Apologetics: My Strange Fixation with White Women

Alternative title: Navigating my Reader Identity

When I was a little girl and just starting to flex my writing muscles the first story I ever wrote was called Cottage on the Hill. It was about two young white girls from London who went to spend summer vacation with their grandparents in rural England. Of course, I had never seen a cottage or spent a summer with my grandparents or been to rural England but as so often happens with young black writers the stories we write are the stories we have read about.

It never occurred to me at that age to consider Jamaican characters or settings. I had never read about home outside of those little chapbooks from primary school (you know the ones with the newsprint and sketches) that tried to impart Serious Moral Lessons through Anansi stories and others. But that wasn’t what I wanted to write – I wanted to write proper short stories. And proper short stories were about people from outside of the Caribbean.

I grew up, of course, and developed a thirst for Caribbean literature despite the disinterested way it gets tacked on to high school syllabuses. I actively seek out Jamaican writers and as many women writers as I can. Colonialism may have dictated my preferences but I can change that if I try hard enough. And sometimes the trying is hard. What I want to read isn’t always available, but often what is available ends up being what I want to read.

Transition with me from books to the online world of blogs; most of the ones I’m familiar with (and like) are written by upper middle class white suburban housewives. What the hell is this demographic? I have no idea. Okay, maybe I have a little idea. But as I grapple with this proclivity and the desire to see myself represented in internet writings, guilt often bubbles up. It feels like consuming all this content from a foreign culture only pushes me further away from my own.

Another issue is that I have more in common with these women than I do with people I actually live and work with. Cue identity crisis! Cue questioning my life choices*! This is why I read those blogs, this is why I feel distanced from my own culture: camaraderie and the quest for acceptance. But what is the solution, lock myself away from the world and read only content produced by Jamaicans for Jamaicans?

No, xenophobia isn’t the answer here. It isn’t automatically bad to be intrigued by alternate ways of life. On the contrary, globalization is accepted and encouraged. Where it crosses the line into acculturation is a little blurry, but we’re working on that.

These days I berate myself less and less for my tastes, but unlearning decades of stigma for being ‘the weird one’ is hard. I will probably never stop liking The Bloggess or Neil Gaiman, but I am gradually unwinding myself from the notion that these interests make me less Jamaican. In reality I will always be Jamaican, just a Jamaican who is open-minded, liberal and a little more day-dreamy than expected.


*Life choices like watching Doctor Who, listening to The Chainsmokers, and reading yet another Jenny Lawson/Elizabeth Gilbert mental health guidebook cleverly disguised as a novel.

 

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Black People and the Excuses We Sometimes Make

MAN STARVES TO DEATH, WOMAN DROWNS TRYING TO ESCAPE SHACKLES OF SLAVERY.

This is pretty different from my usual spiel, because it’s a topic I don’t have many facts about. Not that there aren’t facts, just that I’m no expert in the history and culture of my race despite laying claims to it. But Mr. Multilingual shared this picture with me and then suggested I share my response with you all. 10580039_10203644803813324_3479634328546522316_n

It was posted on Facebook with the caption:

BET SOME ANGRY CHIC WILL TAKE OFFENSE TO THIS AND ATTACK! If she would free him he could save her, all she has to do is reach with the other hand, both of their lives depend on her but she is reaching for his hand instead of handing him the key to break his bondage.

NOW HEAR THIS!!!No prison, no law, no racism, no injustice, no discrimination, no physical torture hurts or does more damage to us than than the tongue, attitude and mindset of our women. We are beat down emotionally and mentally more than any other race. Asian, Latin, Anglo, Indian, etc…None of those races handle their men like our women handle us and in most cases those men treat their women worse than we treat ours.

Our women have become louder, more aggressive, disrespectful and more violent to the point our young boys desire to be like mommy. Present, daddy is chained by what “mommy” will LET him do while chained by her titles for him, anger, resentment, unwillingness to forgive, his past/her current pain…she has external reinforcement…child support, law enforcement, pressure to provide beyond his means…so he remains, stagnate/static/stoic to the point he puts stock in the stereotype that he is nothing, so he does nothing.

This was my reply:

This is a bad generalization. I think black women have fought a lot of battles to get where we are and that shouldn’t be belittled. I also think both sexes have a lot of left over psychological scars from slavery/post-colonialism. It’s not an excuse but it’s centuries of stuff to overcome, which isn’t helped by present day conditions that are less than ideal, meaning there are very little “good men” to teach women what standards to have and how to treat men.

But buying into the stereotype of the lazy/absent black father is a really crappy excuse. If you’re a decent guy, be a decent guy. Don’t live down to expectations. That’s just stupid.

What are these so-called post-colonial psychological scars?

Men were emasculated (from just the very fact of being slaves), separated from their families, stripped of any power in the household because they were not part of the household.

Women ended up seeing men as sperm donors, were used to them being absent fathers who were sometimes harsh and violent and certainly not involved in childcare or family affairs. Additionally the “marrying up” phenomenon meant neither gender (but mostly women) within our race thought the other one was good enough.

Bottom line is that black women on a whole have had really shitty experiences with men, both black and white. But this shouldn’t be used as an excuse.

Similarly, our men have been bred to spread it around and not stick around. Also not an excuse.Each person is ultimately responsible for their own actions, regardless of your cultural history or personal background or what he/she did/said to you. You get to choose your actions and reactions, yours, not anyone else’s. Don’t blame the black man or the black woman for your problems. Own up to the responsibility you have to determine your circumstance and don’t be so quick to point fingers.

What I see is a woman who has to let go in order to save herself. Save herself first and then save him after. It’s her discovering her strength, not just depending on his. It’s him trusting her to come back for him.  It’s love, pure and simple.

You see what you’re looking for.