The CFC

8 Mar 2014

It’s Saturday Morning. It’s International Women’s Day. And I have a rant. A rant that I need to share in this community of like-minded folks. A rant so that I don’t lose my shit with some educated Black men, who need to be hemmed up by the cufflinks.

On Thursday, in my weekly column at Salon, I wrote about the President’s new My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, and what it means for Black and Brown women and girls, who have yet again been decentered from the national conversation on race and class disparities.

Now if you follow my work at Salon, you’ll know that I have spent an inordinate and disproportionate amount of time there writing about the violent racism that has largely been targeted to Black men like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Johnathan Ferrell. I don’t always share the pieces at CFC because for many months I have felt like I haven’t been pulling my feminist weight, because so much bad shit has been happening to our boys.

But this week, I talked about Black and Brown women and girls. Read the piece here.  Here is a pertinent excerpt:

I am ambivalent about My Brother’s Keeper. Yes, by almost every social measure, African-American men, and boys in particular, fall behind at alarming rates. They are suspended from school the most, incarcerated the most, have the highest rates of unemployment, commit disproportionate amounts of violent crime, and have some of the lowest high school and college graduation rates. Frequently their encounters with law enforcement and white male authority figures end with black men dead.

These are alarming times. Times that would make Ida B. Wells weep. Over these many months, as I have watched the failure to convict both Trayvon Martin’s and Jordan Davis’ killers, I have worried. Worried because I know that when African-American boys are being killed with impunity by white people this triggers every kind of deeply held race trauma that African-Americans have. We circle the wagons. We fight fiercely to protect our beloved boys. We demand their right to grow into men. And we should.

The thing is: This “we” is mostly African-American women – doing the fighting, the organizing, the praying, the rearing, the fussing, the protecting, the loving. And the losing.  Black women have been their brothers’ biggest and best keepers.

But when black men occupy space at the center of the discourse, black women lose critical ground. I wish these struggles did not feel like zero sum struggles. I wish that black men — Barack Obama included — had the kind of social analysis that saw our struggles as deeply intertwined.

According to the African American Policy Forum, black girls are suspended at a higher rate than all other girls and white and Latino boys. Sixty-seven percent of black girls reported feelings of sadness or hopelessness for more than two weeks straight compared to 31 percent of white girls and 40 percent of Latinas. Single black women have the lowest net wealth of any group, with research showing a median wealth of $100. Single black men by contrast have an average net wealth of $7,900 and single white women have an average net wealth of $41,500. Fifty-five percent of black women (and black men) have never been married, compared to 34 percent for white women.

This situation is dire at every level. But perhaps the most troubling thing of all: The report indicates that while over 100 million philanthropic dollars have been spent in the last decade creating mentoring and educational initiatives for black and brown boys, less than a million dollars has been given to the study of black and brown girls!

And then a colleague, a guy I know only through other people, wrote this rant against my piece, and tagged me into an asinine FB discussion about it.

I shared a few responses with Joshua on FB. And I’ll say them in short here:

1.) If you have a problem with my *tone*, you should check this piece on the fallacy of tone argument. Although given that the tone of this piece I’m writing right now is far more strident than what I wrote at Salon, I’m sure you’ll be even more aggrieved. Oh well.

2.) We know the “program isn’t designed for Black women. Period. Point Blank.” The problem is when it comes to us, the blank is always left Blank. And check it. We don’t want your program. Mychal Denzel Smith did a great job in this piece of outlining all that’s wrong with it anyway. But can we have  a real conversation about ameliorating the social plight of all Black and Brown people, Black and Brown women included? That’s all I’m asking.

3.) Advocating for the inclusion of Black women is not the same as advocating for the replacement of Black men. Learn how to read and understand arguments. One of these is not like the other.

But here is the thing I want to get to. The reason I’m so mad. As this conversation progressed on social media, the various Ph.D. having brothers who came to back up Joshua’s point, all felt the need to talk about the 100 to 1 funding disparity of programs aimed at Black men and boys versus Black women and girls.

These brothers all argued that $100 million is itself a paltry amount of funding. Conceded. The idea that only $10 million dollars on average per year has been spent on Black and Brown boys over the last 10 years is deeply appalling and disturbing. I said so during our exchange. But if we agree that it is a paltry sum, then should we not also be outraged at the mere $100,000 a year spent on Black girls? NOPE. No outrage. These brothers can manage to muster no outrage for us, because enough is not being done for them.

