Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quote of the Week: Zora Neale Hurston

"Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tub find out. Maybe it’s some place off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don’t know nothin’ but we see. So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so far as Ah can see."
~ Zora Neale Hurtson from Their Eyes Are Watching God

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What Man Is This?

This is the last weekend before the BIG election and the country seems well-poised to elect into the highest office in the land a Hawaiian-New Yorker-Chicagoian born of a Kenyan man and a white woman from Kansas. What has America come to? Could it be that the collective "we" are at the highest point of so-called consciousness in this country? Is it possible that the collective "we" are really headed to (or residing in) a "post-racial" America? Have we arrived at a place where a Black man can be other than a brute, a buck, or a nigger? The last question, though related to the first three, is the focus of Byron Hurt's latest documentary film "Barack & Curtis." He explores manhood, power, and respect in this 10 minute short.

The lives of Black men (and Black people, in general) are complex, varied, and sacred. Hard for some non-Black people to believe, but the lives of Black men are pulled and pushed by the same basic forces that pull or push other people's lives. The framework, however, is the difference. The intensity and nuances of those forces are different, too. The mass media, however, would have one believe that Black men are other than normal people. Popular definitions, left unchallenged, often depict Black men as essentially angry, dangerous, hostile, revengeful, sex-driven, money-motivated, narrow-minded, super athletic or agile, and unintelligent. Within popular conversations, some even argue that society made them that way. Specifically, the slavery and the fire hoses during "the Martin Luther King days" probably made them that way. So depending on who you are and how you think, you will either embrace or fear Black men based on these media driven definitions.

An intelligent challenge to the popular definitions of Black manhood, however, would not start with putting him in the context of slavery, jim crow, his citizenry, his economic status, his environment, his sexual orientation, his spiritual beliefs, nor his relationship to white men. Not at all. The first examination of what it means to be a Black man is to recognize, first, that we are discussing the life and manner and soul of a human being. The dressing, the labels, the unique characteristics, the contextualizations are required learning for this discussion, I agree. They come, though, after the recognition that we are trying to understand what it means to be human in society that operates on political, economic, and social systems that, in affect, govern, support, stifle, validate, and marginalizes people based on their race, gender, and class status.

What is inherent in the examining of Black men is a soulful yearning. Beyond the intellectual and sor some the curious...

Barack & Curtis starts the conversation that challenges that belief. Take a look