The Honorary Oppressed: White Media and Intersectional Agency Starring Jussie Smollett

What I find both fascinating and terrifying about contemporary culture is its use of intersectionality with regard to blackness. For clarity, I use the term “intersectionality” to represent the literal intersections such as ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation to which blackness is juxtaposed.

Intersectional agents function as what I will call the honorary oppressed orrecytaylor those who assume less than a cisgender white male, but more than a member of the black collective. The honorary oppressed are far more acknowledged in the white media and have quickly become the necessary companion to black abjection. We’ve seen this with Recy Taylor who despite being a black woman savagely gang-raped by white men in the 1940s, posthumously became the face of a “woman’s” movement.

Similarly, a few years ago, amidst the tragic shooting at a gay night club, the media reported that the assailant “freed the blacks.” This seemingly innocuous detail highlights the deliberate steps taken to make black people appear a privileged minority compared to the honorary oppressed. The contemporary climate employs intersectionality in a sinister plot to deceive the world to believe that black injustice is a thing of the past. To the deceived eye, Empire star Jussie Smollet’s highly publicized brawl appears to actualize black terrorism. Smollet’s attack however,  as portrayed by the media, illustrates modern mastery in the art of deception.

intersectionalitypostThe deception of white hegemony employs intersectional agents to seemingly represent the under-represented. In reality, these agents represent the paradigm of white supremacy and nothing more. Thus, the issue with figures like Jussie Smollet is that they imply a linearity between antithetical modes of suffering. Smollet as intersectional agent makes it so that gay whites and non-black persons of color can attest to a shared struggle with the black collective. This struggle is thereby detached from historic examples like Jesse Washington and Claude Neale and contemporary examples like Trayvon Martin and even Chikesia Clemons, often simply referenced as the “black woman” involved in a struggle at the Waffle House. Washington, Neale, Martin, and Clemons illustrate those exteriorized by white supremacy because of their blackness, an incomparable experience reduced in alignment with intersectionality.

In reality, the media only appears to care about Jussie for two reasons. First, Tupacbecause he’s famous and secondly, and most importantly, Jussie is an intersectional agent. Smollet proclaimed his intersectionality by referring to himself as the “gay Tupac” at a performance following his attack. I assume this self-proclaimed status references Smollet’s merging of “activism” and celebrity status. However, this proclamation does more than depict Smollet as resuming Tupac’s legacy. With this proclamation, Smollet intersectionalizes Tupac. This intersectionalizing of an outspoken black male celebrity, also seen in the recent movie The Hate You Give (but that’s another post), proves that Tupac’s posthumous presence must be dismembered in order to prove worthy of contemporary consumption.

To be black is to be intersectional. Blackness literally lies at the interactions of races, life and death, human and animal, and man and woman. Whether gay, trans, female, disabled, or what have you, blackness remains central to global abjection. This statement is easily supported in a quick examination of each intersectional faction in acknowledgment of the attributes shared by those placed at the bottom of said faction. Black people of the LGBTQ community, Black women, physically black persons of color, and disabled blacks remain disenfranchised by their blackness.  To partner with those who may share a fraction of your experience as a black person is to acquiesce to fractional justice. Yet, for an antiblack climate, the black struggle remains too boring, too limiting, to exposing for a world more interested and committed to performing and inciting change than actualizing an alternative to white hegemony.

jussiellenHad Jussie never come out on the Ellen show (of all places), his fame would not be enough to garner him attention or empathy from the American public. Just a few years ago, amidst the early fame of Fox’s Empire, Smollet’s Empire costar Taraji P. Henson rescinded comments about her own son’s experience with racial injustice. It is likely Henson withdrew her commentary due to the pressure of maintaining an “American” enough presence to ensure that her sapphire-like status remains detached enough from consciousness to prove lucrative. Thus, had Smollet not come out as gay, pledging allegiance to Ellen and the LGBT platform, his experience of black male terrorism, like that of Taraji’s son, would be a non-topic in white media. As a non-intersectional black person Jussie’s actions would easily be attributed to “playing the race card.” His efforts would be seen as burdensome and belittled to the status of “complaint.”

Intersectionality, in addition to the increasing focus on persons of color, have jussieempirefunctioned not to expose ignored oppression but to further deter from what needs to change in order to truly disrupt the racial paradigm. Whiteness easily interacts with intersectional attributes such as gender and sexuality. Additionally, whiteness intersects with non-black persons of color as they often function as white mimic man in the acquisition of education and other superficial attributes. Thus, to showcase/highlight the oppression faced by the non-black persons of color or intersectional agents is to centralize whiteness as the alterity faced by these groups. This, of course, does not trouble the system of white supremacy enough for change. Jussie, as an intersectional agent, can occupy victim status as his intersectionality and celebrity dismember his being to ensure that the aftermath of this exposure is as empty as the symbolism imbued.

So, while Jussie’s safety as a black man in America remains a concern, this concern reflects a larger concern about black people exposed to the violence of inclusionary abjection. Situations like the Jussie Smollet scenario delineate white supremacy as continuing on its quest for immortality. This quest remains enabled by ensuring the blood of its irreversible target remains spilled. We, the black collective are this unmoving target, seduced to stand still as the “honorary” oppressed fight for their chance to join those of the majority in black oppression.

Black Power ❤

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Dropping the One-Drop rule

In a black studies course taught by an anti-black African adjacent “professor,” I, along with, my classmates were encouraged to adopt the one-drop rule.

“She is black,” he said with an authority not vested in him. cardib.png

The “she” he was referencing was none other than Cardi B.

Now, to him, an Indian man on a stride toward whiteness, Cardi B. and others of African descent, are black. This distinction does not reference the prodigious state of the black diaspora, but to delineate a line in the sand between his “model minority” status and those of African descent.

