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I haven’t blogged in a month or so. I definitely haven’t blogged about race. Why? Well, you could say I’m suffering from racial fatigue – I’m tired of analysing, deconstructing, resisting and boycotting white supremacy in all it’s myriad manifestations. I’m sick of noticing how pervasive it is. I’m fed up of having to deal with the internalised anti-blackness within my community. I’m just sick of race.

Unfortunately, there’s no escape route.

James Baldwin said it best:

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. ”

Because it’s literally everywhere. And thanks to the resurgence of more overt forms racism in the last few years and the ever reaching hand of social media, the depressing reality screams in my face every day. I can feel it’s breath on my cheek the minute I open a newspaper. I can smell the stench from the biased journalism on my TV screen. I have to exchange smiles with its passive aggression at work every morning. It even manages to invade the sacred spaces of my faith.

There have been a few times in my life where I wished I wasn’t black. Not because being black isn’t beautiful and defiantly joyous in an almost miraculous way, but because to be black and to fight to love blackness can be tiring. To be black and to love yourself and your people and to see the daily and consistent assaults on them – not the videos of black men being shot, or the MP who ‘accidentally’ uses the N-word, but the almost imperceptible drip of a system that attempts to erode at the concrete of our self-worth, is heartbreaking.

Sometimes I envy the people who don’t see it. How don’t they see it? Do they see it and don’t care?

But I’m realising that one of our greatest acts of resistance against any evil is to be able to see all of it, the ugliness, the hatred, the accidental bigotry and the calculated dismissal, and refuse to let it define our existence or steal our joy.

I’m starting to believe that although it’s necessary to understand how white supremacy affects us, our conversations about white people’s acts of overt or covert racism are far too centred on white people. Somehow, we still believe despite all the evidence, that the more information white people receive about us, the less likely they are to be racist, and we direct our conversations about race under that basis. We have become trapped in a continual cycle of outrage in which a white person or people will commit an act entirely consistent with past behaviour, and black people evrywhere (and well intentioned white people), are outraged and angry, berate the offending party, and attempt to have ‘conversations’ about said behaviour. This can’t be healthy.

Racism is literally bad for your health. It is an independent stressor linked with physical and mental illness, and it does that by placing you in a position where you are constantly forced to be aware of the fact that you and people who share the same skin as you are perceived as inferior and therefore treated as such, and subtly suggesting that you must therefore ACTUALLY be inferior. In Britain especially, it is expert at being omnipresent but simultaneously encouraging you to question whether it really exists.

If you refuse to believe the false propaganda that it’s ‘not as bad as you think’  you WILL see it and it WILL make you angry. That’s stressful.

You have a right to your anger. You have a right to sit in your righteous anger at injustice. In fact, I would even advocate claim that, as one young brave women said, if you’re not angry, it’s because you’re not paying attention. There will always be people of all races who are uncomfortable with anger directed at racism. They will frame it as concern about the angry party, when for most of them, their concern is about their own comfort, their own sense of guilt and their own love of white supremacy in its various forms – whether that be Charlottesville style or “light skin is just my preference” style.

But love in its right season is just as defiant as anger. Black love is rebellious and obstinate in its refusal to give in to a system that claims that blackness is unlovable.

Black lust is everywhere – dissecting, carving and reselling bits of blackness to be consumed by the highest or lowest bidder. The objectification of blackness in the form of caricatured celebrities or funny viral videos is not black love. Black love can’t be reduced to learning how to twerk or reading one Maya Angelou book.

Real black love gives birth to black joy and it is being confident, so confident, that existing in this skin is as Divinely willed as any other act of God. Black love isn’t limited to romance between black people, it’s loving black people and black culture despite being subtly told that blackness is undeserving of love.

So while I can and will be angry, and reserve my right to,  I’m trying to be more invested in finding the love and the joy that exists in my community as much as possible. I’m laughing out loud at the woman in the Caribbean takeaway. I’m dancing in my room to Lauryn Hill. I’m letting my favourite gospel song carry me into my prayer time. I’m reading black authors that make me think and cry and giggle. I’m hugging my friends and family. I’m appreciating the good-looking black men in their suits at London Bridge (don’t judge me). I’m being joyful.

One of my favourite passages of scripture, Nehemiah 8:10 says “The Joy of the Lord, is your strength”. I’m holding on to the promise that we are at our strongest when we are at our most joyful.

What things do you do that bring you joy?

sperm donor

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A lot has happened since I last blogged. Well, one major thing has happened. Trump. Singular, but the magnitude of it means that a lot has happened.  I’m not writing about Trump though. There are a possibly a million think pieces already and I have plenty of thoughts but not any that I feel would shed any new light on the alternate universe we’ve found ourself in in which someone who only feels they need to be briefed on intelligence once a week because they think they’re ‘smart’, can be a viable candidate to run a superpower. I digress.

On Twitter (which  generates meaningful conversation more often than you’d think), I saw a back and forth about fatherhood. It started off as a series of tweets by a man about masculinity and black men needing to responsibility in order to build stronger families. Another man quickly responded, asking what the definition of family was,  suggesting that it was possible to have a family without a man, and that him not having a father didn’t prevent him from achieving in life and therefore “the broken family narrative is invalid”.

