To the many people who know me, it seems like this year was the year I went off the deep end and let my depression consume me. I argued, became more anti-social, & I hated the people who cared the most about me. But to be frank, for some of you, I don’t think you all fully get it.
The fact of it all is that this has been a year where I had to come to terms with a truth about myself that can’t be denied. That in short, I have walked through life with a deep hate of myself via anti-blackness and that I have no choice but to sit down with myself and realize that I am deeply damaged on a level that you, my friends, may not full understand.
The point at which I was forced to face the deep level of dysfunction I have was when I spent a month with one of my friends, some you will know who I speak of. Yes, she is a beautiful woman, but the reason I fell in love with her is because she is black & free. Free of society’s expectation of women and of black people. Free of its standards on black people’s sexuality. Just…unburdened by the very things that have weighed me and so many people down. But she left…and I was forced to face what ailed me as a black man in America.
When all of you tell me to learn to like myself and not live for others, I don’t think you all know what it means to grow up in a culture where the society around you puts out negative images of people who look just like you, and the only way you don’t become a potential target of people’s (overt) racism is that you act in a way that doesn’t threaten them or fits into what they view as respectable. I don’t like it, you don’t like it, but the fact remains that the majority of people who raised me grew up in the Jim Crow South and saw only slightly less racism once they crossed the Mason-Dixie line. I don’t want to blame my childhood, but please understand that the people that raised me to properly navigate white spaces and be an upstanding respectable black man did so because both they and I know we live in a society that will justify someone killing me if I don’t fit into the neat little box that white supremacy sets up for black respectability. Hell, my very name was picked because it was said to “get me a good job” on account of it sounding white.
No, I don’t have to fit into said box. But I also know I’m not cut out for militancy due both to my upbringing and the fact that of what ambitions I have for life, being the militant black man goes only so far before you’re either left fighting the same enemies over and over again or you die. This is not to say I’ll never stand up for me and my blackness, but this is also to say I know when & how to fight in a way that gets results. Yes, I haven’t shown it lately, but that’s because I simply don’t know how to walk the line on this stuff.
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” — James Baldwin
When it comes down to it, my depression comes from the fact that no matter how black people choose to stand up for ourselves, there’s always a reasoning for why it’s a problem. Militant? Race baiting. Moderate or peaceful? You’re letting race get in the way of harmony. Believe in economic empowerment? You’re creating a double standard where black people can explicitly try to make money for themselves, but if white people did that they’d be called racist. Sure, maybe YOU aren’t telling me these things, but collectively it feels as though the world around both of us is. Maybe you can’t see it, maybe you can only see some it, but I assure you it’s there.
Furthermore, the fact that I can’t talk about issues of race with some of you does hurt a bit. I don’t expect guilt, but I do want an honest dialogue between us. I need to know that if we are really friends, that I can bring up the uncomfortable but needed truths about the world we live in as I don’t experience it the same as you. I know you have your own issues and your own problems, but if I’m willing to hear your problems, I simply ask that you are willing to hear mine. At times, it really does feel like some of you don’t even seem to fully care about black issues fully when it affects the people you’re dating. I’ve seen it. You tried and all I could do was cringe.
My struggle with life is that I find myself stuck in an unwinnable social situation that I’ll never fully be able to navigate and that I have no progress in life regardless of it. That fact is because I was conditioned as I am for life, I contain the potential to do so much but carry the double edged stigma that I am disarming to white people in polite society but am viewed as a sellout by my own people when really I had no say in the matter. If anything, the fact that I was raised to be someone that doesn’t threaten racist white sensibilities should be glaring proof that I know the deal out here. But I won’t. If anything, because I choose to try and talk it out and be cordial with anyone I can rather than focus on the unchangeable fact that there are racists out there, I’ll be called a coon and a sellout because I would rather find solidarity with whoever will get me rather than hold on to the idea that if all black people stuck together here, we could change everything.
Truth is, nothing gets changed simply because one group affected by overarching issues has solidarity amongst themselves and with no one else. Change happens when everyone whose oppressed works together. Yes, all lives do matter, but please know that the reason things like Black Lives Matter are said is because we live in a society that doesn’t seem to care about us, sometimes even when it would be convenient to do so. We get told, “If black lives matter, what about black on black crime?” never mind that literally every race kills each other, yet it’s one of the main things they associate with black people. Seriously, stop and think about how many true crime shows you see where white people kill one another. Would it be fair to label all white people as murderous thugs off that?The reason I write this is because many of you care about my struggles with self image, but don’t understand the basic issue that I feel that people like me are being demonized on a level that gets some of us killed and leaves people like me feeling like lapdogs to white supremacists’ racism. Sure, this probably doesn’t apply entirely to you, but know that all I ask is that you understand that I deal with issues too complex for you to fully grasp at times. There are times where all I need is for you to just listen. That’s all.