Free dedicated artists reveal a singularly important thing: that racism was and is not only a public mark of ignorance, it was and is a monumental fraud. Racism was always a con game that sucked all the strength of the victim. It's the red flag that is danced before the head of a bull. It's purpose is only to distract..
And I urge you to be careful for there is a deadly prison. A prison that is erected when one spends one's life fighting phantoms, concentrating on myths and explaining over and over to the conqueror your language, your lifestyle, your history, your habits. And you don't have to do it anymore.
I recently got into a conversation with a peer that was extremely upsetting for me. We'll call this classmate James.
James said that black people were violent and then preceded to cite crime statistics about Black America to prove his point. This was all unprovoked by the way. He then went on to say that its a culture and that black men leave their kids. My response was that Black America doesn't represent all "black" people and how fatherlessness is effected by the erosion of marriage throughout American culture.
I've been replaying this conversation over and over again in my head. I don’t know what his intention was but I don’t think it was for a constructive conversation. I’m pretty disappointed in the way I responded. I wasn't prepared for this exchange and therefore didn't articulate myself the way I wanted to. If I could have that conversation again I would probably clap back as he hails from a region that is decimated by war and violence (Jesus is not finished with me yet LOL). Moreover, it kind of forced me to throw Black Americans under the bus which I'm not proud of. I absolutely adore African Americans. Black Americans have so much to be proud of and I hate how disparaging statistics are used to take away from their accomplishments.
Furthermore, I really hate those right wing talking points. It suggests I’m not grieved by the gun violence that plagues our inner-cities. Like I wasn't at a town hall meeting discussing the causes and solutions for ending gun violence in the GTA. As if I don’t see the need to strengthen families in order to deposit important values such as group economics and ownership to make our children more competitive. I believe in cultural renewal and reform for African Americans, Jamaicans, African Canadians and communites all across the diaspora. Nevertheless, I will continue to reject a sentiment that pathologies people of African descent as criminal- a lie that has loomed over people of African descent since 1444.
But I know this will not be the last time I hear something like this so I wanted to reflect about the way forward.
I’ve learned a few things:
A lot of people have anti-black sentiments. It doesn’t matter how much hip-hop or R n B one listens to or a person’s use of African- American vernacular English. People love Black American culture but regard Black Americans as lazy, victims and careless. And it’s not just a phenomenon of people of European descent. People of Asian, Latin and Middle Eastern heritage have similar views too. It’s infuriating. It’s annoying but if you can come to terms with this reality you will be better off. I think the goal should be to move in a direction where we (I) don't care.
Its not my job or your job to show people how valuable people of African descent are and how we’ve contributed to society. Was Dr. King not murdered wearing a suit? Don’t take on the burden of trying to dispel people’s stereotypes.
Continue to critique and work on reforming the cultures of the diaspora. How are we going to reduce the violence in some of our neighborhoods? What public policy are we going to push for? How can we make our family structures more effective? What is our vision? Its easy to allow encounters like the one above to make you want to avoid that critique as to not give ammo to people who don’t care and just want to put people of African descent down. However, we must not cower. I prefer to critique the cultures of the diaspora away from the gaze of others and only with people who are invested in the wellbeing of our communities.
Move away from seeking external validation. Focus on building group self-esteem in our families and communities. The issue is not what people think of us is what we think of ourselves. You may love yourself but what do you think of other people of African descent? Do you lowkey think dark skin is dirty? Do you think “black” people are untrustworthy, criminal or less than in some way? Where do these thoughts come from?
Watch what you internalize. It’s easy to internalize anti-blackness. Anti- blackness from our parents, our friends, society and the media. For example, I remember having a conversation with another friend about how aggressive “black people” are and laughing about it. But then I realized: European people conquered 84 percent of the world. Purposely constructed systems of oppression such as Apartheid and Jim Crow around the world. Middle Easterns developed the method of suicide bombing to reign terror on their enemies. China just turned Sri Lanka into a mini colony and is working on Pakistan. You don’t think that’s aggressive? The problem isn’t that we are aggressive. The problem is that we are aggressive about the wrong things. Lets be aggressive about creating strong families and communities. Lets be aggressive about entrepreneurship and ownership.
Theologically, I adhere to the Bible (God’s still working on me) which states that men and women are made in the image of God. This means that our dignity, worth and value comes from God. Regardless of what people or we think about ourselves God says we are worthy, valuable and have immeasurable dignity.
Moreover, for people of African descent who are invested in the wellbeing of communities in the diaspora I think its important to center your wellbeing. This is my call to self-care.
Disengage with people who spew toxic things such as the encounter I described above. I don’t know his intent but I don’t think it was meant to be helpful. Ideas of our criminality, laziness and wayward culture are not new. Of course there’s values that we have that are unproductive and must be stamped out. Nevertheless they must not be spewed with the vitriol of my peer. For protection of my emotional health I will not be talking to this person for the rest of the school year.
Rest. Take time for yourself and tap out whenever you feel like it. Its amazing that you care but don't let that concern be a thorn in your side.
The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”