Saturday, December 26, 2015

Kwanzaa principles and media examples

Note: I believe these principles can be applied within and beyond the black community. I feel that anybody who is privy to a legacy of being othered and therefore like a deficit in one way or another can benefit from the principles Kwanzaa has to offer.  I have worded the principles and their meaning the way I have because of this and because the media selections that follow have a similar intent in that the messages are not meant to be exclusive to a particular group. That being said, here is my interpretation of the principles and media that illustrate these principles, followed by a list of movies & shows that I believe illustrate all seven principles. My son and I collaborate on this list each year (we’ve been doing this since 2012). That being said, this list is incomplete and always up for revision. Anything anyone wants to add is fine with me, as long as it’s relevant.

1.       Umoja |Unity—maintaining unity in family, community, humanity, and self
Movie(s): Crooklyn; Lilo & Stitch; Meet the Robinsons; Spirited Away; Kung Fu Panda; Guardians of the Galaxy?; My Neighbor Totoro; The Wiz; Big Hero 6
Shows: Proud Family; Steven Universe; FMA Brotherhood

2.       Kujichagulia | Self-Determination—the ability to define, speak for, and create yourself
Movie(s): The Iron Giant; Kiki’s Delivery Service; Monster’s University; Spirited Away; Lilo and Stitch; The Wiz; My Neighbor Totoro; Bebe's Kids
Shows: Steven Universe; FMA Brotherhood; Scrubs

3.       Ujima | Collective work and responsibility—building and maintaining community together; helping others with their problems and working together to solve them
Movie(s): The Iron Giant; Nausicaa; Princess Mononoke; Monster’s University ; Spirited Away; Lilo and Stitch; The Never ending story; Bebe’s Kids; Big Hero 6
Show(s): Avatar; FMA Brotherhood

4.       Ujamaa| Cooperative economics—need for community to support and sustain itself economically
Movie(s): My Neighbor Totoro; Kiki’s Delivery Service; Lilo & Stitch
Show: FMA Brotherhood

5.       Nia | Purpose—working to restore ourselves to greatness as a people through collective and communal efforts/developments
Movie(s): Castle in the Sky; Nausicaa; The Never ending story; The Wiz; Bebe’s Kids
Show(s): Avatar; FMA Brotherhood

6.       Kuumba | Creativity—doing what we can, when we can, in the ways that we can, to be of benefit to our community & ourselves; to leave both more beautiful & beneficial than we first found it
Movie(s): Kiki’s Delivery Service; The Little Rascals?; The Wiz; Spirited Away

7.       Imanai | Faith—to believe in community, family, humanity and ourselves ; that they will help us in our struggles
Movie(s): Spirited Away; Nausicaa; Guardians of the Galaxy
Shows: Avatar; Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

Movies that illustrate all seven principles: Star Wars (the originals); Spirited Away; Kiki’s Delivery Service; Nausicaa; Princess Mononoke; Crooklyn; Lilo & Stitch; Kung Fu Panda; Whisper of the Heart; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; The Wiz

Shows that illustrate all seven principles: Avatar-The Last Airbender; FMA Brotherhood; Ninja Turtles?; Samurai Jack?; Digimon; Steven Universe; It’s Okay, That’s Love

Thursday, December 17, 2015

I am surprised I still have to hear people say this but not really

When I hear people say things that are clearly meant for me to question myself, I know I have a long way to go when I actually comply and waste time wondering. Reminds me of this song...

The short of it is, I really need to work on my snappy comebacks. When I say I am a Black American and I hear the response "I'm surprised you would say that if you use Black Feminist Thought" I should have said "Oh but you're not surprised they claim Catholicism considering how Christianity was also an agent of genocide of indigenous peoples which they also claim?" Not snappy enough but you get the idea. Instead I end up trying do defend my choice of identity and Dr. Call-Em-Out sits there in amusement waiting to reclaim their moment as center of the universe. Yeah I might have been imagining things but the impact was there. As I'm told its not about intent it's about impact.

Still it bothered me enough that once more I was not Black Feminist enough because I said I was American, that I was lost, that I am essentially homeless as far as knowing where I come from is concerned. This is the reality of my situation. I don't know who my great-grandparents are, I don't know where my people have traveled over time, I have no sense of my roots. We seem to privilege this knowledge, this right to claim an ancestral home and story line. There is apparently no excuse for not knowing in this day and age. When I assert the choice to move away from the legacy of violence that plagues my family, I am told I am running away, placing a band-aid on a wound rather than addressing it. Maybe so, but these folks don't seem to consider that this logic applies to refugees trying to get away from horrendous situations in order to survive long enough to reclaim their human dignity. Maybe leaving such situations and legacies behind is a matter of life and death. I assert how I no longer belong to a place where I am required to be the kind of tough that I am not, nor really want to be. I am told maybe mine is an urban legacy, that such memories and imprints of how to be in this setting will return. It was as if I were being painted in a box, their box of what it is to be black. It was as if  they were claiming what so many non-black people of color and whites do, that they know what it is to be black, that they are blacker than me. Here come the reading suggestions. Thanks for understanding me. And yet I have not dared question why this deeply indigenous person is in academia, the very setting that justified the erasure of their people. A fine oppressor they will make. 

Even so, it was never considered that maybe being a nomadic soul, without knowable roots, is part of the Black condition. Uprooted from the African continent to aid in the settlement of another's land, continual displacement and exclusion from human dignity, eventual settlers with no home to return to, what else was supposed to happen? We were and continue to be damned either way.  Continual re/creation and validation of ourselves is  a process that has been claimed as part of Black Feminist epistemology. Understanding my roots might not be the thing that makes me whole as much as it appears to instead strip me of agency to find my own way home. Never mind that living is an active will to survive and make another way of life for myself. I have come to understand my home as being any place where I can simply be, where I can love and be loved. The Wiz does a great job of articulating this reality, that home is where you love.

So while I claim a Black American as part of my identity, this is done fully knowing that my consciousness and way of being is not absent of American-ness. I cannot simply deny this part of myself, even in the face of continued oppression, even if there is no such thing as America. If I were to go anywhere outside of this place, I would be identified as an American plain and simple. There is need to invalidate this material aspect of our reality, no need to invalidate my connection to Black Feminist Thought just because my sense of self defies the box you think I should be in. This may not be considered very radical beyond knowing that at the very least this place is where I am and therefore a part of who I am. I am continually in the process of creating the kind of self and reality that suits me, my son, and anyone else who wishes to visit my home. It doesn't matter if this doesn't scream Black Feminist to you. It does matter that Black Feminism be better understood on its terms rather than your own before you assume what I am not enough of in this regard. More than that, it matters that I am understood on my terms before you decide we can relate.

Alas, having to hear about how I should be questioning myself and my understanding of myself and my blackness is something I'm going to have to deal with from the minute I open my mouth. Why? Because I don't "sound black"! So even as an adult I my speech patterns get made fun of (as in very recently, as in even people from the African continent have caught on that this is okay), let alone my beliefs . I get exposed to double-standards like I get exposed to air. Yet I am not firm enough in my resolve to be dismissive of the nonsense and go on my way. Why? Because I want to get it right, being a Black/Feminist that is.

The bottom line is it doesn't matter--never has, cause it's all b.s. when it comes to me. I'm dammed if I do or don't remember? So I gotta keep making my own way, lifting as I climb, knowing who and what got me to where I am. Doesn't that make me Black/Feminist enough for you???!!! Then why are you doing this if we're supposed to be p.o.c in solidarity???!!! Get it together you say? You first! I always have to be the better doormat up in this piece! Imma just take a step back, work on my healing, and know that home is not where you are. Even so, peace be with you all the same.

Until next time...

Friday, October 9, 2015

Oh what dreams I have...

A while back I had the following dream. Every now and then I have vivid dreams like this that I do not make note of. I am trying to change that, starting with the following...

