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RSI 101 – Black Love: Part 1

Black Kids Cheek KissThis is probably going to be a really long piece for a lot of reasons. I want to talk about love, about relationships, about being black in relationships (aka Black Love)… and further, after having done a recording wherein I barely touched on everything I want to say tells me that this needs to be a 2, maybe even 3 part discussion.  I have a feeling that some of my readers/listeners are going to feel alienated because much of this is going to be Black People specific, but remember, its Black history month, I’m Black, and as far as I’m concerned, some conversations are just to important to be PC about. Which reminds me…

About this Black history month thing: It shouldn’t be thing… more specifically, it shouldn’t have to be a thing. Black history, as we in the US commemorate it, is American history. It should be a part of the history curriculum. It should be included in English, Literature, and Reading lessons because we have there are Black American writers. Slavery and racism should as be openly and HONESTLY discussed as the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. Little Black girls ad boys shouldn’t be relegated to only learning about people who look like them during the shortest month of the year. It shouldn’t be that Blackness is only open for discussion in 30 second video clips before commercials. February shouldn’t be the only month people are encouraged to cram all of their/our appreciation of Blackness into. Just like people should be aware of breast cancer and heart disease all year, so should Black people, and our experience.

V Day ChocolateSimilarly, Valentine’s Day shouldn’t have to be a thing. We shouldn’t need a specific day to remember to show appreciation to our significant others. Further, the media should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting that men need to spend exorbitant amounts of money and women simply need to supply the sex to show appreciation for our significant others. Unfortunately, if it wasn’t for Valentine’s day, many wouldn’t get to know they were appreciated until something bad happened in the relationship…. because who really remembers Anniversaries anyway? Many married men would have to wait for God knows how long for their wives to remember that lingerie can be more enticing than comfy pajamas, or that men deserve to feel special too.

Now let’s combine this and get to what I really want to talk about: Relationships. Black Love & HappinessNow, if you’ve been reading me since the beginning, you’ll know that I don’t like giving romantic relationship advice… I will, but I don’t generally like to. This time I’m going this because there are people on my feed and in my family who have thoughts ad questions, that I think deserve a attention. First, history and upbringing… as they relate to Black Americans. Up front, I think it bears mentioning that a lot of what I am making Black people specific, is actually universal, thus, if you’re not Black, and reading this, you might still be able to relate.

All the messages we receive put us at odd with one another. As men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, romantic relationships are painted in hard and violent colors. There’s a battle for dominance; a question about who wears the pants in the relationship, that just makes things difficult.

Time to dig deep…

Back in the day, marriage was a form of ownership. Women, having no rights of their own, or value other than their ability to bear children and tend to the house were basically sold into servitude by their fathers to their husbands, or their husband’s family (depending on the age). Is it really any wonder that since the day women started working outside the home (because parenting and housekeeping is work) that a functional dynamic of relationships has been difficult to maintain? I’ll go deeper. Black women in You Don't Deserve HerAmerica have always worked outside the home. Whether it was raising the master’s children, picking the cotton, cooking, cleaning… slaving in general was work. And then they had to go to wherever the slaves slept, and work more for their own families. Although white women were undervalued in their homes, they could at least count on the protection of the men in their lives. Black women could not; Black women had to bear the brunt of all of the abuse, the rape, the indignity, knowing that no one would be coming to save her… not her father, brothers, or even her husband.  Her mother or sister might be able to offer herself up to the master to offer a reprieve, but it wouldn’t be man, at least not if he valued his life… not if he didn’t want to risk being sold to another plantation. Throughout history, women have had to do the parenting thing alone. Men were off hunting, fighting wars, and forging frontiers. Even when they were around, they were mainly there for sex and food. They gave women more work to do. I’m not trying to diminish the value of having a man in the home, I’m simply saying that not having a man at the home isn’t a new thing either. The value of male-female companionship didn’t actually come into play until much later.

