You hate me don’t you?
You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture
You’re fucking evil I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey
You vandalize my perception but can’t take style from me
-Kendrick Lamar, Blacker the Berry
“You chose a gorilla for your logo? Nigga, you crazy?”
In essence that phrase was what I saw in the eyes of a number of people when I showed them the logo. It was the same look that greeted me when people heard the name of the site. Often what followed the combined expression of horror and bewilderment was, “are you sure that’s what you want?” Now that was an interesting question. Of course it’s what I want, but obviously that’s not what was really being asked, so when I replied, it was usually something along the lines of, “I know about the underlying meaning in relation to people like me… It’s why I chose it.” Usually that would be enough to send them away, though I could see they still were not sure if I truly did understand. Because if I actually did know, what the hell was I thinking? But the assumption in itself was absurd. How could I not know? I’ve been a nigger all my life. Which is something I’ve often been tempted to say, but we don’t speak that word in polite company, no sir. Even more so, we don’t acknowledge that harsh reality in front of certain people, and definitely not in certain places.
FYI: this is not one of those places.
You could say I arrived at the decision for the logo honestly. The name of the site came first. After I had that I went on a hunt for ideas, themes, pictures, anything that might fit the tone. I didn’t know what I wanted but I knew (hoped actually) that I would know it when I saw it. Eventually I got the idea of using the image of an animal, and once I arrived there I didn’t need to waste any time deciding what animal it was going to be. I immediately knew.
Darwinian man though well-behaved,
at best is only a monkey shaved.
―W. S. Gilbert
Like many of the racial tropes directed toward Black people the image of the Black man as a gorilla/monkey/ape was one I was familiar with since a very young age. This fact combined with the (normal) childhood love/obsession with animals created a visceral reaction regarding primates. One that has stuck throughout my life. The image, idea of a Gorilla, monkey has repeatedly found its way into my writings.
I’m currently writing a novel about a Black man accused of the rape and murder of a White woman. I knew what the title would be before one word was written: “Gorilla.” In it, the Black man accused of the heinous crime is immediately assumed guilty (big surprise, right?). The media calls him an animal, a beast. Law enforcement creates a narrative essentially depicting him as King Kong and the dead woman the fair maiden. (You see where this is going…)
The very idea of a human being’s identity being reduced to nothing more than an animal, a savage, or (the more recent term being used to define young Black men) a thug, is one that will always fascinated me. I guess I’m drawn to taboo subjects, to the absurd. Racism as a philosophical ideology has always felt like a Kafka story. People seen (or worse) treated like animals. And then, having found the image I intended to use for my logo, how the hell could I pass it up?
Without being conscious of it (though it seems quite obvious now) this website and the novel is serving the same purpose, or at least attempts to make the same statement. Just as gay people took control of the derogatory word queer or Blacks with nigger (and yes, the word is nigger, not the intellectually dishonest phrase: “the N word”), I’m appropriating this label, this image. What once was used to define me, to dehumanize me, to destroy me, is mine now. And ain’t shit you can do about it.
I’m angry, I’m Black, I’m a gorilla. Deal with it.
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: Yes, I know it’s a picture of a gorilla, and not a monkey… not the point, asshole.)