Being a young man I must admit that in all honesty, I have views that many would see as problematic. Many in fact would call me “ashy” or whatnot, but today I choose to walk in my truth & say what’s in my heart as a man mired in a generation that doesn’t like to employ critical thinking because we fear how we shall sound.
For one, I do not understand how we as a generation choose to reject ideas like respectability. We as a generation have fought so hard to “not be like our grandparents” that we never stopped and thought why our grandparents chose to be who they are. Yes, it’s fucked up that we live in a society that is so anti-black that black people must work twice as hard to receive half as much as mediocre white people, but I for one just do not see the point in our generation sacrificing opportunities for a better life in order to fight against systematic injustice that’s frankly bigger than any of us. To be blunt, this is just how this world is and to believe we’re entitled for it to conform to our views because its perceived that there’s a large number of us who feel this way ignores the fact that there’s far more of us that realize that we didn’t make the rules but we can easily learn to play the game.
We reject our grandparent’s temperament because as a generation, we haven’t truly embraced the idea of working hard to get what we want. Yes, we’ll work long hours for the big paycheck but no one likes to think about who amongst us is going to do the jobs that everyone else can’t, or rather won’t do. At the end of the day, many of our grandparents were the kind of people who would gladly dig ditches and mop floors if it meant even a chance at a possibly attaining a better future. So why reject them? Because white people looked at them as being “one of the good ones” and treated them in a pseudo-slave manner? Again, as long as you can pay your bills, feed your family and hold your head up high knowing you’re a man or woman who takes care of theirs, it really should not matter that white people might have problematic views of you.
But of course, I’ll be ignored and called a sellout. We’ll pretend that a kid kicking out that white guy’s window because he called him a nigger is perfectly justifiable and that even though to this day we hate when women are doxed on the internet for speaking their mind, that it’s perfectly fine to find the info of some idiot doing blackface or whatever and get them fired or expelled because hey, “we are not our grandparents”. But I stop and ask: why aren’t we? For many of us, our grandparents might not have been the most militant individuals, but they were the most practical. They took care of their families, they taught us how to carry ourselves and ultimately, they are good role models to model ourselves after in terms of living a stable life. But we reject them because…they don’t fit into our modern standards of progressive politics. Really?
What’s more, I’ve also grown tired of black peoples’ demonizing of black people who exist in predominately white spaces in society. The social justice movement has gotten so militantly rabid that now we’ve begun to turn on our talented 10th, and I can’t help but feel it’s jealousy at the end of the day. Yes, black people with talent SHOULD give back to our communities but we cannot demand so much of our educated that we demand they give up a chance at living a sustainable & comfortable life for all of us. Furthermore, this idea that black people get degrees as a ticket to live amongst whiteness reeks not only of naive afrocentrism but also as a bit of jealousy. The fact remains that yes, it’s fucked up that black communities are disenfranchised to where many of us leave our communities with higher education and never come back, but to guilt people and say they should ignore an opportunity at giving their kids a better education and a much more stable living environment is just sad really. If we really want to change let’s keep demanding that the few wealthy black people there are give back and give more opportunities; but let’s not demand that everybody reject living a middle to upper middle class life because white folks are there.
Speaking of white people, I’d like to bookend this with the fact that when it comes to the fight for social justice and building a system of allies, we really aren’t kind to white people. Yes, we can all recount several times a white ally let us down and ruined our trust, but in the end, we can’t demand more of our allies than they can deliver. At the very most, we can expect them to educate the next white person about their privilege and maybe create one less ignorant white guy when it comes to issues like police brutality and stereotyping.
But to honestly demand that white allies fix highly complex issues like the proliferation of euro-centric beauty standards being pushed in western culture or cultural appropriation does start to ask for a large bill of goods that I truly don’t think they could give us even in a decade. The hard truth of it all is simply that yes, black is beautiful, there is a systematic bias against afro-centric features shown on African bodies, and yes society does tend to reject and ultimately shun African body types, features and hairstyles on actual black bodies but praises them when they’re featured on white people. But the truth of it all is that we live in a society that knowingly or unknowingly has a bias against us, and no amount of white guilt can truly fix said problem. One of my closest friends is a white woman who tries so hard and earnestly to understand what I and other black people go through, but for the safety of her mental well being, I keep her at a distance about it all because too much social justice has become less about educating and more about drinking white tears and I don’t want her to be a part of the well.
So in the end, I ask why aren’t we like our grandparents? Why don’t we share their mettle? Are we really so jaded that we would honestly choose to be counterproductive to save face rather than do what needs to be done? Are we really so married to the idea of standing up against any and every injustice from white people that we’ll lose out on opportunities?