Black pain and Black healing…why Black lives must matter

The pundits and social media spaces are abuzz with talk of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and organization. Obviously BLM’s exposure has increased with their recent disruptions of Bernie Sanders and now Hillary Clinton’s campaign events. For all the critics and talk, regardless of how one may feel about BLM as a movement and organization, BLM in my mind serves as a much-needed declaration for Black people ourselves.

To be Black in America is to truly live in a state of “double consciousness” as W.E.B. DuBois wrote many years ago. It is to learn far too early in life that the color of your skin renders you as “other” and to be viewed with suspicion in damn near every setting. It is to learn that you have very few friends and that the “helpers” are rarely there to help you but they will gladly help to send you to an early grave…sometimes for nothing more than being a child on a playground playing with a toy gun.

People tell us that race doesn’t matter and that it is class and financial inequity that plagues the Black community and that access to a solid education and good jobs will equalize the racial disparities. Yet a recent study that any college educated Black person, including yours truly, knows all too well is that playing by the rules that govern white culture don’t play out equally for Black bodies. It turns out that even when Black people are college educated, they still face a racialized wealth gap. In other words, far too many Black college-educated people are not living the same life that their white peers are living. Lower paying jobs, higher loan burdens and a host of factors mean that even the “good” Black people (as determined by the standards of white culture) are still getting the short end of the stick. And a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to follow it up.

Blackness comes at a cost and it takes a toll on Black people. I am firmly convinced that the cumulative effects of racism over a lifetime is one of the greatest reasons why Black people don’t live as long as their white counterparts. More than 40% of African Americans have high blood pressure. It tends to be more severe in Blacks and develop earlier in life. On a personal note, my own blood pressure has been teetering in the higher-than-normal (but not hypertension) zone for well over a year now. I wasn’t surprised when I found out; hypertension runs in my family and in my immediate family there was no diabetes or obesity, which are often used as markers for why Blacks develop hypertension.

I will tell you what was in my family and what is in my own life. Stress. The unrelenting stress of living in a country that is yours but is not yours, The stress of living and loving in a space that would prefer you to shut up and die. The stress of chronic underemployment, the stress of a lifetime of robbing Peter to pay Paul because no matter how many degrees you hold, you still earn less than your white counterparts and your debt load is higher because dear ole Mom and Dad had no nickels to salt away to help with your education. The stress of raising kids who must be raised to be compassionate and loving people in a world where their very presence means to wear a target on their body and essence.  The stress of speaking up and speaking out against injustice and achieving some level of “success” that leaves your humanity invisible to many who decide that you are, as a fellow writer friend calls, a “race portal” whose job is to “help” white people. The stress of never being allowed to just be a woman but a Black woman. These are just some of the stresses that I know keep my blood pressure elevated and body tense.

For my fellow Black brothers and sisters, we all have stressors of various degrees that keep us in a chronic state of fight or flight as we are fighting to live every day of our lives. The problem with nonstop wars though is that you never have an opportunity to rest, to recalibrate or to heal. I fear that for Black people we are in a place where we are dangerously on the edge. White supremacy affects us on such a deep level that we have never had a chance to heal as a collective. I think the lack of ability to heal the psychic scars of our ancestors brutal enslavement and subsequent history in the US have been passed from generation to generation and at times has made it hard for us to love not only ourselves but each other. That the Black collective conscience is in need of tender loving to breakdown the mental and emotional baggage that overwhelms us. The fight for full equality and humanity is being waged on a national and international level but the deep healing must start in our own spaces and lives. Black Lives Matter is many things at this moment in time but for me, I hear a call for healing and loving myself as a Black woman and for all the Black people who touch my life.

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For the ladies especially the single ladies

My Pops used to have this corny ass saying “Don’t take advice on growing hair from a ball-headed man” now on the surface it seems rather cheesy but there is a bit of truth there. Case in point, I see both in real life and online, women who have never been married giving advice on men and marriage. Yep, I am about to go there. Look, we all are entitled to our opinions and thoughts but let’s be real, maybe getting your advice on having a man from someone with no man is a bad idea or taking advice from a man who has been married a few times and possibly stole his book idea from a woman (hello Steve Harvey) is also a bad idea.

I have been married 11 years, been with my husband 13 years, he is in fact my second marriage but I am his first. The first time I got married at 18 and it was just a bad idea, so I ended the relationship and marriage. So one could say I know a few things on marriage, my own parents were married 31 years, it was a true to death do we part situation.In the 5 years since my Mom’s death, my Dad has no desire to be with another woman, instead waiting to be reunited with my Momma when he dies. In fact he says that since her death, he no longer even has “those” thoughts and desires…

So I come from marrying stock as you can see, no missing Dad, shit at times when I was a kid I used to wish I could have a single parent home like many of my friends had, of course now I am thankful for what I had…we may not have had much money but I saw the blueprint daily on what a marriage looks like.

Oh, they had their bad times and good times, it was not all happy in the hood but they stuck it out and in some ways its those memories of how a marriage looks that keeps me grounded when I start thinking of flying the coop up here in Maine. Of course we get urges its just that as an adult I have to think about the choices I make.

Anyway I often see and hear single women particularly single Black women creating a checklist about what they want/need in a man…lets see most lists seem to include college-educated, good job (financial stability), attractive looks, no ex-wives, no baby Mamas, no Mama boys, no down-low history (that means he creeps with men at times for those not in the know), no prison record. I think that seems to sum up the list of requirements most women I know who are currently man-less seem to seek.

On the surface it seems like a good list, however as a woman who has been married a bit, that list makes me laugh, it seems so childish. I mean a man can start off with all those things but as life goes on shit happens. Shit, my own hubby is looking at a mid life career crisis, 13 years ago he met that list truth is life has gotten rocky. Thankfully the most important thing we have is friendship and love, its that love that carries us in these rough times.

I fear that many women particularly Black women have no idea of what is truly involved in marriage and we will create barriers to having relationships because we cling to some fantasy idea of what a man should or should not be or we base his worth of what he has, rather than his accomplishments as a human. Look, by all means no one needs to date or marry a hardened criminal, or share a no-good man…hell no! On the other hand I know some sistas who have their advanced degrees who only want a man with an advanced degree. I have a masters degree but truthfully if I were single and seeking a man, I would not require or need a man that matches me in education. Instead I would seek a man who is curious about the world and seeks out knowledge, there are a ton of assholes with fancy degrees who are intellectually limp. Once they got out of school, they were no longer curious or engaged with the greater world.

Also to have a relationship that lasts I think we must be flexible, I think inflexibility is the death of any relationship. You have to be willing to continue to redefine and renegotiate the relationship so  that it is mutually agreeable for both parties. I think when we are with a man and wondering if he is the one, you need to envision yourself with that man should his good looks start to flee, his amazing job and thus financial stability goes south and life throws you curve balls (death, any other bad things) yet you can still find yourself happy with that man, then he might be the one.

One thing I have  learned over the years is that life happens and it happens when we are making plans but those plans don’t always go the way we want them to…so look for a man that you can imagine being with when life is at its worse. Love is easy when all is well in our lives, the real test is when life sucks its at that point we know and learn what love is about.

Love is hard enough without setting up superficial requirments as to what we think we must have in a man.