“The ontological essentialist view has often been characterised by a brute pan-Africanism. It has proved unable to specify precisely where the highly prized but doggedly evasive essence of black artistic and political sensibility is currently located, but that is no obstacle to its popular circulation. This perspective sees the black intellectual and artist as a leader.
Where it pronounces on cultural matters, it is often allied to a realist approach to aesthetic value that minimises the substantive political and philosophical issues involved in the processes of artistic representation. Its absolutist conception of ethnic cultures can be identified by the way in which it registers incomprehending disappointment with the actual cultural choices and patterns of the mass of black people. It has little to say about the profane, contaminated world of black popular culture and looks instead for an artistic practice that can disabuse the mass of black people of the illusions into which they have been seduced by their condition of exile and unthinking consumption of inappropriate cultural objects like the wrong hair care products, pop music, and western clothing.
The community is felt to be on the wrong road, and it is the intellectual's job to give them a new direction, firstly by recovering and then by donating the racial awareness that the masses seem to lack.”
— Paul Gilroy
“In terms of its construction in the US, racialized blackness is meant to function as a reduction, a simplification, that is more about an ideological idea of black people as ‘social symbolism’ (something to revile, pity, fetishize, or project sentiment onto), rather than as a reflection of the complexity of our humanity.
In the US there is no neutral ground on which to stand when it comes to identity. And everyone is thinking about it, whether they’re making abstract paintings, or staging political interventions in art spaces, or making Hollywood films. The challenge is to envision the world as we experience it, and resist the urge to always create fantasies of racial homogeneity, as delightful as they may seem.”
— Derek Conrad Murray
“The cultural and political discourse on black pathology has been so pervasive that it could be said to constitute the background against which all representations of blacks, blackness, or (the color) black take place. Its manifestations have changed over the years, though it has always been poised between the realms of the pseudo-social scientific, the birth of new sciences, and the normative impulse that is at the heart of—but that strains against—the black radicalism that strains against it.
From the origins of the critical philosophy in the assertion of its extra-rational foundations in teleological principle; to the advent and solidification of empiricist human biology that moves out of the convergence of phrenology, criminology, and eugenics; to the maturation of (American) sociology in the oscillation between good- and bad-faith attendance to 'the negro problem'; to the analysis of and dis-course on psychopathology and the deployment of these in both colonial oppression and anticolonial resistance; to the regulatory metaphysics that undergirds interlocking notions of sound and color in aesthetic theory: blackness has been associated with a certain sense of decay, even when that decay is invoked in the name of a certain (fetishization of) vitality.”
— Fred Moten
“Over the years, Americans of African descent have had numerous ways of referring to themselves as a people, because they have been a people and have been made a people through the conditions they were faced. Whether those conditions were slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, disenfranchisement, job discrimination, or whatever it was, they faced common circumstances that made them recognize themselves as a people.
Every time they designated themselves as a people, that became a racial designation. When colored as a term was replaced by Negro and Negro was replaced by Black, every one of those was a way of defining a people. When it gets into the general vocabulary, it became a racial designation. When Black Lives Matter activists say black lives matter, they are not making a racial statement.
Do Americans have to say that other Americans, and for that matter, other human beings’ lives matter? To have to say, 'black lives matter,' and open yourself up to an enemy who tries to trump that with 'all lives matter,' when in fact the slogan BLM always meant all lives matter. It was a way of saying, 'yes, ours too.' I don’t like the way they had to say ours too as though there could be a question about whether ours matter, because everybody’s matters.”
— Barabara J Fields