I’ll be the first to admit. There are times when I just want to let my mind go completely blank and where I don’t want to focus my mental energy on analyzing and challenging the global prison those who look like myself and I were born into.
At least once a month, I’ll do something like binge watch a whole anime saga (Gundam Seed Destiny is my favorite because of its parallels to white supremacy in America) and completely immerse myself in a fantastical haze of escapism, or I’ll make the 30-minute drive out to DFW Airport to just sit and watch the countless planes land and also barrel down the runway at 180 MPH, catapulting themselves into the atmosphere (relaxes me for some reason).
And, like most, every so often I just get the urge to mindlessly scroll down the timeline of my *insert any social media platform here* nosely peering into and gaining access into, in most cases, meaningless non-quantifiable glimpses into the lives of people I barely know.
Believe when I say, I totally understand, especially as an African American male, the need to disconnect at times.
We live–and have for centuries–in a period where it is extremely dangerous to be black in America.
Due to systemic factors, there is very little wealth (mostly in the hands of boomers) to live a normal life as a black person nor to build any kind of competitive equity in comparison to the average white family. This dynamic of baked-in poverty creates a tremendous amount of stress amongst black society because it means those same people have to work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet, and it also has detrimental effects a black person’s ability to have a healthy relationship with ANYONE else, romantic, platonic, or professional.
Negative images of black men and women are force-fed to society via mainstream media, all in the name of socially engineering a negative perception about black people in the minds of millions. Also, black people internalize these issues and they manifest as self-hatred (constant state of misery) or deep-seated hatred of other black people.
Even though there are more white Americans, their unemployment numbers stand at 3.5%, while that same statistic for Black Americans is 5.9% as of the end of 2018. This is attributed to a lack of networks, high college and high school drop out rates, and job discrimination (It should also be noted, this statistic doesn’t take into account the number of black men and women who’re incarcerated).
We live in a Nazi-style society where, while white men and women are treated with kid gloves when they do crime, police and white citizens can show up and murder us with impunity, as long as the white person who did it can come up with a good enough lie. We, black people, see these horrific scenarios play out over and over and over again.
Black people, whether it be on a conscious or unconscious level know that the deck is stacked against them at every turn in our American society. We are forever cognizant, whether we like to avoid it or accept, something is innately wicked and crooked about the state we’re living in. And, just like all human beings do when they’re faced with a chronically stressful situation, we seek temporary escapes or highs to numb the pain of the fact we live under a system whose foundation is our very failure.
And, our search is ceaseless and ravenous. On top of that, the frequency at which we’re feverishly searching is reliably consistent. Those with power study how we act in groups (the ghettos across America is one of their primary test labs) and have been using this state-of-desperation they created as a method of monetization. Liquor stores being on darn near every corner of the hood and the various drugs they drop off in those same spaces and promote their usage through music are good examples of social experiments.
Most Americans, regardless of ethnicity, have been sucked into the vortex of hyperconsumption. However, in the case of black Americans, that mega-amplified need for escapism is preyed upon to the level at which black people will actively begin to avoid any attempt to understand their relation to the system of oppression they’re involved in.
We downplay the immediate danger that system poses to ourselves and to our loved ones, despise those who share information we need to know about racism, become unempathetic to the mistreatment of people who look like ourselves, and will even become coconspirators alongside those who’re implementing our very demise.
Think of a war prison if you will. Inside the prison, you’ll have those whose minds are squarely set on escaping the prison. Then, you’ll have those who’ve completely given up hope on ever getting out and who just simply do whatever it takes to bide the time.
They may spend their time joking and laughing it up with the other prisoners.
They might play board or card games.
They may spend their time trying to smuggle in nude magazines them to pleasure themselves to.
They may spend time rambling on and on about theories and concepts that are completely irrelevant to the state of captivity they’re in.
They may even pass the time by mistreating each other even though they’re not the ones imprisoning one another.
These are the prisoners who’ve completely thrown in the towel and who’ve accepted a defeated mindset versus the ones whose sole objective is, from the first day they arrive, to escape the prison.
Those who aren’t concerned with trying to make the prison more comfortable are the ones constantly examining and studying the strengths and weaknesses of it, from who the guards are and what kind of weapons they possess, to when certain gates open at certain times, to what type of material the prison is made of and what weakens it, all the way down to seeing which other prisoners are they can work with to help them breakout if possible.
The system of white supremacy is a type of social prison, and it’s one that affects you, your loved ones, your friends, and myself in a negative way, and those who practice it have complete dominance over us.
Rather than investing time into learning how the system works, what we can do to overthrow the guards, or how we can knock down the prison, too many of us are committed to just figuring out how to pass the time, while other prisoners and ourselves, continue to be mistreated and/or slaughtered around us.
Yesterday, Avengers: Endgame (a movie I have no desire to see) came out in theatres. Dozens of posts made by black people with the “#Endgame” hashtag flooded my social media feeds.
A similar pattern proceeded its release when the new Game of Thrones season aired on April 14th, 2019 (I’ve never seen an episode). I found it deeply disturbing that so many black people were so eager to invest time into a show with a cast of predominantly white people but who were also so uneager to read books, watch documentaries, or have discussions with other black people about the system of domination white people have over them. Like…how does that work?
We are constantly sharing funny memes and jokes with one another. For the better part of a day, we quite possibly could spend it on just laughing. Neely Fuller brought up an excellent summation of why we spend so much time cackling, explaining that we, deep down, know something is very wrong in the condition we’re living in and that we’re completely powerless to stop it.
He said we oversell humor to each other and to ourselves as a distraction. “We’re constantly looking for ways to laugh because we want out. When it comes to black people, you will hear us laughing all the way down the block and around the corner. We’re overselling how funny something is so that we don’t have to deal with reality.”
We spend countless hours watching TMZ and on rap entertainment websites examining details of celebrity’s lives and living vicariously through them–celebrities who have no clue we even exist. This is a form of more escapism.
I even have other black people tell me that I’m “too militant” or that I “need to lighten up and take a joke” all the time for simply sharing information about how systematic racism functions–vital information they and their families need to be made aware of. You’d think I’d hear statements like that more from white people.
There is nothing wrong with consuming entertainment from time to time, and, whether or not you are a Christ-ian, there is something to be said about having at least one day of rest a week, a day where you disconnect and do nothing but rest your mind and body. However, we as black people need to, as Dr. Frances Cress Welsing said, become the most serious group of people on the planet.
We need to become fully aware and to alert each other of the dangers that arise out of the operation we’re involved in, because those who oversee and conduct the operations are dead serious about keeping us in full submission, at all costs.
I like to practice my own 90/5/5. Resting and worshiping should be about 5% of my time a week. Recreation is the other 5%. Studying, challenging, and working towards group liberation is what I strive vigorously to make my other 90%.
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