Shedding the need for white validation and embracing the nuances of Black knowledge
I thought the knowledge I was consuming and the way I was consuming it was defense enough.
by Inigo Laguda
Living Black in the internet age comes with “tipping points” – times where we witness unforgettable instances of prejudicial violence or communal disrespect against those who look like us.
For some of us, that tipping point was the murder of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and/or Korryn Gaines. Some of us won’t have needed to wait for an online experience. A great deal of us won’t be able to pinpoint a specific instance because we’ve had to endure so many.
My tipping point came from the audio-recorded screams of a 10 year-old boy named Taye Montgomery, who was maced by a police officer at a 2015 Black Lives Matter protest in Minnesota. I still hear his screams in the corners of the night.
To make sense of a society that is, at its best, indifferent to Black tragedy and at its worst, fuelled by it – I, and many others of my generation, fiercely took to self-education.
I have ingested so much information that has surprised, bewildered, angered, and saddened me that I started to realise how it has complicated my relationship with learning.
I formed a habit after my tipping point. I fixated on specific cases of state-sanctioned brutality and community injustice. I’d routinely fall into informational rabbit-holes. I remember that I once spent an entire weekend investigating anti-Blackness in Australia after hearing that their Indigenous people were legally categorised as flora and fauna (a popular internet myth). The truth proved to be just as sinister as I read, in depth, about ‘the stolen generation‘ and watched a barrage of documentaries that highlighted Australia’s atrocities towards their Aboriginal peoples.
The onslaught of painful information took a toll on my mental health, transforming ignorance into deep criticism. Despite this, I kept delving, telling myself that it was my duty to learn about the impact that anti-Blackness has had and keeps having on Black people, especially since my personal experiences felt so easy by comparison. I felt fortunate but in peril, desperate to protect myself from the violent tendrils of white supremacy. I thought the knowledge I was consuming and the way I was consuming it was defense enough.
But after a while, I realised that I was practising a form of intellectual self-harm. I felt like I was in a constant state of diagnosis – expertly able to identify the problems in front of me but powerless to change them. It wasn’t long before I got to the point where I chose to abstain from education altogether. I kept finding myself reluctant to explore topics I was interested in; cautious so as to not discover anything that would send me into a depressive episode.
The truth is, in Black hands, knowledge can be enlightening and empowering. The tipping points we experience teach us about the deep-rooted reality of whiteness and the illusions it uses to expand and preserve itself.
And yet, the absence of knowledge can cause us harm, too.
When white people are ignorant of the ways that white supremacy appears in society, they’re still able to function comfortably and thrive happily. When Black folks are ignorant of the ways that white supremacy is woven into society, it can prove fatal.
In order for me to repair my relationship with learning, I had to re-evaluate the forms of knowledge that I was prioritising and the ways in which I practiced it. One of the key ways of achieving this was shedding the need for white validation.
In a way, centering Blackness, our wellness, health and liberation meant analyzing how I conceive and practise love. By re-establishing how I love myself and my community, and how and where I want to distribute that love, I was able to acknowledge it as an essential component in protecting my mental health.
It was important for me to start operating from a place where I was defending something I cared about rather than battling what I hated.
By prioritising fighting for Blackness over fighting against whiteness, I feel like I’m constantly moving towards something possible rather than outrunning something dreadful.
I discovered a lot of that peace in Afropessimism; the idea that the world we currently know needs to be destroyed for us to be free. It allowed me to conceptualise the lengths that non-Black people go to subjugate us and more importantly, to understand the lengths we need to go to for our liberation.
I found peace in stories of Black resilience and images of Black joy.
Mending my relationship with knowledge meant I stopped hyper-focusing on our plight and concentrated on how powerful we are, how much life we exude, how beautiful we can be and how our spiritual practises weave us closer to nature.
Reveling in Black imagination and not flogging myself with tragedy gave me license to treat myself with more care. It has allowed me to be aware but not consumed by Black grief and tragedy.
Inigo Laguda is an artist, storyteller, and musician currently residing in London, England. He is particularly interested in deconstructing the common conceptions of “normal”. His focus is centred on Blackness and mental wellness. His intimate thoughts can be found at @SaveInigo.