In Order For This to Happen
“In order for this to happen, your entire frame of reference will have to change, and you will be forced to surrender many things that you now scarcely know you have.” ― James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Reflecting on #Juneteenth and #FathersDay weekend and the current state of how I am observing White people respond to the long-held insistence by Black people that #BlackLivesMatter (newsflash): Juneteenth is worth considering in this regard because ostensibly it is a day to focus on Black freedom and healing from White terror —terror that is still very much happening.
So, White people how did you spend Juneteenth? What did you talk about? Who did you spend your time and energy talking to and with? If there are Black people in your life what did you do to support them? Did you lower the ever insistent noise of the other White people around you and really REALLY listen to what the Black people in your life have to say? Did you turn the volume up on Black voices and emotions and sit in the discomfort and pain (or whatever else came up) with them? Were you kind and compassionate about it all—like, really, really, REALLY EXTRA SUPER kind and compassionate about it? If they expressed any pain, confusion, anger, frustration...or any other need: did you hold that with them, make space for that, while it burned you? Or did you allow other concerns/pressures to dominate the day ‘meant to celebrate Black freedom from oppression?’ Americans allot literally ONE DAY to Black people for this emotional work, which is absurd. That said, did you even give the Black people in your life “their day?” That said, do you realize that some Black people feel NO connection to Juneteenth at all? That is a discussion for another blog post. Really, though, did you!? And, it is important to note we don’t have freedom from slavery—STILL! And, it is important to ask: if there are no Black people in your life...why!? Really, why!?
Fathers Day, and honestly, even the concept “father” can be extremely loaded for Black people. Many of us watch(ed) our fathers navigate violence and humiliation that numbs the senses. Many of us watch(ed) our fathers NEVER EVER treated like humans. Many of us watched our fathers work and work and work ... and still struggle to provide. Many of us watched our fathers never have the opportunity to really receive health care,—and many of us watched them with almost no agency to make healthy choices for their families. So, as Black people with great fathers, or at least fathers who were somewhat present chose to celebrate their fathers—odds are high that they celebrated them in a great deal of pain.
Some of us, including me, feel we didn’t ever really get to have a true “Father.” That is for many reasons. Many of our fathers were murdered and imprisoned—for no reason. That is still happening. A LOT! Many of our fathers crumbled under the despair of impossible levels of insistence of White will—which is violence. So those men abandoned us, or abused us, or lost themselves in addiction. In my case the man who biologically is my “father” appears to have internalized all of the violence and despair I have described, along with extreme beliefs of White Christianity (not sure there is another kind) and turned it on his children. So White people, White violence, and White belief stole my father from me. And now I am a Father... determined to not repeat this cycle of violence...while my daughter watches me endure violence and humiliation that numbs her senses; while my daughter watches me NEVER EVER treated like a human; while my daughter watches me work and work and work ... and still struggle to provide for her; while my daughter watches me never have the opportunity to really receive health care; and while my daughter watches me operate with almost no agency to make healthy choices for her and I; while she and I ALSO navigate her loss of a grandfather to White people, White violence, and White belief; and while she and I ALSO navigate spending Father’s Day apart as I work to battle YEARS of personal and professional White racist violence in pursuit of a PhD. So, White people, everything I asked you about Juneteenth...it applies to Father's Day, to Mother's Day, to every 'special day.'
White people I see that you want to protest. White people I see that you want to post on social media. White people I see that you want to publicly proclaim how shocked and horrified you are.
What I’m asking you White people is if you are willing to change your frame of reference. That means, are you willing to be wrong? That means, are you willing to entertain even the idea, that your way of living and seeing the world is just ONE way, and it may not be the best way. What I am asking you White people is if you are willing to surrender things—your things. “Things” includes your time, your energy, your comfort, your space, your dominance, your insistent will, your interpretations, your VOLUME, your White-centeredness, your rage, your demand for White defined perfection, your money, your insistent requests for Black volunteerism, your silencing, your ignoring. Are you!? Really? Do you even know you have those things in a way that is likely qualitatively very different than the Black people in your lives—if they have them at all? Really? Do you? Are you? Radical, and I mean RADICAL belief change is required of you right now. Radical, and I mean RADICAL behavioral change is required of you right now. That is, if you are serious. That is, if you really want to happen what you say you want to happen. That is, if our lives really matter to YOU—us, the real Black people standing in front of you—not the abstract concept.
That is what #BlackLivesMatter means—in human to human relationships. And that is WORK! Relationships are WORK! Relationships between Black and Non-Black people are EXTRA, EXTRA, WORK! Also, there is no way around that WORK “in order for this to happen” as James Baldwin says. So I am doing my work here in this post, and in my personal communication. And I am doing it as an act of generosity. I don't have to do it. You do. I want to do it. Because, I am surrounded by you, White people. I love some of you. I want to love some of you. And I am very rightfully terrified and tired of most of you!
Are you doing your WORK?