Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

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This series seeks to help create a body of resistance literature that will chronicle the collective radicalization of a Black Masculinity movement that seeks to decolonize our minds and invent identities, in resistance, that transcend stereotypes. We will speak up and force the world to deal with us. The first step is to come back to ourselves.

The Story

I met an African woman at an eating area near my job once. I used to see her there early in the morning smoking. One day she came up to me and asked me if I had a light for the cigarette she held in her hand. I looked into my backpack and handed her a lighter. As she lit her cigarette she smiled and we made small talk. I found out she owned one of the restaurants in the area. She kept looking around her as she smoked and I asked her what was wrong. She laughed and said that her husband and children didn’t know she smoked. I asked her if that’s why I would see her chain smoking in the mornings and she laughed and said yes. She said she couldn’t smoke at home. She said that her husband was African as well and that where she was from women didn’t smoke or do things like that — that it was frowned upon. She said that women are held in high regard but they are expected to be and act a certain way or it is considered shameful to their family. When I heard this I had a mixed reaction. Part of me thought it was nice that Black women were revered but then I thought that if that reverence pressured them into ways of being that didn’t come naturally then maybe that’s not such a good thing. I asked her how she felt about that and her reaction was almost as mixed as mine. She liked that women were treated with reverence but she didn’t like that they were boxed in terms of behavior.

Long after our conversation I kept thinking about the things she’d said and the way she’d said them. And then I thought about my reaction and thoughts about what she’d said. It took a few months for me to really come up with the words to articulate, but when it came down to it, I thought that the whole thing was about desire and possession from the male gaze.

The Systemsblack madonna

In thinking about that meeting with the woman I met, I thought about Black women in America and they suffer a similar dynamic of oppression. America being an imperialist, capitalist, white-supremacist, patriarchy shapes the mainstream opinion through the gaze of men (usually rich White men). That gaze when placed upon women often offers only 2 stations in life: madonnas and whores.

The reason for these polarized options for women lies in the systems of oppression that shape the majority of male thinking. Most specifically imperialism and patriarchy. These two systems impress upon the male thinking and direct the male gaze in such a manner that creates an oppressive presence to women.

Imperialism teaches the male mind to conquer and possess that which is desired. For example, the colonists who fled Britain in search of freedom desired a country of their own and they stumbled upon America and despite finding it populated with people, they sought to conquer those people and possess their land. This is the sentiment that American ideals teach men is manly, masculine, and/or appropriate male behavior.

Patriarchy teaches the male mind that women are objects separate and different from men. Patriarchy objectifies women through the validation of physical differences chosen by natural selection to create male and female. This distinction is further exploited by patriarchy and social conditioning to create a position for women that is separate (as it should be to some extent) but not equal (as it never should be) to men. This objectification makes a dynamic between men and women where women are objects to be desired by men and (through imperialistic teaching) conquered and possessed. This is the American male gaze which mostly offers women two options: madonna or whore.

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The madonna is desired for her purity and self-sacrifice. She is the archetype of everything good in a woman from the imperialistic patriarchal gaze. She is the madonna: almost a goddess, to be worshiped for her chastity, her devotion to man, and her willingness to sacrifice herself for his cause. Even when she is not sought after to be possessed physically through sex, marriage, or slavery, she is possessed through the males fantastical reverence and worship of her. Don’t be fooled that this is not oppression, it very much is. It is the most insidious form of oppression in that it manifests in the likeness of love — a doppelgänger of affection. The oppression takes place in that it does not allow the woman who is relagated to the Madonna position to be human, flawed, full of contradictions, imperfections, desires, and urges. She is the Madonna meant to sit quietly on eternal captivation of her husband and son (almost never daughter). She is a statue to be attended to and never engaged.

The whore is the other woman. Her station is low and unrespectable. Because of that station she is expected to bear the lowest treatment and to succumb to the males filthiest urges. She is the un-revered object that is meant for possession, use, and disposal. The whore is the antithesis of the Madonna: she is common and  tangible and all of the desire for her possession is related to that which has already possessed her and/or her willingness to subservient to man. There is a freedom to be obtained from the whore in that, unlike the Madonna, the whore requires nothing (whereas the Madonna requires reverence and devotion). The whore shares a similar oppression as the Madonna because she too is not human: she is not allowed to have feelings and she is not worthy of true love.

