I came across a piece of art this week that really touched me. I am not sure who created it or where it originated from; it is signed but it’s still unclear and I can’t find any more information. But truly, it’s amazing. And I love it.
I first saw the piece on Facebook and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. It really speaks so clearly to the issues that have plagued this nation since its inception and it stopped me in my tracks.
For me, it was pretty clear: you’ve got white hands grabbing at stars that are well within their reach and you’ve got hands of color trapped beneath those white hands, confined behind bars. It is so symbolic of what’s happening in this nation on so many levels. In the very literal sense, there are a disproportionate number of people of color imprisoned in this nation, while white people enjoy a much different experience within the justice system, often receiving lighter sentences (if any at all). Data from The Sentencing Project supports this notion, as does the documentary 13th.
The painting also symbolizes the plight of people of color across generations in this nation. White people have maintained their position of privilege by standing on the backs of people of color. White people have enslaved, murdered, and raped people of color. White people have silenced the voices of people of color. White people have made it impossible for people of color to access the same resources. They have tried to limit/control access to education for children of color. They have dismantled the neighborhoods and communities of people of color. They have attempted to turn people of color against themselves, citing black on black crime and force-feeding a religion centered around a whitewashed messiah begging them to turn the other cheek. White people have tried to stamp out the strength of people of color for hundreds of years and failed. And when they failed, they decided to imprison people of color with their systems of oppression so that they can continue to enjoy the fruits of forced labor and a false narrative. That is what this painting represents. America has systemically (and literally) imprisoned people of color so as to maintain the status quo that benefits them.
Interestingly enough, white people on the internet seem to think this interpretation is a horrid disservice to them and the truth about America.
This woman, for example, thinks that this painting represents people of color trying to “demolish the white race” and take what rightfully belongs to white people. She seems to think that white people have earned a position of power in this world and that any attempt at equality is an act against white people.
This guy seems to think that the fact that he has been to prison somehow invalidates the message of the painting. He also seems to struggle with understanding what “racist” means.
And then there’s this guy. Who spends a whole paragraph yelling just to (not shockingly) say that he doesn’t think white privilege is a thing. He seems to think that by whitesplaining it to the rest of us, we’ll get it. OK, George.
I feel like this doesn’t really require too much commentary on my part. This is ignorant as fuck. “Colored” people? Really?
And last, but not least, this person who is “not being dense” and really wants “black people” to “stop playing the victim.” Notice when are where she decides to use quotation marks. Weird, right? (No.)
By turning this around on people of color and basically saying “well racism only exists because you keep calling out racism so YOU stop being racist by pointing out racism and we can all pretend it doesn’t exist,” she is engaging in the same gaslighting tactics employed by many white people uncomfortable acknowledging race issues.
The juxtaposition between how people of color see this painting and how many white people see it is SO important; this is why we are where we are as a nation. This is why we have Trump. This is why we are struggling to communicate with one another. We literally live in different worlds.
The sad part is: one is real, and one is a contrived narrative designed to assuage guilt and maintain privilege. And eventually, we are going to be faced with the task of tearing down their false narrative and force feeding reality to a bunch of people who don’t want to hear it. Honestly, I think that’s where we are now. That’s what this #resistance is and why it is so incredibly important. It is time to dismantle the systems of white patriarchy that have imprisoned so many for so long. It is time to commit to spreading truth and fighting hate by any means necessary. I hope you’re with us. Otherwise, the adjustment could prove just a bit difficult for you.