Derald Wing Sue (2005) describes the masternarrative as white talk that “depicts historical and cultural themes of racial progress, of a fair and just society, of equal access and opportunity, of meritocracy, and of colorblindness.” This idea of reality, often held by well intending white people, is one that denies the harmful effects, both past and present, of racism and, thus, helps to perpetuate it. The perpetuation of racism and prejudice can be depicted in both large (overt) ways and small (subtle) ways. A prominent and common way today is through the use of subtle, racially insensitive comments known as microaggressions (the term was coined by Chester M. Pierce in 1970).
Just recently, for example, I turned in a paper that was originally supposed to be a summary about, and I quote “what makes sense to you,” in regards to material that we read for and in this particular class and I received comments that were problematic. Upon receiving permission to take the assignment farther and instead do more of an analytical summary, I did just that. On my paper, in which I critique the Eurocentric framework through which the material was presented, I received feedback delivering several problematic statements including a microaggression or two of “be careful not to close your mind,” “You will be a better advocate for African Americans if you try to understand multiple viewpoints because you can make a much better argument when you first acknowledge and then refute what others are saying,” and “everything was started by people of African descent because ALL people (regardless of current skin color) started out as Africans.”
Microaggressions always convey hidden messages and the feedback was this white professor’s way of saying “you need white approval/ white people are allowed to have access to your body/mind/energy under all circumstances,” “I know more than you on this matter, do it my way and you will be more successful/leave yourself open to toxic white supremacy,” and “You might as well shut up because of course we know that all things and people originated in Africa.” This is something that I and other black women have to go through even in a setting that is strictly supposed to be about academia.
So then this leads to the question: In a world where racism is perpetuated even in small daily actions like my previous example and this, how do black people sustain their bodies, minds, and souls in a healthy way? Adrienne Maree Brown, in her article titled “Feel like you might burn out on the resistance? Here’s how to keep going,” suggests that we reconnect with our movement ancestors, tune in to the three Gs (gratitude, good news, and genius) every day take care of yourself before you take care of others, and give your body pleasure. Brown additionally states that “The first thing is to give ourselves lots of room and respect for whatever we have done. It got us this far. So, shout outs to alcohol, sugar, sex, and weed, which have been doing the work of comforting and numbing millions.” These are all steps and segments of radical black love and radical black self care.
In a world built off of white supremacy and anti-blackness, one of the most radical things a person can do is love blackness. In this case one of the most radical things a black person can do is love themselves, their blackness, and all that it entails. Radical black love and radical black self care, in of itself, is the Counternarrative against a Masternarrative of the larger society. In a world that pretends that there is something monstrous about black people the easiest thing to combat that is to act naturally. Act like the beautifully fluid person that you are. Act on your caring, act on your love, but also act on your anger and sadness. When the world tries to tell you you are inferior remember and act on the genius that got you this far. Be normal and embrace you.
Naturally, acknowledgment of an anti-black system is a step in radical black love/care. That, in of itself is radical because it points out the huge injustices that the system of white supremacy lives and breaths off of. It is natural because love of oneself would lead to the noticing of a toxic environment and eventually, the qualities which make such environments toxic. Then comes the studies done by and published with African American authors and researchers.
What are some of the ways in which you create a counternarrative and allow space for the health of black minds, bodies, and souls?