- The Queerness of Blackness
The frequency of black death is itself queer. Strange. Out of place. Awkward
August 9, 2014 marked a reminder of the queerness in being and living black, when Michael Brown was killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. This killing, occurring in the center of the nation, became the fulcrum for a national response to years’ past crimes of the state, such as the murders of Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Renisha McBride, and too many others. After hundreds of days of unrest, protest, and peacemaking, the return of Prosecutor McCullough’s nonindictment was more than a bad moment in the court system, but a queer way of saying that black lives did not matter. This act of juridical disrespect—both in the dismissal of witness accounts and the prosecutor’s defensive tone—said loudly that public resistance, riots, or demands for redress would not be met with great seriousness. For many who had hope for AT LEAST a trial, this moment of denial was tethered to a litany of moments where anti-black violence was met with little to no retribution or resolve.
Upon the reading of the grand jury’s decision to not bring the case to trial, the blackness of Brown’s body would be queered in the public rendering of the jury’s heard testimony, strangely and reminiscently deformed in public view. In Darren Wilson’s statement in front of the grand jury, he referred to Michael Brown as a “demon” and like “Hulk Hogan,” historically racialized phantasmagoria which evokes fear and often requires defense. This reverting to what I call “canonical prejudice”1 constituted a historic deformation of black bodies in order that they cohere as clear criminals, rightfully at the hands of a very powerful state. The queerest of positions is to be the vulnerable and made criminal, in order to deny victimage for the sake of white narrative of “defense against all things black.” [End Page 173] Indeed, while Darren Wilson’s words queerly made Michael Brown merely a thing—a source of evil that could only be destroyed through termination—he gave the public ammunition to demand a reimagining of the value of black life, as well as an institution of policies and procedures that would protect and serve the most vulnerable. Indeed, this forum attempts to respond to the scene—even resurrecting Brown and others through action and activism, through a collective reflection on the meaning of now, and marking the significance of multiple types of players (activists, scholars, preachers, and artists) in the reshaping of the dark American landscape.
To be a “death-bound subject”2 is to be a queer subject, always in danger of being destroyed. Physically. Spiritually. Representationally
To reflect in the now, the question most pressing in the twenty-first century: How does it feel to be a death-bound subject? The response for many seems to be #BlackLivesMatter beyond their deaths and, therefore, the work continues. In this way, the queerness of blackness is not just about how tethered life seems to death, but also its relationship to living and creativity. What has emerged from the site of Ferguson, Missouri, are many queer things: Art. Activism. Advocacy. Anti-Racist Mobilization. Action. As a resident of the St. Louis community, I was able to be a part of the mass mobilization of folks who “shut shit down.” Beyond the proverbial and symbolic disruption in “business as usual” of state agencies and the everyday lives of St. Louis metropolitan residents with segregationist politics, I witnessed mostly young people of color generating a queer enclave of folk: activists, artists, and scholars from various struggles. Together, they combat the state’s collusion in anti-black terror. In many ways, I feel that this moment might evoke a feeling of “queer temporality,” moments where “one leaves the temporal frames of family, longevity, risk/safety, and inheritance.” For me, the events in Ferguson and beyond disrupt the timeline in which black lives matter most at the cross-section of straight and black, but rather at the murky plain where gender and sexualities are ever-present—though often unremarked, even for many of...