poc and the common intellectual property of black
March 28, 2013
this post is prompted by two different observations of things that I read by two non-Black people invoking Black intellectual work in their writings, and invoking them in ways that give a fair appearance to either being directly and overtly anti-Black or, at the very least, erasing the experiences of Black people by forgetting that when discussing most groups, it must never be forgotten that Black people are a part of that group (obviously this is not referring to something like ‘white people’ but rather Indigenous, disabled, etc.).
it behooves us to remember, as non-Black people, that like any and all other parts of Black culture, appropriating their intellectual work into our own discourses, discourses that are usually hostile and anti-Black, is the worst kind of intellectual theft and dishonesty.
Perhaps the two best case examples of this are the words of Audrey Lourde or Dr. King.
It is astonishing how few people understand both the irony and violence inherent in weaponizing the words of these two Black, visionary thinkers against Black people.
And I honestly think that part of this comes from an over-investment in the meaning and ‘solidarity’ of ‘people of colour.’ Crossing over that line where we forget that it should be about solidarity in resisting white people by focusing on the illusion of shared experiences.
People of colour do not share experiences. Black people share experiences, Asians share experiences, Indigenous people share experiences. And these are not mutually exclusive categories, but what this means is that the people who ‘share’ experiences are those people belonging to more than one of these groups.
If you think that, as non-Black PoC, we can simply look at Black discourse as common property, especially as we continue to shape our ‘own’ discourses in violently anti-Black and exclusionary ways, you’d be wrong (as well as anti-Black).
If you cannot understand why “the masters tools…” is a phrase probably best uttered only by the descendants of enslaved people, then you need to re-examine the choices you are making in your so-called ‘liberatory discourse’.
If you cannot understand how uncritically accepting that we are simply allowed to profit from the labour of Black people because of the ways that white supremacy has deemed it so, we accept, just like white supremacy, that they foundations of our discourse and any of its consequences will be anti-Black, then we will never be free of whiteness.
If you cannot understand just how disgusting it is to see a non-Black Asian invoke the words of Malcolm X, one of the most clearly visible pro-Black intellectuals of the last century, as a means to excuse and justify anti-Blackness, then, well. you should just sit down and stfu.
We need to be about a bajillion times more mindful about how we engage Black intellectual work. We need to do better.