I don’t know if I’ve been all that great. I’ve been upset by some things that have gone on. What I’ve read on blogs and elsewhere and heard from others about being a Black woman in certain academic settings has for me, over the past months, come into full view. It makes me wonder what all is going on — or, where I’m headed with this breastfeeding ‘stuff’. Another reason I don’t think I’ve been doing all that great lately is because I feel like I’ve had a difficult time making real connections with other Black women. If this is really happening (and it seems like it is) it has really frustrated me and has also made me think.
In what was a truly incredible ordeal dealing with anti-Black racism perpetuated by other Women of Color, I feel that the whole debacle ended up devastating a lot of things for me. All of which not only hurt my feelings, upset me and made me pissed, but when I began to work through it, trying to process and make sense of it all it made me start questioning other things. Lately, I’ve tried to, instead of thinking of certain instances as ‘lost causes,’ have attempted to look for the greater meaning or the lesson that the universe is trying to teach me — that I need to think about, and so maybe this is mine — on love.
Here’s a little story: (This is not the recent ‘incredible ordeal’ that I just mentioned, btw — I’ll write all about that when the time is right). Near the end of last year I told a Black woman I no longer wished to speak to her. Well, the exchange that happened between the two of us that day didn’t go nearly as smoothly as I have just described it. Nevertheless, from my perspective (she has her own, of course), I made the decision that I could no longer place any more effort on trying to salvage what always seemed to go wrong, after what I believe was a considerable amount of effort I placed on trying to make things work. For a while my heart ached every day over what I will term was our ‘disconnect,’ and I was an emotional wreck. Regardless of what manifested verbally between us two, as far as wanting the best, clearly this was not a fruitful connection. I’m using this particular story as an example in this blog post not because I’m trying to put my business in the street, but because I really feel and believe that of my 37 years on this planet, it was being in that relationship (or, after it ended quite less than amicably) is when it truly began to hit me about what it means to zoom out and radically examine what it means to ‘go hard’ for Black women, and lead with love — even in the face of ‘disconnect’ — and I wondered if I am even up for that kind of task. It made me question my own authenticity.
My friend articulated so perfectly what I was attempting to tell her when I was talking to her about what I’ve been going through lately and what I’ve been feeling; if we feel Black women were not supportive of us and/or really hurt us, etc., how do we respond to this via protecting ourselves and being assertive, so to speak, in order to recognize that we don’t want to create the same scenario and project what is unloving back onto them. Well, she said it much, much better but that is a decent gist.
I don’t want anyone to mistakenly think this post is about one type of relationship. I’m talking about Black women in all of our interactions together with one another — in every capacity.
Do we try to heal our interpersonal relationships as much as we challenge racism, just as one example? And if we don’t and walk away does it mean we’re only interested in seeing how much we can challenge structural issues all the way ‘up there,’ without paying more attention to the Black woman who is right in front of us? Especially those who are faced with unique challenges — racism, gender discrimination, etc that has shaped the way we interact (or don’t interact) with each other? I’m not saying that we remain involved in relationships and situations that are clearly unhealthy for us AT ALL, but do we only want ‘the best’ when things go the way we want them to and back off when they don’t? I’m finding these are the questions that flood my mind.
Black Feminist theorists, activists, our foresisters and foremothers told us to ‘lift as we climb’ — and grab hold of other Black women as we ourselves work to get to the next plateau, because we are our sister’s keeper — and we have a unique convergence of challenges. I have always thought about this in the context of social progress and equity — education, employment, helping to challenge structural injustice, for example. I’m beginning to think my understanding of this is pretty naive, but recently I’ve begun to see this as something deeper. What about other situations? What if there are circumstances beyond this person’s control — mental health or other issues — or something of that sort or nothing of that sort. Are we to try to ‘stick it out’? If they are in our social circle and we let go and release them because the grasp from the ‘issues’ whatever it/they may be is just too much — are we not ‘lifting’? Not being true to ourselves — or to each other and anyone else who will undoubtedly be impacted — who knows how far-reaching that will be. And since we recognize that do we keep going out of our way for each other, even if we feel unsupported or like someone has ‘kicked us to the curb,’ betrayed or dissed us or we just don’t connect. I’m not trying to romanticize everything and paint a picture where I think everything and everyone is perfect or should be — looking through a rose-colored stained glass window. But I’m asking where does love fit in in these contexts? How does it factor into the whole healing process that we’re looking for and wanting of community? How does it look?
I’ve been slowly reading bell hooks’ All About Love: New Visions, because I’m on a hunt to figure out what exactly it entails to go past the surface. Even though I’ve never ever thought of myself as a surface-type of person — in fact, I always thought I was pretty deep and forgiving and have even OVER extended myself quite a bit throughout my life, even though at some points when I recognized the efforts were not returned (but who hasn’t felt that way?) — like the example I told you above, among others — giving rides, taking time off to help someone out, staying up late listening in, and more. I put a lot of energy into building relationships that are important to me. I do a lot, and give a lot of myself. I always have. I know that people have also done the same for me.
But is that love?
According to bell hooks, ‘caring’ is only one aspect of love, and ‘to truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients — care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment and trust as well as open and honest communication.’ Experiencing love as a woman, she says, is a more complex because what we have seen largely reflects the confines and control of a patriarchal structure. How does race factor in? Love sees no color, but society does and there are complications to it — and like I said there is a story that goes along with these complications and a legacy that has helped shape how Black women (do or do not) interact with one another. bell hooks herself said she didn’t know what love was, even after growing up in a caring household and also being in relationships where she thought love was present, but like others who believe the same, that wasn’t the case. She says that ‘cathexis’ is what most people have operated by, because it simply gives us a feeling of being emotionally connected to another, yet that is not love, and instead most people are comforted by a feeling of emotional attachments and want the benefits of love but are afraid of doing the work and taking the risks involved to get to that point. She also said that any social justice movement must have love as a component. So, when I am, or you are devastated that some things haven’t worked out, do we still even continue to heal in the aspect and work as best as we can to display love? How much should we try to heal each other ‘on the ground’? And when do we let go? Many other folks — and in this text also, say that love, first must begin within ourselves — loving ourselves. Of course I believe that and know that to be true, but what happens with others around us right now? Dang. I feel like I’m not making myself as clear as I would like, and I wish I had the time to do so and discuss more about this in the way I really want and need to. But I don’t, because I’ve got a ton of my own school work and some grading to do, and so I hope you can make sense of this in the meantime.
What should the picture on love look like? What does the quote below ‘The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is a love does. Love in an act of will -namely, both an attention and an action. We do not have to love. We choose to love,’ mean to you?
What does love look like to you?