Destination, Circulation, Where Are We Going?
It's June 2020 now, three months since the Covid-19 lockdown, which is slowly being lifted in the UK. As some people start looking forward to the summer break, getting ready for their holiday destinations.
We have come to understand ‘destination’ as a place where people can afford to retreat to, through the flight and hotel deals; as a geographical region explicitly positioned for touristic production and consumption.
‘Are you going somewhere this summer? What’s the plan?’
When India announced a lockdown on 24 March, overnight, tens of thousands of migrant workers have to walk back to their hometown. A destination to be reached. In China, migrant workers are the first to be called back to work on the production line. A destination determined by others. In London, an elderly Black man was carrying heavy shopping bags, walking in the street, and was stopped by police and asked, ‘Where are you going?’ ‘Home.’ A destination being questioned. In Greece, a coastguard opened fire on migrants who tried to escape via the Aegean Sea and the borderland between Turkey and Greece. A destination deployed with hyperbolic border violence.
On 25 May, George Floyd was kneeled on and killed by the 3+1 police officers in Minneapolis. At that moment, Floyd echoed Eric Garner’s cry of ‘I can’t breathe'. Floyd, like Garner, and many others before and after him, was killed for what Tony Medina has called ‘being black and breathing’. Over the past days, people are coming together to share breath and air, virtually or through the on the ground protests. As Frantz Fanon puts it, ‘When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe’.
The images and videos and new videos of Floyd being kneeled on by the police officers have been circulating throughout the news media and platforms. We have seen the circulation of images of Black suffering over and over. These images make violence real. But there has been a history of the recirculation of Black sufferings for white enjoyment and profit, from slave beatings to police brutality, from Emmet Till to Rodney King. Where do we stand in relation to this?
The presence of media sensationalism surrounds images of Black bodies in pain attests that in order to survive, Black people have to witness their own murder and defilement, alongside the given narrative of a violation. These events become a signal to Blacks, as they look for and listen to these signs to survive. The media and social platforms make it extremely easy now to turn these events into spectacles and increase the scale on which these warnings and signs to Black lives are conveyed. These images, videos, and media needed to be recorded in the memory of Black people as knowledge of lived realities and the non-Blacks as witnesses of the events. Together, we must be 'in the wake' as Christina Sharpe calls, that is 'to occupy and to be occupied by the continuous and changing present of slavery's as yet unresolved unfolding'. And to perform 'wake work', to labour within the spaces of paradoxes surrounding Black citizenship and civil rights.
The word ‘destination’ is derived from the Latin word ‘destinare’ (to make firm), that is de- (completely, formally), -stinare (to stand). To reclaim the term destination, we are standing firmly with the Black lives that are killed by the state-sanctioned violence, police brutality and systemic racism. Until the space that subordinates the Black lives is dissolved, we are going nowhere.