I was walking to the Palouse. I arrived in a small town instead overshooting the Palouse and knew I needed to backtrack. This small town was crowded with homes, small shops and people and visitors. It was fall and gray out and I had on a large backpack for traveling. People seemed to notice but ignored me traveling through their town. I saw a path, a gravelly one which went through a park like setting that I thought pointed in the direction of Palouse, from which I would travel on to Spokane. Before getting on that trail, I had to pass by a densely populated parking lot. One of those dirt/land parking lots that was part of the park. There were only 2 is rows of cars, trucks, rvs and large vans. As I began walking my way through, a bunch of roaming dogs start coming up. They seem threatening because they are a mixture of curious yet on guard with bared teeth and barking so I put my backpack in front of me to shield me from the dogs. I keep walking slowly through but am largely stopped. Then their owners appear to send them away. Mostly these are white women who appear to live in the surrounding trailers and rvs. They are rough looking which seems to fit the spirit of the town. One of those places where people are getting by with what they can. A few kids pop out and are curious about me,especially a little brown skinned girl.

Eventually I end up in a woman's house/store where I am able to get some water. I move with the other women to the kitchen and notice large roasted peppers-orange ones-in a hanging wire basket by stove. I notice on the floor next to a comfy chair nearby is my missing water bottle. I am not sure if I should reclaim it and feel weird for doing so because I do not want to be seen as a thief so I leave it. I am still eating the chocolate and wish for relief from it so I hurriedly drink water. For some reason I feel I must finish the chocolate as quickly as possible before I continue on my way. I have made peace with the fact that I may need to grab a taxi to get me up to Spokane and begin wondering how I should go about calling one. In the meantime, there is an overabundance of chocolate which was sweet at first but becomes a burden to consume. Chocolate fills my mouth. It becomes too sweet, too much and I consider throwing it away but in spite of my growing disgust decide it is better to eat it. 

What could such craziness mean? 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The politics of unfriending

Justifying a real-life unfriending is very hard to do, but necessary because it has not been done before by me, actively. Given my desire to be a decent human being, such rejection--the moving away from friend-space--seems contradictory to this greater goal. Then I remember how far away from this desire this particular "friendship" was taking me as I found it harder and harder to identify with their living paradigm. 

What is it to reject evil? Is evil real? Is it perpetuated in rejection of those with such undesirable traits?

Working the path of change, trying to figure out, if this is who they really are, why hang around? It seems they’ll just as soon burn the world down with you in it because that is their medicine and you were a fool to think it had to be yours too—that liking it was part of accepting who they are. But what about you became an unacceptable response with an all too obvious answer of you don’t matter because it’s not about you. Accepting this makes it all to easy for you to forget who you really are/who you really want to be, which is why you resist such logic  as much as you are able to. 

 If what is said about evil is true, then they are evil because they never bothered to understand the world, nor you enough to know that their medicine does harm, no matter how it is sold. Besides, you never felt comfortable around fire to begin with because you weren’t a fan of pain. Didn’t stop you from trying to apply a healing touch. They don’t see they are hurting you as you burn, in fact they did nothing wrong because this is who they are and how they heal. You forgot fire cannot be healed, only extinguished. So do not feel bad for walking away from the fire. They know not what they do, but you know, which is why you had to leave. 

Healing is hard to do when you keep burning yourself trying to understand and get close, thinking you were making your skin tough by trying to get through to them. Don’t fool yourself; they will burn you to the bone unknowingly, uncaringly, and say you wanted it, that you enjoyed it because you stuck around thinking you could save them from the flames of their own demise. Besides, accepting them for who they are, might mean doing so from a respectful distance—far enough away so you aren’t the fuel for their fire. 

And this is the resting place I have arrived at on this matter. Yes, healing needs to be done, but I am not sure this should involve anyone but my friends and myself. I might never be ready to face someone that maintains such a toxic demeanor. And why should I? Self-preservation, let alone self-love has taken a backseat long enough in my life. 

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Struggle to Live in Decency Continues: Love and Mercy for the "Judas-type"

I wrote this a few weeks ago. It was my response to a conversation had recently…

“If___had been shown love, they might not have done what they did.”

Such a saying casts the wrong-doer as the victim. Is this to say their crimes should be excused? Of course not! Would they have turned out differently? Ask enslavers, slave masters, colonists, those bent on genocide. Ask racists, sexists, megalomaniacs, murderers, rapists, and anyone else wedded to privilege and/or domination. I don’t think its much of a leap to consider that such individuals—personified by characters like Cypher from The Matrix or Lando (to a far, far, lesser extent) or others that betray in favor of either saving their own skins, or power (or at least the chance of having it)—are that far off from joining up with such horrendous legacies.

“But without these people there would be no story.”

No matter how hard I try, I cannot buy into this logic. It sounds too close to “but without slavery where would we be as a people?” It is rather infuriating to hear that time and again. When people become enamored with self-serving power which expresses itself in the form of anything ranging from undivided attention drawn from others, to having the power to command that attention, loyalty, service from others, it is hard to know whether love would really have been the answer.  Love demands responsibility to do well by others, to respect them enough to know them, which allows for us to care about them effectively. Being shown that is one thing, but passing that gift on is another. It seems all such wrong-doing characters want is that comfort that comes with self-centered, self-serving, power. That is the love they seek. At the end of the day, we should consider that a “Judas” acts out of this kind of greed and jealously which is ultimately a great sense of self-love to be consumed for self alone. It becomes evident that to expect reciprocation is a futile one. Exploitation through domination is not an expression of love. You can lead such a character to love but if it doesn’t serve their purpose, the wont fully partake beyond what is for them.

 History teaches time and again such “sensitive” folks are not to be trusted if only because they want what they want and find it bothersome to work for anyone or anything else if it does not ultimately serve their ultimate ends and means. It’s hard to think that they do take on anyone else’s suffering as their own, or that they do so with anyone they find tiresome. If they do it is to suit their own needs. Their alliance is not fully realized because of the tendency they have to perpetuate oppression on others, often without recognizing that it is happening. Indeed their allyship is with power. They must be remembered at all costs . The people that are aware of this try to disrupt and discourage such tendencies, whether it is through speaking truth to power or attempting to divert such energies into more positive ones. Such disruptions are upsetting because they do not want to let go of the possibility of one day getting a taste of that power, that they will get that taste one day. That is what they are working for. Convincing us that they do it for survival, that they do it for us is part of the game and should therefore be taken with a grain of salt. Does survival to you mean being served caviar and steak? Cause people have survived with far less and continue living decently. Don't demean their lives with your b.s. version of survival. 

Side note: 

These folks—the “Judas” type—should no doubt be treated with compassion. They are long suffering after all. Such treatment may not change their trajectory, but will hopefully stick out in their mind as a potential path to take. Either way, the choice is theirs and we must accept that they may not make the one we hope for. Still, treating them with dignity and respect is the least and/or most (depending on the situation) we should do. Everyone could use a friend and no one should live a life of suffering without one. Do what we can to love them as fully as possible might be a decent resting place.
 Not that I wholly agree nor engage in this behavior. I am human and still working through this logic as someone who is continually at risk of being dissed and therefore does not feel obligated to give anything to those that are more in love with self and power than being a decent person consistently. Liking someone is not a requirement of caring about their spiritual, holistic growth and prosperity however (Dr. King told us that). Especially when they seem hell bent on continuing with their ways, which makes this my greatest personal challenge yet. I mean, why do those that suffer at the hands of their oppressor always get called on to be the better person, to show mercy, to show love? My kneejerk response is likely, you first, before blasting them Bishop style. The struggle to be a decent human being continues...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It's that damn woman again!

Ugh, that Rachel. So infuriating! This post is likely incoherent but so it goes with sagas like this one! Here is my second attempt at concluding my remarks:

In previous posts on the matter, I wished Rachel no harm at the impending storm headed her way. Wishing someone no harm is usually my go to with anyone who has done wrong. I now realize that the subtext of this is the assumption that judgement and strife will be byproducts of their actions, that they will suffer. Messed up though it may be, I also wonder about the possibility that such a statement gives the benefit of the doubt to the wrongdoer once more. Either way, compassion is the sentiment that is likely misplaced when it is clear that white privilege is doing a pretty good job of protecting them from harm that anyone of a darker shade, and of an oppressed legacy would not even be considered a contender for.

