Ain’t got no home. Ain’t got no shoes. Ain’t got no money. Ain’t got no class. Ain’t got no skirts. Ain’t got no sweater. Ain’t got no perfume. Ain’t got no beer. Ain’t got no man…
I was asked the other day why I cared so much about Civil Rights and Gender Equality issues, specifically the issues faced by Black Women in the U.S. Here is my complex yet basic reason for this concern. I offer it without agenda and without the need for acceptance or a pat on the back. My reasons are my own, and first and foremost, I seek justice and freedom for Women of Color and any group that feels beset by our society not only because it is right, but because it benefits me as a white man. You see, I don’t want to benefit at the expense of other people. That exacts its price from me as well as the person that suffers as a result of my position. While that price is more philosophical and spiritual and is not comparable, it is nonetheless real and destructive.
I am a son. I am a brother. I am a husband. I am a lover. I am a cousin. I am an Uncle. I am a friend. I am a colleague. I am all these things to various women in my life. I love these women and want them to live full, safe lives and have at least the same opportunities, rights, and protections as I have. This, to me, is basic. This goes beyond laws and rights. This speaks to manners, daily interactions, and respect. As fellow humans, they are worthy of my respect. I have not always manifested this respect. As a man, I could pass an entire day and never have to reflect on the myriad challenges that a woman has to face from the moment she wakes up to the time she falls asleep that I simply don’t even need to think about. This is my privilege as a man, specifically a white man, and it is a privilege that’s worth money, opportunity, safety, and, most crucially, time. Most of us men are never encouraged to think of this and take it into consideration when we interact with women. Why should we? Our culture, our global culture has taught us that men have more value, white men the most. That is simply a fact.
I have had the great honor to be friend, colleague, associate, acquaintance, neighbor, family member, lover, mentor, student, teacher, and protege of many Women of Color during the course of my life. I have not always understood or appreciated these women to the fullest, but my time in their orbits has made me who I am and shaped the course of my life. I do not claim to understand the intricacies of their personal experiences, but I try my best to empathize with their challenges and appreciate them as people.
I don’t always succeed in this. I am a man, a flawed man. I fail. I fall short. But I am always eager to learn, to beg for patience, to let go. I also understand that, on some occasions, my input, presence, words, perspective, and assistance are not welcome or relevant. This is the way it is. Everything is not for me to understand or be a part of.
I do not see these women as fetishes, as Mammy-figures, as monoliths. They are people. They are women. They are people I admire, respect, enjoy, emulate. They are people I love. I also understand that my feelings about them are simply that, my feelings. These women don’t need my approval. What I write here is simply a personal explanation; it confers nothing. I simply feel the need to express it. These women don’t need anything from me.
On a more basic level, I am simply trying to put into practice how my parents raised me to live. If someone is being mistreated, say something—DO something about it; on the micro- and the macro-levels. Everyone has a story. Each story is different. All stories have common threads. In short, be kind to everyone.
This declaration I write tonight doesn’t mean I have reached some socio-political Nirvana. I am always learning, always trying to grow, always trying to correct personal failings. This is simply an appreciation for the women of color in my life, specifically Black women. Women have it rough, my friends. They still do. Black women have it veryrough, to put it mildy. This makes me want to do whatever I can in whatever pathetic way I can to mitigate that difficulty, even if the best thing I can do is to shut the hell up and get the hell out of the way.
My mother Kathy and father Mike taught me to be kind to everyone I meet. They taught me to respect everyone. They taught me to help others. They taught me to love. Love all.
I will keep trying my best to live up to this legacy. I will do it because it is right. I will do it because it makes me happy. I will do it because it is my duty and obligation as a human being.
That’s it. For whatever it is worth, that’s how I feel.
I got my hair. I got my head. I got my brains. I got my ears. I got my eyes. I got my nose. I got my mouth. I got my smile. I got my tongue. I got my chin. I got my neck. I got my boobs. I got my heart. I got my soul. I got my back. I got my sex. I got my arms. I got my hands. I got my fingers. Got my legs. I got my feet. I got my toes. I got my liver. Got my blood. I’ve got life! I’ve got my freedom! I’ve got the life and I’m gonna keep it! I’ve got the life and nobody’s gonna take it away. I’ve got the life!