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....