Get What You Need First, Then Do X, Y, Z
TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN NEEDS FIRST
Get what you need first, then do x, y, z. Two readers mentioned this simple and wise rule in a different context during an earlier conversation. (Thanks ZooPath and Karen!) This is a pop culture detox issue because generations of African-American women have been programmed away from this basic rule of self-preservation. And programmed into making time for anything and everything except getting their own needs met. Meanwhile, men consistently make sure that their own needs are always being met.
There’s nothing normal about a woman directly and publicly functioning as a Sister Soldier. That’s a man’s job. This abnormal behavior of Black women functioning as warriors has been normalized in the minds of most African-Americans. [Mostly for the purpose of picking up African-American men’s slack.] As I mentioned in an earlier conversation, this Sister Soldiering is an extremely bad look that reinforces the negative, repellent image of African-American women as belligerent she-males and un-women. It’s an example of what Elijah Muhammad called “tricknology” when you’ve been tricked into beliefs and practices that are contrary to your interests. Let’s examine some other angles involved when Black women engage in heavy-duty, public “crusading.”
So many Black women think they’re acting as free agents and making their own decisions when they’re not. Instead, they’re unwittingly giving conditioned responses to certain stimuli. Much like Pavlov’s dogs. We’ve discussed some conditioned responses during conversations at the previous blog. For example, we discussed most Black women’s conditioned response of automatically rallying around any random Black man who’s in trouble with Whites. And doing so without ever considering whether that particular Black man who’s in trouble is of any value whatsoever to Black women and children. Halima, blog host of Black Female Interracial Relationship Circle is currently discussing another commonly observed conditioned response from Black women.
FREEDOM IS THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE
Freedom is the ability to choose. When you give conditioned responses to stimuli, you are not free. You’re in bondage. You’re in bondage to whatever responses you’ve been conditioned to give. And to the person who controls your behavior by deciding when and where to provoke your conditioned responses.
Some of us have learned not to give conditioned responses in support of Black men. We’ve learned to take a breath, take a step back, and carefully consider whether the current “Black man who’s in trouble with Whites” is of any real value to us before we respond. But we still haven’t learned how to apply the normal human ordering of priorities. We haven’t learned to always ask, “What’s in it for me? What will Activity X do for me in terms of meeting MY needs?” We haven’t learned to keep in mind the normal human prioritizing of issues related to people: self, family, clan, ethnic group. [I mean this in the sense of reciprocating people within these categories. For me, a non-reciprocating biological relative is the same as a non-reciprocating total stranger in terms of my priorities.]
Most African-American women still have many self-defeating, conditioned responses to various stimuli. Most of these conditioned responses seem natural to us, and go unquestioned. We don’t ensure that our own needs are being met. Meanwhile, men consistently make sure that their needs are being met.
THE HIERARCHY OF NEEDS
Before we go much further, I would suggest that you examine the following diagram and brief explanation of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Please pay close attention to the second (safety needs—personal security from crime, financial security, health and well-being) and third (belongingness and love needs—friendship, intimacy, support network) tiers of human needs.
ACTIVISM OFTEN CREATES A ROCK-STAR LIFESTYLE FOR BLACK MALE ACTIVISTS—IT MEETS THEIR BASIC PERSONAL NEEDS
Up to this point, I’ve used formal language. Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. For Black men, political activism is a vehicle for getting their personal needs met—a source of getting paid and getting laid. Much like the ministry. All on their terms. For example, has Rev. Jesse Jackson ever worked at a job?
Think about the roster of married Black male activists who were promiscuous womanizers such as Dr. King, Elijah Muhammad, and so on. These men had the pleasures of a home life with a wife sitting at home waiting for them, and plentiful sex on the side with female groupies. Think about the single Black male activists who were promiscuous womanizers such the Panthers and others who had a steady, non-stop supply of female groupies they were having sex with. On top of this, Black male activists are typically treated as celebrities and showered with adulation. For Black men, activism is often a vehicle for fulfilling their (financial) safety and belongingness and love needs (intimacy of all sorts, including sexual intimacy).
In short, Black male activists routinely get their personal needs met. Every. Step. Of. The. Way. Meanwhile, activism does not provide the same perks for Black women who are working as hard and facing the same pressures and dangers.
ACTIVISM DOES NOT PROVIDE SIMILAR “ROCK STAR” PERKS FOR BLACK WOMEN ACTIVISTS—NOR DOES IT DO ANYTHING TO MEET THEIR BASIC PERSONAL NEEDS
Activism does not provide the same perks for Black women. While it may provide higher-level needs for women, it generally won’t do anything to provide the foundational second and third-level needs.