The fact that mainstream media bypasses the harm that is done to the black community, and black women in particular, let alone other communities of color, along with other oppressed groups should speak volumes to how this matter continues to be handled. This woman fully expects and appears to be receiving the benefit of the doubt because of the work she has done. She fully expects to be believed in as a black woman. She does not see that she has done anything wrong at all. I'm familiar with such logic. It goes something along the lines of "The only thing I did wrong was be born to white parents!" No sense of accountability, or responsibility for her actions whatsoever! That is how privilege works, and it appears she has yet to consider any of this about her current position, which is a huge part of the fight for equality, equity, and social justice--acknowledging one's privilege ever aware of the possibility of perpetuating associated oppressive acts and vigilant to prevent such things from happening!

Alas, as the money starts pouring in, will she refuse it out of principle? Based on her current acts, of course not! No remorse whatsoever for the damage she is causing to the very social justice she claims to be in favor of. Just reading responses to the mainstream stories out there should point to the damage being done as far as people of color, and the multitude of other oppressed communities being taken seriously when it comes to calls for equity, equality, and justice are concerned. Not to mention the right to their dignity and lives, the right to have their painful legacies fully acknowledged and appreciated, the audacity to mention that racism is about to make as fierce a comeback as ever because of this.

Based on the logic before us, all anyone white has to do is have an anthropologically encyclopedic knowledge of fill-in-the-blank group, embrace and identify as the group, in order to be the diverse representative for that group in any given social setting, but especially in institutions. Worse yet, they can claim to be fighting on our behalf, just like the men fighting for women's reproductive rights, or at least their version of it. The subaltern will no longer have a ghost of a chance of speaking for themselves, working for themselves, which is the ultimate doom and gloom of possible outcomes. But wait it gets worse; some of us will take that broom and sweep our own selves under the rug because that's what the mastery of the master's tools prepared us for! Those that do so forget that the same goes for them too.

 No one seems willing to acknowledge that this would not work the other way around. No person of color of a browner hue and nonwhite characteristics could ever mistake themselves for white and expect to live as such. Those that do are readily put in their place by not only whites, but the very people of color they attempted to differentiate themselves from.

I for one get anxious at the thought of having to explain why Rachel is wrong for what she continues to do regardless of her contributions. No one in white mainstream media, and even black mainstream media, seems willing to think about the implications of this for the people of color she claims to represent, their life chances, their future opportunities. No one seems willing to believe the pervasiveness of whitewashing and how it minimizes the continued struggles of people of color. No one seems to consider the continued harm as far as internalizing inferiority goes, especially when it is possible to be us without ever having lived or died as us: hated, feared, considered worthless, ugly, untrustworthy, amoral, oftentimes on-site at first glance. How could the deeply entrenched desire for domination through erasure be ignored when it comes to those that colonized, enslaved, and now appropriate only the attractive aspects of the otherwise oppressed? Yet the oppressed have no problem putting her on their pedestal.

Of course I am over-exaggerating, but sometimes I wonder if I really am. As I mentioned previously, I am suspect, and readily ignored simply because of how I speak, and how I refuse to fall in line with any one majority. What can I say, past experiences have taught me to be careful about who I consider my friends and allies. Based on this turn of events, I wonder if it even matters how hard I work to achieve my goals and dreams when, standing next to someone of a fairer, more attractive appearance (I know my beauty isn't the standard one after all), I will be heavily scrutinized and passed over accordingly. It's a feeling, not an excuse not to try. But now it will be harder to tell why my dreams were deferred (should that happen), especially if I continue to work my buns off for them. I am sure the politics behind this b.s. will have something to do with it given the location.

Women of color--especially black women should be allowed free therapy for life for shit like this. I know it has done a number on my psyche and my soul.    

Monday, June 15, 2015

Arguments among friends: Who's right?

I am beginning to understand how partial truths are expressed in a dominant societal context. Those of us that are well assimilated become wedded to truth-oriented discourses that demand we be quick to point out how something said is not true. To me this suggests that they have not carefully considered the depth of what is being said, or were partially listening—enough to have found what is “wrong” about what is being said—or any combination of these things. I was/am one of these people who is in the process of attempting to divorce from this mindset. As of late, once having thought about a given interaction, I am finding this sort of communication to be violent. Violence in the sense that the other is all but shut down or cut down. It is hard not to want to come back in a way that reduces the person to ashes. This is how coercive power works interpersonally; it is meant to dominate, to make someone an opponent to be defeated, to make someone a “leader”.

 On the other hand the possibility of community building, of bonding over difference/in spite of difference is gradually diminished. If it is clear that the other person just wants to be right, victorious, etc., then I have lately become aware of this to the point of simply listening and considering what is being said. This may be taken as an act of cowardice and pandering, but consider that the other person also simply is not in a state of mind where they could even appreciate a differing point of view. At some point it is clear when they are not acting in the spirit of listening et alone understanding. As such listening is a way of letting go of the need to be right, or to be understood (which is harder to do).
Like I said, I recognize this tendency in myself. Indeed this could be considered a reflection on previous incidences where I am blinded by a subtle rage that puts me in a battle mindset. I came to the resting place that although I might be fierce and they might be considered warriors for justice, this does not translate well to interpersonal relations where we are supposed to be friends.

Can I really trust that this person is really here as my friend when I feel like the basis of our relationship consists of proving how right you are? How much better than me you are in your positioning? Proving how down you are? Proving how dumb I am for saying what I have to say? My understanding of matters may be incomplete but the same applies to you, partial truths that vary in degrees depending on what is being discussed. Am I really your enemy here?

 Humble, compassionate, and nonjudgmental people are highly (self)aware and therefore incredibly hard to come by. It is these people from whom I am learning most effectively. They relate out of love and it shows. I hope to be truly on their wavelength at some point. So much work to do when it comes to being a good friend.

Friday, June 12, 2015

On Silence and Being Myself

This piece concludes my written reaction to the matter of Rachel Dolezal and identity politics 

Choosing not to speak/write on every issue facing the black community is a matter of sanity at some point. So much goes on that is painful and heartbreaking. I know it goes on and I feel powerless and hopeless at times. Being a black woman and knowing we are at the bottom rung in consideration of just about everything, even within the black community makes it hard not to internalize. Seemingly inescapable stereotypes this, she had it coming that, there is just no end to the amount of victim-blaming black people and especially black women continue to endure. Negative energies abound for black women. And of course I don’t have a right to be angry about any of it. Don’t ever tell me that. Rage is the subtext when it comes to matters of the blackness and black lives.

Then there is the matter of being myself. I like to think I do well in abiding by the value of being myself, being my genuine self. In fact it is a source of pride. Then stuff like this [Rachel Dolezal] happens where self-doubt is re-awoken. As I ponder my status and the eventual reality that I will need to establish myself as a professional, I wonder about my life chances. Is being myself enough? Will people take me seriously? I play the part and follow the obvious rules but always as myself, which is dependent on comfort level with my surroundings. But I know following the rules isn’t enough; being respectable isn’t enough. I know I can be weird and that my cadence in speech is readily made fun of. My blackness is questioned because how I present somehow seems inauthentic.

How is it that someone can pretend their way into blackness and privilege and a good life yet black women like me are viewed with suspicion and/or mistrust? Why is the genuine continually passed over in favor of false pretenses? Being taken as I am seems too much to ask for the status quo as well as the disenfranchised who prefer the status quo. How am I supposed to be optimistic knowing of this reality?  

I will do what I can in as good of spirit as I can muster; but faith in self and the universe is hard to come by at times; especially considering the daily reality facing the disenfranchised, black people and black women especially. I continue to resist the self-fulfilling prophecy regardless, but it is hard. Writing/speaking to this on the regular is hard. I need a break from the anger, from the powerlessness, from reality. Such continual anger is not good for the soul. It doesn’t help me relate to others, especially the ones who play into my triggers with their microaggressions.

I need a break. So I am silent. I enjoy the company of my son and the positive, hopeful, uplifting people in my life. I engage in the realm of happiness any chance I get because it is so hard to be without it. Don’t think I am one to trade my blackness in. That would suggest I am for the status quo and for oppression. I wish oppression on no one and will work to alleviate it, to end it. Those close to me know and understand the dialectic involved in this struggle. They know and understand my desire for peace, love, and being. They don’t mistake me for being neutral because of it. Being angry about these things is tiresome and not a space I want to be in for the rest of my life, short as it may be at this point. That is why I am silent on most issues others discuss most of the time. Don’t misunderstand my silence as a lack of solidarity.

