Sunday, January 13, 2008

Class one PROBE ...please acknowledge...

It feels very exciting to read Freeslave over at 1TBM. In fact it feels exciting to read 1TBM...

Well how about some background for starters.. I have gone through many shifts in growing up and becoming adult. When I was in elementary school (my parents sent me to schools in affluent (read: white areas) I always felt like some kind of outsider. My folks weren't concerned about the emotional status of my being, more just making sure (my brothers and) I was at a school with good resources in wealthy areas. The fact that I was beaten up on a daily basis at home.. that didn't register so much for them.

Living is complicated isn't it?
My folks are academics. Everyone understands them as being "big ting" in the city's Black community. I didn't pay much attention to their status. In putting me in "white/rich" schools, I think I was away from the fanfare of the "Black" community. I think that if I had gone to school, deep in them community - maybe I would have been a celebrity. But no such "really good" school actually exists in the "community". How ironic that with all of letters after both of their names, and their "intelligence", it simply wasn't enough to ensure I was at school with any Black people - that actually had solid resources. I remember thinking for a time that being around Black people would solve so much, would fix some of the wrongs. I think differently now, but I still have fantasies.

It was only in my grade 7-8 years that I went to a school, in the neighbourhood I actually grew up in - and some of the students thought I wanted "to be white." They told me it was because of the way I talked. And the way I dressed. And it was tough cause I "knew" more about "Black" people, and history - then those few kids had in their finger nails. But that knowledge didn't matter. And who the hell cares really when you think about it. You're not "more" Black if you're up on history. I guess I told my self that as a defense to safe guard my self-esteem.

What I did learn was that Blackness was something that could be taken away at any moment - if I was not like the other popular Black folk at my school. After grade 7 and 8, it was time for me to go to high school. They call them three names in Ontario: technical institutes; secondary schools; and collegiate institutes. The last one offers only advanced level courses, and students attending there are tracked to go to university. My folks "suggested" I go to a well-known high school, not too far far my house. It wasn't in our neighbourhood, it was literally "on the other side of the tracks... literally." Determined to be different to my deadbeat brother, I agreed to go to that school. "When you apply to university, the admissions officers will know that a 80% average at this school,is like a 90% at any other school." And so, off I went to the school. I was basically with kinds of kids I was at from grade 1-6. White, snobby, and well-off.

I spent much of my time at this school in a confused setting amongst tons of affluent white folks. Although, as I write it here, it would have helped if the my folks had taken more time to explain the complexities of race within the white schools I was going to. It would have help a lot to have some grounding. But that was not part of the ingredients for my parents.

So I did the best I could. I know, with Stinkapee - we have, we do, and we will continue to explain how our society works and the school system being an extension of it. And the same with all of our children. I figure, explain now so they don't feel completely betrayed when they encounter racism, or classism, homophobia later.

Anyway, at this school, I didn't mainfiest as that generic Black hoodlum/thug (read: wasn't Black enough -didn't wear hiphop clothes; didn't talk in a fake "African-american" accent - which does not actually exist! I know! I know! But that is what I judged by. You don't sound like Wil Smith, or Martin Lawrence. These students felt entitled to judge me based on me not falling into the category of what they considered "Black", even though they were White... I fucking told off a lot of people fucking arrogant racist assholes.

It was hard.

At home, I was experiencing physical abuse at the hands of my brother. That started at an early age. I wasn't "man" enough, was too emotional, and deserved to be beaten up for it. Remember, early I was talking about blackness that was something that could be given or taken away - well - that is definitely how I understand masculinity. If masculinity was something that was natural, it wouldn't be enforced. It would it just, be.

In relations to what freeslave said over at 1TBM, I (s2) too have thought about isolation. I feel the most popular loner on earth. Men and women seem attracted to my energy - I'm really exciting/ charming to most people I come into contact with. Only thing is... they are interested in the surface me - not the different parts of me. I learned about compartmentalization being the key to survival. Sadly, it's been the key to my isolation.

One of the reasons I started this blog was, to send out a probe and hope that someone would find it. But really, it is 1TBM 's work that has helped me even reach out to you.

I'm looking forward engaging, albeit a bit scary... it's exciting too...


Anonymous said...

My brother, my brother. You are me and I am you. The private school. The not black enough. The too sensitive. The not fitting in. The racial identity withheld until I passed the 'authentic nigga test.' The answers were always different for each black person, so I was a chameleon.

No one taught me anything about race until I was 20. Then, I went to school in the Midwestern US and was taken in by some very beautiful, patient black folks who 'tutored' me.

I went through a phase of imitating people, kind of like an alto sax player imitating Bird. Many never find their own voice as musicians or black people. A hand me down personna is very attractive.

The isolation piece is interesting. When I got sober I had community, was very social and connected to lots of folks. In Portland, Oregon, I began to feel increasingly isolated. The black community is passive, controlled, beaten, practically non-existent, unless you go to church. The white folks are liberal/radical racists.

I found a community of folk who were all about racial dialogue and ending racism. They were about those things as buzzwords, as guilt salves. The isolation became a retreat from delusion.

So, I happily now, spend most of my time alone by choice. I've whittled my associates down to a very few. My daugther with my ex wife is priority one. My writing is number two. And my growth comes third. Everything else, family, etc brings up the rear. I'm on a mission.

I used to feel rejected, but I look at the choice I've made lately as my embrace of self and mission to speak as this black oddity, who doesn't know what blackness is, or if I am it. I just know where I've been, what I've done, what I feel and what I think. I also know where I'd like to go.

Knowing that there are others out there who are "rigorously honest" and not hierarchical ideologues is really important. For you to be so vulnerable as a man empowers me to feel a little more and dig a little more. It let's me know I wasn't crazy after all.

Thanks S2.

s2 said...

Nice to see your words.

It's great that you are writing and you have boundaries and priorities. I hope you'll continue to come back once and a while to connect.

I was thinking about your reply. It made me smile - when you were describing the west. You know, places like Oregon, Washington, British Columbia (that side of the continent)also seem to have this rep. for being progressive and open... when they are actually full of liberal racists who think they are "less racist" than the right wingers.

We have them in Toronto too. I actually prefer the openly racist ones, cause they are honest - but being openly racist in Canada is not social acceptable, at least not in Toronto.

All I know about Portland are about the cob homes and fancy trams.

Thanks for the compliment about me being vulnerable. It takes a lot of work my friend. Work because, I felt vulnerable as a child, and my little boy (the child inside me that I let have to much power and influence on my day-to-day) inside still remembers being terrorized, and doesn't like it. He wants to pretend he's an adult, and thinks her can do that by suppressing all the pain, laughing shit off, and my personal "favorite" burying himself in "work".

It's quite a technique actually, how I organize my life to be so busy, that I can't do much more. That's what I try to do. But I do get blocked. DD constantly encourages me to grow more. I can be quite the asshole - stubborn and head strong, read: patriarchal.

Freeslave, great name by the way, you have no idea how great it is to write you and share. I hope we can keep going cause I think we could learn from each other.

My last post, the one about my dad, I plan on expanding. I just had to write it - get it out - you know? I have brothers and male cousins who have so much pain/disappointment/ confusion/ wrapped up in their fathers - yet "no one wants to talk about it". Funny, that's name of my favorite book...

Talk soon Julian

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking that you and 1TBM are helping me be me so much. Then I had this vision of writing this book with you both beside me; the support I'm feeling is carrying me through this very lonely, scary passage. MY little kid always walks to the head of the path and then turns back and runs. But I'm really feeling a conspiracy in the Universe of spiritual, emotional, intellectual sustenance.

Its scary and its beautiful.