My friends and I were having a conversation some time back about the crisis of being millennials, black millennials to be specific. We were essentially trying to understand how everything got so irrecoverably fucked up (I mean, that may be an exaggeration considering that it is actually recoverable but I will live my truth. I SAID WHAT I SAID) She made a point which I thought was quite profound about how we are sort of this lost generation in between the generations of our parents and the generation of our children. Our parents had a purpose. They had APARTHEID. They had this huge, very well understood enemy and were expected to conquer and overcome, which they did…partially. When they were done abolishing the descendant of slavery, we were left with the questions of our insides. We had now stated the fact that we had the right to life and quality of life so then the logical question would be then to ask, “what is this life that I deem fit to exist and is it worthy?”. My generation answered that question over and over again with a “Yes, you are worthy” even when we didn’t believe it for ourselves, we said it over and over for our sons and our daughters and so they flourished, became themselves so much faster, loved themselves so much sooner while we remained insecure and more unsure of ourselves. We know that black is magic. We know that we only cause one another pain because we’re afraid. We know that we are born brave lovers. We know that we are allowed to claim greatness now! We know! But there is a scar left inside us because once upon a time we believed in the lie that the war was over, that we didn’t have to fight no more and we broke when they pulled that veil. We could no longer trust our mothers and we could not trust ourselves. We cannot trust ourselves. So of course, this black won’t feel so magic sometimes and, damn right, this brave lover is armed with daggers of her own. Of course I feel a little lost all the time, I recently found out I was fucked.
What do we really know. From the time that we are born, we are bombarded with information, most of which we are told we cannot interrogate because smarter and all knowing old white men already did all the thinking for us and that all we need do is accept it as truth. We become unable to discern, let alone formulate our own thoughts. Furthermore, we become convinced that these opinions presented to us as fact with intangible proof are our own and we become completely identified with them. In most cases, we become the guardians of these hypotheses and become personally offended by anyone who dares question the premise of these ideas. We behave as though these ideas are somehow related to who we are, that the dissolution of them is the dissolution of the very fiber of our being. This is, of course, not true and this false reality is facilitated by our constant companion, the Ego.
An example of such an occurrence can be demonstrated when we question the shape of the earth, something that we feel certain of as if the theory of a round earth is a fundamental truth. Before one hears of an alternative argument, they automatically become defensive and cannot imagine nor justify the possibility of an opposing theory. The point here is not to discuss the shape of the earth because that would be playing into unimportant semantics. The point is to bring to light the truth that if we are honest with ourselves, we know nothing. Once we admit that then the true process of learning can begin because we have opened ourselves and minds up to the infinite possibilities of what could be.
Perhaps more important than determining what is right or wrong, is the journey one embarks on when we are in pursuit of the truth rather than making the assumption that we already know the truth.
It has happened several times to me where I have met a new person (specifically a cis het individual) and somewhere along the line, a few conversations later, said person would reveal to me that upon meeting me, they had gotten the impression that I was a queer black womxn. Some have said that they thought I was Lesbian and others have said that they thought I was Bisexual and in all these cases, they were quite surprised to find out that I was just another cis het black womxn. I always feel like such a disappointment when I reveal this to them because I’m fully aware of how annoying and violent cis het black womxn can be within the Black Radical Feminist community. This is, however, besides the point.
I always ask said people, why it is that they assumed I was queer upon meeting me and nobody has ever been able to provide me with an answer. I eventually just made my own assumption and concluded that it must be due to the fact that my face is riddled with piercings as I’ve been told that this qualifies me to fit the stereotype.
Now, I couldn’t really care less whether someone thought I was queer or not. In fact, I quite like the idea that people get confused about my sexuality because I get so frustrated with the colonialistic obsession with classification and placing people in boxes. I hate the fact that we look at people and immediately draw a conclusion about their gender, sexuality, personality and even their background. Everything and especially gender and sexuality exists within a spectrum; our decolonial education has taught us this yet it still brings us comfort to be able to look at someone or something and be able to call it by name. This desire to know and understand is not the problem. The problem comes when we use these markers and so called “stereotypes” to create societal norms, to exclude and oppress people that exist outside of these norms for the benefit of those that exist within the norm. This is obviously how colonial systems of oppression came about and became so successful; Capitalism being one of them. If we’re being honest, there is no normal. Anything occurring with a high incidence and a high prevalence is not normal. It is simply a thing occurring with a high incidence and a high prevalence, otherwise we’re saying slavery, AIDS and poverty are normal but they are not. These things are pathological just like being a white, cis gendered, heterosexual male is pathological within our society.
Now usually, those who exist within the “societal norm” often feel they have been given, by the white colonial Gods, the divine right to approve or disapprove of anything that falls outside of these norms. They also, unfortunately, suffer from the grandiose delusion that they decided independently that this is the way of the world and exactly how it should be when it is, in fact, the result of graduating from a very effective Colonial school of life.
The deconstruction of social constructs such as gender and sexuality as defined by the Anti-black, White Supremist, Capitalist and Heteronormative system has a necessary and vital part to play in the Decolonial Agenda.
So Dear fellow cis het Blacks, the next time you decide to assess someone and draw conclusions about their gender and sexuality, ask yourself “Why did I do this and what am I going to do with this information?”. As cis het individuals, we need to unlearn the idea that we hold monopoly on gender and sexuality. The LGBTQIA+ community has BEEN around and will continue to be around. This is a fact that does not require your approval or validation. Understand, as well, that as a black cis het individual who, without a doubt, experiences oppression in many violent forms daily, you are in no way exempt from oppressing and being violent towards other black people. If we are at all interested in the liberation of Black people then we must accept that we are a problem and society will hold us accountable for every single day that we stayed silent and did not provide the solutions.
