For Margaret Garner…and the many unknowns…

HD_TheModernMediaMargaretGa

Margaret Garner, February, 1856

Sometimes I feel like I’m the Receiver , and history- past and present- is the Giver.

The more I learn + the more I experience= the more I understand=the more I grow.

When I first read the book Beloved by Toni Morrison, I was amazed.  The work was brilliant.  It introduced me to intricacies of slavery that I had known, in theory, but hadn’t thought about practically.  I witnessed the slave family struggle to form and then struggle to stay in tact.  I witnessed the black male slave’s attempt to be his family’s direction and security, all while battling his reality of inferiority to a white master whom his family, and even he, actually depended on.  I saw the slave woman harden to the point of insanity after succumbing to the wiles of compassion and motherhood, and I observed how all of this divided them from their children.  I had been enlightened.

When I read it a second  time, I had trained as a birth and labor doula and had become a wife, so family had begun to mean something different–something deeper–something tangible.  Watching my husband search for work and be told he was too qualified for low level positions, but not qualified enough for higher positions, I sympathized with Halle’s frustration but inability to provide though he desperately wanted to.  Finding work quickly and thus becoming the security of my family, I understood Sethe’s self reliant-driven actions, but I could only sympathize with her and Baby Suggs’ ordeals as mothers.  As a Black mother’s child myself though, I also understood how the residual affects of slavery drove Sethe to drive her children from her, though it was not her intent.

I attempted to read Beloved a third time while I was pregnant, but I didn’t finish and so I figured the book and I had gotten all we could from each other.

Fast forward: my son is born.  As a first time parent, there is no one and nothing able to prepare you for the changes you are about to undergo.  In the beginning you’re tired, frustrated comparing your new life and new experiences to advice from “the books” and the advice from others around you.

How do I breastfeed?  Am I doing it right?

Should we “co-sleep” or “train” our baby to sleep on his own?

Is it possible to hold him too much?  Will that spoil him?

How do we balance providing for him and getting time for ourselves too?

Should I console his every cry or is he trying to control me?

Is it okay to leave him with someone?  Am I “acting funny” if I don’t?

I struggled with these thoughts, questions and ideas for three months, and I was unsure until I began to read Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington.

The first chapter detailing medical exploitation on slave plantations opens with the quote: “Celia’s child, about four months old, died last Saturday the 12th.  This is two negroes and three horses I have lost this year.“–David Gavin, 1855

I read that quote and looked at Sammy and thought about how much that baby must have meant to Celia; how she had probably smiled at, kissed on, held up, and loved on (or at least desired to) that baby just as I do Sammy.  I put myself in her world for a moment and the thought of losing Sammy in any way hurt–just the thought.  I could only imagine my baby leaving this world and tearing me apart but still somehow, amidst all of my grief, my anguish and my sorrow, to my “master” nothing more had happened than the loss of a horse…or any piece of livestock…

And then I thought of Sethe…

I thought of how she was determined to be a mother; to love her children…about how Baby Suggs had advised her against it because of the heartbreak she’d endured when she’d tried to love her own; only to watch them ripped from her, like puppies, and sold to the highest bidder.

I thought about Sethe’s determination to keep her children for herself: how hard she had struggled and the lengths through which she had gone to do so and how, in the end, out of 4, she was still only left with one of them.

I looked at my baby and I empathized with Sethe.  Yesterday, I was her.  I was overworked, underpaid, and deprived of most of my time with the people I loved, and who needed me most.  Today, where far more black babies die than any others do, she is me.  She is overworked, underpaid, and deprived of most of her time with the people she loves, and who need her most. The only difference is that she set her mind to hold her babies because she couldn’t.  In that moment, I set my mind to hold my baby because I can.

I breastfeed according to the needs of my baby.

We “co-sleep” because we don’t feel comfortable with our child sleeping off in another room on his own.

We enjoy holding him as much as he enjoys being held.  Will it “spoil” him?  I don’t think so, but I guess we’ll see. 

We find ways to take time for ourselves that involves him too, and so far nap times have made the best getaways.

If my baby cries I’m coming because even if he wants nothing more than my attention, he’s crying for a reason.

He’s only 3 months so he’s not down with being away from mommy and daddy that being the case, I don’t like to leave him either.

But that’s just me.

We have our own parent personalities and those are formed based on what we value and what we believe.  I have no desire to dictate to another parent what they should do, or how they should interact with their children, I only wish to share my testimony based on what I now realize I value and what I understand myself to believe.

