Friday, October 21, 2016

I’m Better Than A Text Message

There were two, not one but two men vying for my attention. We spoke on the phone, and they sent cute “thinking of you text messages.” Initially, I smiled and responded. Then I’d see a message pop up on my phone, and that warm and fuzzy feeling turned cold. Because matter how many times we talked or texted, what I could not get between the two of them was any face time. None. Nada. Zero.

 These were men who marveled at the fact that I’m still single. These are men who are constantly telling me how wonderful I am, and yet they could never find time for even a cup of coffee or tea. My plate is full, and I get that many of us are often times juggling more than we feel like we can handle. But I also know this: We make time for the people and the thing that we want to make time for.

Looking back over my dating life, I remember men who were more interested in me than I was in them, and no matter what, they always found a way to reach out to me. When my level of interest didn’t match theirs, I always let them know. I never liked leading anyone on because I never liked being anyone’s default. These men taught me that a man who wants to spend time with you will find a way.

So, even though the two men vying for my attention claimed they wanted to get to know better and explore the possibilities of where we might go, the reality was I was not a priority. So, I had to let both of them know that I was moving on. I believe that men and women can and should be friends, so they’ve moved out of the romantic realm and into the friendship zone.

This is the generation of text messaging relationships. I have a friend who is younger, and she says that texting back and forth is one of the ways that she and her husband communicate. They fight and make-up sometimes via text messaging. That’s not for me.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m old school. I like good old-fashioned two-way communication.  Texting is fine later in the relationship, but it’s not the best way to begin a relationship. Texting leaves too much to miscommunicate.

I’m more mature now, and I’m going to date on my terms. It’s not that I’m inflexible. I’m open to something new and exciting. I’m open to someone who values me. And a man who values my time knows that I am better than a text message.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Black Men Rape, Too.

Black men rape, too. I’m just going to let that sink in for somebody who has formed an opinion about this piece based on the title. I ask you to continue reading and hear me out. This is NOT an indictment against Black men, but an unearthing of a topic that has been buried too long.

We need to talk about sexual assault in the Black community at the hands of Black men. I know our history. I know the hypocrisy of holding up the sanctity of White womanhood while defiling Black womanhood. I know that Black men and boys have been the strange fruit of southern trees for nothing more than mere rumors. I’ve read the Kissing Case.  I’ve heard Emmett Till’s story. These tragedies are part of the history of racism. But this history does not erase the fact that some Black men are rapists and/or sexual predators, and that sexual abuse in the Black community is in a shoebox under the bed or in the back of the closet. We know it’s there, but we don’t want to talk about it. 

Statistics show that rape happens most often intra racially, not interracially. The narrative of the Big Black men preying on defenseless White women is a false as is the narrative that Black women are so sexually insatiable that we cannot be raped. These narratives are rooted in racism, and it’s time to change the story and tell the truth. 

In light of recent headlines involving well-known figures in the Black community, it is time that we pull that box out and examine its contents. We need to consider the real possibility that even those we admire can be capable of rape. Even those we love. Rapists don’t fall out of the sky. They breathe and live among us.

We need to address male privilege in a patriarchal society and what that looks like in our community. We live in a patriarchy with some misogyny thrown into the midst. Men feel entitled to sex, and Black men are no different. In my life, I have had some scary experiences that make me question how we raise boys. I definitely believe that American culture is rape culture. And Black men are not immune.
In 6th grade, a boy and his friend walked into the kindergarten class I was watching while the teacher stepped away. He turned off the lights and said, “It’s time to fuck.” Time stopped.  They were looking at me, and I was looking at them. My stomach knotted. After a few minutes, but what seemed like an eternity, they walked back out of the room. I didn’t report the incident.

In high school, the security officer harassed me every time I passed him in the hall. He’d stop me and asked for my pass while letting others pass freely. He looked me up and down salivating like a dog to a bone. Though he made me very uncomfortable, I didn’t report him. When I was growing up we didn’t have language around sexual harassment, and rape was something that happened to women who were snatched into dark allies. And somewhere I took to heart the message that Black men and boys were to be protected even at my own expense.

As a young woman, I went to visit my friend who lived out of town. She was older and like a bigger sister, so I trusted her judgment. She introduced me to a guy that she knew. I went out with him, and while we were in the car talking, out of nowhere he says, “How do you know I won’t rape you?” I didn’t. This was back in the day before cell phones and I was in a different state at the mercy of a man I did not know. Nothing happened, but it frightened me that he even said it.

