when you whispered in my ear, “you have a problem with dark skin,” it fucked up my flow. i was jamming, and all i really wanted to do was catch the beats and perhaps dance, but not with you. not because you’re dark, and i’m light. more because i had already caught the eye of some young fine ass brotha across the room. and you, you dark skinned negro were crowding my light. fighting words, i know. but in retrospect, i’ve begun to think. largely because you whispered in my ear. wrong or right, you’ve caused me to contemplate: your insecurities, mine as well. my own ambitions, yours as well.
so what the brotha across the room was light. and the brotha i had a date with the next night was too. and my most recent ex is light, and the boy before him was actually white! oh, and the boy i slept with the night before happens to be light as well. in case you haven’t caught my drift yet, this is not a dark skin appreciation letter. nor is it a light skin one. just another nigger thinking through color and Blackness based on my own dating patterns and your own issues.
perhaps i just didnt want to dance with you. coming on strong and shit while i was sipping my drink. perhaps that light skinned brotha nigger caught my attention first and i wasn’t willing to break. maybe he was playing it a little more cool, keeping his distance across the room. then again, perhaps it was just the light, shining in my eyes. who gives a fuck? who asked you to launch a psychoanalytic attack in a crowded club, then walk away when i looked at you like you were crazy.
back in the day. about two years ago. i was madly in love. with the idea of Black love. it was supposed to be revolutionary. right? marlon riggs and essex hemphill told me so. and i praised it. worshipped the shit. BLACK LOVE IS REVOLUTIONARY. and back in the day. i was madly in love. with the idea. and this certain boy. a revolutionary boy. or so i thought. and the idea was revolutionary. me and him. Black and Black. being in love. but that was way back in the day. im over that.
and here today. im not so much in love. with the idea. or that boy. but i still love being Black. and that’s a fact. (said in my best nina simone voice). but walking down the street with a friend this morning. i saw a white boy. not love. but i said he was cute. to which my friend replied. for someone who is so pro-Black and anti-White, you sure are quick to lie down with a cracka-ass cracka. and damn. there my shit was. lying all over the street this morning.
and some of you wont understand. frankly i dont really either. perhaps a private dialogue with the ghost of eldridge cleaver. and no i’m not calling myself the new james baldwin. just another Black man. gay. and loving. writing and thinking.
these are my initial notes on some writing about diversity.
one. i tend to come out in one of two ways. either my sexuality is thrown on the table. or im compelled to reveal notions of Blackness that extend further.deeper. than the lovely skin i adorn. defining me for me as Black-queer wraps a certain amount of pride onan individually intimate level while still placing (my)self at odds with the vast majority of people surrounding me on a day to day basis.how do i locate this self. my politics. against and through violence so intimate. so mundane. it is unrecognized. misrepresented. routinized? ive spent the last week working a summer camp for recent high school graduates taking the community college route and considering transferring to my recent alma mater.going into the position i knew the mission of the camp would be against my politics. the program sought to reach underserved populations (Black&Brown communities) and provide them with the resources to transfer from a community college into a four year university (*cough*the four year university hosting them*cough*). to be clear. im not against kids going to college. rather the special brand of ideological multiculturalism and mantra of diversity operating/dominating all week makes me nauseas. finding the quite moments to write was the only medicine i could find. and if you are asking why did i even do it in the first place? for the money.
for the past two years i have been engaged, along with my closest comrades, in political education geared specifically and unapologetically at/for Black students in effort of exposing the university and its inherent imbrications with anti-Blackness.a critical analysis of racist/anti-racist discourse, hetero/homonormativity, capitalist desire, and patriarchy shaped about 98% of my interactions, the other two percent i was in one of those few dreamless sleeps, five shots in, or lip-to-lip with The Smile. since i cant sleep my summer away. i need to preserve my liver. and The Smile is some place else. i have to work and it makes for good writing on negro sunshine.
two. the moment of “coming out” is a space of confusion for everyone involved. ive learned to not only study it. but love it. that particular instance whena confirmation of my queer identity is given and my sexuality is on the table and me and everyone else involved are staring at it. sometimes it’s a second of silence, other times its followed by a question or two, and on the rare occasion a conversation of sorts is sparked and im catapulted into “expert” status.