Though Beloved is a work of fiction, it is historically based on Margaret Garner, Toni Morrison’s inspiration from Sethe.  Morrison learned Garner’s story and was moved to write Beloved.  I read Beloved and was moved to write this.  I have Received the Memory of motherhood under European chattel enslavement now.  Toni Morrison Gave it to me and maybe one day this will Give it to you.

Pregnancy Blog 3: My Homebirth

Sammy

37 weeks

When I first told people that I planned to have a home birth I think many of them thought I was crazy, or at the least their minds flooded with all the things that could possibly go wrong.

On February 27 at 5:20 a.m. I gave birth to my first child. Samuel Amos Brown…at home (well at my mother in law’s home) and all went well.  No one died.  The walls did not cave in.  The earth did not stop turning.  So…I thought I would briefly share my experience to dispel some of the fear around home birth and to maybe encourage someone on the fence about having a home birth.

Getting right to it…

I was in labor for 5 days.  Yes.  5…days…

When I say that though, I don’t mean that I was experiencing intense contractions and pushing for 5 days, I just mean that the process of Sammy getting here took 5 days.  It kind of went like this:

Day 1:

I went to the bathroom that morning and found blood (bloody show) in my underwear signifying that effacement (the thinning of my cervix) had begun.  Excitement!  I called my midwife and we kept in touch throughout the day.

As was already planned the day before, my husband and I spent some time at the library, got some groceries, and went home.  The day just kinda passed by uneventfully aside from some extremely mild and sporadic contractions, and I didn’t even mention to Erick (my husband), or anyone, that I thought I might be in labor.  I wanted to be sure before I alarmed people.  That evening, we played Uno around the dining room table and later that night we visited friends.  On the car ride over I finally told Erick I thought I might be in labor.  We got to our friends’ house and watched “The Voice” and part of “Love and Hip Hop” and that was Day 1 of labor.

Day 2:

Coincidentally, we were scheduled for my 39 week appointment with our Midwife the next day anyway, so she came by around 11 to check my progress.  I was 80% effaced and 2 centimeters dilated.  Because it was still early, she left to attend to other clients.

To pass the time, to move things along, and to grab some last minute supplies for our home birth, my husband and I window-shopped around the mall and shopped around K-mart.  I can’t exactly remember, but at some point in the day contractions picked up.  They were still pretty mild and sporadic and I didn’t have to work through them.

We let everyone know labor had begun and instead of the frenzy I expected, the celebration began.  My mother in law started cooking like it was Christmas and didn’t stop until the day after Sammy was born and I started nesting. The atmosphere was so warm and excitement was everywhere.  Watching the news that night, there was talk of snow, but we were all skeptics.  And that was Day 2.

Day 3:

Day 3 rolled around intensity and frequency of contractions built.  I now had to pause slightly when one came on, but with some light breathing and some rotations on my exercise ball, they were easy to work through.  Because of the weather predictions of snow, school was canceled.  Since everyone in the house works for or attends a school, it indeed became a holiday.  It did, indeed snow, so the midwife came early for fear of being unable to get to me later on.

We all ate dinner that night, and after Erick triggered some pressure points, contractions intensified.  Now my exercise ball wasn’t so effective.  Instead I had to make deep, low moaning sounds to open my core up and assist my body in assisting the contractions. While everyone else watched movies, Erick and I retired to bed to get the last bit of rest that we could.  Sleep was a series of catnaps between contractions.  Erick was there to help me through each one.  He was my epidural.  That night my water broke at 11:20 p.m.  That was day 3.

Day 4:

By this point I was becoming disinterested in eating.  I drank water and spinach and fruit smoothies, but for the most part food was the last thing on my mind.  Contractions were about 5-7 minutes apart now and I needed Erick to hold my hand and remind me to breathe through them.  I was starting to break down.  Day 4 was the longest day ever.

By that night everyone was frustrated and losing hope.  Talk of going to a hospital surfaced and I started to feel like a failure.  A hospital birth was just not what I wanted and I was determined for this birth to go as I wanted because it was mine. Plus, I wanted to normalize home birth to those around me and I couldn’t do anything but increase fear if I’d attempted one and ended up at a hospital.  Not a good look.

I found a new energy and tried to fight through my extreme fatigue to prove I really wanted to have my baby here at home.  Under the midwife’s orders we walked to increase the contractions, which were just about unbearable at this point.  They came with this intense feeling of pressure to my pelvic floor.  I felt like a constipated person needing to have a long over due bowl movement.  We were so tired though that Erick and I could hardly keep our eyes open.  We were literally falling asleep as we tried to walk throughout the house.  I guess at that point it occurred to the midwife that we should all maybe sleep.

