I’m out of office. Reason: Exhaustion from whiteness
Some of you have violently disturbed my peace
Some of you I’m disappointed in
Some of you should have stayed over there
All of you have centred YOU
Here’s what your actions have told me:
The energy that you came into my inbox across multiple platforms AS THE WORK is bullshit. If you’d actually done the work of committing to doing some reflection first and done it, it would have been somewhat less affronting to deal with.
Some of you are big vex that you’ve been left on read for a few weeks now – well who vex vex.
The expedited exoneration process that you seem to believe you’re entitled to and the impatience that you have for me not speeding up your exoneration on behalf of all blacks is pitiful. IF you saw me just as Mahlon last month (if at all), then how I’ve now become the black whisperer is something I’d love to hear your thoughts on…
That you’ve realised this week the black people in your life are finding it hard tells me that you’ve only this week seen them for all of who they are.
Being black IS a part of their identity, it will always inform how they navigate spaces. What it tells me is that they have, for whatever reason, navigated a space where your comfort – in compartmentalising/separating this aspect of themselves – was prioritised over them being their full self. At its most hopeful (read fantastical) it’s solely a testament of their love for you. However, from you know… just being black (and the innate ‘locker room privileges’ that it affords), living in majority-white countries, working in predominantly white-female spaces and having dated interracially, I’m less hopeful and more realistic. The realism being that it is far more of an appeasement of terms* for you to exist loosely or closely (as a covalent bond if you like) in our space. A space that we again are left to have to navigate at the expense of getting on with existing as our full self.
*These terms are our mental and physical health, our access to spaces we’re often denied entry (oftentimes unless accompanied by white chaperone who can vouch for us)
That you’re coming to me to petition me about all the ways in which the black body that you’re attached to doesn’t think how I think, do what I do, or say what I say, shows your reduction of blackness.
It also makes me have a couple of thoughts.
One: The same diversity of everything that is afforded to white people isn’t being applied here.
That I’m supposed to take on board that someone has a different approach to me on something is a given. We’re different. I’m not them, they’re not me. We don’t have to agree on everything, the same way that en masse white peoples can’t agree on how to reckon with it’s history of interaction with people minding their business on their lands. Case point, the age old question of should Britain be proud of its empire and should the monarchy be abolished. That you can line up 59 people on one side of the argument and tease out nuance in them, but make a binary out of what ‘one (read my) black person said vs another black said’ and they both can’t exist at the same time is a you problem. It’s also indicative of humanity only being afforded to them if they allow you to live ‘critique and guilt-free’ in yours. Those terms and conditions are between you both – and you should question who has the power to ask for any of them to be changed without it being nullified.
Two: There are Black people in your life are not being honest with you (see above).
Weathering is real and it can manifest as a shorter life span for black people. If it doesn’t directly shorten one’s life, it certainly connects to a more muted and stifled one. So much to the point about black people having and employing a range of thoughts and actions, it can also lead to black people divesting of whatever part of their blackness is going to get them a ticket out of being black at the benefit of being attached to you.
So the thing you might see in the black person ‘attached’ to you – for example 1) not having any other black friends of their own, 2) hiding away/taking no interest in the unique parts of their culture that you both don’t share 3) chiming in or quieting down when you have an opinionated view on something that would affect them differently 4) letting racist shit go amongst your friends and family and so many more – is actually stifling and killing them.
For the number of interactions I’ve been in and witnessed, I’ve concluded that being dishonest to myself to appease whiteness enough to let me in is a fallacy and has never saved me. Not in relationships, not in friendships, not in professional settings. So I show up and take up my 50% of the space. If you’ve known me in any of these spaces, I don’t care to be liked as much as respected for my integrity. So as many actual friends will gladly finish as a sentence for you: I refuse to be uncomfortable [so you can be comfortable at my expense – we’re both gonna have to just be uncomfortable].
The discomfort you feel is you wanting to have your whole 50% of the power dynamic plus 50% of mine too and being told that it’s not gonna work.
There may well be a need to consider the appendage, (adjacent) status or power dynamic you are (un)consciously reducing these black bodies, while simultaneously benefitting from all three. However, again, that’s a you and them thing. My out of office is still on.