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.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I Love You--Updated

This post was originally written in July 2011. Meant as a meditation on the phrase, I figured it was overdue for an update...

What do I mean when I say/write this? This is something that addresses all the people in my life I love--especially the ones I do not tell, but feel for none the less. I figure I should put some effort toward understanding love and my conception of it. I might update this post from time to time upon further meditation and interactions with books that discuss the subject. For now I'll start with the things on my mind. For starters...

  • I care about you
I want you to be happy, well, and safe. Caring about you means you are dear to me, near or far. I worry about you and hope for the best for you. I am willing to do what I can for you within reason. I wish I could protect you from harm. I want to be a positive presence in your life.

  • I respect you
I see the good in you. I admire and look up to you. I want to grow into the qualities that make you such an awesome person.  I look forward to learning more from and about you. You are a wise person who helps me see things differently. Good, bad or otherwise, you are yourself and I appreciate your willingness to be yourself around me. Likewise, you seem to like and enjoy me for who I am.

  • I adore you
You  are super cool in my book.  I enjoy your company. The vibes you give off are super positive, which makes me happy to be around you.

  • I appreciate you
You are patient with me. You are considerate, kind, loyal. I don't have to worry about the possibility of 'backstabbing', being talked about behind my back, or other negative things, which means I do not have to be ultra self-conscious around you. You do your best for me and I am more than happy to do likewise. You are understanding. You have my undying gratitude for being so wonderful. I'm glad you're in my life.

  • I want to know more about you
Who you are means a lot to me. I love hearing about your adventures in life; what you're going through, your triumphs and setbacks, guilty pleasures, favorite things. I may not vibe with everything that you are, but I want to appreciate who you are as fully as possible. This means getting to know you to the best of my ability, compassionately. Usually you share without shame because you know life is what it is and are more than willing to pass your insights on.

For now, these are the things that come to mind when I think about the people I love. When I say 'I love you' this is initially what I mean. Additionally, I feel the people in my life I love help me grow and become a better person and I hope to do the same for them. These categories are not meant to be thought of as mutually exclusive, just a way of sorting out my thoughts on the matter. I realize this might be a rather self-serving use of the phrase. I know I have a lot to learn about love and its many meanings. I want to learn more about putting love into action, making it more meaningful than just words. I realize I do not openly express all of these things to the people I love and I act on them in more of an internal sense. This is not a sentiment exclusive to lovers, but meant more for friends, family, and mentors near or far. These are all people I look up to and want to grow up to be in one way or another.

Any thoughts had about the topic are always welcome. I look forward to further expanding myself so that I may be of actual benefit to the people I love and humanity in general.

Until next time...