by Courtney Walker
This article is my perspective, after working on the BlackBox book, of what I see are the loudest attributes of black culture. As we know and say often, it is not a monolith. I am not only speaking about wider culture but culture in my own, smaller world. Life as I see it.
Responsibility and power — they go hand in hand. Often the responsibility (and the power that lies in taking it) is simply claiming, acknowledging that you know. That piece is hard. Once I say it, look it in the eye, I’m on the hook. Even if I don’t say it to anyone else, I know. And then I know when I’ve decided to shirk that responsibility — shirk away from any responsibility that I’ve decided to take or know is mine (whether accepted or not), and I eat away at my sense of self-worth.
I know for me, I don’t want people to depend on me in a deep way. I don’t want the responsibility of other people’s responsibility. The deepest love is wanting others to take responsibility for their own lives. That is when the most value is felt. When people have a greater sense of control over their lives, there’s less victimhood. More empowerment. I want that for others. And I have attached a sense of my own value in trying to provide all those things for other people, in spite of that desire for them to do it for themselves. It’s a very crafty ‘no one wins’ game. And a very good way to keep power out of my own hands, for myself. Dependency is a helluva’ drug no matter which way it’s flowing in or out.
“This country goes in for the surface glossing over, the escape ruse, surfaces, instead of truly dealing with its deep-rooted problems.” –Malcolm X
People are afraid of the unknown. So we depend on what we do know. What we can control. We’re hardwired to do this to stay safe. But the unknown, like reality, is not good or bad. You can make it terrifying. Or you can see it as a new adventure. It’s entirely up to you. Doesn’t matter what happens. The perspective of how you receive it and respond to it is solely your choice. Will it grow you or destroy you?
Your reality depends on you. Pretty much only you. You create the world you perceive and then live in. Your reality may consist of delusions. It may consist of very overt or very subtle conditioning. It may even consist of a sense of enlightenment and glimpses or long looks at what the truth actually is. The lack of integration comes into play. Can we be knowledgeable of who we are at depth and also on the surface? As a culture. As individuals in the culture. As mere humans regardless of culture, skin tone, or religion?
Addiction to the surface tricks us into believing that what we see is what we get. How often have you met someone who advertises something they can’t actually provide? Perhaps they want to. But if there is not the ability to go deeper into the self to access more of the self, there is not much available to offer to their own life, at a real, fundamental level. Thus, there’s certainly not much to offer anyone else.
A lot of today’s culture is simply advertising for something that is not available, or at least not available without a lot of hard work. Advertising for the fundamental wants of humanity. But promising that the shiny surface goods will provide the satiation of those wants. They rarely do. Some would say they never do.
Culture feeds an addiction to the surface of life so that we maintain a dependency on external circumstances. This distracts us from diving deeper into who we are. Some people are unable to truly understand who they are. But for the majority of humans, we’ve allowed ourselves to be conditioned that the hard work of knowing who we are is too hard, at least in the West.
In that depth is where the reality of our value lies. Not in what we can give to another, to get something in return, which is then most often used to gauge our value. It’s where the reality of who we are is found.
Reality is value neutral; we make it good or bad. Our preferences sort things into the good or bad bins. Particularly outcomes. If X thing comes into my world, I will lose X, or I will gain Y. If I do this thing, then I will lose access to this other thing, this outcome, this person, whatever the case may be. Then it becomes that that outcome determines my value. If I like the outcome, then I feel a high sense of self-worth. If I don’t like the outcome, there’s something wrong, and my value feels low. I take it ridiculously personally. The outcome then means something about me, rather than seeing that my strategy for defining my reality is the culprit. This is a disease of not only black culture but Western culture as a whole.
It’s the strategy, the perspective, the preferences, not me, that is wrong. Broken. Not of value. Luckily, those things can be changed. Not easily, mind you. They’re often so identified and taken on as who we are that we feel they are us. Sure, I might have a preference for warm weather, but I can always learn to live where it snows, and genuinely come to love that type of weather. (True story, I do prefer warm weather. But I came to love the snow.)
This is the beauty of humanity, we are dynamic, adaptable beings. Where we get stuck so often, on so many levels, is trying to make everything static. To control. To use a sense of security and safety to define who we are and our value.
We’ve crafted reality to rely on external factors. They have done this; they won’t give us that. So, a lot of value (of the non-monolith of black culture) lies on how we perceive those factors. We have seen what it’s like when we have decided that what we saw out in the country was not our reality. That we were not going to accept the way things were.
When we forget our ability to change reality, change the course of history, that desire to grip and control rears its head. We must have these rights. You can’t say this. This person is canceled. We introduce a fragility into our world that does not serve us. Ever. Funnily, when we rely on internal fortitude, the changing external factors grow our resourcefulness — they grow resilience, resourcefulness increases, they solidify, they get stronger, and reality begins to reshape. Resourcefulness and resilience bring about the highest form of confidence, value, self-worth.
The ability to take responsibility for your life and world increases, especially the responsibility for your desires. You understand that obligation doesn’t actually exist. It’s not real. It’s merely a place where you won’t take responsibility for what you want. The pressure bubbles up from within from not facing the desire head on, for whatever reason. You bounce off of the pain of not meeting yourself, of not acknowledging what you want. And it is painful. Then it feels like someone else, out there, is putting pressure on you. You can lay the responsibility and the pain of not meeting it on to them, to make the pain stop. One day a change is gonna’ come… when “they” stop pressuring you. But actually the pressure is coming from within. It is your consciousness asking you to see you.
When we depend on external factors for fulfillment, if not conscious of it, confidence, self-esteem, and sense of value get worn away. And this is where we are at. Dependency is a helluva’ drug. One day a change is gonna’ come… when we learn that this hard-won resilience that lies within us is the only thing worth depending on.
BlackBox is a cultural movement. A movement towards the reclamation of the innate power of Blackness. A movement towards the recognition and acknowledgement of our value. A movement towards a world where the power of Blackness is overt, it is offered freely and it is in service to all of humanity.
If you have suggestions or feedback on organizations that support this goal, please email us at email@example.com