Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Malcolm X Principle

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2010 at 2:22 am

So apparently, everyone from German news sites, to Black men pedaling books, has the remedy to the issue of Black woman singlehood. It has become quite a market, this idea that Black women are desperate to mate and are unfortunate in doing so, apparently because they need “fixin”.  The latest ploy appears to be a book entitled, “The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can’t Find Good Black Men” by Jimi Izrael.  The premise appears to be that women want a balance of wealth, good looks, and success, amongst other things, and that we look for this special balance that doesn’t exist in real life.  I haven’t had an opportunity to read the book, and I won’t go into the manner in which books such as these are mercilessly damaging the esteem of beautiful women who imagine that, because they are single, there is something wrong with them.

I don’t know that I identify at all with the single story that is being produced, displayed, projected, and shouted from the rooftops about Black women being beat into defeat by the S word.  As a matter of fact, many of the women I know are happily single, and if more knew the work that went into long term relationships and marriage, I gather there would be more names to add to that list. The fairy tell love story that we feed all women is a topic for another blog, space, and time.  For once I won’t go there.

However, on the anniversary of the assassination of one of the greatest leaders I have studied, regardless of race, I must interject that if I was to create a “type” list from which to measure potential suitors, Denzel Washington would not be the prototype.  No disrespect at all to the beautiful brother, but I want more, a lot more.  The man that we have come to know as Malcolm X means more to me, and most everyone I know, than words could truly express, which is an enormous feat for a writer. This considered, it is not actually his charisma, his ability to mentally and verbally dissect the dilemma of my people, his handsome smile, or his simple might that tops my list of characteristics to look for. My desires are much deeper.

Let’s begin with beginnings, with foundations, with the essence of brother Malcolm.  We must never forget that, possibly, had it not been for another of our exceptional leaders, Marcus Garvey, we would not have had the good fortune to know Malcolm X.  I would argue that Malcolm’s parents, who were Garveyites, instilled in him a respect for himself and his race that would have been difficult to produce from any other movement of that period.  Malcolm watched his mother and father battle for a true emancipation, one that had not come with the proclamation perpetuated in 1865.  That being said, I would like my future mate to have a strong foundation and understanding that we must work towards true freedom and equity, without limits and without a desire to fold.

Malcolm left his roots like a prodigal son after noting that fighting for freedom and justice saw his father murdered and his mother mentally and emotionally unstable as a result of her husband’s death.  He was, at various points, thought to be a bookie, a pimp, a thief, a narcotics dealer and a narcotics abuser, among other indecent things, I’m sure.  A low life for a high man, which unfortunately is sometimes how life plays out. But through his incarceration, and finding the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, Malcolm evolved into what I can only describe as brilliance.  A phoenix of sorts, rising from the ashes of what this country, many times, forces Black men to become.  I desire that my mate be able to evolve, to grow, and to overcome adversity, as this life will surely be filled with it.

The dedication and loyalty that Malcolm showed his family and the Nation of Islam is, well, chilling.  The thought of it, many times, gives me goose bumps, not in an eerie way mind you, but in a manner of sheer astonishment.  It is often noted that as J Edgar Hoover and the FBI unlawfully tapped the conversations of Malcolm X, they never heard anything more than the brother solidifying thoughts and plans, and speaking with his wife about her and the children.  It’s true, there is footage available of Dr. King that reveals some philandering that we would not like to acknowledge.  Our leaders were human beings, in each and every sense of those words. And this is not to say that Malcolm was perfect, at various points his marriage to Betty Shabazz was in shambles, but over all he was purposeful, organized, and unrelenting in his passion, other qualities on my checklist.

The greatest lesson I have learned from the life of Malcolm X came from reading of his travels to Mecca to make Hajj, which is the fifth pillar of Islam, and should be carried out at least once in every Muslim’s life.  Upon making Hajj, Brother Malcolm had to reconsider many of the things that he had been taught, and in turn had been teaching. Having one’s belief system challenged can be earth shattering, the courage to pick up the shattered pieces, renew, and rebuild, is another thing entirely.  El Hajj Malik El Shabazz did precisely that.  His break from the Nation was not merely a result of his contention with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, but also because there were tenants of the religion that, upon experiencing Hajj, he could not adhere to. This caused immeasurable strife and ultimately death, but he had to live and teach his truth.  The audacity of leaving what one knows is hindering one’s growth and beginning anew, this is what I desire in a partner.  Courage under fire; the ability to walk and lead in truth, although living a lie would be easy and comfortable. Yes.

So you see, my checklist does not at all include spaces for income levels, six pack abdominals, and “good hair”.  If I was to create a principle type by which I would measure the men I date, the list would not be centered around a famous actor.  I’ve always been one to jump at the sun you see, one to desire the greatest among whatever is being compared.  So I unequivocally choose Malcolm.  Let’s see a brother write that book while deciding to direct women on what they should look for in a mate.  Yup.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate the life and legacy our Black Shining Prince…

The great Ossie Davis eulogizes El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (audio/video) :

James Baldwin and Malcolm X debate being Black in America (audio, part 1 of 7)

Malcolm X discusses the white power structure at a roundtable disucussion.


