The Might of Words
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The Might of Words

I Don’t Need Your ****ing Black Box

Virtue Signaling is not entirely new but in the light of recent times, it’s gotten absurd. If you’re unfamiliar with the term here’s the academic definition …

Virtue signalling is a pejorative neologism for the conspicuous expression of moral values.

Translation: It is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favour for certain political ideas or cultural happenings. Cue the Black Box and other things like it.

And of course, social media has taken it to the ad nauseam level when it comes to white people doing it to support the fight against racism and police brutality. Before I expound on this further allow me to be completely literal for a minute about the black box, in particular.

I fucking hate it.

Do you know when black boxes are used in common practice? To cover information in redacted documents. To cover nudity on videos and images. To block out faces of people who want to remain anonymous. It’s used to HIDE THINGS! It does not engender a feeling of solidarity or a sense that you actually understand what support means in terms of equal rights, fighting racial injustice and helping to make a difference. It says, at least to me from my perspective as a minority in this country, that you are doing the least and most socially acceptable thing in the white world to acknowledge what’s been happening to us throughout American history.

The appearance of the black box in social media is like a digital solar eclipse blocking the truth and reality of what has been and will continue to go on in America when it comes to racism. Ironically this came about through an idea from black entertainers specifically targeted to the music industry. Guess who appropriated it and incorrectly used it as usual adding hashtags that ultimately took away vital streams for an entire day? And since “Blackout Tuesday,’ the box has persisted.

Now back to the topic at hand of virtue signaling and why it means so little to those of us who see it more as an empty gesture than an actual attempt at action.

To be fair, slinging this term at people as a form of judgment or derision lumps the white people who are trying desperately to do something with the white people who literally only do the bare minimum or are essentially making sure the world knows they’re not racist. So I understand that your declaration of being progressive and saying “we’re with you” equals what you believe is a visual representation of that. I am not the arbiter of your soul or conscience. I am not party to anything you do when it comes fighting police brutality and racism. So maybe, maybe in attempt do more than just watch this all unfold you hop on a bandwagon that has long since reached maximum capacity. If you will though, allow me to break down your signal, your sign and your messaging with some questions.

  1. As white parents, when was the last time you talked to your kids about race and equal rights before George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean or the countless black people killed by police ? (That short list of names by the way only covers the last two years if that). How does your black box affect those conversations with your children? I have stepchildren in middle school who often tell me stories of inappropriate comments from schoolmates in the lunchroom or on the playground. So, who’s educating this current generation that were unfortunately afforded the callous indifference that allows them to ridicule kids of other races, do inappropriate racist impressions, or make culturally insensitive/ignorant comments intended as jokes that supplant empathy or compassion? When the topics of slavery and equal rights come across your dinner table brought home from the classroom, how much more are you offering your children besides the curriculum? Are you even attempting to provide balance through conversation or education with your children?
  2. Speaking of balance, the black box of the streaming world of entertainment was the sudden curation of black films and documentaries made available for edification purposes of the white population. Films that have been around for a while, not in cues or marketed with any effort, suddenly now “matter.” Netflix went so far to call their virtue signal the “ Black Lives Matter collection.” So Netflix, what were you doing with this collection last year or the year before that? Why now are they all collected conveniently to help ease the white guilt? Mind you this is not a bad example of virtue signaling per se but it does leave you in quandary over what efforts Netflix and Amazon Prime would have made had the country not been set on fire. I would bet good money, there were no plans for a collection of black films before this. If you doubt me, go back to February 2020 during black history month and see if that expansive collection existed.
  3. The grandiose version of the black box is of course coming from companies and corporations who are giving money to the Black Lives Matter movement and publicly declaring their support and compassion but here’s a pressing question — Would they have done so five years ago? And the money they are so generous with, how is it being directed? Are they ensuring/specifying the money helps balance the scales in poor communities, or going to education and better training for police, or providing scholarships to offer better opportunities for low income kids? Or are they just writing fat checks that they can then pose with for photo ops? Is their virtue marketing about compassion truly sincere or is this the corporate bandwagon fully decorated with banner ads and spotlights showing their progressive understanding. Meanwhile have a look at their corporate culture and policies and examine how diverse they had been leading up to this.

So as much it seems like it makes a difference, it really doesn’t.

I don’t need your black box. I need you to be an advocate for me and stand up for things that are not just petitions, backlash or outrage. What I mean by that is, advocate whenever and wherever you can, not just when it’s popular. As an addendum to that, I need you learn more more about what the issues really are and even if it seemingly doesn’t affect you — figure out you can affect it.

I don’t want your black box. I want those who are leaders or prominent in the white community to have those uncomfortable conversations about race and equality. I want those who are leaders to thoroughly examine what decisions and actions they can take that will create a sustainable impact. I want them to be consistent and to ensure this is not just some perennial recognition or initiative. And then someday, we can all look forward to when they don’t have to do that much work.

The problem is right now the black box that looms over this country hides the reality than contradicts progressive expectations. Expectations that say things like.

“We had a black president for two terms, how could this be?”

“It’s the 21st century, I thought we were past this.”

The outrage that people get from the televised and socialized brutality we are currently seeing is because those expectations hold fast. Those expectations that in a society where we can use 3D visualizations to teach doctors surgery people still call others nigger and cops still profile black people. And so again, I understand your frustration and your struggle to go beyond the pale of your whiteness. I really do.

I’m just gonna need more than a black box

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Shawn Deena

LOVE, living, kindness, caring creativity, nerdiness, MUSIC. Nice to meet you.