we all get raised to be white.
at the conception of our reality genocide. violence. rape. death. are all intricately woven in what it means to live. to be in the real. and that is a simple truth of life. but who wants to talk about that? instead we get raised. taught to exist in excess of the conception. to be in the real. and now that i have completely crossed the line of opening something i write with a bunch of words that don’t really mean much (“Since the beginning of time,” “Love is…,” etc.) let me ground what i am thinking aloud in some experience for your reading pleasure (if not only my own pleasure).
i was raised. and then I got re-raised in an african-american studies ghetto. now im in chicago learning and experiencing. and if i follow the overused/abused proverb correctly “it takes a village to raise a child,” we are all always in a state of growth (or at least should be). always learning and/or teaching. and i’m always toying with the line between teaching and learning. for the most part just taking up some good listening skills and processing what is being said around and to me. ive found myself in less arguments than i was back in california while playing with the role of activist-scholar. i was community organizing or what few deemed destroying. and now i circle back to some of those california themes and arguments here in chicago where i have largely kept my mouth shut and ears open. and i will admit. keeping my spoken thoughts to a minimum seems to keep the sex consistent and friends plentiful and at the end of the day. outside of being white. what more could i want? «< this is called a joke.
on the issue of being raised. being an activist. and engaging in some intellectual exchanges. there are two competing and complementary thesis at play for non-white liberal people. 1) its always good to be white 2) its okay to be something, just don’t be Black. the best of activist spaces and scholarship work to disrupt each thesis. however, while #1 is pretty easily accepted (to be worked against) #2 while always undergirding nearly all assumptions. is so rarely discussed. let alone fought against. and that is where my re-raising took place. and its quite funny how my development occurred. i would say my heaviest involvement in community organizing took place the previous two years. and in year one, i was working on #1, then i learned quickly, the radical potential is the work on #2. so in year two, that’s what i did, and for the most part exclusively with Black students (year one was on some multicultural bullshit, which is where i learned the plain truth of thesis #2). and i came to chicago with that mindset. the world desperately doesn’t want to be Black, so how can i dare to be Black? and to accept the insanity of making peace with/in Blackness? and to sit in the shame of being me. or my being? and i don’t write this as a resolute or definitive understanding of (my) existence. but rather to invite a conversation of sorts. or an ‘ensemble of questions’ that get at the complex process of being Black.
in year one of my deep engagement with community organizing, my comrades and i were bruised and injured. Blacks in a multicultural space of students and workers is a dangerous location. carrying the issues of the “coalition” while “Black issues” get misplaced. displaced. or deemed irrelevant. and our voices were always questioned or suggested as a threat. we worked for/with but always behind. the undocumented movement. workers rights. gender neutral bathrooms. etc. but prison abolition or PIC divestment was always viewed as too complex or unachievable (to name one issue of many we posed repeatedly to different coalitions). we found ourselves in the spotlight when some students decided to hang nooses at the UCSD campus. but that rush to our side was temporary and proved reliant on the spectacular nature of the spectacle, rather than the spectacular nature of Black every day life.
i say all this to explain why. while im relaxed. i would say im more focused than ever. while others would say that i’m ‘jaded’ or dare we say ‘pessimistic.’ relaxed. focused. jaded. pessimistic. perhaps the terms necessarily coexist within me.
year two of my deep engagement with community organizing. my comrades and i worked mainly with other Black students. political education was our main focus instead of the direct action engagement we had done the previous year. at the risk of being called nationalist (which some called us) or masculinist (which few charged) or anti-whatever identity was being focused on at the time, we troubled notions of identification in the face the Black subject, or attempted to explode certain categories by thinking them through Blackness. What does it mean to be Black and… queer, woman, man, artist, classed, etc? and consequently what does it mean for those categories in and of themselves with Blackness standing at the back door? what does it mean to think Black and further act through Blackness? that went over well in some instances and fell by the wayside in others. and of course i do not write on an assumption of definitive answers, rather as a starting point to the conversation i have daily with self and hope to expand to whoever wants to listen. speak. and exchange thoughts/tactics.
so i came to chicago with those experiences. some wounds others armor. and ive been listening. waiting for the right time to assert some of my thoughts but treading lightly so to not make the same california mistakes. trying to find or build that space (outside of the classroom) where thinking and possibly acting through Blackness is made possible. made okay. a place of shame? a place of insanity? a place of raising Black?