The Pipe Dream of a Post Racial America

In Uncategorized on February 17, 2010 at 3:45 am

As I made coffee this morning I watched a segment on a national news station that discussed the plight of Black Farmers still trying to settle a discrimination lawsuit dating back more than a decade.  I look at that time in history and realize that this case is both too far to trust and too close for comfort.  The original case was settled in 1999, but the National Black Farming Association contends that more than 80,000 of their members missed the filing deadline.  These men and women are attempting to get what is owed to them, reparations for the racism they encountered at the hands of the Department of Agriculture (USDA).  In reference to this case being settled originally a little over ten years ago, we must acknowledge that such discrimination being perpetuated in these recent times proves that racism is still a very integral and prevalent part of US culture and society.

Many may wonder why a city girl, finishing her Master’s degree, and looking towards her PhD would be concerned about these struggling Black farmers.  It’s because beyond my womanly pomp and circumstance, I am just a country girl- back woods, bayou raised, red clay dirt on my feet,  and blackberries straight from the bush in my mouth.  I’m proud beyond measure at my families ascension from enslavement to Cum Laude college graduates.  When I saw those farmers standing, far away from their southern fields, freezing in the Washington DC snow, I thought of my father who had to quit school in 6th grade to help his family share crop, and my maternal grandmother who toiled in the fields of her tenant farm while carrying most of her eleven children.  Also, I think of my uncles, still audacious enough to try and fare decently in this economy and place where global warming makes the return on crop harvesting little to none.  Mind you, my great grandmother was, as my mother often brags, pitch Black African and once enslaved.  They called her Ma’am Sweet. She spoke French and through her midwifery delivered almost every child in her Parish. I can see her instinctively mixing her herbs and attending her private garden, a harvest that she would use to feed her own family and would often share with the whites in the neighboring community.  I think of all the Black hands that raised the food, which has nourished this nation, and raised the cotton, cane, etc., which has built it and  I wonder if those hands might be shown decency and respect in the new year, decade, or century, that a people who have given so much and gotten so little, still somehow rising, could be treated with the basic humanity shown to others who have invested much less and received much more.

I also ponder where in a land that transcends race would a group of Black employees win an EEOC lawsuit against their former bosses who decided that, as a result of their race, they should be subjected to higher amounts or frequencies of radiation.  Welcome to Memphis Tenessee, land of Stax Records, the murder of Dr. King, and a nuclear power plant called…wait for this…RACE (Radiological Assistance, Consulting and Engineering).  From RACE, 23 Black employees filed a class action suit asserting:

white managers at RACE subjected African-American employees to excessive radiation exposure — more than their white co-workers. The company allegedly assigned black workers to the shop with radioactive waste while white employees worked elsewhere, and it manipulated the dosimeters that measure radiation exposure to mask the actual levels that black workers received. ~ Sue Sturgis

The employees won the case, $650,000 divided between all of them, minus any fees they may have incurred.  It sounds like pennies, an obvious under-compensation, when one considers the damage that radiation exposure can cause. Being subjected to this poison not only increases the workers’ risks of diseases like cancer, but also affects the organs, even the reproductive ones, and the children they will produce or already have produced. We are speaking about a fate worse than lynching, where the savagery can potentially transcend your lifetime and trickle down your lineage- a sort of environmental apartheid that should be considered a criminal matter instead of a civil one.

Forward ever like the great champion of our people Marcus Garvey would often chant, let’s discuss briefly the incident where Chris Matthews commented that, after watching POTUS deliver a riveting State of the Union Address, he “forgot Obama was Black for an hour”.  There are a few aspects of this statement that upset me, with my first qualm being the idea that Matthews thought that he was paying Obama a compliment.  In other words, and as Matthews and others like him believe, it is an honor and a privilege to not have one’s blackness taken into consideration.  The thought of transcending, or better yet ascending, race automatically attributes one’s accomplishments to attempting to ascertain a standard of whiteness. It is after all how we measure our success, with whiteness I mean. As a matter of fact Frantz Fanon would contend that, “For the Black man there is only one destiny. And it is white.” I would argue that Fanon was not referring to the hearts of Black people but more so to the masks that many have to wear in order to be accepted in the larger society.  The White Privilege that perpetuates this destiny of whiteness, that makes whites believe that being a lighter complexion, or speaking without the use of Black English Vernacular makes blacks more white, less black, and the leaders of the Black race as a result, is the elephant in the room that no one wishes to address.  The idea that American culture wishes to assimilate my blackness into nothingness appears to be no cause for alarm.  I feel some kind of way about that…

In a Post Racial America acceptance and tolerance are what the nation stands atop.  There, no one needs to discuss race at all.  It is a place of inclusion where every race and culture is celebrated, not a place where I sit wondering why Beyonce, Shakira and Jay Lo all look like the same woman although each is of a different culture and heritage.  What people like Chris Matthews and the makers of Loreal want us to believe and understand is that there are Whites, and then there are a small percentage of POC that need to blend and morph into an almost but not quite white being.  I don’t want to be some alien, forced to leave behind all of the people, stories and humble beginnings that make me who I am.  I fully understand that no one would forget that my nappy hair, brown skin, and red clay dusted feet define me as Black.  I don’t find a shame in my Blackness that makes me want to honor not being seen as such. Zora Neale Hurston wrote in her essay How Does It Feel to be Colored Me, “I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all.”  This is my constitution. Accept all of me or none of me as you move past race dear America. I’ll be fine either way…