Hello, it is me again. After experiencing a number of re-traumatizing experiences over the last few days — not all related to race, but not limited to: having a number of white people who are close to me wish me Happy Juneteenth as if it was Christmas or something. Also, being back in my home town and seeing Black Lives Matter signs in a place where I saw Trump signs seasons before. Discovering that this Instagram exists. I really hadn’t taken into account how exhausting “Wokeness” actually is. And that’s not to say it is not necessary, but there’s a way to do it, and way not to do it. I suppose I’ve been sniffing around it in my writing for years, but it was made crystal clear over the last seven days.
It deserves reiterating that this is not a one way conversation. It’s more like a buckshot. You aim, you hit (maybe), but you also Dick Cheney everyone around you. It is heartening to see the overwhelming amplification of black voices, black centered causes, efforts, etc. Even my love, Julia Louis Dreyfus handed over her Instagram account to marine biologist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. Elaine did the smart thing and got the fuck out of the way. But the other side of this — and it is a complicated one — is that having to constantly be reminded you are black, especially in being told you matter when (like, duh) you know you do, but the world outside, and your life experiences regularly and with precision tell you you don’t, is like having your soul put through a meat grinder. The reality is, however loud the BLM chants are on Instagram, white Facebook and white Twitter are louder. Being called a nigger is almost easier because you know where that person stands. Now, witnessing some (white) people turn on a dime and be reborn into this new awareness is inherently suspicious. Now it’s like: “what was the nigger stuff even for this whole time? Now I really don’t trust you.”
Having to not only engage in, but read second and third hand accounts of conversations with white people who are trying “to do the right thing” and are “coming from a good place” is enraging and triggering. Even in writing these essays, I sometimes have to ask myself: who is this for (aside from being for my own sanity)? Is it for white people to read so they can pat themselves on the back for engaging with a black voice today?
Explaining to white people how their “good intentions” can be just as, if not more harmful, is profoundly draining. And when you engage, you’re torn between not wanting to dignify the ignorance, but so desperately wanting to be flippant and tell them to fuck off. But you feel a responsibility to hopefully leave someone better off than when they came to you, even though they do not deserve any of your emotional labor.
Yes, all lives will not matter until Black lives do. While that is syntactically correct, and literally true, having it shoved in my face, I’m like “nigga, I KNOW!” I can imagine a future where Black Lives Matter becomes a salutation, like the Vulcan salute, where you have to say it when you enter a room, or before you leave a party, or sit down fora job interview, or when someone drops some plates in a restaurant. I kid, but this is to illustrate just how lost in the sauce a lot of y’all good white brothers and sisters are.
But, as it has been said time and time again, like a contemporary Negro spiritual: being the outsourced call center for racists’ emotional work is ALL we’ve been living with for generations. Now that you’ve come into the light, please do not now use us as props to signify your sudden enlightenment.
We have been here the whole time, in may cases, longer than you.
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