It’s been a snowy winter, but other than that, thirty-three and Philadelphia are treating me well so far. Let’s get this blog shit on, shall we?
Posted tagged ‘Explains herself’
(Before you read this, please read my friend Joseph’s powerful recollection of that day and all that has happened around it since. It’s really just amazing.)
New York City, November 16, 2001. I was walking from the Astor Place stop on the 6 train, on my way to dinner with one of my oldest friends from Florida and her serious boyfriend – whom, she’d confided, she was positive was THE One. The gift bag I held swung enthusiastically from the crook of my elbow as I walked. In it, one of my most prized possessions: an exquisite mask, purchased three years earlier at the Artisan’s Market in Dakar, Senegal. I loved the mask, but it made a wonderful gift, and it was small sacrifice for a friend I hadn’t seen in years.
The freezing air that stung my bare face and hands carried the surprising but unmistakable bite of winter. I shivered and pulled my stylishly useless military coat’s flaps closer to my chest, thankful that I’d at least had the sense to wear a turtleneck. The sound of my own heels hitting the pavement bounced off the walls eerily, unmuffled by traffic and street noise. On a Friday night in a neighborhood packed with bars, clubs, restaurants and shops, the streets were deserted. I looked behind me towards Union Square, where I could see the lights of the theater where I’d had my very first New York kiss. And further south on Lafayette, the body art and piercing shop where I’d gotten my tattoo, and the coffee shop where my friends had toasted my courage with a cup of chai right after. I knew this place, had walked its streets in every season, at every hour, and in every degree and brand of inebriation. I even knew the restaurant she’d chosen, a popular Texican with forgettable food, weak drinks and insulting price tags. The giant neon sombrero lured them in, I thought.
I knew this quarter. Before It Happened, this chunk of Manhattan had been my weekend stomping ground. Before It Happened, on a weekend night I couldn’t hear myself think over the background noise: blaring car horns, buses ambling clumsily past, women like myself in groups clad all in black and laughing, angry and joyous shouting, the inevitable crying baby. The silence hanging around me was funerary in its weight, not merely the absence of sound, but its erasure, like a muted scream. Like the dust that rained down when It Happened, that awful September snow, the silence covered everything, cloaking all it touched in sorrow. The stunned hush that followed that sudden obliteration. I could feel my city grieving as she held Herself, and struggled to hold Herself together. No, I decided, sighing deeply as I passed a third lone individual at the restaurant entrance. No, it was too much. I would not ask Her to smile for me.
My friend and her guy were waiting for me at the bar when I arrived. In a flurry of high-pitched hellos, tight hugs, and exchanged gifts, we reconnected while her boyfriend found someone to seat us all. At the table, we sipped flyweight margaritas and caught superficially up. Why yes, I did like my new job and apartment, living and working in the Bronx was kinda cool. Well, they’d been together for eleven months and weren’t sick of each other yet. No, it didn’t work out with that guy from work. No, they were going to spend Christmas with his family this year. Yes, I missed Florida sometimes. Yes, they were having a wonderful time here. The cadence of our banter fell into its familiar, girlhood rhythms. A comfortable glow had shaken my months of melancholy loose.
“So,” I asked them, smiling at their entwined hands on the table’s top, “what did you guys do today?”
“Well,” she replied, her smile mirroring my own, “we went to see the towers.” I blinked, nonplussed. I didn’t know what to say. Surely, this wasn’t my friend, who had lived through the devastation wrought by hurricanes her whole life and hated tourists who came to gawk at the horror and return to the safety of their own lives. Surely this wasn’t the compassionate woman who in high school had argued brilliantly and relentlessly with more than one misguided teenaged conservative about social justice. This woman, easily one of the finest people I know, whose mother is like my own, who my mother loves like her own, and who has known me since before I had breasts, had not done that. The icy beginnings of dread and outrage materializing in my guts confirmed grimly that I had, indeed, heard her right.
“You…I…you guys went…what? Why?…” I stammered. She nodded, still smiling. Her boyfriend piped up: “Yeah, and you wouldn’t believe the lines!”
