Refusal of Individuality in #BlackLivesMatter and the New Race “Discussion”

More personal stories! Yay. Read the title, and you’ll understand. I promise I’ll get to the point by the end. It’s a bit emotional and ranty, but this movement’s got me more than a bit pissed off.

I’m biracial. My mother is white and my father is black. I don’t know who my father is because [insert that one stereotype about black guys being shit dads here]. I make up for that racial stereotype by being allergic to watermelon, though, so it evens out. By virtue of not knowing who my father is (and at this point in my life not really caring to find out), for all intents and purposes, my family is white. My mother and grandmother who raised me are white. My aunts and uncles and cousins are white and sound like they’re straight out of Fargo. When I wrote a report on my family heritage in high school, I–with my brown skin and naturally curly hair–turned in a paper about being German-Irish, and I was super proud of it because the Irish part of my family is awesome. I remember being conflicted on standardized tests in elementary school where we had to fill in a bubble next to our race and there was no “Other” or “Multi-Racial” and we could only pick one. The teachers always told me to pick the race of my mother, which confused me because I definitely wasn’t just white and that seemed like something the test-people ought to know since they were asking about it.

I and all of my younger brothers essentially grew up in an environment where race was acknowledged and seen as “important” but not depicted as something that was relevant outside of issues of our own personal identity. Did we want to be connected to our “blackness” or didn’t we? And our parents let us choose that for ourselves. My grandmother has always liked for me to have some connection to being black even though I personally never got it and still don’t. I’ve never really seen it as anything other than the skin tone I happen to have, and even as a kid I was way more interested in hearing about the Industrial Revolution and Prohibition than in the Civil War or slavery. I did a book report on Harriet Tubman once, and my grandmother was proud of me for picking an African American to learn about (I did it because it was easy and someone took Thomas Jefferson already.). I oftentimes visited my black godfather’s family because they essentially saw me as their granddaughter, and they were really nice but also really church-y so I didn’t connect with them as much as I connected with my white grand-uncle who loved drawing cartoons just like I did.

Race hasn’t been something that’s concerned me mainly because it would draw an arbitrary line between me and my family members. “They’re X and I’m Y, which means we’re worlds apart.” But . . . that just isn’t true. They’re my family. They’re the most similar to me. The lines are blurred even more by the fact that interracial unions are a thing that happen. My brothers and I are half black and half white, with half of us looking the part and the other half looking like little, blond-haired Hitler youths. My youngest cousins are half white and half Mexican, as well as one of them being completely Mexican because my uncle got together with his Latina girlfriend when she already had one kid. My cousin just married a black woman who also already had a child. We don’t look related at all. My Taiwanese boyfriend went on a trip with us once, which, I’m pretty sure, cemented the idea in the minds of everyone around us that we were just a very large and ethnically diverse tour group of some sort. It eventually just gets to the point where there’s just so much of everything that race becomes a non-issue when compared to the wider idea of what a family is. All that needs to happen is for one of my brothers to eventually bring home a nice Middle Eastern girl, and our family will have all of the bases covered.

So why did I just go on a diatribe about all of my boring family relations and the racial environment that I grew up in as a child, you ask? It’s relevant, that’s why!

According to the race activism going on now, people aren’t individuals with their own thoughts and experiences, they are members of a racial group and that is it. And their racial group has an unbreakable grasp on what their thoughts and experiences are. Black people can apparently only have certain kinds of experiences. White people can apparently only have certain kinds of experiences, yadaydadyada. People are locked into boxes before they’re even able to open their mouths because the racial group they happen to belong to does all the talking for them. With this rhetoric, races are giant collective masses with one life and one experience and one personality. And it’s a detriment to everyone, not just white people, though they are the ones getting the brunt of the negativity since white peoples’ racial group is the on being demonized.

And according to this new Black Lives Matter movement that I’ve personally experienced (where white people aren’t even allowed to go to the meetings because it’s not “their place” and where white people are constantly demonized in said meetings–I had to sit in on one of my local Black Lives Matter activist groups to transcribe the meeting, and it was not a fun experience for me in the slightest) individuality doesn’t matter because your race is all anyone needs to know about you to know what you’ve gone through and what you think.

According to this new movement, my family wouldn’t belong in one of their meetings about helping black people because they’re white and not welcome in the safe space. Their opinion isn’t wanted because “they’ve heard the white opinion before,” and the only “help” from them that they accept only goes so far as to have my family finally admit to themselves that they harbor inherent racism so that they can dismantle their own biases and help teach other white people to admit it and do the same. That’s what they say. That is what they tell people. That is what they put on fucking fliers. The followers of this movement would tell my mother that’s she’s been racist all along and the only help she can give is to admit that to them and promise to change, because black people don’t want her help with anything else.