i was giving a tour of campus housing and explaining the benefits to living on campus as opposed to at home or off campus. at this point in the camp i had not revealed my queer sexuality and was actually making a conscious effort to conform to heteornormative notions of “proper” Black masculinity. why? no reason in particular, just having some fun i suppose. when i spoke i kept my hands in my pocket as they tend to flare about in conversation. i spoke from my diaphragm to keep my tone low, and slowed my speech a bit. steered away from topics of dating, sex, and beyonce. and kept my hips squared as i walked around. everything was on the straight and narrow. real hetero. and i even found a few of the female participants flirting with me.
during the tour, i was explaining that the campus had a LGBT themed house, and i had supported the creation of it and specifically helped a few trans-activist on campus push for gender neutral bathrooms in the house.one of the participants asked me what “LGBT” meantand i explained Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. before i could finish the “-bian” in lesbian i saw many eyes roll and heteronormative grumbles overtake the group. the looks i received called into question the authenticity of heterosexual masculinity i had been portraying up until this point. and more specifically the validity of anything i was saying as the leader of this group. a few homophobic statements were strewn together by some of the more vocal participants and a distraction was formed. a housing tour was shadowed by a search for sexuality. my usual reaction in situations like this is to confirm my queer identity by stating with a certain amount of ease that my primary affirmation of love and sex comes from men, and challenging homophobic comments. but this time, i thought id let it ride out and hold onto my pseudo-heterosexual validity. i changed the topic and continued the tour. leaving a healthy number of the participants questioning my sexuality. particularly with the female participants. i felt in the interactions with them the searching for signals of deviation from proper Black masculinity. i kept my hands in my pocket, hips squared, and conversations short, knowing it was just a matter a time before a beyonce song came on and i was compelled to make a dance floor.
three. Black authenticity was a theme running throughout the camp. of the staff. our director. keri. was Black. and of the seven counselors myself and one other female counselor (hilson) were Black. the problem of the week that caught the entire staff off guard. myself included was the authenticity politics running mainstream and the attacks leveled at the three Black staff members from the participants and a few reverse attacks from staff toward participants. i sat in staff meeting after staff meeting listening to hilson vent about how a couple of our Black participants from compton and long beach were calling her white-washed and asking her questions about her life that searched for evidence of her “traitor” status, “where did you grow up?” “is your boyfriend Black?” “why do you talk like that?” “you think you’re better than us?”
of course all of these questions were irrelevant concerning anything to do with the camp. and while the ease in which they were spoken was surprising. i was more concerned with the shock and reaction the staff had to them. the product of certain class privilege. and a student of top-tier elementary, middle, and high schools, and now a graduate of a top-tier research university. all these questions and more have been leveled at me at some point in time and i have not escaped the charge of being called “bougie.”i stayed silent during most of the meetings. listening to hilson’s complaints and the staffs repulsion at authenticity/identity politics. instead of finding a way of addressing the issue. the staff wrote it off as ignorance and relied on the diversity workshop scheduled halfway through the week to take care of that business. knowing good and well an hour and half of multicultural diversity training would not address intracommunity issues and would crowd out class analysis. i still remained silent. i wanted to maintain a civil working relationship with my colleagues and i knew any effective effort at addressing the problem would need to question what assumptions we as a staff were making in writing the problem off as ignorance and passing the buck to diversity training? how was our own education and class status haunting our interactions with these ‘underserved communities?’ and specifically to hilson, what notions did she have of “proper” Black identity that was shaping her reaction and disgust? what analysis was the staff crowding out by placing blame on the individual students speaking a prevalent ideology?
four. diversity training came and it went as expected. tears were shed. keri was happy the group was exposed to difference. and the staff had hopes the rest of the program would be filled with multicultural hand holding. all but myself and one other counselor, ala (the former chair of MEChA). held such high hopes.