“No, I don’t guess that I would,” I murmured, lifting my glass to my lips and draining it. The dread turned to disgust and mingled with the outrage. I made a study of studying the menu. On the other side of the table, in an exceptional display of coupled oblivion, the two of them chattered merrily away, giving me details I never needed.
“It was a good thing we bundled up, it was freezing down there. You know, it’s right near the water, so there’s all that wind. It’s just so odd because it’s never this cold here in November!” my friend said.
“Yes, it has been an extraordinary year,” I replied, dazed.
Her boyfriend nodded, and held out his hands for my inspection. I peered down at his chapped, red knuckles. ”I don’t like gloves, and we were in line for like, three hours, so I was dying!” You were dying? I thought nastily. Please. You earned those knuckles. My eyes shifted to the festive bag with the mask sitting in an empty chair. I very much wanted it back.
My friend leaned in, whispering, “It’s still burning, you know. The rubble? Some of it’s still on fire. Did you know that?” Yes, I knew that. One of my roommate’s siblings, a paramedic who’d assisted with rescue eff0rts, had sadly verified this. Another friend who worked within walking distance of the site directed tourists looking for it thusly: “The Trade Center? Oh, you mean ‘the smoking hole of death’? Follow your nose. Yeah.” Our server came. I placed my order woodenly, praying that the server hadn’t overheard this discussion and was planning to spit in our food. Sipping my second margarita, I desperately tried to think of polite ways out of this excruciating conversation.
“Have you been down there?” the boyfriend asked me. Sweet, merciful God. I took a long, slow swallow of my drink before I answered.
“No,” I replied flatly. “I have not been down there. This is as far downtown as I’ve been since It Happened. I have absolutely no desire to go down there. But I guess you had to be here to get that” And you weren’t, I thought, but didn’t say. The sentiment hung in the air just the same. Suddenly, they were the ones with more information than they’d ever needed. It made them uncomfortable, I noted, smiling darkly to myself.
But they needed to be. Why shouldn’t they be? Their touristy lack of sensitivity was salt in a deep and constantly worried wound. Fear and stress, already a part of an urban dweller’s life, had increased a hundredfold when It Happened. After It Happened, I avoided the trains, tensing up whenever I had to ride south into Manhattan, unsettled at seeing my anxiety mirrored in the faces of fellow riders. After It Happened, I stopped bringing my Discman on the train with me, lest I miss important announcements or instructions. After It Happened, I didn’t see the laughing face of the Syrian coffee vendor I visited every morning again until that December. After It Happened, I’d watched with mute helplessness as a woman sitting across from me on the D train panicked when we stopped in the tunnel, weeping because she said she felt like It was Happening again every single day.
The boyfriend shifted in his chair, splotchy color staining his face and neck. At some point it had sunken in that he wasn’t making the best impression on someone’s whose opinion mattered. “I’m sorry,” he said earnestly. “It can’t be easy, living here now.” My friend smiled at him reassuringly, then looked at me. I sighed inwardly, and took the proffered olive branch.
“Well, a hard city just got harder. But feel free to inject some money into the local economy!” I said, stretching my lips back and showing my teeth and hoping it passed as a smile. It did: the two of them laughed and visibly relaxed in that way that people who didn’t live in New York in November 2001 could. With the conversation ball in my court, I asked if they’d caught any shows this time around, and the awkwardness was waved away.
On the way home that evening, I thought deep and long about spectator’s grief. The September 11th attacks were acts of terror. They had worked. I was terrified. Everyone I knew and loved was terrified. My whole city was fucking terrified. My friend, her boyfriend, and the rest of the world, on the other hand, were entertained. My own September 11th story, blessedly uneventful and comparatively drama-free, has drawn looks of disappointment from people outside of the city. I’m just glad that I’m here to tell it.
