Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

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A series, inspired by the CNN special, dedicated to race related identity issues concerning Black people in America.

The Martyr Complex

In Psychology there is a personality theory called the martyr complex or the victim complex. This complex is characterized by an individual who, seeking validation, acceptance, and love chooses to sacrifice themselves for another person’s happiness. They do this willingly but on an unconscious level so that if they succeed it was an act of generosity on their part but should they fail, they are able to escape criticism and responsibility for having chosen the endeavor.

People who suffer from a martyr complex choose intimate relationships with people who are abusive, manipulative, and difficult. They choose these people (unconsciously) because these relationships offer the greatest reward should they succeed in changing that person and making them good and having that person praise them for their efforts. The other side to the these choices in relationships is the fact that these individuals’ self esteem is based on what other people think of them. Therefore, they expect people to appreciate them for having chosen such difficult relationships and, at least, attempting to reform these bad people.

The Glory of Martyrdom

In the Black community it has become a badge of honor for one to give their lives for another. I think the development of this notion is multifaceted. I believe that it partly comes from the roots of African ideals, which holds family in high regard. 85964Another part comes from the effects of slavery and the loss of family ties, which also makes the connection to family important to Black people (the concept of family is subjective and often includes friends, community members, as well as blood relations). Add to that the Christian ideal that there is no greater love than to lie down one’s life for another, which due to slavery  is ingrained into the Black psyche.  Therefore, it is not surprising that family and the willingness to sacrifice, even unto the point of death, for ones loved ones is a strong concept for Black people.

Black people have (at some point) begun to correlate the martyring of ones self with the vindicating ones love for another. Often when we hear Black parents give evidence of their success as parents, we hear them give evidence of their love for their children by how much they are willing to give up for those children and how much they have sacrificed for the good of the children. For Black people martyrdom has become an act of love and, now, when Black people want to express or give evidence of how much they love someone, they reference all the things they have sacrificed in that person’s honor.

The Cost of Martyrdom

The most interesting ting about the martyr complex is that while, on a superficial level, it appears to be an altruistic sacrifice that an individual is making, it is actually a calculated move. The individual is seeking to manipulate or guilt the other individual into some act or behavior that indicates appreciation and gratitude (often unto the point of indebtedness or servitude) to the one who has made the sacrifice. For example, an individual may give a loved one their last dollar (despite the fact that this will mean that the individual may go without certain necessities to do so).

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That is not so bad; however, the sacrificing individual usually has an unspoken expectation that this person will do the same for them one day or that the person will appreciate this act to such a degree that the person will pledge an undying loyalty to the individual. When this does not happen, the sacrificing individual feels slighted, taken advantage of, used, or betrayed. The person will, then, feel completely justified in proceeding with severe acts of cruelty or in completely dismissing the person from their intimate circle, because they believe this person has proven to be unworthy of their love.

If this was a true act of sacrifice, there would be no expectation. The act itself would be gratifying enough to justify having done it. The fact that these sacrifices come with silent expectations and costs are what make the acts inspired by the martyrdom complex self-gratifying more so than self-sacrificing.

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The Price of Martyrdom

When one decides to lay their life down for another, they are willingly giving up something that is extremely valuable to them. The martyr complex twists this fact by placing an expectation on the person who is being sacrificed for. So inevitably the martyr ends up losing because the on thing that would have justified their sacrifice and made it worthwhile is not always attained.

Often these martyrs blame the other individual and begin to resent (if not hate) that individual. They often cannot see that the choice was always theirs to make and not a requirement. They believe so strongly that self-sacrifice is the only real evidence of true love that they cannot imagine how they might have truly loved this individual without having to sacrifice some part of themselves. This, ofcourse, is in complete contradiction to the way love works. This drives them further from the love, gratitude, and appreciation they seek because love is not beholden. Love seeks no other reward other than itself. Love does not make a condemned prisoner of a lover. in fact, it liberates the lover through the bond (not bondage) that is created.

That is why we see so many Black lovers who are jaded, bitter, wounded, suspicious, and loveless. They wander around leading with their wounded hearts (I would say pride) seeking someone to pity, appreciate, or lick their wounds and help them justify their sacrifices because the one for whom they made the sacrifice that did not pay the cost is a bad person. This cycle continues until the martyr has nothing left to give or decides that they are not willing to continue to sacrifice themselves for everyone they love. The problem is that this decision is often accompanied by a severe distrust of love and potential romantic partners and a cynicism that further alienates them from the love they seek.

