Oh, how we love to listen but not have others know we are listening. Hey, we all do it sometimes, but why?
Growing up in New York City I was fortunate enough to be a short train ride away from many plays on Broadway. Interestingly enough, I never read a play until I stopped watching plays. Before I read A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, I had gone to Broadway about 3 times where I had the opportunity to experience Matilda, BRING IT ON, and The Christmas Spectacular. And while there is a big difference between reading and watching a play, we seem to have the same role each time: the fly on the wall.
Thinking about a discussion we had in class in regards to Suzan-Lori Parks, The America Play, where we discuss the fly on the wall and “the splat“. For those who are unsure, the fly on the wall refers to when one would like to hear what will be said, or see what will happen while not being noticed. So as the audience we tend to be the fly on the wall. However, imagine sitting through a play and during an act, one of the actors looks at you straight in the eyes. As the audience we are sure our role is to stay as an audience member and not interact with the actors, or “the splat” (being caught, interacting with the actors) happens.
One other way to look at this is to that of being on a glassboat; it allows you to watch the sea creatures below you without having to get into the water. While looking at this in terms of plays i think we as passengers do not want the sea creatures to notice us. However, are we not invading their space? We are watching them, tracking their moves, and we somehow expect them to not notice?
Considering other scenarios where we can be a passenger and others are the sea creatures can be those in which those who are not oppressed view the oppressed. For example, there may be a group of White people sitting on a glass boat. They observe how the Black community is being oppressed, but how can the Black community communicate that with them with the boat in the way. Of course, it is important to recognize these problems (being able to see them through the glass) but that is not enough. Why can we not simply submerge ourselves in the water and see the problem in order to get an actual sense of what it is rather than just getting the surface view of the problem. We do not enjoy being caught. We know that the big shark (oppression) is coming for the fish (Black community) so we rather tell ourselves, “Yes, there is a problem” but now what?
I know it might be scary to jump out of the boat or to be the fly on the wall. But the risk is still there whether you jump in the water or you do not. Look under your feet, the shark is there.