How the One Dropped Rule was “Dropped” Upon Us

blackmodelThe one drop rule is of western origin and functions to separate whites from those deemed “other.”

The rule also functions to separate non-black persons of color from “blacks.”

Therefore, the one-drop rule services the African-adjacent not the African person.

For the black person displaced Africa it is imperative to approach the one-drop rule with caution; this “Drop” does not indicate diaspora but indicates division.

In other countries there are numerous racial categories, however, the same fact remains the same–whites, or those with lighter skin, experience superior treatment to those with darker skin. Thus, though overtly enforced in the United States, the one-drop rule remains intact globally where varying degrees of black blood determine one’s quality of life and representation.

Cyntonia Brown and What it Means to Cosign the One-drop Rule as a Black Woman 

To cosign to the one-drop rule as a black woman is to accept black representation by those who enjoy the privilege of an exoticized blackness. Specifically, it is to accept Yara Shahidi, Zoe Saldana, Zendaya, or even Shailene Woodley as representatives of a black femininity erased in adopting the one-drop rule. The one drop rule enables invisibility in creating a wide spectrum for our oppressors to choose from with regard to black representation. This spectrum evokes the same hierarchy that foments black oppression cbphoto.pngand inevitably puts those with darker skin at the bottom.  So to adopt the one drop rule is to cosign the continued oppression of black people– to appropriate our experience and deem our own bodies not worthy to represent our own narratives.

Case in point: Cyntoia Brown, a recent symbol of criminal justice. Brown, a fair-skinned, long-haired woman, possesses the attributes often seen on the big and small screen as lead actrss in a black series, sitcom, or romantic comedy. Though incarcerated because she is black, Brown personifies the aesthetic or the “kind” of young black woman that is “not supposed to be in prison.”It took Alice Johnson’s status as grandmother to initiate what is now unfolding for Brown.

The idea that some people deserve incarceration, crippling poverty, and societal invisibility remain largely vested in color. Specifically, what I mean here is that the one-drop makes it so that the one-drop of black blood subjects the mixed race individual to mirror the misfortune that often befalls his or her darker counterparts but also services as the faction of  his or her darker counterparts that doesn’t quite deserve the detriment of “darkness.” The one-drop rule incites the masses to celebrate Cyntoia and forget about the less marketable girl/woman left to rot in the system that flourishes in her disenfranchisement.

Color does not Constitute Blackness: Redefining Blackness 

frediwashington.pngI do want to say that my assertions do not speak to the Fredi Washingtons of the world who irrefutably adopt their blackness to detriment of assimilatory motives.

In the same breath, folk like Tom Legend, Tom Lemon, or even Jay-Z, are also not black, as they are merely agents for their oppressors.

White ideology employs black puppets like Lemon and Jay-Z who though function under the physiognomy of blackness, function to ensure the stagnancy of white hegemony.

In this same breath, I know that many brethren on the continent of Africa consider the sbADA, or the African displaced in America as inherently “mixed,” or “colored.” While this certainly is true for many ADA’s, the one drop rule is not reciprocal. One drop of white blood does not make you white, and to deem what happened centuries prior without consent relevant in defining blackness, is to place an underserving emphasis on whiteness

White hegemony proclaims blackness as skin color—a series of behaviors— a degenerate lifestyle— all of which substantiate racist claims of black inferiority. White hegemony also states one-drop of black blood makes you black in the same breath that hegemonic forces implement the out of sight out of mind rule with regards to the white blood running through the veins of black people.Thus, it is imperative that we as a community compose a definition and understanding of black identity beyond the confines of the western imagination.

whoamiI often revisit the mis-teachings of my so-called professor and access his behavior as mimicking that of a global colonizer. His words imposed the idea that being of African descent, not one’s allegiance to black culture, or what one has done for black people, constitutes blackness. Basically, that one is black because they aren’t white. This ideology is a simple solution for a problem festered over centuries into a complexity beyond words.

In re-defining blackness, it is a necessity to acknowledge the line of demarcation between who is tossed in with black people when convenient (census and applications reflect this)  and those who irrevocably function as black and expand from there.

It is not to say that color is not important but that melanin does not connotate blackness in singularity. In other words, having melanin does not make you black necessarily but in order to be black, you must have melanin.

Thus, to redefine blackness is not deny diasporic blackness or to incite divide, but to exist in our bodies, in our blackness, our way.

Black Power ❤

 

 

The Faux Revolution: Foe to the Black Collective

“Symbolism is the death of progress.” 

In battle, it is imperative—- not convenient or even strategic—to know your opponent. The contemporary climate obscures the enemy in a masterful attempt to control the masses.

We live in a world where it’s simpler to prove everything that isn’t true and increasingly difficult to justify everything that is. Western culture has tried to present the illusion of progress by twisting the perception of truth.  bc627a50b6b48e71a5b9805ae9ec4577--black-girls-rock-black-girl-magic

Altering the perception of truth, the oppressor appears as ally, and perhaps most violently,  perpetuates the revolution as having already taken place. White supremacists guised as liberals have orchestrated both the race war and the race revolution. This is perhaps best illustrated by Colin Kaepernick. After careful examination, I contend that Kaepernick was hired by the NFL to perpetuate a revolution anticipated and staged by the NFL amidst mounting racial tensions. I believe the NFL staged this pseudo revolution to get in front of what could have happened in its place. The same can be said of BLM, another organization that mimics a black revolutionary past but implements symbolism not action. This post delineates other attempt at a similar evil. 

I. R. Kelly Documentary Rrkellyblackjacket

As delineated on a previous post, R.Kelly’s media lynching serves to distract black people from the true sexual predator. The black man is not the enemy. But watching the news, this is the projected image. Malcolm X once said, “if you’re not careful, white supremacy will have you loving your enemy and hating the oppressed.” This is exactly what the media aims to do in its portrayal of the R. Kelly scandal. 