The Point

We have to start building ideas about love and dedication that are not based on one’s ability to self-sacrifice. We have to create and generate ideas about love that are affirm life and creation. Love should not degrade, humiliate, exploit, torture, and murder. It should never be a requirement of love or a loved one that they should give all of themselves at any cost. Why would we ask that of anyone we truly love? That is like pushing a person into traffic because they said they loved us and wanted to see how much. It says more about the lack of understanding of love that the asker possesses than it ever will about how much that person loved the asker. No greater love have a person than to give life to the ones they love…and that does not always require the sacrifice of another life. To be sacrificed for is one thing. To demand a sacrifice is another thing entirely.

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.

The Story

Time and time again I have seen Black people maintain lifelong friendships but fail to accomplish this is their romantic connections. Friendships are a type of relationship. Friendships, like any relationship, require honesty, autonomy, and love to flourish. If friendships are so similar to romantic relationships, then why does this happen? The sustained commitment that we exercise in our friendships is lacking in our romantic relationships.

Friendships

Friendships are approached differently than the way we approach romantic relationships. I have often likened our approach to romantic relationships to a job interview. We engage romantic opportunities with a hidden agenda to impress, convince, and get the most for having given the least. When we approach friendships, however, we come with less of an agenda and more of a willingness to explore a connection and take it or leave it. We don’t expect to get more than we give nor do we allow ourselves to give more than we get. It is off of this mutual respect and understanding that friends begin to develop their connection.

When our friends first disappoint us, we often do not immediately think that they should be disposed of. We may distance ourselves or spend some time apart to allow heightened emotions to subside but we are usually more willing to come back from those offenses or hurts. We also are more candid about how we feel and do not feel guilty saying, without ultimatum, ‘that wasn’t cool.’ It is this honesty that draws us closed to one another.

Something special happens in a connection between two people when there is an understanding that every mistake will not be held over their head and every offense will not spell the end of the relationship. The removal of that bondage liberates a person to be who they are, with whatever attributes and flaws they possess at the time, and learn and grow in a space of love — knowing that their loved one is not looking for reasons to deny them love.

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My godmother and my mother had one of the best relationships. In one moment they could be cursing at each and telling each other “shut the hell up” and “I’ll do what the fuck I wanna do.” And the next minute they would be agreeing to see each other for a cup of coffee. One conversation with either of then will reveal how well they know each other (flaws and all) and how they have never had a better friend. That’s love.

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I often think of my sister’s relationship with her best friend. The two found each other during their turbulent teens. My sister having growing up in the suburbs that my mother had left the Bronx to offer her and her friend from the grit of the projects that her mother was unable to save her from. What seemed an unlikely pair developed a bond so strong that years later after love gained and lost they would witness the birth of each other’s children (with and without the fathers present).

What stands out most to me about their relationship is the honesty (sometimes brutal) that they have with each other. Neither coddles the other with superficial evaluations of their actions. When one thinks that the other us wrong, she will look her friend in the eye unflinching and without any sugar coating lay her thoughts before her friend. I have seen these conversations become yelling and cursing matched ending in one going one way and the other going another way. Within days or hours you can find them laughing and talking as if nothing had changed. The truth, nothing had changed. They’d simply disagreed. And that’s bound to happen between any two individuals.

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My father had several close friends. I’m not sure which one if any or all were my godfather but I considered them all to be. It always fascinated me that although he and my godfathers were just as candid with each other as my mother was with my godmother, they disagreed differently. As men they didn’t have the same banter, when they disagreed it was often with a sense of humor and kept a light note which one would end the conversation saying “Aw man get the fuck outta here.” Usually the banter would stop then unless the argument was serious at which point it escalated and both made gestures and used tones that let it be known that the argument had gone to the next level. As friends they usually parted physical presence and may not speak for a day it so but with the certainty of a sunrise, one would eventually show up and start a general conversation and the return of their normal jovial interaction would signal that all was okay.