Doesn’t mean my love is not there for us. It’s just a space I’d rather not dwell as I write, yet it is all I can seem to write about when I do freely express. So I suppose it is a space I am attempting to refuse despite my intimacy with it. 


R. Dolezal : Black womanhood and legitimacy or I have issues

Side note on the current topic of Rachel:
Do I have to scream from the rooftops that I am/continue to aim to be an ally? Apparently so if I am to be taken seriously. But I’d rather not. If my actions—which are small and do not involve the spotlight—do not speak for themselves then I have work to do, obviously. Being a black woman in this day and age unfortunately has meant a controlled state of pain and rage are part of my many undercurrents. I wish I could be at peace and happy on the regular. Seeing and knowing that we/I still do not qualify for many of the things lighter/white skinned folks take for granted makes it hard as hell. I long for the day when I do not have to wonder about being taken seriously; makes me wonder if I can ever really succeed in life. I ache for a reality where being treated with respect and dignity without justification is a norm. As such I am a work in progress. I put up with what I have to. My refusal to put up with anything more shouldn’t disqualify me from being treated like you would want to be treated. Being in such negative thought spaces is tiresome. Yet acceptance continues to be hard to come by, so imagine what it must be like internally. I long to no longer have to wonder, what is it about me that makes me so undesirable in their scrutiny of me? The fact that I must continue to be hyper-aware of my every action makes it hard to live simply sometimes. Of course  I am no angel—I was disqualified the moment I was born, but because I have to over-analyze everything I do, I am pretty sure of myself when I find myself asking What did I do to you to deserve this? Usually it’s some kind of refusal I’ve engaged in: not holding my tongue, not agreeing with your argument, wanting to assert my confidence in certain matters, stubborn pride—all my fault to be sure. This is my experience with black womanhood at the moment.

On Rachel Dolezal : Matters of privilege

Reaction 4: Seems I missed something. There is that part of the black community that is biased as far as what qualifies as blackness; a partial truth if ever there was one [see previous post]. Here is another and more prominent one; that blackness guarantees access to oppression no matter your class, gender, or sexuality. So, why would anyone want to appropriate that? To claim that level of oppression as part of one’s identity if it weren’t truth? I imagine it lent to the sense of legitimacy of the work Rachel was/is doing. To claim expertise becomes more valid if one has shared in the oppression being discussed. Doesn’t make it right to appropriate, in fact it seems totally crazy when one knows of the privilege one otherwise has access to. If this is a matter of playing the game and winning, then of course I’m angry. I have doubts about “playing the game” as myself, not to mention I hate playing these kinds of games because of that and not being sure I could win, let alone live a decent life. Of course it is possible that she genuinely has love for the black community enough to struggle for and with us. I don’t know the full story. It doesn’t seem right that one would feel the need to go to such lengths to do the work. Why couldn’t she have been herself? What would that have meant?

The matter of privilege is huge regardless. It is in the realm of privilege that one thinks they can do, get away with, and represent themselves as anything without a second thought. To not have to think about possible repercussions of norm violations of any scale; to assume acceptance regardless of the situation; to be given the benefit of the doubt as a default of simply being. How often has Rachel had to earnestly think about these things in her lived experience? How often has she had to consider the gendered/sexual politics within the black community? What about the colorist politics? What is the extent of privilege she has had access to? What has been her lived experience within this identity? I cannot help but think about the range of responses on this matter while also hoping no harm comes to Rachel. At the same time, I cannot help but imagine her capitalizing off this further in her memoir “Black Like Me 2: Afrocentric Boogaloo”. The privileged and white have all the “luck”.  

On Rachel Dolezal and matters of [my] blackness: inital reactions

Reaction 3: There it is again. That voice. The one that speaks to my insecurities as a black woman that is not as involved in the black community or any community for that matter. The matter of realness as far as being black is concerned is something I continually get caught up in. I can hear it now in relation to Rachel: Yeah at least she’s down. She’s blacker than you. She was never neutral on anything as far as issues of blackness are concerned. Blah, blah, blah. Okay, okay, so I haven’t officially joined the club which usually means I haven’t decided to live by the black version of “Stand by Your Man” because that tune/mantra is total bullshit. Not joining any club when I don’t feel like I can be me in it. Also, I refuse to stand by oppression in any form no matter who is behind it. Selective in/exclusion is something I try to avoid/overcome. Maybe I am a black heretic among my people . Yet the black community I have witnessed is just as quick to do so among their own. My refusal to conform makes me suspect.

 Nothing points to race being a social construct with real-life consequences than ideas that surround what it is to be black among black people. Usually it plays out like a series of check boxes on a resume:
-Hmmm…has been called a n....r by whites?  Check. Knows who Billy Ocean, Freddie Jackson, and Luther Vandross are? Check. Grew up in a black church? Check. Sang in choir? Bonus points. Has temper/attitude. Check. Has angry black woman face. Check. Looked over for job opportunities. Check. Not taken seriously. Check. Not given benefit of the doubt. Double check. I see you did not check the Likes yams box.

-That’s because I hate yams.

-What about sweet potato pie?

-Also tastes like yams, which I hate.

-I see. It shows you also haven’t seen Devil in a Blue Dress.

-That’s correct.

-Or Harlem Nights?


-I don’t know if you qualify. Let me confer with my Council of Blackness constituents and we’ll get back to you on your Black card.

Never mind my skin tone. Never mind the fact that in situations concerning police that I consider my life to be at risk. When the guns are drawn I am just as likely to be targeted as any other black person, more so because of my darker skin tone. This makes me just as likely to be looked over in all respects from something as trivial as beauty to something as profound as dignity and the worthiness of keeping my life. Surely that makes me black enough.

So back to the matter of Rachel. Like most light/white skinned people and women in particular, she was given the benefit of the doubt in what I imagine to be all cases as far as her work and identity were concerned. Her identity credentials were never brought under scrutiny until now. Based on reactions, I imagine her being welcomed into the black community was all but seamless. Same with the work she did. No one had a reason to check anything, whereas the moment I open my mouth I am on the defensive because of the sound of my voice! Light/white privilege at its finest? Perhaps. But now light-skinned biracial women will also be put on the defensive regarding their identity politics, especially if blackness is part of it. Having to prove who you are, that you fit into these boxes in a lot of ways is total bullshit. It calls into question whether it should matter who you are if you’re willing to genuinely rep and do the work, especially if that work is that of being an ally to the disenfranchised. Do you have to be one to rep for one? Rachel seems to have bought into this, which is damaging for those that come after, light and dark-skinned women alike. I feel bad for the current turmoil she is dealing with. I wish that kind of strife on no one. Its hard to know the whole of the implications of this particular event. What will be the consensus? I am eager to know what other women of color have to say. Same goes for Rachel.
Until next time... 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

black woman: the embodiment of poverty porn

this is likely to be an oversimplified articulation of a collection of observations

the american black woman and her objectified existence seems to be one of the most prominent remnants of her colonial past. still to this day her body is an object, a tool even. favored applications of this tool are articulated by phc's controlling images--the mammy, the jezebel, the sapphire. no she is certainly not human, therefore not worthy of respect, dignity, let alone care. if she is not compliant to her objectified existence, her existence is further nullified. she is an animal to be put on display in zoos, or medically examined as specimen. she is a trickster not to be trusted. no intelligence of her own. she is a girl in need of a spanking from daddy. she is to be put in her place, a reminder that she does not belong among the valued, the worthy, the dignified. she makes others feel like kings and queens simply by being what she is, a black woman. hung from a noose, strangled by bare hands, beaten, scorned--all of which bring multiple forms of pleasure for the dominator, the pleasure of reifying their status of royalty. this is not just for white men. no, all men, women, even children once they learn they can get away with it. she should expect nothing more, nothing less.

