I write this feeling conflicted for what exists in our movements for social justice or even Pan-African independence. Infighting exists and can easily birth itself among any organizing body; however, I am saddened when it finds room to live and breathe among those seeking justice. It seems that when we seek justice, through our frustration and anger, we often forget love. Who are we to exalt ourselves above any other? Who are we to perpetuate any line of division that violently expresses itself against the body of any other, especially when we know what that brutality feels like?
I am a black, queer woman. I know the statistics of potential harm attached to my life in this country. However, I refuse to exalt these statistics above the statistics of violence against any other body. Instead, I see room for strength, collaboration, and a beautiful struggle forward together. The tools of our oppressor, i.e. privilege, power, greed, and exploitation, would like for us to miss the point of collective liberation. In these United States, we each have privilege that needs checking: white, black, latinx, male, heterosexual, LGBTQIA, and the list goes on. We are all tied together in this web of power and privilege. Yes, of course, critical analyses will point to important and key leverage points within this web of privilege and power, but this is not the point of my writing. To put myself out there and highlight what I mean when I say that we all have privilege that needs to be checked, here are some of my own:
“It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
When black, heterosexual men acknowledge their privilege as heterosexual men, it matters. When gay white men acknowledge their privilege as white men, it matters. When able-bodied people acknowledge their privilege as people living without a disability, it matters. Why?
Because then we begin to see clearly beyond our own ego, our own experiences, and we can look together at what true equity means for us all. Blackness is not a monolith and within it is a beautiful mosaic of identities. #BLACKLIVESMATTER, organically started by queer black women and continuing to grow into a large, multiracial movement, is a powerful example. In one of her essays, Audre Lorde said:
"There is no hierarchy of oppressions."
When we decide to support something simply because it is "black", let us also consider the intersections of gender, nationality, religion, and sexual orientation. Black women might feel conflicted about a movie, highlighting black rebellion in the antebellum South whilst ignoring her role as a black Southern woman of strength as well as continuing to problematize her ongoing trauma within rape culture. She owes no apologies for this. On the other hand, Black men have been wrongly accused of rape for centuries and these false accusations have ruined, and continue to ruin real lives. This also is real pain and real trauma and we must acknowledge it. In this same way, the black LGBTQIA community cannot, for the sake of black liberation, ignore its LGBTQIA identity. We must step outside of ourselves to see the other so we can work together. I am in you and you are in me. Together, we have to hold the tension of it all and get to work.
Liberation will not be given to you by someone who has fashioned it in their own image. Your liberation will be a collective and healing work led by you as you heal, led by you as you see yourself more clearly, and led by you as you more clearly see others.