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One of my best friends and I often have silent arguments. We might disagree verbally and at a certain point in the disagreement we would walk away from each other. Depending on how angry we were we might not speak besides exchanging cordial greetings. Then one day one of us would call the other and begin a conversation and the other would respond and before we knew it we would be back to normal. Rarely have these disagreements needed any further discussion. When they did we approached them fairly diplomatically beginning with “Yo, that shit wasn’t cool man…” From there we would have a less heated version of the conversation that we both could approach objectively. If nothing else we could always commit to coming back to one another and being willing to continue the friendship.

The Problem

Romantic relationships have more levels of intimacy. We also bring more baggage and insecurities into romantic relationships which often make disagreements feel heightened. We take what our romantic partners say and do much more personally (which is understandable); however, we are also quick to dismiss and push those people out of their place in our lives. Unlike our friendships we are less forgiving and willing to maintain the relationship when we are offended.

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I would argue that it is both revolutionary and courageous for any two Black people to engage in a romantic relationship. Black folks have layers of insecurities that range from complexion complexes to class concerns as well as general romantic fears of abandonment and cheating. It is a task to allow another person so close to you without attacking them at every turn when you are existing in a society that makes defense you best method of survival (and the best defense is, ofcourse, an offense). It is no menial task to merge with another individual when you’re own identity and self esteem has been made fragile from living in a world that constantly defines itself but why you’re not.

This is why I shake my head when I hear amateur lovers say “it shouldn’t be this hard,” “love isn’t supposed to hurt,” or “I’m not going through all that.” Because essentially they have condemned themselves to a life without beauty of a sustained committed romantic relationship. In a truly loving relationship both parties values the others’ esteem and perspective as much as their own. Together merge with a measure of give and take and develop a standard for their relationship that may be different from their individual standards but is mutually adhered to and works for the dynamic of the two personalities working together. This is how most friendships work. We often will take a fair amount of crap from our friends that we cherish that we wouldn’t dare accept from anyone else; however, this is a loved one and the value of that connection makes them not anyone else.

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Part of the reason we have developed these false superficial ideas about love is because of the self-esteem overdose of popular opinion that seeks to empower our internal value through an excessive emphasis on individualism and selfishness. Instead of being assertive and confident we become demanding, dominating, argumentative and judgmental. Anything our romantic partner brings to the relationship that challenges out self-esteem or pushes against our insecurities, we find offensive and defend ourselves to the extreme.

So instead of having healthy, confident self-esteem, these individuals become emotional tyrants that dominate relationships with their overbearing insistence upon themselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving ones self and having standards for ones self; however, relationships aren’t about one individual. Therefore, it’s no longer just one person’s standards and one person’s self-esteem. When we should let some things go, we hold onto that painful moment. When we should allow them to come back and make amends, we belittle and demean them for their mistake. We are ruthless in our defenses and merciless in our reconciliation.

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The Point

Commitment isn’t about right and wrong; it isn’t about fair; it isn’t about our self worth; and isn’t about what we deserve. Commitment is about the willingness to sustain a relationship. Sometimes that means swallowing our pride and asking forgiveness (in any manner) and sometimes it’s about keeping our arms open to those we love despite the lack of guarantee that they won’t hurt us again. Commitment is about “stick and stay” as my grandmother called it. It’s about valuing a connection beyond our insecurities, pain, and fears.

Sustaining that commitment takes understanding, forgiveness, and, most of all, genuine care. When are committed to sustaining a commitment we make sacrifices, we let things go, we forgive, and we move forward. The willingness to sustain a commitment does not come from love. The willingness to sustain a commitment comes from a personal value of the trust in the relationship that tells us that this person has never intended to hurt us and that given the chance they would not hurt us (this way) again. That is all that one can ask of person: to understand that we are all spirits on a physical journey of learning and loving and that they give us the chance to learn and never stop loving us.

I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20130726-084410.jpgA 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.

The Story

After watching the latest episode of Scandal, I was sent into thought by Mellie’s plight.

When Mellie says, “You don’t have to love me. But we are in this hell together and the flames are burning both of us with equal intensity, baby, so the least you could do is be my friend — just a little bit. The least you could do is show up, show up for me.” That moment hit home for me. There are times in relationships when things get so dysfunctional that you start to feel that you almost forget how you ever came to love that person. And, as emotions begin to wane, we make excuses to justify why we refuse to do all the things we used to do (you know the ones that make the relationship work). But then if we stop doing those things aren’t we as much to blame for the failure of the relationship. A dysfunctional/bad/dying relationship is still a relationship and as long as we’re in it, we should continue to do what we have committed ourselves to doing when we started the relationship because what does love/affection actually have to do with commitment?

