I used to look out the window and wish myself away from there, and now I would do anything to go back to that room that was empty of all things except their expectations. They all hoped I would turn out to be something good and, like every good thing they ever owned, when I did … they destroyed me. No one held the blame until my body hit the tarmac. Until that point they passed the blame between them like the police passed around the rumour that ruined us in those dark days after Thatcher’s demise. The local paper ignored the white lady with the hard hair and an iron heart. Instead they called him sick. The local people stayed silent. Instead they stared. They waited for us to speak up. To say something slick so they would have some good reason to cut us. As if our wounds weren’t already aplenty. Wounds should be worn the way soldiers wear bullet holes … with pride. But it was my pride that wounded my people so deeply they decided it was best to destroy me – their great expectation. “Pride comes before destruction” I fell. Into the wrong hands. In with the wrong crowd. And, eventually from that window where I would once wish myself away from there. 13 floors up. One man down. An eternal escape. As they had done with the boy before me, the local paper called me sick. The local people said they were sorry. My people’s silence said they were ashamed. Over the years, that silence swept through each of them. It filled them with the discussions we never had; the jokes we never told; the gratitude we never gave one another; the apologies we never accepted; the unanswered calls, unnecessary tensions; half-eaten conversations, and the meals that turned cold behind the heat of yet another argument about my “abnormality” as I went to bed on an empty stomach, with a heavy heart, and weighted by the kind of tiredness that sleep cannot cure. Regrets. Those are all they have now. To accompany everything that reminds them of me. No hope. No expectation. The room behind a nailed down window where longings, pretty thoughts, impossible things, and the made up anecdotes that grow more absurd with each retelling are stored for safekeeping. To keep them safe from the dangerous reality of their shared truth of how they drove the poof from his perch. No good ever comes of regrets, so unlike me, their regrets will never be destroyed. Instead their regrets will destroy them a thought at a time, as they live with them, and without me.
In the days after I was brutalised by my father in 2011 I felt like the life had been beaten out of me. I had lost my home. I had lost my family. I had lost all my possessions, and I was possessed by perhaps the most prolific pain a son could possibly feel after being persecuted by his papa. I wrote this in those days, and I put it away alongside my self-belief, which became so intensely ravaged over the next four years that I am really quite fortunate to still be here.
“Leave” is a missive to a missing man. He may never read it. He may never know it. But it is written. In the blood we share. In the blood he shed.
Shalom Papa. Shalom
Somewhere between Hypocrisy and Privilege Shirley Manson decides to pop her head up out of the corner of international obscurity, and draft an “open” letter with a closed mind.
A letter that justifies the very actions it seeks to condemn.
This is an attempt at publicity not unlike Sinead O Connor’s attempt to (s)mother Miley Cyrus in the later part of 2013. If it were not so, why not send this “message” covertly, because this is not a private “message”, this is a public attack. A very public ad hominem attack to be precise.
From what I have seen, Kanye West used his platform to attack a system that religiously rewards the dominant culture while constantly undermining the efforts of minority artists. You may not agree with his method. You may think it disrespectful. But his argument is sound, and he did not stoop to throwing around labels like “twat” – as Shirley Manson did – to make his point.
It must be very disconcerting for the dominant culture to constantly watch this black male (in)subordinate attempting to dismantle the Master’s House from within. So disconcerting in fact that every time he gives an opinion, he is accused of ranting, and pathologized, to reproduce and reinforce the metanarrative that ties black masculinity to hegemonic violence, anti-intellectualism, and mental illness.
Aside from this, while Beyoncé may not need Kanye to fight on her account, I am certain Beck does not need Shirley Manson to fight on his account either.
So why do it?
Where does the real suspicion lie?
When these artists only defend one another because of their shared whiteness, and completely ignore the sea of injustices many “black” artists are systematically submerged in, and have been submerged in ever since music became one of the many pillars of popular culture.
Where was Shirley’s “open letter” when Macklemore won several Grammy’s in the face of Kendrick Lamar’s resounding superiority in 2014, and where was Shirley’s “open letter” for the obliteration of India.Arie’s efforts in 2002!
And that is where Shirley faltered, by reducing a structural issue to an individual one, by attacking Kanye West, instead of attacking a system that upholds the heteronormative ideal of whiteness; that rewards whites who misappropriate black culture, and condemns that culture in blacks; that punishes “black” artists because they are not “white” enough to sell records, and that assaults Kanye’s conduct instead of addressing his case.
This is not about Kanye, it just so happens he is the only one brave enough or stupid enough to speak out on behalf of “the race” in the impulsive, and unrehearsed way that he does. Everyone else is probably afraid of being pathologized, called mad, and kicked out of the Master’s House, and placed back on the proverbial plantation where the spectre of poverty lingers like a brutal reminder of the oppression they thought they had escaped when the door was opened to let them in that house in the first instance.
So why attack Kanye West? Because when you are standing in the white light of your own privilege, it is very easy to pick out the “black” spot, and do everything in your “power” to erase it, and keep the Master’s House pure, clean, untroubled … and pearly white.
Attack everything or say nothing.
I knew that the only way for me to begin to recover myself was for me to admit that I was hurt. When I admitted that to myself, naïvely, I thought that was all I had to do to begin to heal, but that’s when the meltdown began. The part of me I lost (my voice), can be found right here in this creation – ‘The High’. A loaded title for a loaded time of my overloaded life.
Be encouraged. Be still.
Life is an eleven-lined death poem
Entitled “I Can’t Breathe”
That ends in an unlawful death.
Lived in a systemic chokehold
That squeezes as hard as it so pleases
Until there is nothing but the body of a breathless black man left.
It is black fathers, black sons, black brothers, black lungs.
It is the white cop reaching out
With a sorry in the same hand on the same arm
That took from six children and one wife,
One eleven-lined life.
Have you ever fallen in love for a night! Met an insignificant other who does not put up a significant fight. Found love that fits like a lost glove! Love that is just enough for you to lose your powers If only for a few selfish hours. That happened to me on Wednesday. He was walking his dog and I was walking it off. No sex, just context. I laid in the arms of someone who made me forget that I had ever been troubled, let down or lost. I laid there and listened to flamenco lullabies. I laid there and listened to the love of my night cry, think and run my fingers through his wiry hair while I watched him sink into me and then as quickly as it rose, the love went down and I left his life to return to my prose. He made me no promises. He made me promise him that I would always smile, but I’ve already let him down. The loneliness is worth the bliss, if only for nights like this. (15. Nov.2013)