Confronting Valhalla's Humanity


Responding to this post, BJonthegrid writes:

In a two hour period, I have read this post six times and all the comments at least twice. I was so angry that I vacuumed all three levels of my record time too. I am now posting after downloading the autobiography on my nook. 

My fingers are trembling and I feel like every key stroke I make is a heart beat of mine. I hate that my feelings toward this man I would never know are so consuming. I assume that when Malcolm talks of women he really means, Black Women. Most people then and maybe now, did not see black and white women in the same light. 

Without going through the long history of racism toward black women in the black and white communities....sexism toward black women in the black and white communities and the utter disregard of seeing the humanity of black women in the black and white communities, I really want to say this post really hurt me, to the bone. I know it's not about me personally, but it is about me collectively. 

So I am going to read it because ignoring these feelings will probably propel me to clean out my closet and I really don't want to have to resort to those drastic measures. I really liked most of the post here, and I am so grateful that it is so late that most people won't see mine.

This really chilled me. The raw emotion of it, the sense of being hurt by someone who you respect, or even idolize is a constant one for me. It's like going through letters of Confederate women and seeing some of yourself, and then, at the same time, remembering that they thought you were subhuman. And all while knowing that the mark of maturity and courage is not to let one feeling cancel out the other, to give people their humanity, as you would want yours, all the way never excusing them, never letting them off the hook.

That's really been my primary work for the past few years. In all honesty, I most selfishly wish Malcolm hadn't wrote those words. But I frankly believe that what he said on paper was pervasive then--and not simply, or even particularly, among black nationalists. Whatever someone's ability to see the flaws in their current contexts, the inability to see broader flaws is an unfortunately human trait. The fact is that Malcolm did write those words, and it's wrong to consider him, without considering him in total. I think Spike's film would have been a lot better, had he tried to account for that thinking, and for Ella.

Finally, I want to say something about how we talk about humanity, and the divisions that haunt us. What I appreciate most about BJ's note is the stress she puts on her individual emotions and how it connects to the whole. One beef I have with many of my comrades is that we speak of people in these big systemic and, frankly, academic terms which often, for me, obscure reality more than they confront it. I think a lot of us are more interested in deploying terms like "white privilege" and "patriarchy," then exploring what they really mean, and how they, specifically, curtail the ambitions of humanity. I strongly suspect that this vague language accounts for some of our inability to connect with people who don't share our premises.

I recognize that displays of emotion sometimes empowers the enemies of equality. But I don't think this rule is absolute. If you want to be president it likely hurts. If you're trying to explain yourself to people who may be apt to listen, I think, on balance, it helps.

At any rate, I wanted to salute BJ for not simply folding up under the pain, as we all are often tempted to do, but for instead confronting the source of that pain.