As promised on facebooks I want to follow up this post .
I want to talk first about the feelings of conflict I still have. On one hand, I am still thirsty and desperate for solidarity with other Black people. A large part of that is trauma based in the fact that I had zero Black folks community growing up. Yes, I had family but most of my Black family I didn’t see often.
I spent time in my early 20s venturing into the POC neighborhoods and looking for that solidarity. I went to some community meetings, I went to see some speakers. Unfortunately, I did not really get to talk to folks. I showed up, gothy self in full effect. Loudly out Queer, concerned with the undesirables talking about drug addicts, sex workers, etc. And that did not fit the prescribed narrative of who deserved help and solidarity.
One time sticks out in my brain. I showed up to a talk about various peer to peer community help type thing. I spoke to one of the head dudes about the sex ed curriculum I was developing for young people with a focus on high school age kids, street kids and sex workers. I was so hype for the chance to get some help producing printed materials or getting space.
Now, even though the meeting was in a church I did not realize it was essentially a church approved. I talked passionately about the diaspora and all the dude said was, “you pronounced diaspora wrong” and walked away.
That describes in spirit a lot of my early interactions with the larger Black community. I was pretty bitter about it for a long time and for a minute decided well fuck Black folks.
I stopped that thought, but it was really terrible for me.
Those experiences are what seeded my thoughts about racial uplift.
I had to untangle the why of it and the how of it. The reality is that in a culture that absolutely devalues everything Black until White culture absorbs it until they are tired of it, racial uplift is important.
Everybody wants to be a nigga..etc see Paul Mooney talk about that here.
America loves Blackness until it is attached to an actual Black person.
When I realized that, I realized that while it hurt(s) my heart it is a direct result of White supremacy, racism and the very human need for hope.
For many Black folks, there is so little representation that we scramble and grab at whatever we get. Inside of that action, we start to find the gold. The Uplift. The Maya Angelou’s (but we can’t talk about her history as a sex worker). We buy into the idea that if we can just be better Negroes, if we only hold up our icons who have their pants pulled up and don’t use AAVE, who don’t look thuggish- that is the path to our salvation.
And there we see the failure of respectability politics and where a narrow idea of Racial Uplift falls apart.
This model by showing the shiny White Approved- no, not approved let’s be real tolerated (until they aren’t) icons fails because we’re human and humans are flawed and multifaceted.
Now we come to how I’ve healed myself in regard to that feeling of rejection from my own community.
My hope is wider.
My hope is that as we steam into the future, racial uplift can be expanded to those of us who aren’t “positive”, who aren’t putting on a good face for Whiteness, who are Queer, who are not religious, who are hood as fuck, who are poor, who are trans, who produce art that is disturbing and strange.
Blackness is so hugely beautifully diverse in how we express it, live it, make art in it and about it.
Blackness is so precious because even though not all skinfolk are kinfolk, we don’t have to be kinfolk.
Blackness built an American culture in ways that a lot of people might heavily mourn if it weren’t for us.
Blackness has taught America how to protest.
Blackness is my life. And there is space in the diaspora, in the creative diaspora for me and for you.
At this age and point in my creative life I’m at peace with this. It doesn’t burn my heart when a Black folks thing doesn’t necessarily need my flavor of art but they appreciate it.
I do think that we have a lot of work to do in terms of how we as a people start dismantling racial uplift in the context of putting on that Good Negro dance for Whiteness. That said, I also believe that we can change that part of our culture and get beyond it.
So there you have it.