The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday June 7th

Column: Black people are aliens


Columnist Jalynn Harris

Recently, I tried googling “Are Black people Aliens?” to see if the internet could provide any clarity to why I feel like E.T.’s first cousin sister. But mostly I just fell into a pit of anti-Black blog posts justifying slavery.

If you read my column last semester (shouts out the haters, couldn’t do it without you UNC Fan 1), you followed my six-month trek through Azanian soil, or more colonially known as South Africa. Transitioning from Cape Town to Chapel Hill is in the realm of Alien Politics. A column of this size cannot get into the intimacies of Alien Politics, but I can throw out some definitions for you to grapple with.

Alien is generally used to describe people who belong to a foreign country, a negatively connoted term demarcating who does and doesn’t belong in a space. Walking through Chapel Hill, faux fur coat, painted lips, my womxn Black body can make me feel galaxies far from home.

Afro-pessimist theorist Jared Sexton says, “Black life is not lived in the world that the world lives in, but it is lived underground, in outer space.”

Black bodies across the diaspora experience an intergenerational embodied displacement. Entering into the intentional process of reclaiming such a scattered self can only be done in Black communion. But more so the quote shows how this attempt at communing with one’s selves is inherently counter-culture.

When trauma lives in your body and reinforces itself in mundane interactions, attempts at living outside of it counts you at odds with your physical space. The project of decolonizing self is an inward process that seeks to reconstruct some kind of proto- or rather alien, self. The key is to then center yourself in your alienness and the cosmic understanding within your body despite the violence of the post-colony.

This unlearning is painful especially in re-entering normalized structures of colonial violence that continue to go unchecked. Crossing back into American soil has been a painful re-entry and makes the violence of America even more blatant. But centering myself in collective cosmic knowing has been a space of healing.

America is occupied land. Violence is maintained in the roots of this soil. Even reaction to such violence is taken as being “politically correct” or “too sensitive.”

Let me throw out another phrase: Black Girl Hysteria. It’s a self-made term that captures the cosmic alien stuff the construction of Black womanhood is made of. I am a body that has historically been denied occupying institutional space and yet persists in existing despite the maintenance of these systems. Hysteria comes at the avenue of unapologetically making space where space wasn’t intended to receive or recognize you.

This self-reclamation journey makes you not just feel, but understand yourself as an extraterrestrial being. To all my fellow aliens, here is a clarion call in joining me in decolonizing, in occupying space and issuing the extraterrestrial renaissance.


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