Commitment

 Commitment is like trust: it’s a choice. It’s a purely individual choice that should not be built on a pretense of some specific response. You commit because it’s what you choose to do and you uphold that commitment because that is what you choose to do (the honorable thing to do, I might add). The commitment isn’t about controlled responses or specific actions. Hell, it isn’t even about love. Commitment is about us doing our part. And if we are focused on doing our part, we should have so much to keep us busy we cannot possibly police our partners efforts to do their part. If they are committed then they will show up and if they do not then address their lack of commitment and decide if the two of you should be in a relationship at all.

We often confuse commitment with control. We say we want someone who is committed and/or consistent but we are really saying is that we want someone who will act the way we want them to act and do the things we want them to do when we want them to do it. We think that means something. We think that means that the other person is worth our time and our efforts to build a relationship. We are trying to quantify emotions and justify our participation in the relationship. And God help the individual who cannot figure out and chooses not to give us what we want, because we will leave so quickly (and usually so viciously) that one would have to wonder if we ever loved them.

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But I submit to you that a relationship is a commitment and not a trade off. We cannot go into relationships looking to emotionally barter for the things we want. We should go into the relationship because we want to share a life with that person and are committed to doing so. And if for some reason we decide that we no longer want that relationship, it is better to leave than to try to punish or manipulate that person into doing the things that make the commitment desirable for us. That is a perversion of commitment that results in romantic possession.

Possession

We live in an imperialistic society. America is all about aggression, competition, and domination. As individuals, we allow that mindset to saturate our thoughts about how to approach everything in life. Therefore, we go into relationship with a battle mentality — which wouldn’t be so bad if we chose the right enemy. The problem is instead of battling public opinion and social norms, we fight each other. We go into relationships determined to to create this ideal relationship that we have in mind and to get this person (who we may love and genuinely want to be with) to be what we think they should be — ofcourse this is dictated by our ideal relationship. And every now and then we will listen to the other person’s ideas about relationships and if they do not match ours we endeavor to convince, persuade, debate, and/0r force them to think about like we do or at least submit to doing it our way.

So, then, the commitment becomes not only about control but a battle for possession. We begin to use the relationship to possess the other person. We manufacture arguments and issues to shame and guilt our romantic partners into seeing things our way. We twist and reshape perceptions of events to prove the point that we were right all along and our romantic partner should have seen that long ago and we wouldn’t have the problems we have. In relationships no one owes us anything. What we do for our romantic partners and our relationships should be done because it pleases us to do it. Not because of something  our partners do or something we expect them to do. That is a corruption of the relationship that commodifies the relationship and makes it a good to be disposed of when it stops working.

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The Problem

The problem is that we won’t accept that building a relationship is a process that is altogether different than anything else we might do in life. The relationship is at least 80% about commitment. It’s probably 10% about love and 10% about timing. As Americans we have grown to be some of the most spoiled, irresponsible, and lazy people on the planet. We, with our privilege and superiority complexes, think that nothing should be exceptionally hard and that we deserve the best of everything just because we do. Actually most everything really good is really hard. And that which we deserve is relative to something that we have done to earn it.

As great as we think we are (and sometimes we can be), someone else is great, too. If we could find a way to connect with one another in a way that isn’t about competing, dominating, and manipulating to get what we want, we might find ourselves able to develop meaningful relationships that hold a lifetime of value. It is no great secret why past generations had more successful marriages and partnerships — even the ones that weren’t love at first sight (i.e. arranged marriages). Those people honored commitment and they understood relationships.

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The Point

Anyone who watches the show Scandal knows that President Grant is not at all in love with his wife (as he is in love with Olivia Pope) and it is questionable whether his wife is in love with him or simply using him for political gain; however, what she said in that scene was more poignant because of the lack of love/romance in their relationship. What she saying in other words is ‘we’re married/in a commitment and with or without the love, you should show up and be present in this relationship.’ That’s heavy because, she’s right. And by the end of the episode President Grant does show up for her and it is tender moment that speaks volumes. It shows us that love shouldn’t be the only inspiration to “do the right thing” or to show up and give effort to a relationship. So, then, I would imagine if we could get to that point of honor the commitment of our relationships unselfishly, without pretense, and regardless of love, then imagine what two people who are in love might accomplish.