I was dating a guy, and we were having sex. At one point, I said to him that I wanted to take a break from sex. I thought it was a reasonable request. After all, it is my body, right? Well, since we were dating and were sexual, he said that the least I could do was provide him with oral sex; I owed him that. I laugh now as I did then at the audacity of his statement. I did not owe him anything, nor did I oblige him.

Too often men think that women owe them sex. If we “go too far.” If we drink too much. If we’re wearing something sexy. If we had sex with them previously. If we are in a relationship. These things mean he can take it. Sex is not ours to give. We have no agency over our bodies. Because of this women give in when we don’t want to. Whores are not born; they’re made. (But that’s another post for another time)

Statistics say that 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted and the rate is even higher for Black women and girls. Rape against Black females is easily dismissed. I’ve had conversations with women and girls who said they were raped and were not believed. I remember reading an excerpt from Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice and being horrified by the notion that he said he went into Black communities to “practice” raping Black women before raping a White woman as a revolutionary act.

When the internet was ablaze with people arguing about Nate Parker’s rape allegation, a Facebook Friend, Floyd Webb posted this: “The conversation needs to be about how do we stop young men from thinking that rape is not a crime against a woman. That their machismo is really the lowest of cowardly and abusive behavior.”

We believe what we believe. But we should know better because we know what happens in our communities.  So, why do we think people like Bill Cosby, Nate Park or Derrick Rose are any different? I am not saying that any of these men are rapists. But I am asking why so many of us won’t even consider that one of them or all of them might be?

It is urgent that we teach our children about consent. No means no. Maybe means no. And yes means proceed with caution because yes to one sex act does not mean yes to all sexual activity. Yes, there are false allegations, but the statistics show that false accusations are the exception and not the rule. The number of sexual assault cases is actually under reported. It happens more than we want to admit. 

Webb went on to say, “’Taking the pussy’ is not a laughable action.  No means no. Consent is only by consent. Getting women drunk to take advantage of them is CRIMINAL.” Webb thinks rape continues to be pushed aside because a large number of men in power have at some point engaged in the same type of behavior. I have to agree with Webb. But I don’t think it’s always men with power. I think that any man raised in this society is capable of rape because of the messaging. Some recognize that the messaging is wrong; others act on it.

So instead of arguing for or against people whose lives we don’t really know anything about, let’s have a dialogue about sexual abuse community. I’m ready. Who’s with me? Awareness is the first step toward change.

Monday, September 5, 2016

I Should Kill Myself Today

Photo courtesy of Pinterest
 I should kill myself today. Just take myself out the game. Do away with the pain and misery. I mean, what’s the point of living? I woke up to a story about adults calling a child ugly because her beauty is too big for the box they put it in. Hell let the world tell it, Black women are uglier than sin! Angry, mean, and ungrateful, too. 

We are bitches, hoes, gold diggers and Baby Mamas served up as Internet fodder for media consumption for the world to devour. People say if that ain't you, they ain't talking about you. But perception becomes realty right? Which means that we are a monolithic mess! Not allowed to be me--individually because we are always WE. 

Everybody wants somebody to love and appreciate them. But since it ain't no love for Black women and girls in the world why not give myself wings and take flight from the ugliness of this life? I think I should kill myself today. 

I'm single for real. Ain't got no man. No side dude, no playmate, No nothing. Did I mention that I ain't got no any kids? None. Nada. No man. No kids. I have no place. I mean I really should kill myself for taking up space. Tell me somebody, by society's standards, what's my worth?

I'm a teacher in a public school no less.  If a child does well, the parents did something right. If he fails, I did something wrong. Failure of students is my fault as teacher competency (or lack of) is the automatic default. No matter that I'm on the bottom rung of the education decision- making ladder, I should have some magic up my sleeve or a pull a miracle out of hat. But my mere mortal status doesn't allow me to do that. I should kill myself today.

But wait! Good news. We are highly educated women according to the stats, but oh, it's still not being translated into us getting paid. We make 64 cent to every dollar, the lowest wage for all women of color. We have a slew of health problems, too, so let’s just do away with the formalities of acting like we need to exist. I should kill myself today. 

