See Me in My Context Before You Judge
As a Black american, in america, I face the disturbing reality that my small ethnic group leads in most disparities from health, to education. There's a historical context to this no doubt, which one can easily find layering evidence and resources to speak to it. Presently, I feel a new and unfamiliar texture of pain from oppression (unprovoked violence, cultural imperialism, marginalization, powerlessness, and exploitation ) Its the muted pain of erasure, and it encompasses all five faces of oppression.
The pain is provoked by gas-lighting, silencing, hyper-scrutiny and the hijacking of mono-racially Black narratives. Everywhere I look, some racially ambiguous white bi-racial or person of color is "self-identifying as Black." So far, I have organized some of the many attacks on my peoples' culture and identity, Black identity is treated like community property, much like Black women's bodies. These attacks contribute to the crabs in the barrel mentality. My goal is to speak in-group talk and speak to those who want so badly to be in community with Black American people while unaware of their participation in the erasure of the ethnic group itself. My intention always is to affirm Black Humanity and situate Black Americans (and everyone else) in our appropriate historical and cultural context.
During a Model UN field trip, a Nigerian elementary teacher once told my class full of dark brown and brown faces, that when visiting or moving to a new land, we must center the concerns of those who endured the struggles of the land before we came. Living in NY I witnessed first hand the ethnocentric view many people of color and Black folks of the diaspora had with Black Americans. For a long time, I thought my Nigerian teacher's words were a principle that all people followed. So much of Black American culture has been conflated with dreadful government manufactured circumstances and the survival practices that grew from it. It feels like someone engaging with you based on the rumors they've heard, not who you truly are. #Awkward
In a state of emergency, when someone passes out someone close in proximity to a medical professional cry out "everybody Back Up! Give Them Space!" No matter who you are in relation to the person who's incapacitated it is in their best interest for you to back up. I feel like Black Americans are passed out on the ground (#ICantBreathe). Keepers of the culture are pleading for people to back up, give space so they can breathe. However, we too are Black, therefore our voices go unheard. Meanwhile, because Black suffering is a spectacle since the auction block, everyone is leaning in closer and closer; touching us, claiming us, attracted to our pain with curiosity, detachment and amusement.
A large part of the crabs in the barrel mentality is theoretical assessments of Black life vs practical ones. We haven't honestly investigated how we mindlessly participate in our own undermining. Tis, why social justice infused wellness, is crucial, allowing us to become mindful of how larger systems of oppression show up in interpersonal relationships-how we interpret one another in understanding not judgement.
- Over crediting the whites specifically with Black creations
Without context and empathy, respectability politics as a terminology is being overused and weaponized against Black people in many categories. Apparel is one example. African people were forcibly kept in rags for the duration of their enslavement.
All the while Black women were forced to sew finely tailored clothes for the whites. Immediately after slavery, released from the micro-white rule, Black people began to do what we do best, style and flare despite our impoverished state. Our stylish aesthetic despite unbelievably impoverished status speaks to our personal representation. 310 years violently separated from traditional African wear, Black Americans influenced American styles throughout the decades through the merging of cultural aesthetics. To criticize and fault Black people for making the best out of the worst situation is real time practice of anti-Blackness, everything and anything we do ill be viewed negatively. By over labeling every social adjustment that makes one well rounded, we unknowingly crediting white people with grace, dignity, class, style, civility and the likes. These traits are proudly carried as African characteristics despite every attempt to label and represent Black people as savage, unkept, stiff and immoral.
--Black people are not the only people who struggle to hold tightly onto our customs under white dominance.
Crabs in a barrel continued:
2. hyper-criticizing previous generations of black ppl
3. decentering monoracial black voices
4. being comfortable in your oppression that you stop fighting for freedom.
Of course we know a barrel is not a crabs natural habitat, with that said, how can we leverage what we know of our circumstances, short comings, skills, and goals to get free?
I vote being mindful of the tendencies listed above (I'll get into best mindfulness practices later). Also challenging ourselves to be more compassionate and empathetic starting with the natural and forced natives of the land you stand on .
This is why cultural grounding is important. Many people have been knocked out of the dream realm with the realities of our current plight. In a state of bewilderment, we're fumbling trying to find our footing, rejecting anything associating with whiteness, even when miscredited, when all we need, is for everyone to step back so we can come to. We become lost when we look outside of ourselves for answers that can only come from within.
"We're so hip, even our errors are correct" Nikki Giovanni
respectability politics my a**