“On the DL”

I just finished, “On the Down Low” by J.L. King the book is about black men who have sex with men. The twist is they consider themselves heterosexual, thus, “On the DL”. The book is an interesting mix of biographical,anecdotal and loosely-research based writing. King tells his story of being in the DL world, being seduced – although willingly- by an older man living on the DL (both were churchgoers; the older man a deacon), and loosing his wife and family because of his deceit, and adulterousness. King also tells similar stories of friends and acquaintances who have lost their families, are currently living on the DL or have admitted that they enjoy having sex with men (though they AREN’T homosexual).

The book is easy read and although it is at times uncomfortable read it is also intriguing. The crux of the book is not so much to prove the validity or justify the DL lifestyle – although it is subsequently done- , but rather it is to create awareness for women who may be in relationships with men on the DL or who have caught HIV from a man and do not understand why. King does not want women to become sucked into the same game his wife was sucked into – he genuinely feels remorseful. Nor does he want women to be with a man who is using her to live a DL lifestyle just because she “needs a man.” King argues that part of the reason for the increase in HIV in the African-American community is because these DL men are contracting HIV and then giving it to their wives and girlfriends.

I don’t agree that homosexuality is biblical and I don’t think that it is as simple as being “born this way” – although I believe that claim has some merit. However, reading this book brought up several questions in my mind:

Is it really legitimate for these men to say that they are heterosexual men who sleep with men, rather than homosexual/gay?

If not, how do we classify them?
Why do these men deny the label homosexual/gay?
What role does the church have in reaching these men?
How does the African-American community create awareness without paranoia?

If you have any opinion on these questions, or have any other thoughts
please comment.

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Obama’s Campaign

This was a recent article regarding Barack Obanma’s Presidential campaign. The article is an interview with Michelle Obama, in it she says some interesting things about Black America and their desire – or lack therefore – to vote for her husband. In it she basically tells Black American to wake up and vote for Barack, The following are some of my thought about the Obama campaign and Mrs. Obama’s comments. I would read the article before you read my response however

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If Black America’s goal was to simply get a “Black” – I firmly consider Obama as bi-racial- into the Presidency then Mrs. Obama’s comments are right on the mark. However, in its desire to reform socially and economically, I believe that Black America (when I use black America it is going on the fact that the majority of Black America is African-American) is smarter than that. Black America wants a President who will understand them and lobby for advances in the African-American community; that doesn’t inevitably mean a Black president (as shown in the lack of support for Alan Keyes in 2000 – one can also argue that he was in the wrong party to get a majority of black votes). Black candidates aren’t the end all for Black America especially Black candidates they are unsure
of.

Having a “Black” President would do a lot for history books, undoubtedly assist in improving the validity of being Black and perhaps have positive results within the black community, but it would not necessarily change our nation’s dealings with Black America.

Candidly, I don’t believe Black America believes Obama is “Black” enough. Although, he married to an African-American woman and has been involved with community development in urban Chicago, he doesn’t come off as the great Black leader that Black America votes for. First off, he grew up surrounded mainly by his white family, and even though he did seek out his identity that was largely after he have grown accustomed to his white ancestry.

Second of all, his black lineage is directly African rather than African-American. Racially, this makes little difference, but ethnically it is a different story. Although he is Black, his ancestors were not brought to North America on slave ships; they did go through American war after war hoping that this fight would be the fight for their freedom, they did not go through the bitter sweetness of reconstruction, they did not live in Jim Crow America and they did not go through the American civil rights era. For many African Americas, all these characteristics make Obama more unlike them than similar.

Lastly, Obama’s standard of living does not resonate with those in the general African-American society. Although Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are also in a high socioeconomic status for many they have seemed to come up because they pursed after rights from African-American. Inversely I believe African-American society views that Obama has been a silver spoon child. The complexity of his socio-economic status, complexion, background, and privilege may even make some African-Americans see him as a “house slave”.

All that being said, If Black America’s goal is to have someone in office that will ultimately improve its existence then I quasi-agree with Mrs. Obama. I personally favor Barack as a candidate – much more than the other possible milestone maker, Hilary -, but I don’t favor him because of his over or under whelming blackness or because I think he will concentrate his energies in America’s Black community. I favor him because I believe he is fairly balanced, he brings a new vivacious energy, and most importantly he seems to seek justice for all people – which, in my opinion, will ultimately foster the most progress for Black America because it will be part of the American picture rather than under the American microscope.