II. Regina King wins a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress

Regina King’s recent “victory” at the golden globes, is yet another coin in the bucket or symbolism passing as progress. From Sterling Brown to Michelle Obama, the western world is relentless in its selection of black bodies to represent the glory of assimilation. King’s award is to create a false line of demarcation between the whites in the white house and the whites of the Golden Globes. This performance seduces many to reginakingforget the back door that blacks previously had to enter to attend awards like these–if we were to attend at all. Subsequently, any applause, tears, or feelings of pride that arise within the black collective in response to this empty symbolism, grants entry to a subjugated assimilation via back door. 

III. Cyntoia Brown gains Clemency 

This is yet another act of symbolism that surfaces to provide the illusion of change. 

2018 highlighted clemency for Alice Johnson and Cyntoia Brown, black women “freed” from what was an improper consequence to begin with. The symbolism that accompanies their clemency does nothing to repair a flawed justice system that continues to terrorize black people. In celebrating said symbolism, members of the black collective ignore the reality that these actions are highly individualistic and mean virtually nothing with regard freedom and black franchisement. These cases illustrate white supremacists as symbolically giving back what they’ve taken to which the cyntoiabrownamasses applaud in a colonized daze.

The illusion of change functions so well because truthfully most do not desire change. To desire a changed world, is to welcome a change of self. Though many would adamantly disagree, most have subconsciously acquired to its ways and see white supremacy as something to be accepted, and black retaliation, whether verbal or physical, as a “complaint” that must cease.  

cyntoiabrownbAs long as we remain consumers of white propaganda and wait for the revolution to be televised by our oppressors, symbolism will continue to thwart progress. Symbolism reflects a fixation on the external that compromises the internal state of the oppressed. 

It is truly a scary time right now. The world has convinced many within the black collective that they are cured of a disease that continues to kill us physically, mentally, and spiritually. The severe tone of Dr. Francis Cress Wesling’s The Isis Papers not only makes more sense in this current environment but appears an imperative means to communicate a message so many would grudgingly listen to let alone accept.

We are at war. We are being attacked. One’s blissful state of ignorance or a cavalier disregard for the collective is not a personal choice but a fatal one. 

The revolution has yet to occur, but where will you be when it arrives?

Black Power ❤

“Slave Play” An Appropriate Title for an​ Oh so Wrong Production…

There are only two things the black collective needs to know about Jeremy O. Harris’s Slave Play. The first is that all of its show dates are sold out. The second is that it has a number of rave reviews from white publications and white platforms. Both illustrate that this play cannot possibly be good for the black collective.

Though praised for its nuanced approach to the slave narrative, this play is what the black collective has seen many times before. 

When interviewed about his project, Jeremey O. Harris uses the word “American” slaveplayjeremyseveral times. Though he performatively acknowledges his blackness, it is clear that Harris seeks to occupy an American space. He acknowledges a childhood inundated with white spaces where he came into his identity via binary opposition. Slave Play, where Harris fails to centralize black characters, mirrors this identity crisis. Instead, Harris focuses on interracial relationships where the black character emerges as the binary opposite to their non-black mate. This focus exposes a detached and derogatory portrayal consistent with the playwright’s many, and conflicting selves.slaveplaytwerk

Slave Play illustrates linearity between the slavery of the antebellum south and the present. The premise, however, is not where the play goes wrong. Rather, the execution marks its tragic downfall. It is impossible to separate interracial unions from the mental enslavement birthed from physical bondage; though somehow its contemporary manifestations depict this praxis as a sign of the revolution that has yet to arrive. Slave Play depicts a similar feat; it functions as a sign of revolutionary fervor but is a figment of assimilatory art. Specifically, Harris’s display of interracial unions beg the issue of consent and appear to assert a colonized desire “othered” bodies have for their master. 

This contention takes form in the contemporary depiction of a white man with a black woman, where the black woman asks to be called a “nasty negress” during intercourse. The request implies that blacks look upon their past with lust; their contemporary placement allowing them to consent to what their ancestors merely had to endure to get through the day. 

Consent remains a fickle topic of discussion. To this, I wish to assert that Harris oversimplifies the relationship between consent and agency.

Issues of agency remain largely unresolved by those of the black collective that have yet to emancipate their minds from the teachings of white supremacy. Thus, what I contest here is not the portrayal of black agency, but Harris’s underdeveloped and violent portrayal of said agency.

The issue with this Harris’s play is that it obscures the line of demarcation between the two with regard to the black body. Harris depicts the black woman as looking upon her own body andslaveplay personhood with the gaze of a southern slavemaster and not the very descendant of this slavemaster as sharing the gaze of his forefather. This depiction is problematic because racism made it impossible for any black person to consent to relations with a white person during physical slavery. Arguably, contemporary manifestations reflect a similar duress. However,  Harris represents said duress as consent. This portrayal assigns accountability to black agency an accountability that Harris does not extend to his white characters. This portrayal affords comfort to his white audience.

This violent revisionist history is to the benefit of the ever-present oppressor seeking to gain symbolic profit for a perpetuating the myth that slavery was “not so bad after all”. 

For this reason, Harris’s alignment with an enslaved woman twerking to Rihanna is not anachronistic as delineated by several reviews. Black women in culture maintain identical placement to their ancestors displaced on plantations. The issue here is that Harris encourages his viewers to laugh at the lie of progress. 

