You have told me many, many times–and I’m sure you’ll tell me again–that you are not an activist. You wear the shirts I buy you, and you welcome the book recommendations, but you refuse to clothe yourself in the word “activist.” You refuse to burden yourself with this label.
I see where you are coming from, for it is indeed a burden. But burden or not, Brother, you too are an activist.
You don’t need to wear the label of an activist because you already wear the skin of one. Your existence is your resistance. You are a political statement simply because you are.
And this is where I’m torn because I understand your hesitation. I too am tired. I too want to live freely without having to constantly educate people along the way. I want to have conversations where I don’t appear to be the “buzzkill” for explaining the problematic nature of a joke I refuse to laugh at. I want to just be me and just be black and just be black me in peace.
But don’t you get it, Brother? To be black me and to be black you means that there is no peace. I want you to never be burdened by issues of race, but given the world in which we live, I also want you to know the truth: the animal caught unawares is always the most vulnerable. The truth is that engaging in these issues of race just might save your life.
We’ve been told to “stay woke” by Erykah Badu and Shaun King and black/brown media, but do we understand why this is important? Brother, do you understand?
I know it’s not as easy as I make it out to be. Heightening your awareness does not necessarily mean survival. In fact, speaking out against injustice is what signed the death certificates of so many before us. Brother, this should not be the case. None of this should be the case.
Nevertheless, it is the case. Brother, your life is a political statement, whether you like it or not. How you move forward with that is up to you. But as for me, I just love you. I love that precious life of yours, and every part of me wants to protect it. I want you to live it. I wish that you could live it in peace, but until then I can only urge you to take note of your oak-colored skin and the statements of activism that it makes without you even having to open your mouth. I urge you to put on awareness and engagement as your armor. I urge you to carry knowledge and information as your shield and sword.
There are no winners here, Brother. There are no easy answers and no guarantees of safety. But there is you in your blackness and me in mine. There is Mom and Dad, cousin and Auntie. There is Tavi down the block, and there is Tasha out in Harlem. There is us–all of us–standing armed with vigilance in our black bodies. Brother, we are the resistance. Brother, we are activists.