prose on the (im)possibility of black love // the (im)possibility of black study


These scars on our bodies are impossible. These scars that we carry can’t be. These scars that we share are impossible. These scars on our body can’t be.  

“These undecipherable markings on the captive body

render a kind of hieroglyphics of the flesh

whose severe disjunctures

come to be hidden to the cultural seeing

by skin color.”

            – Hortense Spillers, Mama’s Maybe, Papa’s Baby, 67

What is Blackness? Blackness is the mark of a trauma that is ongoing. Blackness is a mark of a trauma that can’t be. Blackness is a mark of an ongoing trauma that can’t be.  


In a world that just


 I wrote this to the tune of “At The End of Times, Nothing” specifically their “Everything We See Will Die” EP. And no, that isn’t joke. And no, the soundtrack isn’t as hardcore as it may seem. In fact, the soundtrack is nostalgic and peaceful. It helps me to listen to nostalgic and peaceful music when I’m writing in Black Studies because there is no-time in which one can bask in a peaceful nostalgia in the zeroed terrain in which Blackness had been made to stand. But, I am not a thing of the past, I am a thing of the future.

But the things in the future can’t be.

For “At the End of Times,”

Everything we see will die

Thus, the things in the future can’t be.


What is to be done?

sexual healing.

I’m only slightly joking.

Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” is the best song ever written though.

But seriously:

What is Sex?

No one really knows.

But even the scientist are all worked about it.

What we do know however is:

Th[is] order, with its human sequence written in blood, represents for its African and indigenous peoples a scene of actual mutilation, dismemberment, and exile. First of all, their New-World, diasporic plight marked a theft of the body- a willful and violent (and unimaginable from this distance) severing of the captive body from its motive will, its active desire. Under these conditions, we lose at least gender difference in the outcome, and the female body and the male body become a territory of cultural and political maneuver, not at all gender-related, gender-specific. But this body, at least from the point of view of the captive community, focuses a private and particular space, at which point of convergence biological, sexual, social, cultural, linguistic, ritualistic, and psychological fortunes join.

– Hortense Spillers, Mama Maybe, Papa’s Baby, 67

Gender… different than sex… but wrapped in/up at the convergence of the biosexualsocialculturallinguisticritualisticpsychological level. Woah. That’s a mouthful. Say it quick enough, you’ll start to mumble:

biosexualsocialculturallinguisticritualisticpsychological … biosexualsocialculturallinguisticritualisticpsychological… biosexualsocialculturallinguisticritualisticpsychological…

So it looks like sexual healing is necessary. But there’s a lot more going on here too. Sounds like a Spillersian schizoanalysis.


When you tell them you love them,

Make sure you say it

like you mean it

And what it means to mean Black love

is to Study Black love.


I wonder if anyone ever studied Black love, like truly studied Black love.


without an end, plan without a pause, rebel without a policy, conserve without a patrimony… they’re building something in there, something down there. Mutual debt, debt unpayable, debt unbounded, debt unconsolidated, debt to each other in a study group, to others in a nurses’ room, to others in a barber shop, to others in a squat, a dump, a woods, a bed, an embrace.

– Stefano Harvey & Fred Moten, The Undercommons, 67


We’re building something in here, something down here, at the edge of the Earth at the End of the World. You and I. You and I who are no longer a You nor an I nor a “We.” But something different altogether.

We are Nothingness-With.

Us no-bodies can’t live with each other, can’t without each other.


Through drought and famine,

Natural disasters. My baby

Has been around for me

Kingsdom have fallen, angels keep calling

None of that could ever make me leave.

– Daniel Caesar, Get You

Daniel’s Blackness is not assured by anything he says nor fails to say. Daniel’s Blackness preceded him and what that Blackness is, is a mark of a trauma that is ongoing. Follow my logic here: If to love Black body-beings, one must study Black body-beings then, Black love requires study without an end, plan without a pause, rebel without a policy, conserve without a patrimony. And we ain’t gotta love everybody, but if/when we do:

A focus on violence should be at the center of this project because violence not only makes thought possible, but it makes black metaphysical being and black relationality impossible, while simultaneously giving rise to the philosophical contemplation of meta- physics and the thick description of human relations. Without violence, critical theory and pure philosophy would be impossible. Marx and others have intimated as much. But what is often left unexamined is that this violence is peculiar in that, whereas some groups of people might be the recipients of violence, after they have been constituted as people, violence is a structural necessity to the constitution of blacks.

Frank Wilderson and Patrice Douglass, “The Violence of Metaphysics,” 117

 This structural necessity makes for an autopoietic disaster. Yet, what comes after gratuitous violence is the synchronic birth of gratuitous trauma.

            undecipherable markings on the captive body

… a kind of hieroglyphics of the flesh

whose severe disjunctures

come to be hidden to the cultural seeing

by skin color.

What the metaphysical violence of the middle passage breeded was Blackness as not only social death, but as a monstrous intimacy[1]. Blackness as Nothingness-With.

these lacerations, woundings, fissures, tears, scars, openings, ruptures, lesions, rendings, punctures of the flesh create the distance between what I would designate a cultural vestibularity and the culture, whose state apparatus, including judges, attorneys, “owners,” “soul drivers,” “overseers,” and “men of God,” apparently colludes with a protocol of “search and destroy.” This body whose flesh carries the female and the male to the frontiers of survival bears in person the marks of a cultural text whose inside has been turned outside.

– Hortense Spillers, Mama Maybe, Papa Baby, 67

To love Blackness is to love a body-being whose inside has been turned outside by lacerations, woundings, fissures, tears, scars, openings, ruptures, lesions, rendings, and punctures marked on their bodies as hieroglyphic scars. Hieroglyphic scars, we come to ratchet down into a senseless category like Blackness. A category which designates the trauma that Blackness is, that Blackness signifies as indiscernible nothingness. And due to the ravenous intimacy Blackness shares in sharing these hieroglyphic scars, Blackness is Nothingness-With. To love Blackness one must Black study those hieroglyphic scars in their structural positionality and their paradigmatic elaboration. One can’t just study by the books, one must study in one’s day to day operation. Black study is a day to day operation. A day to day operation for a body-being that struggles to make it through the day to day, whose day to day is troubled by an ongoing trauma in an impossible paradox in a world that just is. And “Like Curtis Mayfield, however, I do plan to stay a believer. This is to say, again like Mayfield, that I plan to stay a black motherfucker,” (Fred Moten, Blackness and Nothingness, 738). In addition, I plan to stay a believer in Black love “even in the face of the brutally imposed difficulty of black life,” (Fred Moten, Blackness and Nothingness, 742) even in the fact of brutally imposed intimacy of Black life. Not as a means of celebrating since Black love and Black celebration aren’t co-constitutive or necessary for Blackness nor Black study. For so often we have Black love without celebration, Black celebration without Black love and Black study without either. But, I plan to stay a believer in Black love as a form of Black study because Black love requires Black study even if Black study doesn’t require Black love, and if I am to be a being that is Nothingness-With I might as well try to love myself.  What an impossible study, this Black studies is. 

Black study:

which is the critique of Western Civilization; which is the shit you did witcha niggas after school during summer time talking about the Boondocks; which is the thing you did with ma and pa over breakfast biscuits and bacon; which is the Black Church on Sunday and ya auntie’s cooking on Thanksgiving; which is the way you learned to do your natural hair; which is the black books you read outside of class since they weren’t being taught in class by Denise Ferriera Da Silva, Fred Moten, Angela Davis, Frank Wilderson, Lewis Gordon, Sylvia Wynter, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Frantz Fanon and so many more; which is all the other work of criticism that you read in class and brought into conversation with the work you read out of class; which is the music you write, sing, and dance to; which is the way you love; which is the way you talk; which is the way you hug; and the way you walk.

Black love is impossible because Black study is.

[1] This is a hat-tip reference to Christina Sharpe’s earlier work “Monstrous Intimacies” but I haven’t read the book yet to see if my usage is similar to that of hers. So, the words are the same but the concept may be different.

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