by rae leone allen
Colin Kaepernick won’t stand for the national anthem.
His peaceful protest, “…to not show pride in a flag that oppresses black people,” in concert with his picked out ‘fro sent his jersey flying off the shelves and deemed him royalty in the halls of Black twitter. #KapSoBlack solidified his Black card—if it were ever in question. Brother Kap is the child of a white mother and Black father. He was adopted by a white family and manages to wave his red, black a green flag from his prominent platform for all to see. His protest is disconcerting to the majority of the white masses because of their perceived allegiance to him.
How dare he betray them—for us.
Allegiance requires complicity. An often unconscious complicity thrust upon those of us born in these United States of America very early on. My public education mandated I memorize the pledge of allegiance before I knew my address or the Lord’s prayer by heart.
We are conditioned to embody a loyalty and devotion to a country that—for us—demonstrates no such devotion to our well being. Confronted by the behemoth of white supremacy, Black people and people of other identity groups tend to mimic the oppressor in presuming allegiance in search of power.
I think my power found me seventeen years ago.
I was twelve years old. I paraded into my parents’ bedroom to show my mama my newly
discovered hips. Until then, I was a skinny girl—called Boney Rae—growing into the large head I inherited from my daddy. My mama looked up from her book and peered over her glasses to watch me pull my shorts tight in the mirror. After a moment of examination she agreed, “I guess you are getting a little shape.” I’m sure I pranced out feeling satisfied. I imagine now that my mama was terrified.
She knew much better than me what it actually meant to embody the two most death
defying identities on this earth: Black and woman.
In Souls of Black Folks, W.E.B. DuBois writes, “…the problem of the 20th century is the
problem of the color line.”
The 21st century Movement for Black Lives makes it plain that the clutch of white supremacy requires more than one hundred years to dismantle. Despite the many symbols of progress that some may taut as proof of a post-racial society, it feels obvious to me that we are running—to exhaustion—in place.
The problem of the 21st century is intersectional.
I am at once entertained and perplexed that the subject of “wokeness” finds itself running
rampant in the present-day’s discourse. From blogs and articles illuminating white folks who tweet woke, and shading Black folks who are “sleeping”, pseudo-hotepping or shucking and jiving for the powers that be, to college courses and trainings at PWIs focused on the tenets of wokeness.
However, this discourse of being woke centers around an awareness of the tyranny of white supremacy. This is, at best, a laughably rudimentary level of being “woke”.
My ancestors remain the only group of migrants who did not blow kisses at lady liberty on
their way to this land of the free. They did not choose to come to this so-called new world. The notion that one is woke because they understand or can admit that this whole country—all of “modernity”—exercises an agenda of annihilation against the Black body is tired and late. Late like just now devoting an hour of your life to watching Lemonade.
Kimberle Crenshaw brought us intersectionality in 1990. Sojourner Truth asked the Women’s Convention in 1851, “Ain’t I a woman?”
The thing is, white supremacy could never do it alone. Same way Mike couldn’t do it without Scottie. White supremacy’s ride or die has always been patriarchy. Together these false reality principles reign supreme over the minds, bodies and spirits of the sum of us—and works over time in depreciating our origin of being: the Black woman.
Who pledges allegiance to us?
A healthy allegiance should be a choice, not unconscious. As we, Black women, struggle to survive and to love ourselves; many of our own kind—born of our wombs—are not choosing us.
The pervasive alliance between white supremacy and patriarchy too often remains unconscious.
Look no further than Brother Nate Parker.
Parker’s film, The Birth of a Nation—the belle of the Sundance ball—yielded a disappointing $7.1 million in it’s opening weekend at the box office. The people have spoken. Seemingly, because in 1999, Parker endured, “one of the most painful moments of [his] life,” standing trial for rape while at Penn State.
Black women pepper the periphery of the current Parker ruckus. Parker’s first responses to the resurgence of the trial reference his court reported innocence and mention his five daughters, mother, and his four sisters.
Sexual assault survivor, Gabrielle Union, who plays a silent, enslaved woman in the film, shares in the LA Times that, “rape is a wound that throbs long after it heals.” In the backlash to what many are calling Parker’s initial non-apology, Parker told Ebony that, “[he] called a couple of sisters that know, that are in the space to talk about the feminist movement and toxic masculinity, and just asked questions.”
Even Oprah—yes, OPRAH—reached out to Parker in efforts to help him get in front of the PR nightmare, to no avail.
Here, as so often, Black women serve as supporters, survivors, and educators, but remain undesired by the Black male.
In this frenetic media age, the only detail of the situation not picked clean with a fine tooth comb is the fact that the victim who brought the rape charges against Parker, and Parker’s wife of 10 years and mother of four of his daughters both happen to be white women.
I have no interest in policing other people’s bedrooms. We live in enough of a police state.
I am interested, though, in plumbing the unconscious to unearth roots of desire.
In the uprising, Parker fielded questions about his interracial marriage in which he assures
that his wife reads the books he gives her, is aware she is raising Black children, and that he loves us too. What, though, can we make of a man who, in previous homophobic statements, declared his dedication to preserving the Black male image by not taking gay roles, who is not equally concerned with preserving the Black family in his own life?
Do Black wives matter?
Black women boast a long running tradition of supporting the race and even the
predominant discourses of Black (borrowed) masculinity. These days as Black women spearhead the organization of the Movement for Black Lives, I cannot help but wonder, what—exactly—are we fighting for?
The right of Black men to fuck white women?
In this land, the white man is the original rapist, deadbeat father, pervert, and capitalist. His historical unapologetic, narcissistic projections manifest the current states of inequality that oppress us all.
Our desires are not without historical context. They parlay in our unconsciousness with the violent legacy of American history.
The strength of the unconscious is palatable.
Parker told Ebony that he hadn’t thought about the rape incident since 1999; despite writing two rape scenes for the film, one of which being a gang rape, in collaboration with his then co-defendant Jean Celestin.
Parker isn’t alone. With varying levels of awareness, we all struggle with our unconsciousness. Parker’s willful ignorance, and band-aid of buzzwords proved not to be enough for the people, and subsequently the box office.
The problem of the 21st century is at the intersection of our consciousness and unconsciousness—the reckoning of our histories, our bodies and the implications of our free will.
Our unconscious possesses an enduring allegiance to our beings. It will not be denied. Our task, should we accept it (or nah), is to unearth the root of our desire to reveal the mechanisms of the unconscious for actual transcendence on this earthly plane.
I haven’t yet seen the film, but figure I will eventually. I know others are staunchly against it. Although I understand such principle, I also worry about such a mode of operation.
Woke is more than the rational understanding of the systems at play. Woke is eyes wide open, not looking away.
We are all in need of a radical confrontation of what is actual, ugly, and emotional at the
intersections of our conscious and unconscious. This is the only way to see through the
opaque façade of this material world to the root of our desire.
We need not be afraid of this individual, emotional endeavor.
With an undaunted allegiance to us, the unconscious lurks—anticipating the opportunity
Making way for such a breakthrough is what I understand as the work of our generation, the sole reason for incarnation and the only chance the people have in liberating this world from the current stronghold of oppressions.
Despite the cacophony of distractions and the externalized barrage of attacks leveraged against our beings, this work begins and is wholly encompassed within the Self.
Who among us will embrace the call?
rae leone allen is a writer, filmmaker and scholar from Mesquite, TX. allen owes money to the feds for the master’s in urban studies she got from Fordham University. her poetry has been published in No, Dear Magazine, About place Journal, Puerto del Sol: Black Voices Series and is forthcoming in Brooklyn Magazine.