“What is BET?”
“You mean B.E.T.?”
“It stands for Black Entertainment Television.”
“Well if you have your own channel, why don’t we get our own channel?”
“Because, every other channel is ‘your own’ channel.”
This is an example of the conversations I’ve had to have over the years, and I’ve been quite diplomatic and graceful about it; tapping into compassion for their ignorance.
This morning I was checking my updates on Instagram and I noticed I was followed by an account which posts sensual photos of scantily clad men. In most cases, I would’ve thumbed through and gawked at the smorgasbord of men with satisfaction, but I noticed something – ALL of these men were light-skinned. Not 1 of of these men was black.
I’ll entertain the idea that they might be going for a certain “look”, or “theme”, which is the excuse I imagine you hear if you’re black and you show up to an all-white casting call. This sort of unspoken oppression and unconscious discrimination is the kind of sh*t that black people go through on a regular basis.
What also has me both fascinated and perplexed is the fact that black (and queer) people have influenced pop-culture for decades, yet, we still somehow manage to find ourselves stressed, oppressed, and our circumstances are still a hot mess. But I digress.
I frequently choose not to participate in the “black and white conversation”, because I usually don’t see in colour (unless someone calls me a nigger at a bus stop or in a nightclub, or I’m in a room full of white people when someone decides to drop the “N Bomb; leaving me feeling like totes awkward and uncomfortable). I’m a humanitarian and a planetarian above all else. I really don’t care what colour you are; I’m more interested in who you are, what you’ve been through, and where you’re going. In fact, my life and work are based around that statement and those questions.
That said, when I scroll through Instagram, or flip through magazines, or I surf the television, or I’m out at the nightclub, and I’m dominated by images of light-skinned men and women (the reason I spent years stripping my hair, burning my scalp, and wearing colored contact lenses), and I’m dominated by success stories about light-skinned people, and I’m dominated by chart-topping queer club anthems by white artists – with their “good hair” and “good eyes” and “good skin” – one begins to wonder.
Finally, and suddenly, I can’t help but chime in on the “black and white conversation”.
Why? Because my current reality is as such: I am a black, queer, and woke brother (which means, at any given time, I’m gettin it from all angles), and a hunch tells me that I’m not alone when I say I’ve been feeling a tad underrepresented, misrepresented, and unrepresented all at once (imagine that).
On top of that, what I’ve come to realize is that blacks are some of the most racist people, and queers some of the most homophobic. So, not only are we being oppressed and discriminated against by those who are different than us; we are projecting the oppression and discrimination onto ourselves and others. Starting to see my issue now?
I’m no stranger to hatred and discrimination based on my race, sexual orientation, and class, and I was the only black kid in my school, and one of few in the town, for 5 years. And get this – I’d still refer to myself as “privileged”, so one can imagine what circumstances might look like for someone who’s not “privileged”.
Still, I’ve managed to find a way to “thrive” within the confines of this limited reality, and I’m still optimistic that there’s hope for us all.
I’m not complaining – complaining is a wasteful and unproductive use of my energy, and I’ve moved beyond complaining and into action. You now have my attention, and I’m inspired to actively participate in the”black and white conversation”, the “human conversation”, and the “planet conversation”, on MY terms.
We’re all in need of a major wake-up call and a miracle, and I know it’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m passionately and patiently do my part by sharing my experience and my insight, not from a place of anger or fear, but from a place of compassion and empathy and love – an awakened place.
Yo. I feel you. ALL LIVES do matter. Like I said, I’m a humanitarian and a planetarian above all else.
The thing is, we don’t want to have a conversation with you about ALL LIVES at the moment – we’ll get to that. But right now, what we wanna discuss is Black Lives.
So, when someone says “Black lives matter,” all you need to say is “Yes brother/sister, they do,” and then take a seat and open your eyes, your ears, your mind, and your heart.
And, since the conversation hasn’t really been about us, unless we’re wild’n out like a bunch of “uppity niggers”, would you mind if we have the floor for 15 minutes or so, to share our experiences. Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re an exception – we’re still human.
And then, those who are not down for the cause may go back to sleep.
Or stay woke, and join us in solidarity, because, the truth is this: I love you.
Please don’t fear us. Please don’t think that because I am a person of colour, you must walk on egg shells out of fear of confrontation. And, PLEASE, don’t shy away from the “black and white” or “Black Lives Matter” conversation; I honour your experience and your views, and solidarity means solidarity, and I’m interested in real solidarity – the kind that is inclusive, and compassionate, and empathetic, and human; the kind that stems from a desire for love and true unity, and not from hate and separation.
Finally, I will say this. My black brothers and sisters, while we suit up and approach the podium for our 15 minutes (and, hopefully, a lifetime) of change, let us not perpetuate the very thing we’re fighting to change by fighting fire with fire and hate with hate. I can only imagine your suffering, and I wouldn’t dare try to tell you what you’re feeling, or how you should deal.
I’m simply suggesting that whatever you decide, you do it with the best of intentions, and with peace and love in mind and at heart. Note: peace and love aren’t necessarily passive, but I suspect you know the difference between love and fear, hate and and compassion, deep down. Just because “they” wronged us, does not mean we need to wrong them. You cannot solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created the problem in the first place. So, let’s ALL come together in solidarity, stand united, and finally WIN. Or we can be victimized, once again, by the “divide and conquer” tactics of systemic oppression due to our chosen ignorance (newsflash, there’s about 1% of us that aren’t being f*cked by systemic oppression, so we may as well work together).
We KNOW better, so let us DO better.