Love and affection and all those right and wonderful things our romantic partners do make our efforts worthwhile and they give us a sense of satisfaction about the relationship, but, at the end of the day, they can’t be the motivation to do those things. We have to choose to do them and to choose to do them even when there is not immediate gratification. Love and relationships aren’t destinations at which we arrive, they’re evolving journeys that constantly require our attention and our commitment in order to get the rewards we desire. Perhaps the next time, we should, for the hell of it, commit without pretense and without judgment. I’d be willing to bet that even if the relationship doesn’t last forever, we would walk away much more enriched and with a lot less emotional baggage.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20130726-084410.jpgA 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.

If only real life love stories began and ended the way we think they do or should. But alas, they hardly ever do.

The Story

I have heard my share and had my share of love gained and love lost and I can say that it has never happened the way I thought it would not has it ended in the way I thought it would. However, what I have learned is that I’m not alone in my experiences.

I have recently spoken with quite a few friends about relationships. More than a few have what they call “a fear of abandonment.” I, myself, once thought I had such a fear. But then I had a series of romantic experiences that changed my view. But in listening to my friends I found it strange that, however different the scenarios and relationships were, they all seemed to confess this fear of abandonment and the eccentricities that trying to defend against it causes.

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Fear of Abandonment

I have said more times than a few that we are living in a graceless and loveless age in society. We have lost touch with what’s really important and as a result we have forgotten how to relate to, empathize with, and connect with one another.

When I hear people speak of abandonment now what I see is not really the traditional fear of abandonment…what we are really afraid if is loving and not being loved in return. We fear having our affections being taken advantage of. We fear needing someone who doesn’t need us. We fear wanting someone who doesn’t want us. And while those fears are not unnatural, our responses are.

There was a time when romantic fears did not cause us to discredit love and blame it for our woes. There was a time when things were broken we fixed them — in ourselves and in others. There was a time when love was enough to justify holding on, trying harder, and not giving up. Now…well now our egos won’t let us keep trying because we’re more concerned with our image and pride. We wouldn’t dare take a chance on someone or something that cannot be tangibly quantified. And that is why we lose out on love. Love isn’t tangible; love isn’t quantifiable; love isn’t logical; love isn’t rational; and love needs no justification.

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When we put love on trial, we lose. Because love has done nothing wrong. Love is always honest and pure. It is us who twist, corrupt, pollute, and pervert love. And it’s really quite silly. How does one challenge or demand if a force of nature. That’s like standing in a hurricane and demanding it not tear asunder the ground beneath it; you can try it but you’ll probably kill yourself and the hurricane will move on.

The Problem

The truth about the fear of abandonment is that we are not truly scared if being left alone. By a certain age in life we have been alone often enough and have been left and have left often enough to know exactly what to do when it happens. What we are really looking for is that person with whom we can build and share a life with. But instead of approaching love and romance in the humble reverence of the force that it is, we come with aggression, manipulation, defensiveness, and demands. We want love and our potential romantic partners to give us guarantees. But there are no guarantees in love. We want love and our potential romantic partners to prove themselves worthy of our love. Well everyone is deserving of love, whether or not you choose to give them yours is completely up to you. That is about you deciding that however this ends I believe it will have been worth it to atleast try.

So that fear of abandonment is actually out a fear of ourselves. Something has happened to make us distrust our own judgment and because we can’t trust ourselves to choose the right partner or to recover from having chosen the wrong one, we take it out on love and our romantic partners. That behavior is sure to run anyone away but for us it serves as proof that we were right: nobody can be trusted and nobody stays.

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The Point

If we do not confront the truth of our fears through brutally honest thought and introspection, we will never find the love or romance we long for. We will forever be in and out of superficial flings that never last and always feed our insecurity. Until we grow up and start taking responsibility for the life and love we want and acknowledging that it is created out of our perception and will, we will limp along as lost hearts propped up on a crutch of abandonment fears. That is the truth about love and the fear of abandonment. So many times we cannot see the forest for the trees. That’s because popular opinions about love are at odds with the truth…and something inside us always knows and longs for the truth.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20130726-084410.jpgA 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.

