Dear white people: Stop capitalizing off Black trauma

“Wear Their Names” jewelry line proves how America capitalizes off of Black trauma. Photo courtesy of @sophieming on Twitter.

Couple Paul Chelmis and Jing Wen, creators and founders of the nonprofit group called Shan Shui and “Wear Their Names” jewelry line have placed themselves into capitalism turmoil. After launching their jewelry line based from the ruins of shattered glass from a Charleston, S.C. Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest and riot have categorized their jewelry under the names of police brutality victims — such as “The Breonna” and “The Tamir” — are now receiving the backlash they deserve.

“Wear Their Names” jewelry was branded from the “Say Their Names” chant, a widely known slogan from BLM protest, shouted by thousands of infuriated Black individuals.

For decades the Black community has surmounted an immeasurable amount of suffrage and strife. African-American culture — Black culture — stems from a long lineage of historical African history, rooting back to Western, North and South Africa according to National Geographic and Britannica.

As many Black cultural traditions were modified, stripped and depleted of during enslavement; the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 became the definite starting point of, in societal terms, capitalism.

Pre and post slave time periods, non POC — the white man — capitalized off and idolized Black features. Our hair, athleticism, sense of style, cooking abilities and natural sex appeal was merely only to profit off of and duplicate — or at least try to. 

Recent graduate student from the College of Charleston, Quincie Bardsley expresses how capitalism during enslavement and in the 21st century are interconnected.

“In all reality enslavement and white protestant values gave rise to capitalism and corporate America, as we know it,” Bardsley said. “Black culture and black bodies have always been a part of white fascination, exploitation and devaluation. For non Black POC that approximate to whiteness, means partaking in these acts whether it is subconsciously or actively.”

Capitalism continues to recycle itself in a multitude of forms into American generations. The 21st century is systematically built off the white corporate America, that continues to build wealth off Black trauma. 

Tamika Gadsden, activist and owner of the @charlestonactivistnetwork page that sparked the backlash frenzy, shares how sickening America’s social construct has become. 

“Black issues, Black people, Blscktprogress is linked intrinsically with capitalism,” Gadsden said. “Capitalism is alway the driving force in giving white people the permission to put a price tag on our [black people] pain.”

The couple not only received repercussions from their “Wear Their Names” jewelry line, but the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, S.C., took a hit alongside them after agreeing to feature the couple’s jewelry line in the museum and then later retracting their decision, due to the social media retaliation. Many Black artists and creatives have had the dire desire for their art to be featured in the museum just to be overstepped by non POC posing as allies when it involves black tragedy. 

“They [Gibbes Museum] only listen to shame,” Gadsden said.

One of the pieces featured on the now deleted website, was a necklace, a cowboy bolo style necktie entitled “The Eric.” Eric (Garner) was a Black man that was choked to death at the hands of a white man.

The couple priced each item at a different monetary value, while displaying a discounted necklace named “The Tanisha.” Slave rituals seem to never be too far behind the white man and his counterpart. 

Queer artist and Stevenson University graduate, Georgie Williams, provides commentary on the issue at hand. 

“They made these prices by how much they thought they could sell these traumas for,” Williams said. “Discounting the item was not thought about in any other way than in a capitalist viewpoint. They saw this item as merely that, an item to be sold.”

White America continues to try to delve into Black culture in hopes to alter and claim it as their own, with monetary advancements in mind. 

Chelmis and Wen, have now deleted both the jewelry lines website and Instagram after making an apology statement reported by online magazine publication, via The Post and Courier stating, “We genuinely thought what we were doing was good, and we want to continue on the best path. We’ve removed the names from our site, halted our collaboration with The Gibbes, and are going to pause things to hunker down to figure out what we can do next. We want to make things right. Thank you for holding us accountable.”

Proving how insincere and media provoking the owners apology was perceived, Gadsden comments on the response Chelmis messaged her via Instagram. 

Gadsden says that rather than apologizing, Chelmis challenged her beliefs and further tried to invalidate her right to free speech on her social media.

“It was more of a justification,” Gadsden said. “It was more of a lowkey sorry, if, we’ve offended you and it was more defensive. I knew his apology was limited.”

As societal normalities within the Black community continue to be commodified to build white corporate America it’s income, Black culture, Black progress and Black communities will never be able to seek its well deserved tranquility.