Screenshot: Marvel Studios (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Maybe 15 years ago, upset that I couldn’t remember the details of these epic dreams I kept having, I started leaving a notebook at my bedside to jot them down. “Ha!,” I thought to myself, as I believed I finally found a method to capture my subconscious. “I’m clever as fuck!,” I also thought to myself, possibly because I just enjoy cussing.
I tried it for a week. But the things I’d write during these microbursts of consciousness would be gibberish. Like Inception, but if Chris Nolan was 8 years old and a Kappa. So I gave up.
Perhaps if I kept at it I would’ve grown better at training my brain to both remember my dreams and to find the words to articulate those memories, but I don’t know. I also felt, well, foolish to attempt to corral a space unencumbered by space or time or logic. Like I was trying to wrestle a cloud.
Anyway, I am not here to discuss my dreams, because I can’t and mostly because I doubt you give a fuck. But dreams have been on my mind lately—namely the (presumed) dreams of my ancestors. And I’m not alone. If you are a black person or just perhaps a person who happens to know black people, you’ve likely recently seen some sort of messaging—maybe a status message, maybe a tweet, maybe a T-shirt, maybe a tattoo—where a person states that they’re their ancestors’ wildest dreams. It’s the sort of catchphrase that becomes easily contagious, because it seems inherently reverent of our forebears and specifically conscious of a black American context, which is that we’re mostly descendants of enslaved people. It also serves as some sort of self-proclaimed honorific; a fitting culmination of centuries-long battle. We are the products of that. We can be boastful now because they couldn’t then.
I also hate it. And I’ve always hated it, and it wasn’t until remembering my inability to capture my own dreams that I understood why.
Our ancestors existed during a time when they were considered property and (sub)human capital—a status that cemented mobility in both a theoretical and literal sense. You could not move, eat, sleep, fuck, teach, marry, sit, stand, run, speak, or shit without explicit permission to do so. But us presuming that their dreams were shackled in a similar manner requires a fundamental (and willing) misunderstanding of the limitlessness of dreams. And, well, dreaming about flying or living on the sun or time-traveling or shape-shifting or possessing the ability to transubstantiate—or any of the countless places our ancestors minds could’ve gone while unconscious (or conscious)—is quite a bit wilder than “in 250 years, my great, great, great, great grandson is gonna have him a good-ass government job and maybe even a white doorman.” I mean if your ancestors’ wildest dream was just for you to be a you-ass, human-ass you, your ancestors had some wack-ass dreams. (And just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being a you-ass you! I’m a me-ass me!)
I know these sorts of things aren’t meant to be taken literally. But even after controlling for hyperbole, the sentiment reflects an annoying and arrogant as the fuck mindset—an underestimation of the creativity, ingenuity, resourcefulness, inventiveness, and genius of our enslaved ancestors while overestimating our own. It’s not quite as disrespectful (and dumb) as those “I’m not my grandparents—you can catch these hands” or whatever shirts, but it’s on the same wavelength. I mean, we cool and all, and we have some epic bottomless brunches, but we just ain’t special enough to be anyone’s wildest dream.
Unless, of course, you’re the sun or some shit. Then yeah, I guess you could be your ancestors’ wildest dream. But why are you wasting your time reading blogs then? Go do some sun-ass things!