My mother lost contact with large chunks of my family because she dated a black boy in high school and they didn’t like that. They broke contact entirely when they figured out that she was pregnant with a black man’s baby. My grandmother hasn’t spoken to some of her siblings for two decades because if they couldn’t accept my mother and they couldn’t accept me, than she didn’t want to associate with them anymore. She was there when I was born, and she held me in her arms, and the first thing she said when she saw me was, “She’s brown!” and the second thing she said was, “She’s beautiful.” My uncle, whose best friend since high school as been a South Asian guy and who has had almost exclusively interracial relationships since he was a teenager, almost got arrested once because, when we lived in the middle of nowhere,  he was playing basketball in the driveway with one of my brothers when someone drove by and called my little brother a nigger and called him a nigger lover. He jumped in his truck and ran them down and nearly went to jail for assault. And when he got back he sat us all down and essentially told us that if anyone ever talked to us like that again he would kill them for  daring to attack his family. Hell, I had a boyfriend who was pretty much the first person in my life who ever made me feel like I might actually be pretty, and he got kicked out of his house because he told his dad to go fuck himself after he tried to force him to break up with me because he didn’t want his son dating a black girl.

But that doesn’t matter. They’re all racists. They all have a deep-seeded bias against me by default because they’re white, and they can only stop having that deep-seeded bias if they keep telling themselves over and over that they have an issue with me for being black, even if they don’t want to admit it. If my mom wanted to go to one of those meetings to ask them about what she can do to protect her children because whenever they’re late getting home from the gym she worries that they might have been shot by the police, they won’t care. Because she won’t be able to even get that far. Because she’s a white woman. How invested in our problems can she really be? She doesn’t get it. Because all white people are the same! They’re all racist deep down inside, and the only thing they could do for the Second Civil Rights Movement is to just admit that. They all have the same experiences! They all have the same opinions that we don’t need to hear anymore! Individuals? What are those?

And if I try to stress individuality, that is just me speaking from a place of privilege that I as a black woman don’t have.

I shouldn’t be disagreeing with anything they say because I’m black. By virtue of being black, what I can think and feel and what my experiences are must fit into the box they already have for me. If I disagree, something must be wrong. If I don’t see the value in Black Lives Matter, I’m, as they love to say, part of the problem. It’s not like I’m insulted and pissed the fuck off that you’re talking about my family, who I know damn well isn’t racist, like they’re the enemy, like there’s no way that any of them would understand “our struggle” just because they’re too pale to get it. It’s not like I worry about what this mentality is going to do to my younger brother who is biracial but doesn’t look it, who would get thrown out of your meeting and told to “educate himself” on the issues even though he has a black father and black siblings and a “black” name.

Black people aren’t individuals either in this way of thinking. No one is. We’re all just nodes crammed into a box of pre-determined lives, and that’s it. A lot of activists will say that black people aren’t afforded the luxury of individuality in this racist society that judges all blacks for the acts of few. Well, I don’t see how you’re going to get that “privilege” of being your own person by constantly acting like you’re not, by constantly acting like the “Black Experience” is perfectly homogeneous with all black people getting on board with certain ideas by virtue of being black. I also don’t see how it helps matter to strike out against white people by taking away their individuality in the discussion and acting like the “White Experience” is perfectly uniform across the board. What, if you can’t have it, no one can? How does that help? How is that anything but vindictive?

And that’s what this entire movement is to me: vindictive. It’s not a movement based in good ideas and positive assertions and desire to move forward, it’s a movement based in bitterness and the desire to strike back at the people we’ve deemed to be The Man while the iron’s still hot. It’s taken something that should be a fucking no-brainer–the justice system needs to be fairer to black people–and turned it into something that I want absolutely nothing to fucking do with. It’s just a bunch of people who want to get together and get back at white people because they really wish they were alive to follow Malcolm X, but this Black Lives Matter thing will have to do for now. What have they done, besides yell at politicians who are on their goddamn side and fear monger about all the black people unjustly killed by cops (even though there are relatively few)? What?


2 thoughts on “Refusal of Individuality in #BlackLivesMatter and the New Race “Discussion”

  1. BoydThe2nd says:

    I do believe that the black vs white idea of it is a little bit extreme and that people need to calm down and look at it from a rational stand point. I also believe that Black Lives Matter is a powerful and Important statement. We could say all live matter but that defeats the purpose, the problem is that to some all lives matter but not equally. The problem is that people are being killed for being upset about getting pulled over just like every other American that is pulled over by the police. Now I do believe that people should preserve their life and do exactly what the police says so that they wont be shot down. But I don’t think that just because they don’t comply that they deserve to die.

    • I think that Black Lives Matter TOO would better get across the statement and also address most of the criticisms of the term itself. It still focuses on black people, it still talks about how they matter and it should be acknowledged, but it ALSO does not have the implication that black people are a totally separate class that should be talked about independent of all other races.
      As for the rest of your statement, I agree. I think the police think they can get away with anything and the glorification of the job of police officer makes the public perpetuate the idea that a police officer can never be in the wrong. All that said, I don’t think the methods of the Black Lives Matter movement work in the slightest. Having a good idea but a shitty execution invalidates that good idea because if you can’t actually make the good idea work it doesn’t matter that much. And this movement has the double-whammy of a.) having shitty execution and b.) being the loudest group there is so their racist incompetence turns everyone off what was and still is a perfectly fine stated goal.

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