[originally published in the June 2019 issue of the South Shore Current Magazine]
You ever watch a toddler drop a piece of cereal from his cup, lean over to grab it and another slips onto the ground? Poor thing don’t even realize. When he leans over again to pick up the new piece, another slips out. Maturing should increase awareness and balance. We must be able to hold several things at once. We’ve all overheard that frustrating argument (it’s easier to hear when you’re not in it). Two people going at it, both making good points, both firmly invested in their positions. You sat there thinking “actually, they’re both right”. Sometimes we want so badly to win we fail to recognize co-existing simultaneous truths. It’s hard being Black sometimes AND I would choose it again and again. Beyoncé is an undeniable force AND she’s elitist. Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the country AND we don’t want them gentrifying our neighborhoods. Soul food is delicious AND it’s killing us. The schools are failing our children AND you shouldn’t close 50 in one year. Our neighborhoods are plagued with food deserts AND Harolds would lose money if they tried to serve fresh salads. Social media is bringing us closer together AND pushing us further apart. Black men are under attack AND we are causing harm.
According to 2017 census data 45% of black men between the ages of 20 and 24 didn’t have a job and weren’t in school. Unless you want to argue that Black men are less intelligent and more lazy, we have to understand that as a system problem. Depending on your perspective you could say the system is failing Black men or it’s working exactly as designed. Either the school to prison pipeline is deliberate or you think Black youth are inherently predisposed to criminal activity. Prisons are full of Black men that made poor decisions or those men had unfairly limited options to choose from. Or both? Because we are under attack, because we are so powerful, then we are obligated to fight even harder to make decisions that benefit our families and community. Since there are forces in the world invested in our demise, let’s not make it easier for them?
Hypothetically, the CIA should’ve come to the hood, met with a few men, offered some chemically manipulated drugs to distribute, promise it’d make them rich, and those men should have said get the f*ck out of here, ain’t no amount of money worth the generations of damage that will cause to my community. No need to blame the government for crack epidemic. AND the government should be held accountable. We are owed reparations AND if they gave us checks right now we’d give most it right back to non-Black businesses. Hypothetically, if the Chicago Police Department is leaving unlocked freight trains full of guns in the hood then it’s still our responsibility as men to teach the kids not to aim them at each other.
Recent data from the Center for Disease Control named Black women as largest victims of domestic homicide. That type of intimate partner violence mostly occurs by the hands of Black men. The government to blame for that too? We think we the only race of people that’s been poor or disenfranchised before? We think Black women haven’t suffered alongside us every step of the way? We like to cite data about Black women graduation rates to prove how much better they’re doing, as if that’s a good excuse for being absent fathers. Black women have recently begun to gain a bit of the access they have always deserved, and it makes us uncomfortable. Sometimes it happens at our expense. Demeaning Black men seems to coincide with Black women’s ascension. It’s the American way. It’s capitalism. No room for shared power. Has to be either/or. Winners and losers. #BlackGirlMagic requires #BlackMenDisposable. Lord knows I understand the bitterness. I have been lied to and about by Black women. They also continue to be my biggest supporters. We still can’t fall for this old trick. We must keep our eyes on the prized children. We can’t allow a suffering competition or some disappointment to confuse Black men and women into thinking we are enemies. I prefer the inverse of the old adage- unite and never be conquered again.
Everyone has made some mistakes. Every hero is someone’s villain. If you do enough digging anyone that has done anything of interest has also done or said some terrible things. No American adult is innocent. Some think making themselves appear more innocent with relieve their guilt. Maybe it will. Eventually there will come a time when we all must make account of our deeds. I suggest you do it sooner than later, while there still time to make corrections. When you do, remember there is a fundamental difference between doing something wrong and being something wrong. Be sorry for what you did, don’t be sorry about who you are.
Black man you are not a sorry being. You are not worthless. There is no benefit to having shame for being born Black or male. You have been hurt and you have hurt, in a world that focuses more on the latter. The spotlight is on you right now. Weather the storm. Allow the wind to extract your dirt for new seeds to be planted. When the dark clouds come, go inside. Cry when you need to, rain is refreshing. Heal so we can fight. Black men have inherited conditions that we did not create but are responsible to fix. It’s not fair. It’s not your fault. And it’s still true. You have not been properly prepared. I’m asking you to give things you never received, like compassion and patience. I’m asking you to be a less damaging father than your damaged father was. It’s a terrible burden. You have to do it while the world has turned it back on you. It’s urgent. I wouldn’t ask it of you if I didn’t know you were one of the most powerful forces on the planet. “you are not a mistake. you are too many exquisite details to be a mistake.” -nayyirah waheed
There are consequences for taking responsibility. There is also great power in it. If a situation occurs and you emphasize your part in it, people will take advantage. “I knew it!” they’ll say. “It was his fault, he’s admitting it. Throw him in the trash with the rest of them.” I know what they’re saying about you on the internet Black man. Don’t succumb. Stand in your own truths. Opinions are the lowest form of human currency and the internet has made a god of it. Beware of false profits. I know why men don’t apologize, but don’t do it for them, do it for you. It’ll make you stronger. If you’re always a victim then you’ll always be a victim.
Hurt people hurt people. Healed people heal people. Insecure people control people. Sorry people seek fault in other people. Strong people lift other people. Smart people teach people. Powerful people positively impact the lives of other people. All people have all of that in us- strength, pain, insecurity, triumph and tragedy. The point is to learn. To grow. Evolve. Forgive yourself. Repair as much damage as possible, to yourself, to others. Investigate yourself. Invest in yourself. Reflect. Revise. Apologize when you’re wrong. Mean it. Fix it. Don’t do it again. Teach others what you learned from the experience. Grieve the lost illusion of your righteousness. Make the appropriate corrections. Don’t expect praise for it. Do it for you. Be better. Do better. Don’t give up. Take breaks. Rest. Drink water. Keep pushing. Keep learning. Keep elevating. We will have less to apologize for the more careful and considerate we become, of ourselves and others.
(I wouldn’t suggest doing any of this alone. We host a free weekly men’s healing circle every Sunday at The Quarry from 1pm-3pm. Don’t be disappointed if you come and don’t find any perfect men there. We all just doing our best to do the work. Please join us. Bring a boy.)