ASIDE *I’ve been wanting to write this for about four weeks. But quizzes, papers and finals happened and true to the student life, emotional expression ranks below my GPA. Finals are done now. That being said, I feel a need to explain something in detail via a blog. Once. Hopefully once is sufficient.*
I don’t hate white people.
I know, that should be fairly obvious. But recently, more than one person has suggested or outright asked if I do. I was taken aback. Then I thought about it more and I wasn’t. Over the course of less than eighteen months I went from Uncle Ruckus Lite to Huey* and that was a lot for people to take in. I found a pride in myself, then mixed that with three different classes in one school year on American History, two specifically from the perspectives of minority groups (African-Americans and Native Americans). I took in a lot of information and mixed it with a lot of information I had compartmentalized and defined as “yeah, but not me” over the years.
It’s been a lot. I see things in my life growing up and things now through a different lens. Things that bothered me before but I decided I could ignore aren’t so easy to ignore anymore.
One of the most important terms I learned in school this year was “double-consciousness”. I learned there’s a word for what every single minority I know has done their entire lives. There’s a sociological term (dating back over a century) for “don’t be acting up in front of these white people.” I was shocked. I almost wanted to cry. I felt less ashamed of the years I spent trying to ask for a place in mainstream culture and for ignoring offensive things for the sake of fitting in. We have all done it, so much so that W.E.B. Dubois coined a term for it in 1903.
I could never unlearn it. I could never stop seeing myself acting different in white spaces. Like a flashback in a movie, twenty-two years of memories flooded my mind. I didn’t feel ashamed. I just acknowledged them. But with acknowledgement came transition. A phrase I’ve seen thrown around a lot recently.** “Unapologetic Blackness.” My African-American History professor said it when she told us about the first activist to say “Black Power” (Stokely Carmicahel). About the afros and bright colors of the 1970s. The boldness to be black in front of white people (an era I believe we are cycling back to Harlem Renaissance, Black Power, whatever they inevitably name my generation). It made me beam with pride. Generations past have decided they don’t want to apologize for the cultural differences we didn’t’ ask for or create, but they would wear them proudly.
That comes with a price. When you inhabit mainly white spaces for the majority of your week, not laughing when somebody mocks patois comes off as an assault, acknowledging that there are cultural differences between you and those around you, and not wanting to be part of their culture is firing shots on Fort Sumter***. The right to be offensive in “their” spaces (which is most of the academic/career/social spaces in the United States) free of guilt has been challenged. You also learn to not correct or try to educate everybody around you. That’s not my role unless addressed or asked. So to simply ignore those things which offend you and revel with the one other worker who looks like you over how amazing Lemonade was is seen as social violence. But, none of those perceived slights are my problem.
I’m not sorry. It doesn’t mean I hate white people, or have some deep bitterness against anybody. People build relationships with those they have things in common with. I don’t care what color or background you have, if you fuck with Kendrick and Beyoncé, we have something to talk about. But don’t demand I learn to like what you like to appease you. I’d sooner not be your friend. The interests that connect people (music, sports, politics, hobbies) are valid for anybody of any background. If the people who believe Ultralight Beam was gospel, that crazy dunks require equally wild responses, that Black Lives do Matter, and also like to freestyle, roast each other and look at sneakers for fun happen to be the same color isn’t racism. They are cultural differences created BY racism. Created by a history of being excluded from mainstream culture and being forced into segregated neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.
America STILL is one of the most segregated places in the world****. Even I, growing up in predominantly white spaces (special shoutout to the other 3 black kids who by dice roll might end up in one of my classes) had one best friend over everybody else, and he was black. We would hang out and do all the things other black teenagers did: marvel over beats in hip hop songs, debate Chris Brown’s place in R&B and dance greatness, watch movies where the main character looked like us, Stomp the Yard still being a favorite etc, and then turn it off when it was time to go back to our respective schools on Monday.
Double consciousness is a burden to bear. I will not anymore. Just know it isn’t racism. Racism is about hating others. In this case, it would be centering whiteness. I would be acting with white people in mind. But I’m acting with me in mind. Centering my experiences and my race for once. If you can’t wrap your mind around that, I’m probably not going to be a fun friend in the first place.
Know that not every black person feels the same as me. Martin Luther King, Jr. was just as important as Malcolm X. Both views were necessary, as we are not a monolith. I speak for me. I’ve been told this isn’t a progressive way to view the world, but I disagree. It centers on perception and what we’re trying to progress towards.
“Channel 9 News tell me I’m movin’ backwards. Eight blocks left, death is around the corner. Seven misleadin’ statements ‘bout my persona.”
“But mama, don’t cry for me, ride for me, try for me, live for me, breathe for me, sing for me, honesty gudin’ me, I could be more than I gotta be. Stole from me, lied to me, nation hypocrisy.”
“Yeah, open our mind as we cast away oppression. Yeah, open the streets and watch our beliefs.”
-Kendrick Lamar, feature on Beyonce’s Freedom
*Go on Netflix and watch The Boondocks.
**Mainly online spaces such as Twitter, BuzzFeed, Washington Post etc.
***The Confederacy fired shots on Union soldiers at Fort Sumter, unofficially beginning the Civil War