#TrayvonMartin

#TrayvonMartin will not trend on twitter. Many have tried. Are still trying. But I think “trend” is the wrong word. For the past few weeks, friends have mourned Trayvon Martin, registering not simply “outrage,” but that deep well of the unspeakably familiar.

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We return to the painful familiarity of chanting names—of speaking the unspeakable in the only language possible. That of mourning. Of repetition as mourning.

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To read these repetitions as acts of grief might help us register what is being resisted by those who will not, cannot, let them circulate, accumulate. Grieving and mourning create communities of feeling. They create collectivities. They also bestow, belatedly, recognition: one was a human. One was, one is, grievable.

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We live as post-slavery subjects, as Christina Sharpe has argued so beautifully:

I mean Monstrous Intimacies to intervene in and to position us to see and think anew what it means to be a (black) post-slavery subject positioned within everyday intimate brutalities who is said to have survived or to be surviving the past of slavery, that is not yet past, bearing something like freedom.

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Reading Sharpe’s accounts of spectacle and spectacularity, what Maurice Wallace describes as spectagraphia, one is reminded that spectacle is what connects the technologies of producing blackness: commodification during slavery and criminalization in our post-slavery economy.

We do not know how to mourn commodities or criminals.

Indeed, current efforts to criminalize Trayvon resist the subject-making work of mourning. Much is accomplished when grieving is rendered impossible. The persistence of a post-slavery economy predicated on de-humanizing blacks.

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These repeated cries, these reminders, these calls to recognize a life beyond commodification and criminalization. What is one to do with them? What is one to do with the modes of spectacle/surveillance that now seem to have taken over in the place of something like collective mourning or demands for justice, even when positioned as either or both?

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In these repetitions, I seek something that I do not yet know how to name. Feeling where argument cannot happen. Feeling where debate transforms into spectacle, into what Jodi Dean describes as the circulation of content, an accumulation of circulation. I seek to register where language fails.

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What might it mean to take black mourning seriously? To hear its prolonged, persistent notes? To engage with the impossibility of its claims? I do not yet know how to answer these questions. I would like to write something powerful, something eloquent, having learned from James Baldwin and Audre Lorde the power of language to mourn. To register the cracks and fractures of being and belonging.

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But I also want to inhabit the inarticulate—to give Trayvon more than a minute of silence, to join in the collectivities of those who cannot yet name what has happened, who cannot process it, who find “racism” an inadequate way to address grief. Who remain inarticulate when faced with “everyday intimate brutalities.”

To mourn would be to resist the pleasure derived from the spectacle of black bodies suffering—even to acknowledge this pleasure. Christina’s work reminds us that black bodies, whether suffering or at play, are the doorways to pleasure: the pleasure of spectacle, the pleasure of identification, the pleasure of disidentification, the pleasure of being on the right side (which is any side). If it seems obscene to suggest that #TrayvonMartin has become a source of pleasure, I hope the obscenity can accomplish some work, create some space for reflection, and, I hope, for the inarticulate.

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I do not yet know how to mourn Trayvon Martin. I do not yet know how to write about Trayvon Martin. I join those whose grief calls out, incessantly.

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