worst of all, she is her own worst enemy--willing to reify the status of others without a second thought. she has been inundated with enough reminders of her subhuman status, of her objecthood, of her otherwise uselessness. she knows the drill and has succeeded in internalizing this programming. not to say she has no soul. hers is rich with suffering,and yearning--a dark star, saddened, angry, hopeful. a remnant of celestial beings mistaken for artificial life. she knows of pain, of impoverished being, of the absence of care, respect, and simply being known and understood. she extends the best of what she longs for to others who suffer, knowing of their pain, but hardly to herself too numb to be aware of the possibility of healing herself. the black woman is both weak and strong. she has learned from the best of her dominators as to how to maim, objectify, kill even. yet she refuses to live this way--not that she doesn't default to this behavior from time to time and especially with those who do not mean well by her. she lives on regardless of her world, her would be dominators, and herself. she is stubborn. that is the celestial being trying to stake its claim to liberated life every now and then.

she tries to reclaim her beauty. see herself differently from what the illusion of reality suggests. but the status quo is embedded in her psyche so she is well aware of what the standard is. all people abide by it. her only desirability is in the extent to which she can be used as an object. every now and then she is seen as she is, as beautiful, as worthy, as a blessing. but she knows this is few and far between so she absorbs as much as she can before the illusions of reality put her back in her place. nothing good lasts for ever, let alone a moment. still she stubbornly tries see herself differently. she has always known she is something more than what they want her to believe.

her budding confidence, her budding belief in her beauty, her budding belief in her power are rooted in shallow soils that still possess toxic properties. what could she grow that wouldn't soon wither? she has not been cultivated in the ways of life, worth, dignity, and love. not to the fullest extent anyhow. the environment she exists in does not allow it. she must learn these things from liberated others and from books. her growth is fragile. all around her are reminders of her legacy others would rather see maintained. worries abound that she will be made yet another example and put in her place once more. so she hesitates and proceeds with caution, careful not to let too many see what she could be.

indeed, the black woman is the embodiment of forsaken beauty, the joy and pain, the positive and negative, both loud and silent. what more could they do but use her and cast her aside? she is grossly misunderstood and pays the price with her very being. why wouldn't rage be at a constant simmer? carrying all of these things in her very being is incredibly heavy, so she must be strong, patient, enduring. compassion is fleeting yet cherished when encountered. hope for better days are eternally yearned for . happiness is treasured, never to be taken for granted.  she is human but cannot exist as the other humans do. she therefore longs for the freedom to truly be herself and strives to do so in spite of everything. black woman, you are a sight to behold, a force to be reckoned with, a celestial mandate for the actualization of a holistically experienced goodwill and compassion. she is life itself.

Friday, March 6, 2015

dating is weird

All of this is a result of talking with a friend who is back on the dating scene after 10ish years. We both began our respective relationships in our late teens and therefore never really dated. We are both transitioning out of that in our own ways. So we conversed about that and the awkwardness that ensues...

I have come to a resting place of viewing dating as an unnatural and therefore socially painful phenomenon rooted in an economic legacy. It is therefore an interesting space where people go around with invisible checklists assessing one another on their compatibility. On top of all that there are rules accompanied with a reward system. Worst of all, the expectation is that it has to be going somewhere, usually marriage. Aziz Ansari's take on the marriage proposal comes to mind here.

We ended up comparing this space to friendship space and made a discovery as to why experiences of dating and romantic relations can ultimately end up being doomed to failure whereas friendship experiences hardly carry that stigma. What he said was something to the effect of comparing relating to a person that is our friend to relating to an object of romantic interest. An object.  An object we hope to possess. An object we place rules and expectations on. An object we reward with affection and punish in a variety of ways when they do not match up on our norms, values, and overall expectations. We effectively remove a good deal of their personhood the moment they become an object of romantic interest. Tragic.

We don't do that with friends. We don't do any of that stuff which allows for their beautiful humanity to be maintained and respected. Friend spaces are therefore more awesome and desirable. How can the romantic space be flipped so that it is more of a friend space? Unfortunately, the vulnerability and potential for rejection and therefore pain on both ends that is also attached to romantic spaces makes this possibility seem impossible.

So, where do we go from here? Being out of the loop, we notice that the act of dating is quite strange. Why not enjoy one another's company and time together without all of the other societal baggage? Where is there room for compassionate responses, for total and unconditional acceptance and love here? Can it be that the legacy of being an economic arrangement has forever tainted romantic spaces; the reason why we check those boxes in our mind (i.e. favorite color, favorite movie, career goals)? No wonder dating appears alienating to the extent that we want out. Spaces of unconditional acceptance of one's person hood and therefore lack of possession? That's what friends are for.  

Resting spot of the moment: Opting out of dating. It's just too weird and kind of oppressive so why bother? Freedom from such constraints is clearly the better option. One that inspires happiness, joy, acceptance of self and others--one that essentially allows us to live in peace. Besides, I coudn't help but point out that all the people in my life who appear to be free (as in not constrained by bogus societal norms like media consumption, masculinity, femininity, and are therefore truly themselves) are so bad-ass! So yeah, be free friends.  At least that's my take on the conversation. 

Silver linings in clouds of death

When my little brother passed on at 16, I was crushed by the loss of potential budding in his life. It had only been four years that he was able to live in a truly loving environment and he was blossoming into an awesome, loving, compassionate, and forgiving person. He is intensely missed to this day. 

When a mentor, friend, and supporter of my craft passed on in his 30s, I was crushed by a similar sense of loss. His love for his city and the people around him shone brightly. He could be depended on to share ideas of making our city more awesome as far as music was concerned. His was a loving light gone too soon.

When another friend who shared his love for music, intellect, and people passed on in his 30s my soul was crushed once more. Like my other friend, love was his message and he spared no expense to make that known, albeit quietly. His humility, like his loving ways made the world of many a better place. No one saw that loss of light coming either. 

Now an up and coming scholar. A young  soul trying to find his way into a brighter tomorrow vanishes in flames. His humility, kindness, and grit could easily serve as a model for those going through tough times like him; a model of what pushing through in spite of everything looks like. His tough times could have readily subjected him to being seen and treated inhumanely; to be regarded without compassion. But he was loved intensely by those touched by his light. I can only hope he knew that. 

What all of these experiences with death have in common besides loss of light are what they can teach. The silver lining for me continues to be how all of these individuals were striving for something greater than themselves. Despite hardships, their light was able to shine through. Their legacy is in having lived as they did; in the process of becoming better than they were all while living humbly. Were they to continue living, we no doubt would have continued taking them and their light for granted. Why is it that such light was reflected in infectiously glowing smiles? They were on their way to a better place to begin with. Maybe that is why they were taken what we may believe to have been too soon, so we can be reminded of what we are living for which maybe as simple as continuing to strive for that better state of being. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The need for compassionate insight

"To love our enemy is impossible.
The moment we understand our enemy,
we feel compassion towards him or her,
and he or she is no longer our enemy."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Lately I have been pondering this assertion. It resonates with a recent lament that involves our capacity to engage in the Oppression Olympics rather than truly understand one another's suffering. This is especially the case for the oppressed. Sure this oppression exists in varying degrees depending on statuses and how they intersect, but, this should not preclude that their commentary or perceptions on experiences with oppression are not valid, or that our suffering is by default greater than than theirs.

As a black woman however, it is all too easy for me to engage in this mindset, of contextualizing my suffering in a legacy of such, and concluding that my suffering is greater than those who do not have this legacy as part of their status. Such a mindset, however, has not led me to conclude that those who would call me out as being exclusionary in some way shape or form are my enemy. Maybe this is me being naive, but I tend not to see much hostility beyond defensiveness in their demeanor. At the end of the day, no one likes being excluded from respectful, dignifying, equitable treatment nor do they want to be represented as being worthy of such exclusion.

Where our various social-justice oriented endeavors are concerned--of which the oppressed tend to actively engage to varying degrees--our cries for positive forms of treatment and representation are rooted in similar spaces of suffering. What we suffer from is the denial of such positive and therefore humanizing modes of treatment and representation which can be expressed in forms of violence (both physical and psychological) that range from neglect to brutality and death. Truly understanding this commonality brings about the truth that such people, those who share in this space of suffering due to the denial of their humanity, are not our enemy.

Yet refusal to consider such as being the case, which results in refusal to understand, and therefore refusal to exercise compassion (even towards allies), allows for the continuation of the illusion of separateness to be maintained and with it the spirit of divide and conquer that continues our subsequent oppression. This is will be why, when 2042 does come around, members of the dominant group, rich, white, male, heterosexual, etc., etc., etc., will have nothing to worry about while the oppressed wonder why we still haven't gotten our act together.

