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SLAVERY DID A NUMBER ON US

It seems like the entire world has come together to show solidarity for the racial injustices that we face, and it breaks my heart to see so many black people still divided.   

From classism, to colorism, to LGBTQIA+ rights, this shit has got to stop. We will never get anywhere if we continue to fight the differences that exist between us. A unified black fist can do severe damage; but, if we remain separate and battle amongst ourselves, a weak ass slap is all we’re delivering to our oppressors. If we genuinely investigate the reasons, we remain divided, it all points back to slavery. And, Boy! Slavery did a number on us.   

Slavery not only stole us from our land, but it also robbed us of our knowledge, our wealth, and our beliefs. Captors of our ancestors pushed lies into their brains, by preaching, to once kings and queens, that they were heathens, and needed to be retrained. They couldn’t handle seeing a brown society living in harmony alone; so, they turned us against one another, made a sale on our lives, and forced us into servitude. The captors of our ancestors raped our men, women, and children; forced sons to mate with mothers; and forced fathers to mate with daughters on breeding farms. If you ever wonder where the phrase “mother fucker” or “put a paper bag over the head” came from, it came from forced incest rape during slavery.   

From field nigger to house nigger, light skin to dark skin, black men versus black women, wealthy black to poor black, and the strongest, the hatred within the black community against LGBTQ+ blacks; the mental fuckery of slavery still runs ripe within our community. Slavery did a number on us.   

Educated blacks can have a logical conversation about colorism and how that affects black people in society and the media. But those same people won’t acknowledge how that tool is still used against each other, by each other. It’s no longer the slave master driving the wedge. They simply planted the seed for hundreds of years, and we’re too brainwashed to stop watering the tree. Both light-skinned blacks and dark-skinned blacks are guilty of continuing to contribute to the division. Let’s be real; if the members of the KKK put on their robes and ran through our communities, neither one would be exempt from the lynch mob. It’s time we stop giving power to an oppressive system and fight the same fight.   

***  

Slavery did a number on us when it robbed us of our riches. We come from kings and queens, so why do we not support our own? Why do we continue to give all of our hard-earned dollars to a system that oppresses us? Why? Because we no longer associate success with ourselves from our lineage of kings and queens, we associate our progress, success, and status with theirs. That is why we give hundreds of dollars to various European designers but ask for discounts with our own. A white Gucci shirt for $200, take my money; but, that same white shirt for $50 from a black-owned company, it’s too much. We don’t take pride in our own, because many don’t see the value in our endeavors.  

I won’t stand on a soap-box and say that I’ve never given my money to a corporation that doesn’t care about my black life. But during these times, when faced with so many injustices, and with so many companies donating toward the fight for equality, we have to do our part. We may not be able to donate millions to the cause, but we can push our dollars back into our communities. So, for myself, I have been and will continue to support my local shops, my local restaurants, and buy black. Stop fighting with our fists, and start fighting with our dollars.   

***  

Slavery did a number on us when I ripped us from our beliefs and forced onto us a god of hate. I saw a meme that read, ‘black people hate everything about slavery, except for religion.’ I decided to attempt to explore that.  

Who were our ancestors, before Christianity came to their land? How did we worship? What did we believe was right and wrong? I’ve asked this question to many god-fearing-Christians, and none of them can ever answer me, because all that they know has been taught to them by their ancestor’s captors. Just think about it, the Bible is simply a collection of stories; but the power interpreted by those stories, by the reader, has caused more harm than good. Think of all the wars waged in the name of religion. Think of all the invasions of civilizations in the name of religious expansion. And when it comes to slavery, the stories in the Bible were used as tools by slave masters to teach blacks that slavery was where they belonged. Hell, the only reason blacks get dressed up for church on Sunday is the tradition of showing off your slaves. As a slave owner, how your slaves looked on Sunday showed your status. So, the better the slaves looked, the more high-class you seemed. And, despite being released from slavery, we held onto that slave mentality. If the Lord indeed said,” come as you are,” you don’t need a large-brimmed hat and new pastel suit to praise.   

***  

Slavery did a number on us when it took symbols and acts of love and procreation and used them to break us down. What is the reason why so many blacks have a problem with homosexuality? We didn’t have the language before slavery. So, why is there so much dislike and hate now? The answer is slavery.   

Simple research will inform you that are places that historically had buck-breaking camps, butt-breaking camps, have the highest level of hatred for homosexuals. Just think of the damage done to a black man, when the white slave owners, or overseers, would rape the men in front of the entire black population. And despite all their resistance, they were forced into submission. Think of how that mentally impacted them for generations. Then, consider how the women and children had to stand by and see their once strong protective man forced into submission. These heinous acts, put on full display for all to see, is why there is such hatred within the black community against homosexuals. And despite finally getting our freedom, our minds remained enslaved.  

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a proud supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. I was finally able to acknowledge my own (B)Bisexuality in my 30s, despite the fact that I have a very liberal family. I can only imagine the struggles for those whose family is religious and conservative to live their truth. 

