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Asking Black people to direct our love towards the systems that contribute to our incremental genocide is a demand for our silence and compliance. 

I am tired of being asked to fight hate with love. When I watch Black people gather and mobilize in the wake of the wrongful death of another one or two or three of our kin, I understand such a gathering as a congregation carried by, with, and in service of a fervent love. Make no mistake, it is love at work when we march and protest and riot and dissent. We pour it into our own communities, where it belongs, and use it to fuel our movements. 

To ask Black people to direct our love towards the systems that contribute daily to our incremental genocide is nothing more than a request for our silence and compliance. It’s asking us to surrender, to make ourselves into willing martyrs, into sacrificial lambs and meals for the gnawing beast. 

I am tired of being preached to about self-love and body positivity as remedies for my anxieties, as answers to my intrusive thoughts about my body. The voices in my head that I have to continually beat back just to be able to make it through the day cannot be summed up as merely superficial insecurities and fears of being unlovable, because they have historical roots that grow deeper into blood-soaked soil than I could ever reach.  

edited image via @ spiltcoco on twitter (faces obscured to protect IDs)

I don’t have to love my body to understand that it should be free to move throughout the world without threat of injury or death because of its Blackness. Regardless, it’s not a lack of love for myself or my body that leaves me fearful of what will happen if I encounter someone who considers my body a threat. It’s not the trendy, tranquil self-love prescribed to us that makes Black folks fight for our survival and fuck shit up. It’s not self-love that drives me to write what I do. It’s spilled blood and strange fruit. 

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Anger and love can co-exist and work in tandem towards a single end, and we are angry because of our love for our Black selves, despite endless messaging that says we are not worthy of it. The ways we choose to show this love will always be in conflict with what the state wants from and for us, especially when it manifests as actions against the oppressive systems from which the state benefits. 

Sometimes this love manifests as throwing bricks and destroying property in a system that long ago deemed corporate holdings, commodities, and private property to be more worthy of protection and personhood than Black people. Sometimes it’s illustrated by setting fire to and tearing down monuments to white supremacist violence. It’s our love that is revealed when Black activists strap on masks and go up against teargas and law enforcement in SWAT gear—pandemic or not, because death is always the assumed risk when Black people gather in protest. And it’s love that moves our pens to write in dissent of the powers that hold us in an ever-tightening vice grip. 

Lake St. and 26th Ave. in Minneapolis

This is a love that looks like inconvenience and agitation—disrupting the quiet, because silence is our enemy, too. The rest of the world is not meant to enjoy the taste of it, because it is meant to be repulsive, to make the comfortable uncomfortable. It’s meant to pull back the tapestry of lies woven by the illegitimate nation-state and reveal the ugliness beneath it. 

Our love has teeth and smoldering embers. It’s agonizing, but we can see the beauty in its wreckage. We hear the tenderness in the cracked, screaming voices of rioters. We know there is reverence in their streaming tears and raised fists. There is softness in the busted windows and broken glass. There is care in the grit it takes to face off with agents of the state who have been sanctioned to kill us. 

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From slave rebellions to the Civil Rights Movement to Ferguson and beyond, Black folks have always fought hate with love—just not the passive, long-suffering kind of love that is always asked of us, which isn’t love at all when it means complacency in our own oppression and death. I love us because we understand how love can birth an uprising. 

Sherronda (she/they) is an essayist, editor, and storyteller writing pop culture and media analysis through a Black feminist lens with historical and cultural context. They often find themselves transfixed by Black monstrosity, survival, and resistance in the horror genre and its many fantastical narratives, especially zombie lore. Read more of their work at Black Youth Project.

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