What would James Baldwin have written if he didn’t have to literally defend his humanity? How much time did one of the most brilliant writers of the 20th century spend talking to white people? How much time did he waste talking about white people?
As I think about that, I realize that I don’t want to spend much (if any) time convincing white people that whiteness is bad, or that white supremacy needs to be torn down. That’s white people’s problem, not mine, in the broadest sense, of course; segregated housing and police brutality is definitely my problem in the practical sense, but I’m not interested in shouldering the burden of white pathology anymore.
In fact, I don’t even want to spend much time thinking about white people as a group, or whiteness as a concept. I respect the hell out of Ta-Nehisi Coates, but writing what he writes over and over again sounds like a version of Sisyphus that I can’t even begin to fathom, and that I have zero interest in.
Instead of talking about whiteness, I’m going to talk about blackness. Blackness in space. Blackness in science. Blackness in love. Blackness in education. Blackness in its fullest expression, without defining it in relation to anything else. Whether we’re saying that blackness is deficient, or blackness is better, we’re still orienting ourselves on someone else. Blackness just is.
I don’t mean turning a blind eye to racism, or pretending that everything is A-OK. But instead of “ending white supremacy,” I’m thinking about black fulfillment on its own terms, without even considering white people. Framing black life through the lens of white supremacy STILL centers whiteness. As a friend of mine put it, “Shit. De-centering whiteness is still about whiteness.” And I’ve had enough of worrying about whiteness.
I’m black, and that means a great deal to me. My social and cultural touchstones and perspectives come from that, but are also mixed in with influences from across time and space. I want to live my life as a black person who has access to more information and cultural influences than any other group of people in history. That means writing, cooking for my son, working in my community, spending time with friends, traveling, and doing all of the things this unique moment in time affords me. With all of the wonders this life offers, I can’t be bothered to think about what white people mean or don’t mean. In the spirit of Senator Maxine Waters, I’m reclaiming my time from arguing about how others perceive and value my life.