Being a member of many Facebook groups, I often find myself in a thumb battle trying to break down the nuances on Black LGBTQ+ rights, and how if Black Lives really do matter, then All Black Lives should matter too (not just the straight black lives). I find myself arguing against comments like; gays have more rights than we do, or they’re forcing their lifestyle on us.  

I tell them that the civil rights for black people and other religions, etc. have been in the constitution since the 60s. Decades later, under Obama, there was an extension to include the LGBTQ+ community at large; but that is not MORE, that’s EQUAL. I tell them that, just because a bill is signed into office does not mean justice will always be served. If that were the case, the country wouldn’t be protesting for black rights 50 years later. I remind them not to conflate the more significant LGBTQ+ movement to be inclusive of the blacks and POCs within the movement. The first gay pride can be credited to two trans-women of color (Marsha P Johnson & Sylvia Rivera). But, the movement of then did not acknowledge trans rights along with gay rights. Sadly enough, the movement today has all but white-washed that history from its beginnings.   

Merely wanting to be free to exist is not a force. Wanting to see like representation in the media, is not a force. Wanting to walk down the street without being harassed or assaulted, is not a force; it is a fundamental human right. And the same goes for being black. You don’t have to like me, but I’m here, so you should respect me.   

***  

Again, black people, slavery did a number on us. But we have to stop giving it power today. We have to stop watering the trees planted by racists. We have to come together and march for every injustice thrown our way; because that’s the only way, we’ll make and see change. 

WHAT IF…

A few years ago, I found my first herpes support group on Facebook, and on the façade, it seemed very supportive. Messages of “Keep your head up!” Be strong, you’ll find someone!” and “It wasn’t meant to be.” seemed to flood the daily feed. Even though I knew I wasn’t the only person living with herpes, it was great to finally see and hear other people’s stories. The overall morale of the chats was positive and uplifting, which for a newly diagnosed individual can be essential. However, every so often, I would come across a post asking for advice and support.   

I feel terrible, and I need your advice. Last week, I was drinking, partying, smoking (whatever) with my friend. Things got out of control, we had sex, and I forgot to tell them about my herpes status. I feel terrible, and I want to tell them, I just don’t know how to.  

It didn’t take long for me to realize that once the comments have been disabled, it was safe to assume that the poster was virtually attacked. Similar posts often bring out, what I like to call, The Bully-Brigade. The Bully-Brigade is the barrage of people that come together to virtually bully anyone whose actions and views don’t align with theirs. With comments like, “You’re a terrible person.” “How could you forget…” and “People like you should be locked up!” — The Bully-Brigade has struck again.  

The comments and attacks vary, but the one that sticks out the most is the one of blame. It’s the person that says, “You know, many of us wouldn’t be here if our partner had told us. If my partner had told me that they had herpes, I never have had sex with them. You should’ve given them a choice.”   

This one always bugs me, because they so conveniently forget that they, in fact, did have a choice. To have consensual sex, without knowing your partner’s sexual health status, was a choice. The power to control the sanctity of my body is my responsibility, and the same for your body. Do you not eat when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty, or sleep when you’re tired? So, why when it comes to sex, is it only the other person’s responsibility to protect you? I don’t say this to point blame, I say this to take accountability.  

Think of your body as a new car you just bought. You wouldn’t give the keys for your new car to a person whose driving record you didn’t know and whose license you haven’t seen, would you? No! You wouldn’t! But if you did, and they crashed it, was it not your choice to hand your keys over to them, in the first place? We don’t take that risk with material things, but we assume that risk with our bodies every day. From the moment I laid eyes on my partner, once I know I want to have sex with him, the responsibility to ensure my sexual health is mine, and mine alone. It was my responsibility to make sure that he posed no threat to me, and the choice I made to not verify his status was, in fact, A CHOICE.   

Over the years, I learned to stop arguing with The Bully-Brigade; because they had already made up their mind that their positive diagnosis was someone else’s fault. What I try to do now is pose the question, what if…  

You say — “If they had told me they had herpes…” I pose the question — “What if you had asked…?”  

What if they told you they were clean, because the test they took didn’t include herpes? Therefore, they had no way of knowing they had the virus.   

What if they had the test that included herpes, but because they recently acquired the virus, the antibody test came back negative? (It took 9 months for my antibodies test to detect herpes).  

What if you had used condoms? (I used condoms when herpes was transmitted to me).  

What if they told you they had a history of cold sores? Marketing doesn’t make it clear that cold sores and herpes are the same virus. Many people don’t think that their cold sores are herpes or that they can impact their partner’s genital region. What if this information was made clear to the masses?  

What if doctors did a better job of educating patients before, during, and after their diagnosis? What if they pointed patients to support groups after their diagnosis, instead of giving them a prescription and sending them on their way?  

What if sex education was clear and transparent, and inclusive of all sexual behaviors, sexualities, and sexual health? What if consent and boundaries were mandated? What if the stigma was never able to exist because people were educated on the truth of all sexually transmissible and non-sexually transmissible viruses?  

