Phantom Negro Weapons is a piece that has been with me for many years waiting patiently to be created, simmering just below the surface as more citizen fatalities by police come to light and are reported to the public. What astounded me then and continues to, is the very familiar rhetoric that often accompanies the narrative of these deadly shootings, which is that the suspect had reached for their waistband or their pocket or had something in their possession to make an officer fear for his or her life, necessitating the use of deadly force. What case after case has proved is that the suspect, then police shooting victim, often has nothing more in their possession than their wallet, their clothing, a cell phone, a spoon, some candy or in many cases, nothing at all. These cases as reported by numerous news sources talk about the escalation of the encounter, which begins by the victim running away, or looking suspicious, or fitting a description, or even exchanging eye contact ending with an assault on the person and the police then suggesting that there was a gun, knife, pipe or other weapon. Phantom Negro Weapons is a visual record of the types of articles that were found on victims of police violence, which help illustrate just how out of control the situation is for U.S. citizens, and especially in this instance, for Black people. The use of numbered map tacks helps the viewer to identify the victim by matching the number of the image to the name in the dossier. The dossier contains some of the stories of the victims pulled from news sources. This series is ongoing, matching the violence, which is also ongoing and relentless.
Phantom Negro Weapons:
Defined as “Weapons” that are generally in the possession of Black and Brown people, which are initially perceived of as guns, knives, pipes, box cutters, switchblades, etc by policing forces. The possession of such “weapons” often results in the fatality of the suspect, usually by police. Upon further investigation, these so called lethal weapons in possession of the victim somehow disappear and the “weapon” that remains is a spoon, watch, change, hoodie, waistband, candy, nothing and so on.
A weapon that is visible to law enforcement but to no one else, resulting in the death or near death of the subject. A weapon that is in the possession of a person, often a Black or Brown person and has the power to cloak itself and change from a gun to a wallet, a knife to a soda can, a pipe to a cigarette, etc. Usually discovered on the body of the victim after death.