A #MeToo Requiem

  • February 25, 2018

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I don’t really fuck with cops. I know people who dress as pigs that I am cool with. And to be clear, I don’t wish death or injury for any individual, whether they are an officer or not. But I find it difficult to see the police as people. I see them as an extension of a system.

You CANNOT maintain your integrity and be a police officer. You CANNOT maintain your standards of righteousness and decency and operate safely in that system. I do not believe for a moment that it’s possible. Standing on behalf of the people aka “serving and protecting” them is in direct conflict with an officer’s duty to maintain an oppressive, capitalist system that collides with the needs of the people. Officers who have spoken out against the system must remain hidden or will be attacked. A good cop is a dead cop, not because we want him dead, but because if he is truly good, the system wants him dead.

I believe it’s possible for police to have plenty and even a majority of moments that are appropriate or positive. But that doesn’t change my feeling that calling the police is truly playing Russian roulette with my life. And a scene dancing in the street with teens to celebrate the Eagles winning the Super Bowl, or rushing into a burning building to save a little Black girl, doesn’t erase the deaths of Tamir Rice or Aiyana Stanley-Jones, or of Sandra Bland or Alton Sterling from my soul, my consciousness, and my everyday being.

I have stood on the steps of the Art Museum of Philadelphia with comrades and spoken the names of hundreds of Black girls, boys, women, and trans women who were murdered by the police and taken from my community forever. I watched Philando Castille and Eric Garner die slowly in the presence of life saving officers. I saw they had done nothing wrong. I saw those officers pile on Eric as he begged for relief. I saw that officer stand over Philando offering no aid while he died in front of him, his girlfriend and her young daughter sharing the air of his last breaths in the car, witnessing.

I saw their witnesses, among the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters in my community, seeing these murders the way that our recent ancestors saw their loved ones and neighbors hanging from trees, eyes bulging, at times also mutilated, burned, and left to send a message as they were left, also, to rot.

This is how I relate to police. How then, did the massive, strong, beautiful Black man that I am absolutely attached to, who I love with every inch of me, who I know I was made to love, believe that I was about to call the police on him and endanger his life over an argument?

Two words in a hashtag: #metoo

The #metoo movement has somehow shifted from a campaign of compassion, healing and self-empowerment to one of man-bashing and the destruction of relationships. This is what happens when white liberals take grasp of the struggles and traditions of revolution and restoration with their desperate fingers. These white women saw this hashtag as an opportunity to say, “I’m oppressed too!”

Taking control of that which does not belong to you is theft.

Already the way it looks in these conversations are all and only the ways it looks in the communities of white women, 53% of whom voted to elevate a man to the United States presidency who admitted before the election that he assaulted women. What about the experience of an immigrant woman working in housekeeping at the hotel? Imagine what a man like Weinstein would assume he was entitled to presume of women in the positions we give ourselves permission to look down on? Especially if she speaks another language, or has an accent, and therefore may be vulnerable in other ways. Where are the interviews with these women (I should say about them, because why would anyone be given opportunity to speak for themselves when there’s a white woman who can speak for them?)

We can look at the conversation about wage inequality. Why do white women, understanding how bad it feels to be paid less than white men, not extend empathy to Black men, who get paid less than they do? Or the Indigenous Women? Or the Latino Men? Or the Black Women who get paid less? I think it’s because most white women refuse to acknowledge their place in the hierarchy of oppression. In a crowded field of oppressed communities, what does it mean if you are at the top? Might it mean that you are also a massive oppressor? Does it change if you’ve been smacked on the ass by your boss?

It does not.

In 1990, when I was 18 at a Philadelphia university, a young man named T held me down and took my virginity in a random room in the towers hall. It was my second time ever hanging out with him. How he took me was not by force in the typical sense. I was much smaller than this football player who had lay me onto the bed and put himself on top of me, and removed my shorts, and so quickly. But he didn’t punch me or anything. He kept his weight on me and kept tugging at my panties. And I wasn’t terribly concerned, sure that after a while he’d see I really meant it and get off.

Once before I was with M, and he’d made some swifter than I was ready for move that had me under him without my shorts. (I should say that I was probably a size 2 at that time, maybe a 4, but I wore size 10 clothes because I somehow thought it made me appear bigger. I had no notion of this putting me into jeopardy.) When I looked up at M and said, “I’m a virgin, I’m not ready to have sex yet.” He sighed and rolled off of me.

Be careful, he warned. A lot of guys wouldn’t have stopped.

I guess I didn’t believe him. Because a year later, in a dorm room, I was not aggressive about T getting off me. I simply waited for him to get bored. He did. But instead of getting off of me, he pushed the crotch of my panties to the side and pushed himself inside of me.

It had never occurred to me that he could do that. This was my only experience with sex. Suddenly I was no longer a virgin. I was a girl laying on some strange sheets in a strange dorm room who had held onto her virginity until she’d graduated high school, waiting for a special moment. And this was it.

