Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.
The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.
TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.
Today on TBE 2.0, author Celeste Harte (she/her) and booktuber Ashley (she/her) talk about Black joy, the need for more stories about Black joy and how being Black is more than just pain and trauma even if it’s what the media is more interested in. And in a small Instagram picture addition, Sumayo (she/her) talks about how Black joy and love is an act of resistance.
(This post is divided mainly into two parts; an article and a linked YouTube video with the addition of an Instagram post)
Celeste Harte: The Need for Black Joy
Black entertainment has always been a two edged sword, in my opinion. Black people have been able to sing, dance, and perform for people for a long time. And obviously make money from it. But whenever you see those old videos, when the camera panned out on those black and white screens, you saw a lot of white faces. Not Black ones.
But this was the Jim Crow era! Why would white people want to watch Black people sing and dance knowing they would benefit from it, one might ask.
That’s because white people actually do enjoy Black entertainment. To some degree, I believe they expect it. We’ve always been marveled at. But there’s a difference between being enjoyed and being respected. Those performers still had to leave out the back, and go through the “for colored people” exits, and go back to their “for colored people” lives. Because those white people *only* saw those Black people as entertainment. Yes, Black people enjoyed Black music and performances, but they couldn’t afford to see them live. So the entertainment was made by Black people, for white people, even though Black people happened to enjoy it.
The same goes for entertainment today. I get a bad taste in my mouth when I see slave movies come out and white viewers are the main ones that enjoy it. Or when Black books highlighting our pain are more popular than books highlighting our victories.
I feel like we’re still only providing entertainment that white people enjoy. It technically puts money in our pocket, but by the time we go home, nothing has changed. Because we’re still not respected. We’re just entertaining.
Books featuring Black Joy are important because they have nothing to do with the white audience. It’s not about educating white people on how not to be racist, it’s not about making them aware to how different our situation is from theirs. Because at the end of the day, those stories don’t benefit Black readers at all. They already know what their lives are like. What does an educational book do for them? It may be cathartic to some degree, yes, but sometimes we just want to escape to some fantasy land where there are other problems than skin color and oppression. We want to see ourselves falling in love and having a happily ever after. To some degree, racism may always be part of it, because that’s the reality of our lives, but the story doesn’t have to always center it to be accurate.
So therefore, these stories highlighting Black pain simply become another form of entertainment, by Black people, for white people. White people enjoy being the center of attention, whether it’s negatively or positively, apparently. And stories that don’t center them simply don’t get attention because they don’t care to read or support them.
Black Joy reads are important for non-Black readers to stop having to be taught about our experience and just read these books because they’ve been missing. Read them because they’re needed. Because there’s more to us than just our oppression and being entertaining. These books should be read so that readers can stop getting the idea that Black people have a duty to educate the world on our oppression and start simply supporting us because it’s what we’re due.
We’re due the experience of not having to be entertaining for other people. We’re due being able to write stories about us simply being.
So don’t read a book just so you can feel sorry for us. Read a book that simply cheers us on. Because that’s what we deserve.
Ashley: Where’s The Joy? | Black Joy Books You Should Read
Sumayo: Black Joy Is An Act of Resistance (Instagram post)
About Celeste Harte
Celeste Harte is an African-American writer living in Spain. She loves reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy, and is obsessed with all
things mermaids and dragons.
You can find Celeste on Twitter and Instagram @celesteharte and @celeste_harte respectively.
Ashley is a booktuber, bookstagrammer and a huge Stars Wars fan.
You can find her on Twitter @TheJediAshCash, on Instagram @pagesinthestars and on her YouTube channel Pages In The Stars