His head flung back. Resting solely on what little faith remained. His gaze set upon a deepening darkness. Begging for some charity of grace. Sorrow swelled to settle as morning dew upon his face. His breathing ceased. And for fear of drowning he sat upright. Gasping for mercy. Inhaling hope. Exhaling in agony. A ritual he preferred in secret. In silence. In mourning. He poured libation. Offering unto Pachamama, Isis, Gaia, Tiamat, what did not belong to him. What he carried for others. To heal. He sipped bittersweet saltwine. Fermented sufferings. And the more he sipped the stronger he wept. Until, finally, he slept. Drunk from his tears.
[R]acism is no simple matter of top/down: it is bottom/up, in/out, port to starboard, and stem to stern. Opting to look at it as a unilateral project is to deny individual participation in its maintenance (i.e., reverse racism, inter alia) and risk becoming co-conspirators of oppression in all its forms: marginalization, disenfranchisement, discrimination, and dispossession across myriad social strata; to include, but not limited to: Indigeneity, disability, gender nonconformity, sexual diversity, destitution, et cetera, et cetera…
s/n: I have been asked (some time ago) if I was a white apologist/sympathizer, and I recall thinking “has this fool lost his ever-lovin’ mind.” But, no matter what my response was then, I’m certain he would today indict me on grounds of treason against every non-white person—expecting me to plead insanity—were he to read this response about “Momma Deen” (term of facetious endearment). Call her what you will; this woman was America’s beloved icon of home and hearth before June 2013.
Paula Deen was an easy target: her sins were revealed in their immediacy. The theatre of the antebellum South had merely changed actors and Paula was cast in the lead role. She was cooking in public and oppressing in private, that is, until she was “outed.” Her performance was convenient for lambasting, but that enactment is a relic; it is more an archaeological discovery than an accurate portrayal of racism in its ubiquitous forms and functions today.
Moreover, thrusting Paula into the limelight insinuates the torrid notion of a post-racial society, one which, she alone so happened to desecrate.
But, in the same breath it took to convict Paula of “first degree oppression,” there was, and remains, this active campaign to forego the absolution of individual ‘participation in’ and ‘preservation of’ the living, time-honored, cultural institution of racism and racializing rhetoric.
“We are easily shocked by crimes which appear at once in their full magnitude, but the gradual growth of our own wickedness, endeared by interest, and palliated by all the artifices of self-deceit, gives us time to form distinctions in our own favor.” ~Samuel Johnson~
That said, and despite popular outcry, Paula Deen offered public repentance for the preservation and practice of her antebellum heritage. However, her appeals for forgiveness, falling on deaf ears, were regrettably interpreted as inauthentic, which begs the question: given Paula Deen’s social identity as a white woman, with down-home syndrome, and upper echelon status, was she ever going to be received, and will she ever be perceived, as authentic and truly remorseful?
But whether she was—or was not—authentic in her capitulation is of no consequence to me. That is between Paula Deen and republican Jesus. My grievance is with the pundit’s willful neglect to engage in remedial discourse.
This is no plea to exonerate Paula Deen. My argument is thus: Critique(s) and discourse(s) of racism need to be, first and foremost, listed amongst the ingredients included [within] the recipe for a cultural salve (read: medicine) meant to heal the malignancy of racism. Critique alone is insufficient for treatment and too many doses causes toxic levels of academic chauvinism; whereas, discourse alone, is no more than a cultural placebo (read: snake oil). Racism is far beyond a novel phenomenon, but ‘prescriptions for healing’ are as rare as men’s birth control.
This “episode” was a prime opportunity to (I love this cliché) “come to Jesus” in an (inter)national conversation about racism, and what then can be done to find a cure for this affliction and the aforementioned modes of oppression. That is, of course, assuming, the underlying objective is to perform some holistic cultural healing. It’s not just about whether Paula was guilty or not—it’s about owning up to individual, self-stylized brands of racism.
While lighting a fire beneath Paula’s feet…Individuals are encumbered by “rationalized deficits” of courage when it comes to the painstaking work of self-examination, bringing to light the “roles” each individual constituent of western civilization assumes in the theatre of a globalized antebellum.
‘Every minute of every hour’, waterborne vessels bearing containers, ripe with the matériel harvest of exploitation and disenfranchisement, breach impregnable boundaries of the US and its allied territories filling ports with all the luxuries that constitute Western civilization as it is today. Moreover, these containers, come also, solemnly-filled with lives and livelihoods folded neatly and packaged, ready for American consumption (on credit, no less, meaning: ‘purchasing life’ with no money down on a deferred payment plan, to be paid whenever, if ever).
