Recently, I had the fortune of joining a dear friend’s new venture, a budding community of individuals looking to connect around short readings and talk about the themes of justice, intersectionality, and power they discuss. The Lazy Book Club: Woke in 30 is a bold initiative, calling on folks to devote a mere hour every month or so – 30 minutes to read, 30 minutes to dialogue – to engage intellectually and emotionally with strangers and not-so-much strangers alike. The first one started off with a powerful piece that admittedly I hadn’t read before, so I was grateful for the assignment. It was “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation” from James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time.
Like so much of Baldwin’s writings, his words echo as real today, as in the 1950s and 1960s when they first graced our world. His incisive abilities to bear witness to injustice and voice out demands for other possibilities are unmatched in my humble opinion, and this piece is no different. I was particularly called to a specific passage that I want to share here: “There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.”
I can’t recall how long ago now did I abandon any desire to have others – white, cis, heterosexual, non-immigrant others – accept me and realize that that was not my burden to bear. But what I have avoided realizing is that there is a different, perhaps heavier burden, in accepting them, with love. At some level, I know this to be true, have voiced it internally and out loud with the intention of believing it and living it, but I don’t know that I have thus far. So this passage – especially now – is a scary reminder of the burden I must come to accept, to take responsibility for, and to live out in the coming years. I’m not so delusional to think I might achieve this any time soon or in entirety or that my commitment will be unwavering, but I know I must try. I must try because my own self-love is implicated in it.
So I am grateful for the gift of the Lazy Book Club and for my friend Tamara Plummer for inviting me into it. I look forward to the next reading of Audre Lorde’s “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” and discussing it with others. Maybe you’d like to join too.
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society - Jiddu Krishnamurti
Blogs I Like
Black Girl Dangerous
Crunk Feminist Collective
Dances with Dissonance
Eric Mata: Words
Son of Baldwin
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