The Problem

The issue is that women are just as complex (if not more) creatures as men. There is no 1 or 2 archetypes that describe every woman. Nor can any archetypes describe any individual woman who may move through a number of characteristics associated with anyone archetype or stereotype. Her development should not be constrained by a singular period of her development in which she explored any aspect of herself. Often men are afforded the benefit of having a period of exploration in which he can be and act in complete opposition to the man he one day becomes; however, he is not condemned to wearing a scarlet letter for his actions. In many ways women are not expected to uphold the stringent requirements of the madonna position. But they are usually looked down upon if it is ever discovered that they have not. Opening_of_the_Mouth_-_Tutankhamun_and_AjaThat is a problem. Like all human beings, women, should be allowed redemption as much as the next guy. to assert that a man can have a faze of ‘sowing his oates’ and asserting that a woman does not or shoudl not have similar urges is preposterous. Women, like every other human being on this planet, is flawed and is growing and learning within the their own developmental capacity. That should never make her less or more of a respectable woman. It should, in fact, make her human. Just as much human as any man.

The Point

The issue is that these 2 options of madonna or whore leaves no room for women to assert themselves as both sensual and sexual beings without the restriction of the male gaze. They are boxed in, by the male gaze, as 2 polarized extremees for which most women would fall along the spectrum (making them more human and equal to men) rather than one or the other. If we are to interact with women in a contemporary sense and allow them the freedom of personal expression that is offered to men, then we will have to realize that not every madonna is a goddess and not every whore is a disposable object. Women, like men, are capable of a diverse and contradictory arrangement of actions and values that may or may not be aligned with these traditional thoughts.

Women have every right to be a combination of traits that might fit within some of these traditional modes of thinking without their being bound to the extreme of the requirements for either. Women, like men, are human beings capable of a myriad of thoughts and behaviors that do not constitute any one persona. If we are to heal the connection between men and women, the imperialistic, patriarchal standard of the male gaze must be sacrificed to allow women the privilege and opportunity to be completely human: however flawed and imperfect that may be.

I’m not just sayin’; I’m just sayin’,

An Angry Black Man

 

 

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This series seeks to help create a body of resistance literature that will chronicle the collective radicalization of a Black Masculinity movement that seeks to decolonize our minds and invent identities, in resistance, that transcend stereotypes. We will speak up and force the world to deal with us. The first step is to come back to ourselves.

The Story

At this time in our country there is an interconnection of struggles. As a macrocosm, the larger struggles affect those on the smaller levels. For the Black community this means that now alongside our own struggles for justice, equality, developing a national identity, and healing the Black family connection, we also have the struggle of economic survival, the struggle to maintain our cultural heritage, and the struggle to gain greater representation in the public discourse.

In the wake of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, there have been, naturally, waves of criticism. However what I find most troubling is that from many of Black voices seeking to critique the President’s initiative there is a single issue they all seem to have: that the initiative focuses on Black and Latino boys. While no one denies the very specific issues that Black and Latino boys and men face in this country, there seems to be a objection to addressing those specific issues exclusively in one initiative. Most problematic is the criticism of Black people against the initiative. I’m sure the initiative will not be without its flaws or its kinks to be worked out — what initiative or policy has ever started out as great and imperfect? However, most of the criticisms from the Black voices demonstrate divisive thinking that doesn’t serve the greater interest of anyone.

The Problem

The phrasing of the arguments against the exclusivity of the initiative’s focus is the tell tale sign of the petty divisive minds behind the thoughts. These critics are not saying that the problem is that the initiative focuses on Black and Latino boys; they’re saying its a problem that it doesn’t include girls.

The author of one article that I read stated that:

But when black men occupy space at the center of the discourse, black women lose critical ground. I wish these struggles did not feel like zero sum struggles. I wish that black men — Barack Obama included — had the kind of social analysis that saw our struggles as deeply intertwined.

Whoa. That comment is sophomoric in sentiment, realistically ignorant, intellectually stagnant. This particular author cites for paragraphs the specific disparities and struggles that are evidenced in the lives of Black and Latino men and somehow ends with this conclusive thought, which in itself produces the same divisive logic that the author chides the President for.

