Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Black Man's Bitter Letter to Bitter Black Women -- No Way to Heal

An Open Letter to Bitter Women (The Bridge, Salon.com) by Darryl James, unknown to me before now, but apparently an author and radio personality, caught my eye, as did some of the comments. Tough going. It read like a rant about bitter Black women, our generalizing about our bad experiences with men, our failure to take responsibility for our role in the poor relationships we've had, and our need to be more critical of some aspects of feminism (not sure which ones), and about our need to get real, referring to our saying, maybe acting like we don't need men and then complaining about not being able to find any. His points seem reasonable but they came for consumption like cherry tomatoes covered in cactus thorns. It's not surprising that the contempt escalated in the comments. Though Darryl proposes we talk with each other and not at each other, his delivery seems infused with the same animosity he opposes in sisters. It's understandable because harsh energy is such a trigger.
And we have plenty of anger leftover from yesterday and centuries, so holding back, especially when our jobs or lives don't appear to be at stake, is a serious challenge.

A beautiful poem I found in The African magazine some years ago surfaced from memory. It blew me away -- the witnessing by a brother of a sister's shut down heart, his desire to know what in the past had done that to her, and moreover, his willingness to be present to her anger and hurt, to honor it. Now that's a conversation, a connection that portends healing. If I can locate the brother and get his permission I will publish it in the future.

We can't wave bitterness away with a wand or demand it vacate. What is it anyway? I can readily connect to the experience of anger and hurt, but bitter seems to add another ingredient, something like dry ice that burns, or something that can cast a poisonous veil over the future. But what is that if not the most brittle form of self-protection -- to incinerate dreams to keep disappointment at bay, to build a wall a mile out from your heart. Sometimes that's where people need to be -- to stay safe, but if that's where they make a permanent home, healing will not visit.

The caustic tongue of bitterness or what bell hooks calls tongues of fire in Sisters of the Yam may speak of many things that have gone on and are going on in a life. But nonetheless I'm all too aware that it is especially challenging when the heat seems to roar in our direction. Our best, at some moments, is to make a u turn, or to stay the course and return fire. But when we can have the presence of mind to wonder what may have hurt the brother or sister so, maybe we can offer a magnolia, something soft and gentle. I'm working on it.

Photo by thandiwe.

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