Juliana Huxtable interview (excerpt)

Taegen Meyer: Why do white men resent black women?

Juliana Huxtable: There’s so many entry points to that… I think that black women challenge white men’s sense of entitlement to a world that’s organized according to their desire taxonomies. Black women also symbolize the white man’s- if you could codify white male guilt, I think black women would probably be the most literal embodiment of that, like that in walking form. I think that it’s indicated in the way, like one of the things that I’ve always found really interesting is the way that sexuality generally between white people and black people as the sort of the two polarized opposites in America, obviously I understand that there are other gradations and brown people but when it comes down to specifically that dynamic, which is kind of part of the foundational construction of like, at least American identity, arguably western identity at large, but any kind of sexual dynamic between white men and black women automatically implies rape. Not that it has to, or not that I think that’s what it actually is, but historically that’s what that symbolizes. Growing up particularly in the south where I got to see those sort of power dynamics play out in a way that even in New York I don’t think people understand that it still is quite that literal. Even like black men are resented and black men are also policed, but they, the relationship between black men and white men is fundamentally so different to the relation between black women and white men because I think black women just represent- it’s almost like your mere presence makes white men hyper aware of themselves. They’re aware of themselves, and they’re aware of their own impulses, and their own desires, and they’re aware of their gross sort of like, the potential for a gross mischaracterization and theyre bumbling and they don’t know what to say, you know? So i think you are the kind of corporeal embodiment of all the things about themselves that they don’t really want to acknowledge. So in an economy, in a kind of like intense racial taxonomy, you’re pitted against each other sort of inherently. W

hich I think that’s part to do with it, and I think it’s also, this thing happens with, because I think blackness is linked with aggression in a lot of contexts and it’s linked with masculinity and so I think that, and I think that those systems, I think it becomes really clear- I don’t know I imagine, I’m not a white man so I don’t know but I imagine, there’s like a kind of friction between your inability- it’s like you’re looking at a woman who is so, black women are beautiful. I think that black women are like gorgeous and I think that it’s a really intense experience to insist on treating black women as these either de-sexualized or hyper-sexualized but in a kind of demeaning hyper-masculine way. I feel like it must be really like- ‘cause I feel that way, I feel that way so often with white men, it’s like, I enter a room full of white dudes and it’s like, you feel that energy where it’s like they don’t know what to do and it’s like sometimes, you know, I want to just be like, “maybe you should do a shot or something” I don’t know. Just my presence is making you so aware of yourself and you’re freaking out and you don’t know what to say, you know?

TM: Yeah

JH: I don’t know, I think that has something to do with it.

TM: It definitely does, I mean obviously we’re not gonna solve white resentment here on this skype call, but just something I wanted to ask-

JH: I think that there’s a refusal to- whatever the opposite of benefit of the doubt is is what black women are given. I’ve noticed that it’s like anything you say as a black woman that speaks from your experience is immediately presumed to be redundant, late, over reaching, performative, you know, going for your low-hanging fruit just so that you could hang it over someone’s head. It’s like that kind of dynamic is really really really ripe and so, I don’t know why actually, sometimes in those situations it’s like, I wish that I had an answer and I’m sure there’s some like Frantz Fanon passage or like

(both laughing)

JH: You know, I hope Angela Davis gone off it at some point but sometimes it’s actually just this really like radically indescribable experience and I’m just like, “I. Don’t. Know.” Specifically traveling, I feel this way all the time traveling. Like being in Italy, oh my god, Italy is the worst place. That’s why I love this tweet where someone posted like vacation shots of like, different areas in Italy and was like, “isn’t it beautiful?” and then like a black woman retweet it and wrote, “Yeah, Italy is really beautiful and everything until you get off the plane and they call you a nigger.”

(both laughing)

JH: Which is so true, it’s actually so true, but like that experience, it’s actually to the point where I’m like, I don’t know, it’s almost like I’d rather deny a kind of like framework for explaining it. Sometimes I’m like, I don’t even, I don’t want to give them the ability to pathologize this cause to pathologize this is because to pathologize this also to a certain degree relinquishes the potential for people to just be absolutely mindlessly cruel, you know? It almost requires more hope in humanity for me to try and understand why someone would do that but I feel that way traveling a lot, where I’m like I literally don’t know but I feel like, “that’s a nigger” right now.