And that folks is why these debates are so disingenuous. These brothers when presented with hard evidence of disparity have no qualms about looking at the evidence and still making it about how they deserve more. I mean they won’t even concede that we deserve more of other people’s money. You can’t even be charitable with other people’s money?!!!

This is the thing: if we are all sick from the ills wrought by racism, patriarchy, capitalism, etc, then the fact that in some instances your illnesses are more severe (and only in some instances), does not mean our illnesses should be left untreated.
If this logic doesn’t give you a clue about how the masses of brothers, excepting a few feminist and egalitarian minded ones, would actually divide and share material resources if they were in control of them, I don’t know what other evidence you need.  I mean they are literally saying that they do not care AT ALL what happens to black women, not if they perceive that Black women’s needs might in some way demand a redistribution of their own resources. Black women are the poorest demographic in this country not just because of broad and severe systemic challenges, but also because we have no problem redistributing our meager resources to make sure our brothers are eating, riding, laying their heads somewhere and looking halfway decent while doing it.

This conversation reminds me in an odd way of Derrick Bell’s story Space Traders. In the race version, white folks are given everything they need to save themselves from failing Planet Earth as long as they are willing to leave Black people behind to the space traders. We all know how that scenario ends.

I think if we did a gendered version and told Black men that they could have all the wealth and power of white men to rule the world as long as they were willing to leave sisters behind, they’d jump at it. Would barely give it a second thought. Might broker a deal to save their mama, grandmama, and other female family members. But even if they couldn’t do that, they’d march off into that good night with empty promises to return for us. Black men may not be patriarchs, but an alarmingly large lot of them damn sure want to be.

Two weeks ago, I received death threats and  all manner of troll behavior on twitter, because I wrote a piece being outraged over the failure to convict Michael Dunn of Jordan Davis’ murder. Two weeks ago, a few terrible white folks communicated in every which way they could that Black folks lives don’t matter, that my life didn’t matter. This week, a few brothers with jacked up thinking have communicated the same–Black women’s lives do.not.fucking.matter.

So I’m so discouraged. Discouraged that these brothers (several of whom in the thread I was in have Ph.D.s, and so have high levels of training to evaluate sociological evidence) could be so disingenuous, so uncaring, so patriarchal-minded, all while claiming that the problem is not with their sexism but with my argumentation. As if. A lot of times folks say that the problems between Black men and women have to do with our failure to talk *to each other.* I actually hate stances like that.  We are not all *equally* to blame. Black men — brothers– owe us more than this.

However, much sisters might get mad and go on a Nicki Minaj style “Lookin Ass N…” rant, when push comes to shove, we’ll give y’all our last, fight in the streets for you, catch a case for you and lay down and die for you.

Meanwhile, it will never occur to you on something as basic as that when you are receiving 100% more resources than we are to even advocate that we get more attention, even as you advocate for yourselves. And even as we advocate for you.  And to flip the script on the old logic,  if this is how our men think (about us), then Black America got a hard damn row to hoe.

17 Feb 2014

Hey Crunk Family,

We are incredibly excited about the next installment in our annual love series. In this video, CF Crunktastic interviews author and professor Kiese Laymon.

pic of Kiese Laymon

Kiese Laymon

Kiese has written beautifully about the politics of love among Black men and women, not just romantically, but in rough political times like these.

Below, we are providing you links to two of his most recent essays, links to both of his books which are awesome and will give you your entire life.

But first watch the interview. It’s a great way to kick off your week. You’ll be so glad you did.

Links:

“Kiese Laymon on Trayvon, Black Manhood, and Love”

“Rachel Jeantel’s Short Blue Dream”

Long Division: A Novel

“How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America — Essays”

11 Feb 2014

After a long while she spoke very softly.  “Is it true that I can have a baby now?”

“Sure,” said Frieda drowsily.  “Sure you can.”

“But … how?” Her voice was hollow with wonder.

“Oh,” said Frieda, “somebody has to love you.”

“Oh.”

