Can I be “done”? For just a little while?
It occurs to me, after I said this to a friend, that maybe other white friends and allies don’t realize how hurtful, inconsiderate, and tone-deaf telling someone in a struggle for their life and the quality thereof, that they can’t be “done.” As I declared I was in a recent Facebook post, in regard to the young boy, fourteen, who was shot at on his way to school while stopping to ask for directions because he’d missed the bus, had to walk, and got lost.
When people of color, especially Black folks say they’re done, it is NOT your job to tell us we’re not. White people already decide how we live, and when and how many of us die. You don’t fucking get to tell me — US--when we’re done and for how long. If I need to say I’m “done” and be about that to save my sanity and MY SELF, then your job is to nod and shut the fuck up, and maybe keep your uninformed optimism to yourselves. Or between you and other folks who don’t face horror, poverty, violence, injustice, disenfranchisement, and lack of equal oppprtunities, just because of their skin color.
Seriously. MISS EVERY BLACK PERSON YOU KNOW WITH THIS SHIT. We don’t need you to tell us our duties and responsibilities. We know what we have to do, since clearly white people can’t be bothered to effectively police and civilize their own. Tell Black folks ALLLL the livelong days and ALLLLL the goddamn ways we need to handle OUR own, when y’all refuse to do the same.
“The Black community needs to--”
Nah, Becky and Chad. Y’ALL need to handle your people. This shit is insane, and YOU NEED. TO HANDLE. YOUR MOTHERFUCKING. PEOPLE.
At any rate, here’s why White Optimism and Go Get 'Er Positivity can just miss me. And if, after this, any friends or allies still want to cheerlead my or anyone else’s tired Black asses, as if we actually think we have a REAL CHOICE about being “done,” do everyone a favor and tell it to Jeebus or Joel Osteen, instead.
“No shade thrown, you’re my friend and you mean well, but--it’s not my job to wake people up. Just like kids shouldn’t be shot at for asking directions, so I shouldn’t have to use my voice, my heart, my spoons, and my LIFE trying to educate the ignorant and teach empathy to the heartless, in the hopes of them maybe not trying to kill people who look like me. I have MY OWN dreams and things I want to say and do, without my life being taken up by speaking out NONSTOP against willful ignorance and cruelty. Not in my job description, above my pay grade, and ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m not anyone’s Magical Negro. My name isn’t Bagger Vance or Mammy. My life’s purpose isn’t to bring empathy and depth to the angry and ignorant and fearful. I’m neither obligated to care about enlightening a large part of humanity, nor inclined. It’s a futile task and I have no interest in pushing that boulder up that hill. There are other ways I wish to use my voice. I shouldn’t have to use it to assert my humanity or the humanity of folk who look like me, to another segment of humanity who SHOULD KNOW BETTER AND BE BETTER, and who continue to knowingly give little to zero fucks about the Others. I get what you’re trying to say, [friend], but from my perspective, it’s only rubbing in the unfairness and injustice foisted upon me and billions of other brown folks. I SHOULDNT HAVE TO. Shouldn’t have to say 'hands up, don’t shoot' and shouldn’t have to wonder if some trigger-happy bigot is gonna "fear for his life" because I’m armed with my cellphone and my brown skin, and also running away from them. But what choice have I got, about staying silent and still, when speaking and acting about anything else feels like I’m putting another innocent black person, child or adult, in the ground?
“I get what you’re saying but it only depresses and ENRAGES me more. Having to be and stay strong —simply to help prevent MORE murderers of children and bring attention and justice to those already slaughtered — when basic human decency mandates that I shouldn’t have to, simply illustrates my utter lack of choice in so many matters. Including how I spend my voice and my effort. And I resent the HELL out of that situation and necessity, to say the least.
“‘You can do it!’ is no match for: ‘But why do I have to? Why is it necessary and why is it such a lonely fight? Why must I PROVE I’m human and valid and equal? Why does THE WORLD not already see? To the point that people hate Michael Vick more for abusing dogs than they do George Zimmerman and ALL THE OTHERS I DON’T HAVE THE SPOONS OR ENERGY TO NAME for murdering OTHER HUMAN BEINGS who apparently matter less than DOGS?’
“I shouldn’t have to ask myself questions like that or persevere against heartlessness and evil. No one should. And telling me I’m not done DOES NOT HELP AT ALL, because I already know and have since I was a child that I will NEVER be done. I will live and die on the road to DONE, and so would my great-great-grandchildren, were I cruel enough to bring innocent children into this bullshit.
“There’s literally no PoC on this planet who ever thinks they’re ‘done,’ no matter what we say. And even the grave doesn’t except that. We know this well and better than white people, even so-called allies suppose. Even YOU. And being told to keep going, as if we DON’T KNOW, as if we aren’t even allowed our moments of weariness and hopelessness in the face of tremendous adversity, is insulting and offensive. Again, no shade, but this is not a helpful thing. I don’t know that I speak for ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE, but I speak for at least ONE. Taking away my choice, my right and agency to be ‘DONE,’ when many of my other choices have been and are being co-opted by people who don’t know and couldn’t handle it if they did, is . . it doesn’t come across as thoughtful or empathetic or as if you relate. Aside from the other stuff I wrote, finding out a friend doesn’t relate--which has been happening to me a lot, lately--hurts like hell. Disillusionment always does, but maybe you don’t understand that in the same way I do.
“We’re cool, but please . . . it’s really easy to seem like you’re invalidating the struggle when I’m not even allowed the space of a Facebook post to be tired and sad and ‘DONE.’"
Questions? Comments? Concerns? I’m willing to respond honestly and as tactfully as I’m inclined at that moment. But again: my name isn’t Mammy or Bagger Vance. My occupation isn’t Magical Negro. You may be a beautiful little snowflake who only means well, but that doesn’t excuse careless speech or thoughtless, privileged value judgments. It doesn’t excuse YOU. When it comes to coddling selfish, whiny butthurt and what-aboutism . . . beetle isn’t the one. Not today and not ever again.
I’m not your bug, and I’m not the one.
[Edits for typos, clarity, and elan.]