Friday, January 25, 2008

Holding racism, patriarchy and our feelings TOGETHER...

Maxjulian said...:
I don't know what I didn't get to from your previous post. What is the question.

I feel like you're telling me that I just need to accept in whole cloth what women, or you say no matter what. Is that correct? I don't know. I'm confused. I feel like I should consider where and how I agree.

Having someone wag their finger in my face and holler: "YOU'RE AN ALCOHOLIC/YOU'RE A PATRIARCH" doesn't seem a very effective strategy to promote self reflection, particularly when one is opening themselves up, trying to remove the shrapnel at the same time. Removing shrapnel from yourelf is hard enough without someone repeating, "you've got shrapnel in your leg, you've got shrapnel in your leg." No, I need help ID'ing the shrapnel, specifically, not restating the obvious. And some awareness that I have removed some of it and am committed to removing all of it.

It probably feels good to the person doing that, but having been a part of a little personal transformation, it seems doomed to failure. But that's just my opinion.

I also grew up in the United States, not Canada, so I didn't experience it through books, or television or visits. I've been a black man all my life - who grew up in the good ole USA of lynching, castration - physical, emotional, spiritual.

So, I know that I have male privilege, male power. And it cuts both ways here in the larger culture. Nigga men are the greatest threat to the white man, thus they have received the full force of his oppressive machinery.

Certainly, I have power over women. I, as a male represent a group that poses the greatest threat to women. Its kind of like the concept of "all white people being racist suspects" from 'TheCode.Net.' I get that.

But after we've been beaten over the head with theory and studies and books and told we are patriarchs, we who need and must change have to be met on a heart level by somebody, don't we? Otherwise, its going back to doing my work on my own which I ain't got a problem with.

I'm looking at the opportunities that I have to exercise patriarchal power; I'm looking at how I've used it in the past; I'm disowning and backing away from it when I recognize it, when I see it in real time. Its not like I don't know that I can be a patriarch - but I'm not married, I'm not in a committed or uncommitted relationship; I'm not a minister, pastor or officeholder. I work from home. I don't know whether I agree that because I have a dick, that I am an unequivocal, practicing patriarch, particularly because I've been working at this for a little while now.

S2, you say I didn't like what was coming out of DD's mouth because she is a woman. I wouldn't have like it coming out of your mouth either.

I know DD is a brilliant person, aren't we all? We are all brilliantly human, growing, with much to learn and I think its important to keep our individual growth up front.

I am moving through and past this moment with DD, but it is a process and that whole encounter will continue to percolate within me. If you can't hear how I feel about that, please let me know and I won't mention it here again.

A part of the messy of this path is that we never get "there;" we get closer, better, stronger, more flexible, but we are never there. Even those with an analysis are weighed down by life, family upbringing, pain, beauty. It is how we negotiate it that is important. I don't want to be a wooden, patriarchal, archetype and have my humanity deleted or reduced.

We have to allow each other our own individual humanity, our unique story or else we're talking behind masks, poses, positions.

One more thing by way of metaphor: One of my favorite quotes is by Sonny Rollins - "It took me years to learn what notes NOT to play." And another by Lee Morgan: "I think a definite style comes with living and experience and travelling until you play what you are, you play yourself on the horn.”

Theory is great, as is technique. But it is the fusion of them with lived experience, wisdom, patience, a little distance that counts for much. Listen to any great artist; they've discarded the youthful exuberance and know how to play the notes that count. We're all learning this; so we should recognize.

So, I look forward to engaging with you where I talk to you about my shit primarily and you do the same, where you can be yourself and I can do the same. But this stuff just had to be as it was. Again, sorry you had to be on the receiving end.

s2 said...:
FS, I hear you.You want me to speak from an emotional place. Well talking about how I used my privilege in Black community was hard for me. I feel hurt when I think about how I've moved through the world. There were things that got in the way of how I could deal with how I was treating women. I was angry.
I still am, to some degree. That's why I need to blog/ talk to you...
I was shut down. I wanted to lash out because of being consistently disempowered by my brother. I think it made matters worse that no one acknowledged my pain.