Day 5:

At some point that night or morning (it was all running together at that point) I woke to a contraction that was taking control over my body.  My body was pushing in what felt like turbo speed.  I tried to alert Erick but he was out of it and I guess I was too because though I’m sure something happened between that and having the midwife standing over me telling me to push, I can’t recall any of it.

The next thing I recollect is the midwife standing over me saying “good job, Shayla.  I can see your baby’s head”. While I was relieved and excited initially, the immediate next thought was “oh God…a baby has to come out of there…this is probably like a contraction times 10”.  I wasn’t at all looking forward to that.

Poor Erick was so out of it I don’t even think he understood what was happening until the midwife told him to get behind me to support my back.  At some point someone went and informed Erick’s mother that the baby was coming and she came in and supported me from behind as well.  Thank God for everyone else in the room because I was so tired I really wasn’t up for pushing a baby out, but Erick, his mother, the midwife and her assistant cheered me on and encouraged me to push.  I appreciated it because Lord…there is no book or YouTube video that can prepare you for that type of physical challenge.  I thought that boy’s head was never going to get out and I just knew that I’d be completely ripped apart in the process.  I had read that to prevent tearing I should just breath through the pushes and allow my body to move naturally.  Please.  My body was naturally on “go as fast and as hard as you possibly can” and there was nothing I could have done to take any semblance of control over that process.  I just pushed and figured I’d be alright.  If not alright I knew I wouldn’t die.

After a series of smaller pushes, I gave one huge push and the next thing I knew a whole body appeared.  I literally felt nothing after his head passed.  Then there he was, placed on my chest, looking at me.  He whimpered a little, but he didn’t really cry.  5:20 is the time that “Granny Gran” noted as the time of his debut.  After 5 days of labor, we were finally looking at the reason for it all: our Sammy, Nuke Nuke, Duecy, Fat Man, Boo Boo, and all the other names he’ll acquire from here on out.

That was my home birth experience.  It was made particularly special by everyone in the Brown Household.  As nervous as I’m sure Mr. James, my father in law, and Gabe, my brother in law were, they held it together.  If anyone freaked out at any point, they didn’t show it.  I appreciate that.  Miss Regina, my mother in law cooked, kept calm, allowed us to do this in her house, and made sure I didn’t have to lift a finger to do anything as I recovered.  Chelsea, my sister in law willingly assisted the midwife in whatever tasks she was given, provided comic relief and provided anything Erick and I asked of her as well.  My labor team drove over an hour through the snow, slept on couches, labored with me for 2 days, delivered my baby, stitched me up, and ran me an herbal bath after.

Because of everyone else’s contribution, Erick was free to focus on supporting me and I was free to focus on laboring.  It wasn’t perfectly aligned to my birth plan.  It wasn’t as structured as the books made it out to be or as effortless as I had seen things going I my mind…it was better.  It was painful.  It was exhausting.  It was mentally and physically taxing.  It was long.  It was hard.  It was labor…and I did it.  I didn’t die.  The walls didn’t cave in. The earth didn’t stop spinning.

I have a new respect for mine and all women’s bodies and for women in general for going through it every day.  There is a woman with her own birth story for every single person alive that we know.  There are approximately 7 billion people on earth and each one of them came through the labor of some woman. That’s big…and at the same time, because it’s the natural order of things, it isn’t…which is how it seems most women approach it…because they keep doing it…7billion times apparently.  That has a new depth to me now…all because, of those 7 billion, 1 came through me. 🙂 How cool is that?

sammy feet

My little man’s wittle feet.🙂

 

 

Pregnancy Blog 2

So, apparently my life is moving a lot faster than I realize.  I wrote and posted Pregnancy Blog 1 at 23 weeks.  Today as I type, I have completed week 27 and am fastly approaching week 28, the 7th month and 3rd trimester of this pregnancy.  Where does the time go?

Anywho, as I mentioned in the last post, I have one more part of my “why I’m just starting my pregnancy blog so late” post before I actually get to this pregnancy–and here it is…

After my ordeal with the miscarriage and the trauma associated with it, I decided to move on by simply getting pregnant again (as if I had control over when God would bless me with the gift of life).  Because I had begun the process of learning to track my fertility, I assumed that all I had to do was conceive what I understood to be my period of fertility, so I did.

