After #Afromation: Notes on Black Courage

It must take more than courage. For if courage was all that it took to be free, then freedom would have been reached decades, perhaps centuries ago. This must be said, and it must be said a million more times. There is a way in which courage is mythologized as the necessary and sufficient condition for black liberation as if courage has not been embedded in our blood, as if courage had not been a requirement for the sake of maintaining any fragment of black life since being brutalized into the transatlantic slave ship and onto stolen land.

Courage is the way black people survive in the status quo. There is no way for black people to march to/for courage. Courage is our entire existence. It is the way we learn to smile and encourage ourselves, against all evidence to the contrary, that “we gon’ be alright.” It is the way we learn to utilize our rage in both cathartic and political ways when all the evidence proves that the voice of reason in our rage is not wanted here, and the release of pain that our rage attempts to alleviate is incomprehensible to a world founded on black death. Courage is the way we learn to love when love for another seems to be love with a body eternally stalked and shadowed by the possibility of death.

The question of liberation must transcend courage. We have always – by necessity – have had to have courage, and re-positioning this question doesn’t necessarily mean that we must look for a void. We are not searching for something that black people have dropped along the long road of “history.” Black people came into “history” with courage, love, hope, desire and chains; black people came into “history” with courage, love, hope, desire and brands on our arms and backs; black people came into “history” with courage, love, hope, desire and a will to live and grow against the weight of a (White) world. The only lack in blackness is that which has been negated by whiteness, but whiteness has always required of black bodies to have courage in order to make it through the day.

There is often this  false causation that we are given. We are told that liberation has not been reached due to a “lack” of something we possess. We are told that it is because black people have not done something correct that black people have not become free.  We are told that our continual struggle against the course of “history” is due to something we are “lacking.” But black people have never lacked any of the spiritual requirements for liberation, and the material/metaphysical requirements (political, economic, ontological) are the very reasons why the battle we fight continues to be fought in the first place.

What we need is already set in place and has always been set in place from the birth of blackness. What we need is the same courage, remythologized, not in the form of absence-returned, but in the form of presence-surpassed. It is not that we are looking for something we lost in order to overturn a system that has required our death to fuel itself. We are creating surpluses of something that has always been there. The same courage, love, hope, desire that has allowed us to continue to exist at all. This does not mean that we must situate ourselves in optimism, or that optimist is the “myth-leading-to-liberation” (the myth that constitutes what emancipation is). It is very possible that it is the courage, the love, the hope, the desire of the pessimist that leads to liberation. It is very possible that our best hope is hopelessness. But having this be the case it does not mean that we must lose nor gain something.

We – black people – are always everything and nothing at all. In the maroon society of black bodies, where we learn to thrive, resist, and exist, we become all that we ever were, and all that we ever could be, and this is the force of uncontainable possibility. In the world, created by us, yet never for us; in the world, a world that hopes to cyclically destroy our bodies in hopes to destroy our will to destroy it, we find ourselves existing as a standing negation: to the white world, we are nothing-at-all. But we must remember how true this is, and yet still how untrue it is. It is here where Du Bois consciousness returns. We must be conscious that to whiteness (the system of whiteness as the system that constitutes the ideological backdrop for every institution of power and knowledge) we may be nothing, and it is this self that we wage war against, and we must also be conscious that to blackness – that modern positionality of negation – we are everything. We are the hands that laid the foundation for a world. We are the backs that carried it into civilization. We are the legs that globalize its notion of linear progression.

The fight for liberation is a fight towards the fantasy of a world unthinkable to the world we currently live in. Our current world is a product of a combination of white colonial violence and white supremacist mythologies. A new world – a world of black liberation – is a fight towards a world free of white supremacy, heteronormativity, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia and capitalist exploitation. The fight for liberation requires a courage that has always been there, and it requires a will that has never vanished, but has always been here.

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