I could have ignored this as a one off – one young man with possibly unresolved emotions from having an absent father or who perhaps had a great family life despite his absence seeking to make sense of his situation by framing his father as an optional extra in his life. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’m hearing this idea that men aren’t ‘nececssary’ for a family.

Now, it’s quite obvious that there are many families that operate and possibly even thrive outside of the traditional Mum, dad. 2.4 kids template. As far back in humanity’s existence as you can imagine, families have been far more complex than the template. Whether it be children growing up with Grandparents, an Aunty,  5 cousins or a family friend-become-guardian. While this has always been the case, what’s new is the push from certain sectors of society for a radical shift in how we think about what contsitutes necessary or perhaps optimal family structure.

I listened to a podcast last year and I was slightly shocked when one of the women angrily stated that “she didn’t need a black man to have a family anyway”. She claimed that she had other options including adoption and sperm donation that meant that having to deal with black men (and I gathered, in her mind – any accompanying misogyny) was uncessary. I emphasise being only slightly shocked because some strands of feminism in particular, seem to be extremely comfortable with promoting this idea. Now granted, men can be stressful, generally ashy and a complete waste of breath. There have been times post-argument or rejection, where the idea of reproducing asexually has sounded infinitely more appealing than wading through the circle of fire that is the male ego. Despite this, in the cold light of day I’m under no illusion that a present and active male figure is anything less than optimal if I want to have a thriving and happy family.

Not only  is the idea that men are optional to a family structure  insulting to men, it’s harmful to women,  indeed, perhaps even to feminism and goes against all the evidence we have so far – both academic and anecdotal.

In a world where we’re increasingly being told by various factions that gender is a wholly social construct with no clear biological markers as well as scientific advances in artifical insemination, it’s unsurprising that people can lead themselves to believe or want to believe that men aren’t necessary for families.

Whiel I agree that we have made some essential progress in not treating women who are single parents like social pariahs or failures, on the other hand, in response to societies negativity towards single mothers particularly black single mothers, we have almost begun to regress into a ridculous narrative where we not only have accepted it as the new normal but seem to be promoting it?

There is a need to continually pushback against the idea that a household in which there is no male figure is a perfectly normal and acepptable state for over 60% of our children to grow up in. This isn’t societal progress, it is (and I mean it as dramatically as it sounds) a state of emergency. Research into outcomes for children from single parent families  is complex and the evidence as to the vastness of the difference in outcomes varies, but one thing is fairly undeniable – your chances of having poor outcomes increases. Very often we argue that boys need men, but just as importantly, girls need men. I needed my Dad, and i still do. My Dad even by sheer virtue of joining his income with my Mum as well as the myriad otehr inputs, enabled me to fulfilll all the feminist ideals of being an interdependent (catch that?), educated woman with a a confidence that lies in my abilities regardless of my gender.

Someone will ask, “would you rather have children grow up in dysfunctional, violent or abusive two parent households?”. Clearly, the answer to this is no. I would much rather a child grow up in a loving single parent household and not be exposed to constant arguing or potential domestic violence. I salute the single mothers that are doing the best they can. I acknowledge that just because parents aren’t together, does not mean that the father isn’t active in the childs life. As I get older I’ve come to terms with the fact that I myself may not necessarily get married but I still definitely would consider adopting a child. However, no matter how active a father or  a mother is individually  a functioning two parent household will always be the ideal. That isn’t what we need to question.

The question we do  need to ask ourselves is what are we NOT teaching our young people about relationships, about masculinity, about femininity that is allowing a situation to occure where so many relationships are unable to last the distance? What ideas about what it means to be a man are we teaching boys that means they can’t have successful relationships with women and vice versa?

Instead of acquiescing to a tide of broken homes, we can start having these conversations amongst ourselves. In our friendship circles, families, churches and mosques we can do the work. We can do the work of seeing  a counsellor to sift through our individual or relationship issues (I know being able to suggest that comes froma place of relative financial privilege), we can dig into the resources we have of the wisdom of older generations, asking them what worked and what didn’t. We can choose to reject media that constantly portrays and glorifies dysfunctional relationships for cheap entertainment.

What we can’t do, is allow our children to accept this new normal. It’s not normal.

 

 

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Now I don’t advocate it, but watch any Tyler Perry movie and at least once, the “strong black woman” will pop up.

Typically the strong black woman has been through the fire, the flood and the broke black man. And the absent baby daddy. And the son who is a drug dealer who gets shot and gives his life to Jesus at the end of the film as he limps down the aisle while the strong black woman (who on top of her many responsibilities, also leads the church choir), sings her heart out.

You’ll often find this phrase circulating in memes round the internet. Black woman are STRONG. We are the originators of human life. The incubators of resilience. Black men ‘need’ a ‘strong black woman’ to lean on. White men who make videos about how much they love black women make various allusions to their ‘strength’.  This is seen as a positive thing. After everything we’ve been through, the double oppressions of racism and sexism, the constant invalidation and erasure, still like the phoenix, we manage to rise from the (strong) dark ashes.

Can I be honest? I think the ‘strong black woman’ stereotype/archetype is actually emotionally, spiritually and physically dangerous for black woman. View Post