Love has been defined in many ways.
Bruce Lee called love a “friendship that has caught fire.”
Renita Weems said, “love means exposing yourself to the pains of being hurt, deeply hurt by someone you trust.”
The bible explains that “love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
No one seems to agree on one simple definition, but we all understand that love is necessary, powerful and an ultimate good.
I previously wrote about my decision to choose Black love. I knew at the time that this wasn’t simply a choice to date within my race. It was far more than that, but I couldn’t have told you exactly how much more or what that meant.
Last weekend, I found myself in a situation that truly forced me to ponder the meaning of Black love deeply. I somehow stumbled into an environment where the feeling of Blackness being refused love was palpable and I had no idea how to rectify it. As I struggled with the discomfort and sadness with which the experience left me, I found myself asking over and over how I could better love my people and why that love is so important, which led me to the following realizations:
Black love is Black children.
It’s understanding our children’s need to journey and giving them room to grow. It’s knowing that society views them as older and guiltier than they are and reaffirming their youth and innocence. It’s wanting nothing more than to alleviate their pain when they are hurting and making sure they know they can love and be loved. Black love is, sometimes, not knowing how to express that love but trying your damndest. Black love is seeing a Black child, your Black child, in danger and doing whatever you know to do to try and save them. It’s that Black child risking his life to fight the system despite his own and his mother’s fear. It’s standing up to anyone to keep them safe. It’s putting yourself in harms way to take them out of it. It’s saying “to the youth of this city: I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment, this is your moment,” and meaning it.
Black love is forgiveness.
It’s giving ourselves and each other the benefit of the doubt when the rest of the world is intent on amplifying any suspicion that Blackness is undeserving of humanity to the point where that suspicion is reified. It is recognizing the systems of oppression that lead to self-destructive behaviors in a society that we are coerced into believing is post-racial. It’s holding ourselves accountable for our mistakes but allowing each other to make them. It’s addressing the root of the problem instead of only the symptoms that manifest in our communities. Black love is refusing to pathologize Black behaviors and allowing each other to be individuals when the world uses one mistake by any one of us to color us all.
Black love is sacrifice.
It’s giving up respectability politics even while they benefit you when respectability comes at the expense of the rest of the community. It’s refusing to appease the system to gain immediate advantages while jeopardizing long term progress. It’s Rachel Jeantel standing in front of a nation only to be ridiculed and dehumanized in a failed attempt to secure justice for her Black friend. Black love is recognizing your own privilege based on your class, gender or non-racial identities and acknowledging the struggles of others. It’s placing the most directly impacted of us at the forefront of the conversation even if that means taking a step back and letting others speak.
Black love is uncompromising.
Black love knows no ‘but’s. It is loving Blackness and loving all of it. It’s loving the poor Black folks, the queer ones, the trans ones, the women, the uneducated, the disabled, the voiceless, the imprisoned, the drug dealers, the drug addicts and the ones who did you wrong. It’s defending them when they have no ground to stand on. It’s fighting for your family because they’re the only ones you’ve got. It is always having Black’s back even as the world continuously thrusts knives toward it.
Black love is unlimited.
It does not tire. It knows brutality and hardship and heartache but never falters. It knows betrayal but never betrays. It knows hurt but only heals. It cannot be threatened or diminished. It survives a half a century of brutal oppression and thrives. It never dies. It is capable of unimaginable creation and innovation. It can only grow.
Black love is not only important, it is the answer. Love is not just a feeling, it is an action. It takes work and energy. If I’m choosing Black love — really choosing it — I’m committing to acting out of a limitless, uncompromising – uncompromised — forgiving place and making sacrifices for the sake of our future and our children.
I want to make that commitment now, and I hope you’ll make it with me. I hope you’ll keep me accountable when you see me falling short. I hope you’ll love me too. I need it. We all do.