Often times we celebrate and applaud those who relinquish the burdens of reality and decide in a particular moment to live their life the way they want to, usually with a smile on their face. That #carefreeblackgirl and #blackboyjoy is what my cousin would describe as being “LIT!” They have created and re-created their realities where there is no capacity to be a minority or marginalized—they are at the center.
On the flip-side:
I have read Miriam Harris’s Facebook post many times. I know those Black girls (and boys). We have broken bread. We have danced the latest dance in club. We have sat next to each other on the train and shared side-eyes when something foolish occurred. We have exchanged the invariant be (a verb that indicates a habitual and repeatable action) when we be talking. And a few times…one of them has stared back at me in the mirror.
Those who fit the description above is considered “Other.” The patterns and molds imposed on “Others” are called deculturalization. Joel Spring, a professor of Queens College, defines the term as, “the conscious attempt to replace one’s culture and language with another that is considered ‘superior.’”
Harris acknowledges and validates Black girls who do not fit into deculturalized molds or those who are not celebrated and recognized for their magic of resistance, like Amandla Stenberg. These ‘round the way girls are usually ignored. Harris voices the often silent psychological/emotional aspects (“inconvenient” sadness; unrecognized depression; anxiety; and need for validation), the social aspects (“still sound like the block they from” and how their power can be a bit much and not friendly) and the cultural aspects (interactions of giving and trusting observed, learned and recreated from the matriarchs before her). Despite it all, their politics of survival is based on their independence.
Recently, I had a conversation about racism with a distinguished and mature (over 60) Black man. He explained that to get where he is, he had to be strategic about handling racism…until it became too much. I responded that for the last year, I have been told and shown how to address these oppressive acts in the way that our dearly beloved former First Lady, Michelle Obama would call “going high” when they went low. There is a part of me that understands the respectability politics of it, but the other side of me is like, “Nah. You come at me a certain way and I will return the favor.” He looked at me with a hint of regret and told me to keep my fire and don’t lose it. I smiled like the Cheshire Cat and replied, “That’s what got me this far.” Ain’t no turning back.
Now, there is a difference between “a time and place for everything” and comprising one’s identity—the nuances are endless, especially when acknowledging the power dynamics of the situation. I know I will not be afforded certain opportunities for not “playing the part,” and I am fine with that because I will probably have to give up a part of who I am to attain it and keep it. I am not her. You are just going to have to take it or leave it—apologies sold separately.