Brother To Brother: Kindling A Fire That Heals (Part 1)


A series of letters, exchanges of love and healings, from blaqueer brothers across space and often violent, times. This is post 1 of 4. For Hari’s response, check out the reblog or head over to the phenomenal RaceBaitr.

My Brother Hari,

There is so much on my mind, but in the midst of it all, I somehow find myself reaching back to you, back to home. As I sit to write, I’m positioned in a magnificent place of privilege. It’s astounding. I’m here in Cape Town, taking law classes at the University of Western Cape, through my home school, Howard University School of Law. I’m currently zoning in and out of my comparative criminal law course but I’m guilty of the same behavior in my comparative constitutional law course. Statutes of limitations, Oscar Pistoria, human dignity, the richest man in China, FIFA, Bashir and Mother Emmanuel. Mother Emmanuel.

That is where my ears perk up. It heartens me to see my frumpy, white law professor–a former federal prosecutor–going on and on about this case, with great passion. He speaks with authority–after all, prosecuting this shit was his job. But his passion, though refreshing, is suffocating. We are speaking about legalese, not lives. He speaks about the complicated nature of the flag, not the straight forward representation of racial-sexual terrors. My peers, listen and zone out. Black, African-American, white and colored. They have colored folks here–essentially light skin niggas that are deemed too good (read: white) to be black. Being colored isn’t necessarily a biological condition–both parents can be black and you can be colored if you’re light–white-ish–enough. It’s a sociopolitical designation, with cultural, economic, social and psychological consequences. None of them get it, none of my peers. They want their degrees. They don’t have time to feel..or perhaps that don’t remember how to feel? I wonder if the mechanisms of their mind and body have been so mauled the white supremacist, heteropatriachal, capitalistic society that they have been dis-membered and the process of re-membering is too violent, too distant, too impossible to mesh with necessity of their callous survival? Perhaps it’s by choice. Perhaps they don’t give a fuck. Perhaps they’re just “New Blacks.” But the only difference between “New Blacks” and other blacks is a bow tie, pressed shirt and relationship to a capitalistic hustle. One group refuses to pimp out their souls..and those their kin. I don’t know what they are, but I know they are different and I know they know.

It’s interesting here, for me, to be in a seat of educational privilege–psychological warfare–while simultaneously unable to use such privilege/proximity to affect the realities of black genocide. If the role of the white supremacy is to “distract” as Mother Toni states, it has succeeded in this moment. This suspension, in a state of immobility and helplessness, has rendered me emotionally exhausted and intellectually paralyzed. I often ponder the value of my intellect, if it is unable to translate to liberation of some type. This trap; the notion that our value as blaqueer, black and oppressed peoples is intimately tied to our ability to create and produce liberations, critical love ethics/practices and survival practices..is the most effective and dominant narrative of (internalized) white supremacies among the black learned class. Consider the consequences…the most learned and talented and/or creative among us–fuck the traditional measuring of excellence by society btw—are being consumed by internal embers of unworthiness, self loathing and rage..for our inability to break every chain…effectively tying a noose around our necks, in the name of the people, our people…who are wondering wtf is wrong with our angry yet unbothered, loving yet callous, hopeful yet pessimistic asses.

I sit here in Africa, South Africa, at the edges of the continent realizing that though I am here..and surely some of my people came from this continent..I can never truly be here. As the sun touches my flesh on the beaches of Cape Town, my thoughts slowly carry across the Atlantic, as I think about my brothers being consumed, maligned, maimed and slain under the same sun. I wonder if it was hot on their flesh, causing trickles of sweat down strong, running backs, yearning for escape and survival. Or perhaps, the sun was comforting on the east side of Oakland, as two blaqueer fathers walk their daughter to the park, to teach her how fly a kite..while learning themselves the value and importance of pure love through eyes and unrelenting affection and dedication to them, despite their flaws and because of their subversive, familial love? But I always return to the guilt of travel, survival, distance from death….the failure of not writing with enough flair or fire to save our lives…or sipping a latte and having a champion-bred poodle…when a black mother is struggling to get WIC…we can call this the black savior complex…or survivors guilt..perhaps its contrived..or perhaps it’s real? What are willing or required to do for our liberation as individuals and collective? Is there a real collective? I don’t know, love, but in writing to you..I hope to demonstrate a willingness to build and open up a dialogue beyond just us, about the cost, benefits, problems and promises of a new critical love ethic and practices of love.

How are you? How is your writing? I know you’ve been aching. I wish I could ache and pain. But I’m floating…suspended somewhere in a unfeeling, exhausted state of disbelief and unknowing. I’ve been unable to compose essays…so poetry has documented my life and fleeting thoughts. I look forward to hearing your voice through the text.

In a Boundless Love,

-T

Follow Tabias Olajuawon on Twitter @BlaQueerFlow. Like our page on Facebook at BlaQueerFlow & Tabias Olajuawon Wilson.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Hari Ziyad says:

    Reblogged this on RaceBaitR and commented:

    Tabias,

    It’s so great to read your words. I think a more accurate description would be that it’s great to feel them. To feel your spirit and know that I am not alone.

