It’s been a rough week for the world.
In the midst of a pandemic people are rising from isolation to gather in protest of the unjust treatment of Black bodies. While the maltreatment of Black bodies in the United States is not new, it seems the world’s response to the brutal murder of George Floyd is striking differently. Black people are fed up. White people and other minoritized racial groups are becoming open allies. And White friends are apologizing for their silence and holding other White people accountable.
In a previous post ‘Back to Africa’, I reiterate a thought that has been contemplated for decades about the placement of Black people in America. Many Black activists and philosophers have championed the idea of separation or repatriation. Many Black writers fled the United States for Europe or Africa. Similar to many writers before him, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates relocated to France about four years ago (Wait, is he still there?). In my profile of rap artist J Doze, we discussed the value of Black Americans and Black children of immigrants considering Africa as a viable place to live, thrive, and invest.
Leaving the United States sounds great because staying here as a person with dark skin can feel a bit demoralizing. In 1955, Emmet Till’s mother chose to give her son an open casket funeral so that the world could see the wickedness of racism. Civil Rights leaders in the 1960s organized protests with camera crews watching so that U.S citizens could witness the repulsiveness of hatred and prejudice. The past 5 years, everyday people have used their phones to capture how common and how casual police brutality against Black bodies are around the country. We don’t need to be reminded that this recent protest is not the first time Black people have chanted “I Can’t Breathe. . .” We get it. They don’t want us here.
Is leaving the best solution?
While I believe it is an option–one that can be mutually beneficial for both native and diasporic Africans, I can’t help but be so very proud of the organization, passion, and commitment of Black people in America to collectively stand together and say “Enough is enough!” Together we have gathered and called out racism, we have demanded action, we have taken to the streets peacefully, and some angrily–and rightly so. For 401 years of some form of enslavement and criminalizing Black skin, Black people in America have stared in the faces of colonial and capitalistic masters to demand their right to human dignity.
And why not?
Enslaved Africans tilled the soils of this land, helped build the great monuments of this land. Black people have contributed to literature and storytelling in ways that have added flavor and texture to the literary arts. Black leaders have paved the way for other minority groups and demanded this country be the country it claimed to be– freedom and justice for all. Black consumers define popular culture and are the highest consumers in this country–this land where enslaved Africans were forced from their ancestral homes to be used for labor. This land is also the land where Black immigrants in spite of a racialized social system have also been among some of the most successful of all immigrant groups. Black people in America have much to be proud of.
To do the work of trying to make this country better is the highest form of patriotismSherilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF
We are unapologetic because we believe we were fashioned beautifully. The fullness of our lips, the kink in our curls, the thickness of our hips (well some of us..I missed out on this). We are beautiful, dammit. It make sense why we are seen as a threat. Tajfel’s Social Identity theory explains our need to feel good about our in-group by viewing out-groups unfavorably. If my skin can make someone feel so uncomfortable, I can’t help but wonder what they are so insecure about.
We are unapologetic because we persevere. We are not biologically “stronger” but with all Black people have endured in this country, descendents of enslaved Africans and African immigrants alike, we have drawn into an inner strength to make beautiful things out of pain. Rock n Roll, the music that came from our blues and was once seen as a threat to White purity laid the foundation for the music industry and gave us permission to feel and to dance. Hip hop, birthed from the frustrations of inner-city life and once seen as a purveyor of violence and misogyny, is now used to sell back-to school products (Just look for them come August) Disadvantages and discrimination have only been motivation for many successful African American business owners, lawyers, media moguls, entertainers, etc.
We are unapologetic because we have nothing to be ashamed of. Like every human, we are flawed. Like every group, we are not a monolith. Yet we come together with our collective truth, whether in the streets, in conversations, in leadership, with words or through our art fighting for our rights to belong on this land too!
We will never apologize for existing–no matter where we are.