Everyone knows that I love Scandal. I have known its co-creator Washington power house attorney and former Bush Administration Deputy Press Secretary Judy Smith since I was in my twenties. I have had the opportunity to interview the amazing Kerry Washington (READ: http://thegrio.com/2012/05/10/kerry-washington-a-black-woman-truly-redefining-the-rules-changing-the-game-in-hollywood/#kerry-washington-4×3-2jpg ) and I found her to be elegant, classy, savvy and incredibly smart. I think the show is groundbreaking in its leading black woman of power role. Having said that, however, last week’s Scandal episode crossed a line. A serious and dangerous line.
Never mind the shocking abortion scene, and the love fest for Planned Parenthood. Never mind Shondra Rhimes blatant disrespect for those of us who support and watch her shows who are pro-life, and women of faith. But the smack in the face for millions of hardworking, accomplished, strong black women in this nation who want love. Who want to be mothers. Who want to be wives. And who know well how to be a “partner”–a “power partner” without losing themselves.
Olivia went rogue. She is so self-centered and power hungry that she couldn’t be a full partner to Fitz. The man who she says she has loved forever. The man who time and time again has sacrificed for her. Put it all on the line for her. And that the abortion scene of their “love child” was played to “silent night” a beloved Christian hymn, is just outrageous.
Last week’s episode underscores yet again that strong black women are not team players. That we do not know how to sacrifice self for love. That we do not know how to support a powerful man we love. That we must always be the “BIG DOG” in the room. What a farce. What an insult. That is NOT who we are. And it is damn sure not the legacy of our grandmothers and mothers. We are the original sacrificial lambs. The “mules” of the world. We lift as we climb. We love our men fiercely. We are the most amazing lovers, and givers of self. Even when we are smart, career driven, educated and accomplished.
I for one will no longer be watching or live Tweeting Scandal or Being Mary Jane (BET) which also crossed the line last week (Mary Jane was in an open sex club and allows a strange white man to openly fondle her veejay jay in the club. And worse, her cutty buddy–sex boy toy–has an epileptic seizure after wild sex in her bed.). I am sick. I am disgusted. I am not a prude. Sex is amazing. But love and commitment are more amazing. We are not wild animals sisters. We are women: to be loved. cared for and nurtured. These images of us on these shows from “How to Get Away With Murder” to Scandal, in a word make us look: NUTS.
Sisters, I have been saying it for years: It. Is. Time. For. Us. To. Heal.
We are not these psychotic, sex crazed, self-absorbed, depressed, suicidal women. Sister’s heal. Do not let the media or images of who people say we are define the reality of our options and our possibilities in real life. Shame on Scandal. You missed the mark. Olivia Pope may just be a fictional character to you, but she is a symbol of professional, driven, accomplished black women everywhere. And you took that symbol and made it a shameful stereotype of who people already say we are. You can do better. You are brilliant. We are brilliant. We are beautiful. And most of all we know how to love.
As I awoke this morning safe in my bed, in my secluded, safe from reality affluent DC Suburb of Northern Virginia, I fell to my knees and I gave thanks to God for living to see yet another day. I was on a train headed from Philadelphia to Washington last night when news broke of the Parisian attacks in France. Security for New York and DC was on high alert, and you could feel the tension on the train as people read their iPhone and blackberry alerts.
And I also prayed for those who were not so blessed this morning and who lost their lives in yesterday’s tragic Paris attacks. I prayed for mercy for those still fighting for their lives. I prayed for justice for the families of the victims. And I prayed for a God who says “vengeance is mine” to eradicate the evil know as “ISIS”. I also prayed for our world leaders, and for President Obama here at home to find the courage and bravery to go after these killers. They are evil walking. They are cowards. They are villains and they must be stopped. No matter the price.
One of the first thoughts I had laying in bed this morning was a.) of those I love b.) of the scripture in James 4:14 “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (NIV) c.) of John Lennon’s song “Imagine”. All in that order. And I wondered, like many of you what kind of world we now live in that such horror is commonplace and that we appear to be rendered powerless to fight it.
On my #SaturdayCoffee periscope this morning (WATCH HERE: https://www.periscope.tv/w/1yNGajDAwpgJj ) I offered 5 important LIFE lessons that I believe the horrific attacks in Paris once again reinforce for us. We felt them after 9-11 here in America. I pray we will grasp them after Paris yesterday. They are as follows:
1. Life is Fragile: It must be handled with extreme care. Just like fine china or family heirlooms, we must see the fragility of life and handle people with care. As well as ourselves.
