“The Help” 2020, Shuriya Davis

“Everything that matters comes from within, internal not external. You can respect that, embrace that, appreciate that and understand that you have a shared brokenness, a shared potential to transcend your circumstances within and without.”

— Nathaniel Mary Quinn

I understand that most people do not have a means of liberating their bodies from their job occupation. Not everyone has the ability to think individually, to critique, or day dream about which direction might be restorative and which direction could be damaging. But somewhere in our intentionality we must fight to be our full selves so that we can eventually exist in harmony within the presence of other lives.

With the arrival of news that Donald Trump contracted Covid I began seeing the immediate relief from the world around me that justice will prevail, though within myself grew a terrible anxiety that with the fall of Trump there will be a magnitude of suppressed feelings from his supporters. Donald Trump unionized the racist belief in a greater America and with his absence I can not help but fear that something worst comes after him, white radical’s new subversive relationship with social media. More coercion done in the dark, hidden politics and the ability to hide, organize, and communicate under America’s centralism. We begin to see this in the tone policing algorithm on Facebook. Computers steer clear of white radical voices but subjugate the thoughts and opinions of black users, posting temporary holds on black accounts while allowing white radicals to continue expressing their racists views. It isn’t fair of us to assume that with Donald’s cancelation we will ultimately regain control of America. If anything is guaranteed, it will be a more suppressed racism.

White sociologist Erving Goffman writes inexplicably about his own suppressed psyche, assuming in his case that every person is a “he” that hides his true inner self with fear of communicating with “others”. Erving argues that facial expressions hide our true selves, avoiding the potential for conflict or threats. While some white people utilize their fear of others to create stronger relationships with people of color, majority of whites project that they are all knowing to the power that they exhibit. This fear of ultimately being canceled from society is what often leads to their wishing for silence, avoidance, or neutrality. The affect that cancel culture actually has on our society is the fear of being critiqued. Cancel culture is not a sport of diminishing someones legacy, it is often result of true experiences from marginalized people.

The tender vulnerable parts that make us human are smeared and distorted by this urge to appear powerful. It is important to listen to the experiences that are so different from one’s own while (and this is the most crucial part) accepting that these experiences are true. As Nathaniel Mary Quinn’s aspires, you must respect, embrace, and appreciate that what makes us human. Often the criticism that we need to grow spiritually does not reveal itself within an appealing package, so it is important that we seek out to destroy this self-righteous view manually without depending on an auto response of doubt.

“black folks from slavery on, shared in conversations with one another “special knowledge of whiteness gleaned from close scrutiny”

— bell hooks, killing rage ending racism

As black people we have the history of once being enslaved, once providing servitude to the infantile temper of white people. We know how ugly situations can be when lying, cheating, or deceiving doesn’t offer a readily immediate satisfaction. We hear of all sorts of scenarios and report back to our communities about our short comings with white people. The various ways in which our feelings are accosted in the name sake of preserving white people’s ego. I grew up around black people who knew better than to say how they genuinely felt around white people. The deeper discussions about our lived experiences in race happens behind closed doors, when we are safely out of earshot of white professional settings. We learn how to speak to white people in ways that are safe, coddling their sensibilities and maintaining a sort of docile neutrality. As kids, I remember us regarding it as “talking white”, for we did not like using proper english to interact with other black people. From a young age I learned how to code switch and we lived constantly with a double consciousness, keeping our true selves hidden as to not rile or upset the emotions of white people.

I was raised to become a professional black man, and with this pressure to be what I was not, I began hiding away the parts of me that were trans. I naturally found myself having internal dialogues with myself about the space around me. I suppressed my emotions in order to make space and accommodate my parents and friends who knew nothing of this internal dialogue. I later would have to deal with that suppression when I came out the closet along with the negative views that I had digested from my surroundings regarding sex, race, and gender. It was that I had not participated in society with my full self, I had not matured in my understanding of race, sex, and gender because it was so pushed back in my subconsciousness, I practically had a mind of a child when it came to addressing my true emotions and desires. It not only harmed myself to not be fully present for conversations, it hurt others, I had to do the work of learning how to communicate who I was and what I desired, and how to receive information from the lives of others.

This is why it is important to know ones self and to exchange with others in a deep meaningful way. To fully commit to learning and deconstructing ourselves because it is a difficult practice. It is not an identity that one can rush through, it has to be meditated and outspoken. Being careless or not arriving in our whole self puts other peoples lives in jeopardy, and it is not excusable to claim that you simply did not know or that you simply wanted to be safe. We can own that part of ourselves and not allow it to be determined again in another foreseeable circumstance. We can accept the guilt that will inevitably happen and continue to learn to improve our perspective. Hiding behind our embarrassment only preserves a dead image of ourselves.

We each consider the way we choose to live. It is not that harm and abuse of power does not exist, but we must change how it influences our interactions. If we allow fear to influence our decisions, we will always find ourselves brashly making reactions in the desperation of sustaining ourselves. But if we acknowledge the fear and meditate on a positive response, we will find a more creative and inventive response. Of course time will not allow this, in a capitalist system time is a luxury, however intention and the will to become a more thoughtful person remains.

shuriya davis is a multi-disciplinary artist and writer exploring the politics of body, race, and gender. she is based in Oakland, California