I am beyond tired of being told that I am not allowed to be angry.

-Sherronda J. Brown

The ways I have been hurt by white supremacy are enumerable. Its narcissism and dehumanization cut into me, day by day, like a thousand teeth in my flesh.

The anti-Blackness that white supremacy permits, condones, and sustains itself through—whether it be subtle, benevolent, microaggressive, or institutionally and blatantly on display—hurts. Constantly.

For me, this has been a chronic, inescapable pain, since even before I had the language to speak cogently about it. Some days are just more excruciating than others.

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In the midst of this, having community with people who look like us is important for Black people and our mental health. Sharing space and fellowshipping with others who can understand our pain when we speak about it can be therapeutic in itself.

I have felt the most seen, the most heard, and the most humanized in spaces with other Black people, and it has helped me to maintain some semblance of sanity in a world that seems hellbent on driving me mad.

Because of this, it cuts even deeper when I am hurt by the toxic behavior of marginalized people in these spaces. I’ve seen this happen and experienced it myself too many times to not acknowledge that this lateral violence is a reality, on both small and large scales.

“Lateral Violence occurs within marginalized groups where members strike out at each other as a result of being oppressed. The oppressed become the oppressors of themselves and each other.”

We won’t be able to address all of our wounds if we do not acknowledge that fellow marginalized people are capable of, and sometimes even incredibly adept at, being oppressive towards and creating very real traumas for those around them.

Oftentimes, they achieve these things by using their own marginalized position as a convenient excuse for their behavior. They specifically target other marginalized individuals or groups because they know that they can get away with it.

I’ve had my words stolen, my trust betrayed, and my boundaries violated by other marginalized people. I’ve been lied to and lied about by other marginalized people, who actively sought to malign my character for an imagined slight or demanded endless access to me in order to siphon off my emotional labor without offering anything of substance in return.

Far too often, those who witness these emotional and verbal abuses will ask me to be gracious. They request that I continue to hold space for the people who have harmed me, often intentionally, because of “community.”  Because other Black people are hurting, too, and they only lash out because they “don’t know how to cope.” 

Well, shit. I guess my hurt doesn’t matter then. I guess my own struggle to cope with the perpetual violence of white supremacy and the mental/emotional anguish it causes me doesn’t matter. At least, not as much as my abuser.

But I am still supposed to be gracious.

None of this is to say that we should only love “non-problematic” Black people, or that we should crucify our peers for their honest mistakes, missteps, and inevitable blunders as we are all unlearning harmful social constructs and oppressive ideologies.

I have witnessed people use their friends, acquaintances, and “social justice circles” as hunting grounds to enact their violence, stealing time, resources, money, and intimacy under false pretenses. And when they are done, these narcissistic emotional vampires cry victimhood and recruit apath enablers to speak about grace, forgiveness, and restoration.

I am beyond tired of being told that I am not allowed to be angry.

This demand for unreciprocal and unconditional grace is akin to “positive vibes only” rhetoric, and it is itself a form abuse and gas-lighting. If you see me hurting, do not tell me not to be hurt, do not expect me to forget my pain, and do not dare try to invalidate my anger simply because the person who caused it is also Black, is also queer, is also marginalized, is also mentally ill.

It is abusive as fuck to ask me to swallow my hurt for your comfort. It’s emotional policing to demand that forgiveness happen on your time. It’s dehumanizing to expect me to not have a normal emotional response to betrayal.

When you attempt to silence those who speak about the violence that they have experienced from their peers, writing eloquently about restoration and healing and “not throwing Black people away,” you hold them emotionally hostage and commit further violence against them.

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No, I won’t be gracious to the person who stole my words to pass them off as their own. I won’t be gracious to the person who lied to me, or the person who told lies about me, or the person who emotionally manipulated me.

I won’t be shamed or berated into holding space for someone who doesn’t deserve it, regardless of their Blackness. I won’t sacrifice my mental health and emotional well-being to protect someone else’s reputation. I won’t allow a toxic person to run rampant in my space and I won’t harbor abusers in my midst.

That means hitting the block button to bring myself some peace. That means unfollowing and unfriending as I see fit. Divesting my energy or limiting my exposure. Deleting their number, creating appropriate distance, or removing my support.

I don’t care about their work. I don’t care how much they’ve done for other people. I don’t care about the pressures of “be the bigger person” or “don’t throw Black people away.” I am allowed to cut off people who hurt me. I can remove whomever I want to from my life in order to protect myself from their toxicity.

“Fuck being gracious” is my new ministry.