Reflections on Re-Creating Biological Race and the Entrapment of Black People

Roberts, Dorothy

"I want to start this talk by reflecting on conversations I had with my editor about the title of my book, Killing the Black Body, because, I admit, I was concerned that “killing” might be too extreme a word to use. 1 I wanted to emphasize the racist and sexist ideologies that devalue Black women’s bodies, and that are a way of propping up an entire racist regime in the United States and around the world.That’s the function that I wanted to emphasize, but I was a little le bit reluctant about whether it was a good idea to call it Killing the Black Body. In the end I stuck with “killing” as a kind of metaphor to describe the disrespect that this nation has had for Black women’s bodies and the way it has treated Black people as less than human. That’s what I meant by killing, but I have to say today, I no longer have any qualms about using “killing” as a literal meaning of what we need to address. One thing that I’ve been told I have a talent for is connecting all the dots and helping to predict the path we have ahead of us—ringing the alarm! Helping to envision what would be another way of thinking about this world we live in, one that is not a death machine, that is not dehumanizing, that is not killing Black people’s bodies. So yes, yes, 20 years later I can say that Killing the Black Body describes precisely, precisely the aim of these US government policies and practices."