For many, the horror of that day was never quite three-dimensional, so the reluctance on the part of some of us to relive it in even the smallest of ways is baffling. Five years after It Happened, I got a job on Wall Street, where I was stopped at least once a month by someone asking for directions to Ground Zero. (I’d put on a big friendly smile and point them in the direction of South Street Seaport.) The morning before It Happened, I’d sat down with my roommate for our morning coffee, singing out, “Who doesn’t want to go to work todaaaaay?” We’d both raised our hands, classroom-style, giggling. I never uttered that sentence aloud again. The outfit I was going to wear that day was removed, washed, folded, put away in a bag for charity. I knew I’d never wear it again. The saddest part about all of this is that it only sounds neurotic and superstitious if you weren’t there, in that nightmare of a day that we couldn’t wake up from, when It Happened.
The orgy of politicized grieving around September 11th is something that I naively never thought would come to pass. I am too disgusted at this point to really comment about it, but it seems to me that the people who have the most to say about it all didn’t lose a GOTdambed thing when It Happened. I see a lot of people coming in to protest the “Ground Zero Mosque,” on buses and motorcoaches reeking of Tea Party politicking. I see skyrocketing rates of violence aimed at South Asians, Arabs, Muslims or people who look like they might be any of those things. I see my country becoming hopelessly racist, xenophobic and reactionary, commandeered by fearmongerers who claim that “taking America back” means taking America backwards.
And once again, I don’t know what to say.
A friend on Teh Twitteh makes these really fun, really silly movies on this site. When I had read so many grant proposal outlines that my eyes began to cross yesterday, I decided to have a looksy. And I am HOOKED! I’m proud to present to you, dear reader, my first film, scripted from an actual IM convo I had some years back with a guy friend: “A Pinch Of Cockblock.” Enjoy!
Juuuuuuuuuuuust trying some stuff out.
I’ve been staring at a title and a blinking cursor for almost three whole weeks now. It’s time to write. I know it’s time to write. Hell, it’s been time to write. Unfortunately, that’s harder than it sounds. Even now as I type, the ever-more-pressing importance of what I’m about to relay here grows, spurring on something that feels like courage and rage and a whole bunch of stuff that I can’t quite name yet all mixed up. I’m literally forcing deep, steady inhalations just long enough for me to get this shit out. I’ve gotten up to pace about a hundred million times in the last couple of hours. My hands, thankfully, stopped trembling about ten minutes or so ago. (You don’t even wanna KNOW what my stomach’s doing. Let’s just say it’s…musical. And athletic.)
Alright, here it is. For almost two years now, I’ve been actively engaged in healing as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse. This healing has taken many forms, from hearing stories of other survivors who have spoken up, to lending an ear and a shoulder to survivors who have come to me, to one-on-one and group counseling. For years, out of necessity, I had actively suppressed memories of my abuse. The traumatic physical disconnect and sexual aversion dysfunction that many survivors of abuse experience was starkly evident in much of my very early adolescent behavior. I didn’t become truly comfortable with my sexuality until I was about seventeen, ten whole years after the abuse started. The man who abused me, a relative 19 years my senior who is now a father, has been out of my life for nearly two decades. It’s not as good as him being dead, but it helps.
So. We’ve established that I had a shittier childhood than a lot of people, and like every other adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse on the planet, I am now tasked with the monumentally unfair burden of repairing damage to my spirit that I did nothing to incur. It’s a sad and tragically common story. Since I’m not particularly interested in throwing myself a pity party, recounting it here doesn’t undo the mess, so what’s the point? Glad you asked. According to my favorite survivor-founded online resource and help center, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And the man who hurt me has direct proximal access to at least two little girls in our family.
Though she doesn’t know it yet, I have enlisted one of my relatives-by-marriage, the mother of one of the little girls, as an ally. As you can imagine, this has been tricky. For the past couple of weeks, she and I have been exchanging emails. I have invited her to my home, asked her out for lunch, the whole nine. While my relative-by-marriage likes me well enough, we’re not “hang out and chat” comfortable, so my low-key but frequent urging to talk with her about “something really, really important that absolutely should not wait” is probably annoying at best and creepy at not-best. (I can’t really say “worst” because, to me, worst would be my doing nothing and standing by as history repeats itself. I’m also struggling to put aside my own frustration at her evasiveness; I hate when people put me off when I need to discuss something important, knowing that if it wasn’t important, then I wouldn’t fucking bother.) There’s also the matter of her husband, who, because of his relationship to my abuser (an immediate relative of his), would need to be lied to minimally informed about this exchange. I am not sure who knows what happened beyond myself, the man who abused me, and my mother.
