I have been working on writing a letter to black men for months now and every draft is more disappointing than the last. On one hand, the letter tries to speak to the realization that as much as I thought I saw black men as humans, I really just saw what I expected them to be or what they ought to be, which added to my disappointment when they didn’t reach my activist expectations . I didn’t see the violence. On the other hand, that realization only came after weeks of soul searching and grappling with decades of pain and rejection I felt from black men as a black woman. It seems that between black men and black women, we are struggling to see each other as complex, broken, and wounded humans made of blood and bone. And if you don’t identify as a black woman or a black man, you’re even more invisible and rejected for your very existence because we are all struggling and fighting for legitimacy in a white, capitalist , and patriarchal world bent on keeping us all a divided underclass.
Every time I try to write the letter, I am either too apologetic or too aggressive. I realized months ago that it hurts me rather than heals me to shit on black men. I hate that my efforts to have a perhaps a private conversation with black men about our issues is weaponized by white men to justify black cultural inferiority and death.
When I sit with my sorrow and pain over my experiences of colorism or black men who say white women provide simpler relationships, I catch myself holding the wall trying not to break down in tears. Everyday black men tell me that I am not enough, but of course this isn’t all black men and I know that. It just seems like all those tumblr/instagram Joseph Bennet like men who want to love black women and black folk are few and far between.
Then you have black men who root their love for black women in how they love their mothers and grandmamas. How do I even begin to explain that loving your black mama does not necessarily mean you know what it means to love a black woman that is not your mama. Because what that sounds like is that you will love me as long as I fulfill your needs. You will love me as long as I take care of you and allow you to stay a boy and not see me as an equal. Honey, these tits ain’t free.
I am growing to accept that I will be alone but not lonely if the only relationship I can have with men is that of dependence and men that are so attached to sexist organizations of family,control, and power.
But don’t get it twisted, this journey to try to see more of the violence that may blind black men from seeing me as human helps me see the scars, which I think helps me learn how to love them more wholly. Make no mistake, my love is not rooted in sympathy or wanting to care for a wounded bird. I can only handle the brokenness if we are both doing the work to be broken together. I have grown tired of the one way care, but I love my black brothers more than I ever have before. And when I say love, I do not mean some warped obsession or infatuation. I mean a commitment to sharing and growing spiritually. I mean a love that encompasses care, affection, responsibility, trust, commitment, and knowledge.
But even with these words and even with what I have found, theorizing why they may be blind to seeing me as human or seeing me truly at all does not excuse many black men for telling me how much they hate every day. For even bringing up the matter of colorism and misogynoir, I am called petty, bitter, and a traitor. I’m not sorry, but helping white men tie nooses around black women and black folks’ necks with the acceptance of white supremacy is not petty, it’s reality, it’s dangerous, it’s violent. None of us, black and brown folk, are safe even when we follow the rules.
One day I hope I can write that letter with compassion and assertiveness but still reveal wounds, speak truth, and seek justice.