“We cannot afford to be disconnected from these institutions, yet it would seem that we are willing to create and accept dysfunctional roles in them, roles of caricature, silence and illusion. In truth, we are often forced into these roles to survive. This critical dilemma causes some of us to engage in dishonest relationships with our kin. It can foster apathy between us and the communities of home that we need and that need our presence.” Essex Hemphill
To be a person of conscience, of color, of limited means and/or queer/female orientations is to be guaranteed an interaction with “helping” institutions. Some of us may come to depend on these organizations, for short or long term, to survive or get over one of the myriad humps in our lives. All too often, our relationship to these “helping” organizations do not not simply position us to receive services and inform/build solutions but instead to be positioned as a living validation of the often ill-informed ideologies–despite our flesh-informed protestations–the organization has about the folks it wishes to “help.” Our presence, our attempts to gain a foothold in basic survival, often requires and/or weaponizes our bodies as non-consenting, character assailants for all that may come after, creating an irrefutable controlling image of the struggler, a stigmatizing blockade to resources and, in effect, fertile ground for a more vicious, silent struggle for survival.
With this experience in mind, many of us go into the industries near our needs and/or those of our people. We do not seek to redeem the organization and it’s faulty positioning, policies or thinking, but instead re-purpose the resources, policies and organization to better and holistically serve our loved ones. Some seek to influence the decision makers. Others seek to become the decision makers. Still others seek to destroy the system writ large. In all cases, our proximity to these organizations is often dependent on our willingness to become a part–to come apart–of the organization. Essex speaks to that rupture, that breaking of pieces, of limbs, of histories, of cultures, truths, of selves…in the quotation above. But when we are broken, and sore, where do we go? Where do we take our souring wounds to heal and be made whole? What happens when we have inadvertently severed bonds to our communities to serve our communities? What is the price and effect of the rupture we’ve created between our performance(s)–in order to access resources and create change, through proximity to white supremacy and/or patriarchy, heterosexism, homoantagonism, zionism, ect—and our self?
From whence shall we go? Perhaps one day we will destroy the systems that suspend us in a state of hunger, just above starvation, and create spaces that are consciously subverting the ideologies and power structures mentioned above. If we fall into the pattern of creating a new hegemony, let us work for that new normativity to be a hegemonic valuation of humanization and access to living for all.