After thought:
Being open to understanding one another in spite of our differences is also a compassionate act in that it allows for the potential of symbiotic relations. In short, we are able to see how we mutually benefit one another. Notice I am not claiming we could all be friends (although that would be nice) but certainly effective collaborators when it comes to actualizing our respective liberating ideals, endeavors, and so on. Compassionate insight allows us to see with connective eyes; eyes unclouded by the kind of hatred that demands we conclude our differences are irreconcilable.

Compassionate insight and action is something I continue to work toward while acknowledging that my failure to have done so in the past is rooted in witnessing and experiencing modes of suffering at the hands of oppressed oppressors. While I may still rest at the point of belief that they are no different from the oppressors themselves, I am pushed to consider that they too suffer in ways similar to my own and are therefore no different from me, a potential oppressor in my own right. Having a teacher who models these insights effectively and can teach a deeper understanding of such things is what I need....

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Friends that are really strangers

"Trust someone who can see these three things in you:
The  sorrow behind your smile, the love behind your anger,
the reason behind your silence." Thich Nhat Hanh

It was interesting to come across this quote today. Helped me understand the extent to which I am more a friend to some than others, and vice versa for me. Later that night when I was relaxing in the tub reading Khalil Gibran's "My Friend"one of my "friends" contacted me hoping to engage in what I hope was harmless conversation. Oddly enough Gibran's piece is about how these two friends are actually strangers, one who cannot show his true face to the other. A few stanzas stood out including the following:

"Thou lovest Truth and Beauty and Righteousness; and I for thy sake say it is well and seemly to love these things. But in my heart I laugh at thy love. Yet I would not have thee see my laughter. I would laugh alone."

"My friend, thou art good and cautious and wise; nay, thou art perfect--and I, too, speak with thee wisely and cautiously. And yet I am mad. But I mask my madness. I would be mad alone."

"My friend, thou art not my friend, but how shall I make thee understand? My path is not thy path, yet together we walk, hand in hand."

Indeed I have all but come to this realization regarding one of my friends. On my end, how can I claim this person as my friend when it is clear I am not a source of comfort, camaraderie, or wisdom? They cannot be their true selves around me when I find many of their mannerisms in need of re-evaluation. I hear and feel, respect and support for a status quo I find oppressive and demeaning come from someone who claims to be against such things, yet finds such things attractive to the point of forsaking their"people" in favor of   the power they can gain. Speaking truth to this power has silenced them. Awkward masks applied immediately. Yet politics of disposability are inherent in such respect and support of this oppressive status-quo. Respect, dignity, and care are not given unconditionally but awarded for good behavior. Oddly treated as bad things when requested--too high-maintenance is a common refrain.

As a member of the classically downtrodden they see emulation of their oppressor as the way out and it shows in their tastes especially when it comes to partnership--and yes I mean valued choice of mate (and yes I realize I am likely falsely assuming much but cannot help but observe the tendencies unfold when relating with others). Someone, a member of the status quo to be their second in command, to validate their sense of power, their birthright denied them for far too long, especially by those deemed beneath them, oppressor and oppressed alike; something M. Wallace speaks to with a keen sense of familiarity as she remarks on the blame cast on the undesirable black woman by just about everyone for just about anything.

This is not the path I am walking. I am painfully aware that I have outlived my usefulness, yet for some reason wish I could be this person's friend. Yet I cannot claim to understand where they are coming from with their lust for power and thus their quickness to view me as a naive child for being so idealistic in my approach, so negative in my response to any hint of oppression being perpetuated (and is that controlled rage only reserved for one group of people? black women not allowed to speak truth to power without being put in their place yet again?). Still, this person has provided me much in the way of the opportunity to experience and express a side of myself in ways I had not yet imagined could be a reality until the present. So no, I will not partake in such politics of disposability. This person has shown and given me much despite our fundamentally flawed relationship. I owe them my unending gratitude.

All I can hope to do is understand this person. See beyond their talk of enemies (while ignoring opportunities to earnestly understand them in their own right), beyond their showering of benevolence and respect on those who serve their egos well (while bypassing the lessons of those who call them out in hopes of improved relations), beyond the scorn for imperfect expressions of self that render others disposable to them (rather than learning whole heartedly from them thus discovering the beauty in their being). Even if that means continuing to treat them with decency, dignity, and respect while walking my own path, if that is all I can do when being in relation with them, I will learn to live with that. My heart is broken at the prospect that a whole hearted friendship will likely not be an outcome. Still, I have gratitude for having crossed paths with this person even though they are more stranger than friend.

I am sure this predicament I find myself in is all my fault. But hey, if they did nothing wrong, then neither did I, right? Unlike them, my level of sensitivity and self awareness leads me to knowing better than that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Comparisons: the good and the bad

As a society we cannot help but compare ourselves to others. We look at a reference person or group as a means of judging, teaching, and learning about ourselves and each other. 

Recently I have come to compare myself accordingly. I see how two friends interact, how they buoy one another with their love and support. I pray to learn from this model and integrate it into my own.

This practice of comparison is often handled problematically when used as a means of measuring one's self-worth. 

I view this same situation and see what I am not to some of my  friends as well as what I do not have. I know I cannot be all things to all people, but it hurts to think I can only be one thing to most people when I prefer to be perceived multi-dimensionally. 

Decision making time: what do I learn from this? I need to figure this out along with the feelings that come with it. I am struggling. Tearing myself down and building myself up with responses to the practice of comparison. Wisdom is not yet mastered in this sense. I wish I could hibernate while I contemplate this area of potential growth and understanding. Instead I must push on.  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Lessons presented when being a dreamer

As i continue to contemplate and move forward with my life's work, I receive reminders through dreams. I know they are messages because of how vivid they are. Recently I had two dreams within days of each other. I will only note the images of importance in each dream...

Dream 1: I am outdoors in an almost mystically bright and beautiful park or woods like space. The sun brightens everything with a golden hue, especially the grass and trees. I am directed to look at a young black girl with dark skin. On her shoulder is a beautiful black bird with a crest and yellow eyes with black pupils, a black jaybird with feathers that color like a magpie or starling when the light hits it. I approach her. The bird is in the palms of both hands. In my desire to know more about the bird, I turn it over to find the tag that is on its ankle but I cannot read it. I think the tag was blue. After attempting to examine it, I return the bird into its upright position and find it is bald, nothing but pale flesh remaining on this now wrinkly vulnerable old looking bird. I am sad that it may have been over examined causing its feathers to have been rubbed off.

Dream 2: I am at a gathering at my house. It is evening. I am close to a vampire with gray skin, dark hair, and thin but longish vampire fangs. The live-version male Marcelene one could say. I am attracted to him and am trying to make-out with him. I notice he is not as into me as I am him, but I insist on showing my interest by kissing him though he does not return the affection. I am having a good time at the gathering regardless and go sit down on the couch with some other friends. My pet dog comes up wanting love. She half-climbs on my lap and I pet her. She insists on being as close as possible and thrusts her paw in my face, making contact with my left eye. It is damaged to the point of blindness. The impact and results were surreal. I really had gone blind in one eye. I panic trying to make sure, hoping I recover, but I don't. I feel my left eye bulging as I try to will it into functionality but nothing helps. Luckily an alarm wakes me .

With each dream I came up with a rough sketch of meanings based on my understandings of things as symbols.

With Dream 1, a possible interpretation that makes sense to me is the black jaybird representing higher knowledge and wisdom is gifted to me but instead of simply admiring its beauty, being in the moment, I over-examine it wanting to know more about it and subsequently nullifying the wisdom and rendering the bird flightless and earthbound. Perhaps the warning here is to be mindful of the wisdom I come across and be wary of over-examination and thus rendering the wisdom gifted as useless. Appreciate the gift in the moment rather than being possessive of it and therefore limiting its potential to be shared with others.

