*This is the second part of an 4 part series of letters between Tabias Wilson of Blaqueerflow and I. To read Tabias’ letter to which this was a response, please scroll to the bottom of the page*
It’s so great to read your words. I think a more accurate description would be that it’s great to feel them. To feel your spirit and know that I am not alone.
In addition to pain and grief, but also in addition to the joy and inspiration I’ve received from watching you and other brothers and sisters who have responded to the events in Charleston in ways that refill the reserve of strength I was nearly sure I’d lost forever, I’ve been feeling an overwhelming sense of loneliness since those 9 lives were stolen from Mother Emmanuel. I feel now, more than ever, that I fit neither here nor there – in neither Black spaces nor white spaces nor any other People of Color spaces – in neither men spaces nor women spaces nor gender non-conforming spaces – in neither queer spaces nor straight spaces. I do not fit in my family.
I have struggled with loneliness a lot. As a fellow Black queer man in an anti-Black, anti-queer world, I’m sure you know this feeling, too. But I have never been so seized by this fear that if I reached the end of my rope and I didn’t have my home or a stable mind there would be no other spaces for me to go. No other spaces that are, at least mostly, safe. I do not know where these spaces exist anymore nor if they even do. I feel safe now, though. Writing this. Reading your letter. Maybe this is one of those spaces.
Two days ago, I fought using the last bit of strength my spirit could muster to get my older brother to understand me and my love for Black and Brown communities and how it is not anti-white-people. It was a traumatizing conversation, as I thought that in my family was the last place my love for anyone would be questioned. I should have known better, though. I keep pretending as if I’m not the only queer child in the family or not the one who rarely gets a phone call or the one least interested in many of the things they are interested in. I thought that none of that should matter when it comes to questions of love, though, but it does and always has. They mattered when I came out and, though they defended me, my siblings insisted I “try to understand” when my parents refused to no longer pay for my education because of it. I wonder, have any of them tried to understand that I don’t think there’s anything in that decision that warrants understanding? They mattered when they contended, despite my protests, that they could understand my queerness just as well as I could. I wonder, do they understand that I don’t even understand my queerness as much as I just live it? They mattered when this same brother’s friend said he liked our family because we weren’t like other Black people and they said my anger in response was wrong. I wonder, why is it always the response to wrong that is wrong with them?
You ask if I even believe there is a collective. I wonder…
Does a family have to be safe to be a family? Mine is not. I love my family more than anyone else, but I am not safe with them. Why does it always feel like me against a collective, when they are my family just like they are each other’s?
So my being different matters in questions of love.
I feel safe reading how sometimes you feel like your peers just don’t get it because sometimes I feel that way too. Even the Black ones. The concept of colored that you have there is foreign to me, but if they aren’t that here, they’re “New Black”. If they’re not “New Black”, they’re anti-queer; if they’re not anti-queer, they’re misogynoiristic; and on and on down the rabbit hole. And sometimes it feels like I hate them for that. And I think that’s one of the most powerful functions of white supremacy – it turns privilege within a marginalized group into a special kind of privilege that does a special kind of damage. It allows cishet Black men to physically and emotionally violate Black women and queer and trans Black men more than anyone else without cishet white men getting their hands dirty. It allows me to feel like I hate my brothers for this.
It allows me to lash out at my family.
And maybe that works on an internal level too. Maybe intellectual privilege consumes us so – exhausts us so – because it is too a special kind of privilege and does a special kind of damage. Maybe this damage is best described as an inability to love and trust in a healthy way.
Maybe my brother was right to question my love.
Maybe I question the idea of a collective and we question ourselves and he questioned me and I question my family because we have been let down so many times that we are forgetting how to love and trust. And I’m forgetting how to rest because I don’t trust the world not to crumble if I do. And if the world crumbles it will be my fault because: Black savior complex.
But the world has been crumbling around Black and Brown communities for several centuries and I haven’t been around for most of those centuries to deserve the blame. Maybe it has stopped already and we just haven’t cleaned up the destructive mess left behind. You ask, “What are we willing or required to do for our liberation as individuals and a collective?” Maybe it has something to do with that – cleaning up this mess. And no, I don’t mean that in the bullshit way people imply when they say we have to focus on fixing our communities first before addressing white racism. I mean that maybe we have to learn how to better love each other through the mess? Maybe we have to re-learn how to love ourselves through it? Maybe the abuses our brothers and sisters rain down on us matter in questions of love, matter in how we express it to them, but we must resist questioning the love we have for them and ourselves? And love doesn’t mean not fighting. The opposite, actually. If I love you – really love you – I would lay down my life for you. And lay down my life to stop you from hurting the rest of us.
I don’t know what this all looks like. I’ve tried to define it before, but I don’t know if I was comprehensive. Maybe we need to define it better. What do you think? How would you start defining what a love for one another and ourselves through the crumbled mess that makes us hurt each other should look like?
I’m jealous of you. I need a break from this place, too. But breaks are a mirage because I know there are no breaks regardless of how far you go to escape, and I think you know it too – that’s why you keep finding yourself reaching back to home. So for now I’ll find safety in these words. Write back soon.