The Conundrum Which is Growing up Black, American and Away From the Resistance

Black Lives Matter protest in the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda in June 2020
Cover Photo courtesy of Yusef Bushara, 2020

By YUSEF BUSHARA,
1st-year Student in the Middle East-Mediterranean Campus of MENTON


Part of 2020 US Election Series, Expat Stories

*Author’s Note: Please note that this article was originally written in June, 2020, so many of the allusions made draw their relevance from that period in time. Addendums have been inserted to highlight the 2020 U.S. election.


If you are somebody who rushes to the nearest bottle of moisturizer after a shower, who has had to endure Saturday morning spring cleaning sessions soundtracked by the leading voices in gospel; if you have been taught to never consult your pockets after touching merchandise in a store, or plainly, someone who has to stare anti-Black racism in the face during every waking moment, chances are: you look like me. Or some version of me. Now, these stereotypes, or generalizations of the Black experience, are prevalent universally, but especially where white thought governs. The epicentre of falsely supreme white thought is the United States of America, simple. The pillars of equality which the nation stands upon are feeble and made of styrofoam, painted haphazardly in red and white acrylics. The two-Americas trope, the idea that America is free and democratic at home, but acts negligently abroad, is being recontextualized constantly. The same wanton behaviour that defines their foreign policy missteps, like the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, the Open Skies Treaty, or the biggest blunder of them all: funding cessation to the WHO during a pandemic, is being seen in full force with its treatment of American citizens, today—especially ones who find themselves nodding agreeingly with the aforementioned checklist. Yet, unfortunately, this maelstrom of American democratic doom continues to spiral, and could worsen for minorities following what happens after Tuesday.

Carrying “black dignity in a world made for whiteness,” a phrase coined by Black author, Austin Channing Brown, is no small ask. It uniquely requires a mental and physical fortitude comparable only to those who have had to carry such dignity before. A racialized America begets issues which jeopardize the safety of all minorities. The system of governance isn’t broken, nor has it ever been; it was deliberately founded on white thought, and until notions of supremacy are erased, it will continue to disparage Black lives through policy and through violence. Whiteness as a global backdrop lasts for about as much time in our collective history as the bullets did in the air which killed the likes of Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, and so many more of the individuals who possessed a unique humanity, but whose humanity was misconstrued as menacing, and thus their lives, stolen. 

Whiteness as a global backdrop lasts for about as much time in our collective history as the bullets did in the air which killed the likes of Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, and so many more of the individuals who possessed a unique humanity, but whose humanity was misconstrued as menacing, and thus their lives, stolen. 

What I’m attempting to spell out is that ‘whiteness’ is not a foundational concept (nor reality) which has always governed the movements of those whom it has subjugated. The impact of race isn’t to be undermined. But just as race was established as a mechanism to justify inhumane brutality and false supremacy, with it in place, it can, and must, now be used as a vehicle for mutual action. However, in order to optimize the effectiveness of said action, it must be unbalanced. What I mean by this is that the structure of this purported whiteness can only be dismantled by whites, with the careful supervision and counseling of those whose have been adversely affected by its practices. Notably, but not exclusively, Blacks. 

As a Black American, removed entirely from the “Black American Experience,” my empathy manifests from a distance. Thus, the paradox I’m faced with is a socio-geographical one. We, as Black Americans, draw from the same source of historical oppression, but where my experience diverges is in the contemporary application of that same oppression. Concurrently, as a Bermudian, my nurturing has been less so defined by the perils of overt racism, incessant fear as a result of it, and systemic discrimination—albeit not entirely. So, reconciling my socio-geographical privilege is done graciously, as it must be, because I don’t bear the same wounds of my brothers and sisters who fight a mere ocean’s distance away. It is as uncomfortable as it is paradoxical for me to acknowledge my complicitness in the plight of Black Americans, but if we don’t broaden the scope of our own personal reflection and evaluate the role we play in global injustices, our indifference will never mend—the wounds of the suffering will never heal and will continue to fester, poisoning the possibilities for subsequent generations of Blacks. We must mobilize and, irrespective of color and creed, strip whiteness so bare that what remains is a society where racism lives only in the margins of obscurity. 

“The problem of the [20th] century is the problem of the color line – the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men…in America and the islands of the sea.”

W.E.B. Dubois

Resistance is a philosophy before it amounts to a result, and its contents have been well-expounded by innumerable Black activists, not exclusive of W.E.B. Dubois who articulates that, “The problem of the [20th] century is the problem of the color line – the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men…in America and the islands of the sea.” The notion of the “color line” which Dubois explores, persists ironically. The line itself is still very much intact but now lacks pigment, or rather, melanin. This line verifies that the two-Americas trope is no matter of fictitious belief; it is tangible and it is divisive. It is the line that Blacks stand–without volition– ten steps behind, and whites, ten in front of, when the race of life begins. For one group, the race is riddled by gunshots at the head and inequity. For the other, plentiful opportunity and access. Can you guess who is running which race? This line strangles resistance, it kneels on resistance, it releases tear gas on resistance. Resistance, though, pays no regard to lines. As a matter of fact, resistance kneels back in the case of Colin Kaepernick and many other brave athletes, and hopefully it takes to the polls during this election cycle in counties across the US. The word resistance is an anagram for BlackLivesMatter. BlackLivesMatter, and they have since time immemorial; before Black was “Black,” before the decimation of African empires, and sure as hell before our lives marginalized and our bodies lynched. 

The dilemma which is being Black, American, and away from the resistance pales in comparison to being Black, American, and a part of the resistance,—the revolution—obviously. This commentary is simply intended to demonstrate some of the intersections of Black struggle, it is meant to nuance your understanding of white thought structure and how it has disadvantaged Blacks in America, and elsewhere. I can’t iterate the necessity enough of fighting alongside Blacks, protesting alongside Blacks, facing the fire alongside Blacks. Just as we all breathe the same toxic air, consume the same racist news, and fall subject to the same systemic privilege or disadvantage—humanity bleeds the same blood. Let’s make sure Blacks don’t have to shed theirs in vain. ▣

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