Monday, December 14, 2009

I Love Black Men because… they rise up from the struggle – daily!

The African race is a rubber ball. The harder you dash it to the ground, the higher it will rise. ~African Proverb

Life as a woman of color isn't easy; it's not for the faint of heart. But as trying as it can be, I would never (ever) trade places with a black man. Ya'll can have that with my prayers, blessings and admiration. Even as we are staring 2010 in the face, the ideology of a true "post-racial" society where all are treated and greeted equally remains beyond our reach. Almost beyond our imaginations. With the ascent of Barack Obama to the Presidency, the whispers of true unfettered possibility danced hopefully in our hearts. The belief that "anything was possible" hovered wistfully in the cold January air as the 44th President took his oath. Yet in the back of our minds, every person of color knew that while his success knocked some bricks from the wall, the wall remained.

I once had a friend tell me that being a black male in America is like being a soldier tap-dancing through a loaded minefield. You know the mines are out there, but you never know where or when the next explosion is coming. Sometimes they are small and survivable, sometimes they blow you off the field and you have to start over again. Some don't survive the blast. The hits that hurt the most, he said, were the unexpected ones from soldiers that are supposed to be on your team. He used this analogy to describe his irritation at all the "man-bashing" he felt from sisters in the media, in the blogosphere and in his own life. "How can I walk a path with you if you keep cutting me off at the knees as I approach?" Ouch, I thought. Just ouch. This is a man that I considered to be very confident and virtually impervious to whatever slights the world hurled at him. Turned out he had just learned to cope by acting as though nothing could touch him. [Author's note: A black female should never be the thing that brings a black man to his knees.]

Beyond that struggle, there is the daily perception issue that black men are faced with. Langston Hughes once stated (I'm paraphrasing) that there would always be people who are unable to perceive the difference between him (a slightly built non-threatening writer) and a Zulu Warrior, large of build, spear in hand ready to defeat all enemies by any means necessary. In other words, there are some people who just see whatever they perceive a black man to be whether they are looking at Colin Powell or Stokely Carmichael. A BougieTale to illustrate my point:

On one family vacation, the entire BougieFam (in-laws and friends included) was enjoying a meal at a lovely dining establishment. Service was not all that it could be but we were enjoying the camaraderie and paid it little attention until my sister-in-law needed a new napkin. BougieOlderBro decided to get up and get one for her. Now God bless BougieOlderBro but this dude has elevated the preppy look to a whole new level. There is not a khaki pant, a buttoned down shirt or a tortoise-rimmed eyeglass that he hasn't admired or owned or planned on owning. He is tall, kind caramel colored and almost always smiling (goofy!). Point is, you and I would look at him, stamp the Buppie label on him and be absolutely correct. However, as he got up and walked towards the serving station, a Caucasian gentleman snapped at him and asked for more water and some silverware, and could he hurry it up. Our table froze. BougieOlderBro just laughed, grabbed a waiter and relayed the person's request. His wife went off, "Do you KNOW who he is? He is a SURGEON! He trained for FOURTEEN years not to be bringing you water!" BougieOlderBro's wife is not of African-American descent and we had to calm her down. "It happens," we told her. "Well it SHOULDN'T!" She still gets mad thinking back on it now. The point is, how many times a day does someone assume a white guy walking across a restaurant is the server?

Another BougieTale: Me and my ex, Gene were travelling. As we approached the ticket counter, I switched over to the Platinum line to check on getting us upgraded, he was standing behind me. A woman walked up beside us and said to him, "Are you in the right line?" He smiled and said, "Yes." She pressed on, "Are you sure, because this is the upgrade line." He smiled again, "Yes, that is what the sign says." She continued, "Are one of you Platinum status?" I, of course wanted to break off a little rant but he cut me the "don't start nuthin'" side-eye. He leaned into her, pointed at me and said, "That's why I'm travelling with her, she's big time." Then he and I laughed, between the two of us – he definitely had the higher profile. She still looked a bit nonplussed. We were next up to the counter and were placed on the upgrade list. Ten minutes later, as we sat in the Admirals Lounge, the same woman came in with her husband and cut eyes again. Gene smiled, waved and said in a loud friendly voice, "Hi, are you heading to Phoenix too?" By the time we got on the plane (and were seated in first class right next to these two), Gene had them eating out of his hands. Later he said, "When you kill them with kindness, it shifts the balance of power."