Without any consideration that my plan could fail, I assumed that since I had done what I understood to be all I needed to do, conceive during fertility, I assumed I had gotten pregnant.  Did I take a pregnancy test? Yes, I took several, and all of them were negative.  However, at this point, I completely distrusted man-made products and, looking back on it now, I refused to accept my reality.  I refused to accept that I couldn’t have my way and that I wasn’t in control of when I could.  Thus, despite what the many negative tests said, I secretly believed, more like hoped really hard, that I was pregnant and so my body reacted to my mind.

I don’t really want to go into too many details about that, but long story short, after months of hopping from doctor to doctor (including the awful lady from Pregnancy Blog 1), not believing or trusting any of them, and going back and forth between doubting and reassuring myself, I came to the conclusion that I was not and had not been pregnant.  Another devastation for me–one I still wasn’t ready to deal with completely, though I thought I had.

For the next 6 months I pushed forward with trying to conceive.  I drank teas, I changed my diet, I gave up some habits, I read books, I tracked my fertility, I exercised… and it seemed that nothing I tried worked.  I was starting to think that something was wrong with me…and then one day while talking with my husband, I  honestly evaluating myself, and my feelings toward my situation, and I realized in all my moving and pushing and trying, I was avoiding the truth.  While I focused solely on my body, I was avoiding my mind and avoiding my spirit.  I was avoiding critically thinking about my situation, and avoiding what I’d felt.

I was avoiding accepting the hurt.  Medical personnel and some of the people closest to me assured me all my tragedies had somehow been a blessing.  I tried to use that.

I was avoiding feeling disappointment.  “You can always try again” I kept hearing others say; basically “pick yourself up and try again”.  I tried to use that.

I was avoiding  being angry.  Who would I direct it to?  God?  My family?  My husband?  The doctors?  I told myself I wasn’t allowed to do that.  This was my problem to fix alone.  So I tried that.

Most of all, though, I avoided breaking down and giving up control.  I was trying to avoid accepting that I could not control my situation because that meant I couldn’t make my problems go away. It meant that I would instead have to face them and accept them, and maybe even not know what to do about them.  Maybe I’d just have to wait.  Patiently.  With no clue as to when I would have my wish.

And it became clear to me.  Like that.  The truth…clarity: “I am hurt, and I am so, because I am impatient.  I am impatient, because I am afraid.  I am afraid because I unwilling to let go.  I unwilling to let go because it requires that I trust a force outside of myself, and I’ve never been able to do that…ever.  I deal with all my problems all on my own because in this world (I’d reasoned), who is there to depend on?”

And like that, I was free.  Saying those words out lout to my husband…more-so to myself…I was free.  I could properly address my issues because I now knew what they really were.  I wanted to be independent and in control.  Families can’t operate like that.  The universe and everything in it depends on the universe and everything in it.  I needed to trust and understand that the greatest strength comes form one’s ability to be weak.  Taking the time to stop and react to a trauma is not whining or complaining, it’s being alive and feeling.  Not only is it okay, but it is necessary to do in order to heal.

That was mid June.

July 2 I found out I was 5 weeks pregnant.  Apparently It was already done.  I literally had to let go and let God.

The lesson I took from that experience was patience, and I learned that if ever there is something that you want more than anything, but it seems that nothing you do gets you that thing, you either don’t need it, you aren’t ready for it, or there is a lesson you need to understand; a growth you need to make before you can be rewarded with it.  Stop, take your time, and think about what that could be.

God is a master teacher, but more over, a master parent.  He knows what we really need when we think we do, but in actuality, we really don’t.  His thoughts are above our thoughts, and His ways are above our ways, and in order to understand His lessons we have to be willing to elevate our minds and our spirits to receive Him.  I’m thankful for that.  I’m thankful for his example and that He challenges me and helps me to be better.

So, while I have yet to decide on my baby’s name, or to go shopping for clothes that I’m sure he’d look adorable in…one thing I’m certain of: I want parent in wisdom, and from a higher place of understanding.  I want to challenge my son to be better, elevate him to wisdom, and help him grow in love.  I want to be, to my son, the master teacher, and loving parent, that God is, and continues to be to me.

Until next post, Peace.

Pregnancy Blog 1

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What’s a baby bumb without a bathroom selfie?

Since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be a mother. I knew I wanted a house, a husband, and kids. I had many dreams, many of which changed throughout my life, but my desire to have a family was the one aspiration that stayed constant.

Today as I write this, Wednesday November 5, 2014, I am officially 23 weeks pregnant with my first child. I had always thought I would log every moment of pregnancy, but it is only now that I finally feel comfortable enough and confident enough to put things into words.