My belief is that Obama brings one of the most balanced platforms and that even though I disagree with some of his policies I do not believe that he is act completely on his own will, but will openly listen to citizens and advisors. Obama’s being a new face in politics is present in so many ways. He is not the typical candidate, he is very young for a candidate, he is verbally and mostly on records bi-partisan, and he is not a white male. This uniqueness is more than just “hopeful” as Obama’s campaign’s emphasis, they are real. The nation is not the same as it was 40 years ago, the nation isn’t the same as it was 10 years ago; his candidacy is welcomed by me, because it seems to represent who we are and who we are becoming as a nation. As a black male I see this as paramount first to the entire United Sates and consequently to Black America.

Ultimately, Black America’s goal is – and should be – the latter. However, that goal becomes muddled in the fact that is natural to assume that the person, who looks, walks, talks, behaves and grew-up like you will, in the long run, grant you the greatest advancement. In this sense Black America is sleeping – yet in a different manner inferred from Mrs. Obama- and dreaming for the reincarnation of Martin Luther King, Fredrick Douglass or DuBois rather than realizing that this real-life Kennedy/King fusion that Obama possesses perhaps their best bet.

Is Black Beautiful?

When talking to my friend Cathy about race and racial identity, she pointed me to an interesting film. “A Girl Like Me” is a short student documentary concerning the issues of identity, standards of beauty. The documentary shows the difficulty Black-American women often have in seeing themselves as beautiful as well as comments on the characteristics – usually more typical in whites – that society sees a beautiful.

 

Another interesting aspect is that the director, Kiri Davis, performs a contemporary version of the Clark doll tests done in the 1930’s & 40’s. In the original test Kenneth and his wife, Mamie, found that Black children often preferred White dolls over black dolls and that Black children viewed white as good, pretty and positive, but black as bad, ugly and negative. They viewed this as evidence of internalized racism caused by stigmatization. Interestingly enough, Kiri Davis had similar results.

 

Watch the video and let me know what your opinions are about internalized racism and standards of beauty.

Coffee Shop Love

The other night I was at a local bookstore with my wife. When we arrived at the bookstore we found a spot next to the coffee shop. We both read for a while, checked emails etc. It was a good way to end a busy weekend.

But, as we were sitting there we were joined by a guest. The guest did not sit down at our table, but he and his companion were in close enough proximity that we could hear their every word (it helped that they both were, at least, 65 and spoke loud enough to be heard throughout the coffee shop). Now, anytime there is an older couple who seems to be in love, it is heartwarming. However, this instance was different than the norm. It was no ordinary relationship

As I sat and listened to the couple converse, I tried to avoid eavesdropping – though not particularly hard – while still maintaining to catch the essence of their interaction. The man spoke with the normal cadence of someone his age, but there was something in his diction that was unique. I didn’t realize what that was until I began to pay more attention to his female companion; her voice, though loud, was shaky and her speech broken. I noticed that in her silence she released noises and that her sentences took more time to come out than his paragraphs. I am not sure if she had Parkinson’s or if it was the remnants of numerous strokes, but it was evident that she was no longer at her full capacity.

What became apparent to me was that this man overwhelmingly loved his companion. I do now know the nature of their relationship, but I know that love was present in their relationship. Even when his companion would get mad at him, for trying to help her, “not paying attention” to her or for some other undisclosed reason his responses to her were continuously loving.

After watching this man love his companion, I could not help but think about both, how I love others and how God loves me. If I were to overlay how God loves me with how I love my wife (who is undisputedly my closest human companion ) I am not sure what concoction of lines and color I would get, but I am sure to see my imperfections highlighted. But if I were to place the relationship of my coffee guest and his companion in substitution, I would expect the lines to be congruent and the colors of similar hue.

I am, of course, not naive enough to think that the display that I saw in the bookstore was characteristic of their entire relationship, but even in the public display of love I am encouraged. I am encouraged (and thus challenged) to see a display of the love God wished for us to have. A love that is patient, kind, long-suffering, not easily angered. A love that is everlasting.

I pray everyday that God further enables me to dethrone my humanity and make him Lord over my actions and thoughts. I desire love as beautiful as I saw in the coffee shop. More profoundly, I desire a love as perfect as that displayed on Golgotha. The hill where Jesus, the Christ, paid the expiation for the sins of those who “know not what they do”.

