to know what is happening. It’s an issue that affects all of us. The universality of blackness means we all share in the pain.

And when black people share these videos, their intention is of course not meant to hurt other black people. It’s to create awareness and, hopefully, protest against the senseless violence directed at black bodies. The videos have forced us to become even more conscious of our blackness in this white patriarchal world. And while here in South Africa there hasn’t been a strong campaign focused on race issues like #BlackLivesMatter in the U.S., what the videos have done is open up the discourse about race. Black South Africans are finally speaking out and challenging the racial issues of “post-apartheid” South Africa.

But I refuse to watch another video. I am numb. I will not indulge or engage with any retweet of another black person’s suffering. To some, this may sound ignorant. Or perhaps even denialism. But it’s quite the opposite. It's because doing so is proliferating the spread of black trauma porn.

Discussions on race have never been more necessary, and topical, than they are currently. Black trauma porn is a pervasive narrative throughout the news and social media. And based on disturbing statistics, it’s not going anywhere.

An image of Eric Garner's eyes by the street artist JR at the Millions March NYC of December 2014.

But black trauma porn is not merely the murder of black people in U.S. It’s happening right here on African soil. Take the recent uprising in Zimbabwe for instance. The protests against the Mugabe-led government were marked by police brutality that resulted in the death of a toddler from toxic inhalation when police tear gassed a block of flats in Bulawayo and the senseless beating of a woman in front of a crying baby.

Looking at recent years, perhaps the most discussed incident of police brutality was the chilling Marikana massacre, in which South African Police opened fire on striking mineworkers in Marikana, leaving 34 mineworkers dead and 78 wounded. There was also the vicious murder of Andries Tatane, a 33-year-old black South African man, during a service delivery protest in 2011, in which Tatane was beaten and shot by the police for attempting to stop law enforcement from using water canons to disperse the crowd.

Across the whole continent, we’ve witnessed instances of brutality at the hands of those meant to protect and keep order in society. In Kenya, in May 2016, police repeatedly kicked an apparently unconscious man who lay on the ground after tripping while attempting to flee from the police during a demonstration which he said he was not involved in.

This idea of black trauma porn extends even beyond the violence of law enforcement. Black lesbians in South Africa are under attack. The news is littered with stories of corrective rape and hate crimes perpetrated against young, black lesbian women attacked and raped.

Blackness is tethered to some form of pain. The structural autonomy of whiteness seems to derive a warped pleasure at seeing black pain shared. We may spend hours protesting, writing inspired Facebook statuses and retweeting “woke” threads, but the change is not happening fast enough. We are yet to see tangible results. Where are the laws against hate crimes? Where is the justice for the slain black men, women and children?

We are continually flooded with the images of black suffering, yet black realities remain unchanged. So please, don’t bring the rants of Penny Sparrow, Vicky Momberg or the anti-black rhetoric of Lerato Tshabalala onto my timeline. I’m tired of hearing how sub-par blacks are. I can’t watch another one of my kind attacked with a palpable hatred or see their blood stain tar. I can’t partake in black trauma porn anymore. The imagery and sounds loom in my head and haunts me for days afterwards.

popular
Image by Mohamed Nanabhay via Flickr.

Activists Demand the Release of Omoyele Sowore and Other Political Detainees, Amidst Growing Attacks on Freedom of Press In Nigeria

"It feels like the '90s again," says Sowore's wife Opeyemi Sowore, about the recent crackdowns on political dissidents in Nigeria.

On August 3, activist and founder of Sahara Reporters, and former presidential candidate Omoyele Sowere was arrested for planning a peaceful protest in Nigeria. Fifty-four days later, he remains in custody.

Sowere has been hit with a seven-count charge, including money laundering, treason, as well as "cyberstalking the president," Sahara News reports. He is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow after being jailed for nearly two months, according to his wife Opeyemi Sowore.

He, along with several activists who have voiced political dissent in recent months have been detained by Nigerian authorities, denoting an upward shift on crackdowns on members of the press and attacks on basic civil liberties in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari's administration. "This truly is a threat to freedom of press, freedom of speech and expression," Sowore tells OkayAfrica. "As much progress as we thought we had made, a lot of the events truly sadden me."

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis Shut Down Tel Aviv To Protest the Death of 24-Year-Old Yehuda Biadga Who Was Killed By Police

"There is racism everywhere. I feel like I don't belong to this country."

An anti-police brutality demonstration consisting of thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis that was held Wednesday in Israel is yet another wake up call that state sanctioned violence against the black body is a global, ever-present issue.

These young people took to the streets and gathered in central Tel Aviv to protest the death of 24-year-old Yehuda Biadga, an Ethiopian-Israeli from the coastal city of Bat Yam, who was shot and killed by police, Haaretz reports. He was known to grapple with mental illness.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Still from Burna Boy's Tiny Desk concert video via NPR.

Watch Burna Boy's Mellowed-Out 'Tiny Desk' Concert

Watch the 'African Giant' run through some of his hits like 'Gbona,' 'Ye' and more for NPR's Tiny Desk concert series.

Burna Boy is the latest artist to grace NPR's famous Tiny Desk.

The Nigerian "afrofusion" star took to the set for a mellowed out performance of four of his biggest tracks. Getting straight to business, the artist opened his set with a toned down rendition of his single "Gbona" before heading into the socially-aware "Wetin Man Go Do." It's much calmer of a performance than we're used to seeing from the artist.

Next he performs a funky version of "Dangote," before rounding his set out with his magnum opus of sorts "Ye." He's backed by the band The Outsiders and vocalist Christina Matovu throughout.

Burna Boy has had a stellar year, releasing his seminal album African Giant, performing at Coachella and winning several awards—including 'Best African Act' at the BET Awards—in the process.

Check out his full Tiny Desk performance below, and revisit a recent Tiny Desk performance from British-Nigerian rapper Dave from last week and check out Burna Boy's okay acoustics performance of 'Anybody' from August.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Simi in "Selense" (Youtube)

Watch Simi's Beautiful Music Video For 'Selense'

Premiere: Simi shares the upbeat new video for "Selense," a song about time which draws inspiration from classic highlife.

Nigeria's Simi comes through with the new music video for her recent single, "Selense."

The song, which sees her sing about using your time and years on this earth preciously, gets a beautiful new video that follows Simi's verses about different characters who may or may not be spending their hours in the best way.

The upbeat new music video, which was directed by Adasa Cookey, is getting premiered here on OkayAfrica today.

"'Selense' is a song about time," Simi tells OkayAfrica. "The song draws inspiration from classic African highlife. A timeless classic that is perfect for all seasons."

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.