The fractured relationship between Black men and Black women bears the strain of these other struggles along with the gender specific issues that we face on a daily basis. The weight of these struggles sits on our shoulders like the world on Atlas’ back. We are strained and frustrated and all we really want is for some things to change. Our thirst for this change is the crux of the rift between Black men and Black women. We have allowed our justice to blind us to the singular truth of how we have survived the tragedies that have been inflicted upon us over the last decades: we belong to each other and we are stronger together.phonto-2

Reconciliation

I would never assert that things such as misogyny, male bashing, and racism do not need to be addressed; they do. However, that is not an excuse for us to approach the topic any kind of way. We have become selfish and capricious in our battle against these attacks on us. Where we should be examining the threat and discovering its roots so that we might yank them from their grounding, we go into a blind rage that makes us see anything different from us as an opposition and, ultimately, a threat. This is the only way that I can fathom that Black men and Black women could ever suggest that we are enemies of each other.

I, personally, as a Black man have and always will love Black women. They have always been one of the most beautiful and intriguing beings I have encountered on this planet. I was given life by a Black woman. It was a black woman’s arms that first held me. It was a Black woman’s lips that first kissed me. It was a Black woman’s disappointment that first convicted me. It was a Black woman’s pain that first cut my heart. It was a Black woman’s love that forced me to become a man. It was a Black woman’s support that helped heal my hurt. It was a Black woman’s presence that first made my dreams seem real. In short, I cannot speak for every Black man, nor can I wholly explain the hared and anger some Black men may feel towards Black women but I cannot believe that they are the majority. It is also my love for Black women and my desire to see Black men and Black women, as a whole, reconciled to one another. That love demands that we be critical of one another — but not for the sake of uplifting ourselves at the detriment of the other. That wouldn’t be love at all: not love of one’s self or love of one’s community.

If only one party in the relationship is working to create love, to create the space of emotional connection, the dominator model remains in place and the relationship just becomes a site for continuous power struggle.

– Bell Hooks

The Point

Only a mind that has not yet been decolonized would think that there is room for only one struggle. America is full of struggles happening simultaneously and not every one is in opposition to the others. Mainstream society, the media specifically works from rules that do not have a vested interest in anything outside of itself as an institution (as most institutions do). Often there is only 15 minutes of attention given for any major event that has ties to a deeper struggle. These event s are serv

There is a balance that must be found between loving one’s Black self, loving Black women, and loving other Black men. There is no need to choose one and forsake the other — I have no idea where we have come up with this notion, which is a complete affront the very concept of Love. That would be like asking a parent to pick one child to love and hate the rest: it’s illogical, unnecessary, and it is the sign of an immature soul ignorant of the truth about Love. Love does not use ultimatums, generalities, and extremes. What makes Love such a powerful force worth reverence is that it can be all things at all times to all people. Love would never ask one to sacrifice one’s self in its name — we invented that idea. Love does not have a shallow reservoir for which a person much choose to not love too many things or too many people for fear of running out. There is enough Love to go around. Love is what we most lack right now and it is what we most need.

I’m not sayin’; I’m just sayin’,

An Angry Black Man

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July celebrated the 20th anniversary of John Singleton’a film Poetic Justice. The film is a cult classic for much of the young Black community but it is often underrated for its impact and influence.
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The Story

Poetic Justice dubbed by John Singleton as a “street romance,” offered a much different script for a Black story. Singleton blended realism with romance to create an honest unheard tale of Black romance. The story takes place in South Central Los Angeles. The romantic leads (Tupac Shakur and Janet Jackson) are a mailman and a cosmetologist. While, from a mainstream standpoint, these characters seem too ordinary and uninteresting, the effect was just the opposite. Lucky and Justice speak to a world of young Black people who do not lead extraordinary lives with high profile careers, designer clothes, and profound wealth. Poetic Justice gives young Black people a sense of belonging to something that previously seemed universal and exclusive: romance.

