One of the more intriguing aspects of the BDSM and kink communities that I find is the participation of African Americans and our acceptance of the label “slave.” I have always rationalized that if I were ever able to have an articulate conversation with my ancestors about how my proclivity towards leather and little flogging is indeed a celebration of the work they put in to keep as many light years between their plight and my own (and not a political act cleverly designed as an uncomfortable fetish to put Black people back in chains), that I would fully embrace leather, BDSM and kink communities. After a little research and some extremely insightful counsel from “elders” in those communities the more prevailing question arose of, “What exactly is a slave?” If you were to look at your typical Hollywood penned attempt to address the query you would more than likely get a film that would raise your anger exponentially watching Black people huck, shuck and get beat for an extended period of time more so than an exploration into the nuances of a person with limited resources dealing with the frustratingly complicated politics of the time. I believe it’s one of the reasons why modern day African Americans tire of the idea of slavery themed media; the theory being that if you’ve seen one slave, you’ve seen them all and that the totality of their experiences, while vitally important, are drawn in exhausting and predictable monochromatic hues of cruelty, lynching and cotton fields. But weren’t slaves… funny, and arrogant, and horny, and shy, and devious, and helpful, and argumentative, and sensitive? Weren’t slaves… people?
Just for archival purposes It should be noted that this country is in (yet another) state of turmoil right now. This time around it is in regards to two African American men pretty much “slaughtered” by the hands of the police. One, Philando Castile, was stopped by the police while driving with his girlfriend. He did have a gun on him. He did make the police aware. He did put his hands up. The police shot him dead at point blank range. His girlfriend broadcasted the entire ordeal in real time on Facebook for everyone to see LIVE. The police are calling it self-defense.
The other guy was named Alton Sterling, another Black man, unarmed this time, tackled, beat and shot to death by cops… all recorded on a video that has been replayed hundreds of thousands times on every medium possible. Yeah, they’re claiming self-defense.
Now there in an organization called “Black Lives Matter” that was formed, by a gay guy as I hear, to address the brutal and often fatal exchanges police enforcement has with communities of color. When Philando and Alton died, protests sprouted all over the country under the moniker of “Black Lives Matter”. One of the protests in Dallas resulted in eleven cops being shot, five of them actually dying. And while blame is being put on the “Black Lives Matter” movement, it was actually one sniper named Micah Xavier Johnson who had it out for White folks, particularly White cops and decided to exact “revenge”.
And in the midst of all of this, supposedly a Black militant group referring to themselves as the Black Power Political Organization (BPPO) decided to take responsibility for the deaths of the cops, even after it was proven that this Johnson fool did the killing (and was summarily slaughtered himself). I’ve been trying to find out more information about this “BPPO” but all I can find are screenshots of their Facebook page which was immediately taken down once they claimed responsibility and none of which has gotten any press at all outside of moderate to extremist Right Wing websites. Who knows if this BPPO group does or ever has existed, but it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to think that perhaps some Right Wing nut created a “Virtual Organization” filled with Left Wing nuts to divert attention away from all of the nuttiness. There are grumblings that both this BPPO and the Black Lives Matter movements be cited as terrorist organizations on the level of the KKK which I liken to throwing out someone else’s baby with your bathwater.
Now it’s important to have all of that in the background because when it comes to my personal life, TONS of other salacious, frivolous and traumatic things have happened. And while I’m pinning my current state of emotional unrest on getting older and drinking too much and obsessing over my ex boyfriends… if you’re able to interject random flashes of Black people getting their skin ripped off by cops, cops getting their heads blown off, extremist groups of various ethnic backgrounds afraid the government is siding with the “other side” to kill them and in turn trying to kill everybody and only succeeding in fucking with innocent people and children who don’t give a shit about any of this… you’ll have a slight inkling to the almost schizophrenic state of being I have been in lately. Trying to lose weight, trying to get laid, trying to get the one man who is completely wrong for me back because I fucking hate/love him, while praying to God that I don’t get stopped for going 36 miles an hour in a 35 miles an hour zone because no, I don’t have insurance and not only can they impound my car and slap me with fines that would wake my grandmother up from her grave, but they could also just shoot me in the head… out of self-defense. This is my life, as a person… with limited resources dealing with the frustratingly complicated politics of the time.
Now in no way am I making claim to being a slave, but I would be pissed if hundreds of years from now I was denigrated to a label that only defines my situation/my occupation with no thought of everything else that was going on. No talk about how much I loved, how funny I was, how much of an impact I made on the people around me, the groups I belonged to, the beer busts, the orgasms, how long my tongue was and how I loved to kiss… and the reasons why that go back to my childhood, that I was a half way decent writer, a really good boyfriend, an even better husband. For all of that to be filtered through some liberal minded colander and leaving behind only, “poverty stricken Black man living in the ghetto” is bullshit. And I imagine my ancestors looking over piles and piles of stories about their lives and wonder,
“But what about that time Aelfsige laughed so hard he smacked his head on a tree or that Alice had sex with every male on the field, animals included or that George had the backside of a donkey? Sure it was fucking hard! Of course it was! But it was our lives. And the way we made each other laugh, and the way we made love to each other, and the food we cooked for each other is just as valuable as the pain. It was always there, we never needed to be reminded of that. But there was more. So much more. And we weren’t ALWAYS slaves. And we weren’t ONLY slaves. So why are you denigrating us down to that one label that only defined our situation/our occupation with no thought of how we felt? And fuck you Steve McQueen!”
Okay the last part was me, I just really hated "12 Years A Slave". I don’t mind stories about slavery at all, but if it’s just a more dramatic retelling that “slavery is bad” with no characters or plot to speak of but with 15% more images of Black people being hung than the last movie about "slavery being bad", it does tend to skid into “Slave Porn”.
Personally I love to hear the other stories, the real stores from the slave journals (or rather the “people” journals). Those are the best love stories to me. Not the ones where quirky shiny people find each other while Natalie Cole sings “This Will Be” in the background, but the ones where real people, with real bodies, and real problems in a real unhumorous world, make some funny together, make some peace together, make some love together. Real love. When the world is crumbling around you, you look over and see somebody who understands your crouch, and it makes the both of you want to stand taller and just face the storms that are coming together.
And these aren’t “slave” thoughts and stories, these are universal people stories. Granted, told with a background of some of the harshest times of human civilization, but still human. And still light years away from my current modern day plights, and even further away from my proclivity towards leather and little flogging. There is no doubt that my ancestors understand this and they were right there beside me when I became a full-fledged brother of Onyx, an organization that promotes BDSM and leather lifestyles for men of color. Personally, the word “Slave” still conjurers up a certain amount of ire with me, but I'm starting to realize that one of the main ingredients of freedom is "consent" and without it BDSM is nothing more than violence. Chattel slavery was involuntary violence. BDSM is consent, which can't exist without freedom, so in a manner of speaking... BDSM is an expression of freedom. And while I'm sure great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandpappy Breeze would throw a side eye at the idea of African Americans entering into sexual and/or romantic relationships that are defined as Slave/Master, I'm pretty sure that after I explain that they BOTH agree to it, any physical play stops when either is uncomfortable, and they both can get frozen yogurt when it's over, he would be cool with that.