While keeping the hierarchy of needs in mind, I invite you to do what we rarely do: Consider some of the inner lives of the crusading, activist African-American women that we hold up as Black History Month heroines. If your thinking is similar to mine, you won’t be pleased by much of what you see. I’ll just name a couple of examples. Dorothy Height has never married. Mary McLeod Bethune separated from her husband (who died in 1918). She never remarried, and she passed away in 1955. These women came of age during an era when marriage was the norm for Black women and readily available within the African-American collective. Who, if anybody, did these women come home to for all those decades?
Consider the personal horrors of being married to a Black male activist like Dr. King. He was often away from home. Coretta Scott King was also in great physical danger—and living alone for long stretches of time with their children. She was responsible for holding down the fort, and child care while he was away. If she was faithful in her marriage, that meant she went through long stretches of not having sex while he was away. Meanwhile, Dr. King was having sex with his women on the side. I won’t even mention the female Black Power activists who apparently served as “booty calls” (and worse) for male Black Power activists.
For Black women, activism does not provide the perks it often provides for Black men. No free money. No husband to remain faithful to you while you sleep around with other men. No adoring harem of male groupies. The only woman I can think of that “had it like that” was a White author named Ayn Rand. Apparently for a number of Black women, crusading activism was a dead-end leading to an asexual, ascetic lifestyle. Who wants that, except a nun?
From what I can tell, one of the relatively few “Black History Month Heroines” that appears to have been involved in activism while also making sure to get her personal needs met (the way she wanted) was Lorraine Hansberry. She was a bisexual or lesbian who married (either out of genuine love for her White husband, or to use him as a voluntary or involuntary cover story), while still dating and sleeping with women.
WHEN YOU’RE PRESENTED WITH PROVOCATIVE STIMULI, DO YOU FIRST ASK YOURSELF, “WILL RESPONSE X HELP GET MY NEEDS MET?”
What do you do when you’re presented with various provocative stimuli, such as the anti-Black woman verbal droppings of damaged Black men? Do you automatically snap to attention and assume the role of a crusading, Sister Soldier? Do you jump into battle to engage in cyber-brawls with them? Leaving aside the “bad look” issue, if all of your major needs are already being met, then you’ve got ample time to fight them over their verbal droppings.
However . . .
if you’re living somewhere unsafe;
if you’re not financially secure;
if your belonging and intimacy needs are not being met;
. . . then how in the world do you have any time, even a split second, to invest in responding to the latest anti-Black woman verbal dropping of this week’s damaged Black man?
Keep in mind that this damaged Black man that you’re investing time into battling is most likely having ALL of his important needs met while you’re working on responding to his original verbal dropping. If he wants to be married, he’s most likely already married (with or without engaging in adultery). If he doesn’t want to be married, he’s most likely happily sleeping around.
There’s whatever latest anti-Black woman verbal dropping from a damaged Black man. Let’s say you work on responding to that.
What will you do about tomorrow’s verbal dropping from the same damaged Black man? Of course, you realize that he’s not going to cease and desist immediately with his hate speech about Black women. It’s going to take time to get this one individual damaged Black man to either retract or apologize for the particular statement in question. It’ll take even longer to train him not to say those sorts of things in public.
What about next week’s verbal dropping from the same damaged Black man?
What about tomorrow’s verbal dropping from a different damaged Black man? There’s more than one damaged Black man publicly making anti-Black woman statements. In fact, there are many of them. Will you pursue and fight them all? If not, how will you allocate your attention between them? How much time will you earmark for pursuing and fighting them? Will you figure out a ranking?
Have you thought about any of this, and after consideration decided to invest your time into tussling with this particular damaged Black man? Or are you having a knee-jerk, conditioned response to the stimulus of “damaged Black man makes anti-Black woman statement”?
Let me be clear: I respect free will, and I’m not trying to discourage African-American women from making the conscious choice to involve themselves in whatever activism suits their fancy. I’m not even trying to discourage Black women with major unmet needs from spending their time and energy on activism. I think it’s ill-advised to do that (unless they’re careful to spend most of their energy on getting their needs met), but that’s their choice. I’m simply asking that more African-American women take the time to consider the following questions, and answer them for themselves:
Is dealing with whatever provocative stimulus meeting your personal needs? If so, great. If doing so isn’t directly meeting your needs, is it at least moving you closer to having your personal needs met? If so, more power to you. If not, perhaps your attention and energy would be better spent on getting your own needs met.
Tagged as: pop culture detox