“I didn’t put my arms on no one, I didn’t need to get shot.”
Maybe out of all of the tears, the fanning, the lengthy pauses to collect herself, that is what made me really feel probably the most despair as Megan Thee Stallion addressed her IG Dwell viewers on Monday about being shot in each her toes practically two weeks in the past.
As Megan spoke, I spotted she had reemerged in our reductive body of her life, alone and carrying full armor: a gray-to-lavender ombre wig, an extravagantly flipped bang she saved readjusting and a totally beat face. Even when we tried to look into Megan’s eyes to see what was there, she wore a set of eyelashes so large that the tears she furiously wiped away have been undetectable, and the complete set of ice dripping from her ears, fingers, wrist and neck, contrasted with the “Scorching Woman” enshrined in her large chain, blinded us.
“Why ought to the world be over-wise/In counting all our tears and sighs?” Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote in his poem We Put on the Masks in 1896. Dunbar was presumably utilizing the collective “we” to check with the Black expertise in American society, an expertise that requires Black folks to take care of two exterior displays with the intention to socially survive — their true face and the face they current to white society. Why ought to white of us be clever to the grief they provide us, which lives in our our bodies, the speaker of Dunbar’s poem reasoned. Why ought to they be capable to tally up our tears? Why give them a measure of their success?
Megan Thee Stallion arrives on the Selection Hitmakers Brunch at Soho Home on Dec. 7, 2019, in West Hollywood, California. Steve Granitz/WireImageTraditionally, distinguished Black males have spoken for the Black race at giant, collapsing our expertise on this nation into the Black male perspective, in the identical means that white womanhood collapses our expertise as marginalized girls into watershed moments in feminist historical past that didn’t actually embody us. Recently, once I hear the nice Black poems, speeches and quotes alive and effectively within the mouths and minds of Black of us — as a result of they depict an expertise that’s nonetheless alive and effectively on this nation — I hear insights that compound within the lives of Black girls: Why ought to white of us and our males be over-wise to the grief they provide us? Why ought to they be capable to hold rely of all our tears and sighs when their racism and misogyny are so typically the explanation behind them? Attempt triple consciousness — the masks of hyperawareness we should put on in a bigger society and the armor of safety we should carry on even in our personal lives, at house. Then someplace behind all of it, muted by what hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, our true selves, which we’ve realized to disclose solely within the most secure of areas, normally alone. Alone the place we’re nobody’s sufferer and can’t be accused of taking part in such.
Alone is the area that Megan was in whereas, on-line, folks harassed her mentions, made joke memes and speculated about what she might need finished to be shot. Quintessential victim-blaming. I cried as she defined as a result of I already knew she didn’t deserve it, that she didn’t need to do something to get shot. I knew as a result of I’d had a loaded gun pointed at me by a person or asserted in my presence a number of occasions throughout my life — as soon as as a result of a person, who known as him caring for me, was upset that I had, simply earlier than, been the sufferer of violence by one other man. Generally that is simply the irrational, emotional response of males.
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And in that collapse of empathy and correct care from the lads in our lives, who’re too typically our assailants, within the collapse of our perspective into their restricted understanding, we develop a preemptive armor. Not an inherent or important high quality of Black girls, however a safety that we set up on and inside ourselves within the face of systematic violence. Violence nobody strikes to defend us from, however which everybody — even typically one among us — has realized to see as a joke. “We put on the masks that grins and lies,” Dunbar wrote. “I’m smiling,” Megan introduced within the video. “I’m again! … robust as f—!” she assured us, chuckling flippantly, earlier than ending our reside look into her life and, hopefully, returning to a spot the place she will take off her masks and armor.
“Are you able to think about … ” I tweeted, per week earlier than Megan uttered this oft-used social media name for empathy within the video, “coming from South Park, Houston, ‘Useless Finish.’ Your grandmother, after which your mom [your best friend], dying in the identical month. In the identical second that you end up arriving at megastar standing, you’re immediately on their own. Then — after spreading positivity with everybody, letting them ‘drive the boat,’ after avoiding any main battle by being a seemingly all-around good lady doing every part she’s purported to do, exuding a flawless exterior presentation — in spite of everything that, you get shot, presumably by a lover.” Terror. Think about, when you are sitting within the terror of this new trauma, everybody making enjoyable of your precarious-feeling life.
“Nay, allow them to solely see us, whereas we put on the masks,” the armor of their making, sizzling lady s—.
Pleasure Priest is the creator of HORSEPOWER (Pitt Poetry Collection, Sept. 2020), winner of the Donald Corridor Prize for Poetry. She is the recipient of the 2020 Stanley Kunitz Prize, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in APR, The Atlantic, Poets & Writers, Poetry Northwest, and Greatest New Poets, amongst others. At present, she is a doctoral scholar in Literature & Artistic Writing on the College of Houston.