One last BougieTale: I was driving in a ritzy section of Dallas and was pulled over by some police officers. I'm not embarrassed to say that I pulled every (PG-13) feminine wile out of the book to smile and beguile my way out of that ticket. It worked. Two weeks later, I was the passenger in the same car now driven by a male friend. Pulled over again, same officers but they asked my friend to step out of the car. One officer had his hand resting on his weapon while the other checked his ID and eyed the car with suspicion. I climbed out of the car and started talking to the officers, calling them by name. At this point they eased off but still wrote him a ticket. He was going exactly seven miles over the speed limit; I had been driving close to fifteen miles over. Le Sigh.

Beyond the folks flipping their door locks, clutching purses or sending nervous glances and dealing with DWB (driving while black); our men have to tap dance that minefield in the workplace as well. I have heard countless stories from my friends and brothers about how they have to modulate their tones, present their ideas in a certain way, address conflict with the diplomacy of a State Department veteran and basically make themselves as non-threatening and as team-playing as possible. No wonder they are sometimes exhausted at the end of the day from just being.

Ladies, I'm not saying you have to let a man walk all over you. I'm just saying before you snap, walk a half-mile in their wingtips and go head let them hold the remote for a minute. When a man is wrong for something, feel free to call him out. But every now and again, cut them some slack; give them the benefit of the doubt (plus beer and a sandwich). They will appreciate it more than you know. Gentlemen, I salute you for continuing to walk that field. I salute you.

Comment as you will.

52 comments:

derek love said...

Your first paragraph is one of the best written things I've read in a while, thank you for that. The analogy about the minefield is a great visual. If I had a dollar for everytime someone mistook me for the waiter, valet, pool guy, gangster from the hood...
This is truth. I appreciate the highlight.

RiPPa said...

Good post!

Of course there are various other way which underscores some of the trials and tribulations of being a melanin afflicted male in America.

However, I like the light approach to this topic.

QUESTION: Why is it that what you described isn't at the forefront of the minds of Black women?

Glen Antoine Palmer said...

Good post. I have been presumed to be something (almost always negative) that is totally foreign to my character. For example, some years back I had started a new job. I didn't have a car, so I used public transportation. I got to work on time everyday. I caught that bus a couple of routes ahead of time to ensure I arrived at work on schedule. Now, if you know me personally; you would understand that I am a quiet person. I don't get involved in workplace gossip nonsense. I do my job and go home. Anyway, being so quiet made my supervisor suspicious. She goes to a co-worker of mine and says I'm quiet because I am hiding something. Plus, I catch the bus. So, I must have served some time in jail or something. Huh? I come to work dressed to impress and I have the work ethic to back it up. Yet, my quietness & bus catching made me an ex felon. Wow. Oh, I've been a potential rapist too. What is scary is some folks don't even recognize their own prejudice because it is so embedded in their upbringing & lifestyle. Anyway, that's just one of my black man stories.

Page Bartlett said...

Great post and you put BougieTales in too? I am happy.

thinklikeRiley said...

Like I said - not trying to set it off but this is my reality. The sisters have been more trouble than it's worth so I went another way. I guess I expected something else based on the article title.

OneChele said...

Dear @ASmith86,
Job Well done. That is all.

Glen Antoine Palmer said...

Weed in spaghetti...LOL...that's a new one to me.

OneChele said...

Tell him I said he's welcome ;-)

Carey Jackson said...

Love it! My father used to come in the house, flop backwards on the couch and say, "It ain't easy being me - bring me a drank!"

Grace said...

Well now darn. I was gonna be all riled up at the So for improper trash disposal this evening. Now I gotta be all nice. It is easier just to expect him to hear me and then not like what he said and stop listening. Now you made me feel all guilty cuz I was not so pleasant this morning. I'm a work in progress. I'll do better.

