As the boy on the train gazed upon Fanon and identified him as “a Negro,”20 Fanon was tasked with grappling with the implications of that role and the particular affective performance it required of him. “And then the occasion arose when I had to meet the white man’s eyes. An unfamiliar weight burdened me.”21 Fanon, upon encountering visual subjectivity, takes on the experience and the labor of “‘being for others;’”22 being in relation as a laborious performance, "for not only must the black man be black; he must be black in relation to the white man.”23

Gazing as an establishment of relation and difference towards a social order also allow room for modes of protest as affective labor. A performance that interrupts the gaze enacts a redirected, reimagined affective labor, serving instead those subjected to violent gazes rather than to appease those whose gazes are rooted in practices of violence. When Parker Bright, the black artist whose protest of “Open Casket” went viral, stood “for several hours”24 in front of “Open Casket” wearing a shirt with “Black Death Spectacle” written on the back “making it difficult (but not impossible) for others to view the painting,” he was indeed “being for others”25 as a facet of impermeable architecture in the room. Yet, his being was in the interest of protecting the intentions of Mamie Till’s gaze — not in the interest of adhering to the desires, expressed through looking, of those who might be fascinated with the violence of Till’s murder. Bright’s intervention enacted what I’m calling a restorative or restitutive affective labor.

re·fus·al | rəˈfyo͞ozəl | noun [usually with infinitive]

an act or an instance of refusing; the state of being refused: he became tired of his friend's refusal to see him.26

Bright’s protest alludes to practices of refusal, although it more closely embodies what bell hooks calls an “oppositional gaze,” or “a site of resistance for colonized black people globally.”27 She continues:

Subordinates in relations of power learn experientially that there is a critical gaze, one that ‘looks’ to document,28 one that is oppositional. In the resistance struggle, the power of the dominated to assert agency by claiming and cultivating ‘awareness’ politicizes ‘looking’ relations — one learns to look a certain way in order to resist. (hooks, 248)

While hooks speaks specifically about black women’s gazing practices in the context of film, Bright’s interruption of gazing by obfuscating visual access to “Open Casket” indeed “politicizes ‘looking’ relations [...] in order to resist.”29 In its oppositional nature, Bright’s protest cannot fully engender practices of refusal, as refusal is not an act of rejection or retort, as opposition is, but instead a complete departure from particular modes, requirements, and implications of meaning. However, refusal is not synonymous with passivity.