|Tricia Rose speaks at the Missouri History Museum|
Wednesday evening, May 30, scholar Tricia Rose gave a talk at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis. Her presentation focused on some of the broader issues related to the Trayvon Martin case. In particular, she discussed the sometimes overlooked, or at least underestimated, significance issues related to policy, perceptions, and pleasure (that is, sites of enjoyment often associated with popular culture).
[Related: Guides to Consciousness: Tricia Rose & Alondra Nelson]
Rose insisted on the need to look beyond typical Trayvon Martin media reports, which tend to "mire" viewers in the details of the case without addressing the factors that contribute to criminalizing young black men in the first place. She explained how problematic legal developments and an expanded incarceration system in America over the last few decades coupled with pervasive perceptions and pop culture references of black men as trouble-makers shaped the conditions whereby an unarmed black boy like Martin would be easily viewed as a drug-user and criminal.
[Related: Tricia Rose and the Rise of Hip Hop Scholarship]
Throughout her presentation, Rose supported her positions by citing a range of studies that provided empirical evidence concerning racial biases in the justice system and the prevalence of false views of black men as suspects in the public imagination. The overall implications of the information that Rose provided were grim. Those of us who work with young black men and struggling communities should be especially concerned about the world we live--the policies and perceptions it maintains and generates.
Interestingly, despite the troubling facts she presented, Rose displayed multiple hopeful possibilities. For one, her ability to synthesize large and complex bodies of information in ways that were manageable and helpful for general audiences was suggestive concerning the power of education--Rose's and ours. Second, by presenting and exposing some of the under-discussed challenges, Rose helped empower citizens who might want, as she put it, to "stand our ground" against injustice.
Finally, Rose's gifts as a storyteller and scholar were on full display at the event, and even as she cited several studies about the problem of troubling narratives, her own alternative and counter narratives served as evidence that one hopeful possibility of confronting the challenges involves the processes of identifying problems, collecting relevant information, composing usable stories, and passing them on.
• Black Intellectual Histories