During a turbulent time, Jasmine Weber captures black vulnerability in a series of photographs, accompanied by a short essay discussing police brutality and racial trauma.
After experiencing tragedy, black people are not afforded the freedom to be vulnerable. Centuries upon centuries of discrimination and systemic racism have painted a picture of black Americans that is far from delicate. And now, we swallow this, we accept it as fact without ever acknowledging its toxicity aloud – we are unflinchingly ‘strong’. But I reject this. Vulnerable does not mean defenceless. It does not mean weak.
After the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, we were bombarded by the media with images of death and pain inflicted upon the black body. During the highly publicised live stream of Philando Castile’s murder, his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, is calm, respectful, and collected. Her reality as a black woman has likely taught her that if she were to truly feel the weight of her boyfriend’s murder in that moment—to cry out, to curse, to yell, to allow herself to cave in and process—she would be in danger. Witnessing how other black people in times of trauma have been treated by the police, and the world, has probably conditioned her to know how she will be perceived if she were to act vulnerable, emotional—or as the news would presumably call her, “hysterical,” “unstable.”
We do not get to be vulnerable. We do not get to be soft.
It is particularly heartbreaking when her four-year-old daughter calls to her, “It’s okay, mommy. It’s okay, I’m right here with you.” We should not have to learn to be so strong at such a young age. This child deserves more than to live in a world where senseless murder goes unpunished, where racial hatred fuels daily interaction. Every child deserves more than being forced to experience something so inhumane, to grow up in a world where this is their reality.
In the wake of high-profile instances of police brutality, global anti-blackness, and racial trauma, I wanted to show black people as I see them – soft, sensitive, ethereal, diverse, overflowing with emotions society tells them to repress, or has become convinced they do not possess. Navigating the world as a black person requires an immeasurable strength. We love, we hurt, we celebrate, and we grieve. Our lives matter. Our feelings matter. We birth our own secret, intrinsic power out of the world’s resentment of our existence—resiliency, community, culture.
Words & photographs by Jasmine Weber.