Nobody sees the struggle
they only see the trouble
not knowing its
hard to carryon
out here when no
-Tupac, Thug Mansion
Earlier this week, I posted a Facebook status noting that I had struggled with suicide only a night before the status. This was perhaps the status that many of my friends and followers were expecting after seeing me post about suicide for the last several weeks. I imagine so many ramblings about my situational (read: privileged) trauma, coupled with an incessant querrying of the politics of suicide would lead any reasonable reader to begin to think I was on a ledge of sorts, and in need of some serious community, mental interventions.
The truth is, I was indeed depressed. I had recently experienced the ending of a relationship with someone I consider my best friend, and at the time, I thought I would marry. The ending of this relationship is something I continue to mourn, but it would be dishonest to say that my former partner drove me to suicide, or engaged in some sort emotional terrorism akin to some tragic form of domestic violence. No, it was not them. I had also recently been dealt a series of financial blows that had nothing to do with own choices; I was eating foods that I could afford, which generally meant unhealthy, and with my compromised immune system this had costs. I was missing doses of my medicine because I could not afford to get to the doctors to get them. I was missing assignments in class, because the aforementioned medicine I was/am taking was forcing me to feel fatigued. I was neglecting BlaQueerFlow, because I needed to be focusing on the law school classes that told me that my vision of Black liberation was dangerous at best and antithetical to the mission of equality at worst. I was working on PhD apps, because I needed time to write and think deeply, about what I was experiencing at home, at Howard and inside. I was not living.
So I began to thinking about death. To be clear, I was never questioning whether I could continue to exist in the world. Whitney Houston once crooned that she didn’t know her own strength. I may not know mine either, but I do know fear of living has never pushed me toward dying. What I have wondered though, and continue to wonder, is whether living itself is perhaps far too privileged as an act. Not privileged in the meaning that not everyone gets to live–which is another conversation–but privileged in the way that we always position life as the greatest thing and death as the worst. No matter the conditions of our existence, we seem to spring toward life, even if it kills us. As Tupac asks in Thug Mansion, “why am I dying to live, if I’m just living to die…”
Playing with, toying with, and seriously considering the sort of death dealing systems that we, as Black folks, as BlaQueer folks, as Latinx folks must defy daily to be here…and thinking about how in both death and life our bodies and choices are commodified to fund a system predicated on and fed by our intent on living, I have come to wonder whether the fear of death itself is not the biggest colonial trick in the book? The fear of death becomes a barrier to the courage to live as we truly are and dampens the fire necessary to demand the life that we believe we deserve. This has a cascading effect on not only our living practices, but our love ethics, our organizing tactics and the audacity of our politics and rearing of the next generation.
In his memoir Revolutionary Suicide, Huey P. Newton speaks to this type of suicide. This knowing that if you are truly doing the work of liberation, you are likely to be killed by the state or who/whatever you are resisting. It is a noting that we cannot be more invested in the world we are surviving than the life we deserve to live. Huey–for some reason I feel comfortable calling him that, like he’s my big brother–implies that as we prepare to resist survival for the sweet taste of life, we must be prepared to stop simply existing. We must be prepared for the state to kill us, and rest in the knowing that those of our cause, those of our movement, will pick up our garments, our mantles, our arms, our truths and continue to live and die, until folks truly have something to live for.
We are no longer in the 60’s. COINTELPRO has maybe ended, maybe. We are not being killed at random for beliefs,
they say. But we are being killed in other ways. Economic violence, racial-sexual terrorism and racial capitalism, snakes around the neck of inner-city and rural Black folks daily. It steals parents from children and places them in the services of a business owner for fourteen hour shifts, leaving little time for self love or love of child: that is murder. Structural violence requires that Black and BlaQueer people be locked out of capital necessary to build economic and social safety nets, disallowing folks to exist as their true selves for fear of missing out on an opportunity–and worse, tearing each other down for it–this makes folks unable to rest, unable to chill, unable to be still or whole, anywhere: that is murder. It marks Black folks as criminal for disobeying laws they cannot afford to adhere to, adhering to laws that make no sense and simply existing too freely while black–and thereby making them ineligible for housing assistance, financial aid for schooling or the opportunity to participate in civic decisions, being socially (un)dead: this is murder. It invisibilizes undocumented Black folks for the purposes of equal rights, while making them hypervisible when their costs outweigh their benefits to the state. It requires the cultural and racial circumcision of the Black body, from pronunciation to hair coils, from vocal tone to facial expressions, from suits to Timbs…one B lack wrong move, could land one dead (Sandra) or in jail (El-Amin), or unemployed and soon destitute.
Suicide then, can be revolutionary. Life can only be privileged when it is more than mere survival. This is not a call for folks who are struggling with depression to kill themselves. This is a call to critically examine what suicide does and does not mean across experiences. It is a call to think about how life is weaponized as a surefire way to access, surveil and monetize oppressed bodies. Beyond the usual attacks of one being selfish for taking their own life—which, just read that again and let me know how that makes sense–there is no serious discussion of why folks would engage in suicide, aside from perhaps terminal illness. The choice to live or die is the essence of freedom, if that choice is taken or deeply encroached upon via state and mental health penalties, then there can be no freedom at all. For a moment, I implore each of us to think about why we have and have not considered suicide, beyond our usual musings; ie, “i love myself too much”…to stop dealing with the bullshit of global racial capitalism? I think we should all think about what would happen if the folks whose bodies are used to fuel this nation would choose death over a predetermined dance of survival jujitsu: what then would America be?
For this reason alone, I’ve become unapologetically suicidal. I wield no knife at my throat, nor pills at my bedside. But I reserve the right to die, when living best serves those who seek to devour me.