I’ve spoken in limited slang since I was little, only beginning to pick some up after being teased by my cousins for “talking white.” I never went to any type of public or private school throughout my teenage years. I have yet to read anything from James Baldwin, yet all over social media I see people lifting their hands in praise whenever his columns are talked about. I didn’t know who Amiri Baraka was until he died earlier this year, and it took one good read of one of his most well-known works to learn that he was a raging anti-Semite and 9/11 truther. No one ever really mentions that much anymore.
I’ve grown up in some rough places in Baltimore, yet I’ve never been in any trouble with the law. I’ve often talked about how rare it is to be a Black man that has not seen the back seat of a police cruiser, or spent any amount of time behind bars. Perhaps it was the “privilege” of having a father that was a correctional officer, and a mother that drilled that whole biblical nonsense of “bad company corrupts good morals.” Some of the dudes I knew growing up are either locked away or dead, yet somehow, I’m still here.
I’ve experienced plenty of racism throughout my near thirty-two years of life, too. The early days of a nine-year, two-state career in automotive sales working in one of the most unabashed redneck places in Maryland tends to create both a thick skin and increased awareness of what real bigotry looks like. As a former conservative, I’ve had experiences in bars that allow me to tell people like Mychal Denzel Smith that if the worst racism he’s ever come across was some prick asking him where he could score some coke, he truly hasn’t seen anything.
In the aftermath of the very confused, very incomplete verdict of the Michael Dunn trial, so many of our new generation of Black leaders and thinkers have dispensed with thought, replacing it with so much palpable raw emotionalism and outright despair. Though we supposedly declared ourselves a non-monolithic people, the voices so many depend on for clarity and the reflection of “their truth” have become a unification of solipsistic desperation. And while the collective dirges of hopelessness abound, I find myself walking amongst the tears and the woe, shedding none of my own in the anguish of hope lost.
Maybe I’m not Black enough.
Perhaps the firm belief I hold in the ability for us to overcome this latest reminder of the bigotry that never really died in this country means that I’m not Black enough. Perhaps my retaining in memory the images of the wars our ancestors fought to bring us to this semi-charmed life where instead of being counted as three-fifths human, we can (and have) become brands in and of ourselves means I’m not Black enough.
Maybe my desire to continue searching for solutions and people to get registered to vote, laser-focusing on matters that will directly affect each and every Black soul that claims this nation as home, and my demanding that every man, woman and child find their heart, wipe their tears and set their face like flint in preparation for the work that lies before us means I’m not Black enough in this modern era of malaise and bleakness.
Perhaps my disinterest in expressing “my truth” for the sake of unenlightened individualism means I’m not Black enough. I want to see lives saved, my people educated and empowered to push back against the xenophobic, dis-intellectual hordes of the Right I escaped from. I do not wish to just rail against America’s past with no true interest in ensuring a safe future for ourselves.
Maybe I’m not Black enough. I’m really not sure. Perhaps I’m wrong.