(re-)Journaling Day 2

Marketing Modern History

4-9-11 10:01 am
Linda is still gone.  Lennox is plugged into the TV after having her pancake (I had one too).  I went to soccer’s opening day and am helping the coach, Matt.  As I was giving out the jersey’s I got into a confrontation with one of the mothers.  I lost track of the jersey she wanted for her child and she gave me some stink.  I reacted with the same attitude.  I wish it hadn’t happened.  She pushes my buttons. I have to look at my attitude.  She doesn’t have to look at hers.  I want to be happy. Why do some people bother me so much? Why am I writing about her race and class?   As a 51 year old man I have to face my prejudices (Why, I’m not sure).  I think this has to do with my attitude towards the young woman whom I had trouble with last spring.  I DID post a photograph of her mis-citation of Michel Marriot’s article, and I did show her name.  But I also did not like her.  I think it was mostly her inability to conform to classroom standards and decorum.  She also was a bad writer, but that can be overcome with work (that is what ENG101 is for!). But I just didn’t like competing with her when she spoke in class. She reminded me of my inability to deal with Toni Manley and Joyce McClaren in High School. I have always felt “less than” as a person ever since I learned what and who “blacks” were in (prejudiced, stereotyped) popular culture.


I was lecturing on the displacement of Soaphead Church’s identity from “unnatural” to “supernatural” in  The Bluest Eye on Thursday. When she said, head wagging, “don’t start with me” because I had failed to give her son his shirt in correct order, I displaced Toni, Joyce, the young woman from my class with her. I heard the mean things said in the same tone and accent that were said to (and of) me in Boston Public Schools in 1976. I reacted to her like the college professor I am (pompous  and entitled) and the hurt young man I was. I should have just said “I’m sorry, I get excited with the kids and pay more attention to them. I should have served your son first.” I didn’t and part of me just wants to blame her for my failing. I can speculate that her displacement was from some other man of authority who had slighted her in the past, but it is beyond my horizon to look into her history, heart and soul.

So Linda is still gone and I have to say that this is more of a non-event than anything.  There is more tidying (and the house is still untidy) without Linda, but I’ve also read the NYTimes and Jefferey Toobin’s article in the NYer (which I’m not sure I could have done with a partner). Strangely what I miss is having a friend.  Mind you I don’t like cleaning, but I really miss having Linda to talk with.  I guess that that time comes from my reading the NYTimes and the NYer, so the whole thing is a push.  I miss having my best buddy here, but I like reading in the time being a partner takes.

I listened to @nprwesat this morning and I was moved by (of all things) @nprscottsimon’s commentary on a victim who became a killer and an interview with a South African golfer who was actually quite conscious and opposed to apartheid.  I wish he had asked the guy why he didn’t fight against the segregation at Augusta’s golf course in the 50s.

I am a prisoner of history.  It drives me crazy that the media erases the historical facts surrounding pop-cultural events. Or maybe this is a shortcoming of mine that I am unwilling to let go of past harms endured.

I’m a prisoner/
Of the history written/
In brown skin and curls/

I am a prisoner of history
Written on my G-d given smooth brown skin
And tangled in my dark curly brown hair
Skin and hair fetishized by everyone

Guilt and political correctness
Transform these colored liabilities
Into points of desire along the boundary
Between the entitled and exotic

Like guard-posts along  an angry frontier
My curly hair and permanent sun-tan
Says “you have crossed into the exotic
Other” manner of being a human

Primitive in my bow-tie and teaching
Everyday work, rent, food, bills and status
Are notable because of my color
“Why don’t more of ‘your people’ do the same?”

