Many of us have made a life of hoping to get chosen for jobs, chosen for awards, chosen for acceptance from people, structures and corporations bred on white supremacy. We’re hoping to get chosen by people who can not see us. Knowing that they hate and terrorize us doesn’t stop us from wanting to get chosen. That’s the crazy thing. Everything about this country told Grandma, a black woman born in Central Mississippi in 1920s, to love, honor and forgive white folks. And this country still tells me, a black boy born in Mississippi in the 1970s, to titillate and tend to the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of white people in my work.
Kiese Laymon makes me want to hang up my keyboard and forget about writing on the regular. His piece for The Guardian, “Black churches taught us to forgive white people. We learned to shame ourselves” is no exception.
As I’m inclined to do, I try to relate articles like this with my experience as a black professional in a predominately white profession. My reluctance to put myself forward for jobs, speaking opportunities, or even acceptance from people is my way of staging resistance. Why participate in rituals and structures that aren’t designed with me in mind, and are only invested in supporting my success if I perform in such a way that makes me visible to them? This resistance often comes with a high price; visibility and professional accolades sometimes come at the expense of my own sense of worth.
We bond with our captors1, develop sympathy for them, and become convinced that their way is the only way. The indignities and traumas continue to mount, but we smile, we dance, we submit papers and answer calls for proposals, because the alternative is professional obscurity.
It is insanity.
- This phenomenon is also known as stockholm syndrome. ↩