Two years ago I was significantly more insecure, offensive, and aggressive than I am now. I also had significantly more white friends than I do now. I’m not saying that white people cause insecurity, offensiveness, and aggression, but they certainly brought that out in me.
The insecurity came from constant degradation through “jokes” about my blackness. Whether it be that I’m not “really black” or a simple stereotype, they had deep mental effects on me. The offensiveness came from the privilege I was surrounded with. I was so used to be being around people that weren’t offended by jokes about the unprivileged that I became numb to how offensive I was being. The aggression was a combination of the insecurity and offensiveness. I overcompensated for my differences and upped the offense. Two years ago I was a bad person who was friends with bad people.
Over the past two years I have burned a lot of bridges, leaving people on the other side. Most of those people were white.
Over the past two years I have made a lot of new friends and strengthened relationships with others. Most of these people are people of color.
What does this mean? Am I anti-white now? Maybe so, but I believe it’s deeper than that. I’ve grown to respect and love myself in ways that I didn’t even know existed. In ways that never would have been possible if I continued to surround myself with white people. The main thing that was stopping me from loving myself were the people around me. The toxicity of privileged white kids seeped into my mind and caused me to hate myself. To hate others like me. And thus I separated myself from them. After Michael Brown died something inside of me stirred. I saw people of Ferguson protest and I saw the police respond with aggression and violence. This sparked the kindling in my heart. Enflamed a sense of community.
Ever since then I started put my race and my people before the feelings of my peers. And that didn’t quite go over well with them. I recall tweeting “all you need to know to be a cop is how to shoot a black man” and my white best friend, whose father is a cop, replied “okay”. She was offended that I didn’t like that police were murdering black people at an alarming rate. This is set in a motion an internal movement. As time went on I ran into more and more situations in which people would respond negatively to me loving mine and other’s blackness.
Despite all these instances I still chose to entertain the privileged white people who took problem with me, until Beyoncé released ‘Formation’. A white gay “friend” of mine made no mention of any of the pro-blackness of the music video and song, yet somehow managed to tweet a picture of Queen Bey photoshopped into American Horror Story. I responded by telling him that he was diminishing the importance of Beyoncé’s video, and that white gay men have a history of co-opting the identities of black women. This exchange resulted in me being blocked and various other white people telling me that I was overreacting. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I consciously realized that loving and caring about mine and my people’s well being would upset other people.
So I said “fuck other people” and loved myself.
My priorities changed. I no longer obsessed over the acceptance of my white peers. I stopped being just another sheep in the herd and allowed myself to be outspoken. Rather than getting in meaningless Twitter drama, I started having white people tell me that I was being “reverse racist”. This caused me to realize that I had gone to another level, in another building. It was time to stop surrounding myself with ignorant and the privileged and move to communities that cared about and respected me.
I put my race and people first. I put my blackness first. I put myself first.
To save myself from further mental and emotional harm I had to learn to love myself and my people, and being friends with so many white people was antagonistic of that. My experience is not singular. Many black people who are in white spaces suffer with internalized racism, self-hatred, and numbness to offense. People of color in general are privy to self-whitewashing when existing in white spaces. This is why it’s so important that we are able to create spaces for ourselves. Places that we can love and care for ourselves.
It’s why I created Umoja Power. To create a space for us to be heard and cared about.
Integration is important, but often times it’s forced and leads to assimilation, erasure, and self-hatred. So we have to ask ourselves: Is it worth it? Is it really worth all of the mental and emotional pain? I don’t think it is.
I live in a town with a black population of 4%. The amount of times I hear non-black people say the n-word is unbearable. The amount of times I hear a joke about black people is unbearable. The amount of times I hear genuine racist remarks about black people is unbearable. But we’re integrated. We harbor a lot of racism, but we’re integrated.
I am the black sheep in a herd of white sheep and a handful of brown and yellow sheep. I am alone. We’re supposed to be in a post-racial society. We’re supposed to have transcended race. We’re supposed to be colorblind. Though, it seems integration wasn’t the key to ending racism, it only made us numb to it. Numb to the implicit racism. The prejudice. The effects of oppression and the power of privilege. We’re numb to the things that ail our society. The things that are not-so-slowly killing us; quite literally for people of color.
Well, I’ve stopped taking the anesthetics. I can feel the pain and suffering. So I have to ask myself: Is it worth it? Is it really worth all of the mental and emotional pain?
Yes. It is worth it. I am proud to be a black sheep. I wouldn’t be anything else.