I'd be crying. ..
and crying...
and crying..
and my dad was like -
Seminalson, what's wrong? You ok?!

"No I'm not fucking OK...
and you know why I'm not fucking ok!
It's been 10 years of fucking terror!

What is your soul made of fucking STONE!?"

no answer.
still no response...


Are you even in there?

You're family is suppose to care, Freeslave.

You're family is suppose to fucking care! YOU'RE FAMILY IS SUPPOSE TO FUCKING CARE!

Freeslave, I'm in pain.
I was seeing a counselor, but I've stopped for too long...

Okay - back to how I treated women:
Now, true - this doesn't excuse my abuse of patriarchal power. All men are patriarchs. If you are born a male on this planet - you're automatically one. But part of me reaching out to you is (and any other men) is to talk about this, share our feelings, thoughts, and do what men are not suppose to do with each other - CARE.

You wrote: "I'm looking at the opportunities that I have to exercise patriarchal power; I'm looking at how I've used it in the past; I'm disowning and backing away from it when I recognize it, when I see it in real time."

Can you expand on this?
You and I exercise patriarchal power just by walking into a room filled with women, and them giving you attention - simply because you are a man. (And let me be clear: I grew up a Black person - as you can see from my picture (!), with the police following me all the time, me not being able to get a cab home, etc. I'm saying this because I want hold the racist experiences I have had, together with the privilege I can wield. I think doing this will keep me from just seeing myself as victim, victim, victim... I'm not saying that is what you are doing. What I am saying is that I want to be friends, and this is one of the ways I think it would be nice to get to know each other.
I also think this work will improve our relationships with other women, and ourselves.
It's all about looking at ourselves.)

I have an experience of trying to have this discussion with other men over the years - which I am going to post about - and they aren't emotionally ready, and back away.
You should know, I feel extremely cautious when it comes to opening up with a man, because I was abused for a long time by my brother. I know you've talked about AA a little with DD, but I would like to hear what you have to say too, Freeslave.
Talk to me. I'll listen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

S2: can you explain this to me...

"You and I exercise patriarchal power just by walking into a room filled with women, and them giving you attention - simply because you are a man."

How am I exercising patriarchal power by walking into a room? By how people react to me, or how I look or carry myself?

I've had people cross the street when I'm walking down the street at night, lock the doors at the stop light. Is that me or them? Am I what they fear or is it something in them that makes them fear me?

I don't live in a black community, I live in an overwhelming white community. I live with a 50 year old white lesbian who has two partners in an open relationship. She does her thing and I do mine. We get along well. I'm renting from her.

How am I exercising my patriarchal power over her?

I'm asking because I don't feel I do. That's not to say that I'm not aware that I am physically stronger, that I can raise my voice, that I could "attempt" to dominate her.

About AA and alcoholism. You know, we say prior to speaking in meetings, "I'm so-and-so and I am an alcoholic. But more and more I buck on this. Is being an alcoholic a noun or a verb? Is it what I do or what I am? What approach to my "dis-ease" makes the most sense, is most accurate, will help me heal?

Its funny because DD just posted something about "the 16 steps," an alternative conception of recovery that breaks from the - white, christian, patriarchal, classist - approach of 12 step programs. This woman, Charlotte Kasl wrote a book called 'Many Roads, One Journey,' about the AA experience for many women, people of color, how it didn't serve them, how people found alternatives to following the one road of AA.

The objective is healing, not thinking like a good AA, quoting the Big Book, quoting the literature of the program. This is a big part of what informs my coming to this conversation about men and power and how we use it wrongly, how we can be authentic people.

Many roads, one journey.

I have been sober for 16+ years. I have put my shit under a microscope for alcoholism, sex addiction, debting. AA was the beginning of the journey into my real self.