Oh they gonna hate me for this one…

The Story

Recently the conversation about infidelity has come a few times. I entered a Facebook debate about the lead character of Scandal, Olivia Pope, and whether or not she represented a “sidechick.” Naturally, I first wanted to define the term sidechick and what it means to be with one (because its a colloquial term and its subject to different meanings). However, for me, what the conversation came down to was whether or not Olivia and Fitz’s relationship could be considered cheating. The show’s plot is more complex than just making the two characters the participants of an illicit affair. The two characters are in love as well as in the public eye and because of the public nature of their lives, they cannot be together at the moment. Fitz’s wife knows about the relationship and Fitz himself has told his wife that he is in love with Olivia and, if not for the threat to his position as President, he would leave his wife and be with Olivia.Olivia_Fitz_Scandal

On the reality side there has been a lot of recent conversation about Dwayne Wade and his girlfriend of 4 years, Gabrielle Union. It was publicly announced that Wade had recently become a father again with a woman that was not Union. Wade’s original statement that the child was conceived during a break in the relationship has been refuted and the media has generally accepted the position that Wade cheated on Union. Neither Union or her ‘people’ have made any statements regarding the news. However, Union made a very obvious statement in her acceptance of Wade’s proposal this December. So, ofcourse, the buzz has become a flurry of questions about whether or not Union should marry her cheating (alleged) boyfriend.

In both instances, with the fictional Olivia Pope as well as with Gabrielle Union, I have reserved the opinion that neither is foolish, or dumb, or wrong for continuing their relationships with the men they love. My point is that relationships are complex and almost never black-and-white and infidelity is no different.

The Problem

Infidelity, is about loyalty and a failure to fulfill one’s obligations to another. I do not argue with this notion. However, who can say that they have never failed at meeting an obligation, for whatever reason? So, what makes it different when we talk about relationships? The major difference that comes when we use the term in reference to relationships is based on the way that we view relationships.gabrielle-union-dwayne-wade

In our imperialistic capitalistic society, everything tends to become a possession to be commodified, including relationships. We only befriend those that we will feel will advance our causes or help us to attain some goal — whether that is financial, emotional, or social. We only choose the jobs that are prestigious and add to our career advancement. We only participate in those activities that allow us to present a grand lifestyle to the world. In short, everything comes with a purpose. We rarely do anything for passion or the sake of someone else. When we approach people and relationships like this, we are destined to lose. No one wants to be a slave. And that is what we will make them if we can only view them for their value to us or our lives.

In short, we are selfish. And what’s worse is that this idea is fostered by society. We are told to do so. we are told that if we don’t look for ourselves no one else will — a lie. We are told that our every act of selfishness is about self preservation, which is natural — a lie. Certainly there must be a level of concern for one’s well being, but when it comes to emotions, we often don’t know what is best or most healthy. We’re all just guessing. And we neglect the fact that no 2 situations are ever the same; what might a healthy act of self preservation in one situation is just a willful selfishness in another. There is nothing black-and-white about matters of the heart.

Infidelity

We do not always find our great loves the first time around; however, when we find them, we know it. That emotion we feel for that person will inspire a level of commitment and connection to that individual. This connection cannot always be demonstrated or dictated by holding a certain title or position in that person’s life. That wouldn’t make the two people any less connected just as getting married doesn’t make to be fall in love with one another (or stay there). Olivia and Fitz on Scandal are the star-crossed lovers who are always missing one another. When one is ready to throw caution to the wind and pursue their love at all costs, the other is usually not in that same frame of mind. The one constant is that they remains supportive of one another and their love for one another endures. At the heart of any relationship, that is all that really matters.fitzolivia

When love is seen as a commodity, we feel we have to consume that person. They are our property and we don’t want to share. It’s because we love them and want them and value the connection with them, but often it gets expressed in a possessing of that person. Therefore, infidelity is  viewed as a theft of what belongs to us. Honestly, anyone who could possibly objectively say that infidelity is an automatic reason for ending a relationship is looking at the relationships as a commodity: something they own. The details of Union and Wade’s situation is largely unknown; yet, the public has stood as judge and jury sentencing not only Wade but the relationship to death. There are so many negative emotions and issues surrounding infidelity, but if we see it as a poor choice a person has made or their failure to live up to their obligations, a story unfolds. this story considers that this person is a person and at all times has the choices. The reason they have made the choice they did is where the true problem lies. In Union and Wade’s case, the true problem was obviously something that could be surmounted — and that is what they intend to do. And how anyone can not see the beauty in two people overcoming their own demons and struggles together, I’ll never understand.

