Of Showing Our Emotions

Listen Siblings, I come in peace,

“We wear the mask that grins and lies.”  — Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar is a late 19th century poet, yet his observation remains true in this early 21st century.  We’re not showing our emotions.  We don’t know that we’re hurting.  We need to address our deficit of love, knowledge and wisdom.  We need African Blood Siblings Community Centers.  You need the directions.  Write the ABS.

Of Showing Our Emotions
By Onitaset Kumat

How could she understand what was happening?  All that she knew was her beloved son and husband had died on a ship yesterday and her daughter and she were all that remained of her family.  When she saw the bidders looking over her child, her hung head attentively sprung and all of her faculty went toward understanding the body language of these pale men.  Her wits were not in vain, piecing together that what remained of her family would not be together, this African woman spoke with such a harrowed timbre, words so emotive that typing them will kill them, and every present White man and every present Black man pleaded with the auctioner to sell the two women together.

Though a fictional account, based, of course, on history, the above demonstrates the need for African people to be emotional.  Even though emotions may not lead to the best result, it’s worth remembering that emotions should not be bottled up for this discretion misleads not only oppressors but the similarly oppressed.

Are we more tepid than we were in the past?  Available on the website, and previously aired on the television show, was the story of the lynching of Lee Walker.  This man was attacked in prison by a White lynch mob but before his body was lifeless, he fought the assailants for his life (not merely with words, if words, but “he made a desperate resistance. . . . he scratched and bit his assailants, wounding several of them severely with his teeth”).  Let us parallel this with a modern incident.  News outlets do not always report on what struggles modern execution victims put up before their death.  But if it is as portrayed, that men walk escorted to their chairs, then say a few words and die–it can be seen that we are tepid.  It’s worth exploring what did Troy Davis do before he became an ancestor.  Did he claw and bite–or was his a surrender of life?  But let us let the dead rest.

Let us speak of ourselves.  We are the most suffering of people; yet look at us on the streets: we smile.  How contrary to our condition!  How misleading to our leaders!  How wrong for what’s right!   We smile despite our poverty!  We sing despite our sadness!  What on earth has come over us, that poets proudly write to how emotionally inhibited we are?  We should show outrage everywhere we are?  And why?  Let me repeat the intro, entitled “Allegory of the Classroom:”

“Firstly, I find it apt to tell you a tale that I have heard from a child.  He spoke to me wiser words than one would otherwise expect from the runt.  In his little, dusty pants, the youth told me how his classroom teacher was a racist.  He reported how this teacher proposed that Africans had no history.  He said in this classroom, of the thirty students, ten looked about after this comment, clearly knowing better and very perturbed.  The child reported on how eyes jumped to and from other eyes, to a point where each of the ten touched each of the other ten, or the sides and backs of the heads of the other 20.  He went into more detail, claiming that every ‘conscious’ kid looked at every other ‘conscious’ kid and registered the ‘unconscious’ kids.  So in this classroom, every concerned child looked on every other child.  Finally, each eye showing a slight shyness, a lack of concern, or maybe a need for a spark, stopped and class continued; the teacher unchallenged.  The story perplexed the child, but greatly informed me.  You see, it takes one thing to be ‘concerned,’ blame it on history, but whence concerned, one looks for leadership not amongst soi-disant leaders but amongst soi-disant followers.  So to speak, leaders do not lead, followers do.  Therefore, truly followers–meaning everyone–is a leader.”

This short allegory can be paraphrased into “When you clap, others may clap; when you act, others may act.”  Therefore we should respond to our poverty as strongly as it devastates us.  Rather unfortunately, we do not, but instead embrace ideas of being unemotional or worse we respond incorrectly, embracing our poverty and our degradation as we see in the current, prevailing hip hop culture.  This disruption of our emotions allows for our self-hatred:  Embracing the hatred imposed upon us only makes us hate ourselves.  And otherwise being unemotional is similar to embracing the hatred.

What we should do is be emotional in the streets.  If each of us follows each of us, then our emotions on the streets will prompt another’s emotion which will have a chain effect for the whole of us.  It’s something that we try to silence emotions in our day to day.  We try to walk around the street orator shouting against injustices and even this speaker will not speak to her poverty.  We should not only talk about the problem, but talk about our problems.  You are not rich and this wage labour, if you are labouring, frustrates you.  You would prefer to work with your own, work for your own and be about your own.  You would.  So voice it.  Tell people.  Tell us.  Tell any and every stranger.  You are poor–talk about it.  Stop pretending otherwise.  Fake living misleads all of us, leader.