My addiction was all about armoring myself, hardening myself. I was the sensitive one in my family, the sensitive male. "You're too sensitive" was a curse that I heard often from my father. To cry was to be a girl which meant to be weak, a lil' bitch, a faggot.

Drinking healed my vulnerability to these charges, allowed my mouth to spew callous taunts, pickup lines, fighting words. I wasn't bad all of the time but my bad nights were unpredictable. Sooner or later, I'd get into that really negative, paranoid space and say or do the wrong thing. I suffered or mad other people suffer the consequences.

Women were the main objects of my acting out. Going to bars, embalmed with beer, I was trying to get some pussy. I fucked hundreds of women without a thought for their needs, concerns. That's my side of the street. I'm not dumb enough to believe that they were all merely victims of me. They had their reasons for being there; but speculating about why they were there, why they went with me won't heal me.

I've heard people use the phrase "play the tape" meaning being able to play the tape BEFORE you act. For some drunks, the idea of a drink will begin to feel good again, feel like a good idea. Playing the tape is being able to bring forth the images of the last time you drank to negate the rosy illusion coming up in your head.

Recognizing my patriarchal power can follow a similar pattern and I've experienced it. I may have an idea, a desire for a woman, want to say something...or maybe it has nothing to do with a person in my face but just an idea about a woman. I can play the tape and step back from that thought or idea and be like: "dude, do you see where that idea will lead you? Do you see what that means, how that is related to old ways of thinking?

If patriarchy is a verb, it is possible to interrupt it before using it. If its a noun and a dick is all that qualifies you for membership and there's nothing you can do about it, why worry? Why bother? Why should I be concerned if I can't avoid being one regardless of what I do?

This is random, but I'm friends with a sister here. She has a car and I don't. When we've gone out a couple of times, she's felt funny giving me a ride, the expectation of having to give me a lift, me a man. If the shoe was on the other foot, the most natural thing would be for me to give her a lift home after hanging out. But she feels weird; so I told her, hey, let's hangout earlier in the day so I can catch a bus, won't be waiting at the bus stop so late, so you won't feel obligated.

Now, a part of me is like, fuck, people are people, you have a car, I don't, I can't get a lift? I don't know what that's about but I'd rather catch the bus than find out.

Today, I'm not dating anyone - black, white, brown, green. It just hasn't come together for me. And since I got divorced in '02, I haven't had a serious relationship. I don't bar hop, crack on women randomly for their phone numbers. I did do a little Internet dating at random intervals.

So, I'm a patriarch without a subject, a king without a throne. Except...I do have a daughter and she is such a teacher, brings up so much of my upbringing, so much of my man, control, power.

I get to try to be a conscious parent in a way my parent's couldn't be. Yes, the inner patriarch rears its head here and I have to REALLY watch myself. Its not easy and I've made many mistakes. I try to steer her this way, but she wants to go that. She wants to watch TV or use my computer to play games. She won't draw when I suggest it or put her puzzle together. So what to do?

You can't do that until you do this. Is that right? The struggle continues.

Feelings. FEELINGS. I have a mountain of them. I HURT. I didn't get the love that I deserved, wasn't heard or seen. Was belittled. Wasn't black enough or white enough, wasn't tall enough or bad enough. I was a nerd, a nonentity. Nothing, a zero. When I went to private school, I was lost, a roach, an idiot. Going to school with all of those white folks I wanted to die. I hated it. I became a clown, of service to their white power. After all I couldn't be myself.

As I struggle through and out of my cave or prison and come more and more into my own, I will challenge myself to listen to others and to share my stories. I will examine myself and see how the stuff imposed on me has affected me, things like racism/white supremacy, patriarcy, heterosexism. I'm gonna do it on my road.

Our roads may run parallel, but they ain't the same. And I've got to allow you to be you and on your own road and I need to have my road and way respected. Because if its not and I have to think and believe what you do or the way you do about patriarchy or whatever, then that's an old road that I've been on before. And I'm not traveling any old roads.