Living While Black (and the Black History Month Post That Wasn’t)

Lately, I’ve been too busy living Blackness to write about it. The election-insurrection madness, the White Supremacy Show, and a whirl of workplace anti-racism activities have brought a new level of intensity to the Living While Black/Working While Black experience. A few lessons from my own unwritten, unofficial Living While Black/Working While Black Instruction Manual are helping me stay upbeat and balanced:

Engage in race talk without letting it take you over.

Express yourself, then give yourself space to recharge.

In the words of the wise many, “be unapologetically Black.” Be your whole self.

I am not complaining. Being Black has always been a wild ride, but it is totally worth it.

Within and beyond Stressdom, my life is full of things to be happy about. After extended dreary-weather punishment, we are finally seeing some sun around here. I celebrated by walking in the light, forward, sideways, backwards, and zig-zaggy, dressed in black from head to toe. The two LGBTQIA+ health resource guides I worked on last fall are now available online, and people are spreading the word about them. I brought a race-and-sexuality intersectional perspective to the guides, referencing Kimberle Crenshaw’s 1989 essay on intersectionality and groups like the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network. This month, I got to hear journalist Kim Haas talk about her new public television series, Afro-Latino Travels with Kim Haas. I am in love with traveling myself and enjoy listening to the stories of other globetrotting Black people. In a society that strives to imprison Black people’s perspectives and limit our possibilities, travel for me is an act of resistance, a rejection of the societally imposed boundaries that might alienate me from the rest of the African diaspora and a deeper understanding of myself. I am thankful for every chance I’ve had to connect with people from other countries – especially other Black people – in restaurants, concert halls, taxis, museums, homes, and street spaces, and to hear their thoughts on my country’s history, its shortcomings, its mad drive (sometimes to nowhere), and its future.

Alas, COVID has put the brakes on any near-future travel plans I might have had. Meanwhile, I am getting my fix by listening to podcasts in French. One that I am digging right now is La Lecon: le podcast sur l’art d’echouer (The Lesson: The Podcast on the Art of Failing) hosted by Pauline Grisoni. Guests on the program talk about achieving their personal goals after facing major life setbacks. It’s just the kind of feel-good news I love and need to hear, especially in these COVID times.

I am also digging Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It is an immensely validating book for us shunners of small talk, lovers of deep thought, and haters of forced socializing. It is full of stories of mega-successful people who made it big without being big talkers. I picked it up after putting aside two other fine books: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and Black Reconstruction in America by W.E.B. Du Bois. Reading White Fragility was like reliving my worst-ever experiences with racism. Putting it down was an act of self-preservation, albeit a difficult one, because what DiAngelo wrote rings so, so true. It is a worthwhile, important read and I am sure I will pick it up again – just not right now. Du Bois awes me with his insight and excruciating attention to detail. Reading Black Reconstruction in America depressed me mainly because his decades-ago analysis of race relations in the United States could have been written last week. Too much for me right now. But I am a sucker for brilliance and truth, so I will be picking this one up again (soon).

I am ending this here, although this should have been a post about Black history. Even though theme months make me cringe sometimes, I greatly respect Black History Month and everything it represents. But I don’t think anything I could have written about Black history this month would have been good enough for this moment or these times. After everything that has happened – the protests, the killings, a Black woman ascending to the Vice Presidency of the United States, the entering of “Black Lives Matter” into corporate America’s lexicon – I am too overwhelmed by the now to wax eloquently about the past. I feel like I am walking inside History, bumping up against its belly and ribs, trying to make sense of my surroundings and breathe at the same time. The only way I can keep my bearings is by documenting memorable times and following little bursts of light. I am determined to keep standing and keep enjoying myself. It’ll all be over before I know it.

2 thoughts on “Living While Black (and the Black History Month Post That Wasn’t)”

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