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It is easy to stand outside a situation and criticize those who are living the life that we voyeuristically watching. It is easy to use any and every publicly acceptable excuse to resign from the hard work of building a relationship with someone. It is easy to give up as soon as we find out our potential romantic partner is as flawed as we are. It’s easy to be selfish and to think only of ourselves, but that is the complete opposite of what a relationship is. Relationships are about connections of sustained commitment to other people and in that it requires a commitment to the consideration of both parties by both parties.

There is nothing more tragic than a person with a big heart and a small mind. our potential for love s limited by our ability to conceive of it n its truest form. Until we can see love beyond labels, titles, and ownership, we will continue to experience romance superficially. There is no tangible value through act or word that can measure the infinite potential and power of true love. A selfish person rarely realizes that no one wants to be with someone who will at every turn always choose themselves over the other person and the relationship. That in every moment of failure their partner will abandon them emotionally and/or physically. No one is signing up for that. To expect someone to always live up to our idealized fantasies about relationships places a superficial value on something that is priceless. I do not propose that anyone should allow themselves to be degraded or become someone’s doormat; I’m proposing that every poor choice; every bad decision; every failure is not black-and-white. It’s all actually some shade of gray. If we are truly seeking a loving connection and romantic partnership that defies the odds, then we will have to defy the opposition. When giving up stops becoming an option, succeeding does.

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.

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The Story

I haven’t really kept up with the Love and Hip Hop although it seems very popular and social media buzzes when the plot takes a turn. I did her a chance to watch several episodes from this season this past week. One episode in particular (episode 13) where Traci and her new boyfriend, DeShaun, meet her ex, Drew so that Drew can apologize for being so rude when he’d first met DeShaun. Drew does this and goes on to interrogate DeShaun, specifically asking if DeShaun had any criminal history Traci should know about. DeShaun says that he doesn’t and Drew whips out his phone wit a mugshot of DeShaun that he googled. Traci blows up and states that she can’t trust DeShaun because he lied. DeShaun admits he lied but states that it was because her ex was trying to play him in front of her and he felt that wouldn’t be the time to discuss that. In the end Tracindays she can’t trust him and DeShaun says he’s not gonna beg her.

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This incited me to ask a few friends about whether they check out the people they date. Most stated that they did at some point google, ask around, or in some manner check up on their potential mates. When I asked whether any “negative” information they found ever affected their decision to be with that person, most said yes.

Trust

I have often heard people say that trust is earned; I have discovered that’s a lie. Many times when discuss trusting someone we talk about the actions, honesty, or consistency about the person that makes them trustworthy. In truth, none of those things proves anything about whether or not we choose to trust someone. We either do or we don’t.

Trust is given. It is about the person who’s giving the trust and whether or not they find that person trustworthy. Those requirements are subjective and depends on the individual. The same person one individual would never trust may have the trust of every other person they meet. Trust, then, is a personal evaluation an individual makes about another person that may or may not go against evidence to the contrary.

Traci’s insecurity leads her to test and try DeShaun to figure if she can trust him and whether or not he’s a suitable partner. Testing a potential mate to see if they can be trusted is useless and futile because trustworthiness cannot be measured. DeShaun appears to be a decent enough dude. The fact that he has made a mistake in his youth does not stain him as being someone untrustworthy. But, Traci, lost in her own insecurity cannot see this. Her reaction to the information about DeShaun’s background tells more about her than it does about him. It is natural to have some baggage or insecurity after being betrayed and hurt in past relationships. However, people who distrust others are, in truth, unable to trust themselves.

The Point

The choice to trust is a complicated and risky decision. The decision and how one comes to make that decision is full of nuances to be considered and pitfalls to be avoided. In the Black community we have grown so distrustful of each other, in general, that while we long for one another, we find it difficult to develop and sustain relationships. This is especially true for romantic relationships. While no one wants to have their heart broken or get played, such are the risks of romance. The best way to reduce those risks is to change the way we evaluate each other. The choice to trust is a judgment of character, not of actions and logistics. There is no way to quantify trust.

I’m not sayin’; I’m just sayin’,

An Angry Black Man