I can’t lie. Black love feels different since Korryne.
Since Rodney f–cking King.
It feels more profound and more important.
I haven’t been able to write lately because I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be loved and Black.
When I was 13, my father abandoned us. He abandoned me. The reasons didn’t even matter. Ultimately, he was needed and did not show up. He was the first man to ever teach me that love could be temporary. Retracted. That it could dissolve into thin air. It left me wondering why I was so damn insignificant. Wondering what about me could be so easily dismissed.
He was the first man to ever teach me that love could be temporary.
And I couldn’t forgive my father until I forgave myself.
If you’re Black, there are two things I know for sure. That you are beautiful and that you are damaged.
I know your parents are likely more damaged than you. And their parents before them, even more so. You don’t have to come from degradation or poverty for this to be true. You don’t have to come from hell for this to be true. This is true because the condition of the world in which we live is such that we have been conditioned as slaves. Our men have been taken and beaten, our women have been forced to take on things too heavy for their backs. We bent and twisted like tree roots through sidewalks. Unforgivably determined and yet — confined.
It’s okay to accept this.
Because it won’t change until we accept this.
I can’t blame the condition of Black love on the industrial prison complex. I can’t blame it on crooked cops. I can’t blame it on slave masters who sailed boats filled with Black bodies. There’s no place for blame. But understand those things are the reason.
I know that if you’re a Black woman it is more likely than not that you have been raped or violently assaulted.
That you have walked out of or into your home feeling unsafe. That you have been told precisely who you are by people who miscalculate your worth. That you have overcompensated for the assumptions on the other side of tables and across rooms. That you may not know your father or feel inconsequential in his eyes. That you keep your chin up because you have to despite a weary neck.
That when people praise you, they are actually praising the generations of women who came before you as well. That you step lightly for no one because you can’t afford to be passive. That even though your tongue is sharp and your gaze is fixed, you want to be held and loved and comforted and told everything is alright.
I know that if you’re a Black man there has been a narrative written in your name. You may have been raped, beaten, neglected, assaulted and forced to shake it off. That you may have been raised by a tired single mother who didn’t have the time or was not taught to think about your emotional development. Who may have leaned on you too hard, too soon and taught you to feel burdened by the opposite sex. That you exist in an alternate reality in which Black men are taken for granted by passers-by — who can’t possibly acknowledge that they are walking past kings.
I know these things. We all know these things. And yet we pretend that we don’t.
And then there’s Black love.
We’re thrust into the gravity of each other. Maybe for a night or a summer or possibly a decade or a lifetime.
The Black man and the Black woman who have been given skewed versions of love lessons.
Standing in rooms we didn’t choose to be in.
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Trying to run from and understand each other at the same time. The tug-of-war is poetic and heartbreaking and life-giving. We write love letters with missing syllables and still dance to its rhythm in pure imagination. But that shit doesn’t last.
How do you love someone who may be systematically broken? And who, throughout their life, may break again and again?
I don’t pretend to be an expert in the art of Black forgiveness but I do know it begins with forgiving yourself. To stand in front of a mirror, or at a bus stop or before an ocean or on line at the supermarket or at the wake of a new lover’s touch and say or think, “I forgive myself.”
I FORGIVE MYSELF
To accept that every painful thing you’ve experienced was in fact abuse — no matter how insignificant you’ve been told it was. That you should have been treated better but was not. That you shouldn’t have been discarded or ignored or profiled — but you were. To forgive the cracks and missing pieces that exist within yourself and understand those marks are things of beauty. Because we are not what has been done to us. We are walking manifestations of our ancestors’ dreams. Every one of us.
If you can forgive yourself a thousand times a day — know that you will have to forgive your lover just the same. You will have to accept that they will hurt you, pull away from you, lie to you, and perhaps leave you. That they may do those things because those things have been done to them by others. Or by you.
And then you have to accept how important this process is. The static in the air right now is solidifying.
We are at war.
We do have to fight back.
We do have to be aggressive.
We do have to be relentless.
But if Black people are standing on a battlefield, make no mistake — our greatest weapon is the ability to be loving.
To ourselves, to our lovers, to our children.
To our oppressors who are cowardly waiting for us to retreat.