The gist: “inconsistencies in critique of racism lead toward absolving individual complicity of racism and ultimately undermining genuine claims of racism” ~mourning son~
Should Paula Deen ‘take the weight’—alone? The dissolution of racism requires a ‘moving into one’s self’ to move toward an ‘other self’. Reconciliation can begin, (again, assuming this is the intention of critique and discourse), through jettisoning hateful prejudices meant to buttress a false sense of self-worth vis-à-vis dehumanizing others, albeit, for the very same crimes (against humanity).
The scope of this blog post has been to emphasize the ineptitude of self-serving critique and the “placebic” effects of (re)activist discourse, which, both alone become racializing agents painting the color lines darker, driving the wedge of suspicion and fear that much deeper into the heart until cleaving communities in two. Racism has become an ostensibly normal and naturalized social behavior, making it all the more volatile, but no matter how well accepted it maintains a clear and present danger to the sanctity of all life.
Truth be told: I am a hot mess (sometimes) whose fleeting responses to intimacy come at the cost of authentic relationships and cause much more heartache in trying to protect myself from injury than that of actually putting myself out there.
So, imagine my surprise when she said, “Next time, let’s sit at the front of class. Save a seat for me if you get there before I do.” Rarely am I so immediately confused. But in all eagerness, I longed to honor her modest request; racing toward our next class, determined to keep my word; shunning conversations with others; she’d never know I had been running. Instead, she is there waiting–for me.
Beneath a veil of rusting candied-apple locs shown a constellation of opulent freckles mapping the territory of heaven; her eyes more brilliant than all earth and ocean. Her voice: a testimony of long-awaited nights of winter’s intimacy. My gaze is fixed upon her lips, studying every syllable of her native tongue, frozen by the whisper of a [ch]ill.
Worlds apart in so many ways, but the sudden collapse of distance accentuated the glory of our peculiaris.
So, why am I searching for everything “wrong” with my life; everything wrong with me; exaggerating all the differences; fabricating consequences; trying to convince myself that “she” and “me” could never be “we;” negotiating my heart’s desire only to torment myself with the specter of a dream I never once had?
Yesterday, I felt the texture of the air beginning to change. In the hour of vespers, I was granted tranquility signaling the coming moment when light is swallowed back into the womb of darkness; when sound returns to the bosom of silence. Instruments of wind and string hasten the crescendo of the moon. Soon, it will be time to harvest the fruits of intimacy from beneath hir dress of loosely sewn smoldering blossoms.
“Autumn is [the] Spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~Albert Camus~
Years since our last kiss, yet, recently plagued by an inescapable sense of disappointment, a guilt of breaking a bond that should never have been broken. How is it I am unable to remember her name? I felt as if I was compromising the sanctity of some divine ecstasy. Our propinquity electrified the space between us. We were so good at disguising our passions. It was our game no one else knew how to play.
Her boyfriend was always uneasy when I was around. I coveted her from the start. I didn’t care if he suspected or accused us of some love affair. In truth, I wanted him to know. I never once flinched.
I remember the party when I found her boyfriend and his friends strewn about my living room unconscious (I put up with him only to be near her). The whole lot of us drank until the dawn—until the liquor wrung out the moisture in our bodies. But my thoughts at the sight of his vomit on my carpet: “You hold your liquor when you’re in someone else’s fucking house.” Instead, I took the opportunity to be alone with her.
That was the morning we confessed the extent of our lust (which none could be found). She said: “I wanted to sneak into your room last night and climb into your bed, but he kept watching me. I think he knows I want you. I need more than one lover and he knew this about me when we met.”
To him, she was a possession. Me, I wanted to be possessed—by her.
Sex flowed from between her thighs and down her legs. Sex was in her hair; in and throughout her body. It settled on her skin like morning dew. I lusted after her. She walked with this exaggerated switch as her hips swung wide like a pendulum counting the seconds until her next orgasm. But it was no façade—it was who she was. A whisper against the fine, invisible hairs of her porcelain nape would unleash a frenzy of sensations that wouldn’t quit until she got her fix.
My imagination turned on me and I could feel myself inside her, relishing the melody of violent collisions; the scent of our sweat escaping through the windows. I asked if she wanted me as her lover. There was nothing light about her response. We leaned close enough for our lips to exchange vows of an unspoken marriage.
