2013 is here, and it's time folks.
It's time to leave behind the tired stories and unhealthy narratives that hurt our communities.
It's time to re-commit our focus to the brilliance, beauty and resilience we possess, so that these things can grow exponentially and overshadow the death, gloom and despair that the media and many of us have focused on.
This is not about delusion. It is not about pretending that problems do not exist. This is about re-adjusting our gaze. It's about getting as motivated about the things people are doing to help our communities as we are when a celebrity says something racist, or when a white film maker produces a film that distorts or minimizes our historical experiences. This is about getting excited and celebrating what we have going for ourselves as a community.
This is about finding a new lens on life.
So in honor of the new year, I'd like to offer you (and me) an opportunity to abandon two narratives in particular that have done a grave disservice to black communities. They are the "Ain't No Good Black Men" and the " Black People are Deficient in Every Damn Thing" narratives. Leaving them behind may not be easy, but by questioning these narratives and our commitment to them, we may come to some fairly surprising conclusions.
There are No "Good" Black Men:
There is an entire industry that has been created around the idea of there not being any "good black men." Everyone from media moguls to R&B singers rely on it in order to sell products to emotionally starved black heterosexual women and black gay men.
In consuming their products, black heterosexual women in particular are either lulled into a sense of fantasy or beaten into psychological submission because of a perceived inability to express an "authentic" male defined womanhood. This narrative is not only present in black heterosexual middle class women's lives, but in black gay male culture, where ideas of the lack of "good masculine" men echo very similar themes.
"Good," in the context of "good black men" often means a number of things: how much money he makes, how "hard" his gender expression appears and his ability to perform sexually are among them.
Good in this context is not about black men's inherent value as human beings. No, good in this context is about external realities. It is about our ability to produce income, and perform a rigid idea of masculinity that we are learning is not only unhealthy for us, but unhealthy for black women and the black community at large.
Good in this context is not defined by ones' ability to care for children. Good is not defined by one's ability to care for home, or to express emotionality. Those traits are dismissed and belittled, both by black men and their potential suitors. This narrative has created incalculable chaos in our relations in the black community. That's why it's time to let it go.
It's time to recognize a few things:
Black men's inability to acquiesce to rigid of ideals of masculinity is not a commentary, nor a reflection of our worth. Our "goodness" is not defined through our ability to produce income. Our goodness is not measured by our desire to be monogamous. Our goodness is not about our ability to be heterosexual. Our goodness is not reflected in our car. Our goodness is inherent, as children of the universe. Yes, It may be marred, by the psychological conditioning of our communities that make it hard for us to effectively deal with our emotional trauma. It may be subdued by the rage that we have been taught is our only acceptable emotional option. But it is not gone. This is not to suggest that black men do not have ongoing spiritual, psychological and emotional work to do. This is to state that our worth, and further more, the worth of all human beings (which is often conveyed through "goodness") is not contigent upon performing, doing, behaving in a certain way. Our value, like the value of all people is immanent. And no other narrative from this day forward should ever be acceptable.
2012 Narrative: Ain't no good black men.
Its 2013 replacement: Good black men are everywhere, waiting for someone to see and celebrate the good they posses and already are.
Black People are Deficient In Every Damn Thing:
This one really doesn't need much explaining. Turn on the news, switch to your Facebook feed, or browse your twitter timeline. It wont' be long before you will come across articles, videos, memes and essays that rave on about how #%$% up black people are. They will tell you a statistic about how white people are better. They will tell you about what black people don't do right. They will not tell you about the issues that white people have that are never pathologized because, well, they are white.
They will instead tell you about how we as black people are wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
But lack is not synonymous with black and black is not a metaphor for wrong. Still many believe this, and because they do you will not hear about the innovative ways in which black people are taking back our communities. They will not tell you about the black men and women honoring and celebrating their children's gender and sexual diversity They will not tell you about the barbershops working to address health issues, or the churches challenging homophobia. There will be no stats that show how many black people are taking up vegetarianism to address dietary concerns. No stats that tell how many of us are not imprisoned. In the "black people are deficient in everything" narrative, none of that information is necessary, nor is it exciting. What is exciting is our death and demise. Our imbalanced focus on these things erases and minimizes the skills and talents we have.
This narrative has also severely hurt our sense of self worth. It is time to let it go.
2012 Narrative: Black people are deficient in every damn thing.
Its 2013 replacement: Black people are an abundant embodiment of brilliance, crafting new ways of being and thriving from our boundless creative legacy.
2012 is at an end. At its end we have choices to make. Will we continue to commit ourselves to unhealthy narratives that deny and dismiss the power and inherent brilliance of our community? Are we going to be honest with ourselves about how deeply internalized forces have impacted our perceptions of each other and work to change them? Can we simply take a moment as a collective to celebrate what we have learned and what we are doing? Yes we can. And we don't have to sacrifice acknowledging the pain. We don't have to sacrifice acknowledging the injustice. We can hold both, in balance, and move forward with a full and more cohesive vision of who we are for 2013 and beyond.