If you have been assaulted, and dropped out of college because you couldn’t stand having your rapist walk up and start talking to the people you were talking to, ignoring you ignoring him until you walked off, say #metoo. If you ever refrained from telling on your rapist because your relationship with the legal system made you fear retribution, say #metoo. If you’ve also refrained from telling on your rapist because you’re Black like him, and you aren’t sure you want him to be murdered, and you feel guilty feeding the prison industrial complex, say #metoo.

And also, say #metoo if you ever reflected on your experiences with a man who you had sex with when you didn’t want to, and began to talk to him about it, and find forgiveness in your heart and healing in your spirit.

When I met Forever I was 24, seeking love, full of optimism, and adventurous. I was walking around the streets of Manhattan handing out my resume. He was as a rapper, a Five-Percenter (thus his name), and working as a barber near Polygram Records, where a friend of mine worked. We met outside his barbershop.

He and I had a sweet connection. He was so into me. People take that for granted, but I appreciated it. I was into him, too, and seeing his adoration for me, that he showed so obviously, making no effort to hide or downplay it, was beautiful and warm.

We had a night of confusion. I hadn’t had many sexual experiences, and not any of those few were good sexual experiences. I had decided about 2 ½ years prior to abstain and try some self-healing. I didn’t really know what to do, but I thought If I stayed off sex for two years, I’d be better off. When the two years was up, I wasn’t in a situation that warranted changing anything, and so continued to abstain.

On the night with Forever, I was letting him close to me, but I wasn’t ready to make the jump into sex yet. It was our first time being intimately close, and I thought that was far enough. I still related to sex like I had throughout my virginity. It was outside of my space of normal, and I needed to explore my way to it.

Forever was ready. He did a variety of things in an effort to turn me on. I wasn’t really able to be turned on under those circumstances. I wasn’t really comfortable with anything sexual, yet. I would have liked to try to figure that out with him, but he was moving too fast for me. The night ended poorly, and we never saw each other again.

In letters from death row he countered my assertion that he’d raped me. Was he raping me when he went down on me? He challenged. He assumed that I was excited or enjoying this activity, when in truth it was a consolation, a way to give him something because he was pressuring me so much. It was a break from trying to stop him from pushing inside of me.

I had grown some. The majority of my sexual experiences before my two-year break were me letting the guy I’d been hanging out with have sex with me as soon as he tried, not taking the risk of asking him not to even though I didn’t want to, and then disappearing. With Forever, I wanted things to be sweet and nothing like when I lost my virginity.

With Forever, I wanted to have a new first time, eventually. I wanted him to know more about me, and I wanted to know more about him. I wanted to be close to him, and to kiss him and lay in his arms and know how it felt to be naked and relaxed with him.

He moved himself above me yet again, and I moved my hands against his hips. I was doing well, though I found I had no voice, I was able to get myself from under him repeatedly. This time, though, before I could do anything, he said two words to me.

“Trust me.”

I looked up at him. He looked at me. Would he hold me, instead, and stop pressuring me? He kissed me, and timidly, I let down my arms, afraid, but choosing trust, choosing to give him the opportunity to be what I needed him to be. And he pushed inside me.

And once he’d gotten in, I just let the rest happen, whatever that was.

Years passed before it occurred to me that when he said, “Trust me,” he was asking me to trust him to make love to me. He was asking me to believe that he had no intention of using me and throwing me away. The problem is that he didn’t ever ask what my concerns were, he assumed he knew what they were, and that he could assuage them. He was seeing everything from the perspective of what he wanted, not of what was happening. It was traumatic for me, but it was helpful for me to know that it was his ignorance, his inexperience, a lack of wisdom, and not betrayal that I had experienced. By then we were out of touch.

It’s ironic that we are now in touch again, when this hashtag, #metoo, has been taken over by the most privileged members of the oppressed class called woman. I’ve seen a number of men, Black men in particular, be thrown to the wolves by white women who had interactions with them, confirmed through their continued relations with them that they enjoyed those interactions with them, and then suddenly decide that those men had made them feel unsafe. I’ve watched these men be accused of being monsters, have their livelihoods be put in jeopardy, and their freedom taken. These men were not taken to the side and asked to participate in a difficult, necessary conversation. And these white women were not burdened with adding more from their numbers into updated enslavement. They were not inclined to engage in a process of enlightenment, or of healing, or of growth.

I hear so many conversations about where the line should be drawn. I don’t think we need a line. I think we need a table, and we need people to sit around it, and we need to do some learning. We need to explore for ourselves what men are being taught. What I’ve heard is that a man wants to be a lady killer. That the more pussy he gets, the flyer he must be. That he gets women with his money and his power, not his heart, his honesty, or his respect for her.

I think it’s nothing but telling that white women put their faces at the front of every article, rally and conversation, even now. It works easily because there’s still a sense in our society that everyone who isn’t white is a super intelligent, non-human primate. So, if you can find just one white man or woman in the mix, then you shift from an Animal Kingdom documentary to a Showtime documentary. Because there’s a person in it.

