Just kidding! I mean, wouldn’t that be ideal if we lived in a world where we could just run from the problem and still live our lives accordingly?
According to Dictionary.com, to be anti-black is to be resistant or antagonistic towards black people and our values and objectives. I wasn’t satisfied with that definition, however, because I know that anti-blackness runs deeper than that. Michael P. Jeffries writes in his article “Ferguson Must Force Us To Face Anti-Blackness” that anti-blackness is more than hating and penalizing black people. Anti-blackness is “the debasement of black humanity, utter indifference to black suffering, and the denial of black people’s right to exist.”
Anti-blackness is being in a classroom and someone bringing up the violence in Chicago as a way to invalidate the unjust police killings of black citizens.
Anti-blackness is a white person recognizing their privilege in some instances but not others.
Anti-blackness is someone wanting us to watch our tone when we talk about our people being murdered in the streets by police, as if we owe society a calm voice when talking about state-approved genocide.
Anti-blackness is someone shouting (or aggressively typing) that we are all one human race when we try to point out systemic racism, white privilege, and problems within our society when it comes to being black.
Anti-blackness is when someone shift the focus from black issues to their own problems that they think are the same because they can’t handle the idea that there are certain situations exclusive to black people.
Anti-blackness is when someone tries to tell you to be grateful for the minimal progress this society has made when it comes to the equal rights of black people instead of pointing out the problems that still exist.
Anti-blackness can literally be anywhere: our schools, our friend groups, our classrooms, our work environments, our social media communities, etc.
And let me be very clear: it is not only white people who dish out anti-blackness, and this is a falsity that can land us in trouble.
So what’s a black millennial to do when faced with these stinging upper-cuts of anti-blackness? Should we just take it like the strong, unaffected super-predators people think we are? (Please note the boatload of sarcasm.)
1. Recognize why a statement bothers you in the first place and identify it as anti-blackness. The worst thing we can do to ourselves is see and hear these comments and ignore the sick feeling we get in our guts. That sick feeling is there for a reason, and you should probably recognize what that reason is. There are a lot of excuses why we might try to ignore incidents of anti-blackness and chalk it up to mistakes or us being crazy. Maybe the person who said the anti-black statement is a “friend.” Maybe it’s a teacher or a co-worker. Whomever it is, even if you’re not going to call them out on it, acknowledge that they made this statement. Do not invalidate yourself. That is one of the worst things you can do.
2. Tap into your black friend group. We can try to sit here and pretend that we don’t have a “black friend group,” when we know we do. These are the people you know will get the anti-blackness even before you finish telling the story. These are the people who will acknowledge and validate the anger and frustration you feel. Even if you talk to these people once in a blue moon when a non-black person does some stuff and you just need to vent, these people are crucial to surviving in an anti-black environment. And honestly, if these are the people you go to vent, you should probably consider making a conscious effort to make them your consistent friends.
3. Pick your petty battles. I know, I know. It can feel so satisfying to delve into our petty urges and rip someone apart for being dumb. This can be dangerous, however. If someone is being actively anti-black, then please gather their edges (if they have any) and serve the hot plate of “Take Several Seats.” If, however, they are just truly ignorant to these things, then we must recognize that. Now, I’m not saying that by recognizing their genuine ignorance that we must educate them, but maybe attacking them isn’t the best course of action. It’s so easy to want to go off on somebody innocent because so many people before them were getting on our nerves with the anti-black rhetoric. So maybe don’t come for their life in that moment. Let someone else (preferably an actual non-black ally) do the leg work on this one. Besides, don’t you want to save your ammo on a truly worthy opponent?
4. Call these anti-black racists out and set them straight. I feel like this one is pretty self-explanatory. If calling people out their anti-blackness bullsh*t is your prerogative, then please, by all means, go for it!
5. Give yourself a break. This is going to sound really bad, but the truth is what it is. If you feel yourself becoming disgusted with anti-blackness in your community, you should probably only stay around black people. I know: you’re probably thinking, “But, Ahtiya, self-segregation never solved anything!” First of all, prove it (I’m joking…kinda). And second of all, don’t lie to yourself and pretend that seeing the rife anti-blackness in your community isn’t affecting the way you are seeing non-black people, even true allies. This is natural, and to deny this and pretend that everything is okay is not helping. Society tells black people that we must be strong and push through our feelings; we can never be validated in what we are feeling. Sometimes you just need a break from the world and you want to be surrounded by only black people. This isn’t self-segregation – this is called a safe space, where you are allowed to exist without the threat of someone questioning or invalidating your right to exist, feelings, and worth.
6. Relish in the fact that black people are awesome and we are a force to be reckoned with. Listen to and watch your favorite black artists, preferably the ones who are bold and unapologetic in their blackness. Pick up a book by your favorite black author. Watch an awesome black TV show, whether it be from back in the day or from now. Stalk your favorite black entertainers. Talk to your favorite black best friends and let them know what you’ve been going through, and let them comfort you – don’t say you’re okay when you’re not. Keep reminding yourself that black people are AMAZING!
Anti-blackness is a sneaky form of oppression that can be hard to pinpoint and it comes in many, many different forms. Plus, realizing that it’s permeated a place where you thought you were safe can definitely be a slap in the face. But you’re strong, and hopefully that environment is a temporary one.
Let me know your experiences with anti-blackness and/or how you deal with it below in the Comments Section!
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Don’t forget to check back next week for another article!