Here’s why…

 

February of 2013 I miscarried my first pregnancy at 4 weeks. I hadn’t known I was pregnant, but I did think I might be so after a night of severe cramping and heavy bleeding, I visited a public clinic to have myself “checked out”.  While I was hoping to hear news of a pregnancy, the “nurse midwife” attending to me was so rude, so insensitive and so nasty that I honestly left feeling belittled and as if I had somehow done something wrong. She very matter-of-factly told me that no, I wasn’t pregnant, and she said it as if with her results she had won some competition that I hadn’t known we were in.

She assumed I had poor health, which baffled me because I had began my journey to vegetarianism a few months before, yet, here she was telling me that her numbers and figures from my urine samples, and the presence of blood and tissue, suggested otherwise.  She assumed my husband was my “friend”, whatever that means, and seriously spoke to me with such an attitude you would think we had beef prior to this appointment.  I didn’t know this woman, and as far as I knew, she didn’t know me.  She was at least 3 times older than me so there was no way we could have mutual friends or even mutual enemies.  To this day the only thing I can reason is that I was treated the way I was treated because I was young, black, female and in a public health clinic, which to her meant I was poor…which apparently means you don’t have feelings and that every ailment that befalls you has done so because of your indifference, ignorance, and negligence of your health.

Whatever the case, in the midst of all of this undue hostility, I’m sitting across from my new enemy, slash health care provider, with a broken heart and completely confused about everything.  I’m not pregnant, which is a disappointment to me, but I’m also not having my cycle which is…what is this?

Emotionally bruised and a bit traumatized, I go home and google my symptoms.  From my own very short research I discover I’ve just had a miscarriage.  This hurts even more. What I can’t seem to figure out though, is how could this 60 something woman who has been in women’s health all these years not know or even entertain this?  How could she be so insensitive?  How could she be so…mean?  Why did everything BUT this cross her mind?

My devastation from learning of my loss, coupled with my anger at replaying the appointment in my head, tied in with my recent personal interest in natural alternatives to women’s health, and the knowledge I was gaining of the abuses black women have suffered at the hands of “modern” healthcare began my distrust for modernized medicine.  I made up my mind then that I wouldn’t trust anything man-made.  I think part of me somehow blamed this woman for my loss.  I didn’t realize it then, but looking back on it, I think that’s where I put the focus of my hurt and my anger.  Since, up to that point in my life, I was what some would call a control freak when it came to my emotions (I was convinced I could control them by willing them away as opposed to working through them), I resolved to defeat this woman and all the white coats she stood for.  I resolved to overcome this hurt and outsmart her, by doing anything related to my personal health as a woman, on my own.

 

So that’s part one of the “why I’m just now starting a pregnancy blog at 23 weeks” saga…

 There’s one more part before I actually get to this pregnancy, but for now I’ll leave it at this.  I guess if I had to sum this part up, it’d probably be labled as “Chapter 1” in a lesson that God understood I needed in my life, and as sad as it seemed then, the “aha” I got in the end was well worth the pain.  Isn’t God a master teacher in that way?

Well my interests in women’s health still remain, and I’ve even trained as a birth doula since then so if any women have any similar situations they’d like to share I am always here for that. 

Until next post, Peace.

One of life’s many AHA moments…*looks up*…Thanks.

I’ve had a growing disdain for Beyonce (I really should say the idea of Beyonce because I don’t really know her enough to hate her) for a while now.

It started while I was still a fan of hers, actually, and as it grew, my inability to enjoy her music grew with it.

Anyway, it started out as just a nagging nose upturn at her perpetration of class and sophistication during interviews.  It bothered me that this woman who sang these soft “get it girl” songs while parading around music videos and stages with no clothes on appeared on Oprah and Larry King a completely different person.  The woman who caused a seemingly nation-wide sensation by working a wall (the “uh oh” dance) was, I felt, “fronting” when she sat before Oprah and the like with her legs crossed, wearing a shirt or jacket buttoned up her neck, talking about empowering women or the ways in which women or young girls should carry themselves like ladies.  On top of that, the media would always commend her for being a role model or a lady or having so much class or something to that end.  I just didn’t understand where they were getting that from.  I was seriously confused.

I kept listening to her music however, and I even convinced myself that I was tripping. “I’m being uptight,” I reasoned. “What’s the big deal?” “People run around naked all the time.” Besides, she wasn’t that naked. She just showed a little midriff and a little leg, right? What harm could that do?
I worked through my issues and spiraled into a Beyonce love affair right along with the rest of the world. As I let myself continue to like her though, her skirts got shorter and shorter until they didn’t exist at all (See below).

