Words matter

I swear I did not want to write anymore posts associated in anyway with the online blitz No Wedding, No Womb. At this point it seems to me it was a good idea that went terribly wrong, make no mistake there is some work that needs to be done in the Black community, yet I am not sure an online campaign is the most effective way to affect the change that the organizers and many involved want.

However last night while relaxing with a glass of wine and chilling on Twitter, I ran across a blog post that was tweeted by the NWNW organizer and my blood pressure shot up. Frankly in the last two weeks since this campaign has started I have read many things that made me shake my head but as someone who goes online to relax, I have kept my thoughts to myself. This post was just over the top but it made me think about something few people ever truly want to talk about and that is that words matter. The words you choose to speak or write are powerful.

If there is any doubt to the power of words ask anyone who has suffered abuse, physical abuse is horrible yet in most cases the physical pain goes away. However to anyone who has ever been verbally abused, the words never quite go away, they live in continuous loop in the back of our minds coming out at low points to remind us that we aren’t shit, etc. It can take years to erase negative words that dehumanize us…I know because I have been there personally and I have seen it with the families and youth I work with. Tell someone they are a little shithead and watch how they grow. If there are no positive words going in, eventually that little shithead becomes a shithead.

I realize that many that read this blog are not Christian but as a Christian myself I have always been struck by the fact that even the bible addresses the power of our words. In the book of James Chapter 3 there are many verses that attest to the power of the tongue. Verse 6, and the tongue is a fire, a world of inequity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. Verses 8 and 9 read “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God”. This Chapter goes on talking about what the tongue can do. Yikes, the potential to do damage is great when we do not mind our words.

Which going back to this campaign to address the issue of out of wedlock births in the Black community, how is it effective if we use language that tears people down? Referring to children as bastards and illegitimate? Yes, once upon a time a few decades ago such language may have been the norm but it’s not anymore. Once upon a time it was kosher for white folks to call Black folks nigger but most white folks understand that in 2010 if you call a Black person a nigger it will be bad for your chances of long term survival. The only white folks that walk around calling Black folks niggers these days are ones that wish to dehumanize Black folks. Even those white folks don’t walk around yelling it in areas filled with Black folks because they understand it’s not socially acceptable. And in most cases they have a strong survival instinct to boot!

To help people we must understand where they are coming from, in my line of work I have seen what happens when well meaning ill informed folks pop into volunteer and it’s not pretty. To be frank it creates more drama than the so called help gives. That’s what I feel is going on when we have groups of Black women calling other Black women lower class and hoodrats. By the same token it’s no good when we start having to go below the belt and using words such as bitch, cunt, and sell-out and so on.

Language is often used to dehumanize people, I imagine that while my ancestors hundreds of years ago were dragged to this country in shackles and didn’t know what was being said about them, its safe to say they could figure out it was not good. I know many will discount what I just said after all that was so long ago, but I still believe there are pockets of the Black community still impacted by the scars from so long ago and yes language mattered then as it does now.

However the issue of language being used to dehumanize others goes far beyond Black women and our struggles. It seems that bullying of our youth is on the rise, when I was a kid you got bullied at school but at least you got to go home and catch a break. Now thanks to the advent of social media, kids can be tormenting at home as well as at school, at school a kid may be facing physical threats but when a kid is bullied in cyber space that kid is being abused with words. Carelessly tossed around words have created situations where we are seeing kids some not even in junior high school taking their own lives.

Words and the way we choose to use them hold power and if we use our words for the collective well being of all we have the ability to affect change on a grand scale yet when we use words for our own personal gain we do so on the backs and psyches of others. So as we start a new week, I challenge you to be mindful of the words you are using.

The White Man Can’t Save You

I swear people must think Black women are some of the most pathetic creatures on the planet. Every where I turn I am bombarded with media images that seem to say we are sad and lonely or else we are sex crazed hoes who are thinking with our vaginas and not our brains and thus contributing to the planet’s overpopulation problem. I guess the only happy Black women on the planet are First Lady Michelle Obama and the queen of daytime talk Oprah Winfrey. Actually  there are plenty of happy well adjusted Black women, but if we focused our images on these happy Black women I guess nobody could earn any cash exploiting those of us with fears and insecurities.

