Balancing the yin & yang

I just watched the newest episode of “The Grapevine,” a Youtube series I often watch. The episode revolved around the very public and quite timely, backlash against toxic masculinity. As the topic unfurled, what I found most interesting was the emphasis on understanding the nuances of displaying that degree of masculinity. Humans inherently have both feminine and masculine energies within the same body; they are then either nurtured through positive feedback or quelled through “auto-correction,” as Doug said. What we fail to realize on a grand scale is that by favoring either of those energies within one person, we inevitably force them to choose which of the two becomes their lifeline.

Subconsciously, a man who is told he cannot play with dolls, or a girl reprimanded for playing kickball, will choose the energy that at best, allows them to survive in the space allotted to them by society. Notice I’m emphasizing that the choice is a subconscious one; one does not often decide “this is how I need to act to function in my gender-biased society.” Instead it is the fanaticism in our approval or disapproval of certain behaviors and activities that slowly form little beliefs within a person that guide their future actions. Over time, a little boy denied a doll will learn that dolls cannot be for boys via negative feedback. He will subconsciously reason that he was not allowed to have a doll because he is a boy and therefore, no boys should have dolls; the same can be said for many women who experience the same feedback as children. Often, it will be these very people that will perpetuate the same narrow concepts forced upon them and reinforce their subconscious behaviors by imposing those engrained beliefs onto a new group of unsuspecting children. The same can be said for boys and girls who received positive reinforcement about their “supposed” gender-appropriate likes, seeing them also grow to believe that the way they are is how men/women simply are.

In both instances, the subconscious beliefs reinforced throughout life will influence the ways in which these people associate with gender. The biggest difference is that for those who received negative feedback, their eventual acclimation to societal standards is by force and simultaneously creates resentment towards anyone that does not adhere, themselves included. This is the basis of toxic masculinity and it shows itself as intolerance, aggression and apathy for the experiences of the other side. The latter group often acclimates without the same resentments and also reserves the choice to redefine gender if need be. This is a luxury we misunderstand, and so we continue to make boys/girls think being a boy/girl is more about their actions than their self- identification.

When we feel gender needs to be a specific way that is by definition, toxic. Anything without balance is toxic. A man who thinks to be a man means forceful exertion of his energy is a problem. A woman who projects those views onto a man by calling him effeminate for grooming himself for example, is also toxic. Regardless of the sex of the instigator, when it comes from a place of rigidity, toxicity ensues. What we need to emphasize more than actions, are mindsets that encourage children to just enjoy what they like. However deeply we are committed to that is one thing, but we must collectively acknowledge that gender is so wrapped up in these abstract ideals that make people fit into them when it should be the reverse.

Gender roles do not need to be banished, but there needs to be a fluidity that allows someone to be who they are and still identify as they please. Life is not a puzzle with right and wrong configurations, it is forever dynamic. It cannot be appropriate for us or our larger society to tell anyone that they can only be one way to be themselves. We damage our children first, and hinder our future selves when we decide that A is for one, B is for another, and never the twain shall meet.

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Lightly infused with a sprig of self-hate.

He stood there, proudly, and called her a whore after making her a whore the night before.

Lightly infused with a sprig of self-hate,

he inundated this lovely woman’s frame with all the arm cuts he wished to give himself.

Higher and higher up her arm he went, because better her than him;

because better she be ridiculed than he be shamed;

because better she be blamed.

My mouth gaping open in indignation, tumult and frustration I screamed out loud in solidarity with the whore.

With the slut,

the woman-friend,

the concubine,

the Miss on-the-side.

She was chosen and she was flung,

like an old candy wrapper never honored enough to be kept in shape so the leftovers would have a home to which they could return.

No, she was never desired enough to not be ripped to shreds every time. 

And people wonder why women shriek in disgust at every proclamation of a lover better than the moon “beating it up.”

Is there confusion about me not wanting to be a part of your self-centered pre-fantasy?

How could I stand to hear how you made her a conquest ready for the presses early next morning?

I won’t listen to you treat me like fruit meant to be eaten and never enjoyed.

I won’t stand to hear my sister just be yesterday to your today; you’ve moved on but here we are,

with permanent scars that can never be erased only lightened and scrubbed til faint, over and over and over as we wait.

We wait to be seen, we wait to be wanted, wait to be heard, wait for someone to really listen.

We wait for the conquest to end with a booty of treasure that someone actually wants the next day, we wait for the next guy to determine if yesterday’s assessment is worthy to stay.

We’ve waited,

we’ve waited,

we’ve waited,

we wait.

Breaking News: Black is..

Is it wrong that I would love to hear another white person crying wolf because they’ve been rightfully chewed out for appropriating our blackness? Let’s not act like people of another color can’t partake in our culture, and let’s also not act as if the entire world hasn’t been keeping darker people at arm’s length until the point at which it became mutually beneficial to commune. Since when were cornrows, bantu knots, big butts, big lips, twerking, Afrocentric styles or even our names in style? Ah, yes… since Amy hashtagged it. Amy isn’t real—but she doesn’t have to be, quite honestly. The world would gleefully accept whatever she serves because she’s Amy. She’s mainstream. She’s the representation of everything our media presents as good and worthy and to most of the world, Amy can do no wrong. Talk about powerful marketing. 

