The Authenticity Hustle

One of the most insidious things that happens when a black person/poet is shamed for their “in-authenticity”, is what it does to the community who watches it silently. People might gravitate toward a writer, but instead of the methods of inquiry that most folks go through when they discover an artist they like, they become afraid to say anything on account that they don’t want to be seen racist by said shamers.

The result is that quality writers don’t get attention, dialogue gets shut down, and local scenes set around a sort of radical chic street theater that insults and ignores black communities as much as it shames guilty liberals.

I’m not a name brand, but i’m big enough to where i’m shame proof in regards to it. The people who have talked about my political beliefs, publishers, or friendship choices do nothing but give me publicity. I also have a tongue that is as sharp as any black poet under 40, a tongue I had to develop because of the abuse I took for writing what I wanted to write.

Other Black poets aren’t so lucky. Other Black people aren’t so lucky. Other Black poets and Black people shouldn’t have to develop the steel and survival mechanisms I had to develop in order to get a name. Most likely, they will have to. A lot of them already have had that burden dumped on them.

If you care about me, poetry, or humankind, please don’t dump any weight on them in regards to the subject matter. There are discussions that need be had about respectability politics, and the failure of black conservatism, and the right wingers who reverse race bait whites who criticize Clarence Thomas’ pathologies are just as insidious as the shamers’ I just mentioned. But that is something different than the people I know who have taken crap for being “against type”. So I put all the weight of my voice into this Skip Gates quote. There are 35 million black people in this nation. Their are 35 million ways to be black.


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