For the better part of my adult life, every move I’ve made, every relationship I’ve formed, has been rooted in the napalm toxic soil of lies.
Not just any lies.
To an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness. I have not only claimed these identities as my own when I had absolutely no right to do so — when doing so is the very epitome of violence, of thievery and appropriation, of the myriad ways in which non-Black people continue to use and abuse Black identities and cultures — but I have formed intimate relationships with loving, compassionate people who have trusted and cared for me when I have deserved neither trust nor caring. People have fought together with me and have fought for me, and my continued appropriation of a Black Caribbean identity is not only, in the starkest terms, wrong — unethical, immoral, anti-Black, colonial — but it means that every step I’ve taken has gaslighted those whom I love.
Intention never matters more than impact. To say that I clearly have been battling some unaddressed mental health demons for my entire life, as both an adult and child, is obvious. Mental health issues likely explain why I assumed a false identity initially, as a youth, and why I continued and developed it for so long; the mental health professionals from whom I have been so belatedly seeking help assure me that this is a common response to some of the severe trauma that marked my early childhood and teen years.
But mental health issues can never, will never, neither explain nor justify, neither condone nor excuse, that, in spite of knowing and regularly critiquing any and every non-Black person who appropriates from Black people, my false identity was crafted entirely from the fabric of Black lives. That I claimed belonging with living people and ancestors to whom and for whom my being is always a threat at best and a death sentence at worst.
I am not a culture vulture. I am a culture leech.
I have thought about ending these lies many times over many years, but my cowardice was always more powerful than my ethics. I know right from wrong. I know history. I know power.
I am a coward.
I am a coward.
There is no ignorance, no innocence, nothing to claim, nothing to defend. I have moved wrong in every way for years.
I believe in restorative justice, where possible, even when and where I don’t know what that means or how it could work. I believe in accountability. And I believe in cancel culture as a necessary and righteous tool for those with less structural power to wield against those with more power.
I should absolutely be cancelled. No. I don’t write in passive voice, ever, because I believe we must name power. So. You should absolutely cancel me, and I absolutely cancel myself.
What does that mean?
I don’t know.
Accountability works only when you are in community with people. How can I be in any type of meaningful community with those whom I have so harmfully and horrifically deceived for so long?
I don’t believe that any anti-Black life has inherent value. I don’t know what to build from here. I don’t know that it is possible to repair a single relationship I have with another person, living or dead, and I don’t believe I deserve the grace or kindness to do so.
My politics are as they have ever been, and those politics condemn me in the loudest and most unyielding terms.
I have built my life on a violent anti-Black lie, and I have lied in every breath I have taken.
There are no words in any language to express the depth of my remorse, but then again: there shouldn’t be. Words are never the point.
The wrath of all whom I’ve harmed, individually and collectively, will never erase the harm I’ve done. Pain and trauma, injustice and violence, aren’t algebra, and there’s nothing to put on the other side of this equals sign but a big, bold void.
I don’t know how to fix this. I am attempting to lay out a timeline of my deceit to better understand all whom I have violated and how, and to begin to imagine how to restore, to address, to redress… But I can’t fix this. I have burned every bridge and have no expectation that any of my relationships are flame resistant. I would never ask for nor expect forgiveness. I long to repair my relationships on whatever terms those whom I’ve harmed need, but only those whom I have harmed can decide if they are willing.
To everyone who trusted me, who fought for me, who vouched for me, who loved me, who is feeling shock and betrayal and rage and bone marrow deep hurt and confusion, violation in this world and beyond: I beg you, please, do not question your own judgment or doubt yourself. You were not naive. I was audaciously deceptive. I have a very clear, loud conscience, but I have acted as if I had none. I gaslit you. I begged for your compassion and love for my isolation and loneliness — real and raw feelings, but borne of the avalanche of deceit.
When I was a teenager fleeing trauma, I could just run away to a new place and become a new person. But this isn’t trauma that anyone imposed on me, this is harm that I have enacted onto so many others. There is nowhere to run. I have ended the life I had no right to live in the first place.
I have no identity outside of this. I have never developed one. I have to figure out how to be a person that I don’t believe should exist, and how, as that person, to even begin to heal any of the harm that I’ve caused.
No white person, no non-Black person, has the right to claim proximity to or belonging in a Black community by virtue of abuse, trauma, non-acceptance, and non-belonging in a white community. The abuse within and alienation from my birth family and society are no one’s burden but my own, and mine alone to address. Black people and Black communities have no obligation to harbor the refuse of non-Black societies. I have done this. I know it is wrong and I have done this anyway.
I have not lived a double life. There is no parallel form of my adulthood connected to white people or a white community or an alternative white identity. I have lived this lie, fully, completely, with no exit plan or strategy. I have built only this life, a life within which I have operated with a radical sense of ethics, of right and wrong, and with rage, rooted in Black power, an ideology which every person should support, but to which I have no possible claim as my own.
There is no way for me to satisfactorily end this statement. This isn’t a confession, it isn’t a public relations move, and it damn sure isn’t a shield. s
It is the truth, though.