Art is political and you ought to be able to make it unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time.
One of Basquiat’s pieces, Irony of Negro Policeman (1981), is intended to illustrate how African-Americans have been controlled by a predominantly Caucasian society. Basquiat sought to portray how complicit African-Americans have become with the “institutionalized forms of whiteness and corrupt white regimes of power” years after the Jim Crow era had ended. Basquiat found the concept of a “Negro policeman” utterly ironic. It would seem that this policeman should sympathize with his black friends, family, and ancestors, yet instead he was there to enforce the rules designed by “white society.” The Negro policeman had “black skin but wore a white mask”. In the painting, Basquiat depicted the policeman as large in order to suggest an “excessive and totalizing power”, but made the policeman’s body fragmented and broken.
The hat that frames the head of the Negro policeman resembles a cage, and represents how constrained the independent perceptions of African-Americans were at the time, and how constrained the policeman’s own perceptions were within white society