The world was left in shock when news broke of the tragic deaths of Black celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston,, and Prince. While the deaths of any public figure are bound to evoke strong emotions, the reactions of Black folk to these events are different from those of the wider public. Black people tend to approach such news with skepticism and a keen eye for details that may be overlooked by others. This skepticism can be traced back to historical and systemic injustices that continue to shape the experiences of Black people today.
One of the key factors contributing to Black skepticism towards celebrity deaths is the historical long list of mysterious deaths that were written off as “drug related. Also, not to mention the ongoing erasure and misrepresentation of Black lives in mainstream media. For centuries, Black people have been excluded from narratives and depictions of success, beauty, and value. The media often perpetuates harmful stereotypes about Black people, portraying them as dangerous, lazy, or unintelligent. When a Black celebrity dies, their death is often sensationalized under false pretenses, and their life story is reduced to a few negative aspects, while the complexities of their humanity are ignored. This erasure and misrepresentation of Black lives in the media can make it difficult for Black people to trust the information presented about the death of a Black celebrity.
Another factor contributing to our skepticism is the prevalence of violence and discrimination against Black people. Black people are more likely to experience violence and discrimination in their daily lives, whether it be at the hands of police officers, employers, or members of our own community. This constant exposure to violence and discrimination can lead us to view any event that affects the Black community with suspicion and mistrust. When a Black celebrity dies, it can be difficult for us to accept that their death was the result of natural causes or an accident, especially if there are any indications that foul play may have been involved.
Furthermore, the lack of accountability and transparency in investigations of high-profile deaths can also contribute to Black skepticism. Black people have long been subjected to unjust and opaque systems of law enforcement and justice, leading to a deep-seated mistrust of those in positions of power.
Ultimately, this lack of transparency and accountability can further fuel Black skepticism towards the nature of Black celebrity deaths. The sheer number of unsolved murders of some Black celebrities also play a HUGE part in our skepticism. But that’s an article for another day…