Immersion Therapy

Surviving on a blackness-only diet.

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Not my idea, not really. Credit mostly belongs to a poet friend of mine.

We were discussing some independent movie by an unknown black director he had just seen at a special screening at his local art house. It would be cool, said The Poet, to be able to see more movies like that, movies by black writers and directors. Perhaps even see only movies like that, for some designated period of time.

"Sure," said I. "See only movies which reflect us and our experience."

"Only black movies," said The Poet. "Also, read only black books and magazines."

"And listen to black music," said I. "And get all your news from black newspapers and websites."

"For maybe a year," said The Poet.

"A year of black culture," said I, buzzing now. "Imagine the experience. Imagine how one's perspective might change and shift."

"Either that," said The Poet, "Or the effort would drive you insane."

Fear of insanity not being a deterrent, I decided to try. It would be a grand experiment, an attempt to immerse myself in the warm waters of blackness, to swim beyond the sight of whiteness land.

American culture is black culture, of course. The music, the language, the food, the literature, the very definition of what it means to be American – all of it is shot straight through with us. Try to remove the African presence from the house that is America and the whole thing collapses upon itself. Ask Toni Morrison. And yet those contributions are still too often marginalized or minimized, or gotten just plain wrong, even when told through well-intentioned voices. Anyone but me roll their eyes through the movie Hairspray? What's up with the equation of black struggle with physical stoutness? Why did the white girl have to tell the black folks to stand up for themselves? And why or why were all the black kids spending their school days dancing in detention? Shouldn't somebody protest that?