Thinking of Us or, Why Thinkpieces Give Me Heart Palpitations: A Personal Essay

Pop culture wise, 2018 has been Black as fuck.

I’m sure we’ve had Blacker years, but I bet that 2018 will rank highly among them. Music was good, strides were made in television, and the movies? LAWWWWWDD THE MOVIES!!!! If we weren’t the central focus of the narrative, we were definitely up in that bitch somewhere.

The beautiful thing about this Black Entertainment renaissance is that it causes discussion. People from all different walks of Black life gather in spaces both private and public to discuss their thoughts and feelings on the art they just witnessed, engage in fierce debate about whether or not something is a classic just 24 hours removed from release, or get upon their contrarian high horse to shit on anyone who dared like this mega-popular event and berate them for being sheep. It’s wonderful because it can be fun, and it can be downright annoying, or you could occupy that space in the middle. General indifference is an option as well.

While I’m glad that there is discourse about art, especially when it comes to discussion about those -isms that really keep us all from enjoying life to its fullest – necessary discussion that needs to be had – somethings don’t require, aren’t ready for and sometimes shouldn’t be given extensive critical thought. Some of these things are as shallow as a kiddie pool, some of these things are incomplete and others have been analyzed to death and can’t offer us new insights into ourselves. Thinkpieces and theories have become a staple of online discourse and I won’t lie and say that I don’t enjoy reading or composing them occasionally, but it can be a bit much.

The highly anticipated trailer for Oscar winning writer-director-comedian Jordan Peele’s follow up to 2016 tour de force Get Out premiered in the predawn Christmas morning. Us is a family film, if your family is getting chased and lit up by dopplegangers of themselves. Set to an eerie remix of, of all things, the Luniz’s seminal work “I Got 5 On It”, the trailer is an exercise in creepy.

I was legit creeped out watching that trailer.

Any way, once it was over, as I anticipated, the thinkpieces would come about before midday. You have a Black family (a dark-skinned Black family at that) vacationing in Northern California, they look affluent enough, the husband wears Howard University sweatshirts, the teach their kids the classics and the mother keeps a close, keen eye on her children. Yes, a great shout rose from the collective consciousness of the Woke and this idyllic view of Black family life being tormented by something other than white people.

What we got made me take a nap. When I awoke from that nap, the realization of what I had seen loaded into my brain and I sat up, exclaiming, “I know kung fu!” I don’t, but you get the point. I learned that “I Got 5 On It” wasn’t just a song about going “half on a sack” of some Indo’ weed, but a call from the ancestors to always offer our brothers and sisters in the struggle the five fingers of our hand to get ahead in this racist American society, something something, Five Percenters something something. That the film is a revenge plot on the talented tenth and suburban Blacks (probably the very people I am ranting about). That Jordan Peele is automatically unqualified to give us much of the discourse he’s given us with this trailer and Get Out because he’s a seemingly unproblematic biracial Black claiming man married to a seemingly unproblematic white woman (I ain’t dug into her background nor do I care to).

Point is, there is only so much that we can get from a two and a half minute trailer, combined with what the director himself has said the themes of the film are. I’m going to take his lead on this until I actually see a final cut of the film.

Us and Black-specific culture isn’t the only instance of this though, but it is the freshest. We get this type of speculation with nerds a lot as well. I saw so many thinkpieces and theories popping up with the drop of the Avengers: Endgame teaser that my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I had to get knocked silly to get them straight again. “Tony said ‘Rescue’! Pepper Potts is going to save him!”, uh uh, “Ant Man is a Skrull, there’s no way he got out the Quantum Realm!”, uh uh, “It’s in the past!” I saw someone break down the reveal of the movie’s title at the end of the teaser, indicating that the stylization and fonts used were indicative of certain events in the past MCU (the snap, the Infinity Stones, etc.). I need another nap thinking about it.

Look, I’ll admit that this is all deeply personal. I like to be told things. I did all my critical thinking in high school and college and when I try to apply much of it to everyday life I end up being disappointed or looking like a fool critically thinking about why Chik-fil-A breakfast is the GOAT fast food breakfast (their biscuits taste real). So when I see people engaging in a two and a half minute trailer, I feel a bit guilty that I’m not engaging in a two and a half minute trailer outside of, “Holy shit, this looks interesting, I will wait for it to come out.” Like me not engaging it further is a waste of my education and not just me wanting to be taken on a journey without expectations.

Then I remember the pretentiousness of a lot of these people. Don’t get me wrong, I can do pretentious. These people are on a whole different level with it, and that turns me off from trying to be one of them. None of the markers that these people celebrate – including thinkpiecing media to death – makes them that important. The rest of us who don’t want to engage in the pretentiousness aren’t any lesser for it either.

In conclusion (wink, wink), Black Entertainment has had a banner year in 2018, and looks to be making strides well into the ‘19 and the 2020. While discussion about Black art (as well as any other art) can be beneficial, sometimes it is taken too damn far for the sake of being taken too damn far.

I Never Wanted to Be the Quirky Black Girl, but Here The Fuck I Am

Apologies for the expletive in the title. I know some of y’all still follow that raggedy sense of respectability and whatnot.

Look at the featured picture* and tell me that’s not what you might think of when you hear the phrase “quirky Black girl.” I challenge you to give me another answer.

I resent that phrase and you want to know why? Not only is it another box that people try to put people in, but because once upon a time quirky wasn’t the word that people were using. Quirky is a cute word, not quite an Instagram model, but a girl next door. It conjures up images of birds and running in fields of grass and AfroPunk and pins and buttons and pink colored hair and interests that lay in the nerd realm or a carefree sense of being. Quirky is blue skies and dewdrops on grass and a fresh spring breeze. Quirky is summer in the city. It’s spending time “finding yourself” and tumblr accounts and blue checks on Twitter.