And there is perhaps the most poisonous legacy of this brand of silencing. When and if a survivor does find the courage to tell their story, it’s like a dam breaking. It all comes rushing out. I’m wary of face-to-face discussions about this with anyone who isn’t a survivor themselves. Victim-blaming happens all the time with child sexual abuse; for adult survivors like myself, this can be incredibly triggering. Although protocols and suggestions from resources abound for this topic, I confess that I really don’t know what to tell, and what to keep to myself. My abuse, like that of so many children, was covered up. By the one person in my child universe who I knew for certain I could trust to make everything alright. Like a lot of children, I didn’t know right away that what my abuser was doing was bad, but I suspected that it was wrong because it was a secret, it only happened when we were alone, and it made me ashamed. Before I was even in double digits, I knew what so many adults actively force themselves to forget: that the line between a secret and a lie is finer than peach fuzz and just as hard to see sometimes. So one day I gathered every scrap of courage in my little body and told my mother. And she said, “That’s not the truth.” And she said, “I don’t believe you.” And how that night she didn’t tuck me in, kiss me, or even look at me. And how that night I lay wide awake in my bed, watching dry-eyed and numb, as my world with the giant crack splintering the center shattered.
I don’t think I can tell her that. I think that I’ll save for my therapist. But you might need it one day, so take it with you. What to say? I can tell her how my visits home were infrequent after college. All the reasons I hated being in my mother’s house. The slumbering rage that had a source I vaguely recalled but couldn’t quite name. Eh. Maybe not. I can tell her how the “Fiqah’s soooo strange” narrative that this side of my family created and insisted on clinging to served to heighten my loneliness and isolation and make me vulnerable to the abuse. How I was lavished with gifts and attention by my abuser. How it felt like love. How I craved love because my little brother’s special needs ate up my mother’s energy and left me emotionally untended to a lot. How I missed my daddy so, so much. How my abuser, an amateur photographer, had a 100-page photo album of just me. How someone, SOMEONE should have been just a little bit fucking suspicious that a 26-year-old man was devoting THAT much time and attention to a 7-year-old girl. How my family decided for themselves that my natural brightness and curiosity about the world around me made me strange and possibly ”fast.” How I despised them for aiding and abetting the murder of something bright and good in me and, in what has to be one of life’s most painful ironies, calling that shit “raising” me. Already I’m biting my tongue here. I’ll save that for Oprah. It’s a lot to dump on someone carry.
I can tell her how my mother’s denial of my abuse calcified through the years. How my she never ceased contact with my abuser, who she’s known his whole life and who she - and I quote – loves “like a son.” How just a few months ago she called him to wish him a happy birthday while I was in the room. How she mentions him in passing like it never even happened. I can tell her how this admission, made in the sterile quiet of a hospital waiting room while my mother comforted my abuser’s mother as he was undergoing an organ transplant, made my tweenaged heart ache, then go cold in a way that I would come to recognize as my fury manifesting itself. How when I go cold this way I’m capable of causing extreme emotional pain to others without remorse or regret. Maybe not. Okay. Well, I can tell her how I would quietly sneak away to the hospital’s chapel, and (standing next to people fresh from the ER and shaken) pray fervently for God to please, please kill my abuser. How I would visualize air bubbles traveling up through his IV tube, or a scalpel slipping, or a heavy-handed anesthesiologist, just in case God needed suggestions and He didn’t want to dispatch my abuser in a suspicious manner. Surely the life of the four-year-old who had wandered into traffic, and whose mother and father sat sobbing in the pew behind me, was worth more than his. Apparently, God thought so too, but then possibly in a fit of Old Testament capriciousness changed His mind – my abuser had several dangerous complications around the surgery and almost didn’t make it. Although I felt bad for his mother, the prospect of attending his funeral filled me with a dark, satisfying joy, and I was very disappointed when he pulled through. No, no. Probably best to leave that out. I had and have every right to feel this way, but every time I’ve talked about it, some asshole well-intentioned but misguided assholey assHOLE person tells me that I shouldn’t, and that I should forgive my abuser, conveniently forgetting that my own mother was the first person to introduce me to the underside of that bus my healing does not necessarily center around forgiveness. Or maybe they just don’t know.