What is also ignored here is that the entire play is a twerk for the white gaze. Harris, checking all the boxes of twenty-first-century diversity, is a tool of his master seduced to think that this play is a masterpiece and not a public lynching. Harris’s mutilated psyche is what the play essentially displays- a display that allows a predominately white audience to bask in a gruesome depiction of their abducted power.  So while many viewers note that white discomfort lies at the core of the play’s production music does not compose the soundtrack of the play, but the sound of a fading heartbeat. 

slaveplayjhHarris’s play functions in a new wave of art by black people that appears to confront issues it distastefully circumvents. These projects, which terrorize the black narrative with distorted truths, hold hands with one another in their commitment to caricaturing the black narrative for white entertainment. Our experience is not entertainment, yet as long as our skin folk continues to act like Jeremy O. Harris, our bodies will continue to be for sale. 

Nevertheless, the art is not in the play or even the actors. The art is the “artful” depiction of empathy in Slave Play’s production and reception. So while I do not discourage anyone from signing the petition to end this play, I moreso underscore the query as to why we expect anything different from our oppressors? 

So rather than encouraging the “anti” attitude, I encourage those of the black communityslaveplayviolin to seek black productions for and by us. Most importantly, I encourage those of the black collective to write and produce the next pages of our narrative. 

Harris’s attempt to portray the black narrative delineates potential as merely unwielded power. Harris is a beautiful black man, whose potential is thwarted in an abducted identity projected as a nuanced blackness. Harris is a man traumatized by white supremacy, the very  forces that convince him that his work is genius. If anything, this play falsely portrays white supremacy as genius as this play conveys a portrait of white power painted from four hundred years of trauma labeled art.

Black Power ❤

On The Run Tour, A Black Female Perspective

In commemorating a milestone birthday gifted to me earlier this year, my most elaborate gifts were to the person I was five years ago. The girl who wore make-up, the girl who loved Beyonce. The current me, a black nationalist, received no gifts of the pan africanist sort, or ones that scratched her itch of intellectual curiosity. I say this not be ungrateful, but to note that transitions towards blackness are rarely embraced verbally, but even more seldom in action.      

The old me received two enviable seats to watch Beyonce and Jay Z perform together on ontriijaybeythe second leg of their On The Run Tour. The evening proved a battle with traffic and the weather, namely a two hour stand off where  me, my friend, and over 82,000 others sought refuge as we waiting out the storm. 

Then Bey and Jay—labeled “The Queen and The Gangster” took the stage, their hands as espoused just as much to one another as to the bounds of white supremacy. Though physically black, their union illustrates black love as it manifests behind the veil of the white gaze. Black bodies obscured by wealth and fame so that they are actually no longer even human–brown shells of fantasy used to birth and support consumers who seek a seat at the table, or better yet center stage on the auction block called the Black A-list.

Beyonce and Jay Z, caricatures of blackness, market this image to victims of white supremacy as entertainment. The stereotypes, the noose around our neck, becomes what makes us smile as we are asphyxiated to the likings of our oppressors. 

Watching the concert, I could not help but not feel as though The Carters have the joint omriibobbywhitneytour that Bobby and Whitney should have had over two decades ago. Whitney and Bobby of course were not out of this world in the way that Jay and Bey are—it was just Whitney who catapulted to the lonely place at the bottom of a white supremacist mountaintop—a mountaintop that is nothing more than a veiled cliff. Bobby and Whitney illustrated the imbalance white supremacy puts on black love—that the black woman is purposely allowed to walk in doors for the sheer purpose of those same doors slamming in the face of the black men that follow. 

Reality series Being Bobby Brown was a means for the same system that  persistently sets the black family up for failure, to benefit— a means for white supremacists to sell umbrellas in the onriibobbyandwhitneystorm they created. Contrarily, for Jay and Bey, the profit for the 10+ years of their relationship is togetherness—their unity is good for their brand in the same way that  discordance was the key to Bobby and Whitney’s brand. 

So as beautiful as Beyonce sang, as gorgeous as she looked (minus the inauthentic hair and color), and as lovely as it is to see a black man love a black woman and vice versa, I cannot help but feel as if we as a collective were being played—literally. That our hopes and dreams of overcoming and arriving, have been sold to our collective as albums, and concert tickets. 

That both the black and love were ejected from “black love,”  making their performance
lack love like a literal lash from the past. I cant help but feel, as I swayed in the stands, and sang along to the soundtrack of my enslaved past, that I willingly tied myself to a tree and danced to the sound of my tearing skin.  ontrbeyonce

 My affinity for Beyonce the artist has largely been diluted. I can no longer be passive in her terroristic standpoint. She is what  this world wants me to be—jezebel-like with faux blonde hair— a black woman who leads black women into the burning house of white feminism and tells them that their charred body is flawless. Simply put, I cannot love a figure who exists to ensure my collective self-hate.  

Nevertheless, reflecting on the Beyonce concert affords me a new perspective in ontriiposterassessing the tour’s title. A black man and woman as “on the run” is literally a personification of what it means to be black anywhere on the globe. As beings of black form, we remain on the run from various manifestations of white supremacy. In considering Beyoncé and Jay-Z respectively, the black body remains on the run from a media who thrives in our subjugation and separation of self.

At the height of their fame, Bey and Jay function to illustrate what we as a people should wish to be—highly paid employees of our oppressors. To all those who protest my assertions,  despite what the media perpetuates, Jay Z and Beyoncé are manufactured and employed by the white media. Jay and Bey would not only fail to exist in a pro-black, or black centered society—they would serve no purpose. Realizing this is only enabled in running away from the aesthetic and ideology afforded by this concert, and toward the freedom not mentioned in “his” story or amidst his territory.