2. Life is over in an instant: As Paris once again teaches us, we are only here for an instant. A moment. That moment can be 100 years or 23 years of age as with young Nohemi Gonzalez, of Cal State Long Beach. President Kennedy was sitting an in open car in the sun one moment, and laying slumped over after an assassins bullet in the next. Live your life. Day by day. Moment by moment. You never know when your time is coming.
3. Life is precious: It is everything. It is priceless. It is to be honored. Cherished. And handled with great care.
4. Life is a treasure: Life not your money. Not your stuff. Not your possessions or status. It is worth more than silver and gold. Your life is a treasure.
5. Life is to be lived: You will get but one life. Your one and only life. And you must live that life to the full. Stop waiting. Stop regretting. Stop lamenting who and what you lost. And start being grateful for who you have left. Live your LIFE. Love your family. Love your spouse. Make it right. Forgive. Release. Heal. And enjoy your one and only precious life.
I love you guys. And I love you too Paris.
Last Tuesday’s #BeingMaryJane episode Ugly Truths was, well, in a word: UGLY.
It went there. And I mean the show really went there–Beautiful, smart, talented, medical doctor Lisa commits suicide. And everyone left behind must deal with their neglect of her obvious pain, and the part they all played in making her come to such an untimely and ugly demise. This wasn’t just TV for many of us–I was in tears thinking about a young black woman in DC, age 22, Karyn Washington, who committed suicide last year and I penned my thoughts about it (as did many) in April 2014:
I could have written this piece for any number of mainstream outlets–instead I decided I wanted to put this on my own blog so that I could speak for me, as I know I am speaking for many of us: Unedited. Undeterred. Unhushed. And most importantly unleashed.
You see this is our collective problem as black women. We have a lot to say but nobody listens. We have a lot of needs but nobody seems to care. We have a lot of love to give but does anybody want it? Value it? Dare to return it? We have much to share and impart but we are always being silenced. We are always being told to shut up–shrink back. Quiet down. Back down. Back up. Turn it down.
I am tired of being “edited”. I am tired of being “compared”. I am tired of being denied the same full range of emotions that every other woman and person is allowed to have, but us. I am tired of having to always make sure that my mere presence in a room, corporate or otherwise, doesn’t offend or rattle others. I have to constantly make sure I am carrying myself the right way. Having to make sure people will “like me”–find me “acceptable”–or find me to be one of those “nice black women” unlike the ones we all see on Reality TV. The way we are depicted is always ANGRY. STRIDENT. STRONG. OVER THE TOP. HOSTILE. You all know the drill.
Yet, the collective wounds that we carry as black women are many. I am not suggesting we are to be pitied, or felt sorry for. What I am suggesting is that unlike any other human being that walks this earth (either male or female) we carry a unique history, experience and stigma like no other. We carry the unique burden of being both black and female in America; while never experiencing the benefits of our “white” sisters–or of “black” men. One is white. The other is male. Both classifications come with power, access, privilege, and opportunity that we will never ever know.
To my fellow black women, I just wanted to say that you are in fact: Beautiful.
You are in fact: worthy.
You are in fact: desirable.
And that the time has come for us to take off the ripped, torn and tattered superwoman cape, as well as the mask we all wear too well. It is time for us to stop letting black men dump all of their anger and angst on us, as if we don’t carry enough of our own. It is time to raise our voices from the depths of our hurt: the childhood rapes, sexual assault (data, including that in my book–Black Woman Redefined–say the numbers are as high as 40% or more of black women have been sexually abused in their lifetime), physical violence and emotional violence that too many of us experienced. It is time for us to stand together and STOP fighting and beating the hell out of each other.
As I said on Twitter the other night: “No-one can hurt a black woman, like another black woman.”
We do evil to each other without cause. Mean girls in the church are the worst offenders. The late great Audre Lorde, in her essay “Eye to Eye” (1983), says that all the hate that had been poured into her by white people since she was a little black girl in Harlem in the 1930s is what made her so angry. But that her anger was not directed so much at white people, but at other black women. Because it will hit the target. Because we remind her of herself, the self she cannot love and accept. Yet, ironically black women are the only ones who could ever help to make her whole again.
