Hope & The 'Black' Frontier
'I wish I may, I wish I might be the change I wish tonight.'
~Qoute Artist Carol Rashawnna Williams
Healing? What does that truly mean in the context of African American identity in the United States of America? How does one heal the entire frontier of centuries of compounded 'blackness' and pain in one generation? Is it truly about financial reporations or academic health? Can these injuries be healed in a capitalist society when the society has been built upon black people being used as a resource, extracted and commodified by a perpetuated propaganda of 'isms?'
Recently, I have come to recognize that addressing relationship issues takes both people deeply understanding their historical traumas and that it is difficult for me to enter into any partnership unless each person recognizes that its about healing our collective ancestral pain and we must work 'together as true partners' without hidden delusions of that pain, towards a path of enlightenment, patience and kindness together with the main goal, to heal each other, which by any feat is a tall order for most men in America, let alone black men specifically. Because, this culture teaches all men to hide their pain, stuff it down, drink it away and systematically erase themselves. It teaches women that we don't need them in order to strike out on our own and that we are worthy of so much more. I desire someone who sees me, sees my worth and treats me as such. Someone who actually believes me when I say 'I love you.' That knows in their heart I truly do, instead of trying to make me prove that I do, only because they can not see their own worth.
What would this take? How could one go about healing in a culture that celebrates coupling up with white women/men to gain power, acceptance, and categorically erasing one's own culture by skin depletion, cultural devastation, and exalted whiteness? Please, don't get me wrong, I stand for those who are bi-racial, and those who entered into contracts with those, not of their own heritage/ethnic group, but I ask this question because even those born of bi-racial parents have suffered such a huge loss of their 'blackness' not even recognizing it. Once blackness enters into contracts with the other more and more of that identity is lost along with the many traditions and beliefs. I have no idea if this is good or bad. I make no assumptions or judgments only pose the question.
Is it possible for all involved to build better cultures together? I have seen it happen.
I have been witness to what can happen when both partners are 'woke.' But the majority are not. On both sides of the spectrum. In this case, where do we go from here? When the black community is and has been spread across the globe like seeds in a field, mixed and blended with grass, poppies, dandelions, clovers, and whatever else remains in a field cut down by racism, what else remains? Under constant attack to perform, to prove ourselves? I am so tired of jumping through hoops both in the workplace and in my relationships having to prove that I deserve those grants, that love, or that gesture of kindness. I am exhausted and feel depleted of my worth and just desire space to reflect, to heal, to contemplate my self-worth. I just want to play and forget that I am American sometimes. But deep down I know that all systems are the same and that no matter where I go there is no true escape. So, I've decided to run to myself, love myself and leave the rest behind.
Both of my children are of white descent and I lost both of them to a system that had no understanding of who and where I came from. I lost both of them because I knew not where I came from, until now. It took many decades for me to find not only myself but my blackness, in a sea of 'whiteness,' even tho part of my life was spent in a black community. Honestly, I hate these two terms, as they pit us against one another; blackness vs whiteness, but I am the product of my era, and in order to be able to discuss such mainstream topics, my feeling is that I must use the terminology that most folks understand. The whitewashing of African Americans, and our communities over decades, no centuries, is no little thing. It is no little process like washing your clothes or cleaning a window. It is no small feat to erase one's belief in self and I liken it to Stockholms Syndrome. Here is the definition according to Wikipedia; a condition in which hostages develop a psychological bond with their captors during captivity. Stockholm Syndrome results from a rather specific set of circumstances, namely the power imbalances contained in hostage-taking, kidnapping, and abusive relationships. Emotional bonds may be formed between captors and captives, during intimate time together, but these are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims. Stockholm syndrome is paradoxical because the sympathetic sentiments that captives feel towards their captors are the opposite of the fear and disdain which an onlooker might feel towards the captors.
There are four key components that characterize Stockholm syndrome:
A hostage's development of positive feelings towards the captor
No previous relationship between hostage and captor
A refusal by hostages to cooperate with police forces and other government authorities
A hostage's belief in the humanity of the captor, ceasing to perceive them as a threat when the victim holds the same values as the aggressor.
At the start of African American slavery, this must have been what slaves endured. Over time the circumstances transformed but never disappeared, only evolved into a systemic industrial circumstance that found ways to perpetuate its own existence.
It affects everything we are and everything we will be. How can a culture thrive and or survive if there is no community to support such a culture? This is what's occurring and has occurred in African American communities all around the nation. It is no surprise to me that America finds itself in this predicament. Will we become like the Mayan civilization as our seeds disseminate into other cultural landscapes? Oh wait, there is another story if you choose to truly understand human evolution.