A week or so after the concert, a melanated colleague approached me with a query manufactured by our shared oppressors. His query was in reference to Beyoncé’s recent pairing with Vogue magazine. Specifically, Beyoncé’s decision to ditch hair extensions and makeup was to him revolutionary and deserving of praise. To him Bey was pushing back against a standard. To me however, Beyonce provides a diverse way to reinforce a standard she helped to create. It is also worth mentioning that Bey’s hair remains its unnatural hue, her espousal to white supremacy itemized in the wedding band of blonde locs. His commentary, alongside the thousands of spell bound fans who viewed Beyoncé worldwide on her most recent On The Run II tour, expose a reality perhaps I was reluctant to believe. A reality that so many of the black collective, from various walks of life, are waiting on a fair-skinned, blonde-haired black Woman to save the black collective from an illness she continues to spread in song, action, and image. Yonce though, whether on the cover of Vogue, or headlining a sold out tour, not only reflects what the black collective needs saving from, but she who also needs saving from a suffocating caricature revered for its conspicuous ability to keep the black collective “crazy in love” with a melanated representative of white supremacy.

The Black Writer and Overcoming the Demand to “Write White”

A Common “Curse”

Toni Morrison is a phenomenal writer. Her writing grabs the reader by the ears and makes them hear the heart beat of the characters she creates in their minds. What she provokes is not reading, but a way to see with. words.  ToniMorrison_WestPointLecture_2013

All the great writers, from Gertrude Dorsey Brown, to Wallace Thurman  to James Baldwin—perform a similar function with their writing. Yet, a common complaint about the black writer is one of grammar. A quick look on Goodreads, Amazon, or any other hegemonic platform, features countless comments that condemn black authors for their imperfect writing. An anti black agent conventionally referenced as a college professor, boasted of correcting the flawed grammar of Wallace Thurman. This feckless comment capitalizes on Thurman’s general obscurity, and begs an ignorance to the fact that the late Wallace Thurman, though a novelist, was also an editor.  From consistent criticism on black speech that ignores the imposition English marks on the black tongue, to the formalized ridicule of the black college student for writing deemed inferior to the institution of “higher” learning,  it is no secret that “higher” translates to “whiter.”

Inferiority by Ink

Langston_Hughes_by_Carl_Van_Vechten_1936The general labeling of the black body as linguistically inferior is an anticipated complaint of our oppressors. The consequences are variant, as even the black body has internalized this poisonous perspective of their collective and upon occupying positions of pseudo authority, perform the policing that hindered their youthful dreams of writing.

Being a student nearly all my life, I am quite familiar with the white suprematist wrath on black writing. Youth coerces the black body to afford teachers a trust that many did not, and will never earn. Many blacks trust that our teachers wish to make us better, not cast us in the image of institutionalized defeat. I was rather shocked to see that many of the ambiguously hostile commentary of my academic past and present was reflected in the commentary one of my articles posted on platform Lipstick Alley. In hindsight, I know that I probably should not have clicked the link, however, considering that LSA is supposedly a platform of black voices, my vestment in black perspective led me off a cliff. 

These comments, in chorus, articulate an expectation for me to write white. 

The Ink Can Be Black, but You Can’t: Writing as Weaponry

By write white I speak specifically to the not so silent demand that I, a black woman, WallaceThurmanabide by the very grammar and mechanical rules that has articulated my collective inferiority for centuries. My writing is to demonstrate mastery of the very technicalities that legalized the niggerization of my people. 

Though actualized as issues with grammar and mechanics, these formalities functions to veil an anxiety. Now here is where the conventional arguments of this sort speak to an anxiety of black intellect. Intellect however is a problem, but it is not the problem. The black collective is not at a shortage of intellect—whether developed or underdeveloped. We are at a shortage of confidence. Accusations of grammar and mechanic deficiency functions to attack black confidence–to seduce the exercising of black talent to become what Langston Hughs labeled “ a dream deferred.”

To write white means to be a parrot of white supremacy. Instead, I prefer to write with soul.

Now, most black writers who function at the mainstream level to demonstrate mastery of oppressive grammar rules. This mastery though makes writing conventionally good-but it is not enough to make any writing great. Great writing is done from the soul. Great writing is an espousal of past and present, of body and mind, of feeling and sight. 

The superficial criticism of black writers for failing to adhere to the oppressive standards of grammar and mechanics, ironically marks outstanding writing. The writing made these scorned feel an emotion that they perceive as incongruent to the climate of white supremacy. Yet instead of investigating these feelings, they clutch the ways of white supremacy and cast the same denigration they experience daily onto their kinfolk. 

In “Da State of Pidgin Address”, Lee A. Tonouchi, makes a bold declaration of pride in his regional and ethnic tonouchidialect, pidgin. His essay articulates  a non-negotiable espousal to pidgin, as pidgin represents everything the academy wants to pull out of him. Most resonantly, is perhaps his proclamation of writing letters of recommendations in this language. Now Tonouchi is not a black man, and his arguments are hardly unique. Plenty of black men and women have also refused to code-switch, but have not been granted the prestige and agility Tonouchi, as a non-black person of color, receives by default. As a non-black person of color, the choice to speak in a language other than English is in fact a privilege. The decision to speak in this language is seen as a choice, not an ability to acquire or perfect the language. Ethnic whites and non-black persons of color are never as ridiculed or undermined for their use of English language as black people. In America, no black person’s use of the English language is ever enough. Even those demonstrating an unprecedented mastery of a coerced language with a severed tongue, are demeaned and treated as language degenerates.

In Closing…

I have no interest in mastering my oppressors language, and have no interest in inspiring others to do so. For too long, my use of the English language has functioned as a weapon against my personhood. This of course is two fold. On one hand, this language symbolized a an tongue cut and draped like a flag over African identity. On the other hand, this language has consistently functioned to personify my alignment with beasts, and general ineptitude. Moreso, playing into these beliefs allows the English language to foment my individual and collective dehumanization.

I am posting this piece because it is something I wish I would have read a decade ago, when the dreams of an undergraduate girl were uprooted by the university. So for the black boy, girl, man or woman who has felt the sting of superficial criticism—keep writing. 