I could say all that. I know that I won’t relay a fraction of it. I’ll tell her exactly what she needs to know: that my abuser must be constantly monitored if he’s around any child, including his own. That she should watch and be aware of certain patterns and behavior. That it’s almost never a stranger who hurts a child. That she shouldn’t trust anyone around her little one. That she is her first line of defense. That I will never forgive my mother for dropping the ball on this, and that now, all these years later, she can never forgive herself. That all it takes to prevent child sexual abuse and all the horror it comes with is a word from an adult. That prevention is so much easier than healing. That being a survivor is a life sentence for a crime committed against a child. That damaged children become damaged adults like me. That it is okay to do or say things that are socially awkward or uncomfortable if those actions insure the safety of a child. Any child. EVERY child. And there is no real protocol for that, because the only way to talk about this shit is to talk about this shit. That’s a lot to carry, but a child you love might need it one day. So take it with you.
(Special thanks to friend and friend of the blog Joseph Shahadi, whose courage has been more of an inspiration to me than he knew. Well, until just now. Warm hugs of thanks as well to my dearling, Mizz Awesomesauce herself, dopegirlfresh. )
As some of you know, I kinda hate country music. Haaaaaaaate. Like a preacher hates the dingdang devil. I have called country music “the soundtrack to lynching.” And that’s not historically inaccurate! Growing up in the South, when I’d hear country music in an establishment, I would make the hastiest departure that I could. There’s something about the twang of a banjo that gets a lotta rednecks amped – better safe than sorry.
That said…I like these songs. Very, VERY much. And I can sing the SHIT out of every single one of ‘em. So, once again, I get to wear the hypocrite cap. Fine, whatever. Come through here and take my Black card if you want to, ahown care. If Aretha Franklin had stopped smoking thirty years ago I wouldn’t even be looking in country music’s damn direction. Have you heard her recently? Her voice sounds like a rusty Buick tryna crank up. Anyway…here’s my songs. Don’t judge me.
Fellow buxom, bubbly Capricorn, Mizz Dolly Parton…
And, of course, my unofficial relationship anthem (I sang this in the shower once, to the endless amusement of a certain former lover, LOL), Shania’s best. Her twang continues to baffle me – she’s from Canada – but apparently being gorgeous covers a multitude of sins because to my knowledge no one’s ever questioned her about it. Enjoy!
Please pay close attention, because I am only going to say this once.
I am Black. In spite of some less-enlightened protestations to the contrary, we don’t got Indian in our family; however. slave-owner/sharecrop boss runs rampant on both sides. I’m not bigenerationally biracial, or mixed-up-with-something else, or maybe-Ethiopian, or kinda Samoan, or Domini-Rican or whatever else people come up with. If I WERE any of those things, I’d be just as proud.
But I’m not. I am Black. BLACK. Southern-born and bred. Product of generations of countless other surviving and beautiful Black people.
I get my Arabic name from my mama, just like you got your white bread one from yours.
I borrowed my grandfather’s eyes and hair, my daddy’s lips and resilient skin, my grandma’s melodious voice and laugh, and my mama’s flat butt and ridiculously sunny disposition.
Nothing about me is imported beyond what is now known as the United States. My mama from here. My daddy from here. They mamas and daddies from here.
It doesn’t make me any less gorgeous, brilliant and fly than I was five seconds ago when you thought I was “more” than “just” Black, and if it does then that’s because you’re an asshole.
If you crossed the room, tried to get my number, held a door for me, smiled too long, and stared too hard because something about me told you I wasn’t Black, then that’s because you’re an asshole.
If my charm, intelligence and general awesomeness – things that I see everyday in Black folks – are something you find to be “uncommon,” then that’s because you’re an asshole.
I’m not trying to escape my Blackness. It is part of me. It belongs to me. Further attempts to separate us will be met with violent resistance. If you’d rather not catch a beatdown, do yourself a favor and cut that shit out.
