When I wrote this back in January 2018 I had no idea that we’d get a visual representation of the concept that I’d been struggling to express (This is America).Below is what I wrote about the scary place that is Black Happiness and how we can find ways to maintain a sense of light in a chaotic and joy thieving society. As always, catch me in the comment section so we can discuss this.
No matter if you cite Rosewood, Black Wall Street or search your own family tree for a story of Black people thriving and doing well, only to have everything that they worked for taken away, the instances exist and are not as distant of a memory as Slavery (since that’s always expressed as if the grandchildren of slaves aren’t still alive right now). Modern day gentrification and land possessions labeled as eminent domain still continue to this day. The recent memories and constant snatch-backs to progress, up to and including this current administration. The Black delegation has plenty of reasons to have justified trust issues when it comes to getting too happy about anything until it’s completely secured.
I decided to tackle this topic for several personal reasons, but there was a clip on social media where a Grandmother received a gift from her family of a used car… and she had to lay eyes on it, find out how much of a bill she’s have to pay AND just about get in it and drive it for a while before she even let herself crack a deep smile. I looked at her face and immediately identified the trepidation. “She’s terrified of getting happy.” I said out loud to Tony as we watched it unfold on my phone.
Looking back on my pregnancy, even with what could really be counted as days left I simply refused to get too deep on the excited end and felt guilty for not being immediately, or even eventually head over heels. I could call it superstition, but when data supports a notion how do you then classify it. Everything that I ever got very happy about came with a lemon in it. But, there’s no reason to remain in a state of constant apprehension.
What are some ways to get used to being happy out loud?
- There’s room for emotions. All of them. I wish that I could pinpoint exactly when we learn to tuck in how we feel. From being taught “never let them see you cry…” to the sing-song pattern we develop when it’s time to go off on people there’s a cultural wall that we create to mask the real emotions beneath. If we do it for the negative emotions then it spills over into the positive emotions. We don’t have to wait to be almost dead to tell people the truth.
- Let’s get beyond the head nod. I make a concerted effort to both smile and say hello when I see people because it feels good to spread light. To be very clear, I do not do it from a place of playing respectability politics, I do it because sometimes people need permission to be kind to you. I’m tall and when I’m in deep thought I get RBF (resting bitch face), people generally stay out of my way until I open the door. Now on the flip side, I reserve the right to flip that switch in either direction, because I’m also the type of person that people divulge their entire life story in detail.
- Be your true self as often as financially feasible. I know that many of us still put on the mask and code switch for the sake of remaining employed, and I don’t knock that one bit because these bills are real out here. However, I want to encourage you to find security in your craft and push yourself to be amazing at whatever you do, so that you earn the social capital to walk into the room as you are. That means, talk, dress, walk in the comfort of your own swag.
At the end of the day, we can’t let the idea of the horrible things happening be the thing that steals our joy. Doing so leaves us suceptible to depression, anxiety and stops us from thriving in a way that will help the generations behind us.