Black Stuff: Why we need it and why we don’t care what you think about it at all
There are still too many people who don’t have an intuitive understanding of the nature of modern America as it pertains to race relations. Some folks see “black stuff” and wonder why black people are purposefully segregating themselves from the rest of us? Why do they need “black” things?.
People who think such thoughts are not holistic and synthetic thinkers. They are generally historically ignorant, which is not their fault if they are young — like, 19 and below — but is their responsibility to overcome if they are older. It is our duty as a nation to understand why things are the way they are by knowing how they got to be this way.
To understand the nature of hundreds of years of oppression. To know how slavery led to the black codes and then Jim Crow. To recognize the effects of the GI Bill and the Great Society upon the consolidation of white gains and intergenerational wealth as well as the housing practices of the 1900s and 00s, leading up to the Crash of 2008 and the loss of hard-won black economic gains to predatory lenders who were never prosecuted for their crimes.
It is necessary to understand what it is to be in a minority position in a culture that actively negates your existence and considers you to be the epitome of all that is negative. To be the subconscious fear that is continuously reinforced by media: news and entertainment. To understand that the questions you may want to ask about black lives has been asked before, many times by many people and to know that self-education is important even if your black, brown and red friends do take the time to share their experience with you.
It is difficult to know what it is like to be surrounded by an alien culture since birth unless you have experienced it. To recognize it is alien because people have gone out of their way to make you feel alien since you were old enough to remember. To do and say things to minimize you sometimes in ignorance but most times out of deliberate angst. To know that, because of the stress of living with this kind of negative attention and systemic oppression you will die earlier, sleep less, find it more difficult to make ends meet and take care of your family.
At the same time that this kind of life experience and perspective makes you Other to the majority culture, you find common cause with individuals of the same skin tone you may have nothing in common with, but who experience the same negative externalities and the resultant depressive internalities. I suppose this is the same for every marginalized ethnic group except for those that call themselves white, which is not an ethnic group at all but a political and cultural construct designed to consolidate privilege for a global minority and suppress every, single other ethnic experience in the entire world.
“Black things”, few as they are, affirm worth and validate our lived experience and are psychological and spiritual necessities in a nation that denigrates our very existence as superfluous to American life. When we know this is not so. We are not extra. When the entire world knows this is not so. We are integral to the very fabric of this nation. When our African-born culture has transformed this nation since its inception, when we have contributed all we are to its culture, its politics, its material and ideological standing.
We have stood for truth and demanded this nation live up to its creeds and ideologies since its inception. Our struggle encompasses the struggles of red and brown, even yellow and even white women. Our successes are enjoyed by every other peoples in this nation. When we gain, all gain. A rising tide lifts all boats indeed. Despite active intellectual suppression, attempted cultural suppression, our minds uplift the world as much as any other peoples. Our music, our dances, our joy, our pain breaks and strengthens the hearts and souls of people the planet across who identify with our struggle, who are compassionate and loving and who stand with us in spirit.
Everything we are has been honed on the crucible of American horror and joy, genocide and transcendence. Cultural appropriation is just the most recent phrase describing how this nation has taken everything from us, a peoples who did not come here purposefully. Who were not immigrants but were taken by force. Who lived the Maafa. The strongest of whom survived to become us, who live now in these times of toil and trouble.
Our ancestors did not choose this nation but now that we are here and genetically mixed in with every ethnicity that has ever existed upon this continent, its people and power elite must deal with us. We, the genetic bequeathment of enslaved Africans unto the future/Now, born to settle the accumulated debt of 400 years of oppression. The whirlwind must be reaped, there is no escaping the consequences of psychopathic, collective action and fearful, individualized inaction.
And now? More of the same. A different day, a more technological and psychological panopticontic milieu. But we were born to this. We will not be silenced or marginalized. We cannot be and we will be who and what we are no matter how it makes others feel. The level of discomfort felt by bearing witness to our pains and our joys is nothing compared to living them.
We are individual but we are also collective. And, sometimes, we need our “black things”. Just for ourselves. Because we’re tired. And even black folks need a break, sometimes.