“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost all of the time”
This was said by James Baldwin. One of, if not the most prolific author/activist of his time.
He was a black man scorned by his country simply for having being born black. He was brilliant. He was passionate. He was angry. And he was right.
I consider myself to be “woke,” or conscious in regards to my blackness. I’ve marched. I’ve protested. I’ve spoken out, and debated. I’ve donated (and still do). And I’ve used my platform to both share my rage and my pride as a black person alive today.
But I have a confession.
I don’t always watch woke sh*t.
I don’t. It’s painful. It’s hurtful. It hardens me like nothing else can.
And so, I have to “protect my peace” (in a way) by simply avoiding it.
I avoid most videos depicting black bodies being beaten, abused, shot or brutalized. And if you ask me why, it’s because…
I saw Rodney King.
I saw Eric Garner.
I saw Philando Castile.
I saw George Floyd (and even that took a couple of weeks for me to LOOK at)
I still haven’t seen the documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.” Why?
Because I’ve seen “13th.”
I’ve seen “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.”
I’ve seen “Dark Girls.”
I still haven’t seen “The Hate You Give,” “When They See Us,” or “Detroit.” Why?
Because I’ve seen “Amistad.”
I’ve seen “Fruitvale Station.”
I’ve seen “Selma.”
And let’s not even discuss the gangster movies I have and have not seen.
But damn it, that “woke” cinephile side of me just couldn’t resist!
So now I’ve seen “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Again I am radicalized. I am enraged. And I am hardened by the injustices plaguing my people.
I don’t avoid these visuals because I like to be ignorant. I avoid them because I know I’m not.
I avoid them because I FEEL these truths intrinsically as a black American woman. And I know these truths to be self evident, as they apply to my friends, my family and myself.
When you live in fear-ridden conditions, and your reality is controlled by
pigs…I mean people, whose day job is to make your life a living nightmare – HOW CAN YOU NOT dream of better? How can you not strive for an escape. Who would want to face the sickening truth of unrest and injustice when you can watch bulletproof superheroes instead?
Why settle for the tragedy of assassinated Black Panthers when you can escape to Wakanda for a few hours?
This has been my struggle. This has been peace!
But how can I say I’m proud of my black heritage, if I’m also running from it? Dodging reality left and right. Hiding from my own history.
Doesn’t that do a disservice to those who went through it – just for me to have that very choice? God-forbid, if something happened to a black male in my family, would I want people to avoid his fate, and my plea for help, just so they can maintain their own Matrix of reality?
No, of course not.
Life isn’t fair, and it sure as hell not pretty, but it’s real. Truth speaks to power. And power is in people.
So if we can’t face the truth, and inspire much needed change as a result, how can we expect anyone else to do so.
Slavery didn’t end because people avoided its horrifying truths; no that’s how it endured.
Slavery ended because people began listening to abolitionists.
Slavery ended because people began reading accounts from victimized ex-slaves.
And slavery ended because people truly LOOKED…and realized they did not like what they saw.
(Same with Jim Crow, and practically every injustice that has plagued this world)
So yeah, I understand protecting your peace. I understand preserving your own sanity. And I understand the need for escape. Lord knows I’d do the same.
If we want the world to change… and if we truly believe ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER, then we can’t always look away. We can’t always pretend we’re not hurting. We can’t always selfishly choose ourselves. Not if our attention AND action can keep a Brotha out of jail, a Sistah out the morgue, or a black kid from doing anything but of thriving and surviving.
Time to be….a revolutionary.
(BTW “Judas and the Black Messiah” was amazing)