My mother thought this orchid was dead. I’ve been nursing it back to green since September, and a few weeks ago, my patience was rewarded with several clusters of fat green buds. I was sooooo thrilled. Here’s what they looked like:
My mother ceremoniously handed over the care-taking of the orchids to me shortly after the appearance of the buds. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but mom is no joke about her plants, so it meant a lot. Like, she’s given me power of attorney and her safe deposit box/insurance policy info with less solemnity and hesitation. My family’s so weird. Anyway, here’s the first flowering:
Happy spring to you!
Before I get this video on, two things I wish everyone knew about Ms. Larrieux:
1.) She’s not Creole. She’s the biracial child of an African-American mother and a White American father with a gotdambed French last name. And for the record, can we STOP with the whole “Creole” exoticization/Blackness-dodging grossness? And by “we” I mean Black people. Who should know better. The shit is embarrassing! /end rant
2.) She’s living proof - if one needed it – that not all Black people can dance. That side-to-side thing she does is…whoo, it’s sad.
Alright. Please enjoy one of my favorite songs and videos.
N-Bomb Chronicles, Entry Three: I now have “shakes” and night sweats. If I am to make it through the rest of this month, I am going to need a gag order for these wockaflockas.
During moments when the n-bomb hangs dangerously in the air, I have taken to defacing pictures of Tyler Perry. He hasn’t said/done anything particularly ill-advised recently that I’m aware of. I just don’t like him.
Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh. Now THAT’S how you spell “relief.”
N-Bomb Chronicles, Entry Two: I have reconciled myself to the fact that using the n-word in my dream is (probably) beyond my control and (mostly) not my fault. I have never been able to completely master lucid dreaming techniques; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that whole dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream thing happen, à la Waking Life. Still…something about it, feels vaguely like cheating. Silly maybe, but I feel how I feel. (I may not always know what to do or what course of action to take, but I always know EXACTLY how I feel. Can YOU say that? I hadn’t thought so.)
Soooo many interesting discussions have sprung up from this project/experiment. Partner-in-crime, friend and friend-of-the-blog Dopegirlfresh (she’s over here and here) and I have discussed how extraordinarily tempting it is to use that word. It’s the ultimate trump word. You whip it out and you basically win the game (whatever the game is). As is her wont, my buddy summed up the Word That Wouldn’t Die succinctly and brilliantly: “I been thinking about it, and what I realized it that when call someone an n-bomb, you’re basically saying ’fuck your life.’ ” And she’s right. The n-bomb is more than just a fighting word – although that alone would be plenty. It’s a killing word. It is designed to murder one’s soul. And, as someone who has been on the receiving end of it more times than I care to recall, lemme tell ya, it’s pretty damned effective.
Anyway, dopegirlfresh had the awesome idea of substituting the n-bomb with…wait for it…Wocka Flocka Flame. Now, the name is so absurd that it immediately diffuses the rage that inspired the n-word to leap to mind in the first place, and it’s creative and awesome. Drawback? Most people hear “Wocka Flocka Flame” and think of this:
While I hear it, and think of this:
It’s gonna be an interesting month.
N-Bomb Chronicles, Entry One: I am pleased to report that my four-week fast from the n-bomb has been quite successful thus far. It has even inspired some fokes in my social circle to follow suit. And here’s the thing we have all agreed on less than 72 hours in.
Not saying that word? It’s hard. HARD. Even for those of us who only use it selectively, like, I don’t know, less than 15 times a week, it is reeeeealy difficult to find a substitute that satisfies in conversation. This has, of course, led to some creative solutions. I’m employing words I used from my childhood when I wanted to insult someone, but couldn’t cuss because adults were nearby, just looking for a reason to make me go and get my switch. I’ll be the first to admit that no other word seems to have the same evil energy – which is why soooo many slurs, ethnic and otherwise, use the n-bomb and a hyphen. (Think about it.) The n-bomb definitely has a gratifying crunch to it…until you realize that what you’re actually chewing is broken glass. Yeah. That’s not good.
