Source: British Journal of Photography

I love Black people.

It’s a learned love, a fought-over love, a bittersweet love, but ultimately, a fulfilling love. Blackness has been like this beautiful thing that I don’t want to cheapen by forcing myself onto it. I keenly understand that my experience is very different from that of a more visibly Black person. I know that not everyone sees me as Black when they look at me. So to claim it, for me, is something that I have battled for, and I value so much that claiming. For most Black people, their Blackness is not something that can be confused for some other race or ethnicity, and because of that they are vulnerable to police violence. Loving someone for whom that is a reality is scary. Because I love Black people, I am scared. Because I love a Black man, I am scared.

I’m also heartbroken. I want everyone to see the beauty in Blackness and value us the way I do, the way I have fought to. I want everyone, every person to take time and learn about our history and heritage, because it is incredible what Black folks do despite being allowed so little. I want our amazing bodies to be celebrated and not left in the street. I want us to be valued and respected and heard, and when we say “stop killing us”, I want the world to act. I don’t see that happening any time soon, and it makes me sad. It also makes me angry.

Being angry feels better than being sad, qualitatively. Quantitatively, humans tend to get more done when they’re angry versus when they’re sad. So right now, I’m welcoming and embracing the anger. If you feel it, I hope you’ll embrace it too. The only way anything will change is if everyone feels the kind of righteous anger and desire for justice that can only be born out of watching something you love being hurt. Blackness is under attack right now. Black people are being hurt and killed.

The police aren’t under attack. The police serve as a proxy for Whiteness. This is why White people and others who worship Whiteness are so quick to defend and exalt them. The police exercise the will of a racist society, and are charged with protecting the status quo. The status quo is a White supremacist society. Whenever anyone says “Blue Lives Matter”, you can just mentally substitute in “White” for “Blue” and still retain the meaning, because the police and Whiteness are essentially the same thing. There’s no place for either in a society where equity for all is a reality.

When I say “no place for Whiteness”, please note that I did not say “White people”. Whiteness is a concept and an institution. It can’t exist without the subjugation of Black people, period. So if Black people are going to be free, that institution has to be dismantled. In its current form, it is violent, isolationist, xenophobic, selfish, and inhuman. The battle to uphold White dominance is wreaking havoc worldwide. Devotion to Whiteness is an exploitable weakness in a populace, and politicians like Trump are using that to gain power and access. Law enforcement is using it to escape accountability for violence against Black people. I love my White family, but I don’t love Whiteness.

Because I recognized Whiteness as toxic from a relatively young age, I threw myself into Blackness. I embraced and absorbed it. I studied Black history, read about our enslavement and emancipation, about our revolutionaries and artists and writers. I listened to our music, and watched our movies. Although my dad wasn’t a big part of my life, I cherished the time I had with his huge family, my cousins and aunts and uncles, my granny and granddad, and the extended family they had acquired over the years. My teen years are, perhaps, when my love came to fruition. I surrounded myself with as much Blackness as I could. I allowed myself to feel that belonging I craved.

I look back on those years fondly, now, in the golden years of my love. I know that some Black people, if they could choose, would rather be White, because it would relieve so much of the hardship they have and will bear. I might be looking at Blackness through high-yellow glasses, but I would never in my life choose to be White. Not only does being Black allow me to naturally separate myself from the cult of Whiteness, I was born into an extended family of millions. Even for my misanthropic ass, that feels amazing. So much love, and so much power.

I see us exercising our power now, and I wish I was able enough to be out there with them. When I was in my youth I fancied myself a revolutionary. Now, I sit behind a laptop and write. We all have our part to play, I suppose. The muscle, though, is supremely important. Activists provide that, and I am so grateful for them. Their persistence and perseverance has made me fall in love all over again.

Despite the opinion of those who know me, I’m actually not a cynic. I do believe that change is possible. I’ve seen change in my lifetime, and I’ve studied enough history to know that I’m better off in 2016 than I would be in 1956. Ours isn’t a hopeless fight, although the forces that must be confronted are intimidating and intractable. Folks have to move on from attacking individuals and pivot to attacking institutions, and that’s difficult. It’s easier to focus on interpersonal dynamics and ignore the sociopolitical framework that sanctions and encourages bigotry. But we have to try.

We have to succeed if we’re going to survive, literally. The same mentality that allows for state-sanctioned violence against Black folks is the mentality that allows people to stick their head in the sand when it comes to climate change, or deny the destructiveness of poverty, or ignore any number of social justice issues. Everything, ultimately, is connected, and not in a “dude-we’re-in-the-Matrix” way. Watching the events of the past year has really underscored that for me. The events of the past few days were like a stab in the gut, reminding me.

For the sake of my love, we have to succeed.