Actions of Love

There is a Black man whom I pass almost everyday. He has a long black beard and nappy, un-combed hair. He has been wearing the same clothes for the past 6 weeks. He never really begs, but it is obvious that he needs. Every time I pass him I ask, “Do I really love my neighbor?�?There is an Asian man who sleeps out in front of the Episcopal/Anglican church. Though he is far from royalty, he has lengthy opaque hair that is put back in a ponytail, much like an Elizabethan prince. He is always wearing several layers of clothes as if it were going to snow, but he never has adequate shoes. He needs a shower and a bed, but will probably never get one because the shelters are always full and there aren’t any in the area, plus no one is willing to part with pocket change to fund this man’s trip. I can’t help but ask “How much do I love myself and my money?”There is a non-English speaking immigrant that lives on the train. By lives– I mean that he can’t find a job anywhere and he must panhandle all day. Before I think too hard about why he can’t speak English I realize that he has had to work all of his life so that his family could eat. When was he supposed to learn? Who was there to teach him?The issue of poverty becomes real when you live in it. Poverty is illuminated when there is no bypass that takes you around the downtown and “bad�? areas of a city, no car that takes you only to the places you want to go, and no mode of escaping the pain of another. I cannot help but think of Matthew 25:31-46 and as I ask, “What will God say to us when we enter eternity? What will he say about our compassion? Have we allowed the systematics of Christianity to deter us from what it means to be a Christian?We mustn’t ignore the systematic factors that attribute to man’s poverty. The system by which we live by and benefit from others may die from. But nor must we ignore the personal actions that influence poverty. Not the actions of the poor – but our own. Our materialism, our expensive homes, cars, clothing–the luxuries we choose to own. What if we chose to live in moderation instead of in excess? What if we choose to love with our hands as well as with our hearts?

Few Love the Cross of Jesus

JESUS has always many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear His cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him. Many follow Him to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His passion. Many revere His miracles; few approach the shame of the Cross. Many love Him as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless Him as long as they receive some comfort from Him. But if Jesus hides Himself and leaves them for a while, they fall either into complaints or into deep dejection. Those, on the contrary, who love Him for His own sake and not for any comfort of their own, bless Him in all trial and anguish of heart as well as in the bliss of consolation. Even if He should never give them consolation, yet they would continue to praise Him and wish always to give Him thanks. What power there is in pure love for Jesus — love that is free from all self-interest and self-love!

Do not those who always seek consolation deserve to be called mercenaries? Do not those who always think of their own profit and gain prove that they love themselves rather than Christ? Where can a man be found who desires to serve God for nothing? Rarely indeed is a man so spiritual as to strip himself of all things. And who shall find a man so truly poor in spirit as to be free from every creature? His value is like that of things brought from the most distant lands.

If a man give all his wealth, it is nothing; if he do great penance, it is little; if he gain all knowledge, he is still far afield; if he have great virtue and much ardent devotion, he still lacks a great deal, and especially, the one thing that is most necessary to him. What is this one thing? That leaving all, he forsake himself, completely renounce himself, and give up all private affections. Then, when he has done all that he knows ought to be done, let him consider it as nothing, let him make little of what may be considered great; let him in all honesty call himself an unprofitable servant. For truth itself has said: “When you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: ‘we are unprofitable servants.'”1

Then he will be truly poor and stripped in spirit, and with the prophet may say: “I am alone and poor.” No one, however, is more wealthy than such a man; no one is more powerful, no one freer than he who knows how to leave all things and think of himself as the least of all.

A.W. Tozer

A First Post

I am not actually sure how this Blog thing is going to go. I am going to try to write consistently, but I would not be surprised if my enthusiasm quickly dissipates. It seems as if that is what often happens with endeavors such as this. But who knows maybe I will stay faithful.

As for what I am going to post on my Blog . . . I dunno. I will post some writing that comment about culture, some about my own faith & life and most likely some stuff written by other people that I like and respect (sometimes I might post something by someone I don’t like though just to spark some conversation).

I don’t really know who is going to read this (why would you?) but for those that are I thank you and pre-apologize for the un-organization of my thoughts, and my occasional (sometimes religious) ill grammar. Just remember that the thoughts posted on this blog are not necessarily based on the action of the writer, rather the merely his thoughts 🙂