Twilight Zone

He is afraid, but of what is he afraid? Of himself. No one knows yet who he is, but he knows that fear will fill the world when the world finds out. And when the world knows, the world always expects something of the Negro. He is afraid lest the world know, he is afraid of the fear that the world would feel if the world knew.– Frantz Fanon

What if I told you that my conservative father and my liberal college were basically the same in my eyes?

“What?” you may ask. “Impossible. Your dad is prejudiced and really Christian. Your college is progressive. Those things cannot come together, they cannot be one in the same.”

I’m gonna say that they can. I’m gonna say that as someone who has lived in both worlds, I’ve come to the conclusion that a supervisor telling me my “narrative was interesting”and questioning it when I was telling her about bad things that had happened to me is honestly no different from my dad telling me that I was “on some sympathy shit” when my mom died and I was “using her death” to get what I wanted.

They both had the same effect and both carried a similar message. Different bodies enacted that shit, but at the end of the day, I still felt ashamed of myself for sharing a story.

To me, my supervisor confronting and critiquing my narrative has the same message and meaning as what my dad did. The message was “What you (me) are saying is bullshit and I don’t believe it or trust it.” And the effect was “I feel bad for telling my story and even existing.”

But few people in my life, if any, would see both of them as being the same because the people involved (my supervisor and my dad) are so different and the situations were charged in different ways.

My “crazy” conservative* (he wouldn’t call himself that, but…) daddy and my “crazy” liberal school are seen by everyone outside of those contexts as crazy and not living in reality. But what does it mean to not live in reality? It means that something is wrong with how they operate in this world which prevents them from feeling as if they could live in it. Both “subjects” for a lack of a better term deny other viewpoints for the sake of preserving their own mentality and way of thinking. They’re both absolutist, and they both deny the ways in which “people who don’t belong” practice their lives. Both deny holidays and traditions, both deny corporatism/state power. They are done in different ways and for different reasons, but for someone like me, who due to extraordinary circumstances is forced to navigate being a product of both of these subjects, I end up feeling the same, hating everyone, afraid of everyone, including myself.

How can Fanon talk about a colonized subject not relating as an other in their own home when even when I was living in a colonized state (ghetto of Chicago) it was made explicitly clear that I was going to be different, and that we weren’t like other people because we were saved? Where my dad made us leave a huge Black megachurch because he didn’t trust how political the pastor was getting, so we ended up going to white churches where we were some of the only people of color? And that I am supposed to live in a world where race does and does not matter, because yes we’re Black and Black people are oppressed, but if God chooses all leaders and therefore is the reason why the state exists, then this is just how it’s supposed to be (my father once said that God chose Hitler to lead because God chooses all leaders).

And if one were to argue that people should be allowed to change their minds, even those who are “white-minded,” or fully rooted in “whiteness” (like Newt Gingrich stating that after decades of talking to people, he finally realizes that Black people are  oppressed in this country) and that we should allow people to grow and change at their own rate, what does that mean for people like me, who have always lived in a borderlands in which I could not even be “myself,” or better yet, I was not allowed to give in to my personal inclinations, because it would offend the subjects I associated with who fixated on a specific way of being and behaving in the world. None of the people at Oberlin want a dad like mine. My dad would never even want to go to Oberlin. What about their lives are so inherently different that they cannot be together. And what is it about how their lives are diametrically opposed in that I cannot take a statement such as “colonized people are afraid of themselves” without crying about how the people who say things like that only live in one specific lifestyle/point of view. That they can neatly check themselves into boxes and associate with the same types of people that validate them because it seems as if no one else will.

 

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