I sit here typing as confused as you
Because I’ve only lived my history
In this brown skin that says so much to you
But just held me within my history

(Revision 4-10-11 9:30pm)

I am a prisoner of history
That I keep Written on my smooth brown skin
And tangled in my dark curly brown hair
Skin and hair fetishized by everyone

The attention I love leverages
My unique features as exotic spice
Fence poles in my own incarceration
Strung with the Barbed Wires of dangerous styles

These guard-posts along the angry frontier
My curly hair and golden skin are seen
As markers of the subversive rhythm
But I don’t dispell these stereotypes

Stodgy in bow-tie and formality
I play with the stereotypes I hate
(Or say I hate) because I love my jail
It makes me understandable to me

I sit here typing as confused as you
Because I’ve only lived my history
In this brown skin that says so much to you
And I use to hold my history down

(I really don’t like either of these, but I will leave them both posted. Good Idea, but maudlin sentiment and uneven execution)

I really didn’t want to write poems in my journal, but I had this idea, and I did the haiku that I wanted to expand on didn’t say enough. It still needs a revision though. I wish I could tell people how much history shapes our todays.  (e.g. The ex-hippy who is now just a tenured white guy with very little visceral connection to the colored, immigrant New York of today.)

(an hour of writing takes 2 hours to edit and post SMH)


8 responses to “(re-)Journaling Day 2

  1. Well written my friend and them you made me wonder why self analysis so inexorably leads to ‘I, prisoner’ analogy rather than ‘I, prison guard’ because, though we can point to a thousand different guards and rail at their injustices I always get the sneaky feeling there is just one guard more potent, restrictive and viscious than all the others… But then what do I know? The walls, bars and doors of your prison were all made in my colour…

    • Indeed:
      Imprison our selves/
      In subjective histories/
      Curated by faith/
      Now, that took some time to compose, but really it is, like this post, totally incomplete.
      I need to think long(er) and hard(er) about this. I will post when I have an adequate response.
      I ran into the husband of the mother with whom I bickered. I asked him to apologize to her for me. He pointed across the pitch to where she sat. I never mustered the will (courage? Humility?) To walk over & apologize.

  2. I know I’m young, and so at times I’m oblivious to social and political issues. Yet still, even I experience some form of prejudice day by day ( usually because of my social status). Especially since the hospital I take Omar too everyday is “upper class” and we so obviously are not. But then at the same time we glimpse the struggling humanity trying to shine through and are reminded there is still good people in the world-like when the receptionists politely ignore the fact we don’t have health insurance and treat us the same as every other patient. Or when the doctors stop and talk to us in the hallways. Or when the staff stop and exchange a pleasant greeting.

    I try my best to be a good person but some people, some situations just get under your skin. I think you weren’t in the wrong with that lady @ the soccer game. How can you fault someone for being into the game and supporting the children?

    • Yes, the problem of “over interpreting” is one that the thoughtful suffer from. I wish I could “take a vacation” in superficiality and ignorance. I cut out part of my entry today that was on this because it had incriminating content. But the idea that things and ideas are vacations is fertile soil for composition/writing. More later PS. What’s the latest on Omar

  3. You aren’t up to date about Omar, the entry I wrote about him was the very, very beginning Jan 31 2011 to be exact. So alot has transpired from there to now. I’m in the works of writing about every single detail. But it’s slow going. But in a nutshell, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, it was removed in surgery, then he was diagnosed the brain tumor was stage 3 cancer. So he began treatment a few weeks ago, chemo at home via pills everyday, and radiation Monday-Friday at the hospital. Friday, he had to go into the ER cause of intense head pains. Turns out it was a seizure. We didn’t know. The docs said the seizure was completely internal , a misfiring of his brain and so that’s why we didn’t know, it didn’t physically exhibit itself with the usual convulsions and stuff.. And so all the activity caused extreme pain to his body and healing scars and cavity in his head. We go Tuesday to all his doctors to tweak his treatment plan. But they said he will be in pain for a week or more. But he’s is trying to be in good spirits and just take it easy. He’s doing alright considering everything.

    • I am so sorry Tasha,
      But my primitive faith suggests that this will enrich your life: you are already being a much better person than you’d have been w/o this tribulation~prayers
      Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

  4. it’s enjoyable to read you. your honesty illuminates. I say this to you as I say to myself- “don’t be so hard on yourself.” just read a quote somewhere: real obstacles can be gotten over, it’s the imaginary ones that are insurmountable.

    • This is what I’ve been getting from friends, dear friends, like you: “real obstacles can be gotten over, it’s the imaginary ones that are insurmountable.” I have to conquer my imagination and shake off the chips on my shoulder. Thanks

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