What if testing were made easier for all to access? What if when I asked to be tested for everything, I was tested for EVERYTHING?  

What if we stopped shaming sex, sexuality, and people with STD/STIs?  

What if you’re herpes positive, you disclose to your partner, but you don’t ask to see their results in return? (Is that not, once again, handing someone the keys to your car without checking their license, all-over again?)  

What if asking about a person’s sexual health was as easy as saying hi? What if asking to see a person’s test results (and getting them), was as easy and pleasurable as having sex?  

What if they never assaulted me?  

What if the dad, the aunt, the uncle didn’t kiss the toddler, and pass them the herpes virus?  

What if the mother didn’t kiss her child and pass them the herpes virus?  

What if you had waited another 3-9 months to get re-tested before having sex?   

What if you had waited to go and get tested together?  

What if you had asked your partner their sexual health status?  

While the what-ifs are endless, none of them can guarantee that you still wouldn’t have ended up with herpes virus. With all the precautions that you could’ve taken in your adolescent or adult life, you still could’ve acquired the virus before ever taking your first steps. At the end of the day, we’re all here. So, instead of focusing on what if, focus on the future. A lot of why we feel what we feel is stigma. So, instead of trying to change others, maybe we can change our perception. And with that, we can change the stigma. 

POSITIVELY DETACHING

There is much joy to be found when I detach from the world. Of course, I never fully detach, but going a few hours without looking at a device does have its benefits.  

It was a summer day, a few years ago, and I wanted to get out of the house. I got on the train, walked around a bit downtown, went to see a movie; then my phone died. To my surprise, I didn’t care. I ended up getting dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant and walking some more, before I took the bus home. Even with the mediocre actions of the day, I still remember it as one of the best days I had. When my phone died, there was no anxiety to get to the nearest charger, and with no need to check in; I just went about my day.  

Today, I won’t leave my house unless my phone is above 95% and before walking out of the door, I make sure my phone is on low power mode, just in case. My life, like many others in this day and age, revolves around devices. From using my computer at work, to listening to a podcast or playing a game during my commute on my phone. I don’t know what it’s like to not have a phone on me. There have been a few times when I left my house, and made it to the train, only to go all the way back home when I realized my phone was not with me. I refused to listen to the conversations of other commuters, or eat my lunch without visual stimulation. And let’s not forget my daily Instagram upload, because my followers would be lost without me.  

In the fall of 2019, my life almost ended. I went to sleep with my phone plugged in and I woke up to my phone only being at 25% I figured the wire came undone in my sleep, so I plugged it back in and prepared to get ready for work. When I got out of the shower it was at 20%, I got so frustrated I started to cry. I went to work and experimented with various chargers, cords, wireless pads, and none of them worked. I watched as my phone went from 5 to 1, and when my phone died, I felt like my life was over. That day I missed lunch because I was at the apple store trying to get it fixed. That night I went to a Broadway show; but I couldn’t fully enjoy it because all I could think about was my phone. The next morning, I went to the AT&T and send for a replacement that had to be ordered. When the doorbell rang Saturday morning, I ran downstairs. I didn’t even grab my precautionary knife from the drawer, in case it was an intruder. (Yes! I watch way too many cop shows). None the less, I opened that box with the same excitement that a kid opens a present on Christmas morning. I charged it up, swapped over my information, and all was right with the world again.  

As I scrolled through my Instagram, Facebook, and emails, I couldn’t help but think back to a simpler time. I thought back to that day in the summer; and there was a peace of mind in knowing that the inability to connect to the digital world is only temporary. It would’ve been easy to get a charger and fuel up, but I chose to enjoy the peace of the silence. However, when that silence was forced upon me, I found no peace.  

I realized then that my connection with devices was unhealthy, to say the least. So, I started limiting my interactions with them, in the best way I knew how. Instead of listening to podcasts during my commute, I would read a book (Yes… an actual printed – book). I read hundreds of books on my phone over the years, but eventually, it took a toll on my vision; and considering I stare at a computer at work all day, anytime away from bright light proved to be highly beneficial.  

The next thing I did was limit the amount of time I spent on social media (Twitter & Instagram). I would allow myself a few minutes every few hours to scroll and like, and once time was up, I had to stop. When it came to Facebook it was a tad more difficult. As an activist, I felt the need to comment on the posts that resonated with me. But I learned to pick and choose my battles, thus limiting my screen time and overall drained energy from random hater.  

The final thing I did was limit the amount of texting and messaging I did; I applied the same logic as I did with Facebook. Not every text required an immediate response, and some things could wait for later. The world would not implode if I didn’t respond yes that instant, and my alone time was very important to me. I had to release the self-induced anxiety from my being, because no one was causing it but me. I can now go hours without looking at my phone and it’s been a huge relief, especially considering that I don’t always want to talk or communicate. I get deep into my moods of self-preservation and my need to personally re-power up on positivity is of the utmost importance. 

I challenge everyone to take some time, every day to detach and see how you feel.