Almost nine months ago, I started drafting an essay about Black Rage. The coined term was in a book of the same name about how the country created a specific type of resentment in Black Americans.
The essay wasn’t a review of this now 53-year-old book — partly because I haven’t read it — but mostly because I wanted to explain the state has done to Black Americans in specific that warrant the hostile relationship between this specific citizenry and its state.
By the title of this essay, I never finished it. I was only able to sludge through a rough first draft with too many words. And after that draft I realized two things that are actually more interesting than what I was initially writing.
The first being what does my own rage look like in all of this? A person who is at a politically conscious age, moderately educated, increasingly well read as the days pass and someone who is unequivocally pro black. What is it that I do to manage the world as a force and the actions of that world that forsakes me and the rest of my racial community?
The second thing was asking myself who was I writing for and for whom have I been writing. I don’t think you can get a more unfocused and drawn out over three-thousand-word first draft like I did without not knowing who you’re writing for or that you’re writing for people who don’t get or care about putting in the work to understand, which are white people. And I was doing both.
My Rage as Black Person in the States
I grew up as a first-generation suburban Black kid. Not necessarily affluent but the idea of poverty was in abstract. I knew what it was, but I didn’t understand what it meant. But because my parents did grow up in poverty, they raised me with that mental framework. This manifested itself in ways of knowing the cultural importance of being black and a gratefulness of what I have. But with that came a thicker veil of protection of the implications of what my being Black meant to the rest of the world, more importantly my country.
All that burned after Trayvon Martin. I was a sophomore in high school.
Two years later I would go to a HBCU in Texas, and the remains of my world that were left after Trayvon were lost as well. That Afrocentric education along with more police murders of Black people and protests were the catalyst for me to get to where I am now. And now five years later living as double conscious person, an open seasoned Black man and a writer I have accepted this anger given to me by my country as my social inheritance.
Now I am left to figure out what to do with all my misfortune.
Left to figure out how to reconcile what it means to live in a country that forcefully manufactured my existence and is not precious with its creation. The creator may do what it wants with it’s property, and if that prerogative includes murderous plunder, then what is any entity to say otherwise.
Sometimes I wonder what the reason is for studying, writing and reading the history of my ancestors. Would by psyche not be better off? Who’s to say. I feel as if I would develop a semblance of Stockholm Syndrome, insofar that I would believe that my oppressor would have a reserve of humanity for me, its captive. But as a captive, I would be by myself in my captivity. And as I would look at the bars around me, in whatever space allotted, eventually I would realize that I am just animal.
So I choose to struggle, to be apart of that tradition in investing for something that I will never see. True liberation.
Writing Through the White Gaze
That aforementioned article was going nowhere and yet I was walking with it for months. I thought that if I saw it through that I could find the story in the edit. But I was slugging through it and eventually had to stop. But at that time I hadn’t come to the realization that I have now.
It wasn’t until I watched a documentary about Toni Morrison called “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.” She talks about something that her and friend James Baldwin would discuss about the white man that sits on your shoulder while you write. Editing every word making sure that it won’t hurt any white feelings, making sure the words aren’t too black. And if you dare, that you explain every single detail to an assumed white audience. When I saw that I understood why I was having trouble writing that essay and then felt a heavy burden of shame. I couldn’t write anything — not an essay, a script, no book pages, and I only did homework because of threat of deadline — for months after that.
Now here I am in February — during Black History Month — back writing again.
I’ve looked at my past essays and articles and can see when that white man took hold of my writing. At first, he would just walk behind me, maybe have chats with me about them after publication. In some instances the white man would be actual white editors. But by the time of the aforementioned article he was fully writing the article, in black face.
My perspective now is different. A new feeling of not just my words but even the thoughts that still sit in my head before I make them real with keystrokes. I’ve been more self-aware than I have been in a long time. I say that while saying that as I continue to go down this writing journey that you may still see a white man hiding behind the syntax and em dashes; albeit smaller and less apparent. Because it will always be a constant fight to go against my societal indoctrination. And when it is finally abolished, I will rejoice
But with these new tools of introspection, I have the technique now of telling him to not concern himself with means of my liberation.