OneChele said...

I could have done a post only on Driving while Black (or Breathing while Black) incidents. Damn shame.

RavensLady said...

AMEN!!! I can do nothing but agree with this. I think sometimes we (black women) think it's a competition to see who has it the worst and instead of listening and letting our men talk, we cut in with our situation and expect comfort, then get mad when they zone out on X-box...sad state of affairs when they go to a game over the person they love for comfort.

I'm definitely not saying that we ignore how we feel but we sometimes need to stop competing for misery.

Mr. Skyywalker said...

**starts slow handclap** Well written, great points. I has a similar DWB experience were I apparently "fit the description". I was forcibly removed from my car, placed face first on the dirty concrete and cuffed when the officer realized I coach his son's football team. He issued an apology - not enough, not by half. Thanks for the post.

Diana said...

My ex used to say whenever I had a bad day - take that, pretend everyone thinks you're about to rob them and that was my day...

diamond life said...

Love the quote. I probably don't appreciate what our men go through on a daily basis. Next time I get booed up, I'll be less inclined to shoot first. Just sometimes, when you have been through a lot, you keep your guard up and they have their guard up and it's just a battle from jump.

Liselle said...

Dude really? Ya went there? You played the "I date outside the race cuz Black Women don't treat me right" card. Well, I'm going to resist playing the "we don't want you and they are welcome to you card". OneChele never said she was breaking off brand new info - sometimes it's nice to have what we know reinforced.
BTW - you played the "mean black woman" card too? FAIL

thinklikeRiley said...

I really ain't trying to stir shit up but you know, this is just basics, right? I mean this stuff everybody knows. And even knowing, there are still chicks beefing just to beef. I mean some of your sisters just plain mean for no particular reason. Really, a blog post is gonna to make girly appreciate her man? Yeah, I generally gotta date a different flava to get the love.

mochadudespeaks said...

Not to put you out on Front Street but are you ever going to tell us who Gene is, cause he seemed like good people.
Great post today. It's always a joy to be appreciate and not berated. I know we don't always act right but who does?
If you (who was clearly met he fair share of trifling) can still rustle up a full week of loving black men posts, there's hope!
Looking forward to the rest of the series.

JaymeC said...

I think the mainstream media's constant coverage of black man as wayward criminal has seeped into everyone's consciousness and makes it that much harder for the "fair shake" to take effect. And if we, as people of color perpetuate that but consistently piling on with negative stories and images, the rising becomes near impossible. It's one of the one reasons I tire of the constant negativity about the President. The unspoken rule was always not to talk about other people of color until we were behind closed doors. I wish that premise would come back into vogue. Even at the highest level of society, Obama as a black man suffers from that "he can never do enough to make everybody happy" backlash. Okay, I'll stop ranting.

jake said...

I will take those that you no longer wish to mess with. That is all.

Jara said...

Love the sentiment of appreciating black men, Chele. But I can't get next to the idea that being a black man in this world is any harder than being a black woman. *Maya Angelou shrug*

OneChele said...

Uh-oh, Riley has managed to tick off mild-mannered @TiffanyinHouston... he done gone too far now!

OneChele said...

And for the record Riley, we were okay right until the "more trouble that it's worth" - you lost both sides of the aisle with that one.

thinklikeRiley said...

Well you can have them, this is what I'm talk about. I express an opinion and get jumped on cuz it's not what they want to hear. People asking about my mama and whatnot, that's out of order. But Imma shine anyway, with whoever I got on my arm.

Andrea M said...

Well most everyone said what I had to say and ya'll already crawled up in Riley's hindparts which it usually gives me great pleasure to do so that just leaves me with...
Co-Sign!

OneChele said...

I'm not sure that it's not. But thoughts like these get drowned out by the "flashier" posts about some of the unfortunate things brothers do.

Jara said...

Amen, ASmith. I always find it ironic when black men bash black women for bashing black men. Meanwhile, the bashing is always the result of a case of "the people who I have experienced and choose to remember with my selective memory suck". Never mind that the common denominator between all of these sucky people is...the person doing the bashing in the first place.