Let us not mistake this as an attempt to viciously pull down the carefully constructed image of the American white woman, rather an attempt to examine the chasm between the image of her and the seemingly opposite Black/Latina woman. The double standards regarding the etiquette, beauty and fashion standards of Black/Latina women are egregious and only point to the ever-present disdain this country has for women of color. Our mainstream media has no problem not only confirming, but constructing this unnatural phenomenon, painting women of color as beings to be tolerated—and sometimes imitated, but never appreciated. I fought this belief for years, never wanting to believe in a well-orchestrated effort to diminish the power and strength in the beauty of our dark skin. But it’s real. Our very being seems to be the issue worldwide; and with such a negative connotation following us, it’s no wonder that every instance of our culture is discounted when we are the ones at the helm of these traditions. Why does my nose, my blackened lips, or even my natural hair exclude me from the mainstream conversation but catapult others to the height of fame? In a country so full of exciting, even “exotic” cultural differences, the standard for beauty is, and has always been, one-tone. 

Even more concerning than being culturally imitated or ignored is the long-standing work of mainstream media that proliferates this pervasive idea that dark is synonymous with bad and is something to be feared. This has been a driving force in the production and dissemination of modern media outlets. Fear is the emotion off of which this idea is solidified in the world, and further exemplified as people accept popular news to be truth and act accordingly. As opinion becomes subconscious truth, an environment of hostility is created and even flourishes as people perpetuate these self-fulfilling prophecies. 

The constant effort to degrade the character of the Black/Latino man/woman is directly linked to colonization and centuries of learned self-hate within our communities. Even after trans-Atlantic slavery, the remnants of blatant prejudice are here, wrapped up into institutional bias where we dare not question their validity.

In no uncertain terms, I am tired of being the face of destitute living. I am over being the butt of a cultural joke, underwhelmed at the environment at large that encourages this concerted effort, and despairing of the many bystanders that make us feel like we, in fact, are in the wrong. If we’re honest, the picture painted of us has already stuck. The mass marketing effort to destroy the public and private image of Black and Latino people is wildly blatant, and yet, we continue to neglect to have conversations about the pervasiveness of anti-Blackness propaganda. If we’re really honest, we’ll admit that this deeply-engrained picture is the very reason we must fight so hard against a perpetual double standard.  

The travesty in it all is that if never questioned, media outlets have no incentive to produce anything that contradicts the status quo; they continue to regularly exclude and vilify people of color amid growing fanfare. America is getting back to its rotten roots, now further highlighted by the string of killings targeted at people of color. Sadly enough, the modern world can finally see the ugliness at the heart of this country’s foundation, but it simply mirrors the discourse happening in millions of living rooms as we speak. Or type.

define: God

full, stop.

So much all wrapped in love,

in one with my spirit, and

in love with peace, He is.

He makes me drink from the glass of forgiveness forever on tap,

and

I horde

the unfamiliar taste of “it’s okay.”

in awe,

in full.

“sit down, shut up.”

I really want to explore the real narrative in the new environment of America. In this case, I am specifically referring to people of color speaking up in spaces of influence and being shunned, financially or otherwise.

Yes, Colin Kaepernick is the most readily visible person on the receiving end of this, but he is not alone. Far from it. In fact, his very public black-balling confirms the precarious notion that people of color need to exist in a purgatory of sorts when they have enough influence to… influence. They are called to be visible, but silent.

We see this all the time; someone intelligently speaks up and loses a sponsorship, or is suddenly out of a lucrative position. I can understand protecting the positive face of a  brand, but there is a pervasive idea that if you’re Black, you should relegate yourself to that of an entertainer only, as if your intelligent thoughts would disrupt a delicate ecosystem. I often notice that when people of color speak up about socially-polarizing issues (insert police brutality, economic policy, redlining, etc.) they are readily met with resistance, and an overwhelming plea to “sit down and shut up,” for lack of a better phrase. What the resistors mean to say is, they cannot possibly listen to your plight, because it is not their own, and that fact alone is enough to negate the depth of your statements.

If we consider the colonial origins of this hush culture, we also have to consider that people of color were expected to be entertaining fare, not master scholars. Though they were present, the scholarly within our communities were stifled as a preventive measure. To make us entertainment is only standard in the process of dehumanizing us and normalizing disregard. It is only by devaluing what we have to offer that one can solidify their contempt.

In many ways, there still seems to be a genuine fear of our culture, power and rhetoric when we look inward from without. From a war perspective, the imperialists’ objective is to swiftly break down the mental resolve of the locals by taking away every opportunity to lead, learn, advance, commune and create. Practically, this transalates into crackdowns on reading and critical thinking, curfews, censorship, and degrading familial bonds. The danger we inherently possess lies in our refusal to be subdued as a people, although we have assimilated to and even expanded American culture. Black people remain a vocal group, and though this is our greatest strength, this is the very reason our voices are being quieted. Because we are vocal in an environment demanding our silence, many Black-centric issues are muffled, and we find our stories directed by stakeholders all too ready to morph them into divisive headlines.

Our stories cannot be molded by anyone other than us, and still be expected to retain their bones. Even more still, we must speak. We must write. We must produce our stories, and allow our rhetoric to live in public spaces if we want to control the Black narrative around the world. Black is not bad. Rather than lament over the intrinsic role of our domestic media in fostering this anti-Blackness, I want us to be the antithesis to it. Everywhere. Black is not bad. We need to unlearn the subconscious beliefs we hold that affirm imperialism and its very intended consequences, then we need to share. As our real stories disseminate, we can create an environment of Black appreciation, rather than admonishment. The object is not to avenge, the object is to increase the pool of information. Our point is to rebrand black by humanizing ourselves with our stories, and with our pain, love, struggle and insecurity, perhaps we can become human enough for these experiences to resonate.

If I had a title..

Stagnation bleeding into deprivation
A regression in gestation,
seems my mind’s been on vacation

Observer

iris: I

        risk

    my 

        sight as I peer into your life.