"You're Still a Nigger!" | Cardboard, Photographs, Collected Items | 2017
All my life I've been told to watch my back. No matter how much I accomplish, no matter how hard I work or what role I take in society; even if I were to become the president of The United States, in the eyes of white supremacy my life was always as that of a "black person" - and that meant something. I was predestined and statistically predetermined.
All my life I've fought against this idea. I would aim to get the best grades in my classes where the majority of the other students were white, I played soccer, and took on hobbies that were my own, but still - no matter where I went - this idea seemed to persist as an unspoken expectation.
After the election of President Donald J. Trump, and the new wave resurgence of acceptable white supremacy, I felt compelled to start conversations about this elephant in the room. I took all of my childhood collections - trophies, rocks, manga, video games, Pokémon cards, yearbooks, keepsakes - class elections speeches, embarrassing emails, my accomplishments, my family histories, my report cards; put them in a pile-like display of packing boxes and titled the piece, "You're Still a Nigger!"
During a critique of this piece I was asked, "Why should the viewers believe that these are all of your things? Where are the failures? Why didn't you include things that we would more obviously recognize as that of a black youth?"
I think these are the questions I was hoping people might ask. The idea of a "black youth" is an abstract misnomer that holds no authority in reality. I am unique and average just like everyone else. I have skin, and a history that has influenced the person that I am today, but they are only influences. One of my classmates remarked, "What struck me as a real moment of empathy was that I have sixty percent of these same things at home." We were both kids.