The newest self help remedy for college educated Black women is apparently to get a white man. In the last year or so it seems there has been an increase in the number of writers and self help folks suggesting that for the lonely Black woman waiting for her Black knight in shining armor that what she really needs is a White knight in shining armor…frankly its starting to annoy me.

Now I know there are some who may say, wait a damn minute the name of this blog is Black Girl in Maine? A name like that pretty much might be a tip off to the fact that since I live in very white state, there is a good chance that I have a white partner. Yep, I do. I have been married to the resident white man going on 13 years so many might ask how dare I talk shit about Black chicks hooking up with white men. Truth is anyone who has read my blog any length of time knows that I am not a cheerleader for interracial pairings. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband, our kids and my life but the truth is interracial relationships require a lot of work. Frankly all relationships require work but when merging two ethnicities together to create a family, especially when those two groups bring great historical baggage it is not something to do lightly.

I am all for relationships that happen naturally, in my case. I had sworn off white men after a brief marriage in my late teens to a white man that produced my son and one of the most acrimonious divorces ever. Yet God and the universe decided to play a joke on me since I said I was done with white men, my current husband was brought into my life 15 years ago. We were co-workers who often chatted at the water cooler, and the truth is I didn’t see him as anything but a work buddy. In fact when he asked me out on a date, I said hell fucking naw. Only saving grace for the Spousal Unit was the fact my mom said hey why not? So I said, why not?, I didn’t have any plans that weekend besides the man did ask me out in a beautifully written letter (my hubby is a writer) and included a pound of coffee beans. (He knew my passion and vice was good coffee) So I said why not and the rest is history. No, we did not fall head over heels in love but we are both children of the working class and have personalities that are complimentary.

I am sure a few of you are saying well that sounds good, why shouldn’t another sista have that? The fact is despite how good we are together, the nastiest arguments we have ever had to the point of threatening our relationship and our family have almost always centered around issues of race. Early in our relationship, he lost people he had considered friends and while our families have more or less accepted the other it was still an adjustment. It’s often the day to day shit that causes problems. Racism is a fact of life and there are times here in Maine and back in Chicago when I come home after encountering shit and he just can’t get it. There have been times in raising our daughter when things have come up and he had to work very hard to get it.

One of the degrees I hold is in African American studies and there were times many years ago that the deeper I went into my research that it took a lot not to get pissed at the Spousal Unit. I wanted to become a professor of African American studies but for the sake of our family I had to let it go. Maybe I am an asshole but I could not study what I was studying and come home and sleep next to a white man without giving him the side eye.

I just read this piece that gave what I considered rather superficial reasons for dating white men, in many ways white men have far more advantages than Black and other minority men there is no denying that. On the other hand those advantages came at the expense of others. To put it plainly, white men got a head start in this society. Hell, even my husband who hails from working class roots acknowledges that. Our fathers were both blue collar workers yet my father in law thanks to his union supporting him and a few other breaks that white guys get was able to create wealth in the form of real estate whereas my father who at one point was a teamster got jack and was always the last guy hired, first guy to be let go.

It is my opinion that interracial relations can work but they require both partners to have the willingness to get emotionally raggedy when it comes to issues of race and be willing to do the heavy lifting. I have known more than a few white folks who frankly are not willing to acknowledge their own privilege and for the Black partner in those cases they simply must become a white person in Black skin lest they threaten the relationship.

Look, at the end of the day, date whoever you want to date and love who you want to love. But to seek out a specific group because we see them as the cure for all that ails us is well frankly silly. Yes, that white man may not have any baby mamas, a jail record and is gainfully employed but you need to enter such relationships with your eyes wide open.

If I were to give dating/love advice to a single Black woman I would say love yourself, find happiness within you and generally when we are happy things happen.

God, boys and custom made suits..the strange tale of Eddie Long

I must admit that as my fellow Mainers have discovered my little piece of the blogosphere its been a great feeling to be included within the ranks of really cool bloggers like this and I am thankful for my fellow bloggers who have mentioned me on their blogs. At the same time it is sometimes awkward as this blog was originally about me connecting with other folks of color and as such I do tend to blog on issues related to race. I admit the past few posts have been about race but as a Black woman even living in Maine one of the least racially diverse states in the country while I am a Mainer by virtue of location; I am a Black woman first and foremost.