I’m also embarrased to report that in spite of eliminating all the obvious sources of the n-bomb (Films set in barbershops, beauty salons or at barbecues; ANY movies by Quentin Tarantino; The Boondocks, etc.) in my daily environment, The Word That Would Not Die has seeped into my sub/unconscious mind. That’s right, I said the n-word in my dream. A lot. And for no clear reason! In the dream I was having a heated discussion with a friend about why it is that White people like RUN DMC so damn much.(I know, I know, my dreams are fucking weird.) My theory in the dream was that the frequent employment of guitar riffs in the more popular songs was comfortably familiar to White people, who might otherwise be alarmed. Highlights from this discussion: “[N-bomb], how YOU gone tell me? That [n-bomb] Dave Chappelle basically proved this shit in that skit he did with that [n-bomb] John Mayer!” I dropped the n-bomb like it was going out of style in my dream, and when I woke up, I felt guilty! I don’t even know what to make of all that.
I KNOW I can do this. I’m going to stay on the righteous path and let the Mooney guide me. Ohhh-OHMMMMdon’twannasaythenword…Ohhh-OHMMMMitshamestheancestors….Ohhh-OHMMMM…
As some of you are aware, I don’t use The Word That Wouldn’t Die in my written work. I explained it all in a previous post that featured a list of life lessons that I’ll excerpt here:
It is NOT okay for ANYONE to use the “N-word.” As late as 2004, when I tried vainly to make the argument that the kids in my predominantly Latino neighborhood used it with an impunity that was just unacceptable. The person I was talking to, a biracial man who self-identifies as Black, argued back that the word, which could never be reclaimed, was viral and out of control, and that Black people using it amongst ourselves had made that possible. I’ll never forget that discussion, where I defended my use of the Word That Would Not Die with the usual lame-ass* rationale. Of course, I have made it a point to try and not use it ever since; it’s hard.
Do you see that? All that blah blah blah and here am I talking about how I’m giving up the n-bomb for the month of February like it’s some kinda grand Lentine sacrifice. I freely admit that this is one of those places in my life where I am a hypocrite. I drop the n-bomb exclusively in the presence of other African-American women. Not Black, specifically African-AMERICAN, and only women. (These categories frequently overlap, but not always.) Why? As my buddy and co-warrior (REVOLUTION! And…whatnot) dopegirlfresh put it during one of our looooong conversations, “Black women say it in a way that captures our frustration with damn TKON!” She’s right. Patriarchy within communities of color is, of course, systemic, but like all systems of oppression, takes shape in the hands of participating individuals. All that is to say that a lotta what we call “whorish” and/or “triflin’ shit” is actually SEXIST shit. And sometimes, a well-placed “THIS [insert word I hate here]…” in a discussion captures the disgust and fed-up-ness (<- real word, shut up) that a whole lot of us feel towards TKON.
Now, like I said before, I know that setting “preconditions” for using the n-bomb that read like growing instructions for a particularly temperamental species of orchid still doesn’t make it okay. I know that I can’t make anyone stop using this word, and many people argue that making its usage a social taboo has only served to enhance its appeal. I kinda think that’s a bullshit argument, and if you read Jabari Asim’s The N-Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, And Why, you’ll understand my reasons. ( By the way, someone needs to send Junot Diaz a copy like, already ago. I’m just sayin’…)
I welcome all of my readers to join me in my 28-day-long ban of the n-bomb. I’d love to hear feedback here or at one of my other virtual hangouts (no links – if you know, you know, and you know why). It’ll be harder for some of us than others, but if Paul Mooney can do it, then damn it, so can we!
(*I also don’t use “lame” anymore. I left it in because taking it out of the passage would have been disingenous.)
Going through our family photos, I found this. Eerily enough, I made it for my mom EXACTLY 25 years ago today! She keeps it with my report cards, old honor roll certificates, school pics and…um… baby… teeth. ::: head shake :::
By the way, my hands and feet were outsized growing up, and by the time I was eight I wore a woman’s size ten shoe – so the point of very small hands was largely missed here, as you can see. SIGH. Ah, well, my freakish proportions aside, it was a great gift, and remains one of my mother’s very favorites.