Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Relationship Circus

Washing my car the other day, I was privy to what should have been a private conversation between a young woman and young man at the car wash. From the snatches of conversation I heard as I vacuumed out my car, it seemed as though she was giving him the business for disrespecting her.

I shook my head as I listened to her emotionally charged tongue lashing wondering why she was giving so much energy to man that she knew wasn't hers. She acknowledged that she was the jump-off and claimed to have understood the nature of his relationship with this other woman.

Listening to her reminded of how often we become ring masters of our very own three-ring circus. Step right up as we engage in death-defying acrobatic stunts to prove our worth, turn summersaults and backflips, and jump through hoops to demonstrate our loyalty and committment. It's amazing how often we don the clown suit under the guise of love.

Some of us have teetered on the tightrope between sanity and insanity--leaning toward the latter trying to hold on,on an already slippery slope. A word of caution to the ring masters: step out of the ring before it's too late, and you seal your own fate.

Some of us have our head in the mouth of the lion, and maybe because we've been there for so long, or we think we know the nature of the beast, we don't know get out while we still have our heads. So, take my advice and pull out before the lion swallows you whole, and rips a hole in your soul.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Hoopla Around the Help

After first reading the book, then seeing the film and now reading the various articles popping up about The Help, I must confess that I don’t share the sentiments of those strongly speaking out against the film. There’s the chorus of why another story of a black woman as a maid, the chorus of a white woman telling our story, and the chorus of it being stereotypical int its one dimensional protrait of the maid as "mammy" and its lack of historical depth. The Help, based on the bestselling novel of the same name written by Kathryn Stockett, is a fictionalized account of the lives of domestics in the turbulent 60s in Mississippi.

All the hoopla around The Help rips off the post-racial band-aid America has been wearing since the election of President Obama. This movie that is stirring up controversy and raking in millions reminds us of the raw and real pain of our racist past. And I welcome it. In his critique of The Help, Leonard Pitts Jr. of The Miami Herald says, "As Americans, we lie about race…Lies that exonerate conscience and cover sin with sanctimony."

Pitts shares the story of his mother who worked as a domestic for a doctor in Memphis in the late ‘40s/early 50s. One day the doctor’s daughter came up and began rubbing the woman’s skin because the child thought the woman's skin was dark because it was dirty. Seems that when the little girl asked her grandmother why the maid’s skin was dark, the little girl was told that the darkness was dirt. "Years later, Mom’s voice still mixed anger and humiliation when she told that tale." Pitts describes his own irresolution with the film. "I suspect it traces to nothing more mysterious than the pain of revisiting a time and place of black subservience. And, perhaps, the sting of an inherited memory. That episode cost my mom something to tell — and even more to live."

In L. Lamar Wilson’s piece, Wilson complained that the director had an opportunity to show love to the maligned black women in our society and she failed. Wilson wondered why Abilene couldn’t recite the words for self that she spoke to Mae Mobley. And while I fully understood what Wilson was getting at, I was blown away by words of a reader whose response to the article appeared in the comment section following the story.

“I am a fifty-six year old black man whose mother was a maid, a servant, and raised little white boys and little white girls . . . As I write this; the hurt of being devalued soars into my chest, just as it did when watching the movie. . . I couldn't say them to myself when the world around me was saying, "you are dumb, you are ignorant, you stink, you are ugly, you are bad." THAT VOICE was too, too loud and there were no volume control."

The reader goes on to say how his mother's teachings affected him when he watched his mother put on her uniform and assume her subjugated positon in society.

We need to stop acting as though were are not a nation in pain. We need to stop lying to ourselves because the lies that we've all been told about race "pinched off avenues of aspiration till “the help” was all a Negro woman was left to be," Pitt said. "I think of those lies sometimes when aging white southerners contact me to share sepia-toned reminiscences about some beloved old nanny who raised them, taught them, loved them, and who was almost a member of the family. Almost. It is Kathryn Stockett’s imperfect triumph to have understood this and seek to make others understand it, too. I think mom would have appreciated the effort."

The multitude of voices speaking out both for and against The Help need to heard if we are to heal our hurt.Perhaps through these dialogues and debates we can come to some understanding what it was like to stand in and walk around in the shoes of the hired help. We will never know what it was like to live in their shoes, but through our conversations with each other, we can move from sympathy to empathy and outrage to understanding so that we can appreciate and celebrate these unsung heroes.

We need the balm of couragerous conversations to heal our wounded souls.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Holding Love Hostage

Recently,I was playing with my new toy--the cable remote, flipping through the channels, when I stopped as one of the judge shows caught my attention. Not a fan of judge shows, I stopped because a woman on on America's Court with Judge Kevin Ross was suing her boyfriend she got arrested for disorderly conduct after she make a false complaint against her then boyfriend.

Seems that the woman wanted to get married, but the boyfriend didn't even though the woman insisted that she and the boyfriend had discussed marriage. The boyfriend showed the judge the cards the woman had given to him signed, "your wife." Because she said he had promised to propose to her and chickened out, she called the police to scare him into marrying her.

The judge told the woman, "It's not about the wedding. It's not about I'm married," he said pointing to a wedding ring. "It's about someone who loves you and wants to to be with you." The judge dismissed the charges against the boyfriend. And even though I sometimes thing some of the people on some of these shows are short a table leg, I do know people in hostage situations disguised as love.

I know people who are strong arming or being strong armed by "love". There are people in relationships with people who love them, and yet they don't love their partner in return. Real love doesn't weigh you down and chain your soul; it's time for someone to be set free.