Nigga, I Don’t Care Anymore

Paige Woods, Harvard University Alumna

When Miles first asked me to write something for TCU, I rolled my eyes in that way you do when you know you’re about to do the thing that is asked of you while also dreading the unavoidable process of tying together the words and concepts currently floating around unanchored in your mind. Yet, there has been something building up in my spirit for a while. Something that like most things in my life is derived from observations and experiences that I believe are meant to shed light on the way I should walk on my journey. This ‘something’ is a reckoning with the way I’ve existed, for so long,in relation to the black men in my life.

I’ve often thought about my dynamics with black men, especially compared to my relationships with the black women in my life, who are a consistent steady stream of life and support for me. Obviously, there are black women in my life who I do not fuck with. We are all human and there will be black women who do not share compatible politics or personalities that would merit a friendship. Despite this fact of life, there remains a critical and unavoidable component of my interactions with any black woman which is the act of seeing myself in her.

If you’re wondering what I mean by ‘seeing myself’ in another black woman, it’s a rather straightforward but largely overlooked idea of empathy and the process of seeing your humanity wrapped up or inextricably bound to another person’s. It means you understand a bit about another person’s experience because you function in similar societal structures and you can see that an assault to them is a blow to you. Like I mentioned before, it doesn’t mean that you will be friends with someone else that you see yourself in but it does mean that you choose to be connected. It is just that: a choice.

However, the discontent I’ve felt growing within me for quite some time now is about the way that choice unevenly shows up in the dynamics between black women and men. As much as I find myself choosing to see myself in other black women, I can truthfully say that I do the same for black men. In fact, the whole black community is expected to see its needs and interests reflected in those issues and needs most relevant to straight black men. Furthermore, as a black woman, I see my survival as entangled with that of black men despite how strained our personal interactions may be. We fight for black men and it’s often unclear or minimal what we, as black women, get in return. This isn’t even meant to be a shady critique but a discussion about choice. With every choice we make to center straight, cis black men in our community politics, we choose to overlook the issues most impacting every other black identity, including black trans women and girls, as well as cis and non-binary black people.

That shit is tiring. And it’s played out.

Simply, there is a misplacement of power and values. The same value we ascribe to the protection of black men is often not returned to us but we’re still expected to prioritize their needs above our own. It’s embedded in the way we socialize our girls to see their worth as contingent upon their desirability and usefulness to men. These same girls grow up to be black women who sacrifice for the black men in their life; sacrifices that often go unnoticed, unappreciated and, most importantly, unreciprocated. I’ve seen this cycle play out in my family and as I think through the struggles of my mom, aunties, grandma, cousins, and black femme friends, so many of them are rooted in their unrequited sacrifices to and for black men.

So, despite the beauty of sacrifice for one’s people, the perpetual emptying of your spiritual, financial, and emotional cup without the same measure returned unto you is a losing game. Many black men are able to revere the archetype of ‘The Black Woman’ who they bestow valient and noble characteristics upon while, whether actively or subconsciously, not recognizing the value of the individual black women in their lives. I believe this is why the controversy surrounding Donald Glover’s white partner, after the release of ‘This is America,’ struck a painful chord for so many black women. We get tired of black men who are able to speak to, create art about, or otherwise take up space with their portrayals of the complexity and beauty of black women while failing to reflect that nuance and care in their daily, most personal lives.

Though I truly do not care enough to talk anymore about Donald Glover than I already have, I will say that the visceral response to the discussion about Glover’s interracial relationship from many black men in the digital world comprised one of the most disappointing moments of 2018 for me. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the memes bashing black women claiming that we’re all just haters or chastising us for not being as worthy as white women or basically throwing every type of stereotype and defamatory statement against us. But I was surprised and hurt and disappointed. Despite my familiarity with these types of comments and attitudes directed towards black women, this last wave hit me because it brought it home to me that this is how many black men really think about us. They’re not all just trolls on the internet but real people who harbor this disdain towards us while we’re out here expected to give all the fucks about them and their humanity.

That type of imbalance doesn’t work for me anymore and, simply put, I’m learning to not care.

It’s not that I’m choosing to stop caring about black men, altogether, but I’m learning to remove them from the center of my activism and politics. They have it hard. I acknowledge that as a true statement but so do black cis women, queer, trans and non-binary folks and little black kids. The compounded oppression experienced by these groups are real and not helped when we allow patriarchal value systems to dictate whose survival we care most about. I’m pushing myself to be more intentional about uplifting the issues related to the most marginalized because when we make the world safer and more inclusive for them then we all, including black men, win. It’s a choice and I’m over waiting for black men to choose to center our struggles over their own because, nigga, I don’t care anymore.