The truth be told, we can organize easier when everyone knows that everyone is hurting.  I mean, everyone knows they are personally hurting, but for one they hide this knowledge from everyone else and for another everyone hides their hurt from them; still, we suspect that everyone is hurting.  It’s much like the clapping analogy.  Before someone claps, many are impressed with the performance and want to clap but don’t know whether to clap–then someone claps and many follow; just before the clap, however, everyone hid their impressions, and whomever first clapped merely acted on a suspicion of ‘time to clap.’  This is the same with us.  Some people are acting on the suspicion of time to do something; but even this is disingenuous.  Most every African person will say of another “you need to wake up” but in little sense are many of us signifying that we are awakened and simply need to be organized.  This is how hiding our emotions confuses.

Most important about emotion is that emotions feed emotions and people can be moved by our emotions.  Not just within our group but without.  What needs to be learned, from the initial story, is that most loving emotions will make every other emotional impression more loving.  As African people we can use more love.  It will serve our purposes to have more love from within and without our community.

So what can you do today?  Go outside and tell someone that you are being impoverished.  Do not be shy and do not be ashamed.  You are being impoverished.  Tell people that your bills are increasing, your pay is decreasing, your food is scarce and you are scared.  Tell people.  Get your things ready to go outside now and tell someone.  Not just the first person you see, the second and third too.  Tell them.

And tell them too that you are sad.  Tell them.  The children that you know are dressing improperly and this makes you sad.  Tell someone.  There is no one that you feel a strong, romantic connection to.  Tell someone.  You wish that you were paid and respected more.  Tell someone.  Go out and tell someone.

Finally, when you are finished, come on to the website or email the ABS.  We want to hear from you.  We want to know your emotions and we want to know about you.  Do all of this now, I have reached the end of my plea.

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6 thoughts on “Of Showing Our Emotions

  1. So what can you do today? Go outside and tell someone that you are being impoverished. Do not be shy and do not be ashamed. You are being impoverished. Tell people that your bills are increasing, your pay is decreasing, your food is scarce and you are scared. Tell people. Get your things ready to go outside now and tell someone. Not just the first person you see, the second and third too. Tell them.

    I am assuming that you already are aware that the White Folk are cognisant of this, seen as it is a situation which they benefit from.

    1. In a sense. But it’s not about the Europeans.

      Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote “We wear the mask that grins and lies.”


      Just as you say that you didn’t know that you were “Black” until some age; I did not know that I was “impoverished” until some age.

      More, this relates to your poignant observations on your female friends. You have to read and suppose their depression. They do not admit it. More, pressed, they likely won’t admit it lest you’re familiar.

      For example, I asked people on the street whether they ever felt under-appreciated. Most answered “No.”

      No one knows the poverty of Africans better than Africans; yet, we’re not saying anything despite the law: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

      It’s like you and I, neither one of us knows one another’s finances. We only suppose neither of are doing well. But think on this–how many know how much money you have/make?

      Generally, we don’t talk poverty and this gives the impression that we don’t need to organize against it.

      That’s the lesson here.

    2. Reminds me of my mother’s favorite comedy, the British: “Keeping up Appearances.”

      Our people have for a long while been “Keeping up appearances.” But it’s a flawed habit.

      In fact, you’re lack of knowledge with regard Blackness relates to this habit. If we were vocal, say, about ‘racism,’ we’d be more fit to combat against it. Now, it just seems like “Ebony Tower” (think “Ivory Tower”) talk.

      The famous story that bears relevance is “The Emperor’s New Clothes” where all see a prancing naked Emperor but only after the boy claims it do the people respond with laughter.

      All of us see poverty but none of us hear it thus there are few actual organized, collected responses.

      1. I see a “Psychiatrist” sometimes and try to weave a good tale to get him “enthralled” but he keeps that cool clinical demeanour and it is annoying, as it means I am effectively objectified, as pathologised, as a “subject” as opposed to an “agent” which is, I think, the purpose of that psychological distance which often lies at the “heart” of not showing emotions

      2. Do you mean to say that we do not show one another our emotions because we deem one another powerless to effect it?

        So to speak, we distance ourselves from showing ourselves to weak people because it’s a wasted energy on our parts?

        That’s very interesting and ties in well with my later post on “What is History?” In essence, we don’t know History otherwise we’d be so much more able than we are today. Which ties in to what Malcolm said on the subject regarding why we are mis-educated in not learning our own stories.

      3. being in such a pitiful position, I think the trend is “dissing” vulnerable people so as to make it appear as if the “offenders” are not impotent. It’s a sleight of hand

        [so much for the ‘”i” before “e” except after “c” rule.#

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