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Black Images

One of the things about the movie that affected me when I first saw the movie was the way Black men are portrayed. Singleton offers three dimensional representations in his Black male characters. The central male characters, Lucky (Shakur) and Chicago (Torry), are not perfect characters but they’re also not hypersexualized, thugs, or stereotypically masculine. They are regular young Black men with the interests of Black men.

Additionally, there is a stark contrast between the characters Iesha and Justice compared to the Black female characters that we see today. Neither character has the stereotypical decry about how Black men are no good or not good enough. There is no fictional naïveté about the men that they are involved with; however, there is also no preconceived notions about them either. The two women obviously care for each other despite their many differences and it makes for a believable friendship.

Throughout the movie there are depictions of support and love between the Black characters. Justice’s boss, despite her jaded views on love and no nonsense demeanor, commits several acts of pure kindness towards her employees. On their road trip Lucky, Justice, Iesha, and Chicago stop at a Black family reunion and (because they pretend to be related to the family) they are welcomed into the family with open arms.

These images are some that are rarely scene without an excess of slapstick style comedy or exaggeration. Singleton again emphasizes realism and how’s that it doesn’t take eccentricity to make a statement about Black culture.

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Sex versus Intimacy

One major point to be made about the movie is its lack of graphic sexual scenes. There are two sex scenes that happen in the movie. The first is a sex scene that occurs (without nudity) between Iesha and Chicago. The second is a sex scene that occurs between Lucky and Justice. While the two are shown doing no more than kissing, the sex is implied in the closing of the scene and confirmed in the conversation that occurs on the next scene.

The sex scene between Iesha and Chicago is devoid of an emotional connection. The lack of fulfillment leads the two into an argument that exposes how much the two actually do not like each other and results in a confrontation that ends their relationship. In contrast the sex that occurs between Lucky and Justice is a natural development resulting from the two having grown closer throughout the trip and the intimate conversation in which they both let their guards down and expose some of their inner feelings.

This is important to note because it illustrates that sex is natural and does occur in Black romances, but it does not always have to be graphic and devoid of emotion. It reminds us that there are more reasons for having sex than fat asses and big dicks.

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Black Romance

We often think of love as something so universal that it can be objectively discussed and demonstrated without regard to nationality. this could not be further from the truth. Unfortunately, in America, there is relatively little that Black people experience that is not in some way tinted or colored by the fact that they are Black — including love and romance.

Images in the media have often portrayed Black love and romance through a Caucasian gaze, even in Black movies and shows. Very rarely are scripts written that honestly illustrate the reality of Black love. Black love stories (especially for younger people) often do not occur in the ways that we see on television. Partly because of the historical damage that has been done to the relationship between Black men and Black women. That has altered the way that courting takes place and ultimately the ways that love happens.

While I can appreciate fiction and poetic license, I have often seen romance stories (in general) and thought, I have never known two Black people to fall in love like that. Yet, there is something familiar and genuine in the romance that occurs between Lucky and Justice. They each have their own fears, reservations, and past heartbreak that affects the way that they approach one another. One of my favorite scenes occurs at the beginning of the trip. When Lucky attempts to make conversation and get to know Justice. She is distant and cold towards him simply because of her initial impression of him. She thinks he’s a “wanna-be mack daddy” who probably has a bunch of kids and no passion or aspirations. This response leads Lucky back to his initial impression of her. He thinks she is a “stuck up bitch” that thinks that a man is supposed to bow to her. The tension swells quickly and ends with Justice threatening to have him “fucked up” and jumping out the truck while Lucky speeds off. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t love at first sight.

I love this scene because it doesn’t flinch in viewing the honest dysfunction of the relationship between Black men and Black women. The fact that we all too often to overcome our own ingrained biases against one another that results from having to constantly see each other through the filter of society that often paints Black men as irresponsible and lazy and Black women as catty and verbally abusive. Throughout the trip Lucky and Justice suspend their superficial evaluations to actually get to know one another and that does not happen without error, but it happens.

To tell a Black story in this way offers a portrayal of Black love that says its okay if it isn’t love at first sight and its okay if, even in the attempt to be emotionally vulnerable with one another, we make grave mistakes. Lucky and Justice appear to be over when they make it on their designation and Lucky in frustration over his cousin’s death directs that anger towards Justice and blames her for his not being there to save his cousin. Justice in turn feels validated in her original thoughts about not dating and especially not dating a guy from the hood. However, the magic of introspection and forgiveness allows the two of them to reconcile. Now that is a Black love story.

