While I have read and learned about the systematic and cyclical oppression of black people in the United States over the past few weeks, both Christina Sharpe’s piece The Wake and Saidiya Hartman’s appearance in The Brick podcast provided a more in depth illustration of black life and the black response to their situations as a discriminated group. In both the podcast and the reading, what struck me was the fact that they both had ideas about how the marginalization of black people from society and the “wake” of slavery has caused the creation of a new sort of black life. In the podcast, Saidiya Hartman uses a hallway to describe the facets of black life. Despite describing the hallway as a place of oppression, she also describes it as a place of life, and a place where one experiences their life. Saidiya later states, “even in the worst places, one finds beauty.” In the Sharpe piece, Sharpe states that the continued devaluation of black life stems from the institution of slavery many years ago. The constant marginalization and lack of access to resources stems from this root cause of slavery. However, Sharpe describes her mother as full of joy and making every moment livable, despite the huge amount of pressures working against her. Sharpe states that “even as we experienced, recognized, and lived in subjection, we did not simply or only live in subjection and as the subjected.”
Sharpe later expands upon black life and its role as an outsider to society. Her belief that black death is necessary to the upholding of American democracy was particularly shocking. Although previously, we have read about the systematic oppression of black people throughout American history, the idea that part of the foundation of American democracy relies on the death of black people was not something I had heard. Sharpe also explains how black children inherit a “non” status from their parents, therefore marking them for criminalization. Sharpe’s idea that the position of being an outsider will allow for the “re/seeing” and “re/imagining” of the world was particularly interesting as well. It also raises questions about what type of action she believes can stem from black people accepting this role of a non citizen and what type of changes she expects to see. While I am not completely sure what the acceptance of being a non citizen will entail for the future, it is interesting to note that Sharpe believes that the unique role black people have in society can cause change and progress in the future. This contrasts the idea of somebody like Du Bois, who believes that black people’s dual identities make progress more difficult.