Jara said...

"The sisters have been more trouble than it's worth"...which is another way of saying "The sisters aren't worth much to me" because show me a trouble-less dating situation and I'll show you some thin air. Do stop blaming others for your own issues and have fun with whomever you eventually find to welcome your...specialness.

LikeLena said...

On a completely unrelated note, thank you for today's polls. It still amazes me how much prejudice and ignorance is still in the world today. That post-racism might as well be Utopia or Atlantis.

Jara said...

I believe we have a solution: Riley can pass over all of the black women that are too much trouble for him to Jake. And Jake can enjoy.

Just so we're clear: Snarking about a group of people's lack of empathy in response to an empathetic post from a member of the group that's allegedly lacking in empathy = shit-starting.

Stank_0 said...

I'm trying to think of my own sitchation. I don't feel it as much because I keep everyone at a distance. I'm not trying to be your friend, I have my patnas who have held me down in some surrious sitchations.

The daily grind can be tiring. Quite a start to this week's post.

Stank_0 said...

Jazzy, you should read VSB.com. verysmartbrothas.com.

Sarah said...

I'm sitting here drinking a cup of hot homemade vegetable broth trying to recover from a cold trip out and about. Personally, I think during winter there should be a cessation of hostilities on all fronts. It's too cold. Life becomes way too hard for too many people. There is an increase in families at the homeless shelters here due to the bad economy and they are asking for donations to the food pantries for the same reason. My ex-boyfriend is a black man and although he put me through hell the last six months I was with him, I would never reach the conclusion that all black men are not worth it or even that he was not worth it. Nobody ever said loving somebody was going to be easy. 100% with you on the positive direction of this week's posts.

SBChitownChick said...

I'm a little conflicted about the post. Like Jazzzy below, I don't love all Black Men. Some are a considerable pain in my ass but on the flip side, I could see where spinning a bit more positivity there way can't hurt.

OneChele said...

I'm not sure it's harder but it can't be easy. I still wouldn't trade places with them ;-)
Maya FTW!

Jara said...

I would - for a week. Just to know how it feels to have someone always sympathize with how hard it is for me in life.

Maybe I'll be in a more celebratory mood when I see as many posts celebrating black women coming from black men. I feel that many of us do a lot of bending over backwards to empathize with "the black man's plight" when....they do enough of that on their own. And then blame us for not empathizing enough with them to spoil them rotten like they claim "others" do (see Riley). *roll eyes* I celebrate the PEOPLE (regardless of race) that celebrate me and my fellow black women. (I see you Jake.)

tiffanyinhouston said...

You know what Riley. You are a shit starter and that's OK. You don't want to date black chicks and you put us all in one box and that's OK..it's par for the course for brothers like you.

What I really want you to do, is go look your mother in the face, and tell her that she's more trouble that its worth. I don't know if your parents are together or not, so I'm not trying to insult your background, but there is a man that thought your mom was worth it and the love they had made you.

That is all.

tiffanyinhouston said...

Dude, miss me with that. *cues tiny violin playing* Yeah, I'm the one that mentioned your mom. I didn't insult her OR YOU for that matter. My assumption is that you are a black man, right? More than likely you are the son of a black woman, right? So how is that out of order??? The point was to get you to THINK, Riley dearest, and not generalize.

Sounds like a hit dog hollering to me.

Get your shine on, all night long, get your shine on. I'm sure you will be just fine.

I just got off the phone with a black man who obviously thinks I'm worth the trouble, despite my perfect imperfections. I'ma be allright too.

JaymeC said...

I always have pause when someone leads with "I'm not trying to start anything but..."
I get that you feel unappreciated by black women, I would submit there could be multiple reasons for that which yes, this blog will not correct.

Cassie said...

Just curious if anybody but you has actually seen this shine?

Jason P said...

Okay, you are officially my favorite female blogger. The three examples you gave are just a tip of the iceberg. In order to be more "acceptable" in the workplace, I had to change the way I dressed, the way I talked, the way I walked. And that was okay cause we do what we have to do to get where we want to go. But to take shit from my own people, the women who are supposed to be my future life partners - that's a harder pill to swallow.

