Okay now, take a few deep breaths before you go off.  

Take a few more breaths and really look at this picture.

A bit of context.  I do not know these people.  This picture was posted on Facebook and people were asked to "like" the picture if they could tell what was wrong with it.  Since I am so deep and complex (ha!), I see a lot of things when I look at this picture.  For starters, the woman falling out of her dress and the half dressed young man kneeling on the floor - I mean, aren't they cold?

Alright.  Let's talk about it.  What in the world were they thinking?  All of them.  Is it possible that they put this picture out there to make us all think about how our society perpetuates negative and tense relationships between blacks and whites? 

Your own truth first.  Do you believe that the black man is being victimized or do you feel that they are good friends and were just having a good time?  He has black spots painted on his chest and a dog collar around his neck.  They are all smiling and he is...what is he doing, pouting? posing? 

Based upon their outfits, it is clear that this was planned.  People went to the store or into their closets/homes to pull this photo opp together and make it happen.  Then, they got together at a social setting of some sort and then had someone take the picture and then, (surprise!) it showed up on Facebook for people to weigh in on.  They went to completion. I did not bother to read the comments, there were a lot of them.  I mean a lot of them.

Here's what I think.

They are probably friends.  The black man is likely posing for this picture and participating in the ruse because it is only one outward showing of the daily life he lives.  He may be really impressionable still, considering it easier to pose for the picture than to speak up against the many layers that are happening here.  Maybe on some level he considered that being on his knees with a collar around his neck may have made him look like a slave, being owned by his masters.  Perhaps he considered the sell out that he might seem to others who know nothing of his situation or relationships when he let the white people outnumber him; them smiling and he looking somewhat confused or distressed.  Though not clear by the picture, he could be the ring leader and have some sort of black power over them (through drugs, money or pimpin') that some might imply to excuse the poor decision making on all their parts - while continuing to develop the stereotypes we can have perpetuate about black men or blacks in general.

While I've never posed for this kind of picture with my friends, I must admit that looking at it exposed some insecurities from my past.  I was one of the few black students in my high school back in 1987-1990.  We did not hang out, we were not friends.  I regret that.  I was so protective of the 'work' I had done to assimilate into the majority of white students that I stayed with what I'd worked so hard to fit into.  I explicitly remember a comment that was made about how accepted I was ("we don't think of you as black").  

I look at this photo and this is my connection.  Hundreds of people will post on Facebook their outrage about this photo and us not talking to all of the people in the picture only gives us a fragmented picture about the real dynamic between them.  Who knows really and even more importantly, it's really not enough to get up in arms about and get angry.  I can't be outraged anymore because the photo symbolizes my own experiences of hiding out and fitting in.  

I don't know about you, but this is the very thing that fed into some of me feeling ashamed of being black.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  It just seemed to be less work to change parts of myself when with certain people, than to be all of my best self and share who I am with the majority.  Not really fair though because I don't think I really ever did too much to share with them.  I settled at keeping the culture that we had at home separate from my everything else. 

Probably just a picture of some kids trying to be original at a costume party, but to me, it is certainly worthy of deeper thought and consideration.  


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