We scream black lives matter (and rightly so), but if we ignore the fundamental role of black love, we have lost our way. Love is at the root of revolution, no progress endures without it. And when black folks authentically love ourselves, families, and communities, we defy a society intent on destroying us.
Beginning at birth, American culture baptizes us in self-hatred. Young girls and boys quickly learn to equate beauty and intelligence with whiteness. Even within the most supportive and progressive families, some kids begin to question their value and worth. The hegemony of structural racism is far reaching and impacts us all in innumerable ways.
Loving Your Color, Yourself
Therefore coming to love yourself, despite all of these toxic messages, becomes an act of courage and determination. Scholar and teacher bell hooks writes in her book Killing Rage: Ending Racism: “Loving blackness as political resistance transforms our ways of looking and being, and thus creates the conditions necessary for us to move against the forces of domination and death and reclaim black life.”
These days it’s tough to scroll through your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed without seeing the latest hashtag for a man, woman, boy or girl killed at the hands of police. According to the website Mapping Police Violence, “police killed more than 100 unarmed black people” in 2015. This number stands at five times the rate of unarmed whites.”
As we battle such blatant disregard for black life, we also contend with our children being harshly disciplined throughout educational institutions, thereby continuing to fuel a school-to-prison pipeline. Hundreds of school districts across the country punish students of color not in the classroom, but instead, push them directly into correctional facilities.
Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, cites an alarming statistic in a 2013 blog post: “African-American students are 3.5 times more likely than their white classmates to be suspended or expelled, according to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Black children constitute 18 percent of students, but they account for 46 percent of those suspended more than once.”
Living under these conditions certainly takes a toll, and although research is ongoing, there is a growing body of work examining the ramifications on our physiological well being. And so, now, more than ever, during an era of mass incarceration, police violence, bitter wounds from drugs, poverty, and violence perpetuated both outside of our community and within it, we need love. Labels of class, sexual orientation, ideology or religion should not divide, but rather connect us as we realize the fullness of a shared humanity.
Love Is Radical Resistance to Despair
Love is radical resistance to despair, a pathway to compassion which ignites transformation. Once you and I begin to see one another, looking earnestly with our hearts, we will consistently stand against any form of violence or exclusion (sexism, homophobia, those who are differently-abled), perpetuated outside of the community or within it.
The challenges facing us may never subside. Yet we must actively choose to create spaces which honor love. I believe the most profound healing emerges through excruciating pain. The first space is the mind. Are your thoughts focused on irritation and mistrust, or openness and peace? Are you gentle with yourself or harsh?
Our second opportunity to nurture love is within the home. When is the last time you said I love you and hugged or kissed your family? The final part of the journey is extending love to those with whom you are unfamiliar – not your friends, co-workers, or spouse. Can you come to view these “strangers” as your brothers and sisters?
I read a Facebook post a few years ago that said: “there isn’t a person you would not love if you knew their story.” If you and I are brave enough to bear witness and listen, we may find pieces of our truth in another’s experience. This the essence of authentic love, coming to fully connect with others.
The liberation of black folks then depends not only on political and economic might, but our willingness to love one another and ourselves with an unwavering commitment.
The video below is a collection of photos (folks I know) which demonstrates some of the ways we love one another – mothers, fathers, children, and couples. I purposely chose not to show celebrities; for me, it’s about recognizing the love which manifests everyday among our friends, co-workers, and neighbors. All of us can choose love.
Video produced by my awesome hubby, Kes, founder of Keystone Productions.
This piece was first published by Beautifully Said magazine where I am a coulmnist.
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How are you welcoming love into your life? How do you cultivate self love as a person of color?
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