Saturday, September 5, 2009

Embracing Blackness as an Act of Resistance

(Title inspired by the brilliant Rebel Poet-girl.)

My partner and I were driving to Virginia listening to NPR which inspired us to have a conversation about "race." The news commentators were discussing Obama's health plan, some of the vehement opposition to it, and a question was asked, "Does this have to do with race?"

"Race." Does this have to do with race. After the question was asked, there was a discussion about how it does have something to do about race because many Americans view Obama as an outsider who has hijacked the Presidency with his supposed glib rhetoric and youthful appeal to a new generation of (predominantly white) people who would actually elect him despite him being a Black man.

My partner and I discussed how the generic idea of "race" is worded in the popular media, and perhaps in popular consciousness. Is there anything going on with race? as if "race" is some kind of embodied, conscious entity or being that can get involved with things political. Embedded in the media-generated question are three questions that never get asked openly but which ought to be asked more often: "Are white Americans consciously and unconsciously obsessed with the (false) idea of their own superiority and can't help themselves from projecting an idea of inferiority on anything having to do with Barack Obama as President of the United States?", "Does whiteness and white privilege play a role in white people's suspicion of all things Obama?", and "Are white people racist, stuck in their system of race-making, and scared to death of Obama's beauty and power?" These are the real questions the commentators needed to get under that day on the radio.

White people who have been involved for 500 years in building, participating in, and benefiting from systems of white supremacy have race issues. We Black folks, we have issues of trying to see ourselves as fully human, world citizens, with our own unique knowledge, wisdom, magic, spirituality, insights, strengths, vulnerabilities, and aspirations for peace and connectivity in living. White people are the ones with race issues and try to project the idea that race has somehow something to do with Black people and other people of color.

Since those of us in the Americas have been forever displaced from many of our sensibilities of origins, for 400 years we have been involved in a process of remaking ourselves against some of the most incredible odds. So, while we were once Ibo, Fulani, Yoruba, Wolof, we are now Black and for the most part stuck in the Americas. Black people in the New World, since our moments of capture have been shaping Blackness into a culture, a sensibility, and a way of knowing and being. Claiming and embracing Blackness in the liberatory sense does not have to be about getting caught up into the idea of "race", of white folks' creation of such an arbitrary, insidious, and crazy-making system of divide, conquer, and exploit. We are not a "race", though we have been shaped by white angst and obsession with "race" and have had to struggle against racism in order to lay claim to our full humanity. Black people don't have to take on white psychic angst. We can see ourselves as an interconnected people. We can remake ourselves as a people.

Embracing Blackness is an act of resistance to systems of "race" and white supremacy, it is a mode of survival in the interest of thriving and determining our unique humanity on our own collectively generated terms. In order to not be crazy, Blackness is necessarily an oppositional stance to all that has been imposed by white supremacy. Yet embracing Blackness is not embracing "race." Instead, it is a cultural move, spiritual work, an aesthetic claim, a love-making, the building of a community.

And so, while we are doing this redemptive, creative work as a people -- stay Black!