Now, I can already hear some of you saying “That was then, this is now Reign… time to move on Reign.” But see, if you look at where we are in relationships now, where we have to be specific about “Black Love”–as if love isn’t complicated enough–especially with the women’s movement having given rise to messages that tell men that we, women, don’t need them, I want you to really understand
where that comes from. So where am I going with this?  Simple: women don’t need men… LOL… Okay, no, that isn’t where I was Storm Black Panther Kissgoing, but  had to say it. Because we don’t need men the way we needed them back then. Like all women, we need companionship. We need partnership. We need bed warmers. We need someone to be special to. Yes, we need you. The feminist movement, while I still consider myself a proud feminist, got that message wrong, or at least incomplete. More specifically, as a Black woman, I have to speak directly to the need for Black men. The complaint about Black women being too hard, too independent, too masculine… if you look at the history, you’d understand that we didn’t have a choice, and that being penalized for it is an injustice that is still prevalent in Black relationships today. Not just as companions–straying from the romantic element of relationships for this–but as partners in the struggle. When we are agonizing about #BlackLivesMatter, the people who understand through experience are Black men. The man you are least likely to have to explain why and how racism is still a problem for you personally, even if you never stepped foot in the hood, is a Black man. When being a “strong black woman” was in style and it got mixed in with the feminist movement, the message got twisted, everything fell apart, and the idea of Black love became a novelty. It became more about devaluing men and their role in our lives, and less about empowering women. Suddenly, “taking care of home” was a weak woman’s job; a white woman’s job. The rhetoric about men being unnecessary, more specifically how Black men “ain’t shit” became more important than strong families. I’ll ask this: What’s the point of being a strong Black woman if all you let yourself see are weak men?

At the same time, men were hearing all those messages too; and the message was loud and clear. So why are we surprised when they
fell back on their role as men? Why shouldn’t they have switched to only focusing on what they need us for? If we don’t need them to do the right thing, why should they? What’s their incentive? They’re told they aren’t necessary, but they’re still expected to pay for the dates, pay the bills, be physically present in their children’s lives–technically a new requirement–and sometimes the lives of children that aren’t theirs, be emotionally and financially stable, be able to fix stuff around the house, be educated, committed, and faithful… and in return, they might be able to look forward to sex. Where’s the equality in that? Where is the love in that? Since we’re out working, they can’t expect a cooked meal when they get home. They can’t expect well raised, respectful children who understand the value in patience and perseverance over the acquisition of things and instant gratification. They can’t expect anything because like the song says, “we run this.

I’m the kind of feminist who actually believes in equality, only with a realistic twist… Love Never Failsbecause we aren’t equal; not in all things. There are some things that should be exclusive to men, just like there are some things that are exclusive to women. Allowing this dynamic to break down; allowing the incomplete messages to corrupt the fundamentals is one major component to why relationships, specifically relationships between Black people, has become so difficult. Unlike most other racial groups, there’s a lot more to Black love than just love… and I have a lot more to say about it…

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I know that was long (especially on top of all this)… and I have even more to say about it. So come back next week for Black Love, Part 2.

In the mean time, Do More, Require Better.

My complex relationship with Black History Month

Yes, today especially, will be one of those days.

So one of the things I’m often loathed to deal with is the current month we take part in here in the US. And there are a lot of reasons for my general state of annoyance. Some of which I’ll get to over the course of this particular piece for your viewing. Whatever this month means to you, I’m sure you will be offended. Remember all emails should be sent to yourruthlesswonder@gmail.com, but let’s get moving.

I hate the necessity of Black History Month

One of the glaringly obvious things to me about Black History Month is that we do in fact need one. The adage is often said that they teach black history 1 month out of the year, and 11 months out of the year it is white history. Now other ethnic groups with their own ceremonial months may disagree, but the very existence of their months honoring their heritage in fact exists because of black history month. So y’all can have several seats while I finish my point.

I hate that we need to have a dedicated month recognizing very specific and generally speaking, the same old accomplishments. It is one thing to talk about major firsts in a culture, it is another altogether to only talk about them, and never add in discussion of new, and or alternatively important milestones. But then I think about kids now who don’t know Missy Elliot has been rapping since the 90’s and I get it…a bit.

The deeper reason I hate the need for the month is the outright ignorance the rest of the year. Part of the problem is the thing that comes from the exceptional nature of America in the first place. What do I mean? Well because America is the first, and one of few current nations made based on commonly united political beliefs and not geographic similarities, we have a “not everyone is the same.” problem when it comes to heritage. Because things can never be complex enough, add in slavery, reconstruction, the great depression, the civil rights movement, Korean war, Vietnam war, The hippies, and the 70’s and by the time you get to the birth of the legend you now know as THE Ruthless Wonder in 1982, things are odd.

Thus what seems like a good idea really can get out of hand. I hate the idea that it isn’t common knowledge how important schools like Lincoln, Langston, Alcorn, and basically every HBCU not named Morehouse, Spellman, or Howard are to the collective history of America. And that’s right I said America not black America. Black America as an idea pisses me off, but I’ll save that for another day and a probably a full on Note from your favorite super villain.

