Did You Hear What They Said?: The Symbology of Mass Media in David Henderson’s “They Are Killing All the Young Men”

Author:Jean-Philippe Marcoux Time:2019-07-09 Click:

In this article, I propose to analyze Henderson’s “They Are Killing All the Young Men” in terms of how he deconstructs the symbology of mass media, a representational apparatus responsible for and erected to support the historical and systemic dehumanization of African Americans. By symbology of the media, I mean the complex intersections of agencies and institutions, whose agenda and ideologically-driven discourses symbolize the nexus of white supremacy. The poem, I contend, functions as a documentary about the disrespect of the media, the disillusion with history’s repeated promise of equality, and the disheartening economic conditions that have affected African Americans in the context of the early sixties. The poetic proposition is interesting: to use the assassination of Malcolm X as a metonym in order to engage with Euro-America’s hypocrisy regarding its core values and constitutional promises. With this poem, Henderson adopts the guise of black historiographer at a time when Western history is written—and thus edited—by people of European descent. According to these coordinates, the poem, it will be argued, reflects the primary orientations of the Society delineated in Umbra 1 and is, thus, a potent representation of Umbra’s documentation of the media’s role in objectifying and suppressing blackness.

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