With Dream 2, a possible interpretation that makes sense has to do with a person or endeavor in my life that requires a lot of energy. Something/one I pursue in spite of lack of reciprocation. It is an alluring presence that could lend to a dark-side oriented path. This is where the eye injury comes in. I have read blindness in the left eye to be a warning of loosing insight/awareness of self, motives, and/or my behaviors. I do not see things clearly or am ignoring my intuition on the matter. On a whole the warning in place has to do with my potential attraction to the darker side of things, be it through a person or endeavor is an attraction to a path I would normally not vibe with and steer clear of. The fact that this darker energy is not attracted to me should have been enough to have me steer clear and normally I would.  If I were to persist in spite of my intuition on the matter, I will loose my inner sight altogether and thus a large part of my ability to guide my steps and receive the wisdom that is part of a better path.

In each case I am being warned. To be mindful of how to be in the presence of wisdom on the one hand and to be wary of ignoring my intuition on the other. In both cases the desire was there to pursue and claim, of which the consequences were damaging in one way or another. As such I should break with such tendencies/approaches or risk absence of such gifts be it though nullification or blindness.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Overcoming faulty programming: the impact of awesome loving people

The people who have touched my life for the better help me to transgress programming that is still rather damaging to this day.

I am aware of tendencies that make me respond in negatively critical manners that end up being hurtful to others, especially those close to me. Having a my way or the highway type attitude about the way I think things ought to be can prevent me from being open to considering other interpretations of what I consider to be problematic things. Wanting others to feel what I feel, and considering what I feel to be right, are one of many areas I need to work on. Deep down I know if I really wanted to do damage to someone I could because I know how, I've learned from the best after all. But I don't want to. My life started out with living in this kind of hurt. I want to be more of a healing presence in the lives of others. But this doesn't always go as intended, which is why I am thankful for the people in my life I have been fortunate enough to have crossed paths with, because they show and teach me other ways of being.

Many of these people have shown me the power of patience done well, the art of listening, and the art of contemplation. In all of these people love resonates in their being. They care deeply about others and share of themselves without a second thought or without the desire of being acknowledged for having done anything at all. These people therefore teach me the art of humility and understanding as well.

I am still working on integrating these teaching into my own life's work. It can be hard to engage at times when I feel I am being reminded of how worthless I am, or that I am only being used rather than experiencing true acceptance. But at times when I trust these negative feelings, I know I am on to something. Especially when I know what love, care, respect, dignity , and nourishing interactions feel like, which means knowing when I am in the absence of such things.

Reminders of how much these friends, mentors, teachers, learners, loved ones, and overall genuinely awesome people, mean to me come in waves of celebration and sorrow. The loss of such people in life is hard because of the fact that there are less people out there willing to live love as their message. Not many realize the power love has in life. How it can help you achieve positive connections in all ways and means. People living love as their message, people utilizing love power as part of that, understand that all are to be cherished regardless of who they are or what they do. They remind us that we are loved and so too are they. Although sometimes I wonder if they realize this for themselves.

With the art of negative manipulation, how I was raised, you always are left wondering who to trust and more importantly who is coming to do you harm because it is what you inflicted on them. In spite of my shortcomings, I have always been careful not to cultivate these kinds of relationships in my life.

I forever have gratitude for the people in my life who continue to show me the ways of love, even when I come up short. I want to imprint this into my soul and life's work and will continue to struggle to do so. It is these people who remind me that I am loved--which was hard to believe early in life--and that this is something that should be given readily--something I struggle with when negative interactions and feelings come into play. Overcoming this programming is lifelong work. I am grateful to those willing to show me the way.

Many thanks for who you are and what you have done for me.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Overheard just the other day: We can't even use the word "ho"
-from budding academic black male

Hearing this instantly made me consider the bemoaning of white people not being able to use the word "nigger" (ugh even hurts to write let alone say--which is why I don't). Should "ho" be placed in the same category?

The thing is like most things having to do with power, names and labels carry a lot of weight. You can tell who has more power by the extent to which there are negative labels associated with a given group. Louis C.K. made this abundantly clear when he talks about white people and time travel. People in socio-cultural contexts that are near the top of all social categories, tend not to have much in the way of negative stigma historically, so words really don't hurt.

So in the same way that white people tend to be excluded from wordplay as an exercise of power and notably domination, I would consider men to have a similar status effect about them. Men are not responsible for the actions of all men. What they say or do carries little consequence to men on a whole outside of reinforcing their power oriented status. Unlike whiteness, science is still used in the service of reinforcing this status--especially when it comes to justifying the sexuality and sexual appetite of men, something women are readily demonized for as they are considered hos .

Othering of women, like most social minorities, is a common discourse that often precludes their consideration as people worthy of being treated humanely, let alone with respect, care, and even love. Yet women have a plethora or words and labels used to reinforce this othering effect. Such is the case for racial, ethnic, sexual, and a whole host of other minorities. When these minority statuses intersect so too do the labels they are faced with.

Fear keeps us in line, prevents us from actualizing and exercising the full extent of our humanity. We are already not considered fully human to begin with. This continues to be the case for black women. Ho is commonly associated with us after all. Oddly enough, our bodies are considered a common platform through which the power of men is exercised and validated. We were more a tool than human to begin with in American society. Black men  seem to reinforce this standpoint despite being minoritized racially, because their gender is exercised to an even fuller extent--those that quest to validate their humanity by means of power anyway and it seems unfortunately sex is another means through which such power is exercised. Black women are therefore not too far from being considered hos regardless of whether they do or don't abide by these arbitrary social laws that require them to stay in their place.

Blackness, having also been historically precluded as worthy of being treated humanely, let alone with respect, care, and even love, knows the pain of being powerless in so many ways, making life a struggle of reclaiming humane treatment and  validation. Unfortunately many of us have been tricked into believing this can only be achieved by patriarchal means, and thus the ways of those who colonized us.

Now a days it is a bold transgression to engage a politics of humanity, especially sexually. To demand that we also be considered a multi-dimensional being worthy of being treated humanely and with dignity that majority oriented statuses seem to have been granted at birth. Being reduced to object-hood is what I have understood to be the status-quo as far as black women are concerned. Respectability politics demand that we fear this status and do everything to prevent being considered in such ways. Oddly enough what this typically ends up implying is a deference to this very object-hood. In other words, we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. Especially in the face of such retorts as "she was just a ho anyway" or other demeaning responses that reinforce that we are little more than a resource to be plundered and cast aside rather than cherished and nourished.

So yeah, as people searching for liberation from othering, working to transgress a system of thought that excludes minorities of all varieties from being treated humanely, let alone with respect, care and even love, wanting to create a place where such treatment is the new status-quo, I would think that how we refer to ourselves and one another would be a key aspect of this struggle.

 Bemoaning the possibility that you might have to give up the power that reinforces dominating practice--which includes labels placed on women, and especially black women, forces people like me to consider that what you really want is liberation for yourself; a harnessing of the powers of the colonizer and therefore continued domination practices that refer to people like me as a resource to be plundered as your means of validation, rather than cherished and nourished--something you so badly desire and expect for yourself.  

So again I wonder, if you are really my brother...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Codes: A rough poem

dear brothers

thank you for validating what the ideal woman is for the thousanth time
smart, confident, logical, powerful, capable of fitting the illogic of queer and feminist thought in a logical box
not to mention white
codes as masculine
one of the guys
a good ol boy in the making
likable =readily fuckable?

thank you for pointing out what the ideal woman isn't
illogical, insecure, whiny, incapable of making you feel comfortable with their queer and feminist thought
not to mention of color
codes as feminine
childish and of little worth

common complaint: colored girls that want to be white
is it really that hard to fathom
listening to you talk?

Oddly enough when that woman of color does code as masculine
code as confident, as empowered, as logical
she needs to be taught a lesson
how could she have forgotten that pedestal is off limits?
Silly woman

men of color stereotyped as preferring codes of whiteness
white females placed on pedestals made just for them
whiteness = sovereign power
maleness=sovereign power
worthy of their praise

women of color placed on knees; the only way to be seen as good
colors = expendable weakness 
femaleness=expendable weakness
worthy only of servitude to them
the choice is clear but is the stereotype really that true?
Say it aint so

they say they value the real, the truth in her
her apparent power
but they do not value the real, the truth in them
their apparent weakness
but truth is truth and real is real right?

real and truth are uncomfortable things
things power does not handle well
when it comes from the dominated
but when it comes from power
from the hims and hers that code as power
it is welcome with open arms and repeated as gospel
as if we said nothing at all

they know the pain of that
but prefer to continue stabbing anyway
taking us for chumps that don't know the illogic
of why it is right that they do so

and this is why I never partake in such politicking
and this is why I am in pain when I hear you talk this way
do you not know you do the same to me as you do to them?

