My body was meant for pleasure, not pain.
I came to this realization while listening to a podcast. In this Very Special Episode devoted to the Black Lives Matter movement we are living in, the hosts were discussing all of the risks associated with attending protests. It wasn’t a matter of if things would turn violent, but when, they said. They explained that police and agitators are more often than not attending protests to brutalize and torment protesters unprovoked, and as a result protesters should be prepared for potential arrest or violence. That, in addition to the risk of contracting a potentially deadly virus. And by the end of this discussion, I had pretty much decided that I no longer wanted to attend a protest, as I had resolved to do just a few days before. Whether or not I eventually attend a protest is still up in the air; my own anxieties surrounding attending one during this specific time are mine to unpack.
A few hours after listening to this podcast, I mulled over my new decision. I feel bad for feeling too petrified to go to a protest. And suddenly a thought sprouted in my head that illuminated my decision: my body was meant for pleasure, not pain.
As a Black woman, considering the duality and union between these identities (Black and woman), I have been reminded in the last two weeks of how long activists have put their literal bodies on the line for liberation. From slavery to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Movement, Black people – and often erased Black women – have had to either endure brutalization toward their bodies because of subjugation, or risk their physical safety in resistance to said subjugation via oppressive structures. Even after achieving more or less the same legal and constitutional freedoms as white people, we have been beaten down by the loopholes in our justice system and other areas of American life. We are most often working in labor-intensive fields, living in lower-income neighborhoods, dealing with microaggressions from non-Black colleagues, and struggling to make ends meet even if middle class status has been achieved. As a result, the collective health of Black Americans is poorer than that of just about every other race: high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, mental illnesses (mild to severe) that often go untreated because of stigma. Our baseline emotionally is usually stress, paranoia, mistrust. We live, whether we realize it or not, in Survival Mode the majority of the time.
So when I see my brothers, sisters, and siblings hitting the streets to protest, knowing the risks of incarceration, COVID-19, bodily injury, or even death – in response to the murder of yet another Black person by a police state hellbent on domination – I am disheartened. I am reminded that pain has been the default for Black bodies. It is the expectation of us. It is the only way we are seen and understood. Our pain.
I don’t want that for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I laud the importance of protest. And yes, even violent protest. I support unequivocally the Black and Brown people who feel compelled to participate in ground activism. They exemplify a bravery that I hope to one day hold by going to a protest. And while protest does and probably always will exist, I want to end the legacy of pain as inherent in Black bodies, as part of Black life.
I was meant to feel good. If you’re Black and reading this, your body was made to feel good. Your body can know more than pain, abuse, neglect. Your body can be private. Your body need not be hypervisible to be important. You need not put your body in the line of fire to get non-Black people to care about you. Your body deserves to feel happy. Your body deserves to heal from trauma afflicted by racism, sexism, or otherwise.
My journey is weaponizing my joy, my smile, my hips swaying to music, my orgasm, my writing, my self-determination and vision for a better world.
Our ancestors laid down in death for us for us to rise up. They are screaming from their graves for us to sap what pleasure we can from what is often times a miserable life. I will always stand by those who carry on the tradition of protest that our civil rights leaders set forth for us. I also want Us to remember that our bodies were destined for more. So much more. Don’t ever let this system fool you into believing otherwise.