It is my belief that we are all black, or of African descent, that we have all come from the same source, even tho it is not written in mainstream American or European/ Western history books. This unwriting of our history is not only a determinant to African Americans but also a detriment to the European culture. We all lose when one culture is viewed as better or worse than another. We all lose when our perception of being human is based on the perception of our skin color and traditions being less than.
My ancestors will always live in me and in my children, that for sure is real. That for sure I can depend, but the sweet potato pie my daughter refuses to eat or that black girl my son refuses to date, are those signs that my heritage is being erased by the dominant white eurocentric culture? I don't know, but these are definitely things I think about. What have I left behind? What am I leaving behind for the next generation of not only 'black' kids but 'white' kids? How will not only my skin color be remembered but especially my heart? How can our world move past this idea that your skin color or the boundary of the place you come from is 'what' makes you viable as being human? When can this outdated philosophy begin to implode upon itself? Instead of coming up with new terminologies that divide us like BIPOC or adding more letters to the gay and lesbian spectrum (which I totally understand why we do it, and that I do it too, but I am also a product of my time, of my era, co-existing in the shadow of what can currently be understood.) Why can't a human being be judged by the character of the heart and the nature of their being? Is this too far beyond our realm as humans to comprehend?
As a collective species will we be able to meet the demands of what is called for us to do and be, before we extinct ourselves?
My heart was passed down to me via many lineages of very strong black African American women. Women who were able to escape the devastation of their time even tho their struggles were real. My grandmother was a nurse (which must have been so difficult just after the war yet before and during the civil rights era), her mother before her a prominent business owner of one of the largest brothels in Mississippi (especially to take into account, that it was the Jim Crow era, where black women couldn't do any work that did not cater to white households, or sit in the same restaurants and taking into account Mississippi was and has always been the most racist state in the union...this was a huge feat) and then my mother, widely respected and honored across state lines in the west, as a leader, a missionary...helping those in the black community who could not help themselves, raising other peoples children, feeding so many hungry souls. How does this legacy get played out in the next generation? How does all of this compound upon itself? I don't know, but I do know something has got to change.
I have been told I am so strong. That I am a leader of so many and sometimes it frustrates me just how strong my children are, especially when they wield that strength against me, instead of just listening to the wisdom I have gained as a 'black woman.' What I would like to make clear is that it is NOT my strength that calls to you or the stereotype that you have been taught of me that makes you view me as strong. It is the strength of my ancestors that you see, feel and hear. It is the entire embodiment of all these black women that came before me and through me, who have come to bare all that is me, all that my kids are and my grandkids will be. This is the true test of legacy and the true passing down of the torch. If we as ALL Americans can not grapple with the fact that what we are passing down in our country's legacy is that of pain, struggle, and fear instead of acceptance, empathy, and love, our country as a whole will continue to bind itself until there is nothing left of us. Deeply understanding the struggle with empathy and intentional action of all indigenous heritage must be a part of the next phase in our human evolution. Understanding that we are all one, all together connected not only to source energy but also to source outcomes.
I wish that I could find a space to truly document my history, as most white families do. I know that if my great grandmother was so strong to be able to defy all those odds in her time, then with the privilege I have, I must continue her legacy of being strong in the face of what my generation must do. The women who bore me and came before me must have been sooo much stronger. The echoes of their determination and spiritual pain run through me and sometimes I can feel what they must have felt trying to make it in this whitewashed American jungle of greed, prosperity, resource extraction, and capitalistic gain. Sometimes I think that just maybe they are the only ones who could have had a deep understanding of the road that I have walked. It wasn't until recently that I realized that I could even talk to them, ask them for help and that they are all around me, a part of me in my hair, in my skin, in my eyes, in the way I walk and breathe. It wasn't till recently that I even understood that that is an African tradition, calling upon your ancestors to guide you. That, that IS who I come from, who I am.
What is to become of my people? My heritage? When hope and the black frontier have so far to go, that it will take generations to realize our collective failings, collective strengths, collective hope, collective healing and collective trauma? If we are not taught our culture from birth, if we are forced to enter into schools that teach only European culture 80% of the school year (not realizing that all ethnic studies should be woven like golden threads into all history taught as one American story of our culture) and uphold all that is white, if our institutions deny us at every turn and only wish to see us stacked up against failure, unless we look or act of European descent, what is to come for the people I call home? Greens and the smell of chitterlings cooking on the stove? Unfortunately, my mother left no recipes, but I love her nonetheless, not to mention - Is it good or bad to allow recipes of slavery to disappear? I don't know, I truly don't have the answer to that one either. I loved and understood my mother, even with all her trauma and her grief. I tried to be the best daughter I could and garnered many traumas from our relationship, passing it onto my kids, but I truly hope that I have passed on the strength to survive and the ability to empathize as well. For that in itself will determine whether this black frontier survives the generations to come, whether or not we look, walk or talk like whatever is supposed to identify us as African Americans or as being 'black' in this country.