That we still need a true out and out campaign for black history month, where even giant corporations have to make some half ass attempt to act like they care about black people by repeating lock stock and barrel the same classic accomplishments on company flyers is demeaning to me. I look no further than Black Enterprise. I’ve been a BE reader to some degree since my parents were getting it while I was a kid. But when we talk about achievements related to african americans in American society, it rarely comes up. The same magazine which has not been handed over to larger(white), media corporations. That has not had the financial instabilities. That has a respectable presence, and has since the 70’s. “No no, tell them about CJ Walker, and Harriet Tubman again.” Which brings me to the next problem I have.

I hate the fake pro-black focus of Black History Month.

When I was truly a child the point of Black History Month seemed to be hyper focus on accomplishments, and talk about things that could make you proud of your heritage. As I have gotten older things have taken a turn. I remember them in waves. Wearing only red black and green. Busting out African cloths. only wearing black designers clothes. blah blah blah. The reality is for Americans who are black each of these was a means of at least acting the part of reconnecting to your roots. Which might be a good idea if the rest of the year wasn’t the almost exact opposite of that.

Dashiki aside, 90% of those who appear black in the US have only ancestral connections to the continent, and 5% of the remaining 10% are more than 3 generations Americans. And I’ll save the Black but also Latino folks for another discussion as well. Given the numbers I can understand the idea of wanting to know who you were. But for an exercise ask your Italian friends the last time they dressed up in Roman robes and spoke random latin words or phrases. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Now that they are done laughing you can see my point. It is good to research, learn about, and especially learn from the root of all people(Yes I said all. You denying humanity came from Africa is like me denying Gravity applies to feathers). But homogenizing African culture into a single outfit, and one particular language’s catch phrases is buffoonery. And it disrespects the very idea of what Black History Month seems to have been about. Woodson very rarely references the direct link of American Blacks to Africa when coming up with black history day. And even civil rights leaders focus on the accomplishments, trials, tribulations, and triumphs of Black Americans when they address the then week long and later month long celebration.

This wasn’t supposed to be back to Africa day. This wasn’t to be “Come out as a black Israelite” week. And most certainly it wasn’t call everyone not buying into your unintelligible and oblivious pro-black faux-afro-centrism month. This was supposed to be a day, week, and month to look at old, modern, and contemporary black accomplishments here in America by Black people and celebrate them. The way the month is now abused to get people to buy your stupid book, listen to your “Afro-consciousness” struggle rap mixtape, or pick up another copy of the hidden colors series is disgusting. Celebrating Black American Achievement is laudable. Trying to push your faux revolutionary agenda along with merchandise is race pimping.

I hate what it really says about America and Americans.

The hardest part of this piece today is that for all the complexity in my relationship with Black History Month, I love parts of it. Seeing parents post videos of their kids reading Langston Hughes like I did as a kid. Watching young women and young men talk about the influence researching Malcolm X now has on them. Students fighting to get to see Selma. These are great things. They are things we need to remember and cherish. These are things that we wouldn’t have the access to 15 years ago. That is beautiful. That is what I love about this month. No matter that it is the shortest of the year.

The reason I say I hate what it really says about America is that I know these things will only occur in months like this. Save the students who began their struggle at the end of January, these kinds of moments are part and parcel February only. Anything else will be an outlier. A seeming non-sequitur. Because unlike our schools, events, drinking fountains, transportation, and voting rights, history is still highly segregated. It should be normal to talk about the alleged role Benjamin Banneker had in crafting Washing D.C. alongside Pierre Charles L’Enfant after being part of the survey group. It should be simple for Literature teachers to reference the fact that Alexander Dumas was black French writer who also would use some of the lavish gifts he received to help support American Abolitionists.

It is disheartening for me, to see the various things I know because I read about them in history, or learn about them in the present day, never grace history books that get updated yearly. From College texts, right down to the entry level reading for pre-schoolers. It says Americans, don’t actually care about learning. It says Americans, don’t really want to know more about the cultures that have come together to make us great. And for all the granola munching, soybean slurping, rice milk drinking, vegan cheese making, dog rescuing, gentrifying liberal wastes of my time that give it lip service, they are no better than their dip spitting, klan member, confederate flag waving, Santorum supporting, racist assholes.

But bigger than my hatred of bigots, It says America is regressing. It says we don’t want to be exceptional anymore. The fact that we need black history month to remind white America that some things are just not okay is sad. That we need it to remind black people to try and achieve is sad. That we need a specific month to pull black children aside and tell them how important to the fabric of this great experiment they are, and the ones who came before them were is sad. When American History is taught to include all the cultures that have made us great, hopefully we will have advanced enough to no longer need this month. Until then I loathe the month, but I lovingly endure it. Because It just might make us all better. And also because it pisses off racists and bigots alike, and you know I love that. I could talk about the problem of Black vs. African American. Maybe next week. For now though…Words Don’t Do It Justice!

 

– THE Ruthless Wonder