Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Black men need love too
[I took this picture three weeks after the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. It's used here to remember the life and witness of men and women who have died, and the women who lead movements that seek justice. I celebrate these women, and advocate for inclusion of women in spaces controlled by black, male leadership]
This is no pity party.
This is not a deflection.
This is not an attempt to negate the amazing work of black women.
But, can the brothers get some love?
There’s an uncomfortable feeling oozing in my belly. For months, it’s been easy for me to dismiss the angst in my gut to things stirred by my own messy ways. I’m certain part of it is because of wounds I opened from words and actions that facilitated the movement of hands on hips, wagging fingers and talk about “no you didn’t!”
I own my own complicity in making it complicated and unsettling for some to hug it out. Anyone with a tidbit of common sense knows there’s tremendous pain rooted in a long history of silence and indifference, but something unsettling is happening that forces new talk about black men.
My conclusion comes after spending months talking to black men about how they feel. The consensus among many is, well, it’s different now. The evidence of change is not proof that the stuff in the gut is a bad thing. Feeling isolated and attacked is often the consequence of the need for an old school butt whipping to help you get your act together.
Maybe this is what we need.
This is that collective ruthless confrontation that will forever be known for shifting power dynamics. Nope. Women ain’t playing anymore, and anyone who doesn’t know that better ask somebody.
It is true that black men have selfishly clutched power from black women with the type of neglect that battles what white people have done to subjugate black people. Be it in the leadership of the church, other institutions or the abuse and manipulation in relationships – black men deserve this whipping.
This is not about asking black women to back off. This is not a repudiation of the legitimacy of the need for justice and inclusion.
The brothers need some love too.
The truth is, black women have always fought for their men. Their fight for incarcerated men, and brothers unjustly stopped by police, goes back to days long before the end of slavery. They fight on behalf of their sons, and other black boys in the neighborhood, grappling to find a way. This is not a criticism. This is not a plea demanding more.
It’s a reminder. Brothers need love too. Don’t forget us. Please, don’t give up on us.
Because we need you. We know the burden on your backs. We are aware that we placed some of it there. We failed to listen. We used religion to control your movement. We followed the teachings of the white man’s Jesus to demand your submission. We rejected the teachings of our ancestors and made ourselves into gods with the power to rule without questions.
Still, brothers need love too.
Part of that involves the need for forgiveness. In many cases we don’t deserve your forgiveness. We deserve your rejection. The stiff unwavering hand in our face is a tribute to your strength. Like Celie clutching that knife against Mister’s neck, “everything you think about is gonna crumble.”
We feel the crumbling. We hear it in each word aimed at exposing our coldness. We merit your reproof. You are not wrong.
Black men are hurting.
We can’t fix the mistakes made by our fathers and grandfathers. We’ve read the words of Alice Walker and other great thinkers who are “sick and tired of being sick and tired”. Knowing the truth does not stop the pain. Some of it belongs to us. Some of it is stuff we didn’t create.
They did it, but our male privilege makes us guilty of their mistakes.
Black women, can you see the tears of black men? Has your rage enthused an apathy that we will never overcome? If so, we understand, but know we need you still. We always have, we always will.
Without you, the emptiness remains. Our heart beats slower as our will to survive wanes without you. Our mental health degrades as we seek ways to overcome. Our dreams move beyond deferment into no more than a thought from yesteryears. Our feet move slower and all we see are days fading into an inescapable midnight.
There is no joy without you.
Brothers need love too.
We have no night to request anything from you. The bond in our blood may not be enough to dismiss your fury. The innumerable recollections of venomous words and insulting deeds may be too much to defeat. It may be too late for you to note the poring of our tears. We deserve the loneliness generated by your rejection. We are living in a space wearied by feet planted in confusion. Your incapacity to trust or words leaves us motionless with no hope of conquering what we created.
Still, back men need love too.
There is no love without you.