the workshop was led by the director of the university’s cross-cultural center. as a board member of the Black student union, i spent a great deal of my time working in the center, which proved to be working at odds with the director. ala had spent her time in the cross working against the director as well. both the BSU and MEChA had publicly stated that the mission of cross and the director were in fact against the missions of the two organizations and we spent a tenuous yearentrenched in the unique and specific issues pertaining to our respective communities. this is not to say ala and I were eye-to-eye by any means, the way i see it, the cross was your standard liberal multicultural bullshit, ala and MEChA were slightly Left of that. and myself (along with the more radical voice on the BSU board) were pushing a stance informed by something left of Left (see Wilderson’s “Gramsci’s Black Marx: Whither the Slave in Civil Society?” for insight).but ala and i both shared a disgust for the special brand of diversity proffered by the cross and its director.
the workshop asked participants to think through ways they “felt” “oppressed.” throwing identity markers on the table such as race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, age, religion, citizenship, and physical ability. participants and staff were asked to express which identity they were most conscious of by standing under the sign with the designated marker. in another move we were made to stand by the marker in which we felt most oppressed by. in my conflicting work for/with the university, i had gone through this workshop many times before. its always a surprise that people of color overwhelming choose race or ethnicity for the identity they are most conscious of. but when the question of oppression comes up race and ethnicity are retreated from and all the categories get a fairly equal representation.
i maintained my position under race for both movements of the workshop and listened as people shared their experiences dealing with the issues posed by their identity markers. every story nothing new and a testament to just how unjust our society continues to be.
two things caught my eye/ear most. (1)hilson and keri, two Black women retreated from race and gender completely. Particularly concerning the question of oppression: our director chose ability status due to her recent injuries and hilson chose nothing, which she later revealed she does not experience oppression because “despite stereotypes and all that, [she] does not allow anyone to oppress her.” i laughed a little bit to myself (which im sure was exhibited as a stank face); in a program that proffers a mission of serving underserved communities (due to race and class) the program director and one of its counselors retreated from any discussion of those social determinants. and the director of the cross-cultural center (a space in its essence admits the university/society lacks the capacity to deal with “issues of color”) allows/calls for a retreat from critical dialogue concerning race and the issues most affecting communities of color. all of its really quite funny/sad.
the previous issue garnered a laugh from me. what made me feel like throwing up and/or reaching for a torch was (2) the issue of whiteness. which is why I HATE MULTICULTURALISM. in room of forty people predominately from low-income Black&Brown communities. a white body in the room became the center of sympathy and somehow assumed the throne of most oppressed. the goal undergirding the workshop is an attempt to make people aware of oppression and how they are oppressed due to certain identity markers. the fact that it is a “safe space” to share everyone’s experience always proves to be story time of who is oppressed either most or just like thy neighbor. ignoring any specificity of positionality; toward a holding of hands around a common bond we are all human. we all suffer. it is always a twisted pleasure i find in watching how the oppressor somehow always seems to miss these meetings.
the only white participant (a white male) stood alone under religion concerning the question of oppression. he told a few stories of how he has been rejected by friends. family. and a few love interest upon revealing that he is an atheist. i do not want anyone to think that i am about to say that because he is a white male he does not experience hardship. i just find it disgusting that his experience of unjust treatment is likened to one in the same as students sharing their stories of undocumented status (assumed/actual). police brutality. or access to healthcare. even further the only white participant spoke the longest and garnered the biggest reaction from the group on whole. cheers. hugs. and “we love you” surrounded the room after his speech. the amazement that white people suffer too captivated the room and shifted focus away from the students of color who made the overwhelming majority of the room. all in the name of diversity!
In this issue we are interested in exploring, expanding upon and exploding current conceptions of Queer Utopia (see a & b) and Nihilism.
Both concepts suggest a relationship to time, distance, desire, form, duration and trajectory. 3rd language is currently seeking participants in this submission-based conversation.
Points of interest include but are not limited to:
Queer temporality and survival
Romanticization of domesticity and Western ideals
Economic optimism and pessimism
Geographies of hopelessness
Ideals, morality and beauty
Manifestation of a Queer world
Lineage and artifacts of the past and future
(Re)production and fertility
Feel free to submit anything that you think may apply. Please don’t feel at all limited by the above points of interest or the overall theme, they are meant to serve as inspiration and points of departure. There is no limitation in length, size or media. Submit works to email@example.com in PDF. format by Feb 2013.