Dear Black Boys and Black Men,
We are diasporic people. We are always in motion, for better or worse. One question though: why can’t we stay still, rest, and listen to our bodies?
I just want to offer some thoughts on why we, Black boys and Black men, may feel dis-eased, dis-placed, dis-embodied, dis-ordered and dis-missed. I may not disabuse you of a particular American belief system or economic religion, but I do want you to find and hold space to dissociate from such a system that gives and lives on corporal punishment. Not to appropriate or misrepresent real mental health issues, but I wonder and ponder about the possibility and the presence of “economic” body dysmorphia or self-harm all in the name of economic health and the illusion of socioeconomic mobility. Our bodies are constantly in motion, in flux, in limbo, in use, and maybe in distress. I am not necessarily complaining but rather commending us for keeping our bodies somewhat intact through it all.
Conflicted, convicted, and complicit, I am a benefactor, beneficiary, a victim, and a critic of capitalism.
This is capitalism and its body of work. Under its control, some bodies will stay in motion while others will become motionless.
It is the reason for our diaspora, our displacement, and our distance.
It is the reason for our bodies in motion, in boats, in bondage across seas.
It is the reason for my biological father’s move and motion out of the house, out of the household, and onto the corners, and eventually into that cell for life and forever away from the growing bodies of his two sons.
It is the reason that parental bodies are understandably tired from putting their bodies on the line for the well-being of various bodies–those being blood-related and others corporate.
It is the reason that my grandmother sacrificed her body and shared her body between her grandkids and those of white wealthy families, whose kids she nannied and probably fed with her own breasts while my older brother and I were grateful for cow’s milk and crackers in our tummies.
It is the reason that my black body left the ‘hood for private school, just to have my black body drowning in a large white student body.
It is the reason that schools still track Black and Brown bodies in classes and still push them out of a factory model.
It is the reason for this private school educated Black body needing a lot of TLC and (re)acting like oil when put back into the water of his people…making it hard to “stick to the rivers and the lakes” that he was used to…like his ancestors, carefully wading in the water, but with the stench of Black contempt and white wealth draped all over him.
It is the reason for brain-drain, taking good teachers away from struggling schools.
It is the reason that the charter school I worked at closed and now I teach at a private Catholic school... to my folks not in teaching, try coming out of pocket for copy paper, stationary, student snacks, and your own work computer...and then try living on $40,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Caught between surviving and thriving, I question if I've sold out-- my body or any body.
It is the reason that big bodies are out working, leaving little bodies alone, suspended in the streets or in Twitch streams, only to have their bloodstreams discoloring the block or their lives live-streamed down a path of confusion and potentially destruction, just for some clicks.
It is the reason for this once small town Texas boy traveling West to manifest and maneuver his little body into a small, poorly-insulated hot Oakland apartment with a not-so-cool degree awarded to him from a white legacy caucus, Stanford University to be exact, just to be a no-body in Deep East Oakland where needles and bullets enter bodies, just to leave bodies.
It is the reason that bodies waited in line for the new sneaker drop, just to have bodies drop a few days later.
It is the reason that people and plant bodies are seedless, from eugenics to bioengineering, respectively (and collectively).
It is the reason that human and natural resources are colonized, hoarded, and exhausted by and for insatiable political leaders and corporations.
It is the reason for imperialistic motives and actions…gotta get control of bodies, lands, and other natural resources.
It is the reason for our out-of-body experiences, for our bodies may feel like theirs more than our own.
It is the reason that my body cries out in pain but sometimes lacks any drops for my brothers and Mother Nature.
It is the reason that a small caucus of billionaires is trying to move to another celestial body.
Unfortunately, their ways of conquest and colonization are not alien to us.
It is the reason for our parents experiencing the 1980s revolution associated with the gravity of moonrocks and hot steel. While never really leaving earth, their bodies did touch the sky.
It is the reason for American jobs moving overseas, while bodies move to the States for a shot at the mythical American Dream. For many of us, all we got were shots to the body.
Bodies coming in from all over, just to find out they can save money but not their own bodies from the wear and tear. It is the reason for some people’s livelihood and other’s death.
It is the reason that bodies are growing with and from greed, gluttony, and guilt, as well as being milked and bilked by larger (corporate) bodies.
It is the reason I will “body” you just to move further up the food chain and to be ultimately downed in the belly of the beast.
It is the reason for half of our bodies being inoperative or dead, for it does not care about what we e-mote, but more so about what we pro-moat, pro-duce, and pro-tech.
It is the reason for this looming, seemingly omnipresent pressure to perform and compete almost to the point of exhaustion and extinction.
It wants us to pre-serve it while we dis-serve ourselves.
It is the reason that romantic partners (un)knowingly put their bodies in competition and conflict, instead of in conversation and cooperation under one roof. It is the reason that debates on patriarchy and feminism feel like one big destructive blame game.