You know what's the ugliest thing of all? People who look like me co signing on this foolishness. Ain't that some ish? A series of YouTube videos telling me how undesirable I am. I mean damn! I googled to see if such videos existed for other ethnicities. And guess what? There are none to see.
Treated like trash, some of us don’t know what to do with the anger and the pain, so we lash out at each other. Instead of coming together we clash, and then crash into anybody on our path. Yea, today is a good day to kill myself. 

But wait! Can we be in this world, but not of it? We have always moved through this world differently than the rest—marching to the beat of our own drum. And that never stopped us in from doing our best. We have to get back to the days of old. Bring the light back into our darkened souls. We need to look no further than those around us for inspiration and motivation.

My mother has lived longer than eight decades on this earth and rises every day to celebrate her birth. Her legacy lives through her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. As a branch of her family tree, I don’t have time to be blue because I know that I still have work to do.  I can live another day.

When I can go back and forth on Gates Girl Rock with six of the most intelligent, thoughtful funny, and fiercely loyal women I have the pleasure of sharing blood with, I’m reminded that I am blessed to experience such bliss. I can live another day. 

When young people remind me of my worth through listening ears or a comment on my blog that shows that I too have a legacy because a commenter "admires my strength and transparency because not everyone has that," I think I can live another day.

When I go interact daily with an amazing group of women who keep me grounded and remind me if the magic we do, I can live another day. I have a multitude of friends who are an essential part of my life. I can trace true friendship back to elementary school. I'd be a fool not to live another day. 

 I am a member of a group who has faced unspeakable horror and terrible hardship, who get up every day to do it all over again; I owe it to them to keep pressing forward. It's not easy being a Black woman in this world, but I've heard that anything worth having is worth fighting for.

So, today I fight for me, and for the other Black girls and women who are not feeling the love and are contemplating killing themselves. No, I won't kill myself today. I’ll look at all I've been through, and all that I'll have and know that my riches yield the highest stock.

I look at Black girls who Rock, and I swaddled myself in Black Girl Magic. I’ll remember to breathe and seize the moment because I know that THIS is a gift from above. And everything God makes comes from Love. So, I got this. And if you're reading this, you got this. WE got this. And today, I know I'll live another day. 

What makes life livable for you? What gets you through the bad days? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Parceling Pieces

I have a confession: I don't always know my worth. I want to believe that I love myself wholly, fully and unconditionally, and I believe I love myself more times than not, but there are times when my love for self falls short. So, I’ve decided to be intentional about loving myself.

  I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. This is my mantra. My goal is to say it until I believe it, until I live it, until I am it, so that when I say I love myself, I really mean I love me some me! And it’s not a conceited or selfish love but an authentic love that says I’m ok as I am flaws and all, and that I am a work in progress. This self love is a necessary love so that I am able to love others in the same way.

 Loving self is easier said than done because I allow outside factors to get in the way of loving who I am. I seek approval from family, friends, colleagues and the men I date.  And sometimes approval comes with a price. I have cut off pieces of myself shrinking into confined spaces to make others comfortable when what I needed to do was expand so that I busted out of anyone’s preconceived notions of who I should be. 

I've been trying to figure out when it how all begin—this parceling off pieces of myself to keep peace. I grew up in a house of strong, proud people. We were raised to believe that we were as good as anyone else. We didn't look down our noses at others and in no way did we take to others looking down on us. The youngest of seven, I was doted on. I got all that I needed and much of what I wanted. But that didn’t stop me from being a people pleaser. 

Who I’ve most wanted to please were men. Most people think I'm a smart, confident woman. And I have deluded myself into thinking the same. I prided myself on not allowing men I've dated to disrespect me, but I can't count the times I've disrespected myself in pursuit of a relationship. I wasn’t being verbally or physically abused, so what was I doing wrong? Settling for less than I deserved: giving second and third chances when he didn't deserve the first; trying to prove to him that I'm a good catch; staying when I should have left. 

For the last decade I've been single longer than I've been coupled. And I’m using this time to reflect on lessons learned and to love myself in the ways I want to be loved. For me, that has meant figuring out what does it mean to me to show love. How can I expect a man to love me better than I love myself? He won't. Loving myself in a world that doesn't always love me back isn't easy. Some days I nail it. Other days, I don’t. But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't keep trying until I get it right. It's never too late to start anew.    