To quote Anais Nin:
“…if a mouth touches flesh profoundly, if the blood quivers, if the rhythm is one, there must be a marriage somewhere—somewhere that is not apparent, sometimes never comes to the surface, never materializes, embodies itself, formulates itself. It remains a mystery…One has to believe in a marriage without white veils and orange blossoms, this marriage in darkness which sometimes cannot be prolonged in daylight. One has to believe in this marriage under water, voiceless and wordless.”
There was no lie in her kiss.
Nothing was ever rehearsed with us. No pressure. We simply coalesced.
On the nights we shared together she drank ginger-flavored vodka from my wine glasses beneath the fireplace as she wrote poetry and doodled all the while telling me her story. The truth came out of how her sexuality had been exploited—pimped by someone she trusted. Branded with a felony because of her naivety. Crimes committed in her name. Crimes she didn’t know were being committed. She wept about not being able to find a job worth the harassment she dealt with everyday serving food for tips that never met her needs.
Our last night together was in a watering hole we both frequented. As the night strengthened, the crowd poured in and I mingled with familiar faces. We played the roles we normally did in public. But in a small town word gets around, and people knew her name. I remember how she found me that night. I was sitting at the bar with a glass of Cabernet: “He keeps grabbing my tits.” Any other night she would have succumbed to those advances (it was the chemical reaction to touch). But this night I could feel the distress she never knew to express. What’s more, is that she saw herself safe with me and I recognized what she wanted people to realize about her. She didn’t always “want it.” Regardless of how her body felt about it.
I carried her home in the morning not knowing it was for the last time. Days later I was on a plane headed back east.
Most noteworthy–most memorable–is in all the time we spent together we never did anything more than kiss. We were never naked together or tasted anymore then tongues and lips. I like to think it was because we did not need to. Moreover, I hope it was because our lust was satisfied by the histories and fantasies we shared in secret.
Nowadays, the nostalgia is overwhelming and I remember what I miss. I remember her name.
She wrote: “Analysis does not count the creative product of the neurotic desire.”
So I’m sayin’, do not read from Anaïs Nin if you are not ready to be tossed out of the comfort of your illusions, unless you are ready to be robbed of your false sense of security, if you are not ready–>to feel<–I swear your very own heart will betray you and deny you refuge.
She wrote: “Deprived of the opium of intensity I fell into an abyss” and I recall the emptiness of my self-righteous logic of love that denied myself quintessential desires. I can’t even begin to count all the elaborate fantasies I’ve concocted about relationships that were no less than attempts to protect my ego.
Don’t read from this woman unless you are ready to get intimate with yourself. Almost like a part of me has been given some purpose again, if not for the first time. While a dormant, indispensable, primal, and libidinous force is resurrected. Up to this moment everything else has been so intentional, calculated, codified, and complicated to the point of disingenuousness.
Strangely enough, the only thing that hurts in the least are my cheeks because I can’t wipe this ridiculous grin off my face. I’ma keep on readin’!
Patriarchy will tolerate no such thing as “unraveling” from men, but over the past few days I have literally come undone. This is, of course, a good thing. It might not feel that way from time to time. Removing the sutures of pride, arrogance, lust, fear, inter alia, stings at the sudden exposure to a deepening darkness.
But there is comfort in the depths of my own uncharted emotional territories; comfort of learning what has been for so long awaiting discovery–places undisturbed.
And in all this unraveling I find tremendous relief. Pain. Then relief. Then pain again. And so on. Further into the darkness. It’s amazing how a little Anais Nin and Adrienne Rich turned down the lights low enough for me to see. Studying so much war I forgot the reason I came here–Love.
I returned to school because I love. After all, what is it all about–life, social justice, freedom, clean water, fresh air, peace–if not for love, right? However, I never anticipated I would be in love–with anyone–even though I suspect it has always been my heart’s desire. Nevertheless, I am coming undone still.
A good thing? No! A magnificent thing! Only one issue: I never had the courage to tell you. In hindsight I revisit all the opportunities you gave to me to just say something. I have never been more afraid in all my life than of what stirred inside me at the very mention of your name.
And suddenly it begins to make sense…I never gave myself the opportunity to commit, to come undone. I stayed single for five years and bragged about freedom all the while building a prison. I became secured in a fortress of illusions (the perfect place for a patriarch) built about a logic of love.
I played a game of comfort. Never getting too close. Always keeping enough doors open to reassure myself of my arrogance. Now the fortress is crumbling. And my emotions laid bare. Nowhere left to conceal the grief of watching you walk away.
A river runs through where stone walls once stood, tracing the steps of your journey, racing towards hope.