For Black People Only: The Disservice of Blind Loyalty Within Black Spaces

#FBPO = For Black People Only. Pretty self explanatory but for those who aren’t black and are eager to provide commentary…don’t.

Let me start by stating I do not have the answers. However I am from the school of “don’t bring up a problem unless you have a solution for it” so I will take a stab at it towards the end.

This post was inspired by the recognition that there is no safe space to critique within black spaces or even question blackness in black spaces. The movie “Harriet” is about to be released this weekend and it has my stomach in knots to say publicly that I am not excited for this movie and have never been. I feel terrible expressing that I cringe at the trailers and billboards. I cringe when asked if I plan on seeing it. Because I don’t. But you can’t say that without feeling black guilt for possibly disrespecting the legacy of Harriet Tubman, or Black stories being told in Hollywood. We know that we need to support Black vehicles but what if they are coming out 20 years past its prime? Or doesn’t look or feel like it adds anything significant to the cultural or historical movement? Or that you’re uncomfortable with a studio profiting on yet another slave narrative? Or that it feels like black guilt is supposed to bully me into supporting it?  Or the the controversy behind the casting of a Black Brit playing a historical Black American icon? Or this open letter from GirlTrek, an organization for Black women and girls grounded in civil rights history and principles through walking campaigns, community leadership, and health advocacy, regarding the stonewalling they received from the studios to attempt to build a campaign around a movie about a Black woman.? Or that it just does not look like a good movie? And don’t get me started on the “Be Free or Die” tagline.

What does this disdain mean for my black card? How can I express this without feel like or being treated like a traitor?

This recognition also arose when Tyler Perry opened his studios. I stayed quiet because while I was happy he made this milestone in Hollywood, I was concerned about the product coming out of said studio and how it would negatively or positively reflect the Black narrative in this country. This is the house that Madea built. That is kind of scary. But I can’t say that without being accused of putting down the accomplishments of a Black man who worked hard in this industry to make a lane for black actors, writers, producers, directors, and so on.

This recognition arose when I see black college brands that promote black colleges and sell merch but lack transparency in how they actually support black colleges. But I can’t put down black businesses, even if they seem to profit from blackness without acknowledging their investment back in to blackness. That would make me a hater.

And then there is the holy trinity: Obama, Beyonce, and LeBron (Honorary mention is Oprah). Black people are the Benita Butrell from In Living Color to those three’s Mrs. Jenkins. Don’t NOBODY talk about Mrs. Jenkins!! Even through their flaws, these three are infallible in Black eyes and you can bet on the threat of your black card being considered null and void if you even breath a hint of criticism their way. How could I speak ill of the first Black president who was a centrist who spoke at Black people and not for them? Or the force who gave us Beychella and is not afraid to flaunt her blackness once it became commercially safe to do so? Or the ‘GOAT’ who is a great father, husband, and philanthropist, but is definitely not GOAT?  Nope,  can’t do that. “We need all the icons we can get” which is why your cousins were so hell bent on protecting Bill Cosby and R.Kelly. I digress…

And I get the ‘logic’ behind this thinking. In-fighting in front of mixed company is an absolute no-no. We do not do that. But I think it’s healthy to share opposing opinions, in-house of course, even if the “neighbors” hear us because we have some issues that we need to work through too. And if not in home, then where? And how without getting defensive in protecting all blackness even though some aspects do more harm than good? How do we have meaningful dialogue and not feel like we are doing a disservice to our people by having that dialogue? We can not afford to continue to sweep it under the rug. I understand that criticism or questioning of these things can be mistaken as not supporting them, which is short-sighted. The intention is for us to make suggestions on what to do, what not to do, or can do better for the collective because we all we got. #RootingForEverybodyBlack*

*who isn’t looking to merely capitalize or elevate their stature off the backs of blackness

My Solution:

Stop caring about what “The Others” think!! PERIODT! A lot of the anxiety of challenging ourselves within our own spaces stem from how it will be perceived by “The Others”. “They won’t ever let us do x.y.and z, if they see us fighting”. They won’t LET US? Because we are still asking for permission? That is problem #1. Opportunity is given to those who take it. Also, last time I checked, ‘their’ house was in shambles so again, why do we care about what ‘they’ think. Why on earth would we continue to respect them as the gatekeepers?

This reticence we feel within the Black community is a by product of arrested development carried over from slavery and Jim Crow. Its about protecting what we got for fear it could be taken from us and then being left with nothing. Times have changed and our thinking around this must too. Sharing constructive criticism and skepticism is actually healthy and necessary. How can we free ourselves from generational curses when we hold on to them for dear life, afraid to speak our truths in our own spaces. How can we learn to grow and better serve ourselves if we first can not be honest with ourselves?

And please do not mistake this for bully culture. As much as I love Black twitter, it has opened the door to an element of roasting where it feels like folks are desperately searching to make fun of something and get likes for being the “funniest”. Shit….is ok to critique Black Twitter? I think I just fucked up and might get my ass constructively criticized. TBD