The rest of us are well-developed animals. And when we’re really good at the white people stuff, like boring language, it’s so exciting to see. This is how I experience the white person’s mindset. Men and women, progressives and liberals. My perception is based on the things that white people as a group tend to do, like the taking over of #metoo, or the sanitizing of the traditions of liberation struggles with these ridiculous, grant and foundation based marches and rallies.

I have a lot of different “kinds” or “categories” of people in my circle. But my experience is very strongly Black. This is why I don’t like police (and of course, but to be clear, this is not a statement that all Black people don’t like police since we are actually individuals, but that our history with police does make discomfort with or even loathing of police a common part of Black culture), and why I write from a solidly Black perspective, and give so many primarily Black cultured examples. I also, at this moment, am making an effort, in spite of the risk, to confront white people with what so many Black people discuss we’ve been seeing and experiencing in our interactions with them — particularly liberals and progressives — as a way of inviting them to join us in a process of transformation and doing better.

Black men are precious. They are strong, yes. They are beautiful, yes. They are brilliant, yes. They are magical, yes. They are all these things, and so amazing, and so powerful. They are also soft, and emotional, because they are human. And they are vulnerable, because they are fearsome. And in a world where they are treated as beasts to be hunted, where if it wouldn’t be so controversial, their heads would be hanging on white men’s and white women’s walls next to their confederate flags, no matter what happens and is happening politically at any time, it is my job as their mother, sister, daughter, lover and friend to protect them.

Understand that this white washed version of #metoo turned into a “movement,” snatched out of the hands of a Black woman who is supposed to be overjoyed that she is invited to speak at event after event that was developed without the insight and direction of her and her circle of sisterly support — this movement will not garner the support of the masses of Black women because we will not trash our men. We will not contribute to the trauma of their being undervalued, underpaid, over used and then discarded.

In fact, what is much more likely, is that we will begin a new #metoo, one that cannot be plundered by white people in the way that the LGBTQ community’s issues have. If you’ve been told that your experience and degrees are of little value in comparison to the lack of experience or education of a white cohort getting paid tens of thousands more than your Black ass, say #metoo. If you’ve been tokenized by your organization, being required to be the voice for your entire Latino community and assumed to know nothing that is not specific to that community, say #metoo. If your experience as a Lakota woman has been lumped in with that of a Taino and a Cherokee, say #metoo. If you’re a Transwoman, and you’ve had to balance the need to have your rights recognized against being treated like a high commodity because you’re also Korean, thus a super minority, say #metoo. If you are ready to push back on a racially unjust system and hold the most important and empowered agents of that system, the white men and women who have seen you not through your work and your human value but through the checkbox quota you represent, who oppressed you at your workplace and punished you for speaking up on it, say #metoo.

White women, would you recommend that your and your husbands’ unwittingly racists actions be treated with the same lack of compassion, healing, and education with which you have handled sexism from men who haven’t been taught better? Do you think there may be a better way?

When Donald Trump talked about how he, “grabs ’em by the pussy,” we were afforded a massive opportunity to have discussions on a national level about the unhealthy oppressive reality of our patriarchal culture that we have nurtured in our society, and the ways we each support it. We could have opened the door for women to speak about our struggles, and invited men in to hear us, and to join us in establishing a new and better standard, one that is based on mutual empowerment, mutual compassion. We could have given them voice to express concerns about where their manhood fits healthily into the equation. We could have prevented future situations in which a young man who called himself “Forever” would hurt a young woman who he truly loved because no one taught him how to listen when his dick is hard. Instead, we have made men afraid to express any part of themselves because they are being told that their very existence is traumatizing to women, and they continue in spite of themselves, and because of our irresponsibility in handling this moment better, to hurt their sisters and their lovers.

“If I see a woman’s pussy, she wants me to have it.”

These words were uttered by a man who when I met him was not only a very cool misogynist but a homophobe with a pretty closed, long-term circle. But through conversations over years with me and others who through me he’d become exposed to, his highly intelligent mind began to understand that these basic norms he’d been indoctrinated with were toxic. But good thing we talked, because he might otherwise never have begun to engage and disrupt the tradition in his hood of finding a young thing in the neighborhood with no self-esteem and offering her to the young men.

There is a man I was made to love. He is broken like all of us, like me. We were brought together to bring our injuries to light, to help each other heal. The struggle was real, and to me he was worth it. We bounced against each other sometimes, getting a little rough. It was fun, and very sexual. But one day, when we tussled while we argued, and I threatened to get a restraining order, no more serious than he was when he threated to beat the shit out of me, he was “triggered” by what he’s not only seen, but experienced, of women suddenly forgetting what the boundaries they’d established were, and instead measuring him to police officers against a social standard that was not what ran their bedroom. He was slammed with images of men across the globe losing their livelihood for saying “That’s what she said” the wrong time, apparently sending thousands of women to therapy, and he forgot who I was (fuck the police), and he feared for his life.

If you ever lost the love of your life, because he couldn’t get over the sight of you standing with police offers between you, there because he called them, but also because he feared you would call them to say it, then say it now:


Also published on Medium.