The world has always made Love look so one dimensional. I grew up accepting the notion that if you didn’t have that ‘Jack & Rose’ love; that ‘The Notebook’ type love, then you were probably just settling or practicing in the hopes that, some day, you’d miraculously stumble upon your “soul mate” and your hearts would know exactly what to do.
I’m almost 23 now and I’ve found, to no one’s surprise, that nothing and especially not Love, works out the way things do in the movies. I’m not disappointed at this. It’s simply a matter of fact.
I find myself asking, however, “What is Love?”. All my life, I’ve been surrounded by strong, independent black womxn who never really (for lack of a better word) “succeeded” in the realm of love and things related. In the event that they found themselves enamored, for however long or short a period of time it was, it resembled nothing even remotely similar to what I had been taught Love was supposed to be. And if that wasn’t enough to cause immense confusion, my early introduction to the “men are trash” rhetoric at age 10 only left me more perplexed when it came to matters of the heart.
I am still constantly plagued by the question, “what does love look like and am I capable of it?”. What does it even mean to be in love as a cis gendered heterosexual Black Radical Feminist womxn? How do I allow myself to love and be loved by the very same being that makes my mere existence almost unbearable? I had once perceived Love as a distant acquaintance whom I thought of fondly and had wished to know intimately, but now I fear that Love could turn out to be no more than an unwanted guest that may overstay their welcome and proceed to ruin all my furniture. Love now appears a violence unto myself. How do I teach a man to look at me and see humxn when the world has taught him to consider me womb, consider me trophy, consider me sacrifice and anything else that rendered a service to him and left me with none of me to give to myself? My entire life, I watched womxn make martyrs of themselves for “good men” who didn’t know any better because they inherited demons that no God had been able to wash them clean of.
Most days, I feel that black people are too far gone, too damaged and too jaded to ever know Love; Love that suffers little and enjoys much; Love that gives just as readily as it takes; Love that is not sustained by capitalistic sensibilities but proves itself through understanding and acceptance and even in the empty spaces you leave for one another to grow both in and around each other.
At this point in my life, all I have is questions and I have no idea where to start looking for the answers because even if I looked inside myself, I’m afraid that this system that raised me, the system I hate so passionately, will warp my truths to suit itself as it has done for centuries. What I do know is that there is Love and I’m as sure of it as I am sure that there is God, but still I wonder what it would look like if I happened to come across it and called it by name.
I’m not sure at what exact point it was, or when this became of particular importance to me but there is a moment that I wasn’t completely cognizant of where a subconscious decision was made that starting this year and going forward, I would choose me and I meant it. In that moment, I became important to myself. I found value in me; found myself worthy of a life that provided me with more than just a constant survival that maintained my existence. Perhaps it came from being tired or from the realisation that nobody else would choose me first and it was completely unreasonable to expect them to.
Most of us are fighting a darkness that refuses to leave us, forgetting a painful memory, seducing ourselves into a state of self love, making our best attempts daily to convince ourselves and the world around us that we are enough! These are all important battles that we must win for ourselves and in spite of ourselves.
I am not interested in the politics of a Love Olympics where one would only be convinced of my love if I gave them both lungs and stopped breathing. I couldn’t be bothered with the affections of those who give everything with a receipt marked “IOU”. I choose me. We cannot stop one another from drowning if none of us can swim to save the other. There is nothing romantic about dark holes and nights spent crying.
It’s messy enough this thing of being black and womxn in a world that speaks so loud and intently of the tragedy in which you searched and found your magic. We need to keep finding our magic, even in the places and parts of ourselves they try to tell us there is none. We need to allow one another the time and space to gather our own strength; learn to love ourselves into humanity.
So if ever I choose you, know that I chose me first. I choose me consistently and on purpose because we will never save each other if we don’t know how to save ourselves.
I came to the conclusion, after a long period of deliberation, that if I’m being honest then I’ve been lying the whole damn time. See, I’ve always been the girl that’s been called loud, intimidating, boisterous, to name a few and while I couldn’t deny most of the adjectives so frequently associated with my name, there isn’t one that confused and infuriated me quite as efficiently as that of “confident”.
I thought, “Me? Confident? As though the scrutiny of people didn’t scare me half way to death. As if the mere possibility of rejection wasn’t enough to send me into solitude, questioning the validity of my existence.”
I didn’t mind that people had this idea of me. What I minded was that this idea seemed somewhat warped. They made it seem as though I strolled onto stages, articulation and diction flowing from my lips with the ease of that coming from a politician who had long since been accustomed to bullshitting with flare. I always wanted them to know that even though the words coming from my mouth would always be the greatest reflection of my truth, I too was bullshitting with flare.
I’ve always been a performer and this has translated to almost every area of my life. I’m not saying that I’m dishonest but there are many parts of my existence that are an altered truth, for fear of being misunderstood, for fear of being rejected. From a young age, I became fluent in the art of putting up facades, as many people do. My facade looked like confidence; it looked like self assurance; it looked like security when I had never known a person more insecure, more riddled with self doubt; in constant need of affirmation and validation.
So the phrase, “Pally, you’re so confident” annoyed the hell out of me because I wanted people to know how emotionally spent I was after each day from all that “confidence” always accompanied by fear and uncertainty. I was always desperately looking for a way to not be so damn timid and annoyingly insecure on the inside. I wanted to look in the mirror and tell my reflection, “You’re the shit because I said so” and have that be enough, have that be the only voice I had to believe.
The perception that people have of me; of this strong, uninhibited, gail force of a black womxn; that is who I wake up in the morning and aspire to be. I’m not there yet but eventually I will be because it’s so much more impossible to keep walking round like a damn apology.