Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A black man's confession after watching "Lemonade"

A smart man knows when to keep his mouth shut. When women start talking about their pain, it’s best to keep your thoughts to yourself and listen.

It may not be wise for me to step into the conversation involving “Lemonade”, the video album that has people wondering about Becky with the good hair. The album is one of those special contributions that leaves you thinking “well damn”.

Watching it reminded me of how I felt after my first viewing of Ntozake Shange’s “Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf”. It happened in 1977 when I was coming to grips with what it means to walk around with a black man’s body. In that moment, I knew there is a part of me that symbolizes the brokenness of black women.

My very presence conjures an ache that can’t be resolved by the holy dance on Sunday morning. Shange helped me contend with the limits of the faith I preach like a medicine man peddling hope in a bottle.  There’s something black men have done that makes it hard for black women climb up after we beat them down, again, with our words and false assumptions.

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman,” Malcolm X said in Queen B’s video. The images of brokenness are a reminder that I share in the pain they carry. Look at them. Look at them lined up to challenge us to see them for the best they represent. Look at the worst caused by our inability to see beyond our desire to use them more.

Look at their beauty. All of it. More than the brilliance of hue packed on bodies with curvatures envied by others, look at their will to love us. Look at their desire to lift us. And what do we do with it? We abuse the gifts they bring in hope that we will be better because of their yearning to help us see.

I don’t know if Jay-Z cheated. The truth is it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t because of the games black men play with love. The ways we cheat transcend the minor technically of the insertion of a sexual organ. We cheat with our lack of love and support, and do damage to black women by refusing to acknowledge their strength.

I admire the black women who stand in formation with the promise not to take no more. How do they do it? How do they continue to fight for our right to live when we rob them of their will to breathe? Watch them as they hold arms high while screaming “hands up, don’t shoot”. Watch them as they march because another black man dies too soon. How do they do it? Why do they care so much for us when we fail to give back the love they extend like roses seeking the sunlight?

I twinge at the image of Beyonce’ swinging a bat to acknowledge the rage that can’t take no more. My heart is pounding because she walks alone. No black man there to hold her hand while see seeks answers to the misery that causes her to find a place to beat the angst until there reason to believe again.

Why do we do this to our women?

And, why do they believe in us when we lack the will to say thank you. How can we blame them for how they feel? Why is it so hard for us to part lips while screaming I need you? Why no apologizes after we cheat love with an obsession to fill our voids with something other than what they freely give.

“Lemonade” may not be Beyonce’s personal story. My sense is this is the journey black women take in search for more than the alone that keeps them searching for more. Maybe I’m wrong. I’m in no position to speak to what black women carry.

I am a black man. I do know the pain I carry after watching my Queens suffer because of what we have done to them. I do wish I could help soothe the pain. I can’t. I’m limited by my own need for change coupled with being linked to a long history of bondage.  Some of this is mess rooted in generations of self-hate. Most of it remains due to an unwillingness to tell the truth.

We need change.

So, I’m sorry for what I have created. My prayer is to do better. In doing so, I hope that other black men will understand their place in Beyonce’s story. As much as they don’t want to admit it, we play a role in dismantling the hope of black women.

The good news is they carry a strength like no other. They are bound by the power of sisterhood and a faith grounded in the universe.

I love all of you.

Raising my glass of lemonade to you

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