For as long as black people have been visible to the Western eye, our collective role has been that of the entertainer. From being ogled at in the human zoos of the nineteenth century, to now, where our television sets still mostly show us in limiting, stereotypical roles: the thug, the hooker, the fresh-off-the-boat minister, there is much fun to be had observing our queer, primitive ways.

The only way to control this gaze is to indulge in the role of the performer. To entertain is a passive process, it happens whether we wish it to or not. Whereas to perform implies the intent to entertain. And as anyone who has been to a black family gathering before will know, we are excellent performers.

– Varaidzo, “A Guide to Being Black,” The Good Immigrant (2016)


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