“Look at my life/And tell me I fight.”
–Kendrick Lamar, “Never Catch Me”
I have been thinking about how, just like “Until the Quiet Comes,” Flying Lotus’ “Never Catch Me,” places a visual hope front and center of the simplest kind of imagined Black American life—that is, a Black American child’s life properly placed, in its proper context. A Black boy and Black girl cascade out of their coffins, spiral onto asphalt–hands legs akimbo–, and dance through a group of double dutchers. Here, there is normative joy, a site where Black childhood is not an American oxymoron. “This may be the new battle rap standard!” I will say later, excitedly, in front of my children.
“Battle?” they ask. “You mean, fight?”
“You know, with words, to try and show someone you are better by your words.” I start to explain LL Cool J, but that does not quite cut it. So, I lean in with the most honest answer I know: “Well, really, to try and make yourself exist, when the rest of the world does not see you.”
“Oh, like when Harry Potter uses his cape?” they ask.
“No, not like that, baby,” I say. “Because the rest of the world does not believe you matter deeply.” I stop. I can’t go on really, because the next “whys” will be met with something about Black skin and hatred that will produce a horror I am neither ready to induce nor face, if I am honest. My oldest child is nearly 9, and he can wait a bit longer.