Black Power ❤

Kindred, A Key to Kinship: Remembering The Late Octavia Butler on Her Birthday

Science fiction was probably the only genre I did not read growing up. I read A Brave New World as a senior in high school, proud of the mastery I demonstrated of my master’s tools.  I had a ninety-five grade average, which documented my lauded hypnosis delineated in my memory of the white Man’s text, history, and theory. Kindred illuminated the dearth that surrounded by education up to that point. True, my time out of school was inundated with blackness, but my time in school was unapologetically African adjacent. It was wrong, even violent, what they did. But like slavery and lynching,  it was legal. octaviabutler

I first discovered Octavia Butler at Howard University. Kindred was the book selected the year I entered college which was also the year Butler transitioned into what I always envisioned as one the worlds of her prose. The entire Freshman class of 2006 would read the echoes of her influence, as she returned back to her innate form of suspension between life and death—reunited with her ancestors—elevated to a power life only let her grace as she wrote. Kindred proved haunting and inspiring, changing the way my eighteen-year-old self would see the world forever.

Like Octavia Butler’s protagonist Dana, I too am a black Women that is both in the past and the present. My struggles and oblivion to the training I’d been subjected to, is, like the black experience as a whole, something passed down from the struggle of my ancestors.

Kindred follows the story of Dana, a  a twenty-six year old black female writer who IMG_4173physically visits a foremother and witnesses firsthand the blood spilled during the horrors of physical bondage. Her time travel places her in the years preceding the union that would eventually engender her existence. Her great grandmother Alice is owned by Rufus’ family. Rufus will eventually father Alice’s two children. Though Alice doesn’t like or love Rufus, but he “loved” her the same way a farmer loves his chicken, or cow. His privilege severs her loving union with a black man, and through a coercion that translates into consent, eventually goes on to become a great great grandfather to protagonist Dana. 

The text illustrates the shared experience of what it means to be a black woman or man. Being black is not an individualistic experience. To be black is to be part of a whole, to be a page in a book alongside faces you’ve only seen in sullied photographs, or in some cases, faces that you have never seen at all. Dana’s individualism burdens the text, as it is her deed of saving a dying Rufus that enables the rape of her grandmother. Yes, it illustrates that blacks are empaths and innately human. This depiction also illustrates that black humanity, enables white dehumanizing. 

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The text also calls into question the idea of freedom.

Though supposedly far removed from the institution of enslavement, Dana’s foremother Alice illustrates more insight and understanding towards blackness and black female integrity than Dana. This illustrates a non-distorted reality as a benefit to overt racism. Alternatively, the distance many descendants of the enslaved placed between themselves and a past of coercion and cruelty creates a dissonance that is ultimately, if not immediately, dangerous.

For example,  Dana is a  black Woman, married to a white man. Despite the ugliness she experiences, her union with her white spouse remains in tact. Though Rufus speaks of Alice “coming to him without being called,” Alice’s actions are one of survival. She is disgusted with herself when she declines to feel hate towards her rapist, a shame Dana never feels.  I was moved and devastated when Alice ends her own life after Rufus stages her children’s sale to manipulate her emotions. Alice’s life was one of sacrifice, her person was one of power. In death, Alice shows that she was not living for herself, but for others. Namely, at this point—she lived for her kids so devoutedly, she’d die in their absence.  And she did.

 Additionally, her deed does something else.  This action, while a blow to the reader who learned to love the strength of this beautiful woman, illustrates an agency absent from Dana, but tragically executed by Alice in bondage.   ob

For years after reading Kindred I found myself bewildered, and to be frank, angry. How could Dana possibly stay with her white husband after witnessing first hand, the horror of her great-grandmother?  Her cognitive dissonance hits close to home, as the contemporary climate remains inundated by black women who have forgotten the face of their foremothers. The scars on our foremother’s body may have dissipated as their bodies became one with the earth, but these lashes made a mark on our legacy—on our collective soul. This book opens this systemic wound and bleeds into the reader’s mind. Dana’s journey back to her great grandmother was never about her, it was about the readers.

Kindred holds hands with novels that precede it’s brilliance, showing us that these protagonists are “kindred” to the black reader. What makes Butler such a wondrous talent is that she places the reader as the protagonist. The reader goes back in time with Dana, and resents her behavior at times because the penetrating prose places the reader in the position to right a wrong. Dana, in her predisposed imperfection, does not right any wrongs. Instead she plays along, like so many of us have done and still do.

She is imperfect, but her imperfections, prove a means to steer the imperfect reader into the right direction. Particularly, Dana illustrates that the contemporary black body has more power than we are lead to believe. We cannot change the past, but the past can change us.  With Kindred, Butler plants a seed of intellectual curiosity. Kindred suggests that this feat lies at our collective footsteps by literally placing it right before the reader’s eyes.

Thank you, Octavia Butler for authoring the prose that foments your people to do better. We are a better people because of your contribution.

 Just as Dana held the hands of her foremother in Kindred, I hold yours through time and space. Through distance and date. Through life and death.

 I hold your hand as we continue to plow our way through the flames, into a blaze of glory that awaits us at the mountaintop.

Rest in Power Queen Octavia. 

Love. Light. And Black Power ❤

A Fly on the Wall isn’t a Fly at All: Re-evaluating Success in Silence

They laugh and smile with one another as the melanated faces mistake anti-black attitudes as kindness. I can’t laugh though, my face frozen in seeing what others do not, or simply will not acknowledge.

They are telling me the benefits of teaching my narrative. They teach me the socially acceptable way to intertwine blackness in the canonical genre of my discipline. This is the violence they don’t talk about. How the systemic asphyxiation of the so-called elite grabs you by the hair and holds your head underwater. They let you up for air only in hopes that you suffocate a little more intensely the next time, your gargling a soft chortle beneath the laughs and confident speech of the oppressive faction.  43546_hcfbya1x9mmwimqnjlmag6v2p

The corpses flatten the bubbles of my distress. These corpses regarded as ideal by colonizers who call themselves a mirage of creative names that veil their socially accepted cruelty. These names veil their evils like cologne veils an unpleasant odor.   This stench does not stop them from patting themselves on the back for how well they taught The Other Wes Moore, Between the World and Me, and other texts that speak of what they can never understand.

