Sunday, October 4, 2009
I ALREADY KNOW WHO YOU ARE...
Last week we started reading "The Conversation" by Hill Harper. We were really excited that Mr. Harper is taking on a lot of the issues that we hope to explore in our blog. We will be periodically blogging about some of the issues that he addresses in his book and we invite you to share in some of your experiences and self-discoveries. We strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of the book and be a part of our on-line discussions!
In chapter three of "The Conversation", Mr. Harper points out the various stereotypes that black women and black men have about each other and how they threaten our possibility of creating happy relationships. It started us questioning what stereotypes we've bought into and how they have impacted our relationships. Once we began excavating our belief systems and looking at the ickiness that we each have inside, we recognized that we would have to get real with ourselves before we would be able to get beyond these negative stereotypes and press the "PERMANENT DELETE" button on our real feelings.
While I don't buy into the stereotypes that were presented in the book, I was struck by the belief that black women have an "I don't need a man" attitude, especially since so many of us are looking to be in a relationship. As I thought long and hard about that, it came to me that in many ways, my preference for a particular kind of man comes across to brothers as judgment or simply put, that I don't need a man. I then realized that I, like many women, look for the same qualities in men that I saw in my father.
My father was strong. He took care of business and never complained. I rarely saw any sign of weakness. Because of this, I realize that I have often mistaken a certain sensitivity as weakness in a man. I now see that this is not necessarily so. While I still prefer a "strong" type I am now able to better make the distinction between what it is to prefer particular traits and having judgment about men who do not exhibit their strengths in the same way that I am familiar with. Strength can be shown in many ways if I am open to seeing it.
It is sad to say, but I identified a good deal with the stereotypes Mr. Hill listed in his book about black men. Once I concluded chapter three, and I had to 'permanent[ly] delete' these beliefs, I struggled. I didn't want to because these beliefs were too deeply rooted based upon what I had experienced, seen, heard, and felt. I had always felt that I didn't like the negative things that black men did but when I got real with myself, I discovered that all of the negative things that black men do actually added up to my definition of what a black man is. I was shocked.
Combing through my experiences and past relationships, I realized that I had so many bad feelings and mistrust toward men. To escape, I began reaffirming the negative stereotypes resigning myself to "that's just the way it is" but then I dug in and challenged myself to go further, to be stronger. It's just that I had no idea that I could run those negative tapes and stereotypes over and over in my mind and not be able to separate myself from the belief that that crap was true...
By doing the work to examine the stereotypes and how they personally affected each of us, we are now more aware of how harboring these false beliefs can damage our relationships. Holding on to negative generalizations about other people does not allow us to see the lie in the thinking and it prevents us from recognizing where we need to heal ourselves. Ultimately, this negative thinking holds us back from what we most want; to love and be loved.
What negative beliefs do you have about the opposite sex? How do you think they have impacted your relationships?