Blows to the head, with baton on body, kicks on neck. In this scene I see Basquiat’s art, and in particular a painting entitled ‘Back of The Neck’, 1983, so I wince with a grotesque voyeurism of a fellow Black painter.
I am looking behind a veil, of course, I admit comfortably sat on a sofa in London years later. What I’m doing is watching playback of Rodney King being beaten down in Los Angeles, March 3rd, 1991. An array of pronouncements move me as I watch, and conclude with the warring announcement of Black Anger. Vitriol.
The night passes after a few conversations about things remaining the same, and I go to visit a friend that I mentor. Tyron lives on an estate as I did for a few years after my father decided to sell our Hackney house, and downgrade to a Pembury council flat with a strange step-mom in tow. The dysfunction of black lives really does matter in the scheme of understanding blackness, I thought as I took the elevator up to the seventh floor whilst taking a sip of my ginger beer, though on the third floor a woman enters and mentions needing to go up to see a friend. Within her sentences she uses the phrase, your lot. I saw red. But not long enough to continue this ordeal of small talk then and there, but long enough to discount those minutes that seem too long, too languid —Anger.
I exit and finally meet Tyron. Tyron is only fifteen but has plans, mostly concerning music. Grime is his thing. He starts talking about the Grime world and mentions an artist called Aitch, a young caucasian artist from Manchester. Though he’s excited to share his own advances, some beats, a few rhymes from friends, he’s upset at the possibility that Aitch could have reached such popularity by way of racism. The big R. A black culture only becoming popular by way of a safe white face. The skin around his eyes narrows and cloisters when he speaks this. He’s Angry.
I decide to take an optimistic stance as someone he looks up to and mention overcoming obstacles with talent. Tyron goes silent only momentarily before dropping an insight, a gem. ‘Even I did get signed it’d be tokenism anyway, it’s all so systematic.’ In a way I couldn’t have put it better myself and go into my mind to think about affirmative action, pity. More Anger.
On my way down I hope I don’t get confronted with more damning evidence of the big R, and luckily I make it to a cafe on Mare Street with mindset intact. I order a Full English and start to think that Tyron is a poet, though poets die, or worse are stoned, beheaded, condemned to death like Socrates. We hold our violences tight, though our short term memory relinquishes its reigns and we forget, but like a phantom limb we remember to live out the violences, still. Forms of oppression are disbanded and simply re -emergent. The Anger is a mask without a face. A drip or more of Anger.
Though the Full English is perfect, albeit for the well cooked eggs. So I mention this when I go to the counter to pay.
‘The eggs were a bit overcooked, no?’ I said.
‘You people don’t like the runny eggs’, replied the man behind the counter, and for the first time of the day, I laugh and appreciate the subtle aspects of what draws us to one another in the first place on many occasions: our differences.
Though I have to be honest and admit that I’m still a little angry.
Cover image courtesy of Young Sok Yun via Flickr