There is a loneliness in being the only one not smiling—in being the only one not sandra-bland-be-my-voiceshucking and jiving for those who drink black blood like smoothies. I am constantly frozen in the conscious stupor of wanting to use my positionality to educate, but also realizing what I say and suggest can and will be used against my collective.

By this I mean that if I suggest a novel, poem or short story by an under-represented black author, I risk making it so that another black body has to feel how I feel. That they have to be taught how to feel about their narrative by  he or she who’ll win accolades and earn a comfortable salary for including colored folks. By those lauded for bringing in the bodies they stepped on and down right butchered, to stand where they stand. I can’t do that to the illusive black freshman unfortunate enough to get these people as an instructor, paid to turn their naivety and thirst for life into a functional inferiority. I won’t do it to myself either. I won’t receive tips from those who exploit my collective story. From those who use black artists like decoration on a tree where black bodies hang off branches.

a01154d0abbb910f6d86c948e66cb3fd--black-white-photos-black-and-whiteInstead I will sit in a ring of fire. I’ll sit perched with pursed lips amidst flames cast by what the world calls black girl rage. They’ll forget that I’m there but whisper later about my indignant “attitude.” Though few will have the nerve to say it, I’ll be regarded as a bitch, everyone overlooking the vast ways in which every institution on the globe treats black bodies like bitches, like female dogs tied to a post and forcibly penetrated to ensure she literally the bears the burden of bondange. The insincere queries that are sure to follow will wonder what’s “wrong” with me, refusing to even consider that there was something wrong with the environment as a whole. None of the other darkies complained, so let’s cast this one overboard before she convinces the others that this is a slave ship and not a cruise, that this is a plank not a position.

While they do this, I’ll count the seconds until we are relieved. I will see visions of a black past and seek council from those killed yesterday for my tomorrow. I will fantasize about walking out until I cross the threshold when the time comes. 

“Where to?” I ask myself as I walk as fast as I can in heels.

“Up” I say as I realize that what I idealized for years never was. That my entire climb upward was actually a slide downward into a pit of anti-blackness called success. 

Contemplating Freedom on Juneteenth

I used to think freedom was education. That the other side of the degree was a the place to be. That somehow when I crossed the stage, things would be different.

After spending nearly my entire life in school, I see that school is a business. I am presently taking a summer course. A handful of students in my course were dropped after failing to pay a mystery charge on our accounts. To be reinstated  we would have to be pay an additional hundred dollar fee. It is moments like these that expose the revered institution of education as rooted in a love of money.

Investing in Continued Black Inferiority 

Although I do not pay tuition for my current endeavors, the institution’s vestment is in juneteenth.jpg
training another body to fit into a capitalistic word.  Acceptance into these institutions is not about intellect, though that is what they’d have us believe. It remains vested in training the black body to occupy a position to oppress their people, to accept a check from a white man. The goal is to create a white collar worker revered for an intellect verified by an institution anchored in anti-black ideologies. The goal is not for education or intellect, but to make us a robot where race is incidental. To cast race as a mistake corrected in curating an inner whiteness. 

I say this all to say that contemplating freedom as a black person remains an integral part of black life. This contemplation engenders a distinction between black and melanated, as melanated folks define freedom in acquisition of materialism and increased proximity to white people. The melanated seek to “make it” within the limitations of their oppressors. Conversely, blacks seek to make a way beyond these limitations. Blacks realize that acquisitions of material and increased proximity to white people simply means an acquisition of the soul. That it marks an exchange of a legacy for a bucket of lies. 

The E.P. Did not Emancipate Us

The emancipation proclamation means nothing with regard to dissolving slavery. Enslavement is has always been mental, and the emancipation does nothing to lessen the mental strain resulting from four hundred years of violence. The document merely marks white realization that formal slavery was no longer necessary. This document marks the realization that the damage had already been done, that the physical chains were just decoration, a physical manifestation of the mental deterioration that had already taken place. The emancipation proclamation is just a mark of white cruelty, a celebration of empty symbolism that makes the black collective cry tears of happiness in lieu of an an Obama or even a pre-Trump Ben Carson. Tears that ultimately drown the collective in the fabrication of a consummation thwarted by symbols we are encouraged to celebrate. 

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The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards Featuring: Beyonce Where: Los Angeles, California, United States When: 09 Feb 2015 Credit: FayesVision/WENN.com

Figures like former President Obama, Ben Carson, Beyonce, or any other celebrated case of black “exceptionalism,” socially reproduce the Emancipation Proclamation. These symbols function as documentation or proof that we are free. That the chains have turned to chances and produced such “brilliance”, such “talent,” such “excellence.” These attributes, like the proclamation, where  supposedly the product of black discovery, in one way or another.  But physical freedom will never be stumbled upon. Freedom is not found, it’s taken.     

Freedom  will never make the his story books. Freedom will never be a trending topic on Twitter.

Freedom has never and will never be what we as a collective have been given, as we have only been given what benefits others. Freedom is what we take. 

Education is never what we have been given. We must take our knowledge, but first we must create it. 

Love is never what we have been given or shown. We must take our love, but first we must create and acknowledge it. 

To be free is to be mentally liberated. To understand that freedom is conventionally anti-climatic. There is no gown, no tassle, no bells, no whistle, no piece of paper that can commemorate this feat. Just that mental state of peace, a mental richness consummated in accruing  what money can never buy.

Freedom is the black farmer who grows and eats his own food.