Fuck that.

Once upon a time, quirky was weird. Weird stinks. Weird is overbites and under bites and cystic acne. Weird is repulsive. Weird is thin, oily hair and wrestling t-shirts and nasal voices. Weird is surprisingly masculine. Weird is misunderstood. Weird doesn’t have too many friends. Weird grows up and has a constant chip on its shoulder and possibly seeks authority so that it can inflict the same pain and suffering onto those that once inflicted pain and suffering on it. Weird can’t relate. Weird is out of the loop. Weird is a damp basement with one light where a body might be buried in the concrete floor.

I was weird and I didn’t want to be that shit.

I wore that shit like a scarlet letter and I tried to wash it off as much as possible. I started cursing a lot, tried my hardest not to be a dweeb, tried avoiding dating fellow dweebs, and you know what? That shit don’t work. I couldn’t stop being weird. I was born in that shit, baptized in the waters of Lake Minneweirdo. Now I’m just a weird ass Black girl that curses a lot.

So when my sister called me quirky recently, I flinched. That shit hit me to the core because today’s quirky was yesterday’s weird and pre-29-year-old me still holds on to that stigma of being a weirdo and fuck you motherfuckers for celebrating the shit you used to shit on, where were you when I was running through the schoolyards pretending I was a Martian because they didn’t have one on Space Cases? Where you ass was at in 2003? You wasn’t with me shooting in the gym!

So if that’s what y’all want to call it now, I’ma be quirky. I’ma be weird. I can’t wash that shit away. No amount of dick weed booze self-hatred and denial is going to get rid of it, in fact, it makes it even more apparent. I can’t be anything else than what I am and as much as I have tried to be anything else, this is my lane, this is my niche. I don’t want to be anything but this. If you want to call it by a cute little name, then so be it. Just run me my blue check so I can start gatekeeping this shit while claiming to be for the culture.

 

*Follow the photographer here: https://www.instagram.com/melodyjacob1/

I Don’t Have the Answers

You know, it’s wild, I thought I had a post lined up for today and I didn’t. Maybe that was a stroke of creative luck because I have something to say that I didn’t plan on saying.

I found out about Alton Sterling’s murder in Baton Rouge, Louisiana last night before I went to bed. To say that I have grown weary of this narrative is an understatement. It takes a little bit of you every time it happens, the murder of a Black American at the hands of White Supremacy, whether it be cops or vigilantes. It takes a piece of your soul because it’s senseless and it hits extremely close to home. My father is a Black man, my grandfather, my uncles, my cousins, my friends, my 16-year-old nephew is a Black boy (despite the narrative that denies childhood and adolescence to us). That could be one of them. I’m reminded of the men and women dying in police custody and think back to how I spent the weekend at the Carson Sheriff’s station several years back. If things were different, that could’ve been me dead in a cell with no answers as to why it happened. It could be my mother, my nieces, sisters…we are all Black in America and any one of us are a potential target.

And it’s a sad reality to live under. That you are a potential target for no other reason than you try to live life as you should live it, free. You see we’ve never really been free in this country, yeah, we don’t have chains around our necks and wrists and ankles, but ever since we were dragged to this piece of rock rooted between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans we have been oppressed. It didn’t stop when our ancestors were symbolically freed from the chains of slavery because we still got Jim Crow segregation afterwards, and it didn’t stop after the gains of the 1960s, because our leaders were assassinated, our movements infiltrated and destroyed from the inside out and the outside in, drugs and guns were flooded into our communities, and families have been torn apart since we got here. It never stopped, White Supremacy and its faithful agents have never let up and even in 2016, when we’re supposed to be enlightened and post-racial (lies) and we have a (half) Black President we’re still being killed. They may not be using ropes dangling from trees and they may not be mutilating our bodies, but they still murder us. They still leave our blood to run red in the streets, our bodies to sit as a reminder, a warning not to step out of line. Know your place.

It is this reality we live under where as soon as tragedy like this strikes, we protest, we pray, we create hashtags. Those are all worthwhile gestures, needed gestures, because the conversation needs to be had, we do need to let people know that we will not be silent about this like White Supremacy wants us to be. But I fear that with the level of evil that we are facing, that will not be enough. However, I understand that to take such an extreme stance should not be done without careful consideration. You cannot go forth without a plan, because there will be consequences no matter what. Turning the other cheek has only resulted in more bullets. Voting doesn’t save us, especially when we are voting in a system designed against our best interests, hell, designed against its own best interests.

I don’t have the answers though. My opinion is just that, an opinion. It’s not totally practical, but then the other, more peaceful methods have only done so much. What’s the answer? How do you combat White Supremacy when it’s so invasive, sewn into the fabric of this very country, it’s documents, it’s way of being, it’s entire existence? How do you combat something that has invaded and colonized our minds so much?

Alton Sterling had five children, and his oldest son, 15-years-old, broke down at the press conference this morning and called out for his father while his mother stood there and held it together. And I know someone looked at that and had not an ounce of sympathy or empathy for that young man and his family. As it has been passed around this morning, they take our fathers away from us and then deride us for being fatherless. This young man’s father was taken away from him, and for what? Because White Supremacy is some nefarious shit, it is destructive, there is no good to be had in it, it is as if this is the ultimate manifestation of Satan himself, to spread havoc the world over and to terrorize. But we are supposed to just sit and take it. No more.