Renée Stout Can't Breathe

I can’t breathe because I was born in a Godless country. How else could my slave ancestor’s bodies, minds and spirits have been used to forge a nation that will never honor what they were forced to sacrifice? We’ve fought wars against enemies who are not our own, for a “freedom” that wasn’t meant for us. No apology forthcoming and no remedy for the post-traumatic stress disorder that continues to reverberate through each new generation of those first African Americans’ descendants. We were never supposed to thrive here. Rosewood and Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street” taught us that.

Damned if we do and damned if we don’t: poor = lazy, successful = uppity. As a young woman, my father told me that no matter what I chose to do in life, I’d have to be twice as good. I needed no further explanation. I’ve been working twice as hard ever since and now I’m getting tired. I’m tired for all of us who’ve come to the realization that you can work ten times as hard, become the president, and when it’s all said and done, you’ll still be treated as a foreigner on land you were born or something less than human.

Zsa Zsa Gabor slapping a cop was humorous fodder for the Tonight Show. Reese Witherspoon, basically resisted arrest and James Eagan Holmes commits a movie theater massacre. All lived to tell their side, while the lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice didn’t matter. I’m tired for all of us who find ourselves explaining to white people, how blinding rage could make someone burn a building. “I channel my frustration into my work”, is what I say. I stop short of telling them I may burn something myself if this madness doesn’t stop…this feeling is just that suffocating.

Renée Stout is a visual artist inspired by the African Diaspora, historical and current world events, as well as everyday life in her DC neighborhood. She creates works that encourage viewers to reflect on and, in some cases, to laugh at human behavior and the absurdities of life.

The Verdict (The Writing's On the Wall), 2014
Spray Paint, acrylic Paint, colored pencil, shellac and collage on paper.
25 x 35 inches

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