The black seamstress who makes his or her own clothes. He or she who defines their own style, rather than finding their feelings on the rack in some white franchisement.

Freedom is the black educator who uses their training to untrain others. He or she who incites a strategy of unlearning to cognitively cleanse the black mind from the poison of white supremacy.

Freedom is the black doctor who uses white science to engender prevention in his or her community.

Freedom is the black lawyer who uses a system used to legalize anti-blackness to ensure that black realize these laws are the nooses around their necks. Freedom is he or she who uses their law degree to free blacks and ensure the real criminals are locked up by the very system designed to enable white freedom.  ht

Freedom is Nat Turner. Denmark Vesey. Harriet Tubman. Sojourner Truth. Ida B. Wells. WEB Dubois.  Malcolm X. Dr. King. Fred Hampton. Fanny Lou Hamer. George Jackson. Assata Shakur. Derrick Bell.

Freedom is the black man or woman who jumped from the ships with heavy chains that sunk them to the bottom of the sea, but the height of mental freedom. Freedom is the enslaved body who fought back either mentally or physically–he or she who maybe was not even given a name, but made a name for themselves. Freedom is the black man or woman who refused to be trained and started their own. 

So I suppose what I am saying is that it not about “living your best life” as the contemporary phrasing will have the oppressed  believing, but living your freest life. 

How will you live your freest life?

Black Power ❤

Oh So Presidential: Why Sally Hemmings’ Inclusion is the Same Ole Supremacy

I woke up to an article this morning that spoke to recent development of the late Thomas Jefferson’s estate. The article relished in the plantation acknowledging Sally Hemmings’ role in his-story. Though often portrayed as Jefferson’s “great love,” Sally Hemmings was  Jefferson’s concubine. Despite overtly confronting what historical writings of Jefferson normally deny, the article continues to romanticize the horror of enslavement in imbuing a crippling ignorance depicted in the following.

I. Use of the word “Monticello”

To be completely transparent, I had to consult the dictionary upon encountering this word. Monticello, it turns out, simply means plantation. The use of this word functions to distance Jefferson from what he was, a slave owner who inflicted his cruelty on the most celebrated plantation in the United States.

II. Referencing Hemmings as “the mother of Jefferson’s children”

Though not able to consent to Jefferson due to her enslavement and the pervasive environment of white supremacy, Hemmings is commonly referenced as “the mother of Jefferson’s children” or his lover. His story often projects their relations as that of star-crossed lovers, not occupants of two vastly different positions in the very power system that continues to haunt blacks globally.

The issue of consent is one that remains contentious. Consent is central in discussing the white female body and #metoo, but hovers over black and white relations that appear to be consensual in our current setting. Hemmings was not able to consent to sexually activity  with Jefferson, let alone love him in the cruel climate that claimed her humanity and hung it on their systemic estate as decor. Hemmings’ portrayal as a consenting concubine or legitimized mother, functions to paint Jefferson as a man in love, not a rapist in power.

Hemmings does prove a formidable canvass for understanding contemporary manifestations of their violent engagement. The same system that enslaved the minds and bodies of our ancestors is still very much in place, yet consent remains an under-discussed topic. What I mean here is that given the systemic asphyxiation of black minds under white supremacy, melanated people remain unable to consent to relationships with white people. Black people, who have elevated their melanated status in a journey to consciousness however, do posses the mental freedom to consent, but would not given their astute perception of race and its global functionality.

My argument is essentially similar to what Gayatri Spivak makes in “Can the Subaltern Speak.” Spivak argues that due to the mental mutilation of the subalterns mind, their “choices” mirror the choices made for them by their oppressors. “Choice” is chosen when your mind is mentally consumed. Blacks are persistently force-fed images that paint whites as the height of society, sexually desirable, and great nurturers. Despite these attributes being antithetical to the truth, the white supremacist environment that encases us  in alterity chooses a “white” and “non-black” body for the mentally enslaved—depicting consent as both not non-existent and socially acceptable.

III. Celebrating her inclusion in “his” story

The articles from Jefferson’s estate bask in the feature of what was believed to be Hemmings’ room in a new exhibit. The write-ups are all the same, a performance of self-congratulatory debauchery. An act that praises white supremacists for acknowledging the human resources that enable their pseudo superiority. This functions similarly to the show the white media has created around Trump and his pardons. These actions, are deliberate. They exist and are exhibited only to foment the myth that “things are so much better now” as we stand in the same spot of our ancestors, blinded in the obscurity white media, white education, and white history continues to grant our truth.

Conclusion

The truth is Jefferson as a romanticized rapist, and Hemmings as a silent sufferer, embody what it means to be “presidential.” In the contemporary climate, it has become custom for the masses to detach themselves from Trump the individual by denying him the title “President.” The issue here is that denouncing Trump from the title awards “president” an undeserving revere. The term president does not speak to prestige or responsibility. The word “president” is just another word for white supremacist, as everyone “sworn” into this role takes an oath to protect and serve a republic born from the blood of blacks.

“President” references George Washington, who although the first “president” was not the first white supremacist. Washington is Willie Lynch. He encompasses the males who castrated and killed Claude Neal, and the males that tortured and murdered a fourteen year old Emmitt till. It was extremely hard to write the previous sentences without using the word “animal” in place of “male.” I reasoned with the following “Males are not men, but humans are animals.” Similarly, presidents are not people, they are not capital, they are an embodiment of an ideology. An ideology that is inherently anti-black.

The black collective, despite their financial status, education level, aesthetics or any other attribute that may convince one to believe they are special, remain identical to Hemmings.  Whether at a school, bank, or private sector position, most of us remain espoused to contemporary plantations. Though unlike our ancestors, many of us believe that words like “consent” and “choice”  mark a freedom chained hands, veiled by these very words, can’t quite reach.

Black Power ❤