Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Love Letter to a Bus Rider

This post is partially inspired by readings completed for Session II: Mothering Ourselves of Summer of Our Lorde.

The third myth of black women's self-perfection according to Audre Lorde:

"That perfection is possible, a correct expectation from ourselves and each other, and the only terms of acceptance, humanness. (Not how very useful that makes us to the external institutions!) If you are like me, then you will have to be a lot better than I am in order to even be good enough. And you can't be because no matter how good you are you're still a Black woman, just like me. (Who does she think she is?) So any act or idea that I could accept or at least examine from anyone else is not even tolerable if it comes from you, my mirror image. If you are not THEIR image of perfection, and you can't ever be because you are a Black woman, then you are a reflection upon me. We are never good enough for each other. All your faults become magnified reflections of my own threatening inadequacies. I must attack you first before our enemies confuse us with each other. But they will anyway."
I am processing being yelled at by a young black woman on the bus today because her nephew was hitting the back of my seat, because her nephew was hitting my back, because I looked up from my book and back at him with a pointed glance meant to condemn her maternal misbehavior, because who-did-I-think-I-was to look at her nephew any kind of way, because "she act like somebody wanna touch her anyway!"

Who was wrong?

Me? For the quiet glance I sent backwards that was meant to let her know I did not appreciate having my personal space violated any more than it already was on a crowded metro bus? Was I vibrating my class/color privilege from what I thought was a neutral posture of preoccupied scholarship?

Her? For giving a five year old boy liberties with my body and distancing herself from me in the same breath as someone too good, who thinks she's too good, who thinks someone wants to touch her, who thinks that book, or that backpack, or that aloof stance is going to protect her from the reality of black poverty in the air around me?
"I must attack you first before our enemies confuse us."
But if "they will anyway" why this anger? Why this vitrolic self-hatred that spirals outwards from her to me and back again?

Why did I look down my nose so easily at her nephew, before I knew he was her nephew, when I thought he was her son, when I thought she was just another young, black mother with an out of control child?
"One Black woman sits and silently judges another, how she looks, how she acts, how she impresses others. The first woman's scales are weighted against herself."
Black Girl with a Nephew, I am writing this to you. We both made mistakes earlier today. And I hold you accountable for your anger. But I don't hold you responsible for it. How can I? I love you as I love myself. Which may not be saying much--not yet. But perhaps we can work on this together.
"How often have I demanded from another Black woman what I have not dared to give myself--acceptance, faith, enough space to consider change? How often have I asked her to leap across differences, suspicion, distrust, old pain? How many times have I expected her to jump the hideous gaps of our learned despisals alone, like an animal trained through blindness to ignore the precipice? How many times have I forgotten to ask this question?"
After all, I can't heal as a woman of color until I begin to see my image more fully in the image of you, my sister. At the end of the day, I'm more in love with womankind than I am with my own individual self.
"I am hungry for Black women who will not turn from me in anger and contempt even before they know me or hear what I have to say. I am hungry for Black women who will not turn away from me even if they do not agree with what I say. We are, after all, talking about different combination of the same borrowed sounds."
I am starving for it, actually. Wasting away to my bones for a taste of it. Lusting in every cell of my body with desire for it.

That includes you, Black Girl with a Nephew. Like it or not. Disdain it or not. Reject it or not. Love is love. And I am a jealous, brazen, warrior lover, and I won't be taking no for an answer. My love doesn't need your permission or acknowledgment. It just is. As my anger just is. As I just am. As the feminine Spirit just is.

And, meanwhile, I "reach, advancing with the best of what I have to offer held out at arms length before me--myself."

I hope we grapple again in person, Black Girl with a Nephew. But I will grapple with you in spirit for the rest of my life.

Have a blessed day,


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