Today I have to talk about the Bishop Eddie Long of Georgia. Regular readers know I don’t talk a great deal about my faith on the blog in part because this is not a spiritual or religious blog. Yet there are times when I do feel the need to go there, this is definitely one of them. I have made no secret of the fact that since my Mom’s untimely passing six years ago, I have grappled with my own faith. Finally accepting that is it simply not possible for me to get all the answers as long as I am earth side. Though as a follower of Christ, I do think some things are clear despite the fact that many folks who call themselves Christians are not clear on those facts.

Let’s get back to good ole Eddie Long. He is the pastor of one New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, right outside of Atlanta, Ga. In the past 20 years according to published reports he has taken what was a modest church of a few hundred and turned it into a mega church with a reported membership of 25,000 folks. Long who is officially called Bishop Long, has entertained presidents, celebrities and other well heeled folks, hell the man lives in a 1.1 million dollar home reportedly wears custom made suits, drives a Bentley and has a bodyguards. His ministry as its called focuses on prosperity…he has been quoted as saying that Jesus was not a poor man and that God does not want folks to be poor. I can only imagine based off the snippets I have seen of the good pastor, oops Bishop that he makes his congregation feel really good.

It’s such a shame though that the good Bishop who while he has been seen with his iPad clearly must have only skimmed the bible and missed the parts where Jesus talks specifically about the rich. In the book of Matthew Chapter 10, Jesus clearly states “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven” In fact if there is one clear message that any one who has ever spent any amount of time in a bible specifically the New Testament can take away is that Jesus was not all that fond of rich folks. That takeaway can be held by Christians, as well as folks who only accept Jesus as a historical figure who did good works.

So if Jesus was adamantly against wealth and one is a follower of his more importantly a pastor or oops a Bishop, one might deduce that those who preach ministries that harp on obtaining earthly wealth are already off track and perhaps are not reading about the same Jesus who fed, healed and helped folks. After all that Jesus was lacking so in earthly objects that he actually had to borrow someone’s donkey.

So can we say that the good Bishop Long has perhaps lost his way? Yep, that’s what I am going to say but clearly none of the 25000 folks who attend his club…oh my bad church, clearly never saw reason to question the good bishop. Well it seems the good Bishop finally has done some things that has folks wondering though I wonder how many of his members will continue to accept this self professed imperfect man who now stands accused of coercing young men into having sexual relations with him.  It appears that while the public Eddie Long liked to rail against homosexuality to the point of actively supporting bans on same sex marriage and in fact his church runs seminars to “cure” homosexuality. The private Eddie Long is accused of engaging in the same activities he stands publicly against. Now I am sure people will say I am condemning the man before the facts come out but after watching the man make a spectacle of himself in a custom tailored suit that Captain James T Kirk would have been proud of, and stating that he is a David going up against a Goliath and that he is an imperfect man…well I am not too hopeful that these allegations are false. Perhaps if he were not living a lifestyle that is so clearly not biblical, again he is a Christian should he not live a lifestyle in accordance with the tenets of his religion? Imperfect or not?

More important than Long in all of this is how easily lead astray folks are, there are clearly members of Long’s church that would bet everything they have to prove this man is being falsely accused. Yet in the Black community in addition to the out of wedlock issues we also have issues in our churches. Truth be told most churches have issues but Black churches have power structures that give too much power to too few people and those who dare to speak out risk being ostracized by the community. Early in my father’s preaching career he was tossed out of a church for telling the senior pastor that if he (the senior pastor) was going to preach that all members must give tithes and offerings that the pastor himself needed to do the same. Good preacher didn’t like that and my Pops was shown the door.

To accept any human based off their credentials as the almighty truth and never question them is to set your self up for heartbreak and as far as I can see there is no biblical basis. Faith is to be in God and Jesus not man.

What is heart breaking in this Long debacle is that this bastard will probably still end up leading this clueless flock while the young men who were abused will be left picking up the pieces of their lives. Imagine how it must feel to have trust in another person especially someone you see as God’s representative on earth only to have that trust abused?