It is the reason that some of us are looking for leverage or a competitive edge over potential romantic partners.
It is the reason for many of our romantic relationships being contracted and carried out like strictly business, purely transactional.
It is the reason for some of our illusions and delusions of self-grandeur, for some of us believe having ice on our neck prevents us from having a noose around our necks.
It is the reason for some of us feeling an internal and societal imbalance, creating complexes within us. Some of us feel superior while others of us feel inferior once we have a taste of it or a bite from it, respectively.
It is the reason that exploitation is unspoken, un-named, normal(ized), and fundamental to modern America; it is something we overlook just to call one another lazy, sensitive, crazy even though our bodies are screaming at us that something isn’t right here.
It is the reason for younger bodies (male, female, non-binary, trans) reluctantly in orbit of and in contact with older bodies, for survival sex keeps them simultaneously alive outside and dead inside.
'Til this day, it is the reason for so many bodies being sequestered, smuggled, stranded, and strapped in more ways than one.
It is the reason for the cost of a body in heat, a body packing heat, and a body no longer with heat.
It is the reason that some of us are anxiously attached to money and avoidantly attached to our bodies, our intuition, our families, and our spirits.
It is the reason I’m out of my mind and my body just to obtain what Western thought considers success–a few cars, a big house, a timeshare, private school for the 2.5 kids, and a big wedding ring to show how deep my pockets are and maybe how deep my love is for my partner.
It is the reason that white standards of success live on in our minds while Black bodies die out physically and figuratively in classrooms, offices, streets, dreams, and wombs. Can we really expect the right (healthy) things (for us and our communities) by doing the “white” things?
It is the reason for seven or eight Black billionaires and millions impoverished without food and water. Becoming a billionaire is no easy feat but at what cost? Whose cost?
It is the reason I can never forget our bodies’ past and never fully see my future self—I’m subject to the booms and busts of the market as well as the inevitable market manipulation.
It is the reason that my body ain’t free while people claim the market to be free. Both our bodies and the market can be and have been manipulated. Reddit users got bodied by big corporations when they tried to make a big push in the markets.
It is the reason that we have misnomers like “non-profits.” Somebody's getting paid, best believe.
And so I ask, “what exactly is financial freedom? And what does it cost?” An arm and a leg? A relationship? With a friend? With a potential long-term partner? With the universe?
It is the reason for “mo money, mo problems” and “no money, mo problems.”
It has always been the true religion of modern America– the worship of the almighty dollar; who needs morals when you have money? Who needs reason when your country goes to war to control much of the world’s resources?
Perspectives: on the other hand...
It is the reason I stepped up (and off the porch) to focus on self-understanding and self-improvement.
It is the reason that I challenged myself to study and work on my craft – both teaching and writing.
It is the reason for me investing in my own intellectual property even if it is also the reason I can’t buy or maintain any physical property, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, on stolen Ohlone lands.
It is the reason that I can momentarily avoid my full-time work as a teacher to write this piece.I have obtained enough financial and cultural capital to work on passion projects part-time.
It is the reason for me moving literally, laterally, and internally, so now I have perspective and can now hold multiple truths, points of view, and contradictions all at once.
Western thought has many of us trapped in binaries and dichotomies. While this shit ain’t all black and white, I hope we all see the effects clearly.
I repeat: conflicted, convicted, and complicit, I am a benefactor, beneficiary, a victim, and a critic of capitalism.
Conclusion: just some last thoughts…
We have a choice in how we participate in this system, though the choices are not easy to make. I must say this, capitalism is inherently exploitative, discriminatory, and racist. We were and still are the cheap labor (and free in some cases). I realize there is much talk online around social hierarchies, gender roles, and social labels from “high-value men” to “submissive women” and “boss babes,” yet I rarely hear much about the influence of capitalism on how we do or do not work together in our households and our communities.
I come to you, Black boys and Black men, with no prescriptions or answers but in hopes of raising awareness of the warfare that capitalism is waging on our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our spirits, our relationships, and our communities. We can’t let it turn our bodies into factories and war machines.
Essentially, how will we obtain capital? How will we use it? I understand that none of us own and or owe anyone; however, if willing, how can we re-distribute resources to help one another? Resources may be financial, social, emotional, intellectual, and or spiritual. In other words, how can we support one another, hopefully holistically?
This piece was inspired by my friend Shani who had my mind going with the oxymoronic phrase “Black Capitalism,” leaving me wondering how the thing that has harmed millions back then, and now, can be the same thing that heals us moving forward. Capitalism is not the only problem. There is a constellation of -isms we must reckon with individually and collectively. Capitalism may have its benefits for a few individuals, relatively speaking, but in the grand scheme, it will kill us, our future, and our planet if left unchecked. I mean, when was the last time you were (invited) on a spaceship?
This shit's all cap. Peace.
Credit: in dialogue with the following content creators...
The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson