Someone might think you’re a special kind of monster if you don’t like rainbows. I mean rainbows are some magical sign of healing, joy, color…DESPITE. Despite a torrential downpour, or a thunderstorm, a rainbow is a special kind of fuck you to dark and difficult things. But rainbows are so ridiculous. They only show up as a tease– some sort of signal to the world that we can be continuously shitted on, but look at this here sliver of beauty that comes of it. But I’ve never seen a rainbow on a sunny day. It’s so ridiculous to me to exalt a sliver of joy that only comes up in the midst of some deep and profound sorrow. And as long as I’ve desperately needed rainbows- as long as I paused to take them in, I’ve somehow empathized with the storm that created space for them.
Last week I saw a rainbow and did what everyone does. I almost crashed my car trying to photograph it. Look! A rainbow! Before I got home it was raining again and I decided that rainbows are full of shit. They are a distraction that keep me from fully understanding the storm that precipitated it and the one that is sure to follow. They are a way for me to forget what the storm did to my flower bed, and my car, and my fro.
The rainbow is no longer enuf.
A few months ago this photo came across my timeline.
I thought to myself, you could replace African with Haitian, or Caribbean, or Latino or Asian and the joke still works. And for all the children of immigrant parents, the paralyzing anxiety that comes from this type of emotional ultimatum is all too familiar. It’s why foreign born and first gen American college students fill counseling centers at this time of year. Why daring to dream feels like a betrayal. Why I’m a first generation Haitian American lawyer who graduated college at 19.
This cultural experience is just a head nod of understanding for most children of immigrants. But at what point will we be brave enough to acknowledge that emotional abuse that makes us ‘successful’ and emotional abuse that we rationalize because it comes from people who’ve sacrificed so much for us is still…. emotional abuse. When will we say who we could be if we weren’t consistently undoing the damage of transactional love is much greater than who we are now? When we will say your toxic behaviors have taught me that I’m unlovable until I satisfy? When will we admit that we will never be fulfilled because everything we’ve ever known of love has told us we alone are never enough? I can’t speak for y’all, but I’m brave enough today.
There is a specific and unique experience daughters share though, one that I share. That if my career options were the only thing I was shamed into complying with, I’d consider it a win. If I wasn’t being held hostage by who I choose to love, how I wear my hair, how much I weigh, having kids before being married, not making enough money, or simply never being enough… I might find enough freedom to live a little. This type of conditional love is a sort of insatiable monster. And for so long I believed the fallacy that if I just complied at the beginning, I’d make out in the end alive. But just like the dreams of Black bodies we bury… a little bit dies day by day.
The American dream, capitalism and white supremacy permeate Black immigrant parents’ natural inclination to want the best for their children so deeply they stop believing their children are already the best. Depriving the fire of my love of oxygen has left ashes where my dreams once were. Where I once found my purpose because of the sacrifices of my mother, I now find my peace in spite of the trauma I inherited from her.
Rainbows, like yesterdays, are ridiculous. Most of us were standing in awe of the rainbows or basking in eternal sunshine, but yesterday I sat in my storm. Because rainbows are ridiculous and exhausting and I don’t know nothing about the sun. And quite frankly…. I’se tired. The undoing takes up so much energy. And I am on a deadline cause I’ll be damned if I let my daughter rely on rainbows that may never show up. I want my daughter in the sun.
I want love in the sun.