May 9, 2020May 9, 2020 The Life Ordinary: There actually is. But then the killing of unarmed black men continues without cease in the United States Woke, wood, acrylic. Charles Hall, born 1963, American. In the artist’s collection loaned to Woodmere Museum of Art Philadelphia in 2016. Share this:TwitterFacebookMoreEmailLike this:Like Loading... Related
9 thoughts on “The Life Ordinary: There actually is. But then the killing of unarmed black men continues without cease in the United States”
I’m sorry about this situation, Sarah.
So am I! My oldest friends here raised and adopted a boy, born in San Antonio Texas almost 25 years ago. He was white (swarthy) when born with silken black hair. By the time he was two, he was as black as I am and with hair as matted as mine. The anxiety about his treatment outside their house or that of their family and friends never leaves them and has grown as he has become an adult.
All this came as a revelation to them because they are white. They knew but they did not know all this awful stuff with their hearts until they began to witness the behaviour of others to this boy. Sarah
How do you interpret this artwork, Sarah?
I take it that the artist is saying that there is no such thing as an African American male who does not know, every time he goes out, that he may be injured or die for specious reasons.
And that everyone should know that an entire group of citizens lives and moves in this kind of extreme alert.
Thank you! I came up with two different interpretations, both of which are different from yours. The first was from the perspective of the fearful, i.e., that African American men are inherently dangerous, even if they aren’t carrying a weapon. But then I thought, maybe “armed” could imply agency and strength in a positive way, rather than a negative one. Tellingly, both those interpretations involve other people projecting their idea of black men onto them, whereas your interpretation is from the perspective of the black man himself. Brad
Thanks for thinking this through.
What this phrase may mean is complicated because it has to do with American racial relations.
The phrase ‘unarmed black man’ is used by parts of the media to denote that the man injured or killed was not in a hostile pose when he was injured or killed. It isn’t a phrase used for men of other races who are injured or killed by the police.
The phrase does, as you suggest, denote the fear of African American men who, whenever they go out, are presumed to be armed and are killed because of the presumption.
As you say, the phrase could imply agency on the part of African American men. And, in a certain sense – the sense of the law protecting us all – it does. But it is clear that the law itself operates differently by colour.
This entry was in a juried show in Philadelphia. I had no doubt that the artist is an African American. I may be mistaken. I took it to mean, as I have said, that everyone needs to understand the implications of the phrase: in both the real and the symbolic world: nobody should expect for the killing of African American men can go on and on without negative consequences to the community(ies) in question and to the polity as a whole.
Thanks for your interest, Brad! Sarah
It’s a really effective installation because it employs a simple statement with so many complex implications for our society. I looked up Charles Hall, and it turns out he has a background in writing for advertising: http://www.charleshallstudio.com/statement
Thanks for sending Charles Hall’s website. I could not find it myself. I agree that the art is effective and that because, as a factual statement, it is not true. Which leads to questions about why anyone would make the statement. Thanks for the discussion. Sarah
Thank you for this stimulating post!
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