There was a long pause in which Pecola and I thought this over.  It would involve, I supposed, “my man,” who before leaving me, would love me.  But there weren’t any babies in the songs my mother sang.  Maybe that’s why the women were sad: the men left before they could make a baby.

Then Pecola asked a question that had never entered my mind.  “How do you do that?  I mean, how do you get somebody to love you?”   But Frieda was asleep.  And I didn’t know.

-(excerpt from) Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

               

Just in time for Valentine’s Day there is an app on Facebook that predicts your perfect marriage date based on the median age your Facebook friends have gotten married.  Based on the test my target date for marriage was 4 years, 9 months and 8 days ago.  I guess I have failed in the romantic love/marriage department.

The test reminded me of the looks of concern and scorn I get from some family members at holidays when  I arrive home, again, without a boo-thang on my arm, and when a fish dream doesn’t reveal that I been “f*cking on the low” (Drake).  No one says anything but I can sense their bewilderment, concern, disbelief and disappointment that cute and smart as I am I can’t get/keep a man to save my life.  If they asked I would tell them that I have tried, unsuccessfully, to forge a relationship over the years, though I can’t say that marriage has been my goal.  Before I can think long-term or permanent I need to get past the “does he really want me” stage of a relationship, if you can call long-distance flirting, every-other-day texting, and quarterly “surfboard” sessions wanting me.  I have routinely and regrettably been attracted to men who are beautiful but dishonest, sexy but selfish, caring and callous.  (Ever thought you were in a relationship or heading towards one with someone and then realize, when you’re multiple months in, that the person you thought you were getting in a relationship with is already in a relationship? Yeah…that…and who knew that shit happened past high school?)

My grandmother has told me many times over that I can do bad by my damn self, so I don’t desire a relationship because that is what I am “supposed” to do.  Most days I am unsure if I desire a relationship at all, especially marriage.  After struggling with self-esteem issues (not altogether separate from my singleness, sometimes),  and witnessing love relationships that leave much to be desired, I am ambivalent about romantic love.  I suspect it is part defense-mechanism and part fear of rejection or disappointment but I don’t go around fantasizing about falling/being in love like I did when I was a teenager.  I don’t peruse baby books or bridal magazines or doodle my name in cursive adding the last name of the boy I like.  My grown woman version of that is cautious.  I cry when my friends get engaged and celebrate when they get married, but I don’t have expectations of role-reversal.    

Once I realized that socially what was seen as positive, self-assured independence in my twenties has somehow shifted to being desperate and pitiful in my thirties (because I am a woman, and therefore less desirable as I get older)… I had to regroup.  I had to resist.  I had to rebel.  One way of doing that has been embracing my singleness now as much as I did ten years ago.  It doesn’t always go over well.

BW

My post-thirty singleness and my lack of concern therewith led my father to recently question my sexual orientation.  Our face-to-face dialogue quickly moved from pleasantries to accusations. 

“Are you dating anyone?”

“No.”

“You’re getting on up there, you know.”

“I know.”

“Don’t you want to get married?”

“I’m not invested in marriage.”

“Don’t you want to have children?”

“Not necessarily.”

Our conversation felt robotic because we have had several versions of it in the past.

“Are you a lesbian?”

Except for that part.

I thought about his question and how problematic is was that in his mind a successful, single black woman post-30 is either too-hard on a brothah (and/or “too picky” to use his words) or not checking for men altogether.  I found it interesting that not once did he concede the possibility that I had been and would be willing to be in a relationship with a man who was trying to do right.

“No, I am not attracted to women.”

I could tell by the way he looked at me that he didn’t believe me.  And I didn’t care.  If it made him feel better to think that his heterosexual-identified daughter was secretly dating women (rather than just being contently single), sobeit.  He, like society, wants my singleness (as in lack of a husband) to be my fault.  He, like society, assumes that since I did everything “right” (went to school, got degreed, did not get pregnant, etc.), I should be the poster child for good love.  Not so much.  He is assuming that my mind, my independence, my intelligence, my quirkiness and my feminism is too much or not enough.  If I was in my twenties I would have internalized that bullshit.

I don’t find my so-called “love” dilemma to be explicitly heterosexual.  I have nonheterosexual friends who are also single (without a partner).  I don’t find my so called “love” dilemma to be confined to those of us who are unmarried.  I have married friends who wish they were single.  The truth of the matter is loving someone outside yourself is a hard thing.  But the harder negotiation is loving yourself when it seems you are unlovable to anyone else.

