Monday, December 21, 2009

Masks

"Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."

-James Baldwin

I got an email this week that moved me greatly, encouraging me to keep doing what I'm doing on this blog. At the bottom of the email was the quote above. No matter what skin we're in, our culture has socialized us to don masks. They are necessary, we are told. They will protect us from each other, we are counseled. But these are lies, just as the masks are lies, as well.

I wonder what would happen if we could remove our masks at once, if we were stripped naked of all we hide behind. It would be, yes, beyond scary for a minute. But we would see each other and ourselves as we are. And then, finally, we would know peace.
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The graphic above is by Laurie Cooper and is available here.

7 comments:

BigmacInPittsburgh said...

WOW,everyday at work people avoid me simply because I don't speak the corporate line.When a question is asked of me I simply tell folks what I belive the truth to be.I have had some people come to me and say maybe I shouldn't say everything I feel,that's why you won't get the next job opening.Well I don't live above my means so I don't fear losing my job.My response to people is not crude or rude but simply the truth as I know it..

Defiant said...

the art of finding yourself is the art of removing your mask.

Changeseeker said...

I've spoken with and read works by many African-American men who say the same thing, Bigmac. In the video "The Color of Fear," one guy talks about how he can't WAIT to get home from work at night so he can be Black again. It sounds as if you just be Black all day long. Which must be VERY trying for everybody else. ;^) I wish I could hang with you for a day. They'd be happy to have me gone afterward, I can tell you that. My colleagues get SO tired of hearing it all. Whatever.

Defiant, I can't agree with you more. And what many folks don't understand (or at least admit) is that people who look like me are also masked. In fact, many European-Americans are clueless as to who they actually are. They wear the masks to hide that fact.

BigmacInPittsburgh said...

Even I get fustrated with weak Black people at work.So I just shake my head and say to myself that they will get it someday,after banging their heads against a wall.

Changeseeker said...

Sometimes, Bigmac, they get it, but they don't know how to deal with it without totally losing their cool, so they bury it or deny it or...mask it. Right?

Art said...

To wear a mask is necessary. The less people know about you the better off you are I was always taught. I'm in the military and I am the only black kid in my flight. Can I joke about the same things with these guys no can I express my thoughts to these men about my politics no. Cause when I do my passion will bleed from my mind through my words and I will be mistaken as the angry black guy. So yes in my career field I wear a mask play a role and I'm fine with that.

Changeseeker said...

That's precisely the way the system keeps us locked in, Art. Many of us (and most particularly young people of color) dare not remove our masks for fear of losing our jobs, our safety, our peace of mind. You probably are an "angry Black guy." As far as I'm concerned, that's a completely reasonable response to the past and present situation related to the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" in this country. I'm angry, too. But those who choose not to face reality dismiss the anger as misguided or inappropriate, which just makes us more frustrated.

In your situation, where being seen as a team player can literally mean the difference between life and death, you must for sure wear your mask on the job. But this blog will always be a safe place for you, I promise -- with or without your mask.