Something irksome about the contemporary moment-be it the protests or the Nick Cannon scenario and how it continues to unfold, is a false alignment with unity and change. What I mean here is that the present moment casts those who make strides toward change as attaining company in quantity. A large component of pursuing true change is facing alienation in abundance. Offering an intellectual perspective on a guarded topic causes strife within the black and African adjacent collectives alike. This strife and alienation embody the cost of consciousness, and the mental strength required to move a mountain.
We as a collective and pending nation praise the plight that seized the earthly forms of Nat Turner, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Stokley Carmichael, amongst others. This praise too often functions without the necessary regard for the totality of their contribution. Though their service often functions as a contribution, the essence of their contribution remains largely excluded from their sacrifice. Although our leaders made notable strides toward what would benefit the black collective, their actions were hardly popular with those within the black collective and certainly not amongst African-adjacent constituencies. This may seem innocuous and a casualty of the pursuit and, to a great extent, it is, but the toll this takes on an individual mentally and physically is not to be overlooked.
See, to adopt common philosophies and endure a common mindset is to endure a safe presence that functions positively within a collective, even if it is not positive. To laugh at what a white world says is funny, to admire who and what the white world deems our heroes, to become the perfect slave is to endure the popularity that too often functions as successful. To follow an anti-black society’s dictation is to perform the apology that follows pro-black actions that accompany those unable or unwilling to endure the full burden of black thought. To endure the full burden of black thought is to take on the label of “messing things up” or “complicating” a “good” thing. To be a freedom fighter is to fight the flames of a society that seeks to char the oppressed into submission by any means necessary. To fight for freedom is to endure the isolation from those fearful to rock a sinking ship, to become a manifestation of everything a hegemonic world casts as problematic.
This journey is not for the faint of heart, or for those whose livelihood, personal or professional, depends on what others think of them. My words are not to denigrate those bound to the need for the social interaction and acceptance that make us human, this is to assert that while heroes are human all humans are not heroes. Thus, when we reflect on the memories of our leaders, we must note the high costs that they pay for their strides toward liberation.
Amidst the adverse responses to those who embark on consciousness is the discomfort one ofter causes their people as a result. This discomfort frequently results in claims of judgment or elitism for the elevation those in pursuit of black liberation command from the complacent or those who buy into what a white world considers black success. This alienation functions to steer the marginal toward the center, a center that houses the battered and bloody black body that dared to think beyond anti-blackness as its emblem.
Furthermore, to move a mountain is not only to move a margin but to shift the racial paradigm. This shift both enables progress and engenders an intellectual curiosity that often casts the change-maker as a trouble-maker. Nevertheless, while we all will not climb the mountaintop, we all can. Climbing up the crevices and spiky curves may prove easiest to the agile, and encapsulate demands that the ambitious only gaze upon in admiration. Moreover, while all of us will not reach the mountaintop, we must not itemize this feat with superficial understanding or say that those who stand at its apex look down on us. Instead, we must commend them for making it to the top and conceptualize their actions as actualizing an Africana excellence that is every African-descended person’s birthright.