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(Now she doesn’t even bother with pesky pants and what not. Just upper body shells and panties.)

At the same time she began to loose more clothes, she began to gain more clout as a “lady”. She started making appearances with/around the Obamas and this unspoken (and sometimes spoken) parallel between her and Michelle surfaced. That was it, I couldn’t take it. Long story short, I got to the point where I hated Beyonce, the idea of her anyway. I couldn’t get how she could behave in ways that, if I (or any girl/woman) were to mimic, I’d be called a slut. How was she somehow a lady because she hopped off her $80 million pole for a press conference, put on three pounds of clothing, and stood next to the first lady of the United States?  Aaaannnd, if, as so many argue, this ultra slutty “Sasha Fierce” is just a stage persona, why is that the one she chose?  Why choose a character totally opposite of who you are in real life?  When rappers do that (Rick Ross, Irv Gottie, etc.), we call them lame don’t we?  I felt like she is, at the least, being a lame.

Anyway, that was the second phase of my mounting irritation with the trance around Beyonce. The third, which I am in now, didn’t hit me until this past weekend as I was attending an ICTC Doula training. I say it “hit” me, but it was more of a gradual creep up on me as the days of training passed and as I more deeply processed everything I was learning.  The training was centered around women’s bodies, health, and overall wellness pre-pregnancy, prenatally, and postpartum.  Fellowshipping with other women around birth and breastfeeding and the ways in which our bodies were made to produce life; the ways in which our bodies assist us in bringing new souls into the world…I felt so powerful.

I found a new appreciation for my body and I fell in love with myself–with all women’s bodies and then it hit me…I realized that I hated the idea of Beyonce and other celebrities like her because they devalue the female body as only an instrument for sex.  Women are sometimes ashamed to breastfeed in public because this “developed” society has shamed the female body by reducing it to nothing more than an object to be associated with sex.   Now, instead of breasts being recognized as an instrument of feeding and nourishing a new life, they are nothing more than toys to be jiggled or gawked at during or before sex.  They’ve perverted our bodies and women like Beyonce help them to do it. This is why I don’t like her, or anyone like her.  It just bothers me that for some reason these traits seen so very clearly in the likes of Trina, Lil’ Kim or Nikki Minaj somehow escape “King Bey”.

beyonce-carter-2013trina-4

Beyonce-GQ-Outtakes-7lil-kim-2

Our bodies are more than sex, and even more powerful than our ability to woo a man with our hips, is the power we have to push one through them.  Don’t get me wrong, the female body is one of God’s most beautiful creations, and our sexual assets are some of the most beautiful parts, but we are more than that.  So much more.  I just can’t accept this society’s ignorance to that fact or their refusal to acknowledge it by pushing sex to us as if the number of free drinks we can get in the club is all that defines our worth.  Our bodies are sacred temples responsible for every life that exists on this earth.  That is powerful.  I could go on and on about this, but I’ll save the details for another post.  Before you go, check out this poem.  It’s a perfect display of the shame associated with women doing what God created them to do.  Hope you enjoy it.

The Problem With Labeling…

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” 13th Amendment to the Constitution

labeling

  • Attach a label to (something)
    • – she labeled the parcels neatly, writing the addresses in capital letters
  • Assign to a category, esp. inaccurately or restrictively
    • – children were labeled as bullies
    • – the critics labeled him a loser

Give a name to (something)

  • – she labeled his new Riviera a “Star Wars” car

WARNING: This video contains graphic content and that may not be “suitable” for younger audiences.  Viewer discretion is advised

Was all of that really necessary? 

What does labeling have to do with any of it?  Let’s see…

 

Labels encourage the grouping of mass numbers of people into a single category.  It assigns a definition–attributes to be associated with every person falling beneath that label.  In particular, labeling someone a criminal defines them, by social standards, as: evil, inhumane, subhuman, and degenerative by nature.  Personified, a criminal harms people, steals things and/or sells drugs.  That’s what “people like them” do.

This is dangerous.

By labeling, we forfeit our opportunity to discover who “these people” truly are because the label they’ve been assigned defines them for us.  What need, then, is there to investigate further?  We already know who they are, what they are, and what they believe.  They are different kinds of people–unlike ourselves: human beings who require and deserve fair and just treatment– the basic human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  However, once we’ve disassociated ourselves from this group of “others” we tolerate any mistreatment they endure because their label suggests that they deserve whatever treatment befalls them. They are not, after all, humans like us. They are criminals.

