It’s now Black History Month in the US and I find myself asking the same questions. What is Blackness? How do I continue to support it? How do I express unapologetically? How do I(we) gatekeep it? How do I continue to show the world we are here?
The most obvious answer I’ve come to after 2020? The crux of whom we are should be appreciated for the infinite universe that is our lived experiences. — Past, present, and future. The celebration of our Blackness shouldn’t rely on educating those whom aren’t Black. We truly maintain our Blackness when we don’t center it on non Black and white perspective. To continue to ask and hope that people accept us for whom we are is pointless.
We can only truly gain equity and power as we remind the world over and over we exist. Our experiences and achievements happen in a world that we move as well. Black people have and will remain here to shape the future as well.
There’s also the understanding that protecting what is Black means heading towards true Black liberation. Black liberation in itself is so “radical” as a concept to non Black people, because it means dismantling these systems that cater to them first and foremost. Until they are gone? Everything is largely an attempt. An attempt that no amount of representation can fix, it’ll be great on paper but our people will remain behind the curve.
Alas, society at large probably will never be interested in understanding. The most insulting things to Blackness? Is that we are still seeing conversations of race that read as here’s how to not be racist 101. What we need are conversations of here’s how to use your whiteness and proximity to it, to dismantle the systems that have you devalue us. Or how to be anti-racist. These conversation and talks must be held by the beneficiaries of whiteness. But no, I (we) have to explain why our existence in a sea of white homogeny is “important”.
Acknowledgement is hilarious, many people still don’t quite understand what it is. They believe is hiring one Black individual in their organization. Or having a Black chief of diversity and inclusion responsible for fixing their anti blackness. Rare, is the case when people openly admit to their favoritism of the white gaze and the privileges they weld. Even rarer still is these individuals making that effort.
I’ll be honest Black History Month will be another: shortest month in the year. A month where you will see the most performative actions yet for Black folks. A society and population will have ads, talks, and guests to talk about representation all month long. Which will result in many people clapping for themselves. We will still don’t make up 13% of most career fields despite the fact we make 13% of the US population. But hey representation matters right? Clap away.
What well to do white and non Black people fail to understand about Blackness? It’s not merely having us speak, it’s allowing us to flourish where we don't have the social capita to do so. It’s allowing us to be our true selves, it’s allowing us to be in position to transform what is the status quo. Yet, all these things are hampered with unconscious biases and lack of imaginations. Why am I speaking about equity when I’m taking about unapologetic Blackness? Because how can we exist as ourselves are we remain actively shutout spaces in society? Shutout by design.
I digress on the matters above, again I ask myself how do project my Blackness. Honestly? I’m still finding the answers and figuring it out. Blackness is a well of life, one that I drink from every second that I breath. It’s a well I help fill on my own with any accomplishment that inspires another person to do what they want. It’s a well that is filled by the blood, sweat, and tears of sorrow, love, and existence. It’s a well that refresh my spirit with stories of Black excellence. It’s a well that reminds us to be Black is encompass all of humanity. It’s a well that is queer, disabled, neurodivergent, gender fluid, and so on. It’s a well that I’ve been told I have access to since my youth. It’s a well that is tapped into from all over the world, from all ages, and will remain long after I’m but ash.
I often felt like Blackness had to be something I had to be icon about. This is foolish, I’m human and this is doesn’t make me any less Black.
I, myself alone could spend the next 35 years of my life to create work and spaces to uplift a respectable portion of Black voices. Yet, that alone would be but a mere drop of water in the ocean of a world that hate me (us). Simply, existing is Black enough, we don’t have to grace the pages of history books to move the world. It is with this understanding that every breath and opportunity I have, I will try to appreciate where we are and where we can go…where can I go.
Anyway, everyday I wake up I wake up as a Black man. I live working through systems that operate to not be fair towards millions like me. I live in a world were the more I operate in favor of the white gaze I will gain more social capita. I live in a world where regardless of how much white people love me, their family/colleague/friend wouldn’t hesitate to shoot me.
I live as a member of the Black community. At the end of the day I have my life, my Blackness and the responsibility to do with it as I please. I choose to live it unapologetically in my own way. I hope when my time comes, I hope people can see my life for what it is: “He tried to some good and wanted people to know he loved being Black, when the world didn’t”.
For now, that’s good enough for me. I might make some mistakes along the way, but no one is perfect. So today is another day I wake up loving that I’m a Black man that lives in the South.