I used to be afraid.

Posted: December 26, 2015 in Welcome


In August 2014, I was asked, “What happened to me?” as if I’d changed or someone shifted my positions on things in a manner that represents something different than the man I am and the man I was when this individual met me.

The truth is: Something did happen to me. I was awakened and given a platform to be unapologetically me.

This transformation was not a process that happened overnight, in fact, as it took place, I was so scared that I would shock myself. I found myself identifying wrongdoings and calling people on it. I thought differently and as my teacher (yes, one Black teacher) forced me to read DAILY, I became more and more aware of what I already perceived to be wrong.

At the same time, this system that I saw wronging others never hurt me. In fact, I don’t think anyone in my immediate family can speak to being wronged, targeted, or mishandled by the ills or injustices that I was identifying, but that didn’t matter to me. I was a friend, homie, brother, confidant, and insider to many of the people that unconsciously represented this parallel universe that countered mine. However, I could go in and out but (as long as I had the right materials and spoke the right language). It was easy to navigate this world and jump back into mine. In fact, no one in my world ever questioned my ability to travel both worlds they just said that’s just how he rolls, dresses, speaks, acts, and it’s ok because that’s HIM.

Black people let me BE. Albeit, this is also not the case for all Black men or kids like me. However, I still had my credibility because I played a sport, lived in a Black neighborhood, hung out with my Black friends, and did “Black Shit”. Nothing changed really. BUT, as time progressed I became more cognizant of my ability to enter and willingness to hold certain aspects of me back. I also noticed that everyone wasn’t allowed to come with, which often mad me feel alienated, alone, and burdened with the representation of a group that I knew I didn’t quite represent. Thus, I felt trapped in between pulling up inauthentic behaviors of my blackness in a performative manner to ‘stay real.’ However, it was not in an “I’m going to play rap music or dress in a particular way”. But I’d read Black literature intentionally, say things that Black people DID or DID NOT do to fit in and also just snap because I couldn’t rock with too much counter-culture bullshit that reeked of privilege, exceptionalism, and naiveté. It was disgusting because I, too, enjoyed these privileges but not too much because I saw the impact of this on others in my parallel worlds where poverty, inequality, and justice bells don’t ring out for people. It’s just SILENCE; that’s SCREAMING.

I’ve struggled with having this conversation, but it’s only so many people that I felt would understand it. SO, I just kept a lot of it to myself and spoke different languages to two worlds. But soon enough that shit gets tiring the roles get played out and if you don’t call yourself on the bullshit some else will. BUT, I just started calling a spade a spade and people from my world SUPPORTED ME BIG TIME and PEOPLE IN THE OTHER WORLD LISTENED – THAT WAS EYE-OPENING.

Whoa. I didn’t expect to be a voice for my people but people PERIOD. God blessed me because my consciousness coupled with the emergence of social media, namely Facebook, created this space that drew together my friends from both worlds and invited them to meet. It was a fine line, but the encounters happened some good, some bad.

Then, I noticed that THAT world, the other one, began to see my Blackness. Those that I used to converse with limited their support. Was I too radical? Am I not saying the right things? Should I shut up? Is this my fight? Am I THAT Black person? All of those questions flooded, and still flood, my mind but I can’t stop and won’t stop because I am no longer afraid of the White Gaze and respectability politics. You see, I never was there for them but it was who I was, and I don’t want them to think ME being ME is an emulation of THEM, which is something I check in both worlds, OFTEN. This voice, words, and clothing isn’t White, it’s me, and I am Black as they come. I am just no longer afraid, but I used to be.

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