While humans should not be locked away in cages and treated like animals, criminals should; but is that really fair?  What happens when these “criminals” are released back into society?  Don’t they at least deserve to be given the opportunity to become more than their assigned label?  Then why don’t we give them these chances?  Why can’t many of them vote?  Why are they legally denied employment?  These are things no human deserves to endure but criminals do?  What, about stealing out of desperation, or selling illegal substances changes human desires and needs?

What we miss, when writing off individuals labeled “criminals”, is the logical and critical assessment of these “others” and their situations.  Who are these so called “criminals”?  Where do they come from?  What physical, social, geographic, economic, and psychological climate fostered the “type of people” they’ve become?  Can it really be written off as a coincidence that a great number of those with the misfortune of falling into criminal activities are produced by strikingly similar environments?  How can cycles of poverty continue to breed crime and raise staggering numbers in imprisonment and no effort be made to attack the true source?  Why is there no public outcry for it?  Why?  It is simple: no one cares.  Very few people make it past the label of “criminal” long enough to investigate the possibility that humanity resides in these individuals.  Whatever woes they have, because of their degenerative nature, are by their own doing.  It’s what “people like them” do, so no one cares.

Labels work the same way in all their uses, and are the very tools used by oppressors to legitimize the maltreatment of those they oppress.  We’ve seen it throughout history during imperial conquests of indigenous lands where Christianity was the name in which “explorers” exterminated nations of people and claimed the land as their own.  The people were labeled “savages” and “heathens” and so no one objected to their genocides because it was an evil necessary to save their souls.

Propaganda was also used heavily to legitimize American Chattel slavery, and it was constitutionally reasoned that slaves should not be counted as people, but as property.  Minstrel shows were implemented to enforce the idea of black inferiority and black people were thus labeled as stupid, lazy and frivolous.  There were even scientific studies conducted to prove that blacks people are less intelligent than white people because black people have smaller brains.  Today, as a result of this propaganda, this theory is still supported by some.

So what is the meaning of it all?  What is the thesis of this blog?  It is simple: labeling is not only wrong, or mean, or rude, but it is dangerous.

At the source of every inhumane act that takes place, you will find labels.  The bombings of the Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were authorized because the 350,000 innocent civilians who were killed were labeled “enemies”.  Soldiers killing and bombing innocent women, men and children believe they are protecting their country from “the Taliban” and we, U.S. citizens, are okay with that because we believe the same.  Those containing and torturing prisoners in American war prisons, Guantanamo Bay and in Abu Ghraib carry out these horrific acts of violence driven by belief in the same labels.  The prisoners cease to be people, and instead transform into “enemies” and so their torture and mistreatment is justified.  The 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust were labeled “impure” and so their mass death was justified as a cleansing in preservation of the Aryan race.

This could go on, and on, and on, but I assure you that the first step in mass or minor ill-treatment of individuals is removing their humanity from the sight of the public and replacing it with a label that serves to justify anything done to them.  This is the case with the word “criminal” and it is the reason that numbers in incarceration constantly rise.  It is the reason the prisoners in the video lose their rights as human beings simply because they’ve broken laws made by men.  If Jesus, who was perfect, can forgive, seek to understand, and save prostitutes and thieves, can’t we imperfect human beings find more merciful ways than confinement and torture to rehabilitate these same transgressors?

How long will we aid violence and torture with silence?  How long will we agree to the reduction of human rights before we realize that, as Dr. King famously stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”?  When will we realize what that means?  Will it take our own children, or even our own selves going to prison?  Will it take our homes being bombed and our friends and families being kidnapped and tortured?  As a society we must realize that our actions, our thoughts, our decisions, and our voices are linked to those of our neighbor.  Of the two most important commandments, Jesus declared loving your neighbor as yourself second only to loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  If Jesus thought to mention this commandment in such high regard, it’s about time that we regard it the same by mentally placing it into our personal ideology and by physically putting it into our daily and long-term practices.

If you’d like to read further, here are some books that opened my eyes to the slavery that is the prison system:

Are Prisons Obsolete by Angela Y. Davis

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon

Uprising: Understanding Attica, Revolution, and the Incarceration State by Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly

Where Have All the Good Black Men Gone?

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Nowhere, yet this question is asked as if aliens dropped down one day and beamed all “good black men” into hovercrafts called “marriage” and “homosexuality”.  I say this because the complaint is always the same when I talk to single women: “All the ‘good black men’ are either married/taken or gay”. 