So, during this single season in my life, I’m learning to fall in love with myself.  To help me, I ask myself:  What did you do to show love today?  I cannot expect anyone to love me more than I love myself. Here are seven ways that I show love to myself so, I’ll be ready for love when it comes around again.
  1. I focus on eating healthy more times than not. I don’t worry about what I can’t eat. I focus on what’s good for me. So, every day I aim for fruits and vegetables.
  2. I spend time alone. If I don’t enjoying my own company, I’ll be lonely with a mate.  While spending time with me I write, listen to music or read.
  3. I spend time with people whose company I enjoy; I love a good stimulating conversation.
  4. I find pleasure in simple things like coloring, blowing bubbles or bubble baths.
  5. I take myself out—to eat, see a movie, go to the theater.
  6. I dance!
  7. I sit down at the dining room table and eat out of the good dishes.
Feel free to borrow, and share how you show love in the comments section. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

My Lived Racial Experiences Part 2: Standing on the Hot Coals of Truth

This is a series of posts in which I share my racial experiences as a Black woman  in America. I am an activist and a humanitarian. If I want to make the world a better place, I must begin with me and examine how race shows up in my life. These are my epiphanies.

photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Self reflection is an important part of my personal growth. I look at Self and my reactions to the world around me, and I adjust. But I admit seeing is difficult when I don’t want to face my truths. Because of all the racial turmoil and unabashed hatred going on in the world, I feel the need to check for biases and prejudices in how I’m processing what’s happening. How am I moving through the world? 

As much as I advocate for what I believe is right, I’m not so naive or so full of myself that I believe that I live bias free. I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes I am blinded by my own perceptions and misconceptions. A few weeks ago, I went up north to see a sold-out play. Issues of race and color intrigue me, and this play (that I have since forgotten the name) was a story of both. It was about free women of color who lived openly with their White lovers in Louisiana. And even though they could not marry, the women and their offspring could inherit his fortune prior to the Louisiana Purchase.

I put my name on the list and went across the street to grab a bite to eat. The restaurant had indoor and outdoor seating. It was nice out, so I opted to sit outside. Next to me was an interracial couple. He was Black, she was Other. My mind immediately went to judgment about why this dark skinned Black man was with this non Black woman. The stories of dark men hooking up with light women to increase their chances of having light brown or tan babies was not foreign to me. I had seen it, heard it, and tried in vain to explain to dark boys in my classes over the years that being with light girls would not guarantee the birth of light babies.

And as soon as I was conscious of my thoughts, I chided myself for jumping to conclusions. I was able to get in to see the play. The man and his wife from the eatery were seated in the audience. During the Q&A after the show, he talked about how he had come to learn to love himself as a Black man. He gushed about the strength and the beauty of Black women, and how the play spoke to him that we need to love Black women. The Latina with him was his wife. He said that she was beautiful, too. This reminded me of how quickly and absented mindedly we succumb to stereotype. He wasn’t a Black man stepping over sisters to get to mixed race women like Kanye who said he and most of his friends like “mutts” or Lil Wayne who does not hide his lover for red bones (light skinned Black women).  But I digress. I made unfair assumptions about the man in the audience. His appreciation of Black women did not supersede his love for his wife and vice versa. 

During the month of July, I worked with a summer program teaching social justice. I worked with a great bunch of ladies. The day following the tragic fatal police shootings in Dallas, a White woman at work remarked at how horrible it was. The three black women sitting at the table remained silent. The shootings had come on the tail of two police shootings of unarmed Black men. We changed topics. I made some assumptions: as Black women we were in solidarity in our thoughts. But it wasn’t that simple. I had only been working with these women for a few weeks, so we were still learning about each other. It turns out that the White woman’s son is a police officer, so it stands to reason that she would be upset by police shootings. Both of the Black women have Black sons, and one of them is married to a police officer. Imagine her anguish. She has to worry about her husband and her sons coming homely safely every night. 

These situations serve to remind me that even in my fight for civil rights, I still have my own work to do. Nothing is rarely as simple as it seems. The world draws a stark line of black and white, but so often the line is blurred. There are so many shades of grey in our existence. I recognize that I jumped to my own conclusions without having all the facts in both situations. How often do we do that? I’m not afraid to admit that I fall short. I’m standing in my truth even if it feels like hot coals under my feet. I have to stand in it, own it, and work on it. But every day I have a chance to learn and do better than I did the day before. That’s My Truth and I’m standing on it.
What’s your truth? Be sure to let me know in the comments section.