by janaya khan
Black people everywhere are fighting against the realities of anti-Black racism and genocide.
As of 2015, every 28 hours a Black person is killed in the US by a police officer, security guard or gun-wielding vigilante. On June 17th, a white supremacist shot and killed 9 Black people at Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, SC, after praying with them for an hour.
A 5 yr old baby girl knew to play dead in order to survive the massacre.
The confederate flag still legally flies in many southern states.
6 Black churches were burnt in the month of June alone.
Seemingly acquiescing to the beseeching of the judge formerly presiding over the killer’s trial, the media and society at large has been giving an outsized amount of space, compassion and financial support to the killer, as opposed to the Black folks murdered that day for simply existing.
In Canada, there has been an 80% increase of African, Black and Caribbean people streamlined to Canadian federal prisons in the last 10 years. Statistics on carding, a police practice that allows cops to harass, question and take information of anyone at anytime in the city of Toronto, indicate that Black people are 4x more likely to be carded than anyone else. The Star reports that “after the July drop in carding numbers, the proportion of contact cards for people with black skin rose to 27.4 per cent. That is 3.4 times the proportion of Toronto’s black population, which stands at 8.1 per cent, according to the latest census figures.”
This is a state of emergency.
Mass incarceration, police brutality, poverty, homelessness, over representation of Black youth in social services and unemployment are consistent conditions for Black, African and Caribbean peoples in North America. Everyday we are told that our lives are without value, merit or worth.
We are told that we do not matter.
Our lives and livelihood are constantly in jeopardy. We are not allowed to live, not alone and not in groups together, not between shifts, not on a walk to the store, not while sleeping in bed, not playing in the park, not being at a pool party, not in church, not walking with friends; the list literally becomes more extensive with each passing minute.
We are dehumanized.
White supremacy and anti-Black racism has relegated Blackness to connote tragedy, and reduces associations of Blackness to anger, fear and criminality. The plurality of Blackness, and the complexity of the multiple, intersecting identities that make up our existence is denied.
Not long ago, in a group setting, I watched the ways that white and non-Black people alike commiserated on the experiences of trauma that white and non-Black people had expressed in the room. They congratulated each other for sharing, and remarked on bravery and openness. They were applauded for being vulnerable.
Yet, when a Black, Muslim woman spoke of her experiences of racism and trauma trying to cross the border at the airport in order to even be there, she was met with a reaction very different from other speakers in the room. She was met with silence.
The visible discomfort and tension in the room was palpable, and when a young Black girl spoke of her experiences of oppression and trauma directly afterwards, she was met with an identical reaction. Their Blackness made it so that people could not sympathize with their humanity, because as Black people our humanity is denied. The ways that structural privilege and oppression manifested in the room made it so that both Black women had to speak themselves into existence in the space, otherwise they would have been erased. They were not congratulated for honoring the space with their offering. They were not affirmed for their courageous act. They were not praised for the power of vulnerability present in their stories and in their act of taking up space.
In a society that is predicated on anti-Black racism, vulnerability is not recognized on the bodies and in the experiences of Black people.
Black Radicalism, our fight for our liberation and freedom, is most often met with apathy, neutrality or silence by non-Black and white people. Fear of Black people is a symptom of anti-Black racism, where we have become so ‘othered’, so dehumanized, that the complexity of our emotions, the beauty of our struggle, the work it takes to love under extreme conditions of oppression, is repudiated.
With Black Lives Matter on the rise, an international movement of Black peoples bringing new leadership to the fight for Black Liberation, the chant ‘Black Lives Matter ‘and ‘All Black Lives Matter’ has been our rallying cry, bringing forth rage, passion, vigor, hope, ferocity and the deep seeded knowledge of our brilliance and right to life.
Yet it is reduced to anger only, as if an entire human condition could be captured in a word.
The power of vulnerability lies in its ability to make necessary human connections around empathy, belonging, love and compassion. We have become these things for each other, and have become all the more dangerous and effective in our movements for it.
What could possibly be more vulnerable than us shouting at the top of our lungs, “Black lives matter!”? What could be more vulnerable than showing up for each other time and time again when white and non-Black people have failed us in their neutrality in matters of Black? What could be more vulnerable than the leadership of Black transfeminst, queer women at the forefront of the movement? What could ever be more vulnerable than mourning, loving and celebrating our love for our people in the streets, marching on for justice? We own the power in our vulnerability by demanding that you see us; as worthy of life, as fully human, as enraged at the injustice of the oppressive conditions we have been forced to live under.
We live in an imperialist, cis-sexist, white supremacist, capitalist hetero-patriachy. The vulnerability in our Blackness and liberation struggles are made all the more radical as we fight and name genocidal oppressions from the margins every day.
We must see the light in each other. We must acknowledge and respond to our vulnerability. When we shout, “Black lives matter,” we are stating our love for our people. Anti-Black racism manifests not just in systemic oppression and institutionalized violence, it is present in the failure to see beyond our anger and pierce to the heart of the matter, which is an unrelenting love for Black people.
We own the power of our Black Radicalism by seeing and connecting to our vulnerability – our unapologetic, ferocious, fiercely fabulous Black radical vulnerability.
We will continue to fight. We will win. And we will do so in the full glory of our love, rage and refusal to capitulate on our Blackness.
janaya (j) khan, known as Future in the Black Lives Matter movement, is a Black, queer, gender non-conforming activist, staunch Afrofuturist, social justice educator and boxer based in Toronto, Canada. Having presented at academic events, conferences and organizations locally and internationally, janaya believes in the power of imagining movement and movements in anti-colonial ways as a source of transformative justice. They are committed to Black liberation, indigenous sovereignty and operate through a Black transfeminist lense.