But that’s not true.

It’s honestly more of an excuse–an easy cop out that we can use to remove or ignore the part we play in our own plight and remove the responsibility that God gave us for our own lives.

To say that “all the ‘good black men’ are taken or married” is to admit that at one point they were “free” or single (because otherwise we would be suggesting they were born in relationships and we know that is not possible).

So who are these “good black men” and who are these women who have “taken” them?

I don’t know every man there is, but I do know a lot of good ones.  Some are married, some are engaged, some are in relationships and some are single.  The ones in relationships are men who love and respect their woman without fear or shame.  They do not cheat or play games or entertain loose women, or men who would encourage them do so.  They are kind and gentle to thier mate and respectful and considerate of her feelings.  They are honest and straight forward about their feelings for her, they provide support to her and they realize that they need her just as she needs them.  They are not superficial, but are modest, decent, non-confrontational and they actively avoid situations that may compromise their relationship.

These men are not flashy and they do not need or even desire validation from other men or from other women.  Their focus, their first priority is their relationship with their mate because it matters to them.  Their happiness and their sense of peace is directly tied to the happiness and sense of peace and security that they provide to their spouse.  They are real men.

Just as I know these men, I know their wives, their fiancees and their girlfriends.  Who are these women?  Who are the women, often referred to as “lucky” who have “taken” these “good black men” off the market?  Like their mates, they are women who love and respect their man without fear or shame.  They do not cheat or play games or entertain loose men or women who would encourage them do so.  They are kind and gentle to thier mate and respectful and considerate of his feelings.  They are honest and straight forward about their feelings for him, provide support to him and they realize that they need him just as he needs them.  They are not superficial, but they are modest, decent, non-confrontational and they actively avoid situations that may compromise their relationship.

These women are not flashy and they do not need or even desire validation from other women or from other men.  Their focus, their first priority is their relationship with their mate because it matters to them.  Their happiness and their sense of peace is directly tied to the happiness and sense of peace and security that they provide to their spouse.  They are real women.

The couples that I know, the couple the my husband and I are, are made up of two individual people who share the same sense of value for their mind, for their body, and for thier spirit.  Before they were two beautiful people in love with each other, they were two beautiful people in love with themselves.  Before he was a “taken” good black man, he was a single good black man who desired all of the things he found in his mate–at the time a single black woman. 

In all things in life, we have to first become what we say we want.  I cannot cry and beg God to make me a world-renowned writer if no one even knows that I write.  I have to first believe that a career in writing is possible, and I then have to realize that how successful I am in that career is in my hands.  I have to understand that nothing short of my own actions will put my desires and my dreams into motion.  A writing career is not going to fall from the sky and God isn’t going to give me anything I’m not willing to work for. 

If I want to be a writer I have to create an environment of writing around my life.  I have to be serious about my endevour and put my energy into making my desire come true.  I have to participate in events that involve writing–events that make it evident to the rest of the world that I have a passion, an interest, a talent for writing.  I have to make myself a writer in my eyes first, and then I have to make what I say I want evident to the world around me.  Then, when someone is looking for a writer, or a judge in a poetry competition, or a partner in a writing project I can come to mind because I’ve presented myself as a writer.  I have to put time and effort into it.   

The same is true for relationships.  Sisters, we cannot cry and beg God for a “good man” when we are not willing to put any effort into finding him ourselfves.  We have to first become what we say we want.  We have to first believe that a loving relationship is possible, and we then have to realize that how successful we are in that relationship is in our hands.  We have to understand that our actions put our desires and our dreams into motion.  A  “good black man” is not going to just fall from the sky and answer all our prayers.  Not going to happen.  Ever.

If we want to be a wife, we have to create a wifely aura around our life.  We have to be serious about our endevour and put our energy into making our desire come true.  We have to make that desire evident to the rest of the world.  We have to make ourselves wives in our eyes first, and then we have to make what we say we want evident to the world around us.  Then, when a brother is looking for a “good black woman”–a wife, we come to mind because we’ve presented ourselves as women who can be “wiffed”.  We have to put time and effort into it, just like anything else.  We cannont demand and expect to get a “good black man” if we are not first good black women.

What am I saying?    Simply put: “The law of attraction is this: you do not attract what you want. You attract what you are”.  You will never become anyone’s wife if you constantly settle for being a side chick, a booty call, a mistreated lover, a a friend with benifits, etc. etc.  Change who you are, and you change who you attract.  So where are the good black men? Somewhere looking for good black women. Are you identifiable? Think about it.