Blackness is being born under a mountain of racial debt.
“As Saidiya Hartman writes, “Debt ensured submission; it insinuated that servitude was not yet over and that the travails of freedom were the price to be paid by emancipation.” Hence enslaved black people were forced to “self-purchase” their own freedom, for they could not even claim a property right in themselves. Is it any wonder that, as Hartmann describes, the enslaved used “stealing away” to describe not only the act of running away, but also in reference to a wide range of everyday activities:
Stealing away involved unlicensed movement, collective assembly, and an abrogation of the terms of subjection in acts as simple as sneaking off to laugh and talk with friends or making nocturnal visits to visit loved ones . . . These nighttime visits to lovers and family were a way of redressing the natal alienation or enforced “kinlessness” of the enslaved.”