Thursday, July 9, 2015

I have things I want to say about Bill Cosby.

I have things I want to say about Bill Cosby. They are this, in order:
If there is a way to create retribution for the women he hurt, I am in full support of it. However, I wish to stop short of destroying or removing his artistic legacy. Because that legacy showcased the work of artists and performers of colors on a massive scale. That complicated legacy also allowed us to turn a blind eye when people we collectively deemed unworthy tried to point fingers.

We are all implicated. Heroes don't actually exist.

That is to say every person we deify without accountability gets bolder, abuses more, believes themselves more powerful until they are committing atrocities with impunity. In creating "heroes" we remove humanity, and actually create monsters.

And every time we get comfortable victim-blaming, we create space for these monsters to create more victims. We create Daniel Holtzclaw. We create Darren Wilsons and George Zimmermans and Daniel Pantaleos. We create Mark Wahlberg. We create Eldridge Cleaver. We create Bill Cosby.

Every time we collectively create blind spots, we reinforce power imbalances. We let white men kill black men; we let men rape women; we let rich plunder poor. All of us.

"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible."

The snowflakes are all of us as individuals bound together by the momentum of racism, sexism, patriarchy and their brethren. Racism punishes the Black and Brown monsters we've created more harshly and wholly than their white counterparts. Racism brings a man back from the grave to admonish his unfaithful son while laughing at the boys-will-be-boys antics of Charlie Sheen. It is removing the statue of a great entertainer who is the worst kind of person from a park named after a great visionary who is also the worst kind of person.

Our hypocrisy is showing.

As we righteously tear down a terrible man who used every resource at his disposal to prey on women solely because he had so many resources at his disposal, I would like us to not celebrate too much in the task. We have literally built mountains to men capable of much of the same evil and greatness so we are not the impartial arbiters of morality we seem to wish we were.

Mount Rushmore/Credit: Dean Franklin  
We create monsters then selectively choose which to capture: we are both Dr. Frankenstein and the pitchfork-wielding mob. As our actions continue to cycle from deifying to vilifying, I ask that we pause to consider what systems we're reinforcing. Let's ask ourselves:

Are we attempting to erase his impact on popular culture as a gesture to override our conscious discounting of the women who accused him in the first place?

Are we really okay with removing Cosby's statue from a space which was made to recognize entertainers while we send our children to schools named after Confederate leaders and slave owners?

Does punishing Bill Cosby make you feel better?

How can it when there's so much left to do?

*I originally started this post months ago, when the allegations surrounding Bill Cosby resurfaced. The revelation of his own admission and the sheer amount of life that has happened between last October and today has prompted me to revisit it.

Previously posted on MOGUL.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I Never Thought I'd Have A Coming Out Story

I have a habit of connecting things that don't necessarily belong together. As a theater director, I like to think this tendency is an asset: it allows me to connect the plays I direct to the world we inhabit. It's a joy to take words on a page and make them into a living, breathing environment.

But I'm not here to talk about my work, at least not this time. I'm talking about how this tendency to connect otherwise unconnected instances forces me to remain accountable to myself. I'm talking about how for the last few months I've been fighting a nagging voice in the back of mind, saying:

You need to come out.

I fight with this voice. I tell myself that my complex sexuality is not relevant to Mike Brown, or Kalief Browder, or Freddie Gray. I tell myself that there are better-suited warriors on the front lines of all of the issues. I tell myself that the world doesn't need another "Look at me because I know how you feel" post by a latecomer surfing in on a giant wave of heteronormative, cis privilege. Still the voice says:

You need to come out.

I rationalize that the people closest to me already know. That I'm not hiding in anyone's closet. That the people I love are aware and that no one is actually asking me to do anything. That I can keep shouting #BlackLivesMatter and do the work around #TellingOurStories and that will be enough. But,

I need to come out.

I need to come out because these disparate pieces of myself are connected. Because I can't argue for authentic representations of Black womanhood and not showcase my authentic Black women-ness as evidence. Because I talk a lot about things that matter to me, yet my silence in this space is noticeable. Because the women whose names we need to say are worth honoring not only as martyrs or innocents, but also as complex and whole beings whose stories were cut short by a system that failed to see them wholly. These women deserved better because they existed. Not because they were upstanding. Not because they were sane. Not because they were straight. Simply because they were.

Credit: The All-Nite Images / Wikimedia Commons / Flickr

I need to come out.

I need to come out because I'm scared to. Because not doing so makes me feel like a hypocrite. Because the intersection of Black and queer is a dangerous place to exist, and I've been able to stay artificially safe for too long. Because I've asked others to check their privilege and #ChallengeYourPerspective while resting comfortably behind a heteronormative shield. Because we have collectively gotten so comfortable with a monolithic view of Blackness and Black womanhood that other people will wear it as a costume to camouflage their own dysfunctions.

I am coming out.

I am polyamorous. I am queer. I am in a loving, committed relationship with both a woman and a man. The three of us are Black and proud and happy. And that matters because a part of me wants to bow down to respectability politics and keep my loves to myself. A part of me wants to stay safely in my lane by only telling the complex stories on stage. A part of me says I'm fighting on enough fronts, why do I need another? Then I remember that being "respectable" will not save me. It will not save any of us.

I am out.
I am Black.
I am woman.
I am poly.
I am queer.
I am visible.
I am loved.
I am free.

I have a habit of connecting things that don't necessarily belong together. None of the items in the list above are negated by any of the other items. The whole of my story is great because of its parts, not in spite of them. I see the tragedies of the world as connected to a narrative of suppressing people's full identities and I refuse to be complicit in growing the list of things Black people can't do, even though it keeps growing, by presenting a redacted version of my own truth.

I have come out.
And I'm not going back.

Credit: Ludovic Bertron / Wikimedia Commons / Flickr