Being a Black american, or rather just an individual with eyes and ears and a soul and a conscience, it has been rather impossible for me to not notice the impact that whiteness has and has had on societies and cultures around the world, and to not feel pissed off about it. Ask any of my good friends, and they will easily tell you that white people (and whiteness) is a subject matter for shit-talking for me; I really could go on and on and how many times in my life have I said the phrase, “Giiirl, don’t even get me started on white people!!?” (hint: many). Talking shit about white people is an entertaining past time as any poc can attest to, and of course the reason for such is that it is a form of catharsis and connection: catharsis because we have an opportunity to speak about our experiences, connection because our experiences are common. Like any type of social interaction, it is easiest to connect with others over shared experiences because then we feel like we can relate and be understood by one another. This is why it is so important to have the opportunity to say fuck white people, fuck men, fuck capitalism, fuck Apple or whatever, because it acknowledges amongst ourselves that we similar experiences in relation to those things (saying “fuck bitches” is a different type of community-building btw).
And so talking shit is one thing – catharsis, entertainment, connection, etc – but what is really behind it? Why is there a need for catharsis, why is it that there is a community of people who understand the concept of whitegirlenvy, or laugh at the idea of whiteboy trying to be down? Our need for catharsis and simply having the space to be able to discuss such things stems from our shared experiences dealing with and navigating whiteness, i.e., the world(s) we live in: the ambiguous “compliment” received, the looks of surprise or the lack of looks at all. The reason poc are seemingly able to connect with one another more easily (than connecting with white people) is because we share an understanding of the world that has been tainted by racism and white supremacy, an understanding of the world that actually has no choice but to keep it real, because “real” is our lives and the realities we embody.
Underneath the layer of humor and the playfulness of shit-talking lies a stew of emotions for each of us as we continue to move throughout the world in our particular bodies: sadness, anger, confusion, frustration, futility, humiliation, grief, hope. While the individual components of this “stew” may be different and unique for all of us individually, what is the same is that it is there, and more often than not it includes some level of indignation with having been cast second-class citizens by the global powers of our world. This shared sense of indignation is what has allowed me to connect so well with the closest of my friends; of course, our friendship is more than just a shared frustration about racism and white supremacy, but without that, our friendships would certainly take on a different character. This is only because whiteness, white supremacy, racism, all of these things, are such a big part of our lives. To those of you accusing “us” of making everything about race, it is a little hard not to when we are being reminded of our race/position on a constant basis. Don’t tell me not to make it “about race” after one of your white homeboys decides to call me exotic. Don’t tell me not to make it about race when “ching chong” is the only thing you know about Asian culture (which, for the record, is not monolithic).
See racism plays such a big part in our lives that the “stew” of emotions that comes with it ends up taking up quite a bit of space within our mental and spiritual file cabinets, because ANY emotions that are a result of racism are unnecessary, because racism is unnecessary. And while the shit-talking is fun, and I would never advocate for anyone to stop talking shit ever, the emotional cauldron can bear such a burden on our minds as to distract us from the things that should really matter in our lives, like cultivating our spirits, exploring our passions, spending quality time with the people we love. When the cauldron begins to bubble up and overflow, it spills into the spaces of our psyche that should be free for living our best lives. And that, my friends, is what we call “the struggle.”
The struggle doesn’t only have to be the obvious struggle, the day-to-day frustrations like wondering how to pay rent, hoping your name won’t turn a potential employer off you, having to be the “first black person” of anything. The struggle is the distraction, the distraction in our minds that racism creates, having us worrying about things that no one needs to be spending time worrying about, like damn am I the only black person at this party?, or, maybe I shouldn’t live in that city because it is predominantly white, et cetera, et cetera. Well I am here to tell you that: white people aren’t worth the motherfucking time – I know that we are struggling in relation to them, but they are not worth our struggle, they are not a cauldron’s-worth worthy of our time and energy and emotions.
I only learned this because – I have spent so much time in my emotional cauldron, I have spent so much time being angry at white people, “struggling,” feeling bitter about racism and hateful towards any representatives of its institution. I used to go out of my way to make white people feel uncomfortable, and be adamant about asserting my identity and creating my space within a world that doesn’t make space for me. When I left the United States at the time that I did, I was more than bubbling over with an emotional stew of resentment at things that I had not chosen, I was ready to knock a motherfucker out (still kinda wished I did though). And all my anger and sadness and indignation and grief enticed me; it drew me into a place with the promise of understanding the things happening around and to us, when in all honesty, the consequences and expression of racism in the world is quite incomprehensible. I was so wrapped up in my anger that it directed me. My anger became a framework through which to understand the world, and in turn my interactions with those around me, particularly white people.
It wasn’t until this year, a year after I left and lessened my exposure to the fucked-up-ness of it all, that I started to have more focus and catalytic energy towards what was actually making me a better person, and not worse. It wasn’t that white people were no longer around me or that racism has stopped (yeah right lol), but rather that I was becoming burnt out on the fuel of resentment, and it wasn’t doing anything for me. As mad as I was at white people and as uncomfortable as I may have tried to make them feel, at the end of everything, they are still white and still get to enjoy the privileges of that, and my anger means nothing to them. It is like preparing to tell your boss off during your entire commute to work, only to find out that she has taken the day off. Like anything else in life, we should only put in as much as we are getting back, and yes, there is the inverse of that logic that argues that you get what you put in, but guess what? With white people, you get nothing. Ha! Joke is on us.
When I was at the height of my anger and resentment towards white people, I thought that I would never not want to be angry at them. Rightly we have just reason to be indignant, and I didn’t want to “let them off easy” by being one of those people who weren’t angry. But the anger never did anything for me (nor to a white person), and in exchange my cauldron kept taking and taking so much energy to fuel itself that it was becoming highly un-economical. It has been difficult to make the transition from having so much active resentment to actually more or less just being really sad; it is a loss of identity for me, an identity that empowered me no less. But there is a threshold as to how much our unacknowledged indignation can empower us and give us strength to assert our identities before it takes over and instead renders us helpless to grow above, and beyond.
We owe it to ourselves to reinvest our emotional fuel in the things that actually make us better people and just stop giving a fuck about the discomfort of white people, showing them our teeth and making sure they know the score (with us). Because while for us those things might be wrapped up in a whole legacy of racial indignation, for them it just rolls off of their backs – the angry black woman or the weird brown guy – as they return to their boring, boring lives. White people just ain’t worth our time y’all; or our anger, our sadness, our grief and our struggle. Those feelings may still be there, but instead of projecting them onto the white people around us, we can just laugh at the ridiculousness of their lack of understanding (it is not even worth pity). To stop giving a fuck about not giving a fuck about white people is to be the most baller you can be.