Steve said...

Well I appreciate the post. Don't let Riley scotch up your game. Plenty of black men happy (ecstatic) to be about our sisters in the struggle. And we will take all the love, support and admiration we can get believe me. As a matter of fact, just walk up to any black man and tell him you like his tie (shoe, watch, mustache) and he will beam. Think women like an ego stroke... let me tell you - keep it coming, like a thirsty plant looking for water.

BB Waite said...

chele, let me apologize on behalf of my husband, an otherwise stellar black man that I generally enjoy. he has been know to step out of bounds. Great post by the way. I also like the poll from the earlier post today.

BrownEyedPanther said...

*applause*

kiki said...

I understand your conflict. It's hard to paint with the broad strokes when your experiences have not been positive but I'm staying cautiously optimistic.

tiffanyinhouston said...

Rob, you and Glen have me sitting in my office with my mouth hanging wide open. I honestly am shocked/appalled/flabbergasted by the level of ignorance ya'll have to put up with.

SpkTruth2Pwr said...

Dang, why are you trying to make me fall in love!?

This post was on point. I actually take for granted the fact that "adjusting" my presence has become a necessary part of existence for me as a black man. It shouldn't have to be that way, but it becomes such a conditioned response in social settings, that it really is a "tap-dance" through the realities of awkward perceptions and narrow-minded behaviors toward us.

I love my black women, because I believe they can empathize - as you clearly demonstrated by writing this reflection so well about an experience that is similar to your own fight as a black woman. This is why strong black women will forever have my respect - if I know what I go through is a test of persistence, versatility, and determination, then I automatically can admire and relate to the black struggle across the gender divide.

Glen Antoine Palmer said...

Big & tall with a bald head does not help my cause. However, during a going away party for another supervisor of mine; she gave me a big hug and called me her gentle giant. That was cool, so I guess it all evens out somehow.

JustPassingBY said...

OKAY... THIS! This is what I needed after a long dealing with "folks" at the jay-o.
Nice to get a little appreciation. For the record sisters, a woman telling a man "thank you for being you" is an instant turn-on. Daddy like.

Coal miners grandson said...

Wow, I have never heard anyone articulate those thoughts and feelings that way.

makeupchica said...

I so feel this post. When I was a first class frequent traveler, I consistently had these experiences. When I was married my husband was frequently harassed by po po. Once in front of our home with our two daughters in the back seat, one in a car seat, we were all dressed and he was wearing a suit and tie. Even after showing his license that had our address as being the house that we were parked in front of, they still asked him to step out of the car. I was livid. They blasted lights in my daughter's eyes and tried to harass me as I took my children in my home. Finally they let him off with a warning. He didn't even match the profile of the person they were looking for.

Most recently I was in my neighborhood Trader Joe's with my 12 year old daughter and a white woman accused me of trying to steal her purse because I was moving her shopping cart she had parked in front of the produce. Fortunately, my daughter was there as I tempered my comments. I did manage to get in the fact that my purse cost at minimun 10 times what her did....

Sorry to write so much. This topic just gets my blood pumping.

Rob said...

Here's one. It's well known around the office that I can cook. So one Friday morning, I was in the company kitchen chopping and prepping things for a department luncheon. One guy walks in and watches me for a while then gives me a strange look and runs out. Two minutes later, my SVP, someone from HR and someone from security walk in. They tell me that "someone" saw me putting marijuana in the spaghetti sauce. I pulled out my ziploc bag and passed it to them. "Yes, it's dried herbs but more like rosemary and basil." They all turned red apologized, tried to make jokes and basically stood around until I assured them that 1) I would finish cooking and 2) I would sue or slap the shit outta everybody. I did wait until later with everyone there as the first guy sat there eating his third plate and said loudly, "So a black man with an organic substance in his hand gotta be prepping weed, huh?" And then I re-told the story of what had happened. Just another day on Paycheck Plantation.

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