Black Art Does Not Always Depict the Struggle 

Alfred Johnson | Staff Writer

When it comes to art, interpretations are limitless. From overall looks and aesthetics to the most intricate details, a story is presented and depicted an infinite number of times. 

As artists of color, what we make is by us, for us, and it’s our job to help inspire the future generations and let them know they can do whatever they put their minds toward.

The issue, however, comes in when Black art is consistently thought of as reflective of the “Black struggle.” This perception could get in the way of how the artist envisions their work.

Some feel that they need to express that struggle, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But just because this happens in one piece doesn’t mean that that is the aesthetic they are going for.

Crystal Baggett, a junior sequential arts major at Savannah College of Art and Design, says that a white classmate asked her if one of her pieces was about how white people oppress Black people’s culture. Although she thought the idea was funny, she told the student that that wasn’t the case.

This isn’t necessarily just white people. People of all races look at the work of Black creatives and assume that it reflects their struggle as a Black person. This isn’t always the case.

In the opening scene of the Netflix film Malcolm & Marie, Malcolm Elliot, a film director, talks about the reviews from the premiere they just attended. He rants about how a white reporter for the L.A. Times says she loved his film and compared him to famous Black filmmakers such as Spike Lee and Barry Jenkins. When he asked her about a white filmmaker, William Wyler, he notes that she became flushed, as if asking herself if Wyler was Black and realizing that he was not.

In the middle of his rant, he says he was going to the larger conversation about filmmaking without having someone tie it into a discussion about race because of the convenience.

“What was interesting, though, was that you could tell that just because I’m Black, as the director, and the woman is a Black lead, stars in the film, she’s already trying to frame through a political lense when in reality, it’s a film about a girl trying to get clean,” Malcolm Elliot says.  “Now are there certain obstacles because she’s a Black woman? I mean, hell yeah…That’s reality, too, but it’s not a film about race.”

If you watched Disney as a child, you know that everything is not what it seems. Art doesn’t just have to be suited to one central archetype.

Black people should not always have to be compared to the same stereotype every time.

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