Part of my ongoing commitment to self and community is to create and sustain spaces—in all of their forms-- for wellness among and for Black people.
In times late, there has been a great deal of conversation around exactly what does that mean. From my experience, it's a lot easier said than done. So often, people will cloak their attempts at open-mindedness as backhanded shade.
There have been plenty of articles that unpack prejudice passed as preference. People make stark statements about what they "like" versus want they don't. And the question is how do folks receive that when they fall in the "non-featured" category? When somebody says, “I’m not into dark-skinned dudes,” and you have dark skin. Or “I’m not into anybody who wears all that” as you’re wearing “all that.”
So with creating affirming spaces-- figuratively and literally-- the simple premise of "consider yourself" goes a long way.
Another question to ask oneself is, “What value is there in speaking to distinct physical characteristics in a non-affirming way?"
An alternative would be to find something you can fully celebrate. From Brother to Brother, when a Black man can celebrate another Black man, in any form or expression, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s something brilliant in being able to celebrate the humanity in man. And you can’t have humanity without seeing man. So, what does it mean to see someone?
Acknowledging one's experiences, their sense of self and identity. Embracing body diversity, gender and nonbinary expression, or just bold choices, creating a safe space is giving people space to be. And before you preface a statement with “oh, it’s cool, it’s just not my thing,” ask, “what value does that statement bring.”
In relation to people’s personhood, why do we need to make negative, harmful, dismissive, or non-celebratory remarks?
And I know, from my own experience, the Black gays (self-included) are the queens of backhanded comments.
“I like that shirt. I’d never wear it, but it’s cute for you.”
“You must love those jeans. The last three times I’ve seen you you’ve been wearing them.”
“Do you, girl, it’s just not my tea.”
“I could never wear my hair like that, but if you like it, I love it.”
“I get it, it’s just not my type.”
And anytime you lead with the phrases:
“I’m not judging, but…”
“I’m happy for y’all, but…”
“I’m not trying to offend nobody, but…”
And we know the list goes on and on...
As we look to build and sustain healthy spaces for us by us, ask yourself, “how am I pushing forward strong and supportive narratives of all the variations of who we are." And if none of these work, there is the tried-and-test option to be the hell quiet. (As a matter of fact, this is a great solution in many cases, but more to come on that.)
What's more, how many more of us too have allowed the limited view of others to stifle the fullness of who we are?
Reasonably so, for a long time, many of us have limited how we show up and show ourselves just because sometimes its easy just to not. I know from experience, it takes a bold person to make a bold choice. I take that back. Sometimes it’s more courage than boldness. To move throughout spaces unapologetically is no easy feat.
So my takeaways: keep making those bold choices, keep moving big, keep being inspired and authentic. And for those of us who do not see ourselves represented in people's self-expression or -identity, that's cool too. Let' all look at ways to build, affirm, and support as a community. We need all of us to be great. A phrase I live by is “we do not know whose destiny is connected to ours.” More simply put, by doing you, you’re making a difference. And sometimes what you don't do can do the same.