kelis reading octavia butler.
Unpitched version of new Beyonce
Can’t stop, won’t stop.
Loyalty to self is not the same as selfishness.
I have been whispering, shouting, writing, repeating that to myself through deep sighs over the past few weeks. In the middle of an ~existential~ flummoxing like the one that has confined me to the dark corners of my brain for months, I’ve been considering all of the things - privileges, decisions, manifestations of luck both good and bad - that have delivered me to where I am now and where they will land me next.
There are feelings, and my levelheaded mantra helps me to navigate them. Loyalty to self is not the same as selfishness.
Whether loyalty is the result of nature or nurture or circumstance, I don’t know. What I do know is that practically every one of my girlfriends has the same pathology. (Yes, pathology.) Between us, there is loyalty to families whose love is double-edged, loyalty to men who maybe don’t love us at all, loyalty to co-workers who do not get called ‘bitch’ when it’s their turn to make the moves that are best for them, loyalty to cities that have given us nothing but eczema and brittle hair.
But loyalty to self is not the same as selfishness.
We are taught to dismiss our gut instinct, though it is invariably our truest and most ardent supporter. We are taught silence. We are taught that the duty of sisters/mothers/daughters is to put the needs of others before our own, though there is only so much weight a person can carry without shrinking underneath it. All the while, the burdens balloon and the expectations morph and we cover up the cracks like we cover up our zits because women are strong, women are the pillars of community.
But it is not selfish to be loyal to yourself.
Even if you in a Benz, you still a n*gga in a coupe
A boy I used to know once told me I have no claim to the n-word because I’m African. My ancestors were not called niggers by white men on plantations; they were called other racist things by white men on the banks of the Nile.
Unlike most African-Americans, I know specifically where my people come from: Fez, the Sahara, the Nuba Mountains. Our oppression manifested itself differently, in less complex ways, he said. It’s not that we don’t know racism; it’s that we are better equipped confront its effects.
I don’t know whether he was right or wrong. But, though I may not own it, I know that I hate the sound the word makes in my head, the feeling of my blood rising and my molars grinding against each other.
Over the past week or so, two things have been making me think about it more intensely, maybe more critically: 1. Walter Mosley’s episode of the Moth, in which he comes to terms with the fact that today’s youth are letting the weight go and 2. Tyler, the Creator on Hot 97 echoing just that sentiment.
It is fantastic that Tyler and so many people his age have not inherited the emotional reactions to racism that I, someone barely a generation older than them, am often paralyzed by. It’s great that they don’t know what it feels like to be punched in the gut by two syllables.
I would like to let go of the pain and anger that comes with the word and what it stands for. But like Walter Mosley, it’s “grafted into my skin”. In theory, I understand why some of my friends can stand in a room with thousands of white teenagers screaming ‘nigga’ back at Kanye West and feel nothing; in practice, I bite my tongue until it bleeds.
Who gets to decide that it’s been ‘reclaimed’, when I’m standing here with a mouth full of blood?