Friday, November 28, 2014

Similes and metaphors in the Darren Wilson testimony

A while back, I utilized text mining software to figure out some of the most recurring words in poems by African American poets. The word "like" was fairly popular. Poets, of all kinds, traffic in similes and metaphors. Apparently, so do others.   

I couldn't help but notice and cringe at the similes and metaphors that appeared in officer Darren Wilson's testimony concerning Michael Brown. At one point, Wilson noted that "when I grabbed [Brown], the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan."

When the prosecutor responded "Holding onto a what?," Wilson explained "Hulk Hogan, that’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm."

Later, Wilson explained more about the confrontation with Brown, noting that "the only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked." The "it" and "demon" delve into an extensive tradition of representations that present black men as non-human.

Wilson characterizes Brown's charge at him as animal-like. 
 He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me. His first step is coming towards me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running. When he does that, his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me.
 So often, in the contexts of American and African American literary studies, scholars spend considerable amounts of time discussing the beauty of language. But perhaps, we need to expand our lenses, and concentrate on other examples of how language is used in relation to black people. In this case, Wilson's similes and metaphors were vital to his justification for shooting an unarmed person.

A notebook on Mike Brown and Ferguson

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