    In addition to pain and grief, but also in addition to the joy and inspiration I’ve received from watching you and other brothers and sisters who have responded to the events in Charleston in ways that refill the reserve of strength I was nearly sure I’d lost forever, I’ve been feeling an overwhelming sense of loneliness since those 9 lives were stolen from Mother Emmanuel. I feel now, more than ever, that I fit neither here nor there – in neither Black spaces nor white spaces nor any other People of Color spaces – in neither men spaces nor women spaces nor gender non-conforming spaces – in neither queer spaces nor straight spaces. I do not fit in my family.

    I have struggled with loneliness a lot. As a fellow Black queer man in an anti-Black, anti-queer world, I’m sure you know this feeling, too. But I have never been so seized by this fear that if I reached the end of my rope and I didn’t have my home or a stable mind there would be no other spaces for me to go. No other spaces that are, at least mostly, safe. I do not know where these spaces exist anymore nor if they even do. I feel safe now, though. Writing this. Reading your letter. Maybe this is one of those spaces.

    Two days ago, I fought using the last bit of strength my spirit could muster to get my older brother to understand me and my love for Black and Brown communities and how it is not anti-white-people. It was a traumatizing conversation, as I thought that in my family was the last place my love for anyone would be questioned. I should have known better, though. I keep pretending as if I’m not the only queer child in the family or not the one who rarely gets a phone call or the one least interested in many of the things they are interested in. I thought that none of that should matter when it comes to questions of love, though, but it does and always has. They mattered when I came out and, though they defended me, my siblings insisted I “try to understand” when my parents refused to no longer pay for my education because of it. I wonder, have any of them tried to understand that I don’t think there’s anything in that decision that warrants understanding? They mattered when they contended, despite my protests, that they could understand my queerness just as well as I could. I wonder, do they understand that I don’t even understand my queerness as much as I just live it? They mattered when this same brother’s friend said he liked our family because we weren’t like other Black people and they said my anger in response was wrong. I wonder, why is it always the response to wrong that is wrong with them?

    You ask if I even believe there is a collective. I wonder…

    Does a family have to be safe to be a family? Mine is not. I love my family more than anyone else, but I am not safe with them. Why does it always feel like me against a collective, when they are my family just like they are each other’s?

    So my being different matters in questions of love.

    I feel safe reading how sometimes you feel like your peers just don’t get it because sometimes I feel that way too. Even the Black ones. The concept of colored that you have there is foreign to me, but if they aren’t that here, they’re “New Black”. If they’re not “New Black”, they’re anti-queer; if they’re not anti-queer, they’re misogynoiristic; and on and on down the rabbit hole. And sometimes it feels like I hate them for that. And I think that’s one of the most powerful functions of white supremacy – it turns privilege within a marginalized group into a special kind of privilege that does a special kind of damage. It allows cishet Black men to physically and emotionally violate Black women and queer and trans Black men more than anyone else without cishet white men getting their hands dirty. It allows me to feel like I hate my brothers for this.

    It allows me to lash out at my family.

    And maybe that works on an internal level too. Maybe intellectual privilege consumes us so – exhausts us so – because it is too a special kind of privilege and does a special kind of damage. Maybe this damage is best described as an inability to love and trust in a healthy way.

    Maybe my brother was right to question my love.

    Maybe I question the idea of a collective and we question ourselves and he questioned me and I question my family because we have been let down so many times that we are forgetting how to love and trust. And I’m forgetting how to rest because I don’t trust the world not to crumble if I do. And if the world crumbles it will be my fault because: Black savior complex.

    But the world has been crumbling around Black and Brown communities for several centuries and I haven’t been around for most of those centuries to deserve the blame. Maybe it has stopped already and we just haven’t cleaned up the destructive mess left behind. You ask, “What are we willing or required to do for our liberation as individuals and a collective?” Maybe it has something to do with that – cleaning up this mess. And no, I don’t mean that in the bullshit way people imply when they say we have to focus on fixing our communities first before addressing white racism. I mean that maybe we have to learn how to better love each other through the mess? Maybe we have to re-learn how to love ourselves through it? Maybe the abuses our brothers and sisters rain down on us matter in questions of love, matter in how we express it to them, but we must resist questioning the love we have for them and ourselves? And love doesn’t mean not fighting. The opposite, actually. If I love you – really love you – I would lay down my life for you. And lay down my life to stop you from hurting the rest of us.

    I don’t know what this all looks like. I’ve tried to define it before, but I don’t know if I was comprehensive. Maybe we need to define it better. What do you think? How would you start defining what a love for one another and ourselves through the crumbled mess that makes us hurt each other should look like?

    I’m jealous of you. I need a break from this place, too. But breaks are a mirage because I know there are no breaks regardless of how far you go to escape, and I think you know it too – that’s why you keep finding yourself reaching back to home. So for now I’ll find safety in these words. Write back soon.

    With love,

    HZ

    Liked by 1 person

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