The defining image of 2020, ‘justifiably’ hailed as the image of humanity which breaks through racial divides to capture the genuine tenderness and care of Patrick Hutchinson. One thing that struck me about why the photo editors of the mainstream media chose to run with this image is this:
Yes, it absolutely portrays genuine heroism, empathy, and the care of one human being for another; which is why it struck such a deep chord. But what is implicit in this photo is the idea of ‘to do’ rather than ‘to be’, that a BLM protestor had to demonstrate goodness to reach the front pages, it is not enough for him (or her) just to be who he is.
Being who you are, without the need to justify yourself, is enough. It is sovereignty. BUT sovereignty doesn’t sell newspapers or garner clicks (revenue).
The British public celebrates the image but what is not seen consciously and is implicit in the unconscious mind is this notion of justification.
It is not enough to just ‘be’ black, the colour of one’s skin needs no justification just like the colour of one’s eyes. Moreover, to reach the front pages one has to be a hero, one has to do something noble, one has to demonstrate that they too are ‘good’ and that this goodness is equal in everyone. Most know that goodness is the essential core element of what it means to be human. But what this image portrays is the notion that goodness is a learned behaviour, that it is taught, and that ‘black protestors can also be good despite the disadvantages in socio-economic indexes many black people face’. I find that ‘notion’ deeply repugnant.
This is itself a form of racism. It is very subtle but very real.
It stems from religious roots to become what is ubiquitously systemic. We are so used to it we just accept it.
I have seen it in other pictures of black lives matter protestors protecting a police officer who got separated from his unit. The very fact that we feel the need to share these images or that we celebrate them as ‘togetherness’, that we feel the need to justify goodness, indicates that a hierarchical conflict remains within us. We justify it, but the justification does not change it. Indeed, the justification indicates its presence