I live in a beautiful, vibrant neighborhood in South Minneapolis fueled by long-standing residents of diverse origins including but not limited to Indigenous American, Scandinavian, Black, Somali, Southside Chicagoan, Mexican, and Hmong. In the late 80s and early 90s, some of these residents witnessed and experienced the depths of our neighborhood’s problems, ills caused by white supremacy, institutional racism, immigration, poverty, malicious interstate planning, unequal educational opportunities, and, of course, as is the case in many urban areas, crime and drugs. It has been over twenty-five years since I moved here, and my neighborhood has changed, improved, and grown, become a spot of development in the Twin Cities. My street has become so busy that there is even talk of eliminating auto traffic on the street altogether. However, recently, there has been an increase in crime in my neighborhood and Minneapolis in general, including more car-jackings, armed robberies, and break-ins. Some of my neighbors are scared, soliciting advice from our neighborhood block clubs, the City Council, and the police. When Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on May 25, 2020, protests began in Minneapolis and eventually across the world in solidarity with George, Brianna Taylor, BLM, and the many other victims of white supremacy and policing. The peaceful protests were marred with destruction possibly instigated by interlopers, and Minneapolis is attempting to recover from this damage on multiple fronts, the difficulty being magnified by a poorly-mismanaged, global pandemic. There are a million stories in the lives, places, and institutions of which I just wrote.
Upon writing this, remnants of my anxiety during the protests are coming forth, the anxiety of being embodied as male and Black, recognizing that there is no place to run and hide from the constant signifying (more on this in the near future). I remember the contempt I felt seeing camouflaged vehicles and authorized children with guns patrolling my neighborhood. I recall how disgusted I was, and am, by the politics fueled by white supremacy and genital supremacy continually destroying our lives, and to a further extent, destroying our planet.
Philando Castile was murdered in front of his partner and four year-old daughter by police in nearby Falcon Heights on July 16, 2016. My anxiety was on the rise then, too. I had been asked to write a short story for a special issue of a journal and decided to incorporate Philando’s murder, the subsequent protests—meaning reality—as the setting to explore the embedded and suppressed narratives related to white supremacy, police, Blackness, race, maleness, and capital. The editors of the journal pulled the special issue and my story remains unpublished, but be on the lookout for the story somewhere soon.
All of this is to say that I’m going to be writing about Derek Chauvin’s trial for murdering George Floyd. The trial begins Monday, March 8, 2021. More specifically, I’m going to attempt to place the trial in context of my research, life, and work which, of course, involves the influences, intersections, and tangents of others’ work and experiences. Clear terms and definitions are important to communicate most effectively, so, I’m providing definitions to key terms, how I attempt to employ them. This process is in good faith, but is not perfect as it concerns words and therefore imperfection. One could simply look up a word in a dictionary and stop there; however, since I work interdisciplinarily, I try to approach words in the same manner in an attempt to encounter as much of their texture as possible. In this case, the word is ‘male’.
Male – The term ‘male’ refers to the biological maleness that phenotypically presents as the presence of male reproductive organs and, perhaps more important, the perceived absence of ‘female’ reproductive organs and phenotypical qualities. This definition notes the chromosome pairs at the basis of notions of ‘female’ (XX) and ‘male’ (XY) recognizing that these are not the only pairs. This definition also includes the relationships of power at play to obscure and reveal the male body’s vulnerability. Further, the “blackness” added to male bodies in the construction of ‘The Black Male’ illustrates that, in the racialization (meaning deployment of racially sexualized technologies), ‘male’ is prior to ‘black’ (or, at the very least, co-emergent and concomitant) which accords with notions of ‘race’ as a social, linguistic construction. The construction in language and the rules of grammar further support my change in adjective order from ‘Black male’ to ‘male Black’ because both of these terms obscure the ‘person’ in the elision of ‘male Black person’. This is an evolving definition.
Notions of ‘male’ and ‘man’ will become even more relevant when I turn the discourse of the power relations involved in Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd towards the homosocial and the requisite homosexuality and homophobia on display. ‘Male’ and ‘man’ are not synonymous and, accordingly, neither are ‘female’ and ‘woman’. These words are all textured, loaded with context, meaning relations of power that brought them forward and, perhaps more importantly, continue to vehemently and violently preserve them. S|F Blog
*Featured Image: 6 Common Karyotype Pairings, Source: Dr. Shay-Akil McLean. Art: Cami Zea.