One of the benefits of being post-30 and single is that I recognize the power of self-love.  I have learned to love myself deep over the years.  I love myself so much that when the wrong person walks out of my life, I celebrate!  I love myself so much that I find ways to affirm my(damn)self or surround myself with folk who I know love me.  I love myself enough to know that platonic relationships are just as significant as sexual ones.  I love myself enough to wait for what’s right instead of settling for what’s wrong.  And I love myself enough to know that being single is not a failure.  And, being single in some ways, is as much a choice as being in a relationship.  And I love myself enough not to let anyone shame me into feeling like a failure or loser because I don’t have a partner on February 14.

What the Facebook predictor failed to ask is “do you want to get married?…is marriage your goal?”  My answer to those questions is simple but not uncomplicated.  Most days the answer is no.  But there are cultural cues that try to brainwash me into believing that traditional heterosexual marriage and biological children is synonymous with grown womanhood. Grown women get married and make babies.  But you know the other thing grown women do?  Live their lives fully and without regret. 365 days a year. 

Like Claudia and Pecola (the characters in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye) from the opening quote, I don’t know how to make someone love me.  But I do know how to love myself.   Fiercely.  #selfloveisthebestlove

4 Feb 2014

Each year the CFC spends the month of February doing some love talk and this year I want to set it off by sharing a few of my thoughts on love praxis.

A little background: I have been in a committed relationship for nearly 14 years, married for 9 years.  I am still close to besties from preschool and 5th grade.  I have a beautiful child, come from a big family, and I am part of large community of loving folks.

I think about love in three ways: in-love, love, and loving (not mutually exclusive).  I believe that being in-love is an irrational state of being, that love is an ideology, and loving is a deliberate action.

Being in-love is like brownie a la mode or July watermelon slurping. It’s yummy and risky; a time when we ignore the annoying fact of having to wash a gooey chocolate plate or having sticky fingers and stained clothes.

Being in-love is like waves or frequencies, sometimes you are in and other times you are trying to be in or avoiding it all together. It can be addictive, it can be good, but it can also be toxic and all-consuming.

Love is like temperature; there are degrees.

Sometimes you are warm with others and cold with yourself.

Sometimes you are 80 degree radiating sunshine touching people you will never know.  This is when justice is possible.

Sometimes people are so hot with self love no one dares touch them. They are not for touching, just staring.  These people burn just about everything they get close to.  This is greed.

Many take their warmth and light on tour; they share their warmth with those in the shadows so that others may see their humanity. This is solidarity.  This is loving.

As we kick off our month of love talk and black history month here at the CFC we hope you will share with us your stories of being in-love, love ideologies, and loving practices.  Right now I’m in-love with Nina Simone’s Tribute to Langston Hughes “Backlash Blues so I’m gonna share it with you.

Be loving, radiate love, and enjoy the sticky fingers if you dare.

 

31 Jan 2014

ShaMichael Manuel (Photo Credit: Instagram)

ShaMichael Manuel (Photo Credit: Instagram)

You may have heard about the viral video popularized on World Star Hip Hop and commonly known as the “Sharkeisha video.”  The video is a disturbing depiction of a young blackgirl being ambushed and brutally beaten by another blackgirl, identified as Sharkeisha, while a third accomplice videotaped the incident on her phone (it was later uploaded to Instagram and later World Star Hip Hop).  What you may not know, and/or have heard, is the name of the victim in the video, ShaMichael Manuel.

It is disturbing that a violent video clip depicting the ambush of a young blackgirl was being feverishly shared on the internet, garnering millions of views and pushing the perpetrator to instant fame. It is even more disturbing that following the voyeuristic viewing and salacious consumption of a girl fight, that folk continued to attack ShaMichael discursively, leaving malicious comments, tweets and taunts online, while praising the fighting skills of the girl who initiated the fight.   As I have shared before in another post, it is problematic when victims are made invisible and perpetrators are memorialized.

