The first time I joined Twitter back in 2010 or so, I lasted three weeks. I could not figure it out. My how times change.
As of today I have something north of 65,000 followers on Twitter. I have more tweets published in papers of record and peer-reviewed research than I should care to admit. I maybe figured out Twitter.
There is a lot wrong with that space. It is racist. It is sexist. It is reactionary. It is ephemeral.
There is a lot great with that space. It is networks. It is community. It is culture. It is ephemeral.
That is, Twitter is us. It is horrible and wonderful because we are horrible and wonderful.
I am not leaving Twitter. Can’t leave society no matter what Thoreau tells y’all fools. We here now.
I am living a great life during really bad times. That does not always feel great. Truly, my life is amazing.
The academy feels like it is imploding and I got a tenure track job in a livable city at a nice department where I am valued my first time on the job market.
Donald Trump is President of the United States of America and my local organizations have never been so energetic, so visibly committed to creating a more just society.
White women still touch me in public and I have so many people who care about me that most days I cannot schedule enough time to be loved by all who would do so if I could just let them.
The police can kill black people with near-total impunity and I am as successful as I could have ever imagined by being exactly who I am with few concessions to racist sexism.
None of it makes any sense.
That is why I want to practice sense-making. We have more information than any known human society in history. So much information. Almost every day I tap some database to fill in the gaps of my knowledge, raising my adult self, as it were. This week alone I figured out what those things are that cover your patio doors when they aren’t the cheap vertical blinds used in apartments (shutters and louvres), the difference between weeds and grass, and that bacon can be cured with sugar. I will never stop being amazed that this is possible.
But having information is not the same as making sense of the world. Sense-making would be knowing how our food supply chains work so that uncured bacon is a luxury good. Sense-making would tell me how an adult black woman can have so rarely had the time to muse about window-coverings that I had to take a picture to a local home store for help. And, sense-making would start to grasp how municipal services in a too-black city surrounded by a very-white county makes grass a premium.
That’s some deep shit.
And, I am tired. I have been grappling with big problems for a long time and my work here is barely started, much less done. I have written hundreds of essays that peel back what layers I have uncovered. I give it away because I hope it matters. I hope I matter. Because I cannot have children. I likely will not ever have children. I do not have the constitution for matrimony. And I live deeply in my internal life. When I die, in my office as I have decreed it to all the gods I could find on Google, I will go like a puff of smoke.
Do you know what happens to dead black people? That is a real question because I actually do not know. I do know that students in Richmond, my new home, have been working with preservation groups for years now to recover the graveyards of yesterday’s tired, dead black people. The cemeteries are overgrown. Headstones, if there ever were any, are missing and broken. Some of those people may have been wonderful. They may have been horrible. For sure they were people. Writing and giving it away is all I could figure out to do to matter. I wonder what they gave away?
In exchange for giving away the milk with the cow or however that sexist claptrap saying goes, the lines have gotten fudged. Or, there were never any lines, and that was the problem. I was supposed to be getting, too.
Getting requires others humans. God bless my soul I tried every other way and trust me on this, there isn’t one. I need the machine to talk back. Not the machines - the bots, the shills, the Alicias - but the interlocking network of people who form communities. Because I am not an island. A peninsula maybe. Solitude on two sides and tethered to a dinner party on the third.
How could I talk to humans in a machine that is designed to elevate the mechanistic over the human? That was the problem.
Here is one way I am trying to combat it. We will talk here. Rather than writing to an imagined audience or into a canon of thought, I want to talk with humans through the machine. On the first and the fifteenth of every month of this experiment that is what you will see in this space…if you subscribe.
The subscription is the rub. The club has velvet ropes and so does nationalism. How can I endorse a border in a time when borders appear to want to kill us?
I am a peninsula.
My waters are finite and land to which I am tethered cannot be just anywhere. My boat is not welcome at all docks. And, frankly I am tired of people’s bullshit. I am tired of hate mail and being called a monkey and famous people being mad that I retweet them or do not mention them when I should or mention them when I shouldn’t or being told that I am fortunate that I have a job but also that I do not deserve my job. And, also, my nose is big, my ass is fat, my work is meaningless, black men are kings, black women are bitches but also superheroes but aren’t those the same thing so which one am I? Just generally tired.
Tear down all the walls, yes, but tear yours down first. A bitch is tired.
Also, I have a new house and I love it. I have a new book and I almost don’t hate it. I am reading amazing things and I am excited. Black art is just killing it lately and I am energized because of it. Everything is horrible and wonderful because we are horrible and wonderful. Let’s get un-tired together. But me first. What I look like to you? Mother Teresa?
Dope Shit I Recently Read
I’ve been reading and re-reading what I call Big Feminist Books because I have been writing a small black feminist book (of essays, next year, do not even get me started). I just needed to be immersed in the discourse as I was thinking. There is a real “we is single now” vibe among them. I read “Spinster”, re-read “All The Single Ladies” and this New York Times essay dropped last week. I struggled through Spinster. It is hard for me to go that deep into white lady-ness but it is fine. Traister is a real gem of a researcher and her book is good for reminding me about the temporality of “single woman” as a concept.
I maybe spent the most time with Rebecca Solnit:
Not because it is perfect but because her voice is strong.
Brittney Cooper did great work disentangling ethos, pathos and logos as it pertains to black women’s fight for legitimate voice. And, I read my sister’s volume on rape culture: “Not That Bad”. Spoiler: It really is that bad.
Anne Helen Petersen is writing some of the best cultural criticism around right now. Like, hands-down. Her speciality (in my words and not hers) is simple asses who do not seem to know they are simple. Or, rather, who do not know how they are simple. To wit: Justin Timberlake. Jennifer Garner. And, this week, Gwen Stefani. I think about the chick in this Refinery 29 essay. She is going to be a person we are actually going to have to talk to one day at a mixer or at our job or at something where we are forced to entertain simple people because the person who invited you is nice enough and this isn’t your house and you’re eating all the shrimp. That girl is going to grow up to be a person Anne Helen Petersen will profile. And I will read the hell out of it.
The “What Am I Even Doing” Files
After ten years where I pretended to be a human, I am practicing being an actual human. It has freaked my loved ones out. They think I don’t know that there is a secret group chat about whether Tressie has lost her mind. The answer is yes, fishes. Saved you an emoji.
I am doing all kinds of things, mostly in the name of community. The national and global scene is heavy, man. All the long-time activists I trust, like Mariame Kaba, told us to pick our battle, get involved where we are, and do the best we can. I took that to heart. It may not look like it but my new flair for hostessing is me trying to get local like-minded (and not so like-minded) folks together to foment the revolution. We sometimes get it twisted: you feed the revolution by feeding people. I choose to take this literally. This week we are talking about the new Boots Riley flick “Sorry To Bother You” BECAUSE OMG. I think there is a full blown essay coming on the First.
I’m trying to find some chow-chow to serve with the rib sandwiches. I am refusing to tell you about chow-chow. You simply must self-educate yourself in southern if you are going to thrive here. Root little pig or die.
Do you know a local place that sells some good chow-chow? I can also take online recommendations if the seller can get it here by next week. My homie fixes the ribs (and the flyers. and the guest list. and the RSVPs. and the principal photography).
Upon closer reflection it would seem that all I do is dress cute and fuss over things like sides. For the revolution. It’s all for the revolution.
Help Me Help Myself
How do you install blinds on something like this? The moulding (frame?) isn’t very deep or thick. All I am saying is these doors have been naked now for three weeks and on occasion so have I. Save a soul and help me fix this situation.
(You don’t mention my weeds and I won’t mention yours.)
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