As society would have it, being at the intersections of identity in 2016 has become a precarious, and often dangerous, positionality. Political consciousness and unrest are everyday staples, and whether we like it or not, black lives are being pushed to the forefront of attention and criticism. Currently, I exist as a carefree black boy in this movement; and recently, I am finding others who are also creating spaces of solace from the backlash of oppression.
As we move forward and insert our civil right to existence, here is some helpful guidance to my fellow black men and carefree black boys (in no particular order):
There is power in being carefree
The notion of the carefree black boy, a hashtag-curated entity of black social media, is meant to juxtapose the trope of black men in America; specifically, men that choose to liberate themselves from the pressures of hypermasculinity, internalized hatred, misogyny, and/or problematic heterosexuality. As a whole, society creates binaries that ultimately perpetuate and sustain white male dominance — to disrupt these polarized ideals and live as a black soul with a defiant and purposeful approach to life is not only liberating, it a direct statement that says, “I am black, beautiful, and worthy of all I choose to be.”
Please check your cis-male privilege
For me, this goes without saying but I recognize that myself and others are still learning to deconstruct systems of power that dominantly benefit cisgender males. Without a doubt, black men have been a heavy target of police brutality and a flawed legal system, but that does not give us the right to negate the lives of black women and trans folks who experience violence at a similar rate. It takes some time to acknowledge how harmful male dominance can be to ourselves and others, but knowing that oppression has a foundation in patriarchal inheritance can only further the power and well-being of all black lives.
Know that oppression is interconnected
The black community’s desire for equality and basic human rights has been clear from the beginning. However, we cannot be agents of change in a social justice movement that does not acknowledge how our work builds, complements and lends itself to similar movements of equality. Intersectional feminism is a very important piece of my political ideology, and I find that it helps me frame the big picture and understand why this work extends from myself to the attainment of rights for immigrants, undocumented students, Palestinians and other communities that need our solidarity right now. The thread among carefree black boys is our race, and across the black spectrum, we all have needs that must be addressed.
As black men, we know anger and pain better than most people on earth; the coupling infliction of triggering events through social media and the real-world can take a toll on our ability to persevere. This denotes the importance of being intentional about caring for ourselves and knowing when to step away and find what brings us joy. By no means should you disconnect yourself from the movement—we need all the people we can get, but finding a balance between activism and preservation has sustaining power in the fight for justice. To affirm the great Audre Lorde, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.” Preserving joy and happiness is vital to our #BlackBrilliance and a political act of warfare.
These tools are in no way an exhaustive tool for equity. Simply, I am fortunate as a self-identified queer man of color to occupy a black body in a world not made for me with a passionate, carefree attitude. Community is everything and supporting each other as black men in a larger movement is a necessary function we must emphasize. Until then, I will oil my scalp, handle my business, and exist as a carefree black boy.
Cobretti D. Williams is a queer, first-generation black man. He is a passionate social justice scholar and his research interests address the impact of student activism and leadership for students of color in higher education. Though he currently lives in Boston, he will soon be relocating to Chicago to pursue doctoral studies in higher education. You can find him at your nearest coffee shop, shoe store, or tourist destination dreaming about queer, feminist theory and black liberation. You can catch him on Instagram (@cdub_5000), or Facebook (Cobretti Williams)