Part 5 of a 6-part series. Radical, Militant, Uncompromising Self-Care: A Black Woman’s Manifesto
To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.
After completing my self-care practice inventory on January 1, 2018 and seeing I had no intellectual practices, I wept for myself. So much of my identity is my intellectual identity. I grieved what I had done to myself by walking away from an essential part of who I am.
When I considered what my intellectual self-care practices would be, I knew I had to read and write more. I made a schedule to write in the morning and read in the evenings. And then I wondered how I would make sure I was in community with other people who are energized by robust intellectual exchange.
I’m still seeking a solution to the intellectual community aspect, but the reading and writing were easy. A few days after I made my new plan, I got up and wrote 3200 words in 2.5 hours. I had been holding in a sea of words that needed to come out. That first burst of writing became this blog series. The second burst is what I hope will become my first memoir.
If you were to see my self-care plan, you would see how the components are intertwined. I will not get to physical, spiritual, or emotional wellness without following an intellectual pathway. I will not have social self-care if not with others who have an intellectual identity. I seek to understand. I need to understand. I need people in my social group to do the same.
When I was preparing to go into academia, every mentor and advisor told me not to go to an education school and definitely not to WVU. I thought they were all being snobs. My primary exposure to West Virginia had been a crew of girls at Foxcroft. West Virginia was great. It was far more than whatever horrible stereotypes people had about Appalachia.
If–instead of telling me that I wouldn’t be happy at any place that wasn’t of the same tier as Wisconsin-Madison or very near to it–if they had said I was going to an anti-intellectual sink hole located inside a research university, I might have had a different response. The College of Human Resources and Education at West Virginia University was racist and sexist. Racism was nothing new to me. Sexism was, but I could manage it. It was the anti-intellectualism that almost took me out. I couldn’t reconcile its existence inside an institution of learning and inquiry. I couldn’t determine a strategy to be successful as an intellectual in an anti-intellectual college. It made me physically and emotionally ill.
Returning to Memphis to recover from that experience may seem ironic. Having grown up in a place where the phrase “too smart for your own good” is considered a perfectly reasonable thing to say, it didn’t make much sense for me return here as someone who needs an environment where such a phrase is utterly ridiculous. But here I am.
Battling for dominance are leaders asserting religious authority and secular pseudo-intellectuals while truly thoughtful and critical voices are marginalized. Evangelical leaders call for prayer and righteousness, shame people living in poverty, and keep resources away from them while claiming to love them and serve them as God commands. Secular pseudo-intellectuals promote neoliberal solutions stemming from myopic interpretations of data, job market projections, and other indicators of “progress”.
But the reality is that the angry black woman at the gas pump, the frustrated black man in the warehouse, and the insolent black youth in the schools may be among the smartest people in town. They live the injustices of this city minute by minute. They are swimming in the hypocrisy of religion and being tossed about by the “solutions” of pseudo-intellectuals. They see the way these groups conspire against them. Their anger shows their consciousness.
As I seek self-care practices that fulfill my need for intellectual community, I am grateful to have found people who manage to combine religious belief and true intellectualism, people who can humbly and thoughtfully navigate the intersection of our neoliberal reality and our potential for social and economic justice. What I also need to find, however, is a pathway back to my social and economic roots that allows me to honor the wisdom of people experiencing poverty and those in the working class without allowing myself to be swallowed by anger and despair.
For now, it’s reading and writing. I’m being well fed in this space. But soon, I’ll need to find a pathway to community. I am hopeful the right path will reveal itself to me.
Image: “The Scholar” by Harry Herman Roseland