My Perspective on the Rules of the Movement

My Perspective on the Rules of the Movement

Yesterday, I came across Erika Totten @2LiveUnchained on the twitters. Erika asked a thought provoking question on the twitters that I promised to address. Her question is simple, “What are the collective agreements of the Black Liberation Movement? #RulesOfTheMovement” Powerful question, right? Glad you agree.

While reading responses to her question, most notably are responses from Liza Sabater @blogdiva, immediately I wanted to give my perspective on the rules. Now, I will not be pompous or arrogant and frame an entire movement that I have merely been a participant locally and on social media. But I will do this.

I will share with you my perspective on what I believe is a critical piece of framing the movement. During the Civil Rights Movement, Jesse Jackson and James Brown are two key figures that I believe need to be kept in mind when framing the movement. Jesse Jackson was then infamous and now famous for rallying African Americans to chant “I am! Somebody!” James Brown, cleric of the movement, sang “Say it Loud! I’m Black! And I’m Proud!”

These two points/phrases/statements lead to my perspective on the #RulesOfTheMovement. Like the two brothers suggest, I think one of the #RulesOfTheMovement is to rage against tacit whiteness on every front.

There. I said it; but let me define rage before someone inevitably comes along and claim I am inciting a race war like Dylan Roof in South Carolina. What I mean by rage is to go as hard as possible against whiteness in being authentically black. Authentically you. Rage counteracts respectability. Rage acknowledges the role that race plays in a situation and adjusts itself so as to not be overtaken by whiteness.

But just in case this “rage against tacit whiteness” is too indirect for you, I will lay it bare. Currently people of color in America have to tone down the non-white facets of themselves in order to fit into the mold of whiteness. If you’ve been privy to this conversation before with some who have the full understanding of whiteness, I am sure you can name some things that can be done away with. But this rabbit hole goes much deeper than code switching and hair styles.

A couple years ago my wife and I had a beautiful baby girl. Ten months of planning, medications, doctor’s appointments, hopes, dreams, work, prayer, etc. came into fruition when Avery Elise Ewing was born on April 8th, 2013. My wife and I had many conversations about names. We made lists. Used evernote to keep names straight without forgetting them. Mixed and matched pairs of names before deciding to combine Avery Danielle and Kaitlyn Elise to name our answered prayer.

An endearing of a story as this is there is something fundamentally wrong with it. From the outset, my wife and I decided to give Avery a non-ghetto, job-getable name that was as pretty as she no doubt would be. Did you catch that? NON-GHETTO. My wife and I are about as Jewish as we are trees. Yet, our top priority was to give our daughter a non-ghetto, job-getable name that fit perfectly in to the framework of whiteness.

No. I am not “militant”. I am not about to climb onto a soapbox and decry everyone who has given their child(ren) a name(s) that do not come from the African tribes or at least African American culture, but there is something wrong with this. My wife and I should feel free to a-ignorantly name our progeny in any way we see fit without having to worry about how white people will react to it.

Now, I know that this is one example. I know that Avery Elise Ewing is a lovely name that captures the beauty and intelligence of my daughter. However, what I also know is that the wife and I spent four hours of a five hour drive from Ohio to Illinois discussing how we would not limit our child’s opportunities by giving him or her a name that would not get an interview call back. We wanted teachers to not have to struggle with pronouncing her name.

But most importantly, we wanted her to have every chance and opportunity to be everything she wants to be. So… we chose whiteness.

Typing these words bring tears to my eyes. Not because I have allergies or have to sneeze. I don’t. I am teary-eyed because we were forced to kowtow to whiteness without any white people being directly involved. Our lives have been so socialized and steeped in whiteness that we are now on whiteness autopilot. This is the type of thing we must rage against.

Every time we see an article reviling black families. Rage. Every time an unarmed citizen of color is unjustly murdered. Rage. Every time anybody makes a joke or statement that denigrates African Americans, our culture, our lives, our plight. Rage. But that’s my perspective. Care to share yours?


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