All too often we fail to keep trying and to keep pushing past the obstacles and remain emotionally available to one another. We think of each other as disposable and expect that we should come already packaged and ready for A relationship. I submit to you that there really is no such thing as being ready for a relationship. Relationships and love is like believing in God and joining a church. you can have one without the other and the former doesn’t prepare you to do the latter. Like the many religions and sects and denominations of churches, every relationship has its own challenges and requirements depending upon the two people who are coming together. A person prepares for love and when love happens it will get us ready for the relationship, if we are willing to be converted. That is a much needed story to be told to affirm for Black men and Black women that even love comes easily, romance takes effort.

The Point

What John Singleton accomplished with his film has rarely been reproduced in depictions of urban Black romance. For that reason, Poetic Justice is a cult classic in Black culture. Now more than ever we could stand to see a return such stories. In the midst of the war between the sexes and the discussions about the degradation of the Black family, Black love does exist and Black romances can and do happen.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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A series named in tribute to Bell Hooks. Love is a subject that is often discussed in the most trivial and superficial terms. Love, as a subject matter, especially from a Black perspective, hardly ever includes discussions regarding the nature of love, the function of love, the purpose of love, or the relevance of love. All we ever talk about is how we want it, have it, never had it, or keep losing it. We are right to see lack of love as a concern; we just have to choose the right angle for exploring solutions. Here is where that happens.
In my last post, I introduced a discussion regarding the nature of love. i came to the conclusion that for whatever reason, we have a difficult time recognizing love if and when we find it. We have (from God knows where) developed an idea of what love should look and feel like. But as anyone who has been in love can attest, love does not always look the way we think it should.
The Story
“I want painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love. Don’t you want that, too?” says Olivia.
“Love is not supposed to be painful or devastating. Love isn’t supposed to hurt, Liv,” responds Edison.

From a logical standpoint the character, Olivia Pope, sounds self-destructive and pathological while Edison sounds rational and level-headed. On the emotional side Olivia’s statement sounds passionate and hopelessly romantic while Edison sounds boring and mediocre. But the question lingered for me: is love supposed to hurt?

The Problem

Now when I asked several single friends their thoughts on the subject most agreed that love is not supposed to hurt. However, when I asked my friends who are or have been in serious, long-term (more than 1 year) relationships, their responses were less concrete but in the light of their eyes and the weight of their sighs, I saw the truth. They wanted to say or maybe even believe that love isn’t supposed to hurt but experience had taught them otherwise.

I tried to approach the thought not from a lofty idealistic manner in which I fashioned that love is like a fairy tale or some widely accepted rumor that no one can prove (like the idea of “The American Dream”). Instead I approached it from personal experience and related facts about love and the experiences that creates for people.

With that, I thought first about one of the most undeniable relationships involving true love: a mother and her child. No one would dare to contest a mother’s love for her child – this is not to say every mother loves her child or that every mother’s actions reflect her love for her child. What I’m saying is that a mother proclaims her love for her child, generally speaking, not many people would doubt that as the truth. So, the objective fact is she does love her child. The other fact is that this child will her hurt her a number of times throughout the child’s life.

Beginning with birth, one if the most dangerous things a woman can do. The inherent love age has for her child and her commitment to giving that child life forces a woman painfully to the brink of death. Thereafter, the child will most likely hurt their mother emotionally a number of times. Who doesn’t remember having put their mother through some distress or disappointment as a teenager? But it’s still love, right?

I also thought about the experience of first love. Everyone remembers their first love. It is the first time that you feel that undeniable, unexplainable connection to another human being in a romantic aspect. Not many people end up with their first love, but they never forget it. Often that first parting, no matter the circumstances, is painful.

The Point

So I began to think of all these situations in which there is an acceptance of the potential for pain, but somehow, some way many people still arrive at a point of expecting love to be painless, especially when it comes to romance. However, it is apparent that their is a connection between love and pain and that the presence of one does not negate the presence of the other.

I’m not sayin’; I’m just sayin’,

An Angry Black Man