Am I not your sister?  

We have so much to share with you
if you could only grant us the benefit of the doubt
and exercise unconditional compassion

are you really my brother?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Pride : a continual balancing act with humility

I mentioned previously something along the lines of pride being hard to come by let alone engage in meaningfully and lovingly. I stand by this in the sense that there are people that have historically, and continue to be, readily downtrodden. We live in a world that would rather see us as disposable and we internalize this reality as our own. So, taking pride in who I am is as much a form of self-love as it is resistance--especially considering how challenging it is to enact regularly and in spite of a world that is more interested in me staying in my place.

With this in mind, it must be acknowledged that pride can become imbalanced in ourselves and easily tilt into the realm of hubris. This is especially the case when we find ourselves flourishing in certain areas in life. After all, we live in a world in which hierarchies are the status-quo, which means we are considered to be in competition with one another in all things. When pride is difficult to come by and engage in, it can be quite a challenge not to indulge in such behaviors.

On the typical side, when pride is engaged, it is not always intentional to the extent that one wants to feel or be considered better than the other...or maybe that is my take on its expression. I think this is the case when, on our planes of existence, we have reached places in consciousness as well as life that others around us have not. This arrival, especially when celebrated, is often misconstrued by ourselves and others, as notification that we are better than others. Such misconceptions are made possible by a status-quo that favors hierarchy, capitalism, and subsequently competition.

Humility comes into play as a balance point where, when engaged we understand that we are one among many, not in competition, no better and no worse than the people around us. But the true test of this balance comes in the form of interactions where we can choose to react to those around us that are not on the same page as us in ways that can further balance the pride and humility we have, or imbalance ourselves in favor of pride. The known Biblical passage that begins with "love is patient, love is kind" offers a suggestion of  how the balanced approach can be achieved. Remembering that humility is an act of love is key. When balanced with pride, there can be a multiplying effect of the love that occurs.

Easily said than done, I know. When it comes to those that want to be where we are but are far from reaching the page we are at, this can be hard to engage with strangers, acquaintances, friends, and loved ones alike. Sometimes we forget what it was like to struggle through words and concepts that lead to understanding what we now consider common sense (literally and metaphorically speaking). Part of this for me comes from the understanding that they are great just like me, so it  shouldn't be hard to come along to where I'm at. At other times, it's more of an annoyance that they just don't seem to get it, no matter how many times things are explained, reiterated, modeled, even all but spelled out.

The reaction of my patience being tried is what I would like to move away from in favor of an enduring, compassionate, and ultimately loving response. After all, if I find I am able to help, I am more than happy to. But when I am hurt in the midst of engagement with what ends up being a fragile humility, I cannot help but think about "Love is Stronger than Pride" by Sade and wonder if moments like the ones where humility becomes a painful engagement because of tried patience, and being hurt in the process, is what she sings about...
So, when pondering the balance between pride and humility, I am coming to a resting point of believing that achieving a balance between the two states of expression and engagement optimizes the loving potential of both. If I can lift as I climb, or bring someone closer to being on a similar level of consciousness--if that's what they want--then I should, and do, attempt to do what I can. This is all part of the process of journeying, which means letting go of possibilities as far as setbacks are concerned. Continuing to move regardless is important, and as long as I continue to learn the ways of being and loving as part of the process, I'll be okay.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Humility: Thoughts on a useful concept that is easily misconstrued

Being humble is characteristic that many people value but is misused and mistaken.

When I think of humility, I find myself aligned with common understandings of the term where it is exercised by way of thinking of oneself in modest terms. Metaphors that utilize this concept include having the realization that we are but one of many, like stars in the universe with one being no better than the other in spite of the differences we carry with us. I tend to think of humility as part of a loving praxis where we utilize this understanding in ways that allow us to be of benefit to one another in our respective journeys of being who we are. I can help so I will. When I can't help, I will try to find ways of getting you to where you want/need to be,(and will feel bad for not being able to be of help--working on reducing that feeling).

This ends up being misconstrued when considering how we exist in a status quo that suggests that a hierarchy must be maintained and therefore one must be better than others, or at least seen that way. We end up believing that we are in competition with each other to be better than the next person. I notice that systems of oppression benefit from this, especially when it comes to the desire we have to be considered good people, and we are. However we get tricked into believing that humility means lowering ourselves for the sake of another , when such posturing isn't necessary as far as humility is concerned.

What ends up happening is the perpetuation of a standard where those who believe themselves to be the personal lord and savior of others, maintain that status by asking/demanding that those of good will "humble" ourselves before them in status and/or service, which is what we should be doing anyway for our own salvation. This standard should sound familiar, especially when it leads to working against our own interests and subsequently being exploited and oppressed in the process. Often this request/demand of "humility" is really just another way for the oppressor to continue keeping the oppressed down and therefore in their place. Imagery of someone standing on the necks or bodies of others comes to mind. It is no mistake that being on one's knees is another favored imagery of humility.

Many of us know this is happening as we witness that our labor is alienated and non-beneficial in spirit. This is especially the case when we know humility, when considered a loving praxis, is balancing because there is a dialogue--a form of reciprocation--that takes place. Not in the sense that we gain in a capitalist manner of receiving something, but there is satisfaction and even joy that is part of humility when it is a loving praxis, that is, an activity that is respectful, interested in the growth of others, understanding, and caring. Those involved gain and grow from this sort of interaction.

What I do not appreciate about this false humility is the fact that people like me, a black woman, are continually reprimanded for having too much pride when we refuse, or at least speak critically to this form of inherent oppression. Especially when it is clear that the oppressor in question is not interested in considering that this form of humility is oppressive. This is notable when they cannot imagine doing the same for others--unless it is done in the service of opportunity to directly benefit in a way that further elevates their status. The issue I have therefore has to do with the fact that the feeling of pride, for people like me, is hard to come by, let alone engage in meaningfully as an act of self-love.

Those oppressors that are also members of oppressed groups should know this. Our pride makes us targets because we still exist in a system that expects us to know our place, which then gets mistaken for humility. So I get reprimanded for being critical of this notion of lowering myself when it is quite clear what is going on is a reminder of forgetting my place--that of being in service to those that believe themselves to be my personal lords and saviors. My growth is subsequently stunted as I am to receive nothing nourishing and should be grateful for this.

Humility for me is being willing and even happy to do what I can, when I can, where I can, thus a source of pride and an act of resistance to a status-quo of transactional alienating relations. I balk at being used or taken advantage of, which is also part of my previous critique of "humility". One of my biggest challenges as far as humility is concerned is asking for help. Not because I lower myself--no such thing--but that I feel as if I have become insufficient, which is a source of pride for me. Being humble, engaging in humility is an act of love. Pride is an act of self-love that is balanced with humility. People who understand this and act in kind are a joy to be around and learn from. When misconstrued, humility is alienating and oppressive, making it hard to relate to people.

Because I view humility in these ways, those that know me as a friend engage in kind. Those that do not, feel the need to misconstrue humility as a way of asking for things--especially when being "owed" something--when all they need to do is simply ask. Of course I do the same when I do not know where I stand with others, especially those that are more in tune with the status-quo. I also understand the desire not to come off as using others, which is where self-sufficiency kicks into high gear. So I know where folks are coming from when they do this, but it still hurts to think that they see me as someone they need to lower themselves to when I do not desire such forms of relating.

When I think of humility as an act of love, I think this song expresses how this can be understood and hopefully can guide our interactions with others...

Addendum: To engage in humility also means being vulnerable. This means living with the possibility that in engaging in this act of love, one will not be treated in kind, or kindly at all, and should not expect to be (which may or may not contradict my viewpoint of a dialogue taking place). Perhaps being humble is just as much an act of letting go, which allows for it to be an act of love to begin with.

These thoughts are subject to change and open to reconsideration.