He was for real the sweetest guy I’ve ever met. I had opened up my home to a couple of people coming to Oakland for a conference for activists. We totally bonded over finding a space to create our own identities rather than the identities the world tried to impose on us. He told me about driving across country giving hugs and raising people’s vibrations, and I’ve lived in California long enough I did not roll my eyes once, not even when he wasn’t looking.

He talked about how he lived in a progressive White community because he felt less constrained by their expectations of him to be a particular thing than when he functioned within the Black community. This, as you can imagine, made my brain hurt, but I’m getting better at honoring individuals’ life experiences and self-understandings. I did, however, mention that it can be meaningful to be connected to one’s cultural heritage as a way of staying grounded and connected with one’s people.

“I don’t want to be connected to my people,” he said. His parents were from Haiti and there were things about Haitian culture he held in deep contempt–the way people worked systems and expected things from family members just because they were family and what he saw as a lack of hustle, and lack of respect for him creating his own identity instead of being who they wanted him to be.

“Why would I want to be connected to that culture?” he asked.

“Listen, all culture’s got its unhealthy aspects,” I said, meaning to arc back around to the idea that his embrace of progressive White culture also had incredibly unhealthy aspects as well as it not actually being his. Instead I added, probably unhelpfully, “I mean, the culture that I root myself in let a girl get gang raped on the back of a bus.”

“See,” he said, feeling he had proven his point, “this is why I don’t watch the news.”

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