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An Open Letter to Dyson and West

An Open Letter to Dyson and West

Dear Michael and Cornel,

Why? Why would you do this to each other? Who profits from this public pain? This hurt poured all over these pages, this public space, the blank spaces and lines between every word filled with unshed tears, drenched and drowning in pain. I am confused by what I read. Not the words. I read them. Every single one. Some will debate specifics, highlight inaccuracies, counter-accuse. That is not my conversation. Is this a private-public partnership between pain and publicity? Have you both decided that pain’s only profit is elevated profile as this piece makes the rounds in social media and commentary, and oh hell nos can be heard from space after space? Do you two get to do this? To each other. To us. To Black people. Is it okay that this public white page is refuge for bruised souls, broken hearts and betrayed spirits? I ask because I don’t understand.



What I know for sure is this: emotionality masquerading as the most brilliantly insightful eloquent rhetoric is still emotionality. That you each privilege your pain and wrap it in intellect and cast it unthinking into public spaces. That brilliantly nurtured intellects and profoundly neglected emotionalities wound. That your bruises bruise others. That your hurt is naked, and bleeding and screaming and crying and desperate. I can see that. I reject other intellectual arguments to explore the depth of the argument, the minutiae of the content and the attempts at balance. This is not that conversation. That is not my conversation. My conversation is about your heart. It is about my heart, our hearts. It is asking you both to step out of this public war and find another way. You each owe us, each other, yourselves. We who are the buyers of your books, the readers of your work, we who have been inspired by you, are devastated by this. Maybe we won’t say that. We too may couch our hurt, our sadness, our pain in righteous rage fueled by videos of black men shot down like dogs and the endless replay of soul-breaking brutality. We may engage in a back and forth that scans the Obama presidency, a relationship with Tavis, a mentee turned etc, etc. Maybe we will call each other privately, quietly and lament, lambaste. It is not that we are wrong. It is that there is another conversation.

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This toxic masculinity that wages war to shield pain is infectious disease, it has become entertainment, it is cancerous, it is unnecessary. Stand here, where it’s hard, where it hurts. We do not deserve to be witness to this. This is a slow mo intellectual car crash that ends in emotional vehicles being totaled. My work is emotional justice. I look at how legacies of untreated trauma manifest, shape-shift and morph – undescribed as the hurt that is. Between the words, unspoken truths and pains and hurts are singing hymns. What if we languaged the pain so it is not cyclical, and relentless and devastating? No masks, no intellectual dexterity choking the visceral emotionality.

There needs to be a Part 2, to that letter. These are two brilliant Black men whose actions reveal we are unsafe in their hands. Too often, when Black men wound we gather and tend to them. No. This time we must let them go. Tend to the wounded. That’s us. Hold on to ourselves and let them go. For now.  Love them from afar if you want to do that. Black women so often do this emotional labor within our community of restoring where there has been destruction. This is a call to engage Black men in an equal division of a different emotional labor: the kind that transforms this emotional inequality so our movements flourish. We can create a revolutionary love practice, wrap our wounds in love, not disguise them, give them voice, let them breathe. This process and practice is unspectacular and life-saving. Let’s try again.
-Esther Armah

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