(both laughing)

JH: I feel like I’m being made to feel like such a nigger right now and this is so intense and it’s just like I don’t know, I don’t know. That’s one of those things, specifically resentment, and seeing it, and experiencing it, and feeling it, and the multiple ways in which resentment can express itself, cause you think, “oh resentment.” but it’s like, there’s so many subgenres of resentment and it’s like, I don’t know. I actually don’t know, and I feel that way so often. I was talking about that earlier today because in Argentina, I’ve been experiencing a lot of one shots, me and my friend who is also black but not a black woman, but black. Yeah. So actually really, we were talking about that earlier.

TM: And then, of course, like with the last things you said, there are a million things I want to say but I have to stay on track here and ask: what does free black movement look like?

JH: Free black movement, can I expand it? Can I also be like, feels like, sounds like?

TM: Go ahead?

JH: Okay. Sonny Sharrock, Black Woman. That’s a song by Sonny Sharrock to me that is a moment in a singular iteration of free black movement. Free black movement to me as as dance, free black movement for me, the club and the dancefloor. It doesn’t even need to be the club, it can also be the church like praise dancing, but spaces in which all of the kind of hyper-awareness of the one-to-one relationship between like blackness and corperal reality and just like totally being like in and of the flesh, to release that and dance, and dance as a space of just like complete and total liquidity is like, ah. Free black movement to me looks like that, it looks like dance. It’s like fourteen year olds doing dance videos on tik-tok.

You know one of my favourite passages in any book I’ve ever read is from Wretched Of The Earth where Frantz Fanon is talking about the dance circle, and the dance circle as something that’s permissive and protects, and the dance circle as a way to re-enact, and as a form of violence. So thinking of violence as a sort of part of power structure and the language and something that’s inherent to the condition of the racialized condition of colonialism but specifically, dance as a way of utilizing and deploying pre-eruptive violence and the dance circle specifically is a space in which I think black free movement is enacted and played and it’s always, for me especially, and I would say even growing up, even knowing that my specific ginger performance wasn’t always considered to be in-line with the dogmatic version of blackness that we were adhering to in a lot of different ways, dance circles were always a space in which that dissolved.

Even people where it’s just like, did not fuck with me, in that moment, somehow, I was always black enough, and we were always there in this space and it was totally free and liquid and the only kind of limit to that was blackness. I think it was a space in which all the other sort of facets dissolve and it became a space in which blackness was the sort of defining factor but because everything else dissolves, it was a completely and totally free space and so it was blackness untethered from the sort of like, taxonomies that otherwise might splinter what that could or could not be and so I think for me, like dance and music are generally two spaces in which I am thinking of black freedom, black free movement, but especially the dance circle, especially, especially, especially, especially the dance circle. Which takes so many forms, it takes so many forms, there’s so many subgenres of dance but, yeah.

TM: Thinking about your work then, because a large part of your work, at least as I see it, is sort of producing this space for dance to be possible. Even thinking to some of the performances of yours I’ve seen, though from a distance, you’re able to really cultivate that free black movement that you’re describing here and I would assume that this is a conscious act. I’m interested to know in what ways it’s an active production.

JH: Specifically, when I DJ?

TM: Yes.

JH: I’ve always said, for me there’s a lot of DJs I know and a lot of DJs that I like dancing to their sets. I know that they can’t really dance but to me I don’t want to fuck someone that I wouldn’t want to dance with. Whatever, that’s really crude to say that but whatever. To me there’s a direct relationship between my DJing and my dancing, I love to dance, dance is a very primary means of expression to me. So, it is intentional but it’s also kind of intuitive, and I think that’s one of the things I like about specifically the club as a space and the club as a space that’s really been pioneered by black people. Black people are responsible for clubbing. Yes, Europe kind of took it and then shaped it and did its own thing and I love it’s techno function, whatever, whatever, whatever it’s not to deny there have been contributions to the idea of clubbing added on but clubbing is something black people started with organs and black cultural production. Specifically as illicit spaces of corporeal freedom and corporeal disillusion and dance as also a negation of responsibility to the idea of a body, just to disappear into your flesh. All these things are part of clubbing and its history and so it is intentional for me in a lot of ways but it’s also kind of intuitive. I’m not at all saying I’m a free jazz musician, I would never hype myself up that much but the sort of relationship between structure and form and I really appreciate the technique of DJing and I like practice to enhance and understand like, mixing, and all the different elements of it, but the relationship between kind of understanding the sort of foundational technical elements and Improvization, and Improvization is so important to me. The idea for me is to access a kind of sublime, the height is just absolute spendlor, and to really take yourself and move yourself through difficult spaces. I would say free jazz as a kind of model of technique and Improvization and intuition is what inspires me for how I relate to the sort of act of DJing as a making space for.

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