Hypervisibility and Anti-Blackness

By Shanice Brim

One of the major stumbling blocks in PoC solidarity has got to be the ways in which non-Black people of color react to Black hyper-visibility. A lot of non-Black people feel that Black issues take up too much space in the racism discussion. I’m sure you’ve experienced it: You’re having a conversation about anti-Blackness and a non-Black person pipes in, “I’m tired of Black people and White people acting like they’re the only two races.” or “If this situation had happened to a non-Black PoC nothing would’ve been done about it.” A recent example is this exchange from Aziz Ansari’s new series Master of None:

Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Aziz Ansari, Master of None

I’m here to explain why that’s anti-Black.

  1. It ignores the agency of Black people.
In order to wash our hands of the atrocities Black people have faced in this country, America likes to pretend that Black people overcame by the grace of the changed hearts of White Americans. That progress is something has been handed over to us. This, however, is not true. Every right Black people have earned, we’ve had to take for ourselves. Black people were major players in the Civil War. Many Black people fled plantations and journeyed up North to fight with the Union army. Harriet Tubman became the first American woman to lead a troop in battle in what would become one of the largest successful military strategies in American history during the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War, freed Black people had been fighting for the abolition of slavery and recruiting white allies. Years later, during the Civil Rights Movement, it was Black people who organized themselves. We organized those protests and boycotts that America is so proud to display the images of every Black History Month. We refused to give up our seats or withhold our money from discriminatory businesses. And today, we are the ones tweeting at, calling, and standing in front of major news networks with picket signs to have stories picked up. We are the ones going out into the streets, shutting down highways, getting arrested, and tear gassed in the face in the name of freedom. There’s no mystical group of people coming out in droves to decry American anti-Blackness. It’s us. And nothing is stopping non-Black people from organizing themselves and taking up their causes en masse let alone Black people.
  1. It places the responsibility of white supremacy at the feet of Black people.
When you buy into the idea that you can not be free because Black people are receiving “special treatment.” Not only are you sorely mistaken, but you’re not looking at the bigger picture. Black people do not run most major corporations, we do not even have proper representation within most governments, in short we aren’t the ones running the world. Black people aren’t responsible for colonization. The same boot that’s on your neck is on ours too and blaming Black people for working hard to remove that boot is intellectually/historically dishonest and doing a disservice to everyone.
  1. It ignores the fact that anti-Blackness is global and that non-Black PoC perpetuate and benefit from it.
When you perceive the successes of Black people as some sort of slight to your people you’re perpetuating NBPOC anti-Blackness. You’re essentially saying, “Black people succeeding is holding us back.” And you’re standing on the side of history that has through Anti-Black legislation and outright terrorism sought to quell the progress of Black people worldwide. You’re also ignoring the role non-Black PoC have played and continue to play in this history. From donning Blackface, to “socially cleansing” us from your countries, to allowing yourselves and others to uphold the model minority myth.
  1. You’re ignoring the difference between visibility and hyper-visibility.
Yes, Black people have fought very hard to get to where we are today. The success of Black shows like Empire and Black-ish are great. There’s starting to be more diversity on screen today than there has been in years. However, hyper-visibility is not that. The United States has always had a vested interest in keeping Black people from the mountaintop. From the use of our bodies as free labor, to keeping us out of the same job pool and relegating the worst jobs to us, to locking us out of their neighborhoods and resources, to trafficking in harmful stereotypes about Black people for big bucks. American corporations make a lot of money perpetuating Black stereotypes and those stereotypes are killing us. Myths about “super predators”,  “the slapping game”, and angry Black women are literally getting us killed. People are raking in the ratings and blog hits (and the cash) from sharing videos of us getting murdered (Eric Garner and so many others) and assaulted by police (Spring Valley, McKinney and so many others). Then their raking in ratings, blog hits, and cash by blaming us for our assaults and deaths. Trust me. You’re not missing out on anything.
  1. You’re ignoring the fact, historically speaking, when Black people progress. . .  so do other people of color.
a. The Civil Rights Movement that Black people fought so hard for has helped countless immigrants of color.
b. Because of Brown v. Board of Education non-Black PoC can attend desegregated schools.
c. Because of Loving v. Virginia ALL PoC can marry interracially.
d. Because of the Voting Rights Act it is illegal to discriminate against voters of color. (Though Republicans are working double to gut/undermine this act.)


Black America is under a lot of stress. All over the globe we are battling anti-Blackness and fighting for our right to live. Do not put it on us to ignite and run your movements for you. Trying to draw attention to your issues is one thing but using Blackness as a litmus test for your suffering is an entirely different beast. We can not truly have solidarity until communities of non-Black PoC address this and other forms of anti-Blackness in their communities. And in a time like this, getting real about anti-Blackness and the resentment non-Black PoC feel about Black progress is crucial.

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