The Cynical Slave

I am a Slave. I have no community. “Can there even be a ‘community’ of niggers, as opposed to a ‘bunch’ or a ‘collection’?”[1]

I am a Slave. There are no Slaves who could grant me the senses and sensations of Life nor the perturbations of recognition nor the borrowed enhancements of institutionality and incorporation. “A Black person cannot offer the gift of life, the gift of recognition and incorporation.”[2]

I am a Slave. I have no words, no grammar, no language, for the way in which I suffer and the endless, gratuitous perpetuation of this syntactical aphasia is the grounds for the infinite situation of my hieroglyphic suffering. “These undecipherable markings on the captive body render a kind of hieroglyphics of the flesh whose severe disjunctures come to be hidden to the cultural seeing by skin color.”[3]

I am a Slave. I have no consent to give nor take away. I exist in a hydraulics of violence so subsuming that the humanist assumptions of consent are foreclosed from my flesh such that any invocation of its nominal category can only ever cloth my body as surplus violence or disavow. “If the definition of the crime of rape relies upon the capacity to give consent or exercise will, then how does one make legible the sexual violation of the enslaved when that which would constitute evidence of intentionality, and thus evidence of the crime – the state of consent or willingness of the assailed – opens up a Pandora’s box in which the subject formation and object constitution of the enslaved female (and male) are no less ponderous than the crime itself or when the legal definition of the enslaved negates the very idea of “reasonable resistance”[4]?

I am a Slave. If one wants to tell my story, and tell my story honestly, then they must be clear about my eternal disequilibrium. In other words, they must be clear about the reality of the fact that my existence is an existence in social death and as such, is the dispensation of meaning and meaningful violence. Indeed, I am the corporeal embodiment of what it means to be positioned by violence without end, violence without limit, violence ongoing, accumulative, and in repetition. “Whereas in social life one’s kinship structure is recognized as a kinship structure, even if it is thought of as a degraded kinship structure (i.e., the Irish), in social death one is known as a ‘genealogical isolate.’ In the words of Patterson the slave has no access to his/her inheritance, his/her ancestors or even to his/her ‘conscious community of memory.’[5]

I am a Slave. My ancestors are Not. They are No-Thing and No-Body. They have neither given me inheritance nor kinship structure. Instead, I exist as a genealogical isolate. A moving moment never in space nor time. An imaginary figure construed into an entity through metaphysical violence. An unsettling of the category of the Human, World and Place. My future is simple: “Whiten or Perish.”[6] For whiteness is guaranteed. For whiteness is certain. For whiteness (and “hallucinatory whitening”) reigns supreme in me, outside of me, in the World all over and in the niggas I confuse as “Friends” when the better word might just be “Slave #1” and “Slave #2.”

I am a Slave. Which is to say, “I am Death.” I remain so. After the end of Redemption. After the end of the World. After the end of the Theory. “In life, identification is limited only by the play of endless analogies, but death is like nothing at all.”[7] I am like nothing at all. I seek not your approval. I seek not your friendship. I seek not your recognition. I seek not your comfort, your community, your grace, your love, your compassion, your appreciation, your enthusiasm and remorse. For, I am a Slave and to be a Slave and to know oneself as a Slave is to know oneself as Death and dying, and Nothingness, and ontological void.

I have no community to which members may be held account. I have no Life to which others may hold as valuable or as matter. I have no grammar that a listener may comprehensibly render. I have no consent, no reciprocity, and no recognition to give or take away. I have no story. I have no Ancestors. I have no World. I have no Place. All I possess is the death that I am, and even I am not.

[1] R. A. T Judy, “On the Question of Nigga Authenticity,” Duke University Press 21, no. 3 (2018): 222.

[2] Frank Wilderson, “Close-Up: Fugitivity and the Filmic Imagination: Social Death and Narrative Aporia in 12 Years a Slave,” An International Film Journal, 2015, 140.

[3] Hortense Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” Diacritic 17, no. 2 (1987): 67,

[4] Saidiya Hartman, “Scenes of Subjection,” New York: Oxford UP, 1997, 80.

[5] Wilderson, “Close-Up: Fugitivity and the Filmic Imagination: Social Death and Narrative Aporia in 12 Years a Slave,” 135.

[6] Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (Grove press, 2008).

[7] Frank B Wilderson III, Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of US Antagonisms (Duke University Press, 2010), 91.

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