We, at the CFC, have reached out to ShaMichael and Crunktastic will extend in person what we are offering here across the interwebs.  Because the internet was used to further harm and victimize ShaMichael (through the perpetual availability of the video and images from her attack, vicious rumors, and hurtful comments and memes intended to minimize her experience and suffering) we want to use it to send and collect messages of love, affirmation and support for our sister.

At 17 years old, ShaMichael already has much to offer the world in terms of her capacity to forgive and her resilience.  Her mother, Olevia Henderson, is a remarkable role-model and a fierce advocate for her daughter, and young women like her who are silenced or muted.  We honor them both but focus our words to ShaMichael, not only because we want her to feel our love and support, but because she represents a version of our young-girl selves, only braver. (We would also like to point out that we are, in no way, interested in maligning Sharkeisha–so please don’t see this as an opportunity or invitation to do so.  We are invested in the wellbeing of all blackgirls, and we wish for Sharkeisha the intervention she needs to be also be well.  We focus, however, on ShaMichael because she has been largely excluded and/or blamed.  ShaMichael, we see you, we got you, we love you!

(In the following clip, Crunktastic speaks up on behalf of ShaMichael and other blackgirls like her/us who are negotiating pain.  Disclaimer:  We, alongside others (see this and this), recognize the dismissal of blackgirl pain, voice and experience expressed by members of this panel and find it problematic and offensive.  However, we want to demonstrate the ways in which black women must, in all spaces and circumstances, stand up for blackgirls and demand space for their visibility). As Crunktastic states, “Blackgirl’s lives matter!”

Please join the CFC in sharing messages of affirmation for ShaMichael:

Hey Sis,

 I’m writing to you because my heart hurts that you have had to endure such widespread ignorance.  You deserve to feel protected and nurtured by your community and I want to assure you that there are women who will stand up for your right to be safe in this world and stand up to those who choose to participate in secondary abuse. They suffer from arrested development and I pray they take time to reflect on their poor decisions.

I just want you to know that I pledge to continue fighting for a world where you can dance freely under palm trees, see your image in the river and know.  Know that you  belong to a sisterhood of fierce women who have been knocked down and got back up to lift up the next generation of girls.  Know that you are part of long line of fierce women who tell their stories, speak up, and talk back.  Please know there are many people who are pulling for you to heal physically and emotionally and I truly believe that by collecting new great memories this experience will eventually fade into the background of your life.  In the meantime we are sending you an iTunes gift card so that you can download the songs/videos that remind you that you are “Flawless.”

Love & Light,

Sheri Davis-Faulkner (sheridf)

Dear ShaMichael,

Hey, girl. How are you doing these days? I know you have going through a lot lately and I want you to know that you’ve been on my mind and in my heart. Like you, I was bullied a lot as a kid. It made me feel lonely and alone, like no one really saw me, understood me, or valued me. I want you to know that we see you, understand you, value you, and love you, unapologetically and fiercely. You, ShaMichael, are beautiful, brilliant, and destined for great things. You have some big sisters over here in the CFC that have your back and are rooting for you. Never forget that. I’m sending you so much love.

Your sister,

Crunkadelic

 

ShaMichael,

It’s not easy being a blackgirl

and sometimes the company of other blackgirls feels furious

lonely and dangerous

because we are all competing for the same space that is never left empty

never without criticism, scorn, accusation of self-pity

When I heard about what happened to you I was transported back in time

To being bullied and feeling absent

Tears held in long enough to fall right after the bus ride home

Feign friends and misplaced jealousy

I pretended to be brave, but you are brave

I pretended to be whole, but you are whole

And you have a community of folk who love you

And see you for who you are

A brilliant brown piece of sunshine

With forgiveness on your lips

And compassion on your tongue

Thank you for the lessons you taught me in your words of forgiveness

Thank you for gracefully exhibiting the kind of strength that is not inherent but inherited

You are larger than the situation and your character is bigger than any bully

I’m sorry you were ambushed

Caught by surprise

And left defenseless, vulnerable

And all out in the open

I’m sorry it was not your name being called and not your wellbeing being centered in this narrative

I’m sorry we haven’t done better for you

You deserve better

We deserve better

& We will do better

Blackgirls are wondrous like that

We have bounce-back like that

We see each other and come to each other’s rescue like that

We have each other’s backs like that!

Never be discouraged. There is enough love to swallow your pain.

All Love,

Rboylorn