The essay was printed in Essence magazine in October 1983, but you can read excerpts in my book Black Woman Redefined and in my Essence Online series #SistersHeal from April 2012 http://www.essence.com/…/get-lifted-sisters-its-time-to-he…/
“Every Black woman in America lives her life somewhere along a wide curve of ancient and unexpressed angers. My Black woman’s anger is a molten pond at the core of me, my most fiercely guarded secret. I know how much of my life as a powerful feeling woman is laced through with this net of rage. It is an electric thread woven into every emotional tapestry upon which I set the essentials of my life; a boiling hot spring likely to erupt at any point, leaping out of my consciousness like a fire on the landscape. How to train that anger with accuracy rather than deny it has been one of the major tasks of my life. Other Black women are not the root cause nor the source of that pool of anger. I know this, no matter what the particular situation may be between me and another Black woman at the moment. Then why does that anger unleash itself most tellingly against another Black woman at the least excuse? Why do I judge her in a more critical light than any other, becoming enraged when she does not measure up? And if behind the object of my attack should lie the face of my own self, unaccepted, then what could possibly quench a fire fueled by such reciprocating passions?”
It is time to heal from our black mothers who loved our brothers more than they did us. Who raised us, and pushed us relentlessly to be independent. Educated. Strong. And capable. More than they did our black brothers who were coddled. Loved. Spoiled. And nurtured. And to add insult to injury when we turn 40 and are alone, they ask us why we aren’t married? Where are their grand babies? They unwittingly mock us for being too strong and too smart. Huh? What? I mean really? We are your creation. You never wanted us to endure what you had to endure. And for that we thank you–but you cannot have it both ways moms. You just cannot.It is time to heal from black fathers who were either absent from our lives, of if they were there it was sporadic, dysfunctional, abusive or part-time at best. It is time to heal from the warped way we are portrayed in history and in books. In the media and in corporations. It is time to heal from white women who say we are their sisters but ever since slavery, through women’s suffrage, to the feminist movement, to modern corporate boardrooms, and modern politics, have bartered us off, and sold us out, as they themselves gained by using “affirmative action” as we took the heat. I could go on and on about women like my white ex-sister in law and her white father: who suggested I should be sued when I wrote “Black Woman Redefined” in May 2011, because I dared to put a photo (with copyright permission from the famed photographer) of me and my two bi-racial (black nieces) with me in a chapter that I devoted to them, so that one day when they grew up to be black women (and they will no matter how much the white side of their family doesn’t like it) they would have a road-map, a tool to help them navigate being a black woman in America.Those same two nieces (now 17 and 13) are now forbidden to see my black mother (their paternal grandmother) and I, as their mother is divorcing my black brother. And she has alienated the children systematically from him and us in a most vicious way. Even in our own families, as black women, when our brothers marry white women, we are expected to cater to them and be “nice”. Not offend or upset their delicate nature. All while they can disregard, be rude, be unkind, and consistently remind us of the fact that we should suppress our blackness and deny our culture. I could go on and on about the foul things black men who should be mentoring us in corporate America do and say to hold us back. Or worse, our black sisters who “make-it” and refuse to lift other black women as they themselves have climbed. But, I won’t because like me, you live it as a black woman daily.
My heart is full. Charleston, South Carolina has been my family’s vacation destination for over a decade. We have a property off the Isle of Palms. If you know anything about this historic southern city, you know it is full of charm, elegance, beaches and great low country food. Yet, it is truly still in many ways, segregated, with the inner city area and outskirts housing poor and working class blacks, and the coastal and wealthy suburbs housing whites. It is like going back into time with Charleston Harbor still a reminder of the first shots fired to start the Civil War off of Ft. Sumter in 1861. Sprawling 17th century Plantations adorn Mt. Pleasant, particularly Boone Hall where epic movies like North & South, Queen and others were filmed. And the Gullah women (who are native Africans to the region since slavery) still make beautiful baskets on the side of the roads.
Yet, what Charleston has taught our nation over the past week, is more than just that a confederate flag still waves. Yes, it does. But, the good people of Charleston have banded together. Black and white. Rich and poor. And they have held hands. They have hugged. They have just fellowshipped one with another. And they have tried to heal the racial wounds of their past, suddenly re-opened by a crazed racist gun-man seeking to start a race war in this quiet southern city. Not too long ago an unarmed black man was shot in cold blood by a rogue police-man chasing him through a field. Yet, there were no protests, or riots. No burnings or looting. Not in dignified Charleston. Home of the historic Emanuel Mother AME Church, where nine souls were taken by the lone gunman at Bible Study in Church last Wednesday.
Charleston has modeled to the nation and to the world what it means to forgive. The victims families did something profound in the presence of the monster that killed their loved ones: They forgave. I believe that God himself is glorified in this horror. And I thank my fellow Americans in the sleepy south of Charleston for waking the rest of us up with your love. May God bless and keep you all.