An Unamusing Musing
I used to have an old, long gone friend named Mike who, if not ever a truly bad person, felt like alot of unfunny things could be on the table for him to joke about, but he still felt entitled to take hard ass stances on issues where these two views don’t add up. For example, posing in front of a Nazi flag for dear Michael was ok and so was him thinking abortion is murder somehow. I would describe the boy as rude, loud, extreme, obnoxious all at once, all on purpose. Simultaneously abrasive, yet opinionated and maybe even tolerant on his end. (It must be an active choice to tolerate him) Anyway, I distinctly remember being overly uptight when I joined the friend group that included him.
So he’d have his piss poor takes and his entitlement to edge lordhumor and then he’d look on me and my dad with an immediate feeling of odd reverence. He was always fascinated with my dads voice on the phone, “like MLK he’d say, or someone iconic.” There were times he’d catch me being stoic and stare, like he’d gotten a snapshot from some movie still, and in an unhinged amount of awe, he’d tell me he could see me as a civil rights activist. “A Black Panther in the 70s” These both made me uncomfortable and dicey at the time, though I attributed it to my lack of social exposure for awhile later on.
It boils down to that I didn’t want to be a token friend or designated by race, not at that time, when I believed there was only a respectable version of a black man (a complacent one). I still wouldnt line to be pointed out of a crowd as black before anything else but I fully identify with my blackness now.
But it still bothers me. To look back on those words. Why? There is no rythm to these compliments, no reverence I feel from the words, only his looks. Only his pauses. I still feel that same unease long after my qualms have changed.
As they should now that my dad and I discuss hot button topics. As I seek out education to build a platform from my beliefs. As I listen to stories of lives much like my own. As I hear the suffering of people just like mine. As my people are killed like sick dogs in the alleyway and no man, black or white may look away.
My blackness permeates my skin and seeps its roots down deep, enriching my soul as it reaches outwards, as my ancestors speak through me and there suffering echoes in my every action. I am black. I am history. I am fighting and activism and even a product of mass death and unrighteous debt. I see what he meant. How could I not?
Yet it still bothers me now that I’m disillusioned by the systems in place for me and mine. It still offers me no peace for the. simple fact that he can do what all men do and simultaneously do what most can’t.
Most white people can see and feel the suffering of ancestors in my anger and in my sorrow. And their response is usually to dismiss it. “There are no reparations to be made it was years ago.” “It was normal at the time.” They see atrocities somehow immediately repaid.
Michael was… tolerant. This is no compliment to the intolerable, only the perturbing and confounding truth. But this means that Micheal looked into the history that intertwined twixt my body and soul, and saw clearly that there were fights to be had. Changes to be sought out and made. But in viewing that aspect of all of me, he stopped at our past. And likened me in his visage to his perception of the age. Separate from the fight that is my blackness.
This memory is not bittersweet. I find it wrong and more damning.
Someone so callous looked upon me and saw this history in my skin and bones, they heard the hundred souls that spoke through my father and likened it to some past so far away to be awed as iconic, aesthetic and fictious.
I am living history and neural rythm and to recognize that in me as literature rather than creed is the barrier that separates us all. I am not a man living in the same present when my blood flows by rite of the past. To be so close and assume otherwise, is a greater disrespect than to never know at all.